Devotional 10-31-10

Scripture: Daniel 12:1
“At that time Michael, healing the great prince, health the protector of your people, medicine shall arise. There shall be a time of anguish, such as has never occurred since nations first came into existence. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone who is found written in the book…”
Thought for the Day: I’m reminded of the old Schoolhouse Rock song that said, “Conjunction Junction, what’s your function…Hooking up words and phrases and clauses.”  In grammar, conjunctions play an important role.  They play an equally important role in theology.  As you see in this passage, the word ‘but‘ nullifies everything that comes before it.  Anguish beyond anything imaginable will occur, but don’t lose hope.  Three simple letters in the correct order are capable of eclipsing anguish with good news.  Even when the world declares, “That’s the end,” the voice of God say, “…but…”  And when we hear that simple conjunction, our hearts arise from the despair to glimpse what had not been visible before.  Thanks be to God for the word, “…but…”
Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for always providing new possibilities when nothing new appears to be possible. Amen.

Devotional 10-30-10

Scripture: Daniel 11:45
He shall pitch his palatial tents between the sea and the beautiful holy mountain. Yet he shall come to his end, patient with no one to help him.
Thought for the Day: As I watched game two of the World Series, generic a batter made an impressive swing, prostate yet not anywhere close.  The author of Daniel has been hitting well to this point when it comes to his historical accuracy.  That’s because the author is writing about those things that have already occurred, but as we move toward the end of this chapter, we have a big swing and an even bigger whiff.   The description of Antiochus Epiphanes’ death is incorrect, and for that reason, most scholars date the writing of this book as just before the death of Antiochus Epiphanes (163BC).  When we speak of prophecy or apocalyptic writings, we are not describing soothsayers or fortune-tellers.  What we do find in these styles of writing are those who provide hope through the use metaphor and poetry.  This is the human element of scripture that many try to deny, yet it is that very element that reaches out of the heavenly places and into our lives.
Prayer: As I attempt and fail to ponder the vastness of your grace, O God, I am thankful that you choose to reveal your immeasurable love in the frail and mistaken.  Amen.

Devotional 10-29-10

Scripture: Daniel 11:18-19
Afterward he shall turn to the coastlands, purchase and shall capture many. But a commander shall put an end to his insolence; indeed, he shall turn his insolence back upon him. 19 Then he shall turn back toward the fortresses of his own land, but he shall stumble and fall, and shall not be found.
Thought for the Day: The ‘he’ in this passage is Antiochus the Great, the father of Antiochus IV Epiphanes.  Antiochus the Great received his title (‘the Great’) in the way most people receive such a title.  He gave it to himself.  Historians seem to think he probably would have lived into the impressive adjective had he not gotten greedy, but the title proved to be premature as his ambition was greater than his ability.  Now I think it is important to think positive.  Our optimistic attitudes can be self-fulfilling prophecies, but the moment our goal becomes greedy and is built upon arrogance, we can almost guarantee failure.  When we reach beyond our God-given gifts and begin to live only for ourselves, any impressive designation will be declared premature.
Prayer: Gentle God, provide me the wisdom to live faithfully within the boundaries of my gifts.  Amen.

Devotional 10-28-10

Scripture: Daniel 11:2-3
“Now I will announce the truth to you. Three more kings shall arise in Persia. The fourth shall be far richer than all of them, shop and when he has become strong through his riches, sickness he shall stir up all against the kingdom of Greece.  Then a warrior king shall arise, who shall rule with great dominion and take action as he pleases…”
Thought for the Day: The struggle for power, wealth and authority appears to be the downfall of each kingdom.  The final Persian king to come to power who was ‘far richer than all of them’ would find himself defeated by the one ‘who shall rule with great dominion.’  This was Alexander the Great, and since this book was written after the fact, people would know of his untimely death at the young age of 33.  For the intended audience of Jews living in the 2nd Century before Christ, the violence and hunger for power seen among their oppressors would be viewed as a prelude to the oppressors’ eventual collapse.  By reflecting back on what had happened in history, the author of Daniel was pulling back the curtain on his current situation and unveiling where God was at work.  It is often difficult for us to see God in the present moment, but knowing the stories of how God has worked often allows us to see how God is acting in our current circumstance.
Prayer: I trust in you, O God, and your compassionate love for the hurting, both then and now.  Amen.

Devotional 10-27-10

Scripture: Daniel 10:19
He said, stuff “Do not fear, greatly beloved, you are safe. Be strong and courageous!” When he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, “Let my lord speak, for you have strengthened me.”
Thought for the Day: We hear for the second time the declaration, “Do not fear,” and in those words, Daniel is strengthened for the task at hand.  Each of us faces our own set of troubles that are very capable of producing fear, but let your faith connect you anew with the One who will never allow fear or its fabricators to have the final word.
Prayer: No matter what I face, Lord God, I believe you will outlast it.  That’s glorious news!  Amen.

Devotional 10-26-10

Scripture: Daniel 10:12

He said to me, see “Do not fear, clinic Daniel, stuff for from the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words…”

Thought for the Day: “Do not fear,” is a statement that assumes fear, but it also assumes the one who is afraid is doing or about to do the work of God.  This phrase appears many times in scripture, but when the divine or the representatives of the divine declare it, there should be renewed conviction even among those who have found their knees knocking.  Evil would rather keep us anxious and jumpy, and it uses fear as a tool to silence the faithful voices.  The divine declaration, “Do not fear!” may not rid us of all the butterflies, but it helps them fly in formation.

Prayer: O Living Presence, help me tame the fears that would otherwise silence your good words.  Amen.

Devotional 10-25-10

Scripture: Daniel 10:2-5
At that time I, illness Daniel, had been mourning for three weeks.  I had eaten no rich food, no meat or wine had entered my mouth, and I had not anointed myself at all, for the full three weeks.  On the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was standing on the bank of the great river (that is, the Tigris), I looked up and saw a man clothed in linen, with a belt of gold from Uphaz around his waist.
Thought for the Day: Most religions have rituals of fasting and cleansing, simplicity and surrender.  As I have said again and again, these are not for the purpose of convincing God that we are worthy of the divine love, but to make ourselves more available to the outpouring of this amazing gift.  It appears that Daniel has put his body through a time of discipline, and during this experience, a vision came to him.  Spiritual disciplines don’t guarantee an intense spiritual experience, but they make us more open to the possibility.  Some people will view these activities in a negative way because they require the individual to give something up.  Instead, we should view them as tried and true practices that provide so much more than what we are required to give.
Prayer: May the things I give up for my faith, O Lord, be eclipsed by the amazing gifts of grace and mercy that I discover anew.  Amen.

Devotional 10-24-10

Scripture: Daniel 9:20-22
While I was speaking, store and was praying and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, malady and presenting my supplication before the Lord my God on behalf of the holy mountain of my God—while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen before in a vision, came to me in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice. He came and said to me, “Daniel, I have now come out to give you wisdom and understanding.”
Thought for the Day: I must admit how I wish my prayers were answered with an angel walking into my room and explaining in detail how the prayer would be answered.  I think most of us would appreciate God answering our prayers with more bells and whistles.  We’d like to see more specifics, including a detailed timeline.  I wonder if our understanding of prayer is a little skewed.  I pray for a new car when my old car is working just fine.  A mother in eastern Congo is praying for just enough food to keep her child alive.  Maybe the answer to my prayer is, “No!” in hopes that the money saved by not buying a car will become an answer for the woman in eastern Congo.  At the end of the day, I still have the freedom to choose, and maybe that’s the reason Daniel receives wisdom and understanding as an answer to his prayers.
Prayer: Humble my heart, O God, so I can hear your wishes and not the wishes of my ego.  Amen.