Thursday, June 30, 2011

June 30, 2011 … Integrity Brings True (Godly) Success

Passage of the Day: Daniel 6: 28 … So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.

My Journal for Today: This month I’ve been looking at and writing about spiritual integrity, with John MacArthur’s help from his devotional, Strength for Today; and we have exemplified this attribute of Christian living by looking into the lives of Daniel and his three young Hebrew friends, who were renamed to the names most of us know them by … Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. And I believe that MacArthur is right when he says, “True success is more a matter of character than circumstances.”

Daniel was loyal and true to God’s will/ways; and God used him successfully in the Lord’s big picture of God’s redemptive plan. Daniel’s work and influence over King Cyrus (and/or Darius), led to the Jews being freed and returning to Jerusalem (see Ezra 1: 1 – 3); and it was his prophesies (see Daniel 9) that led to the Magi searching for the Jewish Messiah (see Matt. 2: 1 – 12). All of that was a direct or indirect result of Daniel’s spiritual integrity; and it would be ludicrous to claim that all of those historical circumstances, which fit so intricately and powerfully together, happened by sheer chance.

So, Daniel’s story and life show us that God will use anyone who stays true to God’s will, allowing Him to work into God’s plan in His time through His people. May we all stay true, as did Daniel and the tree courageous Hebrew friends, to God’s word, His ways, and His will; and then let God use His faithful people of integrity [prayerfully that’s you and me] for His glory. And as I have reflected in my journal entries during this month, it’s a good time for any of us to ask ourselves how faithfully we’ve been into God’s word (see Joshua 1: 8) and living accord to His will (see 1st Cor. 4: 1 – 2). Because, … if we are God’s servants, as was Daniel, God will use us; but He can only use us when we yield to Him as did Daniel.

However, for the latter to be the case we must live and be an answer to King David’s ponderous prayer question in Psalm 15: 1, with his answer in verse 2

SCRIPTURE: Psalm 15: 1-2LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill? 2 He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart

Perhaps you, as I do, find these words imposing, if not impossible; and if it were not for the righteousness imputed by our Savior/Lord, it would be impossible to live up to this standard of righteousness. What David is saying/singing here is that only those who walk blamelessly in righteousness and speak total truth from the heart (i.e., live the completed and perfected life) have a right to dwell with God. And, of course, David, the Psalmist King, was/is right in this assertion. And that was the kind of life lived by Daniel; and late in their lives by men like Paul, Peter, John, and the other Apostles of Christ. But we know that the latter giants of the faith were not like that before they received the saving and enabling grace of God through their faith in Jesus Christ.

When Jesus called His disciples all of them were severely lacking in spiritual integrity. And King David, who wrote Ps. 15, certainly had his time when he did not live in a way to inhabit God’s “Holy Hill.” But when these men died, most of them as martyrs for their faith, they had chosen to live like Daniel, trusting God completely, walking blamelessly, and speaking THE TRUTH, … and following, by surrendered faith, the One Who led their lives, … THE Messiah, Who is Jesus Christ. And they all, just as we can, dwell in God’s sanctuary forever.

And may that be the aspiration of integrity for all who use the Name, “Christian.”

My Prayer Today: My I live under Your definition of success for my life, Lord. Amen

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

June 29, 2011 … Integrity Draws People To God

Passage of the Day: Daniel 6: 25 – 27 … 25 Then King Darius wrote to all the peoples, nations and men of every language throughout the land: “May you prosper greatly!”
26 “I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel. For he is the living God and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end. 27 He rescues and he saves; he performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions.”

My Journal for Today: The proclamation by King Darius, honoring Daniel’s God, was made by a pagan king of a pagan nation; and it illustrates the impact that God can have through just one man (or woman) who stands with integrity for God. Yes, just one person stands up for God to another, especially one of influence or power, in God’s timing, and it can, through God’s enabling grace, have the kind of influence/impact that Daniel had on King Darius (a.k.a., King Cyrus).

In his devotional for this date from Strength for Today, John MacArthur helps me (us) see other examples … e.g., Noah stood for God, being labeled crazy as he built the ark; … Joseph witnessed to Egypt, having been delivered from the pits and prison; … Moses, came from the wilderness and banishment to Egypt to deliver God’s people from slavery; … a young Gideon was lifted from hiding in a wine barrel to become a great leader in battle for Israel; … and Esther was God’s agent to save God’s people from wickedness and oppression in a culture where women were considered property. All of these were common people at the time God intervened and chose them, using them for His glory in uncommon witness.

But you may say, as I thought in reading this list, “I’m not a giant of the faith like these!” But look at how Jesus called His disciples. These men were not giants of the faith when Jesus called them. Those whom I mentioned above were not “giant’s” of faith when God called them to extraordinary duty. Yet, their witness in God’s timing and purpose, with their faith and surrender to God’s plan, changed the world forever.

The lesson here is that ANYONE can be used for God’s glory when that one surrenders completely to God’s purpose in His timing. Perhaps you or I can be God’s chosen witness to a lost person in our family or in our work place, even one of influence who might have great impact on others as was the case with a King Darius. Perhaps the position and influence you hold with others, with those people seeing Christ being lived out in your life, can have an enormous ripple effect on others for Christ over time. We won’t know when and how God will use something we say or how we live by faith to draw someone to Himself and then use that person for His glory.

When I was a hardened agnostic many years ago, a Christian acquaintance loaned me a cassette tape by a Christian speaker on the subject of one’s faith being lived out in our everyday lives; and that tape brought me to brokenness on April 13, 1983, the day I opened my life to Christ. And now that same former “anti-Christian” has, over three decades later, has become an ordained Christian minister and has been called to found and lead Battle Plan Ministry. Only God can do something like that; but He used one Christian standing up for his faith and witnessing to me boldly to bring yours truly into God’s family. Who do you know to whom God is calling you to witness today?

My Prayer Today: Use me even this day, Lord, in Your time, for Your purpose! Amen

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

June 28, 2011 … Integrity Will Be Vindicated

Passage of the Day: Daniel 6: 21 - 24 … 21 Daniel answered, “O king, live forever! 22 My God sent His angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in His sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, O king.” 23 The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God. 24 At the king’s command, the men who had falsely accused Daniel were brought in and thrown into the lions’ den, along with their wives and children. And before they reached the floor of the den, the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones.

My Journal for Today: In the 21st Century, … in these days of blatant and open political and legal oppression of Christian values and ideals, it can be discouraging to stand with integrity as a believer in Christ in battle after battle for a country founded on Christian principles now being denigrated and degraded by men like those Daniel faced from the court of King Darius. That’s why it is most encouraging to latch on to the truth of this historical story of Daniel being delivered from the lions.

John MacArthur clearly states the principle … that “… God will always vindicate His people.” We don’t always know when or how the vindication will occur; but it WILL happen … even if that occurs in Heaven.

It had to have been a major downer for Daniel to know he was in the “right” and still was put into the lion’s den by a King with whom he had built a strong and lasting relationship of trust. But Daniel, I’m sure, remembered how God had delivered him in the past as well as his three young friends years before from the fiery furnace; and Daniel’s integrity of faith would be with him as he entered that den of lions. Would he be delivered from death? Like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, I’m sure Daniel believed that God would be his deliverer; but he could not know whether he would be delivered from the mouths of those lions or into the hands of God for eternity. But Daniel knew and believed, with integrity, that His God was his deliverer.

Now it’s true that deliverance from anti-God oppression these days may not be as quick or as dramatic as it was for Daniel; but Christ’s oppression on the cross, which resulted in His death and resurrection, has sealed our future where we, who have faith in Him, will be delivered and live with Him forever in heaven. Perhaps God has set our nation adrift as it teaches about a godless culture in Romans 1. But we, who claim Christ as our Lord and Savior, have the hope which overcomes the oppression from any circumstances; and it allow us to believe in the truth that all things work together for the good of God’s chosen ones (hopefully you recognize that from your memory of Rom. 8: 28).

My Prayer Today: We are so blessed, Lord, to stand with you as did Daniel. Amen

Monday, June 27, 2011

June 27, 2011 … Integrity Accepts God’s Will

Passage of the Day: Daniel 6: 18 – 22 … 18 Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night without eating and without any entertainment being brought to him. And he could not sleep. 19 At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den. 20 When he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?” 21 Daniel answered, “O king, live forever! 22 My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, O king.”

My Journal for Today: As we read in today’s passage, it was God’s will that Daniel be delivered from the mouths of the lions. And it was undoubtedly Daniel’s steadfast integrity of faith and his open witness to King Darius prior to this incident which caused the King to have regrets in Daniel’s predicament, and at the same time hope that Daniel’s God would deliver Daniel, the king’s loyal servant. However, Darius, the King was stuck by the wiles of his advisors and his own laws and decrees. That’s why it’s so easy, as a believer these days, to be concerned by the laws that are being drafted or the rulings of judges which restrict or persecute Christians.

And, as John MacArthur points out in his devotional for this date in Strength for Today, it is not always God’s will that the faithful be delivered from the jaws of death as was the case for Daniel or for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego earlier. MacArthur reminds me and his readers that Isaiah was a faithful witness to God; and he was sawn in half by God’s enemies; and how faithful was Stephen, who was stoned to death as he declared his loyalty to God to the end? Finally, we know that both Peter and Paul were martyred in very cruel deaths for their faith. All of these men had incredible Spirit-led integrity; and all of them were bold and assertive witnesses to their faith … just like Daniel. Yet, they were not delivered from their individual “lion’s den” experience and were martyred for their faith.

Yes, as MacArthur writes, “Trusting God means accepting His will, whether for life or for death.” And as Paul wrote in Phil. 1: 21, “… to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” My primary goals in this life as a Christian are to know God and to live according to His will. And oh how I desire to be like these men of faith who held on to their integrity in Christ in their lives and in the face of death!

And right now, in my morning time with God, as His timing would have it, and as I listen to my ITunes music collection of Christian favorites, the version of the great praise song, I Will Follow Christ, performed by my dear friend, Clay Crosse, and two of his fellow Christian artists, Bob Carlisle and Bebe Winans has come up for me to listen to here in my quiet time. What a great song about following Christ no matter what the circumstances of life. And so that you, my fellow Christians reader, can hear my brothers singing this song, here’s a link to a You Tube performance by these great singers of that powerful song of praise and witness. Watch, listen, and be inspired to greater integrity and witness.

My Prayer Today: O, my Lord, to live or to die in You is my witness. Amen

Sunday, June 26, 2011

June 26, 2011 … Integrity Enjoys Divine Resources

Passage of the Day: Daniel 6: 12 – 17 … 12 So they went to the king and spoke to him about his royal decree: “Did you not publish a decree that during the next thirty days anyone who prays to any god or man except to you, O king, would be thrown into the lions’ den?” The king answered, “The decree stands—in accordance with the laws of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.”
13 Then they said to the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or to the decree you put in writing. He still prays three times a day.” 14 When the king heard this, he was greatly distressed; he was determined to rescue Daniel and made every effort until sundown to save him.
15 Then the men went as a group to the king and said to him, “Remember, O king, that according to the law of the Medes and Persians no decree or edict that the king issues can be changed.”
16 So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lions’ den. The king said to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!”
17 A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the rings of his nobles, so that Daniel’s situation might not be changed.

My Journal for Today: As we read on in Daniel 6, the plot thickens involving Daniel and the jealous and somewhat desperate leaders of the court of Darius, who had unwittingly signed a decree which seemed to have sealed Daniel’s fate to death in the lion’s den. At this point Darius realized that he was trapped politically, legally, and personally; and Daniel would have to pay the appointed legal penalty for his unwillingness to give up his prayer discipline and his God honoring integrity. We read that Darius didn’t want to kill Daniel; but all human means of exoneration were exhausted.

And how many times have we been at a place in our lives when all human and/or legal means of solving a problem have played themselves out. It is in moments like Daniel’s predicament or when we have no human means of prevailing that our God, … Daniel’s God, has us just where He wants us – dependent totally on Him to save the day; and in our surrender He is glorified. And as we’ve read many times in these devotionals, God is in the business of saving the day for Himself. By now, I would hope that you’re thinking of two of my favorite passages of strength and deliverance, 1st Cor. 10: 13 and 2nd Cor. 12: 9, and perhaps 2nd Tim. 1: 7, or in the Old Testament, … Isaiah 41: 10.

These are truths from God’s word which have pulled me from the mires of self doubt or discouragement on many occasions. Years ago my mentor in Christ led me to memorize and internalize these verses; because he convinced me that one day I would need these verses and the promises of God to lift me up when I was down; and I hope you have these God-given promises or others to lift you up. Perhaps you need them even today.

Having the wonderful and powerful promises of these passages, God’s promises in moments of dire circumstance, is wonderfully comforting; because when I’ve exhausted all the options in my human bank of solution, God is with me, ALWAYS, with these promises from His word to lift me up, … to draw upon His strength in my weakness, …and to be an overcomer as was Christ (see also John 16: 33). And that’s exactly what Darius wished for Daniel as we read it in Dan. 6: 16. No, the king actually wanted to see Daniel’s God prevail. And that can also happen when we stand in moments of despair, relying totally on our God. The world in such moments has a God consciousness forged in their hearts by God to see our Lord prevail and be lifted up. But that would not have happened in Daniel’s predicament if he had not stood, in Godly integrity, for God’s way in the face of man’s law. And it won’t happen in our lives, if we don’t stand in the gap, trusting in and living out the promises of God when we are confronted with the lion’s dens in life.

And so, when we’re at our end, we learn from Daniel’s strength, over and over, as well as remembering the strength of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that God’s strength is perfect when our strength is gone. As the lyrics of a great worship song, which God’s timing has given me in this moment of morning worship. The song is His Strength Is Perfect, in which Steven Curtis Chapman, singing it into my earphones from my ITunes, declares, “… raised in His power, the weak become strong.” Daniel believed that; and Darius was able to see the end result of that truth as you read on in Daniel 6. Our challenge, as it was for Daniel, is to have complete trust in God’s power and not let our circumstances and fears get the victory. And when we do, as did Daniel, we will see that God’s strength, as Steven Curtis Chapman sings, “… is always perfect.”

And that, my dear ones, is Christian integrity applied and personified in the lives of believers who live out their faith in the midst of a lion’s den or in the furnaces of life.

My Prayer Today: My hope is ever with You, Lord. Amen

Saturday, June 25, 2011

June 25, 2011 … Integrity Is Devoted to Prayer

Passage of the Day: Daniel 6: 10 - 11 … 10 Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before. 11 Then these men went as a group and found Daniel praying and asking God for help.

My Journal for Today: For today’s devotional in John MacArthur’s, Strength for Today, the Author states flatly, “There is a direct link between prayer and integrity (for the Christian).” As we read in today’s passage, it was the faithful discipline of Daniel’s prayer life that prompted the already jealous Medo-Persian officials in the court of King Darius to establish a law against praying openly to Daniel’s God. And here we live in a world today where there are those in influence and political power who have already attempted to strip prayer by legal means from the public arena. And, many of these power mongers would like to wipe the Name of “God” from all public interactions. Take note now, as I write this, our “king’s court” are doing all they can to keep military chaplains from invoking the Name of “Christ” from any public prayer in the military; and hate crime legislation is being formulated in Congress which, as it is in Canada and Sweden, would make it a “hate crime” to preach homosexuality as a sin from a Christian pulpit. So, even today the integrity of believers in God is being tested much the same as was Daniel in the times of today’s text.

As MacArthur above states, we see that Daniel’s public display of disciplined prayer signaled his spiritual integrity, as prayer does, especially public prayer, in our lives as Christians. It is God’s will that we pray to Him (see Col. 4: 2 and 1st Thess. 5: 17 below). And it was so for Daniel as well; and his willingness to pray openly to His Lord was his public witness to his faith in the one, true God.

SCRIPTURE: Col. 4: 2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.
SCRIPTURE: 1st Thess. 5: 16 – 1816 Be joyful always; 17 pray continually; 18 give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Are we committed to God and His will, as was Daniel, … so committed that we’d be willing to risk our very life, or at least be imprisoned for our commitment to prayer, by standing for our God by kneeling in prayer … just as He demands of His believers? Seeing military Chaplains being told they cannot pray “in the Name of Christ” and the political trends of the day, it is not difficult to imagine a time, not too soon in the future, when Christians may face a ban on public references to God, which will be most evident in limitations on our prayer to our Lord in public. Where will we stand – or kneel – for our God? Will we be believers with the integrity of a Daniel?

My Prayer Today: Lord, I pray that I will always declare Your Name to honor You, especially in prayer. Amen

Friday, June 24, 2011

June 24, 2011 … Integrity Triumphs Over Deception

Passage of the Day: Daniel 6: 6 – 9 6 So the administrators and the satraps went as a group to the king and said: “O King Darius, live forever! 7 The royal administrators, prefects, satraps, advisers and governors have all agreed that the king should issue an edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any god or man during the next thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be thrown into the lions’ den. 8 Now, O king, issue the decree and put it in writing so that it cannot be altered—in accordance with the laws of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.” 9 So King Darius put the decree in writing.

My Journal for Today: In the devotional book, Strength for Today, … the book that I have used to drive these daily journal entries, John MacArthur, on this date, quotes a prayer of King David in Psalm 5: 8 – 12 [linked here for your study], where David prayed that those who would plot to deceive him would be punished by God. Actually, a prayer like that one could have been Daniel’s prayer as well as we read what the jackals in King Darius’ court plotted against Daniel. And Darius, like Nebuchadnezzar years before him, had fallen prey to the ego-driven deceit of the King’s men, which set in motion another serious test of Daniel’s faith and spiritual integrity.

And as we read the story unfold in the rest of Daniel 6 (also, as I have read on ahead, you can follow my subsequent devotionals), God would protect Daniel again; and the deceitful men of the King’s court would lose their lives for plotting against God’s man, Daniel. From all of this, the lesson could not be clearer.

Faithful integrity which honors the one, true God, especially when tested, will be blessed by God’s will and way. And as it says in my wife’s favorite Bible verse, Prov. 3: 5 -6 (another passage I hope you’ve memorized by now), trusting God wholeheartedly finds the believer walking a straight, if narrow and harrowing, path in God’s direction. And we also know from one of my other memorized passages, 1st Cor. 10: 13, God’s promise is that He will always make a way for His faithful warriors to follow.

That was the way for Daniel; and that is the way it should be for all of us to follow the Lord.

My Prayer Today: Help me, Lord, to see Your path clearly … and then, to follow it faithfully. Amen

Thursday, June 23, 2011

June 23, 2011 … Integrity Promotes a Righteous Reputation

Passage of the Day: Daniel 6: 4 - 5 4 At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. 5 Finally these men said, “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.”

My Journal for Today: Character, it is said, is what we do when no one else is looking – save God, of course. Daniel, as we read in today’s passage from Dan. 6, was a man so consistent and reliable of faith that his jealous opponents, who were rigorously trying to bring Daniel down, had little outright behavioral evidence to indict his character before King Darius; so they decided to go after his openly recognized faith in the Hebrew God. And then we essentially see a replay of what happened under Nebuchadnezzar several decades earlier. And it’s also a foreplay of what is going on in our culture as power driven humans try to eliminate an vestiges of “God” or “Christ” from our culture.

In the New Testament, the Apostle Peter instructed the early church (and modern believers, by extension) that they (we) should live in such a way that their (our) character and integrity should continually glorify God by how they (we) live. [See 1st Peter 2: 12 below …]

SCRIPTURE: 1st Peter 2: 12Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

It is certainly the case that we, today as Christians, will have our nay-sayers, as did Daniel, … those who will challenge our faith and even try to strip us of the right to worship or promote our God. Even those in power today, such as a number of activist judges or organizations like the ACLU, are trying to create a Godless society. But as John MacArthur in his Strength for Today commentary for this date writes, “… (we Christians) must live the kind of life that silences and refutes (the world’s) accusations.” And when we do, MacArthur goes on to say, “… some of them might even come to Christ.”

I’ve heard it said, as perhaps have you, that our lives, lived with Christian integrity and purpose, may be the only “Bible” others in our world ever “read.” If that is the case, does my life and yours, as was the case of Daniel, reflect the very Christ we claim as Savior and Lord?

My Prayer Today: O, Lord, may all I think, say, and do openly reflect You for all to see. Amen

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

June 22, 2011 … Integrity Is Consistent

Passage of the Day: Daniel 6: 1 - 3 … 1 It pleased Darius to appoint 120 satraps to rule throughout the kingdom, 2 with three administrators over them, one of whom was Daniel. The satraps were made accountable to them so that the king might not suffer loss. 3 Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom.

My Journal for Today: As we move to Chapter 6 of the book of Daniel, the topic of note concerning INTEGRITY is “consistency,” …that is in this context, steadiness and long-term faithfulness in standing for what one believes. And Daniel is certainly a role model when it comes to being consistent and faithful in his long-standing role as quasi prime minister for over 70 years under three kings and two empires (the Babylonian and Medo-Persian Empires). All three kings, Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar (Nebuchadnezzar’s son), and Darius (a.k.a., “Cyrus”), saw the God-given integrity and talents which set Daniel apart to be able to administer leadership in those kingdoms (see Daniel 2: 48; 5: 29; and today’s passage).

By the way, for some of you Bible scholars who know ancient history, you may ask why there seems to be a discrepancy between the name of Darius, The Mede, who was named as ruler to the Medo-Persian kingdom in the Bible account of Daniel and the name of Cyrus, who was named in history books as the king of this empire at this time in history. According to my reading of John MacArthur and a little personal study, there are two explanations for this so-called inconsistency. First, as was the custom in those times, especially in those cultures, kings often changed names during their rule to increase their standing with their subjects – like a self-proclaimed promotion. Secondly, there is the possibility that Darius was appointed by Cyrus to rule the portion of the Medo-Persian empire where Daniel lived. According to most scholars, the first alternative is the most logical. [see Walvoord, John F. ; Zuck, Roy B. ; Dallas Theological Seminary: The Bible Knowledge Commentary : An Exposition of the Scriptures. Wheaton, IL : Victor Books, 1983-c1985]

At any rate, each of the three kings over seven decades had recognized the consistently superior leadership skills which Daniel exhibited and kept him on as the “prime minister” of the kingdom under the rule of Darius (Cyrus). John MacArthur, in his devotional book Strength for Today on this date, posits that it was likely the influence of Daniel on king Darius [the one from Daniel 6] actually led to the release of the Jews to return to return to Judah (see Ezra 1: 1 – 3). And MacArthur charges all believers, “… despite any political, social, or economic changes that might come, (Christians must) remain faithful to Christ; and He will use you in ways that are exceeding abundantly beyond all you ask or think (see Eph. 3: 20).”

My Prayer Today:
Lord, may I remain steadfast in and for You. Amen

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

June 21, 2011 … Integrity Glorifies God

Passage of the Day: Daniel 3: 28 – 30 … 28 Then Nebuchadnezzar said, "Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king's command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. 29 Therefore, I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way." … 30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the province of Babylon.

My Journal for Today: At this point in Nebuchadnezzar’s life, believing that different people had different gods for differing situations, seeing the incredible episode involving Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, the king likely believed that the three boys definitely followed a mighty god (“God,” with a capital “G,” for sure!), … A GOD who was greater than his gods [see today’s passage]. Here he had just witnessed his three respectful, but Godly and dedicated, young leaders be delivered from a fiery furnace where he had ordered them to die, which was impressive to say the least. But just as impressive was the integrity and courage of these boys to trust their God in the way they had in defiance of the King’s edict which put their lives in jeopardy.

Therefore, in this wondrous story of witness, recorded by Daniel in God’s Book, we see the power of strong spiritual (i.e., Christian) integrity, shining like a beacon in the darkness of the world, fully able to dissuade worldly authority and giving glory to God. When we stand for God in this pagan, post-modern culture, it will not go unnoticed. And, as I’ve written in my devotional journal entries this month, when others see God shining through the testimony and witness of a stalwart Christian life, a life being transformed into Christlikeness, the witness of such faith and growth will shine Christ’s light and glorify God. (again, see Matt. 5: 16)

If I might get personal here, humbly using my story as an example, … how could one, seeing or hearing about my transformation from die-hard agnostic and sex addict into a church Elder and ordained Christian minister of the Gospel, not see the fingerprints of God in my life story? It’s not what I have done but rather what God has done in my life that is a light [Christ’s Light] shining for anyone to see who is willing to see. Hence, I am driven to share my testimony in witness to God’s power as often as I can … with anyone who will listen.

If you are a believer, you have a story too; and as you build a life of Christian integrity, over time that story will grow in power and influence! Share your story with others that they may see the light of Christ shining in the darkness of this world.

My Prayer Today: Shine, Jesus, shine! Amen

Monday, June 20, 2011

June 20, 2011 … Integrity Is A Powerful Witness

Passage of the Day: Daniel 3: 26 – 27 … 24 Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, "Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!" So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, 27 and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them.

My Journal for Today: You probably know the story; and as one might expect, the outcome of the three Hebrew lads being taken from the fiery furnace, unscathed and not even singed, had a profound impact on Nebuchadnezzar. He immediately, as we will review tomorrow [I read ahead in MacArthur’s devotional], declared that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego served a very powerful “God,” even ordering his kingdom to worship their God [see Dan. 3: 28 - 29].

Now the king’s conversion to real faith in the one true God as the ONLY God would not happen until later (see Daniel 4); but the witness of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, as well as God’s deliverance of these boys from the fire certainly laid the groundwork for that later conversion experience. We see here that any time we stand in faith against the odds, we become a living display of God’s hope and promises to others; and we become witnesses of God’s power in the world, which is what we are commanded to be by our Lord and Savior (see Acts 1: 8).

Jesus taught (see Matt. 5: 14 – 16) that His disciples should be lights that reflect His Father’s glory into a darkened world; and when and where we do that, the prevenient grace of God will draw the lost to God like moths to a light in the night. And when unbelievers really see Christ’s light radiating from our lives as Christians, they will want to come to that Light. That was Bill Berry in 1982-83, responding to the witness of real Christians when I was walking in a fog of agnosticism, searching for light in my darkness. And when I saw the light of Christ shining in and through the witness of these Christians, I finally relented, repented and surrendered to THE LIGHT, Who is Christ.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were lights shining their integrity and faith into a world darkened by idolatry and pride (sound familiar?), even from the hell fires of life, allowing the world to see their faith, which, in turn, glorified their Father in Heaven (see again Matt. 5: 16).

My Prayer Today: Let me be a beacon, Lord, shining Your light into the darkness even today. Amen

Sunday, June 19, 2011

June 19, 2011 … Integrity Never Stands Alone

Passage of the Day: Daniel 3: 24 – 25 … 24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, "Weren't there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?" They replied, "Certainly, O king." 25 He said, "Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods."

My Journal for Today: This Old Testament [true] story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fire with “the Fourth Man” we now know as a THEOPHANY, a visual appearance of the pre-incarnate Christ. And for this humble student of God’s word [yes, me!], who journals here, it is a true incident which reinforces God’s promise that He will never leave me, nor forsake me (see Deut. 31: 6 or Heb. 13: 5) … no matter how “hot” the circumstances might get. As a Christian, I never stand alone!

Nebuchadnezzar, from his pagan mindset, had to be “blown away” when these boys came out of the fire, their clothes with no evidence of having been burned. First, he was definitely impressed by the spiritual integrity of the three young Hebrew boys. But the king couldn’t let it drop. He had to put the boys into the furnace to retain his kingly pride. But then, he must have flipped out to see the boys survive, dancing in the flames with a supernatural appearance of a “Fourth Man,” whom he perceived and described as “a son of the gods.” Nebuchadnezzar was not yet in a place where he could see Christ as the Fourth Man in the fire, as “THE Son of God;” but this Babylonian King was getting there.

I remember in my own life when I saw the workmanship of God in the lives of others. Christlikeness was shining from them. It was undeniable; but in my agnostic, humanistic mindset at the time, I was unable to see the truth – only a shadow of the truth. And like Nebuchadnezzar, I could not humble myself to receive God’s grace being made evident before my very eyes. It finally took my own brokenness to open my eyes, which later was the case for King Nebuchadnezzar.

Later in the book of Daniel, Chapter 4, we read of how God humbled Nebuchadnezzar to the point that this powerful king could only look up and see God for whom He really was (is). And Nebuchadnezzar finally declared THE LORD to be the one true God [see Daniel 4: 37]. And though under different circumstances, that is what happened to me as well. God had to take me to a place of complete brokenness and humility so that I could (and did) ask for God to give me His saving grace. And like I believe it happened for Nebuchadnezzar, I was saved.

As I’m meditating on this passage of the day again, it all reminds me of the joint messages coming from 1st Cor. 10: 13 and 2nd Cor. 12: 9, which relate truth to believers that our faith in God will allow Him to visit our weakness with His strength and provide “a way where there seems to be no way,” as the words to the old hymn attest. And like the three Hebrew boys, our deliverance from the fires of this world or into the next, whatever is God’s will, is always a matter of our obedience and trust, i.e., our Christian integrity, which activates God to be there in the midst of our fires.

My Prayer Today: You are there, Lord, when I need You. Amen

Saturday, June 18, 2011

June 18, 2011 … Integrity Triumphs Under Fire

Passage of the Day: Daniel 3: 21 – 23 … 21 So these men [Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego], wearing their robes, trousers, turbans and other clothes, were bound and thrown into the blazing furnace. 22 The king's command was so urgent and the furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers who took up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, 23 and these three men, firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace.

My Journal for Today: It is important for us to remember, while reading of this remarkable account of faith by these three Hebrew boys, God did not choose to deliver them from the actual fire of their trial. God allowed King Nebuchadnezzar, who is a picture or our world today, to have the boys thrown into the flames, which were so hot that several of the King’s attendants, throwing the three into the fire, were killed [an interesting tidbit of information which, I believe, adds a lot of credibility to this biblical account]. The, once the boys were thrown into the fire, the witness of the deliverance from the fiery trial of these three lads, as well as the presence of a fourth man (which we’ll explore tomorrow – see Dan. 3: 24 – 25) caused Nebuchadnezzar to declare openly the greatness of the Hebrew God (see Daniel 3: 28). But then, again, how could anyone witnessing that scene not be impressed by the God about Whom these boys gave witness?

All of this wonderful story corresponds with the message from the Apostle Peter in the New Testament in 1st Peter 1: 6 – 7

SCRIPTURE: 1st Peter 1: 6 - 7 ... 6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

We Christians must be willing to stand in the fires of life and be refined into finer gold so that our God will be glorified when the world sees us walking with Christ in those fires which God uses to remold us into His image.

Men like Martin Luther even died in the fire, giving their lives as torched martyrs for their faith and for the glory of their God. However, their witness and posthumous testimonies live on with power, shining as light into a dark world even today. The fires may consume us (or not); but as with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, our faith and testimony must live on for the glory of God ALWAYS. Our integrity must not waver when we face the fire.

My Prayer Today: It is a privilege, Lord, to be in the fire with You. Amen

Friday, June 17, 2011

June 17, 2011 … Integrity Incurs the World’s Wrath

Passage of the Day: Daniel 3: 19 – 20 … 19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and his attitude toward them changed. He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual 20 and commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace.

My Journal for Today: In today’s passage we read a prototype for worldly leadership reaction when the truth of God is being held up like a mirror in front of those in authority and power like Nebuchadnezzar. It’s predictable! King Nebuchadnezzar looked in the mirror of truth represented by the four Hebrew lads; and he saw himself for who he really was; and the result was anger and reprisal. And that’s what we, as Christians, can expect if we go against the cultural tides these days, especially when the wrath of certain, powerful organizations are confronted, … groups like the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and the People for the American Way. Buck these self-proclaimed protectors of the status quo; and you will feel the wrath of their anger.

When the ego or authority of ungodly leaders sees a reflection of themselves in God’s mirror of truth, and when the integrity of any strong Christian holds that mirror before these leaders, rage, as was Nebuchadnezzar’s reaction to the three Hebrew lads, is a common, and even expected response. King Nebuchadnezzar went “bonkers” when the three boys, whom he had loved and given favor, challenged him with rejection of his idol, holding onto their faith in God. These faithful boys were God’s mirror of truth; and the King just couldn’t see Godly truth without become defensive in denial and wrathful in reaction.

There have been other similar examples in scripture. Other incidents include the wife of King Herrod, reacting to John, the Baptist (see Mark 6: 19); and there was Saul of Tarsus and his Jewish mob reacting to the witness of Stephen (see Acts 6: 9). And finally, of course, there was the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem becoming totally irrational as they reacted to the Lordship of Jesus during His time of Passion. To me, the latter as well as today’s study are the most salient examples of how the world with likely react to Christian integrity.

What we see in the reaction of Nebuchadnezzar and in these other examples described above is the attitude of Satan, reacting to those who stand up in living worship to the living God. But we know from the outcomes of the situation involving our three Hebrew lads, and even from those who died as martyrs like John, the Baptist, Stephen, and most certainly from Jesus, that no matter what the reaction of the world might be when we stand for Christ, we are overcomers in Him when we do so (see John 16: 33). We become lights shining in the darkness when we stand for God; and our Lord will always be glorified when we do so (see Matt. 5: 16).

My Prayer Today: Lord, I live in You and You in me, no matter how the world reacts. Amen

Thursday, June 16, 2011

June 16, 2011 … Integrity Trusts God Unconditionally

Passage of the Day: Daniel 3: 16 – 18 … 16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and He will rescue us from your hand, O king. 18 But even if He does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up."

My Journal for Today: My wife’s favorite live verse is Proverbs 3: 5 – 6 (see below; but you probably have this one memorized; and if you haven’t, I do hope you’ll dedicate yourself to do the memory work on this important passage!) …

SCRIPTURE? Proverbs 3: 5 – 6 ... Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.

Since we, who claim Christ as Lord and Savior believe that this is God’s truth, it is fair, but most certainly difficult, to ask, … “Do we follow Prov. 3: 5 -6 completely and unconditionally?” In other words, “Do we really trust God – all the way!?”

In today’s passage we see that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, though very young men, were “Proverbs 3: 5 – 6” believers. The depth of their integrity of faith to God was mature … far beyond their years. Their faith was tested, literally by fire, and they trusted God with their very lives. Collectively they are a picture of the ultimate model of Godly integrity, Jesus, Who when His life was on the line, knowing He would be on a cross the next day, said, “Father, … not as I will, but as Thou wilt.”

When someone comes to true faith in Christ, that one will not be like the ones Jesus spoke of in Matt. 13: 20 – 21, who have “head belief,” proclaiming to be Christian, but then, with no “heart belief,” fall away when tested. If we call ourselves “Christian,” we must live it out, knowing the cost of discipleship (see Luke 9: 23 and John 15: 20); and that means to deny ourselves, no matter where it might lead – yes, even if it might lead to a fiery furnace.

So, again we inventory the heart for the integrity we seek as believers of the same God Who saved the four young boys we have read about these past few days. And do we really live our belief in Prov. 3: 5 – 6?

My Prayer Today: O Lord, if tested, may I be there in the furnace with You; … yes, even today! Amen

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

June 15, 2011 … Integrity Walks In Humility

Passage of the Day: Daniel 3: 13 – 15 … 13 Furious with rage, Nebuchadnezzar summoned Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. So these men were brought before the king, 14 and Nebuchadnezzar said to them, "Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up? 15 Now when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes and all kinds of music, if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?"

My Journal for Today: Nebuchadnezzar had to learn a hard lesson … the hard way. It was the lesson of Proverbs 3: 34 (repeated in James 4: 6 and 1st Pet. 5: 6) … that God ignores or rejects the proud and only gives His grace (i.e., unmerited favor) to the humble. In today’s passage (Dan. 3: 15), we read how the King’s prideful attitude toward the God of the Hebrews had gone from recognizing the greatness of the God these Hebrew boys worshipped (see Dan. 2: 47) to a prideful/haughty declaration, putting himself above the power of the one true God. His attitude was a human picture of Satan’s declaration that he was greater than God [see Isaiah 14: 13 -14].

But Proverbs 16: 5 declares that anyone with such pride in the face of God will not go unpunished; and if one reads ahead in Chapter 4 of the book of Daniel [linked here in case you want to study it], we read a letter written by Nebuchadnezzar telling of how God brought him down so completely that he, the king of Babylon, could see the greatness of the God to Whom these four Hebrew lads so humbly and faithfully worhipped.

This teaches us a lesson we all must learn … that Christlike integrity walks only as Christ walked … in humility and meekness (see Matt. 11: 29). And if we, by our choices, cannot humble ourselves before God’s throne of grace, He – our Lord – will have to do it for us; and that can be, as it was for Nebuchadnezzar, a very tough lesson to learn. A meditative re-look at Prov. 3: 34 shows believers that God really wants to pour His grace into the life of His humbled servants. However, He can only do so into lives of humble servants who worship Him faithfully and obediently.

May we be those servants?!

My Prayer Today: Be merciful, Lord, in helping me learn to be humble. Amen

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

June 14, 2011 … Integrity Endures Criticism

Passage of the Day: Daniel 3: 8 – 12 … 8 At this time some astrologers came forward and denounced the Jews. 9 They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, "O king, live forever! 10 You have issued a decree, O king, that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes and all kinds of music must fall down and worship the image of gold, 11 and that whoever does not fall down and worship will be thrown into a blazing furnace. 12 But there are some Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon—Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego—who pay no attention to you, O king. They neither serve your gods nor worship the image of gold you have set up."

My Journal for Today: Strong stands by God’s leaders, when they encounter the public arena, what we Christians call, “The World,” will almost always yield opposition and may involve outright rejection or even persecution (depending on the worldly power of the opposition). Today’s passage is a good example, involving Daniel’s three young Hebrew friends who had become prominent in the King’s government, incurring jealousy from the Babylonian court elite. The existing, and likely older, officials of the Chaldean government had no doubt been on a slow boil of jealousy for quite some time; and finally, they hatched a plot to bring down these three talented Hebrew youths (see Dan. 2: 49). In today’s text we see that plot beginning to unfold, illustrating how a Godly (i.e., in our case “Christians”) world view can generate criticism and counter-cultural wrath.

In the context of our post-modern world, a Christian leader can expect that the proclamation of the Gospel message, or often merely the Name of “Christ,” will be repugnant to our humanistic culture and power structure. Jesus, Himself, said, “If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you (John 15: 20);” which was also Paul’s warning to Timothy (2nd Tim. 3: 12). It’s a given social construct. Proclaim “CHRIST” openly in our world; and you will be rejected, mocked, or persecuted. The world preaches, through hypocrisy, a doctrine of “tolerance;” yet, it is most intolerant of the one Person who was the most tolerant in His mercy and the least tolerant of our hypocrisy ... i.e., ... Christ..

So, since we’re focusing on Christian integrity this month, be forewarned! If you are a Christian called to lead the cause of Christ; … and you hold, with integrity to your faith, you can expect the non-believing public, and especially the worldly power structure, will ridicule or revile your stand; and they will do all they can to block what you say or to bring you down personally or politically. For a lesson in these tactics all we have to do is see how organizations today like the ACLU or the People for the American Way treat Christian political action groups like the The American Family Association, the Family Research Council, or ministries like Focus on the Family, which loudly proclaim the Gospel and Christian family values to a very hostile world.

BUT, we must never forget that God will never forsake His own (see Heb. 13: 5); and His word and truth will never come up void for His purposes (Isaiah 55: 11). And beyond this, our Lord is always greater than those representing the world and fomented by Satan (1st John 4: 4; Romans 8: 31).

So, those called to lead, as were Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, or maybe people like you must, with integrity, lead … and lead us to victory.

My Prayer Today: Today, Lord, if called to do so, I will stand for You! Amen

Monday, June 13, 2011

June 13, 2011 … Integrity Resists Intimidation

Passage of the Day: Daniel 3: 4 – 7 … 4 Then the herald loudly proclaimed, "This is what you are commanded to do, O peoples, nations and men of every language: 5 As soon as you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes and all kinds of music, you must fall down and worship the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. 6 Whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace." 7 Therefore, as soon as they heard the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp and all kinds of music, all the peoples, nations and men of every language fell down and worshiped the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

My Journal for Today: It is of interest and pertinence to note that our post-modern culture holds many similarities with those of Babylon and King Nebuchadnezzar. People today, especially believing/witnessing Christians, are pressured by the powers that be, by the media, and by many in the world to set aside their faith or references to God, especially “Christ,” and to bow down to the idols of the age: intellectualism, humanism, materialism, sensualism, and political conformity to the liberalism of the so-called god of “tolerance.” And the penalty of non-conformity, as it was in Babylon, can be enormous.

John MacArthur in his Strength for Today devotional for this date clearly states, “The choices you make reveal the convictions you embrace.” Today is the anniversary of my marriage to my dear wife [over 45 of them]. For the first 12 years of our marriage, I made dangerous, selfish, and adulterous choices that could have destroyed our family in the caldron of my own sensuality and lust. However, God’s grace and the integrity of my wife’s forgiveness, strength, and patience allowed God to do a work in my heart where He transformed me to follow after the integrity of faith modeled by paragons of the faith like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (of whom we will soon read in subsequent devotionals this month).

Therefore, may I … no, may we all … follow the example of these three young men of faith and be willing to stand on faith with and against the fires of temptation burning in sight … and to believe and receive the promises of God expressed in His word. It takes courage and strong faith, i.e., Spirit-led integrity, to stand for Jesus in today’s post-modern world; and I pray that we all have the Christian integrity exhibited by the three Hebrew lads as we will read in our study in subsequent days.

My Prayer Today: Thank you, Lord, for restoring the life of our marriage; … help me to hold on to the integrity You have instilled in my soul to resist satanic and worldly values, i.e., the idols of our day. Amen

Sunday, June 12, 2011

June 12, 2011 … True Integrity Worships THE God

Passage of the Day: Daniel 3: 1 – 3 … 1 King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, ninety feet high and nine feet wide, and set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. 2 He then summoned the satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials to come to the dedication of the image he had set up. 3 So the satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials assembled for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up, and they stood before it.

My Journal for Today: Moving to Chapter 3 of the book of Daniel in my study of Christian integrity, we can see that Nebuchadnezzar certainly fits, in the context of today’s text, the “double-minded man” referred to by the Apostle James in James 1: 7 – 8

SCRIPTURE: James 1: 7 – 8 ... 7 That man [who prays to God asking for and expecting wisdom] should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.

Nebuchadnezzar, in Daniel, Chapter Two, had just described Daniel’s God as the “Lord of Kings” (see Daniel 2: 47); and yet, in today’s passage Nebuchadnezzar has a 90+ foot statue built to test the devotion of his people to himself. Now, as mature Christians, we would probably judge the king and say, “How foolish!” And we would likely label this as blatant idolatry. But before we do, we need to look in God’s mirror of truth to see if we have built idols into our lives which can (or could) potentially separate us from our worship of the one, true, and only God. Therefore, before we point our fingers of blame at Nebuchadnezzar, let us look deeply and honestly at our own lives to see if there are any cultural magnets, personal habits, or worldly “stuff,” which are prioritized in our lives to draw our allegiance away from God or to dampen the intensity of our covenant relationship with our Lord. If so, we have a “statue” which we need to bring down which stands between us and God. We have an idol in our lives which diminishes our Christian integrity.

As the Apostle Paul wrote in Col. 3: 5, we need to be vigilant to bring down any or all things which draw us into self/sin and away from our Savior. And the beloved Apostle John said that any lust of the flesh, of the eyes, or of pridefulness could keep us from showing our love of God [see and MEMORIZE 1st John 2: 15 – 16].

As I write this, I’m taking stock of my life to see if any “statues” are building in my life to take my eyes off of God and thereby diminish my integrity or life worship as a Christian. Perhaps it would be wise for you, my fellow worshipper of the one, true God, to do the same.

My Prayer Today: I love YOU, Lord; and I pray that my life has no idols to distract me. If so, reveal them clearly so that I can set them aside as I attempt to worship you with the way I live. Amen

Saturday, June 11, 2011

June 11, 2011 … Integrity Results in Fruitful Witness

Passage of the Day: Daniel 1: 21 … And Daniel remained there until the first year of King Cyrus.

My Journal for Today: Today’s highlight verse seems like such an innocent tag line to the end of the first chapter of the book of Daniel. However, upon analysis, and later reading in the book, we discover that Daniel was blessed by God’s favor to have great influence over the Babylonian nation/culture in those times for many years and through three kings … well into the take-over of the Medo-Persian Empire under King Darius (also known as “Cyrus”). This was a full seventy years after Daniel had come to a position of influence under Nebuchadnezzar and later Belshazzar, Nebuchadnezzar’s son, most certainly illustrating just how much God blessed Daniel, the young man whom we read about and are using as a biblical character model of spiritual integrity.

Now, we might not have the socio-political influence of a Daniel in our post-modern culture and world, especially in the highest office in America as I write this; but as believers in the same God Daniel worshipped, we can hold the same degree of integrity, faith, and commitment to THE one true God. And thereby, like Daniel, being obedient to our God, we can expect God’s grace to favor us … maybe not in the same way; but most certainly we can expect God’s blessing in HIS way and in His time to be ours.

John MacArthur, in Strength for Today, points out in his devotional for this date, that we should all live expectantly to hear the words of The Messiah, as I’m sure Daniel heard from the Lord in heaven when he departed this earth, …“Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your Master's happiness!.” [Matthew 25: 23] Could there be any more motivating truth to guide our lives, seeking after Christlike integrity, than the anticipation of these words from Jesus when we enter into His presence in glory?

My Prayer Today: That is my prayer, Lord, … to be Your faithful servant and to be an effective witness in Your Name. Amen

Friday, June 10, 2011

June 10, 2011 … Integrity Proves God’s Faithfulness

Passage of the Day: Daniel 1: 18 - 20 … 18 At the end of the time set by the king to bring them in, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. 19 The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king's service. 20 In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom.

My Journal for Today: My former mentor, early in my Christian discipleship, when I was considering a task that I felt God was calling me to do, used to say, “God’s calling is His enablement.” And probably no true story in the Bible illustrates that principle better than today’s passage. These four young Hebrew lads came out of their three years of apprenticeship training (and Babylonian brainwashing, we might add); and though still very young, they were wiser and more astute than all the other Hebrew “trainees” and all of the wise men and leaders in Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom.

That had to have been quite a “job” interview conducted by the King; and I’m sure he was blown away by how well these four men shined above all the rest. Later, in the book of Daniel, you can read, and we will see, how these four were challenged greatly for their faith. However, here we see that God had given them special grace and favor so that they would be up to the selection by the King as well as the challenges that would lie ahead in being God’s called witnesses to Babylon.

I hope it doesn’t seem presumptuous to interject a bit of personal testimony here. Some years back I was asked to become an Elder in our church, which, when I realized the biblical dictates/criteria (see 1st Tim. 3: 1-7 and Titus 1: 6-9), I felt humbled and challenged to become a leader in our church when I didn’t feel that leadership was one of my spiritual gifts. But my mentor repeated to me, “Bill, if God is calling you into this office, He will enable you to do this.” So, I submitted and was ordained an Elder of our church. A few years later, I seriously wondered why God had seemingly led me to into the daunting position of leadership; and then our former pastor had a serious breach of leadership, falling to an incident of sexual sin; and with my pre-Christian past, having been delivered from and discipled out of past patterns of sexual sin, I realized why God had prepared me for this moment in time. It was much like when Esther realized that God had brought her to a position of influence at just the right time of His calling, when her cousin Mordecai said to her, (from Esther 4: 14b) “And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” I realized that God had led me through my past and prepared me to have very special leadership training for just this one moment in our church’s history. I learned that “God’s calling is HIS enablement (and mine too).”

God wants you and me, i.e., all believers, to be His witnesses to this very darkened, post-modern world, … a culture which desires, as did that of Babylon, to take God’s light from public sight (see 1st Peter 2: 15).

SCRIPTURE: 1st Peter 2: 15For it is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.

And we must never forget God's call to His people [in Acts 1: 8] to receive His power and to be witnesses in His Name to the world whenever and wherever HE calls us to give witness to His Name. However, recently I heard John MacArthur give a sermon entitled A Nation Abandoned by God. In that message, primarily taken from Romans 1: 18 – 32, MacArthur posits that America and other nations of the world have likely in recent history been “given over” to the darkened minds/hearts of rulers and politicians who have been set adrift from God’s grace, allowing Satan to do his business with these leaders and to some extent with our culture. Hence, we see what is described in that passage of Romans 1, which is taking place in our post-modern America as well as throughout the world. And though I don’t like the term “abandoned” used by MacArthur in his sermon because of the truth of Deut. 31: 6 and Hebrews 13: 5, where God has promised “… never will I leave you; never will I forsake you; …” the “you” referring to a believing and obedient Israel in the Old Covenant as well as born-again believers in the New Covenant.

No, God will never “abandon” true followers of Christ; but He may well set those believers adrift for a season along with their collective nations as those nations decide to follow Satan and his world. But again remember, … God’s calling in His enablement; and God has called His people, through Christ, to be His vessels of light, Jesus declaring, [Matt. 5: 16] “… let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” He has also given His followers, by His grace, all we need to live up to His calling (see 2nd Cor. 12: 9 and 2nd Peter 1: 3). And so, even if God has given this post-modern culture over to the reprobate minds/hearts of its lost political and social “leaders,” God will never abandon the remnant of Christ’s followers in this world. That was God’s promise to Israel in Psalm 81: 8 -16 [linked here for your study]; and it’s His promise to you and me as Christians today.

My Prayer Today: Keep your fire lit in me, Lord, so that I may shine your truth in this world! Amen

Thursday, June 09, 2011

June 9, 2011 … Integrity Reflects Godly Wisdom

Passage of the Day: Daniel 1: 17 … To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.

My Journal for Today: Earlier this month I quoted my friend Loretta, who used to say quite often when she was with us, so truthfully and forcefully, “First obedience, then God’s blessing.” Well, in the first chapter of the book of Daniel, we read of four young, but courageous, believers, being held in captivity with pagan leaders who were trying to reshape the hearts/minds/lives of these lads. Yet with Godly discernment and fortitude [i.e., Spiritual integrity], well beyond their age, they held on to God’s truth; and so, God, in turn, rewarded them, giving them knowledge, strength, and vision which would later prove invaluable in Daniel’s witness for God (see Daniel, chapters 7 – 12).

Today Satan, even as he did in the Garden of Eden, tries to confuse and deceive the minds of non-believers and especially immature Christians, even entire civilizations (see 2nd Cor. 4: 4), so that they will do things their own way rather than within the will of God. It’s Satan’s battle with God for our worship; and any idolatrous thoughts the Devil can facilitate in our hearts, it takes away from our closeness with God and our spiritual power in this life.

However, when we believe in and hold to God’s way, primarily as spelled out in His word, as did these four young Hebrews in the Book of Daniel, God will honor us as He did them; and we will come to realize that any calling of God or the testing of our self-will with the circumstances of life will be for our own good (see Rom. 8: 28) and ultimately for God’s glory. But humbly receiving and using God’s enabling grace, we will be able, as did Daniel and the boys, to serve and glorify God (again see 1st Cor. 10: 13 and 2nd Cor. 12: 9, which I keep repeating because of their pertinence).

And by the way, any wisdom you read in what has been written here this morning is well beyond the mind of the writer (yours truly). Being able to come up with the biblical references and integrating them with the topic most mornings as I write this journal is entirely the wisdom which comes from within me from God’s Spirit. Many times, when I write what I do here in my quiet time with God, I read back over what I have written, as I have this morning, and I think, “Wow! I’m not smart enough to write that!” And I’m not. So, I know it has to come from God; and I’m certainly no Daniel when it comes to spouting forth Godly prophesy, which indicates – at least to me – that any Christian who seeks after and relies upon Godly truth, from Gods word, can have wisdom well beyond their own human capacity. That’s actually the promise of another passage, which just bubbled up from my consciousness, as evidence of what I’m saying here. Read James 1: 5-6 [linked here for your study]; and you will see that Christians are promised God’s wisdom in abundance as long as we seek His mind from His truth. I hope I never quit realizing that my wisdom is always dependent upon my integrity as a Christian and my willingness to be dependent upon God’s truth (through His word).

My Prayer Today: You are the way, Lord, … the ONLY way! Amen

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

June 8, 2011 … Integrity Passes the Test

Passage of the Day: Daniel 1: 14 - 16 … 14 So he [Ashpenaz] agreed to this [Daniel’s proposed scheme] and tested them [Daniel and the Hebrew boys] for ten days. 15 At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. 16 So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.

My Journal for Today: In our lives our spiritual (i.e., Christian) integrity WILL BE tested. The testing may be set in motion by God Himself, as it was for Abraham (see Genesis 22: 1-2).

SCRIPTURE: Gen. 22: 1 - 21 Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, "Abraham!" "Here I am," He replied. 2 Then God said, "Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about."

However, more likely, the testing may come from our circumstances, mostly resulting from our own choices – as when Israel wandered in the wilderness (see Deut. 8: 16).

And finally, the testing of our Christian integrity may come from Satan, allowed by God, as it was for Job (see Job 1: 12; 2: 6). But no matter the source, all testing is under God’s control and foreknowledge in order to mature believers and bring them into increased fruitfulness (Romans 8: 28; and 1st Peter 1: 6 – 7).

In today’s passage, Daniel and his three friends were tested as they carefully, yet assertively, chose to stand for God’s principles in the face of death before the worldly authorities. And God honored their stand for His glory by clearly intervening to make them look healthier than their peers after only ten days of their vegetarian diet. This, of course, had to be supernatural; because when you consider that middle eastern, Hebrew diet of the day, there is no natural way that they could have looked so physically different from the other Babylonian fed trainees in such a short period of time. And so, God, through the faithfulness of the Hebrew lads and His intervention, had opened the way for Daniel and his young friends to continue honoring God as well as witnessing to His power to the Babylonians.

We must believe in the truth of 1st Cor. 10: 13 (which I hope you have memorized by now) … that God will never allow us to be put in or to go through any test, trial, temptation, or tribulation through which, with His help or guidance, we cannot pass or endure. As you’ve hopefully believe from Rom. 8: 28 (which I ASSUME you have also memorized by now), ALL tests are for our good as Christians; so, we should be ready, and more importantly willing, to take the tests in Christ’s Name. Prayerfully, we will come out of these tests with a passing mark (… from God, of course).

My Prayer Today: Help me, Lord, in any test of life which may come my way today. Amen

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

June 7, 2011 … Integrity Conquers Fear

Passage of the Day: Daniel 1: 10 - 14 … 9 Now God had caused the official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel, 10 but the official told Daniel, "I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you." 11 Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, 12 "Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see." 14 So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.

My Journal for Today: John MacArthur in his Strength for Today devotional for this date uses this episode in Daniel’s continuing saga of intervention with the Babylonian officials to illustrate how boldness to act for God is one of the most important elements of Christian spiritual integrity. Today’s text shows us Daniel’s boldness to act as juxtaposed with the fear of Ashpenaz, the Babylonian official who was responsible for the fate of the Hebrew youths under Daniel’s charge.

Here was Daniel being put to the test; and, who, in faith under pressure, came up with a daring plan to give Ashpenaz a way to “save face,” still allowing Daniel and his friends to maintain their dietary laws. Daniel tapped into God’s wisdom (see a NT charge in James 1: 5 - 6); and then assertively, yet in meekness, stood in the gap for his faith, trusting that God was going to deliver His people – somehow. And in today’s passage we read that Daniel was blessed and rewarded by God with the listening favor of Ashpenaz.

This is a great example of the principle I wrote about yesterday, “First obedience, then the blessing!” Daniel, boldly – by wisely – believed that God would protect those who carry our The Lord’s will; and he set about – with humility/meekness – exercise his face, giving the Babylonian, Ashpenaz, a trial case to see if Daniel’s plan would work for the boy AND the king as well. No one says that boldness should shut down our intelligence. We should always strive to boldly witness our faith … BUT … to do so in ways that don’t attack the sensibilities of those around us if at all possible.

The Apostles Paul (see Phil. 1: 20) and John (see 1st John 3: 21 - 22) were great examples of New Testament integrity and boldness. I always love, when I’m fearful, to recall the bold declaration of Romans 8: 31, which, if truly believe, Christians should be willing to stand for Christ with boldness anytime … anyplace … and, like Daniel, under any circumstances.

SCRIPTURE: Romans 8: 31If God is for us, who can be against us?

However, I must admit that all too often, in my past days as a Christian, I have retreated in fear when given the opportunity to witness Christ to family or friends, especially those whom I know or suspect are lost. I’m getting stronger and bolder in my later years; however, prayerfully, I will become more like a Daniel one day. Though, in truth Daniel, in today’s highlighted verse, puts me to shame being so bold and yet only a “boy” in my comparative mind.

My Prayer Today: Lord, may I be bold today as a warrior like Daniel in Your Name. Amen

Monday, June 06, 2011

June 6, 2011 … Integrity Enjoys God’s Favor

Passage of the Day: Daniel 1: 8 – 9 … 8 But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. 9 Now God had caused the official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel, …

My Journal for Today: My wife and I had a Christian friend, named Loretta [who is now with the Lord]. We often heard Loretta say, “First obedience, then God’s blessing.” I call her truth statement, “1st Loretta 1: 1” somewhat jokingly; but in reality her statement, which is dead-on truth, is certainly illustrated in what happened to Daniel in today’s passage. First, there was Daniel’s obedience to God’s will and law, i.e., His spiritual integrity, and then we read in today’s highlight passage of God’s provision of blessing in response to Daniel’s obedience.

Daniel stood on God’s word at the risk of his life; and he meekly (but in no means, weakly) appealed to Ashpenaz, the eunuch Babylonian commander; and God saw to it that the heart of this leader from Nebuchadnezzar’s court was softened enough to listen and comply to Daniel’s proposals and requests (read ahead in Daniel 1, verses 10 – 14).

Often in scripture we read of the favor of God being visited upon obedient believers, such as Noah (see Gen. 6: 8) or Joseph (Gen. 39 – 41) or Moses (Exod. 11: 3). And in the New Testament, Peter strongly wrote of this principle in 1st Peter 2: 19 – 20

SCRIPTURE: 1st Peter 2: 19 - 20 ... For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. 20 But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.

As John MacArthur succinctly writes his version of 1st Loretta 1: 1, “God’s favor is the rich reward of obedience.” And we should also remember that disobedience to God’s word and His commands leads to the opposite of God’s favor. In the story of Samson in the book of Judges or in Paul’s writings in the New Testament, Romans 1, we read that God’s wrath against disobedience can ultimately release the sinner, or even a nation, to his own reprobate mind and choices, allowing him to become captive to the world and Satan’s devices. However, there are many stories in God’s word (for example about Job, of the Prodigal, or the parable of the Good Shepherd seeking out the lost sheep) where God’s patience and mercy are exhibited when the protagonist of God’s story is obedient to his Lord. But just how long can we expect God to be patient when we, individually or as a nation, choose to reject God’s way and turn to our own selfish and sinful desires? I often read the news of the day and wince, praying, “Oh, Lord, have mercy on this land, growing ever darker in disobedience.”

It’s all right there in God’s book … that He compassionately gives His favor (i.e., His grace) to His obedient children. And we have example after example, … true, biblical references of Godly integrity, … of those who benefited from God’s blessing following their obedience to His word and His will and His way. But when are we going to “get it?!” And when are we going to “do it?!” Because seeing what God sees going on in this country, with the rampant disobedience of His truth, even to the point of mockery of His word, how long can we expect God to hold back a spiritual tsunami from occurring; and as they say, “The rain falls on the righteous as well as the unrighteous.”

My Prayer Today: I get it, Lord; but help me to do it today! And I pray for your mercy to extend to those who actually are obedient to Your will and Your ways. Amen

Sunday, June 05, 2011

June 5, 2011 … Integrity Stands On Principle

Passage of the Day: Daniel 1: 5, 8 … 5 The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king's table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king's service. … 8 But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way.

My Journal for Today: In today’s passage we begin to see the remarkably mature character and discernment of a young believer who exercised his faith in the light of powerful political pressures. And we also note that this young Hebrew lad didn’t go off half-cocked with anger to demonstrate his faith with some political protest that could have either landed him in the king’s prison or had him beheaded. No, Daniel (or rather, Belteshazzar as he was renamed by the Babylonians) demonstrated a remarkable degree of cultural respect and decorum by bringing his concerns to the chief Babylonian officials when his spiritual disciplines were being challenged by the power structure of Nebuchadnezzar’s court.

As we see in Daniel, chapter one, “Belteshazzar” saw an advantage in receiving the secular education being forced upon him and the other Hebrew youths because there was nothing from His Godly values against such teachings or actions. However, when it came to the Babylonian dietary practices, Daniel had to draw a line because his God’s Law specifically prohibited the dietary practices of the Babylonian culture..

But Daniel did not choose to use political demonstrations or underground subversion to show his aversion to the Babylonian dietary “laws.” On the contrary, he showed great restraint, and I believe became an example of Christlike humility and meekness (see Matt. 11: 29), by respectfully petitioning the royal authorities to be able to avoid defiling himself and his friends (see Dan. 1: 11 – 15).

Standing on Godly principles, the stance of Christian integrity, is tough in today’s world. However, as long as we stand in the gap for Christ and Christian values, we should remember the first line actions of Daniel as we do our best to witness Christian humility and meekness (i.e., Christlikeness), following God’s mandates to honor God ordained governments as much as we can [see Romans 13: 1 – 7 - linked here for your study]. We will later see that Christian integrity can possibly take us to civil disobedience and a more direct stand against ungodly governments or worldly authorities whom God has installed. However, our first response should be “Danielian” in respectful discernment and challenge. Stay with me this month. I’ve read on ahead a bit; and there will be more to this story, especially when governments or political powers try to force us to do ungodly acts which cannot be compromised or ignored. But for now, confronting marginal pressures in the world which are ungodly, we should do all we can, as Daniel did, to take a Godly stance which imitates the very loving, humble, and gentle stance our Lord would model for us when we’re confronted by carnality and worldliness.

My Prayer Today: Help me, Lord, to stand for You with humility, meekness and integrity Amen

Saturday, June 04, 2011

June 4, 2011 … Integrity Triumphs Over Personal Loss

Passage of the Day: Daniel 1: 6 – 7 … 6 Among these were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. 7 The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.

My Journal for Today: John MacArthur, in Strength for Today for this date, highlights today’s passage from Daniel by writing, “You can’t always prevent personal loss; but you can respond to it in ways that glorify God.” And in today’s passage we read of four young Hebrew boys, probably in their late teens or early 20s, being stripped of their way of life, separated from their families, and even renamed to take away their former Hebrew identities. For most of us, this kind of treatment would lead to extreme frustration, which, in turn, would likely lead to anger, bitterness, and then possibly to some kind of ungodly backlash.

But this was not to be the story of Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, who were given the names of Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. No, … in the face of isolation and intense mind shaping by their Babylonian captors, we will see that these four clung to and trusted their one, true God. They exhibited intense and immense spiritual integrity. And as John MacArthur summarized it, “[These boys] couldn’t prevent their losses; but they could trust God and refuse to let those losses lead to despair and compromise.”

And so, for this month’s study, we have our first major lesson in Godly integrity from God’s Book and the life of Daniel, who, along with his three friends, chooses to cling to Godly values in the face of whatever personal loss and challenge may be inflicted by the world. When the world challenges our Christian values, even trying to strip us of our identity in Christ, we must CHOOSE to do as our Lord commanded, and that’s what our four young Hebrew role models did, … to deny self, take up their crosses, and follow God (see Luke 9: 23).

My Prayer Today: Lord, help me to be like these boys, a shining light of integrity in the darkness of worldly dishonesty. Amen

Friday, June 03, 2011

June 3, 2011 … Integrity Triumphs Over Pride

Blogger's Note: Just a little late getting in this AM because I've had trouble getting internet access at my college where I've traveled with my wife for our 45th class reunion @ Wabash College. But now, having done my devotional earlier this AM, let me post my journal entry for this date.

Passage of the Day: Daniel 1: 3 – 4, 6 … 3 Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring in some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility – 4 young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king's palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians. … 6 Among these were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah.

My Journal for Today: It doesn’t take a Rhodes Scholar to see that our passage today cuts across time. In today’s world we see movement by the power elite – i.e., those in control politically and culturally – to exercise their positions of worldly authority, beauty, or popularity, trying to reshape the culture to fit their image of worldly glory. Today’s world, like the Babylonians of old, would love to see Godly values (i.e., Christianity) get sucked in and decimated by the Hollywood hype and media mystique, … brain washing all of us, including Christians, to lay aside our Godly values. In fact “the world,” dominated and engineered by Satan, would like to eliminate every vestige of “God” from the public’s eyes/ears.

Therefore, it would be good for all who lay claim to Christian values to learn from the witness and lives of the four young Hebrews introduced in today’s passage. These lads became models of Godly integrity by standing strongly in their faith, … holding on to their values and Godly disciplines even at the risk of their very lives. And we will see more of this, hopefully causing us to take stock of our own Christian integrity this month. We will see if Christ in our lives prevails over such taunts from the world involving power, pleasure, and position, … even in the face of worldly pressures and power plays,.

So, will we stand as our four heroes of the faith; or will we wilt to the world? [see 1st John 2: 15 – 16]

My Prayer Today: I will always win, Lord, when I recognize and reflect You. Amen

Thursday, June 02, 2011

June 2, 2011 … Integrity Triumphs Over Adversity

Passage of the Day: Daniel 1: 1 – 2 … 1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2 And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God. These he carried off to the temple of his god in Babylonia and put in the treasure house of his god.

My Journal for Today: You’ve gotta love the openness and reality of the Bible, more specifically today in the Old Testament book of Daniel. As we read in today’s highlight passage, God never coddles the sinfulness of His people. For many years God’s people, the Jews, had been disobedient and recalcitrant; and so God allows the wicked nation of Babylon to consume His chosen ones in captivity.

John MacArthur in Strength for Today points out that this illustrates that “… judgment [begins] with the family of God (see 1st Peter 4: 17). “ And it also shows that God’s discipline is always levied against His children to produce greater righteousness and Godly integrity (see Hebrew 12: 5 – 11 - linked for your study).

It was this stage of historical captivity, involving the Jews with all of the associated Babylonian cruelty, which produced the remarkable display of faithful spiritual integrity which I’ll be highlighting this month … as Daniel and his young Hebrew friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah are tested and found to be pure jewels in God’s crown.

Think of the word picture involving a jeweler desiring to show his best gems, possibly his prime diamonds. To do this, the jeweler always displays these prime jewels or sparkling gems on a blackened backdrop, shining a focused, bright light to reflect off of the facets of the cut gems to entice a buyer who is looking at the gems. And that is what we will see in the book of Daniel as the shining integrity of these four young Hebrews is displayed, shining against the dark backdrop of their Babylonian captors.

And right now in history, knowing what God has communicated to His people (including His remnant in this country) … a stark warning that He can, at any time, as He did with the Jews in today’s passage, turn a nation over to its own selfish ways and let Satan deal with His people for a season. Reading the passage in Romans 1: 18-32 (please read it as it’s linked here) gives me pause, and makes me wonder if God hasn’t already begun to leave this country to our own fleshly captivity. Certainly something to ponder; and about which we should pray.

My Prayer Today: Shine through me, Lord! Have mercy on Your people, Lord! Amen

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

June 1, 2011 … Integrity Means No Compromise!

Blogger’s Note: Okay; those of you who humble me by following along with my journal entries daily or maybe regularly, I give you FAIR WARNING. This month, again with the help of John MacArthur, I’m going to be delving into the subject of Christian integrity by looking at the life of Daniel in the OT. I give you warning, because if you don’t want to grow in Christlikeness, just avoid this month and come back in July for a less convicting study. ;>)

Passage of the Day: Psalm 15: 1 - 2 … [NIV] 1 LORD, who may dwell in Your tent? Who may live on Your holy mountain? 2 He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart …

Psalm 15: 1-2 [God’s Word Translation] 1 O LORD, who may stay in your tent? Who may live on your holy mountain? 2The one who walks with integrity, does what is righteous, and speaks the truth within his heart.

My Journal for today: This month, once again with the help of John MacArthur’s Strength for Today devotional, the focus topic for this month of June will be that of CHRISTIAN INTEGRITY. From today’s passage that would be defined as one who “does what is righteous [and] speaks the truth from within his heart” [i.e., from the spiritual center of one’s being].

Primarily during this study MacArthur will be using passages from the Old Testament book of Daniel, who truly was a living example of the man of integrity spoken of by David in Psalm 15 [please and go read the entire Psalm]. In the New Testament, the Apostle John describes the essence of a truly mature Christian as being one who walks in Christlikeness … see 1st John 2: 3 – 6

SCRIPTURE: 1st John 2: 3 - 6 … 3 We know that we have come to know Him [i.e., Christ] if we obey His commands. 4 The man who says, "I know Him," but does not do what He commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But if anyone obeys His word, God's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in Him: 6 Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did.

Does that intimidate you? It sure does me. But, … in our study this month, as we will see, Daniel from the Old Testament, even in anticipation of his Messiah, was just such a man, … living in Christlikeness, not having the advantages which were afforded the Apostle John, who was so personally close to His Messiah, The Christ. Daniel was a man who fit the mold of Christlikeness even before Christ walked the earth. He was one who would not bend to peer or power pressure as the world attempted to mold his faith to fit him into the culture; or he was not one who broke under dire circumstances. He held on to his principles and Godly precepts, even in the threat of death to more than one king. Daniel truly was a man of integrity.

So, as today’s passage teaches, in order for us to have God abiding in our “sanctuary” or “tent” (i.e., our heart), which, of course, signifies our very being, we must walk with uncompromising integrity, … which, for the Christian, translates into Christlikeness and obedience to God’s word.

My Prayer Today: O, Lord, help me be a man of integrity. Amen