Out of the Lion’s Den

Daniel 6:23
“Then the king was exceedingly glad, and commanded that Daniel be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.”

Written by: James Rogers

There was a man in the Old Testament named Daniel. Throughout his whole life, Daniel chose to worship and trust God. Over time, God raised Daniel to power and prominence. He was even given incredible and accurate visions of the future, foreseeing the rise and fall of empires and the end of the world.

Then there is this point in the story when wicked men conspired to have Daniel killed. They tricked the King into establishing a law that would make praying to God illegal. Daniel kept praying and was eventually discovered. King Darius was forced to sentence Daniel to death in the lion’s’ den. As Daniel was lowered into the presence of full grown hungry lions, his trust in God remained and God protected him. When he emerged alive the next morning, King Darius celebrated and worshiped the one true God because he had preserved Daniel’s life.

God took a seemingly impossible situation and turned it for good. In response to Daniel’s faith and God’s faithfulness, others would come to worship God. In many ways, this story foreshadows an even greater story.

All of the Bible points to Jesus. The story of Daniel’s faith, God’s faithfulness, miraculous provision, and subsequent faith of the people is magnified in the story of Jesus. Jesus lived a perfect life and was obedient even to the point of death on a cross for the sins of the world. In a seemingly impossible situation, God turned it for good. Death could not hold Him. Now the whole world can approach God through a relationship with Jesus. The lion’s den is a foreshadow to the tomb Jesus would be laid in and emerge from. Daniel is a foreshadow of Jesus. Jesus is the better Daniel. Daniel’s story ultimately is not about Daniel…it’s all about Jesus.

19-Devo-4.25Thought of the day: The main objective of life is not morality. It’s not about just being good. It’s about loving God and loving people. As a result, we become more like Jesus and we point others to God. Your story is not about you. It’s all about Jesus. Like Daniel, we are supposed to point others to the hope we have found in God.

Prayer: God, please help me to be wise about these things. Help me to live a life focused on loving You and pointing others to Jesus. Please be with me this week. Amen!

Seeing the Light During the Dark Days

John 20:11-16
Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!”

 Written by: Michael Burgard

I love to challenge myself. It can be something as silly as getting all of the groceries into the house in one trip, or holding my breath every time I drive into a tunnel. It always seems I’m doing something to put myself to the test. About a month ago, I had been at work all day and arrived home after dark. I opened the front door and as I made my way inside, all I could see was the obliviousness of darkness. I tried using the memory of my house layout to get to the light switch across the room but ended up stumbling into almost everything in my path on my way to it.

As I read the passage above, I can only imagine the heartache the disciples were feeling. They had given up everything—left their families and jobs and traveled hundreds of miles away to be obedient to the teachings of Jesus. After all of that, they witnessed the Romans crucifying Jesus and He was now laid to rest in a tomb. They must have felt like they had lost everything they had sacrificed to follow this man who claimed to be God. About six months ago, I personally was going through a similar time where life went from a season of comfort and victory to a state of sadness and feeling like I was walking in complete darkness.

Whether your current season of life has been full of great celebrations and growth, or if it feels like you’re going through a time of not knowing what is next, know that God is with you in every season. It’s the seasons in our life that feel like everything is going in the opposite direction of where we originally intended that God is actually doing the most work in our faith and relationship with Him.

19-Devo-4.24Thought of the day: Take steps to trust God in all the seasons of life, learning to trust Him knowing that no matter what your eyes see right now, He is good and faithful.

Prayer: God, I need You. I take a moment today to pause and say, “Come Holy Spirit.” I ask for Your help to reflect upon my heart this morning, allowing me to let You in on what I’m struggling with today. I ask to be overwhelmed with Your presence. Guide my heart and thoughts to stay close to Your word and love for me. Amen.

Living Among the Dead

Luke 24:1-6
On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb.  They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!”

Written by: Chris Moss

The tomb had to happen. Jesus had to die and be laid to rest in the tomb. What were the women going to do with those spices? Roll the several ton stone away to put the spices on Jesus’ body? Anoint the stone? We will never know.

But what we do know is when these heartbroken women arrived, the heavy stone was rolled away and the tomb was empty. Where there should have been one corpse, there was none. There were just two men in gleaming clothing announcing that Jesus had risen!

But those gleam-clad men asked a question that we all need to consider: “Why do you look for the living among the dead?”

We all have hurts, habits, and hang-ups. Left unchecked, they will kill us. I know that sounds dramatic, but that is what sin does—it kills us.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
– Romans 6:23

Sin puts us in the tomb. Jesus gives us life. Yet, even after we know Jesus and have life, we are often drawn to those old behaviors, looking for the living in a place, a pattern, or a person that is dead.

Some people—real people you and I love and wish the best for—have habits they cling to that cause them to live in a world of darkness.

Some patterns—because they are harmful and hard to break free from—are dangerous.

And some places—as fun as they once were—are no longer life-giving, but death bringing.

Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is risen!

19-Devo-4.23Jesus’ empty tomb is what makes Easter meaningful in a way that no other faith has meaning. His empty tomb is what gives us hope even when we have a hurt, habit, or hang-up. God delivers us through our faith in Him and the belief in the empty tomb. Through our salvation in Jesus, we don’t have to go back to the darkness, the dangerous, or the dead.

He is risen! And with Him, so are we!

A Fixer Upper

1 Corinthians 15:21
For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead also comes through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.

Written by: Shannon Swenson

The day that Jesus broke out of the tomb was the day that demolished death, sin, and the grave for you and me.

We all fall short of the glory of God, but through Jesus, we have been given the gift of eternal life; a remodel of the old and creation of the new. This miracle of resurrection stands far and above the many other miracles He performed. He not only made a way for us to follow Him on this earth, but He tore down the walls and made a new door for us to walk through into heaven.

We know the tomb was empty. He broke out of the grave, leaving behind evidence that He had been there. Imagine being Mary Magdalene or one of the other women who went to prepare His body for His burial, only to find nothing but a stone rolled away and linen cloths on the floor.

On the television show “Fixer Upper” Chip and Joanna Gaines take an old ugly, worn-down house with good bones and turn it into something more beautiful than the original. The way I see it, when I choose to turn my life over to the will and care of the resurrected Jesus, my life becomes a fixer upper. There are good bones and there are some scars, broken windows, broken promises, and a roof that is collapsing with the weight of sin and failures, but Jesus makes all things new and leaves my life better and more beautiful than it was before Christ, before resurrection, and before demo day.

Before demo day, you and I didn’t stand a chance. Left alone and unattended, not cared for, and leaning the wrong way, our house and life collapse around us. But Jesus demolished that and made a way for you and me. When we follow Jesus, He resurrects and redeems it all. If we are paying attention, we get to experience a little bit of heaven on earth.

He predicted and told people that He was going to go and make a way. He told them that it would be a three-day deal, giving them a preview of what was to come (John 2:19). He resurrected Himself and we celebrate that fact because if He raised Himself, He will one day raise us up too.

19-Devo-4.22Thought of the day: What stories of resurrection and redemption have you experienced in your life since you chose to follow Him?

Prayer: Thank You seems so inadequate, Jesus. Thank You for making a way, for taking it upon Yourself to make a way that I get to see Your face in all its glory. May I live out my faith in You, celebrating what You have done for me and share my story of redemption with others for Your glory. In your name, amen.

Not My Will

Mark 14:36
And he (Jesus) said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will”

Written by: Russ Ripley

Have you ever prayed and then felt uncertain if God is listening? I don’t mean the “God, bless this food, amen” kind of prayer. I am talking about the heartfelt, earnest prayer. The kind of prayer you pray when you are really struggling at your job; when you have a child who doesn’t want anything to do with God; or when you have a loved one who has had a serious accident or is very ill. These prayers are the ones you feel deep in your stomach. Jesus understands the uncertainty.

We see examples of this in the Bible.

“And he (Jesus) said to them ‘My soul is very sorrowful, even to death.’”
– Mark 14:34

“And being in agony he (Jesus) prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became great drops of blood falling to the ground.”
– Luke 22:44

What was Jesus asking God the Father to do? “Remove this cup from me.” He was earnestly asking God for a different plan than the one that included His death on the cross.

What if God does not answer your prayer in the way you want? What if when you prayed about your job, you then lost that job. What if the child who doesn’t want God in his life won’t even speak to you? What if the injured loved one does not get better or even dies? What then? Does Jesus know that feeling? He does.

“My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.”
– Matthew 26:42

Jesus trusted that the Father’s will was better than His will.

I once heard the analogy that life is like a puzzle on a glass table. We can only see from under the table and the underside of the puzzle. Where we see only grey cardboard, God sees the makings of a masterpiece. We may see a piece here or there that God has not put in place yet, but ultimately, we must trust God with putting it all together. We must put our faith in His will, not our own.

19-Devo-4.19Thought of the day: Do you have prayers that seem to go unanswered? Are you struggling with God’s answer? When you are in those places, God’s will is always best. He loves you and always wants what is best for you, even when you can’t see it. The disciples only saw Jesus crucified and buried at first. But three days later, they would see God’s best plan—Jesus resurrected. You can trust God.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help me to trust You. Help me to pray, “Your will be done.” And help me to rest in the truth that You love me and always do what is best. Amen.

Take a Look

Colossians 1:15-20
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

 Written by: Matt Swartz

I spend a lot of time hiking. I am energized through being out in nature and one of the things I love most about living in Phoenix is the plentiful opportunities there are to go out and hit the trails. When I am on the trail with my family or with a friend, there are moments where one of us catches a glimpse of something amazing and we will stop everyone in our group and say, “Take a look at that!” These moments where I take time to stop and soak in that view can change the entire perspective of what may be happening in my life.

Colossians 1 is one of those types of passages when it comes to Jesus, His identity, and what He actually accomplished by dying on the cross for our sin. The Apostle Paul, the author of this passage, wants us to catch the glimpse that Jesus is God and He has authority and power both on earth and in heaven. The “Take a look!” moment that Paul wants us to notice is that Jesus came to earth with one mission: To rescue us!

19-Devo-4.18The miracle and beauty in the death and resurrection of Jesus is that the all-powerful creator and sustainer of the universe cannot imagine an eternity where we are separated from God as a result of our sin. The clear message of Colossians 1 is that you and I are so valuable to God that He made the conscious decision to live a perfect life and die for our sin because of love. You and I are reconciled and made right with God because we are loved.

Thought of the day: What would it look like today to live a life that reflects this radical love for us? How would you and I live differently if we truly believed that we are loved?

Fully Man and Fully God

Philippians 2:5-11
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross! Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Written by: Gina Rock

The Word tells us that Jesus is both fully man and fully God. That’s a concept my heart accepts but my finite mind often struggles to comprehend. We live in a world of mutual exclusion. You can’t be both sick and well. You can’t be both democrat and republican. You can’t be both young and old.

Compromise is a concept I can wrap my mind around. Someone can be under the weather, but not gravely ill. We use the term moderate to describe those who don’t swing particularly left or right at all times. You can be young or old in comparison to those around.

Jesus, however, defies all of our constructs in that he is both FULLY man and FULLY God; not half and half, but whole and whole.

There are stories of Jesus where I feel his Godhood is on full display. I read Old Testament prophecies of a coming King or the telling of Jesus conquering death and then ascending to the right hand of God.

Jesus’ time in the Garden of Gethsemane, just before he was arrested and crucified, is where I find myself most attentive to Jesus’ humanity. Of course it was there all along, but I can only imagine the weight and grief he must have felt knowing the cross was just ahead. He toiled, cried, and asked God the Father to change His circumstance. But then, being both God and man, He humbled Himself to be obedient to death on the cross. He was the only man to ever walk this earth that didn’t have to die, and yet, He chose to die so we could live.

19-Devo-4.17Thought of the day: Take some time this week to dwell on Jesus’ manhood. He knew He would feel every ounce of pain and agony on the cross, and yet He willingly sacrificed Himself for us because of His perfect love.

Prayer: God, thank You for being too wonderful and too complex for me to fully grasp. Thank You for sending Your Son to die so that I could have life.  Lord, thank You for Your goodness and mercy I’ve received because of the cross. Amen.