Paul Arrives in Rome

Bible:

After three months we set sail in a ship that had wintered in the island, a ship of Alexandria, with the twin gods as a figurehead. Putting in at Syracuse, we stayed there for three days. And from there we made a circuit and arrived at Rhegium. And after one day a south wind sprang up, and on the second day we came to Puteoli. There we found brothers and were invited to stay with them for seven days. And so we came to Rome. And the brothers there, when they heard about us, came as far as the Forum of Appius and Three Taverns to meet us. On seeing them, Paul thanked God and took courage. And when we came into Rome, Paul was allowed to stay by himself, with the soldier who guarded him. Acts 28:11-16 ESV

[The Lord says:] “Assemble yourselves and come;
draw near together,
you survivors of the nations!
They have no knowledge
who carry about their wooden idols,
and keep on praying to a god
that cannot save.
Declare and present your case;
let them take counsel together!
Who told this long ago?
Who declared it of old?
Was it not I, the Lord?
And there is no other god besides me,
a righteous God and a Savior;
there is none besides me.

“Turn to me and be saved,
all the ends of the earth!
For I am God, and there is no other.
By myself I have sworn;
from my mouth has gone out in righteousness
a word that shall not return:
‘To me every knee shall bow,
every tongue shall swear allegiance.’” Isaiah 45:20-23 ESV

Reflection:

The twin gods that the Greeks and Romans believed in were called Castor and Pollux. They were the sons of Zeus, and people believed that these twin gods could save them from trouble at sea, and sailors also prayed to them for favorable winds before they sailed. If a ship was caught in a storm, people on board might pray to Castor and Pollux to save them, and some sailors believed they saw Castor and Pollux  during a storm. What they really saw is what we call St. Elmo’s Fire, which is a glowing ball of light that sometimes appears during storms, especially near their end. You might have heard of Castor and Pollux as the Gemini twins, and there is a star constellation named after them.

Paul finally reached Rome after going through a terrible storm, and the ship that brought him there had a figurehead of these twin gods. This means that the front of the ship was carved in their image, and that some of the people that sailed on it might have believed that Castor and Pollux would help and protect them on the sea. Paul didn’t believe that, of course. He knew that it was the only true God who had brought him safely through the storm and on to Rome, just as he had promised. Some Christians came and met Paul when he got to Rome, which gave him comfort and courage. Paul wasn’t thrown into a prison, but instead he was allowed to live by himself with a soldier guarding him. In every way, the Lord was taking care of Paul.

We also know that we can count on our Heavenly Father to take care of us. Some people today still believe in the twin gods, and in other constellations of the zodiac in the sky, but we know that the stars don’t control our future. Our lives are in God’s hands, and no matter what trouble we go through, we can trust in him to see us through it. Jesus came to bring us through the worst trouble of all, sin and death. He died for us on the cross so that our sins could be forgiven, and he rose again from the dead to defeat death forever. We know he will keep us safe until we reach our heavenly home with him.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your help and protection, and for Jesus, our Savior. In His Name, Amen.

Source:

https://www.ancient.eu/Castor_and_Pollux/

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Making False Gods

Bible:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Romans 1:18-23 ESV

Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves. John 14: 8-11

Reflection:

Long ago, the Norse people believed in a god named Loki. He was the son of giants, and he was very powerful. But Loki wasn’t a kind or helpful god. If he helped anyone, it was because there was something good in it for himself. Not only was Loki selfish, but he was also a trickster. He was full of mischief, and sometimes his tricks were deadly. He was responsible for the death of a beautiful god that everyone loved named Balder, when he guided a poison mistletoe dart to Balder’s heart. Loki refused to cry for Balder to bring him back to life, even though all the rest of the world was weeping. Loki was also a destructive god who caused earthquakes to happen.

Paul wrote to the Romans that all people can know some things about the true God, such as his power and glory, just by looking at creation. But people refuse to worship the true God and instead make false gods and goddesses that look like things on earth–people and animals and birds and reptiles. Even worse, people make up false gods like Loki, who not only looked like a human person, but also thought and acted like one. Gods and goddesses like Loki show the worst of sinful human behavior by being jealous and selfish and destructive.

We all are guilty of understanding God to be a little like us in some ways, but God came to us in Jesus to show us what our Heavenly Father is truly like. When we want to understand God, the best place to look is to Jesus, and learn from his life and his teachings. In Jesus we know the wonderful love of God, a love that didn’t leave us to go our own way. Jesus took all our sins onto himself and went to the cross to pay for them there. Because of Jesus, we have God’s forgiveness every day, and we know our Heavenly Father’s love. We want to learn more about Jesus from his word, the Bible, and to follow God’s ways in our lives.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for coming to us to show us what God’s love is all about. Amen.

Source:

Loki

Food Offered to Idols

Bible:

Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.”

However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble. I Corinthians 8:4, 7-13 ESV

We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” Romans 15:1-3 ESV

Reflection:

When Emily married Roger, she became the stepmother to his two sons. Their mother had died, and they missed her very much. Emily tried very hard to be friendly and kind to her two stepsons, Andy and Adrian, but it was hard. One day she made a special meal for the family. She made a delicious dish called shish kebobs, but when she served it, Adrian left the table and locked himself in his room. Andy tried to explain what the problem was, but he started to cry as he did. He said that his mother had made shish kebabs for the family the day she had died, and now this food reminded the boys of their mother and of her death. The problem wasn’t the shish kebobs, but rather the strong memories they brought back to Andy and Adrian.

The people in Corinth were having a similar problem. Some of them didn’t see why they couldn’t eat meat that had been sacrificed to idols. They knew that there was only one true God, and that idols were made-up lies. They knew that food that had been offered to idols couldn’t hurt them. But some others remembered the times when they had believed in these false gods and goddesses, and the celebrations and meals they had enjoyed back then. These people couldn’t even think of eating food that had been offered to idols, and it really hurt them to see their fellow Christians doing that. So the Corinthians asked Paul for his advice. Paul agreed that there was only one God, and that idols were nothing. But he said that people whose faith was strong needed to be kind to people with weak faith and not do anything that would hurt them or offend their consciences. There was a real danger that they might lose their weak brothers and sisters that way, and that would be terrible. Jesus had died for them, but just because someone ate some meat, they might wander away from the Lord. No meat is worth that, Paul said. He’d rather never eat meat again rather than hurt a brother or sister in Christ.

Jesus is our example in this. He is strong, but he sees how weak we are, and he acted for our good rather than for his own. He became a human person like us, and he let himself be hurt and killed for our sake. Because of what Jesus has done, we are God’s children for always. We have all of God’s people as our brothers and sisters, and the Lord means for us to treat them with kindness and love, and to think about their needs before we think of our own. He forgives us for the times we think and act selfishly, and he sends us his Holy Spirit to help us live in ways that help and bless our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the blessings of having brothers and sisters in Christ. Help us to treat them with love always. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Source:

Whitney, Phyllis A. Mystery of the Green Cat Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1957.

We are His Offspring

Bible:

So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for

“‘In him we live and move and have our being’;

as even some of your own poets have said,

“‘For we are indeed his offspring.’

Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” Acts 17:22-31 ESV

There is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. I Corinthians 8:6b

Reflection:

Have you ever heard of the phrase “hedge your bets”? This means to play things safe by leaving more than one option open. The phrase comes from a time when people would fence their land by planting a row of bushes or trees around the edge of their property, and these hedges would keep their land safe. Hedging your bets is often talked about in actual betting. For example, if you are betting on a horse race, you might put money on more than one horse. Then, whichever horse wins, you will get some money. You can hedge your bets when you make plans, too. For example, you might plan a picnic, but if it rains that day, you can have another plan ready, such as going to see a movie. That way, no matter how the weather turns out, you will have something fun to do.

The people of Athens had built an altar to an unknown god. They wanted to make sure they didn’t miss any god who might help them, so they were hedging their bets. No matter which god turned out to be true or good, they would have given that god some respect. Paul used that altar to introduce them to the one true God. He said that the true God couldn’t be seen, and couldn’t be an idol made with human hands. The true God, he said, doesn’t live in a temple we can build, and there’s nothing we can do to help him. In fact, it’s the other way around. God is the one who helps us. He is the one who made us and gives us life, and he is in control of the whole course of human history. Paul said that for a long time God allowed people to go their own way, but even so he was never far away from anyone. He is the Father of all people, because he made all people in his image. He now calls everyone to turn away from idols and from sins, and to believe in the true God, who will soon judge the whole earth through Jesus.

We can’t hedge our bets with God, because he is the only true God, and he calls us to put all of our trust in him. He calls us to turn away from sin and to follow his ways. This can be a scary thought sometimes. We want to play things safe and to save some of our faith for someone or something else. But our Heavenly Father has given us complete safety in Jesus, our Savior. Jesus took all our sins on himself, and he paid for them at the cross. When the final judgment comes, we can put all our trust in what Jesus has done for us. Our sins are forgiven every day, and we can look to the future with confidence that we are safe in God’s hands, now and always.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for taking us into the safety of your hands through Jesus, our Savior. In His Name, Amen.

Source:

https://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/hedge-your-bets.html

He Did Not Leave Himself Without Witness

Bible:

But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their garments and rushed out into the crowd, crying out, “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways. Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” Even with these words they scarcely restrained the people from offering sacrifice to them. Acts 14:14-18 ESV

You visit the earth and water it;
you greatly enrich it;
the river of God is full of water;
you provide their grain,
for so you have prepared it.
You water its furrows abundantly,
settling its ridges,
softening it with showers,
and blessing its growth.
You crown the year with your bounty;
your wagon tracks overflow with abundance.
The pastures of the wilderness overflow,
the hills gird themselves with joy,
the meadows clothe themselves with flocks,
the valleys deck themselves with grain,
they shout and sing together for joy. Psalm 65:9-13 ESV

Reflection:

One Christmas several years ago an amazing thing happened. Many people had put toys and other Christmas presents on layaway in stores. This meant that they couldn’t pay for them right away, but hoped to be able to pay for these things by Christmastime, and the store would save the gifts they had set aside for them. But as Christmas came closer, for many people it wasn’t going to be possible for them to pay what they needed to pay in time to celebrate and give these gifts to their children. But this year, other people that they didn’t even know paid off their layaway accounts for them. The people who had done this were strangers to them. All they knew is that someone had taken care of their bill, and that they would be able to give their children the Christmas presents they had hoped to be able to give.

When Paul and Barnabas realized that the people thought that they were gods and were about to worship and sacrifice to them, they were terribly upset. They knew how wrong this would be. They both tore their clothes, and then they rushed into the crowd and started telling them about the true God. He had made the earth and the sea and the heavens above, and even though people in the world had turned away from him, he was still with them giving them joy. Like the people who paid for Christmas presents, he remained unknown, but he left the good things he gave the people of the world as a witness to himself. He hoped that people would realize that a good and loving God was the one who gave them the rain and their food and everything good that they had.

God has given us so much more than only the wonderful world and the food we eat and everything good we have. He’s also given us his word, the Bible, so that we can know him. His word teaches us about Jesus, his best gift of all. Jesus came to die for us and bring us back to the Heavenly Father we had turned away from. Because of Jesus, our sins are forgiven, and we have life with God, now and forever. He leaves us on earth to be his witnesses to all the good that he has done for all people.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for all the good you give us, and especially for Jesus, our Savior. In His Name, Amen.

Source:

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2011/12/15/anonymous-donors-pay-off-kmart-layaway-accounts-across-country.html

Keeping Pure

Bible:

Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the returned exiles were building a temple to the Lord, the God of Israel, they approached Zerubbabel and the heads of fathers’ houses and said to them, “Let us build with you, for we worship your God as you do, and we have been sacrificing to him ever since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assyria who brought us here.” But Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the rest of the heads of fathers’ houses in Israel said to them, “You have nothing to do with us in building a house to our God; but we alone will build to the Lord, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus the king of Persia has commanded us.”

Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah and made them afraid to build and bribed counselors against them to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia. Ezra 4:1-5 ESV

For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:3-7 ESV

Reflection:

One thing that can make people really sick is if their food becomes contaminated. This can happen in stores or warehouses, but it can also happen in homes. There are some important rules to follow to keep food from getting contaminated. You should use separate cutting boards for produce and for raw meat. You should use separate plates and utensils for raw and cooked foods. When you go shopping, keep raw meat and eggs separate from the other foods in your shopping cart. You should also keep them separate in your refrigerator at home. All of this separation keeps bacteria out of food and makes it safe to eat.

When the people of Judah started rebuilding their temple, the people who lived where the northern kingdom of Israel had been came and said they wanted to help. But the people of Judah said no, they would rebuild the temple themselves. This might seem unfriendly, but there was a good reason for their answer. The people who wanted to help were the descendants of people who had been settled in the land by the king of Assyria long ago. When the Assyrians had taken the northern kingdom away into captivity, they had settled other people in the land who worshiped false gods and goddesses. Because of this, God had sent lions among them, and they decided they needed to learn to worship the God of Israel. So they started to do that, but they also continued to worship idols at the same time. The people of Judah knew that it would be dangerous to cooperate with people who worshiped idols. They knew they or their children would be tempted to do the same thing, and so they decided to keep themselves pure and separate from the other people of the land. They didn’t want to let false gods contaminate them or their worship of the one true God.

We were all contaminated by our sin and rebellion against God, and there’s no way we could ever make or keep ourselves pure from sin. But God sent Jesus to die on the cross for us, and his death makes us completely clean and pure. When we are baptized, what Jesus did for us becomes our own, and our sins are washed away with the waters of baptism. God sends us his Holy Spirit to keep us faithful and true to him and to help us to stay away from the evil and sin around and in us that would lead us away from the Lord. God will be with us to help us every day and always.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for making us pure through Jesus. Please help us stay faithful to you always. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Source:

https://www.foodsafety.gov/keep/basics/separate/index.html

Not Learning from the Past

Bible:

Then Daniel answered and said before the king, “Let your gifts be for yourself, and give your rewards to another. Nevertheless, I will read the writing to the king and make known to him the interpretation. O king, the Most High God gave Nebuchadnezzar your father kingship and greatness and glory and majesty.  And because of the greatness that he gave him, all peoples, nations, and languages trembled and feared before him. Whom he would, he killed, and whom he would, he kept alive; whom he would, he raised up, and whom he would, he humbled. But when his heart was lifted up and his spirit was hardened so that he dealt proudly, he was brought down from his kingly throne, and his glory was taken from him. He was driven from among the children of mankind, and his mind was made like that of a beast, and his dwelling was with the wild donkeys. He was fed grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, until he knew that the Most High God rules the kingdom of mankind and sets over it whom he will. And you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this, but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven. And the vessels of his house have been brought in before you, and you and your lords, your wives, and your concubines have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored.” Daniel 5:17-23 ESV

[Paul writes:] I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service,  though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. I Timothy 1:12-16 ESV

Reflection:

There’s a song about a man who had a son, but he was always too busy to spend any time with him. He was away on a business trip when his son learned to walk. He gave his son a ball for his tenth birthday, but he was too busy to play with him or teach him how to throw. As his son grew up, he became like his father. He didn’t learn anything at all from his father’s mistakes. When he came home from college his dad wanted him to sit and talk with him for awhile, but all he wanted to do was borrow the car and go do something else. When the son got married and had a family, he never had any time to visit his dad or spend any time with him.

Belshazzar wasn’t actually Nebuchadnezzar’s son, but he ruled Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom, so Daniel talked to him as if Nebuchadnezzar had been his father. Nebuchadnezzar had learned a hard lesson about the true God when he became too proud. He became mentally ill and lived as an animal for awhile until he learned to give glory to the Lord of Heaven. Belshazzar knew about that, and he should have learned from Nebuchadnezzar’s mistakes, but he didn’t. He worshiped false gods and idols and made fun of the true God. Daniel scolded Belshazzar for his foolishness and his pride. He should have learned from the sins and mistakes of the past, but he didn’t. Because of that, God’s judgment would fall on him.

When we look to people to be our examples to follow, we might find good examples and bad examples, but we will never find perfect examples. That’s because everyone is a sinner. The Apostle Paul did many wonderful things for the Lord, but he never forgot the terrible things he had done before he came to believe in Jesus. He had hated Jesus and hurt many people who were Christians. We can learn from Paul’s bad example and not be like he was before he became a Christian, and we can also learn from his good example and the way he followed Jesus afterwards. But Paul said that the best example he could give was the example of the amazing love and grace of the Lord. From Paul’s example we can learn that because of Jesus’ death on the cross for us, we can know the forgiveness of all our sins. The best people to follow are people who believe in Jesus and trust in him to give them the eternal life Jesus came to bring.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for giving us Jesus, our Savior, and for people who show us how to follow him and believe in him. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Source:

Chapin, Harry. “Cat’s in the Cradle.” Verities and Balderdash. Electra, 1973. LP.

Wanting to Be God

Bible:

All this came upon King Nebuchadnezzar. At the end of twelve months he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, and the king answered and said, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” While the words were still in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, “O King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: The kingdom has departed from you, and you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. And you shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.” Immediately the word was fulfilled against Nebuchadnezzar. He was driven from among men and ate grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair grew as long as eagles’ feathers, and his nails were like birds’ claws. Daniel 4:28-33 ESV

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.

He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Genesis 3:1-6 ESV

Reflection:

Once there was a poor fisherman who caught a fish one day, and to his surprise found out that the fish could talk. The fish said that he was a magic fish, and that if the fisherman would let him go, he would grant him any wish. The fisherman let the fish go without wishing for anything, but when his wife found out about this, she was very angry. She didn’t like living in their poor shack, and wanted a cottage instead. The fisherman went to the seashore and called the fish and told him his wife’s wish, and the fish gave them a cottage. But the fisherman’s wife wasn’t happy with that. She wanted a mansion, and when the fish gave her that, she wanted a palace, and then she wanted to be the queen, and then the empress, and then the pope. The fish granted her all of these wishes, one after the other. But the fisherman’s wife still wasn’t happy. She saw the sun rising in the morning and setting in the evening, and knew that she wasn’t in control of that. So she had one more wish–to be God. But this was too much to wish for, and when the fisherman told the fish this wish, he went back to find that he and his wife were back in their poor little shack.

This is only a story, but it’s a little bit like what Nebuchadnezzar did. God had given him more and more power and glory in his kingdom, and a beautiful palace to live in, and an empire that extended over much of the known world. But Nebuchadnezzar was very proud. He thought that he had done everything by himself, and that there could be no end to his own power and glory. Nebuchadnezzar had made himself into a god, and he didn’t feel as if he needed the true God’s help and blessing. The Lord wouldn’t let that kind of pride and arrogance stand, so he judged Nebuchadnezzar by making him ill in his mind. The mighty king started thinking and acting like an animal, and he was driven from his palace and went out to the fields to live. He ate grass and got wet with the morning dew after sleeping in the field each night, and his hair grew long and shaggy and his fingernails and toenails got longer and longer so that they were like claws. The Lord was teaching Nebuchadnezzar to be more humble and to give glory to the true God.

We are all like Nebuchadnezzar sometimes. Our first parents sinned in the Garden of Eden because they wanted to be like God. They wanted to be in control of their own lives and do things their own way, instead of obeying God and following his ways. Just as Nebuchadnezzar was driven out of his palace, Adam and Eve were driven out of the garden. When we sin, we are also saying that we want to be God. We don’t want to give the Lord glory, and we don’t want to obey him, but instead we want to go our own way and do our own thing. God’s judgment falls on the sin of pride, but the Lord provided an escape for us when he sent Jesus to be our Savior and to die for us on the cross. Because of Jesus, God forgives us all our sins of pride and disobedience, and he sends us his Holy Spirit to help us give glory to our Lord and follow his ways. We will live with him in his heavenly kingdom, a kingdom more glorious than any human person can build, and a kingdom that will last forever.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, please teach us to be humble and to give you all the glory. Thank you for forgiving our sins through Jesus, our Savior. In His Name, Amen.

Not Alone in the Fire

Bible:

Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.”

Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the burning fiery furnace; he declared, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here!” Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire. And the satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together and saw that the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men. The hair of their heads was not singed, their cloaks were not harmed, and no smell of fire had come upon them. Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God. Therefore I make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that speaks anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins, for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.” Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon. Daniel 3:24-30 ESV

And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?” Matthew 8:23-27 ESV

Reflection:

Once when Jesus and his disciples were in a boat, a sudden storm struck on the lake they were on. The wind howled and the waves washed over the sides of the boat, rocking it and starting to swamp it. Jesus was so tired from his work that he had fallen asleep in the boat, and his terrified disciples woke him up. Then Jesus stood up in the boat and scolded the wind and the water, and suddenly it was calm again. His disciples were safe because Jesus was with them in the boat, and he was able to calm the storm and bring them through it. They didn’t face the frightening wind and waves alone.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego also weren’t alone in the middle of the fiery furnace. God sent his angel to be with them in the heart of the raging flames, and the fire didn’t hurt them. Perhaps this angel was the Angel of the Lord, God himself coming to save his people. The three men were free of the bonds that had them tied up and could walk around in the fire. Nebuchadnezzar was amazed and even a little frightened to see the true God at work for his people. He called the three men out of the fiery furnace and praised God for his power, and said that no one in his kingdom would be allowed to say anything against the God of Israel, because no other god was able to save his people the was the Lord had done.

We all were in terrible trouble, worse than a storm or a fire. We were under the power of death and all the forces of evil, and we couldn’t save ourselves. We would have been lost forever if God hadn’t come to us in Jesus to save us. Jesus came to die on the cross for us and rise again from the dead to break the power of sin and death and to rescue us from the work of the devil. Because of Jesus we are free to live and serve God now and always. We might face some terrible trouble in our lives, but we never have to face our problems alone. Jesus is always with us to help us and to keep us close to him, no matter what happens.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for coming to us to save us and to help us. Amen.

Faithful to the End

Bible:

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with fury, and the expression of his face was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He ordered the furnace heated seven times more than it was usually heated. And he ordered some of the mighty men of his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace. Then these men were bound in their cloaks, their tunics, their hats, and their other garments, and they were thrown into the burning fiery furnace. Because the king’s order was urgent and the furnace overheated, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell bound into the burning fiery furnace. Daniel 3:16-23 ESV

For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. Romans 14:7-9 ESV

Reflection:

In the early church there was a teacher named Justin who wrote about the worship and the life of the early Christians. When Justin was on trial for his life along with five other people because of their faith, the prefect said to them that they should sacrifice to the gods, and then they could go free. Justin said, “No one who is rightly minded turns from true belief to false.” The prefect said, “If you do not obey, you shall be punished without mercy.” Justin said that he would rather suffer the punishment of the government than the much greater judgment of Jesus if he turned away from him. He and the other people said, “Do what you will. For we are Christians and offer no sacrifice to idols.” Justin and his friends were ready to die for their faith rather than deny Jesus. They didn’t expect to be rescued from being put to death, but they knew that Jesus had rescued them from eternal death, so they were willing to die. Justin and his friends were all put to death.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were also willing to suffer and die for the true God. They knew that Nebuchadnezzar had the power to throw them into the fiery furnace, but they also believed that God had the power to rescue them and that he would do it. But in the end, they left matters in God’s hands. They were willing to die rather than deny their God, even if it wasn’t God’s will to save them from the fire. Nebuchadnezzar was furious that he couldn’t make these three men obey him, and he ordered them to be tied up and thrown into the fiery furnace. He even had it heated up seven times hotter than usual, and it got so hot that the men who tied them up and threw them into the furnace died just from getting close to the heat.

Christians sometimes suffer because of their faith. Sometimes other people will look down on us or tell lies or say mean things about us. Sometimes we struggle against the sins of this world and feel left out and alone because we are different from other people. In some parts of the world Christians are thrown in jail or hurt or even put to death because of their faith. Sometimes God helps and saves his people from being hurt or killed, but sometimes he allows it to happen. We are willing to suffer or even die because Jesus suffered and died on the cross for us so that we could be forgiven and become God’s children. He sends us his Holy Spirit to help us and give us strength when we need to suffer because of him. We can be sure that, no matter what happens, even if we die, we belong to Jesus, and nothing anyone can do to us can take us away from Jesus.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for suffering and dying for us. Please give us the strength to be faithful to you, no matter what happens. Amen.

Source:

Owen, E. C. E. Some Authentic Acts of the Early Martyrs  London: SPCK Publishing, 1933.