But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself…
Resolve is to settle firmly on a course of action, it is firm determination. What have you resolved to do? Who have you resolved to be? Daniel resolved to not defile himself in a pretty difficult time. But, it was in his resolve that he was able to make it through the chaos and achieve an incredible amount of success and influence.
Daniel made this resolution, this firm course of action, at the beginning of what would end up being 70 years of captivity. You see, the Israelites had fallen into disobedience, again. This time it divided them and destroyed them. The kingdom was divided, the northern kingdom was conquered by the Assyrians and the southern kingdom had been conquered by the Babylonians. Many of the Israelites were carted off to Babylon to live as exiles and slaves in a foreign land. They were basically right back where they started.
During this time Daniel and some of this friends were invited (perhaps forced) into the king’s palace. Here they would be taught, for 3 years, the ways of this culture and kingdom. The king even tried to force them to eat his food. But, Daniel, in his resolve refused the food because it had been offered to idols and never caved in his commitment and obedience to God and God’s law, even though everyone and everything around him was pulling him away. He stood strong.
So, I ask again, what have you resolved to do? Who are you when you find yourself right back where you started (stuck or enslaved in a place you don’t want to be)? Who are you when everyone around you is trying to tell you how to live your life and what to do? Do you give in and do what everyone else is doing? Do you stray form what you know to be right? How is your resolve?
God blessed Daniel’s resolve. Twice in the opening chapter of Daniel we read the words God gave. God gave Daniel favor with his guards and God gave Daniel a ton of wisdom and knowledge. This favor and wisdom is what really equipped Daniel and his friends to be successful and influential in this chaotic time of exile. If we will resolve to not be defiled – to live totally sold out to God, He will give us what we need to be successful and influential. He will give us what we need to be who He wants us to be. So, what will you resolve to do today?
The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad! Clouds and thick darkness are all around him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
A couple of weeks ago I was out in the woods doing some hunting. We were about 2 miles in and it got dark. Luckily we had a road to walk on to get back to the truck – and a flashlight! At one point in our walk in the dark I turned off the flashlight. It was dark! Very hard to see where we were going. When it is dark it is hard to move, especially when you turn off the light. It can be very disorienting and scary. I didn’t leave the light off for long before turning it back on – maybe just a step or two.
Many of us might find ourselves in the dark. We might be having great difficulty moving forward either in life in general or forward through a particular problem or season of life. In those moments who or what do you turn to for light – for direction? How do you know they are leading you in the right direction and what do you do when they are not around – when the light goes out?
What really strikes me about this Psalm is that it says God is surrounded by clouds and thick darkness. God knows what it is like to be in the dark. He is in the midst of our darkness. He is with us on that journey with us. I know we might be tempted to turn to someone or something other than Him for direction. We might even find that we have put our hope for salvation from the darkness in a human made system, a person, or even a substance. But, none of those things or people can offer what God does. They aren’t always in the darkness with you, but God is.
The last time we see God in the darkness He brings forth life (Genesis 1-2). He brings order to chaos. He declares light where there once wasn’t any. We can, and should, ask other people for help and invite others to join us in our darkness so they can help us out, but ultimately our hope should reside in God. Ultimately, He is the only one who can truly transform the darkness into light.
Your road might be pretty dark today, but know that God is right there with you. Trust Him for the light you need so you don’t get lost and can keep moving forward.
The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.
God will soon crush Satan under your feet! What an awesome statement of complete and total victory. I know I can’t wait for the day until Satan and all the evil he has brought about in this world is destroyed and God’s love and grace reign perfectly. We just have to keep holding on right? Waiting for that day and all will be better – Satan will be defeated! So, hold on, victory is coming.
While this verse is exciting we cannot forget everything else Paul said around it. He made this statement at the end of Romans. A letter written to a church that was arguing quite a bit. Paul reminded them of the reality of their position in Christ, having been set free from sin, no longer slaves to it. They are new people with a new purpose in Jesus. He has spent much of the letter reminding them of what Jesus has done and how in response to that they can and should live a life of obedience to Him.
In fact, leading up to this awesome statement Paul praises them for their obedience and challenges them to continue to do what is right and stay away from doing any wrong. One translation of Romans 16:17 puts it quite strongly, “I want you to be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil.” So, while we wait for Satan to be crushed under our feet we have a responsibility, not to live in evil, but to live in good.
One of Paul’s biggest messages in Romans is the power available to us through Christ. That we do not have to live in evil, that we are capable of good. I think we often excuse the evil in our lives and convince ourselves we are powerless over it. Which, may be true, right up until we depend on Jesus. The death and resurrection of Jesus has already crushed the hold evil had on us and the sin we lived in. Sure, the temptation to do evil/wrong might still be there, but now we have a power to no longer live in it.
Here is the challenge I take from the closing of Romans. We have a choice in life, to do good or to do evil. There will come a day when Satan will be crushed under our feet and evil totally destroyed. But, until then, thanks to Jesus, we can choose how to live. We can live crushed by sin and evil while we wait for Satan to be defeated, or we can be wise and go ahead and live in victory over it. Jesus has crushed Him already and we have the opportunity to go ahead and live in that final victory today. What will you choose?
Notice how God is both kind and severe. He is severe toward those who disobeyed, but kind to you if you continue to trust in his kindness. But if you stop trusting, you also will be cut off. And if the people of Israel turn from their unbelief, they will be grafted in again, for God has the power to graft them back into the tree.
I was playing a video game with my son the other night – it was a basketball game. It was the first time I played him. I beat him by almost 30. It was such a beautiful thing! But, then he asked for a second chance, another opportunity to play me, and this time he destroyed me. Beginners luck I guess.
We all love getting second chances! I want you to know that we serve a God of second chances. In Romans 11 Paul was talking about how God hasn’t given up on Israel. These have been repeatedly disobedient people and at times against the things of God. But, God has never written them off or gone back on His promises. Instead He has given them tons of mercy.
The amazing thing is, is that mercy has been extended to all the Gentiles. Paul describes this tree with branches that have been grafted in and others that have been cut off. The cut off branches were the disobedient Israelites and the grafted in branches were the believing Gentiles. Of course this made some of the Gentiles pretty prideful and some of the Israelites pretty discouraged.
But, then God steps in and says not so fast. Even though He is the one that cut off the branches He is also the One who is willing to graft them back in. This says a couple things to me. Every branch I have ever cut off a tree has died, making it impossible to graft back in. God may cut us off the tree but then keeps us alive until we decide to come back. Then, He has the power to graft us back in.
The God of second chances! We may have gotten beat the first time – but we can be very victorious the second time if we want. Don’t give up on yourself – God hasn’t given up on you. Turn from your unbelief, your sin, and come back to the Father. He is ready and willing to graft you back into the tree.
The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.
Have you ever felt stuck? You have known what to do but just couldn’t seem to get it done? Maybe you’ve felt that way with various projects in the past or maybe even in life in general. There may even be times when you feel like you are stuck in your relationship with God and that you have just been unable to overcome the sin in your life or the other obstacles in your way. So, what are we supposed to do when it seems we just lake the strength to move forward?
Paul tells us in Romans 8 that we have this amazing asset as a result of coming to faith in Jesus Christ – the Holy Spirit. Just before Jesus died on the cross He told His disciples that when He left them He wouldn’t leave them alone, that He would send them a helper. Then, again, at His ascension in Acts 1 He told the disciples to wait for this helper, the Holy Spirit who would come and fill them with amazing power. That happened a few days later, on the day of Pentecost.
Romans 8 reminds us that this new life we have received in Jesus is not meant to be lived alone or in our own strength. We find ourselves getting stuck because we often try to move forward in our own strength and abilities. We are only able to get ourselves so far, before we need a little help. God has provided that for us in His Spirit. Once we come to know Jesus personally we are all filled with Him.
The Spirit of God fills our hearts and gives us the assurance and confidence that maybe we didn’t have before. He even works in and through our weaknesses. Paul’s example in this chapter is that He is praying for us when we don’t know what to pray or how to pray. The point is the Holy Spirit is doing for us things we don’t have the strength to do alone.
Paul describes this power that is available to us as the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. Now, that is some pretty amazing power. IT is life giving power! So, if you are feeling stuck or lifeless – take advantage of the strength that lies within you. Lean into the Holy Spirit who is ready and waiting for you to just let Him do what He does best – strengthen you in your weakness, assure you of God’s presence, and free you from a life of sin and death!
I want to do something a little different today and just leave you with Paul’s thoughts on the struggle we often find ourselves in. We will often find it hard, if not impossible, to do what we know we should – the right thing, the good thing. We look for solutions in all kinds of places, but can never really find freedom from that fight. In Romans Paul deals with this head on and to the Jews, they were trying to find victory in keeping the law. What fight are you in? Looking for victory but can’t find it? Ready for a new life? Listen carefully to what Paul is saying…
“I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.”
“Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, so we might live new lives by uniting with him in his death, we will be raised to life as he was. Remember that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.”
“Stop giving sin a place in your life – it has no power over you! Do not keep living as if you are enslaved to it, instead present your life to God, surrender to Him, and live in His righteousness!” (Paul – Romans 6-7)
I am praying we all live in this reality. The resurrection of Jesus has given us the opportunity to live a new life, a better life. A life we cannot find anywhere else. Are you ready to stop fighting a battle you can’t win and start trusting Jesus – who fought your fight, and won!?
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
Life without peace is a life in chaos. A life in chaos ruins us and is not the life God created us to live. Are you living the life God created you for or are you living in insecurity, fear, and conflict? Are you living in chaos?
Living life in constant conflict, with a lack of confidence, uncertainty, and lack of security is exhausting. In fact when we live in any of those for an extended period of time it dramatically impacts how we live, how we respond to various situations in life, and the quality of life we have. If you live with a lack of confidence you may never make a decision or live the life you want because you never take a step forward. If you are always looking over your shoulder afraid someone is going to take advantage of you, attack you, or steal from you, then you will always live in fear and always be defensive. Conflict destroys your relationships, your attitude, and your trust in others. Living like this will make you do some pretty crazy things after a while – maybe even desperate things – in an attempt to find peace, find some confidence, or security. In an attempt to survive the only way we know how.
Paul reminds us that in Christ there is a different way – a better way. In this life, even in the worst moments of this life we can have peace with God. With that peace comes access to the very powerful and protective grace of God. When we put our faith and trust in Jesus He heals our relationship with God the Father (and with others when we let Him) giving us peace. But, He doesn’t stop there, we are given access to a place of safety – the presence of God – God’s grace. Think of this as a safe harbor ships find in the midst of a storm. God is that very harbor for us.
Paul also tells us we have a new foundation and security in which we can stand. This peace and this grace give us confidence and peace of mind. We aren’t standing on the life we create or the safety we attempt to find. We are standing on God’s grace – a certain strength, a certain help, a certain guide, and certain confidence. No matter what happens in life, we can always stand on Him.
If you find yourself in chaos today (and even if you aren’t). I encourage you to find your peace, safety, and stability in Jesus. He is the only one that can guarantee it – even in the midst of the storms.
True, some of them were unfaithful; but just because they were unfaithful, does that mean God will be unfaithful? Of course not! Even if everyone else is a liar, God is true….
Have you ever entrusted something to someone hoping they would do right by you or do something good with what you entrusted to them? Sometimes we entrust ourselves to people through friendships, marriages, etc… We trust them to be a good friend, a good spouse, or even a good parent. When people break that trust, when they let us down, it can be devastating and it can turn our life upside down.
Well, that is kind of the situation Paul is talking about here in Romans. God had entrusted a great mission and truth to the Jewish people. He had entrusted Himself to them as they were supposed to be the people telling the world about God. But, they didn’t do that. They let God down. So, Paul raises the question now of what does that mean for God? Does that make Him unfaithful – will it hinder Him from fulfilling His promises and saving His creation? How devastating is their unfaithfulness to God?
The good news is – their unfaithfulness doesn’t change God’s faithfulness. Their lies doesn't change God’s truth. He will find a way to fulfill the promise He made to Abraham and to all of us. He will provide a way for people to be saved despite our unfaithfulness and our lies. Paul later tells us that God found a way in Jesus.
Jesus is the ultimate display of God’s faithfulness and His ability to fulfill His promises even when our sinfulness gets in the way. There is great hope in this reality because it means no matter how much we might mess up we can never mess up so much that God would walk away. We can never sin to the point where we stop God’s plan of redemption from moving forward. God will keep working His will and fulfilling His promises. The question isn’t really about God’s faithfulness, it is about ours. Will we be faithful to God knowing how faithful He is to us? He will keep moving – with or without us. It is up to us if we go with Him or not.
In life people are always going to let us down. But, God never will. His invitation to join Him – to be forgiven, to be saved, to live the abundant and joy filled life He has for us – is always there. No matter how much we have let others down, let ourselves down, and even let Him down. God is always there – always faithful. Will you join Him?
They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God…
Knowledge is an amazing thing. Some people will tell you that knowledge is power. That might be true. But, knowledge is also a burden. With knowledge comes an incredible amount of responsibility. Once we have obtained knowledge we are left with a choice – what are we going to do with the knowledge we have? How will we respond to it? Will we allow that knowledge to shape us in some way?
In Paul’s letter to the Romans he is challenging them on that very idea. They have all this knowledge. They have the proof of God’s existence in creation around them, in the written law they have shared and studied for generations, and now in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. They have so much knowledge that they have been left without excuse. But, despite all this knowledge they still chose to not honor God, worship Him, or live for Him. Instead they have chosen a life of evil and brokenness. So, he asks them again, what will you do with this knowledge? Will this knowledge produce in you a life of surrender and obedience of faith?
Think of this as a trust fall – you know where someone stands on a chair or something while others stand behind them read to catch them when they fall. The person on the chair falls willingly into their arms. Think about those people as being your knowledge of God and His saving work through the cross of Jesus. You have this knowledge? Has it turned into faith?
Faith is the falling part. Faith is saying I have this knowledge and I am ready to act on it. I will give my life in surrender and obedience to Him because I fully trust Him. Put yourself up on that chair with this knowledge and now decide – will you fall, step eagerly into this faith, or jump? Do you truly believe, trust in, the One you have knowledge about? According to Paul, if you don’t act, if you don’t fall into the arms, the knowledge wont get you very far.
I pray we all have knowledge of who God is and that knowledge results in a life of obedience of faith – a life of surrender to God and His plans for us.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.”
Obedience is not an easy idea to surrender to and for many not something we are interested in. Who really wants to obey someone else? Who wants to live by someone else’s standards and/or expectations? I just want to do what I want to do!? It is hard for humanity to understand that obedience is actually the only way to truly find freedom and to live life to its fullest.
Take Paul for example. Paul was a man who started off doing whatever he wanted – which at the time was persecuting the Christians and trying to stop their movement from spreading. But, later, found a much more successful and free life through being obedient to God instead of trying to stop God. Paul left a life of doing whatever he wanted to a life of doing whatever God wanted. Why would he do that? Why surrender to God and do whatever God wants?
Paul saw in God something he never saw in anyone or anything else. He saw an incredible level of faithfulness. Paul had seen leaders come and leaders go. He saw humanity say one thing and do another – broken promises, lies, and manipulation. Through Christ he witnessed God make good on His promises dating way back to the days of Abraham (Paul knew his Old Testament). In Christ he witnessed faithfulness and love despite a total lack of faith and love on our part. All of this brought about faith in Paul’s heart, a faith that led to his obedience.
Paul obeyed God because he had faith in him. For Paul, and hopefully for us, Faith is not just an intellectual assent to a series of propositions but surrender to the One who asks us to trust Him. To surrender, to have faith, is to obey. Paul’s faith told him that God would always do what was best, He would never leave Him alone, He would never forget about him, and He would always love him. Who wouldn’t want to follow, to obey, someone in which you have that much faith and trust.
The question for us today is how is our faith? Is our faith deep enough to lead to our obedience? If we began living in obedient faith right now what would change? If we lived every day like that – where would God take us? I don’t know – but I do know the One leading the way and I know He always has my best interest at heart. Have faith – and obey.
Pastor Matt Huff leads Portland Central Nazarene Church. He loves being in ministry and seeing lives transformed by the power of Christ.