Readings

God speaks to us through Scripture. When we are lost, we know that we can look to His Word for guidance. We invite you to join us in daily reading as we go through the Bible together and learn as a family.

People come and go and are remembered for various contributions to society. However, the “huge crowd of witnesses” spoken of in Hebrews 12:1 are remembered for their mighty faith.

Think of the rich heritage recorded in the Scriptures of faith-filled believers. They were great men and women of character, endurance, vision, and accomplishment who “overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice . . . shut the mouths of lions, quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. . . .” (Hebrews 11:33-34).

Some were raised from the dead, and others chose death over betraying God, desiring a better resurrection (v. 35). They were unafraid of the saw, the sword, or the shame. They were willing to live in caves, mountains, and deserts and to clothe themselves in sheepskin or goatskin. Their powerful testimonies inspire us all. 

Of course, the greatest Hero of faith is Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith. His one, solitary life exemplifies a life of the greatest courage in adversity. “He was willing to die a shameful death on the cross because of the joy he knew would be his afterward” (Hebrews 12:2).

Follow Jesus. Live for Him, and die for Him—and you also will be remembered forever.

No more awesome sight has ever occurred in history than when Mount Sinai began to shake and tremble under the power of God. Paul records, “Moses himself was so frightened at the sight that he said, ‘I am terrified and trembling’ ” (Hebrews 12:21). The entire mountain was covered with “flaming fire, darkness, gloom, and whirlwind” (v. 18). In addition, all the people “heard an awesome trumpet blast and a voice with a message so terrible that they begged God to stop speaking” (v. 19). This frightening demonstration of sound effects and raw power made even the bravest soul tremble and was intended to bring the Israelites to an unforgettable sense of reverence and godly fear. 

Paul said, “Let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe. For our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:28-29). In worship, we do not approach a physical mountain, but we come to the eternal mountain of God: Zion, “the heavenly Jerusalem” (v. 22).

One day we will stand before God Himself, the One who moves mountains. In the meantime, let us heed the words of the psalmist:

“Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Israel” (Psalm 114:7).

Leadership is an awesome responsibility. To stand before others as a leader implies two great responsibilities. First, Ezekiel said that a leader is a watchman (Ezekiel 33:2). The watchman’s job is to stand upon the wall and never relax his vigilance in looking for the enemy. The watchman is no respecter of persons, but he issues the warning for all to hear. If the watchman is sleeping, afraid, or unconcerned about giving the warning, the Lord will hold him accountable for the blood of his people. 

The leader’s second responsibility is as a shepherd (Ezekiel 34:2). The leader is not only to lead but also to feed the flock of God. The leader who spends all his time and attention feeding himself neglects his flock. Ezekiel rebuked such leaders, saying, “You have not taken care of the weak. You have not tended the sick or bound up the broken bones. You have not gone looking for those who have wandered away and are lost. Instead, you have ruled them with force and cruelty” (v. 4). Shepherds should never be harsh, brutal, or uncaring, but rather they should serve as examples of kindness and concern to their flocks.

Leaders who fulfill the dual roles of watchman and shepherd should be highly respected. “Obey your spiritual leaders and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they know they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this joyfully and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit” (Hebrews 13:17).

Obey and pray for your watchman and shepherd, for your spiritual life is in his hands.

Are you going through a severe trial today? If so, your mind must settle certain issues. First, your reaction to the trial should be one of joy, for the testing of your faith develops perseverance (James 1:2-3). Rejoice when trials come your way, because without a test, there can be no testimony.

Second, you should remember that if you persevere and withstand the test, you will receive the crown of life (v. 12). All your earthly difficulties are simply adding jewels to your eternal crown and reward. That is a life-changing way to look at trials, now isn’t it? 

Finally, you should never blame God for all your trials. He does not tempt you to sin and only gives you what is good. “Whatever is good and perfect comes to us from God above, who created all heaven’s lights” (v. 17). Always remember “how kind the Lord is! How good he is! So merciful, this God of ours!” (Psalm 116:5).

The summary of the matter? Trials are working in your character, they are temporary, and God is concerned about your trials. One day you will be on the other side of the trial, saying to yourself as the psalmist said, “Now I can rest again, for the Lord has been so good to me” (Psalm 116:7).

Ezekiel saw a massive valley of dry bones. What a picture of today’s Church—disconnected, dry, divided, and dead! The once-powerful army of the early Church has disintegrated into a fractured, feeble graveyard of spiritual relics. 

Now must come the breath and life of God! Someone once said, “God does not breathe on anything that is not connected.” As believers in the Church of Jesus Christ, we must come back into relationship with one another, crossing racial, denominational, and even national lines of boundary. In Ezekiel, the connecting together of the dry bones brought muscle, tendons, breath, and balance back to the body. Then the revived body stood upright, a great army filled with the Spirit of God (Ezekiel 37:10).

How easy it is for the Church to become disconnected by economic status, race, or educational level. James corrected the believers who were favoring the rich over the poor in their congregational seating arrangements (James 2:3). The “royal law” tells us to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 19:19); thus, the Church must provide for the daily physical and emotional needs of others. There can be no favoritism in extending the love of Christ to one group of people over another. 

You cannot live disconnected from the rest of the Body of Christ. Look around, hook up, get involved, and feel the precious breath of God invigorating and empowering you!

James describes these seven pillars of wisdom (James 3:17) and contrasts them to the wisdom that is “earthly, unspiritual, and motivated by the Devil” (v. 15). First, wisdom is pure. Living a mixed, compromised lifestyle may appear smart, but it is not wise.

Second, wisdom is peace-loving. This attitude is in direct contrast to the world’s envy and selfish ambition, which results in “disorder and every kind of evil” (v. 16).

Third, wisdom is gentle. A wise person practices gentle courtesy and always considers the needs, desires, and feelings of others.

Fourth, wisdom is submissive. A person’s willingness to yield his will to the overall good of the family, community, or local church is a mark of true wisdom.

Fifth, wisdom is full of mercy and good fruit. A wise person will demonstrate obvious marks of goodness, charity, and forgiveness toward those who have injured him.

Sixth, wisdom is impartial, never valuing the face or status of someone instead of that person’s actual deed or need.

Finally, wisdom is sincere. A wise person is not hypocritical, but possesses a deep, inward authenticity. With him, what you see is what you get!

Establish your life on these seven pillars, and you will “plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of goodness” (v. 18).

Drawing close to the Lord should be your lifetime pursuit. Sometimes, however, that process is hindered. James writes about two stages you may have to pass through as you attempt to enter God’s presence. 

First, James says to “humble yourselves before God” (James 4:7). Pride, lust, and friendship with the world will block your prayer requests. Also, you may be asking with wrong motives: “You want only what will give you pleasure” (v. 3). However, if you humble yourself and submit your life to God, then your requests will be made from right motivations.

Next, James says to “resist the Devil, and he will flee from you”

(v. 7). Satan may be hindering your requests from coming to pass, even though God has granted them. When Daniel prayed, his prayer was actually answered from the first day, but Satan hindered it from coming to pass for twenty-one days (Daniel 10:12-13).

After you humble yourself and resist the devil, you will be able to “draw close to God, and God will draw close to you” (James 4:8). God loves you and is waiting for you to draw near through the gate of the Lord!

Prayer is the mightiest force upon earth. It is powerful enough to help the troubled, the sick, or the sinner (James 5:13-16).

Elijah is an example of one of the most powerful “pray-ers” in the Bible. He was subject to the same human frailties that we experience when we pray: boredom, fatigue, discouragement, hunger, and thirst. However, so powerful a prayer warrior was he that when he prayed for no rain, “none fell for the next three and a half years!” (James 5:17).

Elijah was consistent for more than three years in holding back the rain through prayer. Then, during a seven-part prayer drama on Mount Carmel, he sent his servant to look for a cloud of rain over the Mediterranean. Six times the servant returned discouraged. Finally, Elijah’s prayer broke through, and the cloud of rain soaked the parched soil. 

Our prayer goal? More than anything else, we must pray for those who have strayed from the truth of the Gospel and work to bring them back to right relationship with God (vv. 19-20).

Pray on, fervent Christian. The cloud of salvation is beginning to rise!

Serving the Lord is to be “no sweat”! God would not allow His servants who came before Him and ministered to Him to be in a sweating, fretful state of mind or body. We often think that serving God should tax our bodies, strain our relationships, bankrupt our finances, and cost us our sleep. Instead, Jesus said, “My yoke fits perfectly, and the burden I give you is light” (Matthew 11:30).

Peter said that we are to be joyful, even though we may have to go through many trials (1 Peter 1:6). Can you imagine rejoicing when you feel like weeping? Peter continued by telling us that we can be “happy with a glorious, inexpressible joy” (v. 8), even in the midst of a trial.

The psalmist expounds the third note in the heavenly chord of today’s reading: “If you will help me, I will run to follow your commands” (Psalm 119:32). Run? “Only children run,” you may say. Not so! Rejoice in God and run to Him with your worries and cares. The Christian life, though it can be difficult, should be “no sweat”!

A Christian’s appetite for the Word of God must be as voracious as a newborn baby’s craving for milk. A baby’s mouth snaps and its head jerks around the moment it senses nourishment is near. Similarly, baby birds open their mouths wide when their mothers return to the nest with food. The young of all species have an insatiable craving for food.

God’s Word is imperishable seed, the living and enduring Word of God. Nothing in this world will last, “but the word of the Lord will last forever” (1 Peter 1:25). God’s eternal Word is the diet of the human spirit. It changes us, enabling us to rid ourselves of “all malicious behavior and deceit” (2:1).

Peter’s admonition is that like newborn babies, we are to crave spiritual milk so we may grow up in our salvation (2:2). A baby drinking from a bottle is cute, but an adult drinking from a bottle is definitely not cute! We’ve got to grow up in Christ. David said, “How I delight in your commands! How I love them!” (Psalm 119:47). Love for God and His commands will cause us to hunger for the Word of God that will mature us.

Make God’s Word your staple. Crave it, love it, and feed on it. You will find yourself growing into a new person!

Ezekiel saw a vision of a river flowing eastward from the threshold of the temple. The river measured varying depths, and we can use this analogy to examine the level of our relationship with God.

First, we may be splashing around in the shallow, “ankle-deep” water with God. Our goal may be just to follow the crowd and have a good time as long as it lasts!

Hopefully, we decide to venture farther into the river and move into the “knee-deep” water. This gets us involved in the local church through regular attendance, prayer, and fellowship. 

Third, we may dare to wade deeper into the river. The “waistdeep” water involves areas such as commitment, Bible study, personal prayer, and discipline of character.

The last area is water that is deep enough to swim in. We now come to the area of leadership and fulfilling life’s calling. This is the area of faith—the area where we are in water “over our heads” and totally dependent upon God.

Some may be satisfied to simply splash around in the river of God, but you will never be truly satisfied until you fulfill your purpose. Dive in! The water is fine!

Daniel and his friends were men of integrity. Captured by the armies of Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, Daniel and three others from Judah’s royal family were ordered to live in the king’s palace for a three-year training period. Early on they resolved not to defile themselves with the royal food and wine offered by the king’s servants (Daniel 1:8). Everything about these young men testified of the good, wholesome will of God in their lives. Then came the time for their testing.

Satan did everything he could to destroy them and their influence with the king. It seemed as though their doom was sealed until Daniel spoke to the captain of the guard with “wisdom and discretion” (2:14). His wise words won him and his friends a stay of execution. Later that night the Lord revealed the king’s disturbing dream to Daniel. As a result, instead of being harmed, Daniel and his friends were promoted! 

When you come under persecution, be certain you are pursuing God’s good will with all your heart. He will give you the favor you need with whoever is responsible. “The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right, and his ears are open to their prayers. But the Lord turns his face against those who do evil” (1 Peter 3:12).

Peter said we shouldn’t be surprised or afraid at the painful things that happen in our lives. One way or another, we will all come face to face with a “trial by fire,” a moment in our lives when we decide if serving God is worth losing everything.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego walked through a fiery trial. The three young Hebrew men reached a quality decision before the king: “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. . . . But even if he doesn’t, Your Majesty can be sure that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up”

(Daniel 3:17-18). The courageous young men had determined that whether the trial burned them or they burned the trial, they were going to serve God!

Once you have decided that you are going to withstand any trial and realize that “these trials will make you partners with Christ in his suffering” (1 Peter 4:13), nothing Satan throws at you can affect you. In fact, you will find that Jesus is there in the fire with you (Daniel 3:25). The only things you will lose in the fire are your chains, for they will be burned off!

The stump in this dream typified King Nebuchadnezzar. His pride had brought him to the point of his becoming obnoxious to God. Indeed, he ruled the entire known world and lived in the most magnificent city in the world. His construction of the hanging gardens of Babylon is still considered one of the eight wonders of the world. However, the time came when God had to humble him.

Nebuchadnezzar may have been king, but God is “Chairman” of the “Ways and Means Committee”! He is in charge, and “he is able to humble those who are proud” (Daniel 4:37). God removed Nebuchadnezzar’s intellect and made him eat grass like a cow for seven years. In His mercy, however, He did not totally destroy him, but left him as a stump, restoring everything to him the moment the trial was over.

You may feel like you have lost everything, but in fact, your stump is still intact. God may have disciplined you, but He still loves you. And when God restores you, it will be with “even greater honor than before” (v. 36).

Cheer up, all you “stumps.” The best is yet to be!

When the fingers of a human hand wrote on the plaster of the wall, King Belshazzar’s face “turned pale with fear. Such terror gripped him that his knees knocked together and his legs gave way beneath him”

(Daniel 5:5-6). Even the bravest sinner is terrified before the pure revelation of God’s justice.

How often people mock God as though He were some senile puppy hiding under the porch! Their ignorance only displays their lack of understanding of His long-suffering. Someone once said, “Never mistake the long-suffering of God for His approval.” Those who persist in wrongdoing, counting on God’s mercy to overlook their sins, will one day be forced to account for their actions. “Their destruction is their reward for the harm they have done” (1 Peter 2:13).

When Belshazzar touched the holy vessels of the temple of God (Daniel 5:3-4), he crossed the line with God. He met the same fate as did the rebellious angels, the people of Noah’s day, and Sodom and Gomorrah. Belshazzar pushed the mercy of God over the line, and God’s mercy turned to judgment.

Walk before God in fear and trembling, for He is an awesome God.

Daniel’s final instance of supernatural deliverance is perhaps the most instructive. In everything he did, Daniel was above reproach. He was trustworthy, incorruptible, and honest. His lifestyle, decisions, moral standards, honesty, and work ethic were unmatched.

When extreme persecution came into Daniel’s life, it was because of his righteousness, not because of some fault in the way he conducted his life. This purity became his confidence in the time of trouble. In the dark night of the lion’s den, the angel of the Lord was with Daniel. “My God sent his angel to shut the lions’ mouths so that they would not hurt me, for I have been found innocent in his sight” (Daniel 6:22).

Your integrity is your shield. Peter said, “Make every effort to live a pure and blameless life. And be at peace with God” (2 Peter 3:14). If you will work on the “pure and blameless” part, God will work on the “delivering” part! 

When the enemy seems to have the upper hand, search your heart. If it is innocent and pure before God, you can proclaim with the psalmist, “Those lawless people are coming near to attack me; they live far from your law. But you are near, O Lord, and all your commands are true” (Psalm 119:150-151).

There were four major world kingdoms in the ancient world: Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. Daniel saw each of these kingdoms in animal form. The last kingdom, the Roman Empire, was an empire that was different from all the former beasts, and it had ten horns.

In world history, Rome ceased to exist as an empire centuries ago. However, in biblical prophecy, from this last empire will arise a world ruler spoken of as the “little horn,” or Antichrist. The Roman Empire is still around in seed form, and during the close of time, it will revive again as a league of ten nations.

The Antichrist will arise from these ten nations, and his boastful mouth will seek to exalt himself as God. He will be destroyed only by a direct intervention of the Ancient of Days. The world has seen some awful dictators in its short history—Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Pol Pot, and others—but this world dictator will crush all opposition to his rule.

It’s good to be on the Lord’s side. We know the end from the beginning, and the good news is that we win!

John designates three types of Christians, according to their maturity levels. His first exhortation is to the “dear children” whose entire experience and excitement revolves around the knowledge that their sins have been forgiven. Every new Christian needs to be taught and discipled in this simple truth. Unfortunately, most believers never fully enjoy the one basic fact that their sins have been forgiven on account of Jesus.

The second level of Christian maturity is the “young” (1 John 2:13). These Christians have moved into the level of spiritual warfare. They are strong in God’s Word and have overcome the devil (v. 14). They have allowed God to tear down the strongholds of Satan over their minds, bodies, and past struggles. They understand the truths of spiritual freedom from bondage and live in that freedom. 

The last group is the “mature,” who know Christ (v. 13). These people, walking in close relationship with God, know Him as more than just Forgiver and Deliverer. They know God as Father in spiritual worship and intimacy.

Grow up, little one. Your Father has more of His goodness for you to enjoy.

History is replete with stories of the rise and fall of persecutors of the Church, but the worst persecutor of all time could arrive in our generation. We may or may not be around when the actual Antichrist arrives on the scene, but the “spirit of the Antichrist” (1 John 4:3) has been working for thousands of years. It is a deceptive spirit, seeking to deny that Jesus is the Christ and thus denying the Father and the Son (2:22).

Daniel received the greatest Old Testament revelation of the Antichrist. He foresaw the covenant the Antichrist will make with the Jewish people in the seven years known as the Tribulation. The Antichrist will suddenly turn on the Jewish nation and “set up a sacrilegious object that causes desecration” (Daniel 9:27). It will be an image of the Antichrist himself in the midst of the Jews’ rebuilt temple.

We are not deceived, however, because we have the truth of the Holy Spirit living in us (1 John 2:20). Let us fear neither the literal Antichrist nor the spirit of Antichrist. The greater One is living inside us!

Certain signs indicate to us that someone has truly been born again. The first sign is victory over areas of habitual sin: “Those who have been born into God’s family do not sin, because God’s life is in them. So they can’t keep on sinning, because they have been born of God” (1 John 3:9). True conversion does not mean sinless perfection. Rather, it means that a person has forsaken the habitual sins that once enslaved him.

The second sign of true conversion is love for one’s brothers: “If we love our Christian brothers and sisters, it proves that we have passed from death to eternal life. But a person who has no love is still dead” (v. 14). When we come to Christ, gone are all attitudes of hatred and prejudice.

The third sign of genuine conversion is generosity. Giving is directly connected to love, because love always manifests itself in giving. First John 3:17 tells us, “But if anyone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need and refuses to help—how can God’s love be in that person?” A hilarious, cheerful, sharing spirit is physical evidence of the new birth.

A final sign of the new birth is confidence before God for the things requested in prayer (vv. 21-22). The believer does not display a shy, hesitant faith, but a bold, confident position in grace.

Follow these four signs—they are sure to lead you to true believers!

There is truth in the saying “All that glitters is not gold.” First John 4:1 warns us not to believe every spirit. Just as Satan can masquerade as an angel of light, so a person living for Satan can say the right words but live the wrong way.

Some false prophets speak very glibly and eloquently but oppose the very truth of God. Rejecting the fact that Jesus has come in the flesh, these prophets often refer to Him as a wonderful leader or a great teacher. In fact, most world religions recognize Christ as a great person.

The Holy Spirit will give you discernment and wisdom to spot indicators that are contrary to the Spirit of Jesus. Daniel said, “Those who are wise will shine as bright as the sky, and those who turn many to righteousness will shine like stars forever” (Daniel 12:3). We must depend on the Holy Spirit, the One of whom John said, “The Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world”

(1 John 4:4).

Follow the Holy Spirit and godly pastoral authority. Be wise and discerning. Satan can’t hide forever, and the Lord knows how to keep you out of the enemy’s deceptive web.

Satan is a master at setting traps for believers. He is called the “fowler” in Psalm 124:7 (KJV), that is, a person who traps birds. Perhaps as a child you watched someone take bread crumbs and make a trail that led inside a box. The box was propped up on a stick, and a string was tied to the stick. The fowler waited behind a fence or a building while an unsuspecting bird followed the bread crumbs into the box. Then, at just the right moment, the fowler pulled the string, and the bird was caught.

Do you know someone who is following “bread crumbs” right now? Little enticements toward money, sex, addictions, or positions come at just the right time to keep the person moving toward the “box.” Satan knows that if he can get someone who has no accountability to others to move down a sinful path, he can ultimately “pull the string,” and the unsuspecting person will be trapped.

Public embarrassment, loss of influence, and ultimately eternal death are Satan’s intentions as the fowler. By God’s grace, however, “we escaped like a bird from a hunter’s trap. The trap is broken, and we are free!” (Psalm 124:7).

A story was once told of a couple who had won a free trip on a cruise ship. They never appeared with the others for the magnificent meals of steak and lobster. Instead, they ate every meal in their room, rationing out cheese and crackers they had brought with them. Someone asked them why they had not gone to the sumptuous feasts that were prepared for them daily. The man and his wife were utterly shocked to learn that the meals had been included in the price of the cruise!

How many Christians are living on spiritual “cheese and crackers” when they could be enjoying “steak and ice cream”? They simply lack the knowledge of what belongs to them in Christ. God, however, delights to see His children gain knowledge of their inheritance and then walk in that light. John said, “How happy I was to meet some of your children and find them living in the truth, just as we have been commanded by the Father” (2 John 1:4).

The other side, unfortunately, is represented by those who reject knowledge, as described in Hosea 4:6. They have been taught the truth and have rejected it in unbelief. Their lack of knowledge of God and His ways destroys them.

Come on down to the galley. The banquet table is spread for you!

Restoration is such a biblical idea. The Bible is full of stories of broken lives, wrecked dreams, and dashed hopes. But in these stories, the power of faith brings such a dramatic turnaround in each situation that the people involved cannot contain their emotions.

There may have been a situation you practically gave up on, but then God reversed it miraculously. Perhaps Psalm 126:2 describes how you and your loved ones felt as you laughed and joyfully sang aloud of the Lord’s deliverance.

Hosea 6:2 (NIV) describes a scene of two days of death and a third day of resurrection: “After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence.”  This is a direct prophecy of Jesus’ resurrection on the third day. His disciples had lost all hope, when suddenly He walked out of the grave!

Maybe today your hopes are lying dead inside the grave with Satan’s guards at the door. Take courage—the third day is coming! “Restore our fortunes, Lord, as streams renew the desert. Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy. They weep as they go to plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest” (Psalm 126:4-6).

Major storms and hurricanes have what are called steering currents. These currents keep the storms moving in a certain direction. Without the steering currents, the storms would be far more dangerous than they are. 

Your life also gets out of control if you lack spiritual steering currents. Jude reveals that the first steering current is praying in the Holy Spirit. This kind of praying builds up your inner man and keeps your faith strong.

The second spiritual guideline is living in God’s love. Jude says to

“live in such a way that God’s love can bless you as you wait for the eternal life that our Lord Jesus Christ in his mercy is going to give you” (v. 21). If you can continually stay in the center of the love of God, you will be able to wait patiently for God’s mercy to bring you to eternal life.

The third steering current is reaching out to others by obeying the command to “rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment” (v. 23). To focus continually on soul winning will keep you off the reefs and rocks of life. All your energy will be directed toward what God loves: souls!

Prayer, love, and outreach will steer you well, even when the ship of your life seems to be off course. If you let these “steering currents” guide your life, one day you will stand before God “innocent of sin and with great joy” (v. 24).

Natural reasoning always leads us off track. The more we think and reason about standards, morality, and righteousness, the more we excuse wrong behavior. What we need is revelation—God’s opinion and verdict about our actions. God did not give us the “Ten Suggestions.” He gave us the Ten Commandments!

The book of Revelation begins with this sentence: “This is a revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him concerning the events that will happen soon” (1:1). Each of the seven churches heard a direct word from Christ concerning putting their spiritual houses in order. 

Joel saw a revelation of the end of time: “I will cause wonders in the heavens and on the earth—blood and fire and pillars of smoke. The sun will be turned into darkness, and the moon will turn bloodred before that great and terrible day of the Lord arrives” (Joel 2:30-31). This awesome revelation and wonder will have an incredible effect, and “anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (v. 32).

Live by revelation, not reasoning. One day you will be glad you did!

In this verse God shows His desire to reveal His plans to His servants before events take place. God does not just spring events on nations. He gradually warns them of coming disaster, as He did in the case of Jonah and Nineveh.

The book of Revelation was written to seven different “angels” of the seven churches of Asia. Most commentators believe that these angels were the pastors of those churches. The local pastors received revelation from the Holy Spirit of God’s intention toward their churches.

In our churches today, if the pastor needs to repent, the Holy Spirit will convict the leader or use circumstances to force him to face an issue. This leading by the Holy Spirit protects the flock, since the local church will follow the leader in either the right or wrong direction.

If you are concerned about the direction of your church, pray for your pastor. God has obligated Himself to speak to him, so pray, asking the Lord to give your pastor the courage to obey as he hears God speaking.

The church in Sardis suffered from spiritual slumber. It’s easy for us to walk around and look spiritually correct when, in fact, our vital relationship with God is dead. The Lord said to the Sardis church, “Now wake up! Strengthen what little remains, for even what is left is at the point of death. Your deeds are far from right in the sight of God” (Revelation 3:2).

If we are not careful, sleep can sneak up on us, even at the wheel of a car. The psalmist said, “I long for the Lord more than sentries long for the dawn, yes, more than sentries long for the dawn” (Psalm 130:6). The watchman’s entire occupation is based upon staying awake, intently gazing at the darkness for any sign of the enemy. If he falls asleep, disastrous consequences can result for the entire city.

Instead of sleeping, the watchman eagerly looks to the eastern sky for signs of the morning sun. In the same way, our souls should have an eager expectation for God, a quickened excitement every time we spend time alone with Him.

Amos said, “How terrible it will be for you who lounge in luxury and think you are secure. . . .” (Amos 6:1). Stir yourself up, for the Lord “will come upon you suddenly, as unexpected as a thief” (Revelation 3:3).

Pride is undoubtedly the deadliest of sins. It caused the downfall of Satan, and for centuries he has deceived countless men and women.

David, the greatest king of Israel, would not allow pride in his life. He declared, “Lord, my heart is not proud; my eyes are not haughty. I don’t concern myself with matters too great or awesome for me” (Psalm 131:1). Associating with the wealthy, the intellectual, or political “movers and shakers” causes some to consider themselves exalted, as did Haman in the book of Esther.

David, however, was willing to associate with anyone and still remained secure in who he was. He reminded himself that his soul was as quiet as a “weaned child with its mother” (v. 2, NIV). Weaned children do not struggle for position and nourishment, but rather are relaxed and content to lie on their mothers’ laps. Prideful people, on the other hand, are always fidgety. They push for position and notoriety and work all the angles.

As though we were babies on God’s lap, let us relax and allow Him to exalt us. We will live longer and go further as well!

The fourth chapter of Revelation portrays an awesome scene. In this passage we get our first glimpse of heaven’s glorious landscape and beauty. Even though we know in our hearts that heaven is real, to have it described is breathtaking: “I saw a throne in heaven and someone sitting on it! The one sitting on the throne was as brilliant as gemstones— jasper and carnelian. And the glow of an emerald circled his throne like a rainbow” (vv. 2-3).

Rainbow colors of precious jewels were all around the throne of God. Before the throne were the twenty-four elders, the seven lamps of the Spirit of God, and the sea of glass. Four awesome creatures surrounded the throne, and day and night, they cry, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty—the one who always was, who is, and who is still to come” (v. 8).

The earthly ark of the covenant was just a little gold-plated box that symbolized this awesome throne. David’s heart’s desire was to build a place for that ark in Zion, for God had said, “This is my home where I will live forever. . . . I will live here, for this is the place I desired” (Psalm 132:14).

Make spending time in God’s presence the greatest desire of your life. One day your eyes will see Him face-to-face upon the throne of His glory.

Harmony is a state that many try to achieve, but few can maintain. A man without God will find himself continually disagreeing, fighting, and pushing for position. The psalmist, however, beautifully expressed the wonder of people working and walking together in one accord. 

Harmony is not uniformity, as we all possess different outlooks, backgrounds, and gifts. Harmony is a choice to sacrifice one’s personal agenda for the greater good of the “team,” whether that team is a family, ministry, or organization. Harmony generates the same precious fragrance as the oil that ran from Aaron’s head onto his robe. It is as refreshing as the crystal waters that flowed from snowcapped Mount Hermon to the valley below (Psalm 133:3).

Whenever the leaders come into harmony, or unity, the followers who are under them will unify as well. Let us accept the great challenge of Christ’s prayer in John 17 and lay aside our personal king-dom-building in order that we may promote and help the whole Body. One day we will join the hundreds of millions around the throne, as we all sing in harmony, “The Lamb is worthy” (Revelation 5:12).