Devotions for November 21-27, 2016
Monday, November 21, 2016
“So the presidents and satraps conspired and came to the king” (Daniel 6:6).
Envy is a terrible thing. It sours our lives, sucking any joy we might have out of them. We look around us and see people who can do things better than we can, or who have more than we do. We envy them. We long to be able to do what they do and we crave what they have. Once we might have been thankful for our abilities and content with what we have, but these have been replaced by envy.
The presidents and satraps were envious of Daniel. He was a foreigner and should have been among the lowest of the low. The Lord had blessed Daniel and Daniel’s talents had caught the eye of King Darius. He had risen quickly through the ranks and had attained a position greater and more powerful than the presidents and satraps. They were envious of Daniel and they hated him.
As followers of Jesus we have been richly blessed. God has poured out God’s love and grace into our lives and provided us with our daily bread. We have so much for which to be thankful. Instead of looking up and being envious of others, we can look around us and see the need of others. Rather than being envious, we can be loving and use what we have been given to help the people around us.
Gracious God, move within us so that thankfulness and love are what motivate our words and actions. Amen.
Tuesday, November 22, 2016
“Whoever prays to anyone, divine or human, for thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be thrown into a den of lions” (Daniel 6:7).
Kevin O’Shea was B.M.O.C. of Jefferson High. He was handsome, a star athlete and decent scholar. His classmates and even some of his teachers looked up to him and Kevin gloried in their admiration. Juanita Lopez was a sales dynamo. She racked up awards, bonuses and the praise of her superiors on a regular basis, and Juanita loved the attention and the accolades.
It was easy for King Darius to see himself as a god. He was a fearsome warrior and an all-powerful king. There was no one greater than him. When the presidents and satraps came to him with the idea to ban all prayer to any god or human except him, Darius thought it was a great idea. With great hubris Darius signed the decree. His thoughts were not on others, but only on himself.
Pride can quickly take up residence in our lives when we see our lives, as something we have attained rather than something we have been given. Pride inspires possessiveness and greed. Suddenly our lives become egocentric rather than theocentric. As followers of Jesus, though, we keep our eyes on him. Seeing Jesus’ love and graciousness, our pride is replaced by thankfulness. Instead of hanging on, we can let go and generously serve.
Almighty God, you desire that we walk humbly before you. In order to do this, enable us to keep our eyes on you instead of on ourselves. Amen.
Wednesday, November 23, 2017
“Now O king, establish the interdict and sign the document, so that it cannot be changed” (Daniel 6:8).
Carry looked down for only a moment as she texted her friend. It was long enough, though, for her to go off the road and smash her car. In a fit of anger, Miguel said some hateful words destroying a friendship—words that he could not take back. Caught up in his own pride and tricked by his trusted advisors, Darius signed and interdict that could not be changed.
We say and do many things that have adverse consequences and we can’t take them back or undo them. We do have a choice, though. We can decide to live in remorse over what we have said and done, or we can confess our wrongdoings, strive to change our behavior and receive God’s forgiveness. Confession and repentance breaks the power of our past and opens up the possibilities of the future.
Forgiving Lord, we have sinned against you in thought, word and deed by what we have done and by what we have left undone. Forgive us and empower us to walk in newness of life. Amen.
Thursday, November 24, 2016
“Although Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he continued to go to his house … to pray to his God” (Daniel 6:10).
Daniel had three choices before him. He could obey the interdict and not pray. He could pray but do it in secret behind closed doors. Daniel could also openly defy the interdict, pray openly and face the consequences. Daniel chooses the latter path. As a person of faith, Daniel places his relationship with God above all else. In doing so, he displays a conviction and trust that no matter what happens God is in control and that he will never become separated from God.
Millions of Christians face similar persecution on a daily basis. Their persecution does not turn them away from living as disciples of Jesus, nor does it weaken their faith. Instead, the persecution deepens their faith.
On this Thanksgiving Day let’s remember our brothers and sisters who suffer and die because of their faith. It is also appropriate for us to give the Lord thanks and praise that we are free to pray, to worship and to live out our faith as followers of Jesus without fear of persecution. No matter what our situations in life, God is with us.
Loving Lord, surround your children with your love and give all of us strength to boldly and lovingly follow the path on which you lead us. Amen.
Friday, November 25, 2016
“The conspirators came and found Daniel praying and seeking mercy before his God” (Daniel 6:11).
No one likes tests. We wish we could avoid them and often pray that God will take them away. Students offer this prayer as do people experiencing losses, transitions, hard times and life transitions. As followers of Jesus the depth of our commitment and the breadth of our love may be tested as we stand with those who experience the racism, bigotry, injustice and hate, which is so freely expressed in our society today.
It is interesting that, when Daniel faced persecution and the testing of his faith, he did not pray that the Lord would take them away. Instead, Daniel sought to enter God’s presence and seek God’s love. Knowing that God was with him was enough for Daniel. As we face the tests in our lives, Daniel sets a good example to follow. God is with us and will walk with us through to the other side of the test (and God won’t stop there!).
Powerful Lord, empower us by your Holy Spirit so that we may be faithfully obedient to you as we face the tests of life. Amen.
Saturday, November 26, 2016
“The king said to Daniel, ‘May your God, whom you faithfully serve, deliver you’” (Daniel 6:16)!
The king expressed hope that the Lord would accomplish what he could not—save Daniel. In this story of Daniel, the writer wants to highlight Daniel’s deep faith and God’s presence and power in human history. We know what happens. God prevents the lions from devouring Daniel and God does deliver him. If the lions had consumed Daniel, would God have failed? Is a physical deliverance the only way God moves?
Throughout the history of the Church, Christians have prayed for deliverance. Sometimes they have escaped their fate and are saved from the situations that threatened them. There are, however, millions of Christians who have suffered for their faith and even been martyred for being disciples of Jesus. Today we may not suffer persecution for our faith, but we may ask to be delivered from the grief, pain and struggles of life. Usually God does not deliver us by having these miraculously disappear. God may deliver us in different ways. God may give us the “peace that passes all understanding.” At other times, when we are weak, God may give us strength. God may comfort us in our grief, encourage us in our long term struggles or give us hope in hopeless situations. God is a God of deliverance and God won’t be boxed in by our expectations.
God of deliverance, walk with us through all of life and when we grow weary carry us in your arms. Amen.
Sunday, November 27, 2016
“For he is the living God, enduring forever” (Daniel 6:26).
For those of us who worship in liturgical congregations that follow the church year, today is the first Sunday in Advent. We begin our wait and preparation for the incarnate God who has come as a child of lowly birth in Bethlehem, and for God’s return as Lord of lords and King of kings. Our focus, during this Advent season, is not on a timeline of past, present and future. Instead we keep our attention on the living God.
Signs that God is a living God are not found in a heartbeat or brainwaves. When the author of the book of Daniel wrote, “living God,” he was emphasizing God’s presence and activity in the world and our lives as Children of God. God is not dead, nor is God sleeping. God is living—walking with us and holding us in the palm of God’s hands.
Living God, we rejoice that you are moving in our lives and in our world. Use us so that we may be a part of your movement of love and grace. Amen.