Jan 4 — Revelation 13:11-18

SCRIPTURE: Revelation 13:11-18

OBSERVATION:
This vision symbolically portrays the increasing power of Rome in John’s day, but also describes how in the final days the governments will enforce loyalty, denying those who refuse to “worship” their power access to the basics of life (those without number cannot buy or sell). In John’s day people had to declare “Caesar is Lord” in order to be left alone, Images of Caesar were posted everywhere, a reminder of who was in charge. The number 666 has a hidden meaning (though people have found ways to work out all kinds of historical figures). It is both a specific and a symbolic image.

APPLICATION:
We are not in the day where this is happening, yet. Elsewhere in the world many can relate to these words. Many Muslim nations enforce loyalty, and conversion to Jesus is punishable by death. In China the state demands loyalty to government over faith. People will often not do business with Christians. Christian girls are raped, impregnated, then forced to marry and covert, or face death. We may find these visions far-fetched, but there are many Christians throughout the world who take great comfort from them, for they are going through them literally!

PRAYER:
Lord, help me not to become apathetic because we live in such ease and comfort. Help me not to forget that around the world people are suffering for their loyalty to You. Amen.

Jan 3 — Revelation 13:1b-10

SCRIPTURE: Revelation 13:1b-10

OBSERVATION:
1. The dragon symbolizes Satan, the beast seems to symbolize a government with multiple leaders (heads) that holds the whole world under its grip. An example of this kind of government would be the Roman Empire, but there have been other examples through history.
2. This government is characterized by its defiant opposition to God and to Christ-followers. It succeeds in persecuting and defeating them, and everyone else is OK with that. Again, Rome is a good example of this until Constantine legalized Christianity in the 4th century.
3. During this time, God’s people need to have patience and faith, to endure through the suffering until the end. Interestingly, this persecution did not crush the movement, it spread it like wildfire. The more they were persecuted, the more they multiplied! This same thing has happened elsewhere, including in modern China, where the church has expanded into the millions despite persecution.

APPLICATION:
1. We cannot even imagine facing this kind of persecution. John wrote this around AD 90, and the persecution went on for 2 more centuries.
2. The symbolism is specific and generic. It applies to the Roman government, but the vision also shows the general pattern that Christ’s followers can expect. Which means that we could see this same thing happening to us. And many Christians elsewhere in the world are actually going through this right now.
3. Do I believe strong enough to hang on through this kind of persecution.

PRAYER:
Lord, thank You for the reminder that no matter what happens, even something as terrible as severe persecution, You are still in control and we will ultimately triumph in and with You. Help us to focus on Your power! Amen.

Jan 2 — Revelation 12:10-13:1

SCRIPTURE: Revelation 12:10-13:1

OBSERVATION:
Jesus is declared the winner. Those who believe in Him and testify to Him, despite persecution and death, are the overcomers! But the devil knows his days are numbered, and so he is on the rampage. The church is empowered (wings of the Spirit?) and protected, as long as they remains close to their Lord. The serpent/dragon attacks, repeatedly, viciously. The creation itself helps God’s people. This all a symbolic way of saying that believers will be attacked, but with God’s help they can and will overcome. Satan’s days are numbered.

APPLICATION:
Do I rely on the power of the Spirit? Do I seek the Lord in the quiet, safe place (i.e. time alone with Him)? Or do I enter battlefield earth unprepared, unprotected, unconcerned. The enemy is on the prowl, like a lion, looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8-9). He is defeated and chained, but woe to those who wander to close, away from the protection of their Lord. I can relate. How often do I enter each day, relying on my own wits and giftedness? Those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength and mount up with wings like eagles (Isaiah 40:30-31) Why am I not soaring?

PRAYER:
Lord, I know the answer to that last question. Forgive me for not seeking Your help, Your strength, and for relying on myself. Help me to daily, intentionally, seriously seek Your first. Amen.

Jan 1 — Revelation 12:1-9

SCRIPTURE: Revelation 12:1-9

OBSERVATION:
The women represents Israel, producing the Messiah. The dragon represents Satan, rebelling in the beginning and taking a third of the angels with him (now demons). This scene represents the fulfillment of Genesis 3:15. The Messiah is snatched up to His throne, and God’s people (OT Israel becomes NT church) are taken to the desert for a period of time. The war in heaven follows the ascension, in this vision. It may refer to the enthronement of Jesus, receiving the gift of the Spirit which He sends to earth, His final victory over Satan. Whatever the details represent, the basic message of this vision is: Jesus has come, Satan tried to stop Him, Jesus has won, Satan has been defeated, and we are in a desert time-period for the time being.

APPLICATION:
These are unseen realities. Do I believe them? I can relate to being in the desert. I can relate to the presence of the devil among us, leading the whole world astray. Am I as confident in Jesus victory? I wonder if I live as if I were on my own, facing battles and challenges without Jesus’ help, without the assurance that I have overcome. This vision is intended to shift our focus away from what we can see, to what is hidden, unseen, yet still true.

PRAYER:
Lord, I admit that its hard to focus on You and Your victory when the stuff of life overwhelms me. I need to keep myself focused on You, not on the devil. Open my eyes to see You better. Amen.

Dec 31 — Joshua 4:15-24

SCRIPTURE: Joshua 4:15-24

OBSERVATION:
1. The ark (the symbol of “God with us”) is at the center of this story. Where it goes, the people go. Where it goes, the waters part. When it leaves, the waters flow. The people are to keep a reverent distance from the ark. The memory stones are taken from where the ark is, in the center of the riverbed.
2. The message is not only for their children (descendants), but also for “all the peoples of the earth” (v.24). Keeping in mind God’s intention to bless all people through the descendants of Abraham (Genesis 12:1-13), this miracle was another evidence that God was in control. God is not trying to scare people, but to make them appreciate how greast and powerful He is, so that they may respect (worship, fear, reverence) Him.
3. The miracle was also to be a reminder for the Israelites as well, that they might always recognize Him as greater than all other gods (v.24). Unfortunately they forgot, and soon their were honouring and worshiping Baal (and sacrificing their children to Moloch at Tophet).

APPLICATION:
1. Our lives are directed by that which we focus on. If we focus on “God with us” (for us, that is Jesus) and all that He has done, is doing, then we will move in that direction and benefit from that focus. But if we focus on our circumstances (the scary waters of the Jordan, the big walls of Jericho, the size of the Canaanite armies, etc.), or if we are distracted by lesser pleasures, fears, ‘gods’, we will move in those directions, and soon be overwhelmed by them. Think of Peter, as long as he focused on Jesus, he was walking on the water. As soon as he started focusing on the waves, he started to sink.
2. How quickly I forget to focus on God, on what He has done for me, on how great He is (bigger than my circumstances). Even though I begin my day focusing on God, I quickly am distracted by the details and challenges of my day, and proceed to deal with them on my own (like crossing the Jordan at flood stage by myself). I need to be intentional (maybe I need to carry a memory stone)!
3. What has the Lord done for me? He has forgiven me, He has changed (and is still changing) me from the inside, He has used me to bless and help others, he has used my efforts to change lives, churches, communities. This is not boasting, because my efforts were not that impressive on their own, but with His help He has expanded their impact!

PRAYER:
Lord, thank You for making me think about what You have done in my life, and for reminding me of the things that You have done in/through me. This focus is uplifting and encouraging, and reminds me that You can still do so much more in/through me, if I am willing. Here I am, Lord, Amen.

Dec 30 — Joshua 4:1-14

SCRIPTURE: Joshua 4:1-14

OBSERVATION:
1. This was certainly a memorable experience. The memory stones taken from the riverbed were to be an enduring reminder of God’s amazing provision in time of need.
2. An important part of spreading the message is communicating it to those around us, whether our own children (“when your children ask you”) or the people that you meet in your neighbourhood. We do not need to exaggerate or expand stories, we simply share what God has done. Tell them what God has done for you (Luke 8:38-39).
3. 40,000 soldiers, leads me to wonder how many there were altogether? According to Numbers 1:45-46, there were 603,550 fighting men, plus the Levites, women, children, slaves and others who joined them. This would lead to a total of over 2 million, a large number of people for that time. There is debate whether the Hebrew word for 1000s (elef) is a literal, symbolic, or otherwise misunderstood word. Suffice it to say, there were a lot of people who journeyed from Egypt to Canaan.
4. This experience led the people to revere Joshua, since it confirmed that God was with him (or that he was with God).

APPLICATION:
1. If I were asked to explain what the Lord has done for me, what would I say? Should I be more intentional about REMEMBERING the specific things that God has done in my life, so that I can be more effective in COMMUNICATING God’s grace to others?
2. How do I deal with difficult passages in the Bible (like numbers that don’t make sense)? I choose to read them generously, graciously, positively. I do have questions about difficult passages, and I am open to the possibility that I am reading those passages incorrectly. But in the end, I give the text the benefit of the doubt, and assume that somehow it makes sense and is accurate (though not necessarily in the way I think it might be).
3. If I am sincere and serious about walking close with the Lord, and following His will and purpose for my life, will that guarantee that people will respect and follow me? In some ways, this is a leadership principle, but it is not a guarantee, as is obvious from Jesus. My focus should not be on getting people to follow me, but on walking close to the Lord. Whether people respect and follow me or not, my calling is to stay close to the Lord. He will work out the results (ie His purpose) through me.

PRAYER:
Lord, forgive me for not paying closer attention to what You have done, and are doing, in my life. Help me to keep my focus on You, and not on results or numbers or successes in a worldly sense. Amen.

Bible Readings (April)

APRIL
1. Luke 3:1-20
2. Luke 3:21-38
3. Luke 4:1-13
4. Luke 4:14-30
5. Luke 4:31-44
6. Joshua 22:1-9
7. Joshua 22:10-34
8. Joshua 23:1-16
9. Joshua 24:1-27
10. Joshua 24:28-33
11. Luke 5:1-11
12. Luke 5:12-26
13. Luke 5:27-32
14. Luke 5:33-39
15. Jeremiah 11:1-17
16. Jeremiah 11:18-23
17. Jeremiah 12:1-17
18. Jeremiah 13:1-14
19. Jeremiah 13:15-27
20. Jeremiah 14:1-16
21. Jeremiah 14:17-22
22. Luke 6:1-11
23. Luke 6:12-26
24. Luke 6:27-36
25. Luke 6:37-42
26. Luke 6:43-45
27. Luke 6:46-49
28. Nahum 1:1-15
29. Nahum 2:1-13
30. Nahum 3:1-19

Dec 29 — Joshua 3:1-17

SCRIPTURE: Joshua 3:1-17

OBSERVATION:
1. The ark of the covenant represents God’s presence among them, leading them to fulfill His purpose for them. They are to follow it, but to maintain a reverent distance from it. In the surrounding religions it was customary to perform ritualistic and orgiastic actions around sacred relics, to “move” their gods to action. The ark is not to be treated this way.
2. The path through the Jordan is God’s way of confirming that Joshua is carrying on from Moses (who also led them through the water).
3. As soon as the feet of the priests touch the waters, they stop. This was a natural miracle, that is, God uses the collapse of the cliffs near Adam to block the flow of the Jordan (it likely happened more often), at just the time when the priests touch the water with their feet. It is no less miraculous if it is a natural occurence.
4. The priests had to step into the floodwaters before they stopped. In other words, they had to take the risk and step forward even before God performed His miracle, in order to see the miracle. This continues to be the case, if we want to see God act miraculously, we need to step into risky situations (for good, godly purposes) and trust that He will work.
5. The visual impact of the ark at the center of the riverbed, and the people passing around it, impressed the point that God was at the center of their journey, their success, their purpose.

APPLICATION:
1. Do I fail to see God’s miraculous power at work because I hesitate to step into risky situations by faith? Is my fear hindering my faith, and my seeing the fruit of that faith?
2. Is the Lord at the center of my day-to-day journey? Do I step into the day with the Lord at the center, and my folloiwing Him in a healthy, reverent way? Do I take Him for granted? Do I step into the floodwaters of each day in my own strength and confidence to handle whatever comes? Do I feel overwhelmed by life when I go it alone?
3. When I have stepped into scary situations (I think of the demon situation I recently stepped into, totally uncertain and out of my ‘league’), God has shown up in amazing, miraculous ways. If I think about it, I realize that the only one who has to gain by my NOT stepping forward in faith is Satan, and he is succeeding in holding me back, making me focus on the fears, what might go wrong, how impossible the situation is.
4. If I am going to follow Jesus into TODAY, I need to consciously, intentionally place Him front and center. I am going into the world with Him, for Him, and He will lead me into situations that will be a part of the unfolding of His mission, His purpose. Do I believe this? Will I follow?

PRAYER:
Lord, help me to not enter the Jordan today by myself, but to consciously, intentionally place You front and center. Help me to see that TODAY is another day in fulfilling my mission from You, for You. Grant me boldness and courage and faith! Amen.

Dec 28 — Joshua 2:1-24

SCRIPTURE: Joshua 2:1-24

OBSERVATION:
1. God has already been preparing the land for invasion. The rumours were enough to cause fear in the inhabitants, an advantage for Joshua and his armies.
2. This was not just a battle for the land, it was a battle of the gods. The God of Israel was coming against El and Baal, the gods of Canaan. That the God of Israel was able to defeat the gods of Egypt, Sihon and Og and to preserve and protect his people through the wilderness was enough to cause great fear among the inhabitants.
3. Rahab demonstrates the proper response to an awareness of God and His power. Her fear causes her to seek peace. with God and His people. This response guarantees protection for her and her household, including family members taking refuge in her.
4. Here we see the household principle at work, how believers and all those who are with them benefit from the faith of the one family member. Blessings and curses are contagious, they spread to those around us. Rahab’s faith and the protection she received from the Lord was also extended to all those with her.

APPLICATION:
1. God is at work before us, preparing the way. We do not start the evangelism process, God has already been present preparing the hearts of those we approach. The Lord is the author and finisher of faith, we simply join Him in what He is doing.
2. Most people hide behind figurative walls to keep God at bay. But there is no place to hide. God is at work, He is giving us reason to respond with repentance and faith. The proper response for us, like Rahab, is faith.
3. My children are blessed by my good choices, and burdened (cursed) by my bad choices. Do I realize the impact of my daily decisions on those I love.

PRAYER:
Lord, as I draw near to You, I am triply blessed. I am blessed to be with you, my family is blessed with me, and those around me that I encounter are blessed through me. Help me to willingly share the blessing of your love with those I meet today. Amen.

Dec 27 — Joshua 1:10-18

SCRIPTURE: Joshua 1:10-18

OBSERVATION:
1. Joshua has been well-prepared to lead this rag tag assembly of homeless nomads. He was a bold army commander (Exodus 17:9-14) who served as Moses aide for many years (Numbers 11:28), and also demonstrated a remarkable faith in God when facing the giants of Canaan (Numbers 14:1-10).
2. Joshua also inspires his followers with a sense of confidence and loyalty, as is evident by the response of the men from the tribes of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh (1:16-18).
3. Joshua receives his direction from God, then relays it without grumbling or hesitation to the people. Even though they were heading into dangerous enemy country, with giant inhabitants and fortified cities, even though they were about to cross the raging waters of the Jordan (which was at flood stage, 3:15).
4. Joshua’s success depended on the Lord being with him, just as with Moses.

APPLICATION:
1. I do not feel prepared for my mission, especially when it takes me out of my comfort zone. I am more likely to hesitate or grumble.
2. One difference between me and Joshua is that he received clear directions from God. But another difference to my advantage is that I have seen God’s will and purpose for me lived out perfectly in Jesus. In addition, I have the Spirit of God in me. I may not know the particulars of God’s will for my life, but Jesus has given me enough direction to be able to figure it out… IF I WANT TO!
3. I need the Lord to be with me too. Like Moses, I should refuse to do anything unless I sense the Lord with me (Exodus 33:15-16). To sense this I need to consciously seek Him, to seek His will, and to put myself in a place where I am near to Him.PRAYER:
Lord, inspire me with a similar sense of calling as Joshua, with a clear sense of my calling and purpose. Then enable me to step up, like Joshua, and follow You obediently. Amen.