Clinging Tighter Than Our Lives

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“And through his policy also he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand; and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many…” Daniel 8:25

 
Did you ever imagine that peace, yes, PEACE, could be destructive? Could these words of Daniel written 2,500 years ago be important to us today? Should they make us stop and think? Should they cause us to be moved and to change our thinking and actions? Daniel saw this vision from God, heard it’s interpretation from the angel Gabriel at God’s command, and became weak to fainting and sick. And even after he got over that, the things he had seen still made him feel numb. And still he couldn’t put it all together. But here’s the point: He didn’t walk away unaffected. He carried those thoughts with him and they affected his whole being.

 
Maybe it would be beneficial to take time out to think about what Daniel was shown. His vision is about kings rising to power and then being overthrown by other kings with other kingdoms. This is actually a vision given right before King Belshazzar was overthrown and it tells of his destruction. So knowing that must have made Daniel uneasy. After all, he had already been through the destruction of his own kingdom, and seen the death and havoc it rained on those he cared for. Now to see that again? But this wasn’t just a vision of now, for David. It was a vision that stretched to the end times. How near were they?

 
Lord, You didn’t just give this vision to Daniel for people of his time to be aware. You gave this vision to Daniel so we could be aware today also. Because Your vision has not yet been completed. It is still coming to be. Even now, we are somewhere in that latter time of the kingdom. Even today we may be in the time of the king with the fierce countenance and understanding of stratagems.

 

What could that mean to have a fierce countenance? It could mean Hebraicly that your face, your personage exhibits strength, vehemency, harshness, power, or greed. It could be that you are hardened and that your self is puffed up in it’s own strength, like what happens with so many leaders. Here’s someone who is coming who will understand stratagems. Understand that stratagems can be conceit, tricks, and being good with lots of wordiness about philosophy and general principals.

 
But this leader, who will have power, well, it won’t be his own. I wonder then from whom this power is imparted to him? Who gives him this power to “destroy wonderfully”? That word for wonderful can mean miraculously. That’s pretty scary. I mean, Jesus came to seek and save and did and does so miraculously and we know that His power is of God. “For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” (Luke 9:56) So who comes to destroy them?

 
Jesus discussed this with His disciples and for our benefit. “The thief comes not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10) Who is the thief? It’s not God because God gave Jesus as the Good Shepherd. But there is also a thief at work trying to destroy God’s work by destroying His workmanship- the people of God, His beloved.

 
Well, let’s continue to search for who this ruler’s power comes from. Who is the thief of thieves? Peter warned believers, “But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters.” (1 Peter 4:15) Obviously, these characteristics are not of God, not a part of being in Christ. Jesus Himself accused some men of these characteristics and let’s see who He equated that with: “You are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father you will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.” (John 8:44)

 
Think about it. What will it be like to be under a ruler who is full of the power of deception given from his father, the devil? Think about him or her prospering, pushing forward, doing his will. And what is his will? What is Satan’s will? He’s a defeated foe. How do they act? I think of Japan in the Philippines when they knew the Americans were coming back and they would be defeated. I have a friend who was there, living in Manila. His dad was working for the Japanese, (actually telling secrets about them to the resistance!) and the Japanese he was working with liked him and his kids. So one day, they told my friend’s father, “Get your family and leave because all the people will be gathered into the fields and slaughtered.” Defeated enemies can be terribly violent. This is the type of enemy that the devil is.

 
His aim will be to use this man to destroy God’s people, the mighty and holy ones of God. Who are these mighty and holy ones of God? That’s you and I if we are His. And how will this leader empowered by Satan do that? By his policy, the way he uses his intelligence and understanding, deceit and fraud and subtlety and treachery will be employed to its fullest. And people will be sucked in to this way of thinking. He’ll be puffed up in his own heart which will lead others to be puffed up in their own hearts. And get this, by peace he shall destroy many! Can you imagine that? We all cry out for peace and he will use peace to destroy. How is that?

 
The Hebrew word here for peace is shalvah. It’s about security. It incorporates abundance, peace, prosperity, and quietness. It’s what the world is looking for in itself but what can only really be found in God. So this leader, under Satan’s influence will give it to everyone the world’s way and deceive them into thinking that security in things and power, and abundance in wealth and possession, and quietness between people and nations is the goal of life. Now here’s the scary part. As a society, actually as societies all over the world, the majority are already buying into this way of thinking. Terrorism is at our door but we choose to believe the lie that all people are good. So we don’t act upon the facts but upon our false feelings. And it’s not just people who don’t know Christ. It’s among people who call themselves believers and yet don’t act like You. Instead, believers are clinging to the security of their government instead of God. We fight Islam with weapons instead of the power of God’s word and God’s love. We choose comfort and abundance and quietness instead of sacrifice. It’s not just the problem of those on the outside. We’ve allowed ourselves to become deceptively corrupted from Your intent. And it’s time that it made us weak inside and sick like it did Daniel. But does it?

 
One day You are going to show us that our beautiful big homes that we feel so secure in, have no security at all. Just let an earthquake or Tsunami or flood or fire come, and then what? Where will our security be? One day, banks will fail, or we will be robbed, or lose our job, or so many financial things will happen at once that we’ll wonder what happened to our abundance we were relying on. And what happens when something happens to my happy family and it’s not so happy and peaceful any more? Where will I be then? What happens when my quietness I have rejoiced in becomes loneliness? What benefit is that kind of peace?

 
Here’s the thing. Our peace must be in something Other than this. Paul shared, “Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (Hebrews 13:20-21) Our peace must come through God in Jesus Christ. Our peace and our existence is only found in Him. And in Him we are given the ability to spread that peace to others, that’s that perfection He is bringing about in us to do His will, His way, by His power to make Himself known in those He created to be His vessels.

 
Satan would have us believe that we are our own vessels, dropped here by chance to shape ourselves. But that is total deception and total emptiness. It’s deception of the worst kind because it’s willful maliciousness to turn our hearts to believe that and to disbelieve God’s purpose for us. This is such a tragedy! Jesus wept over it. In Luke 19:42 we hear His voice, “If you had only known today what would bring you peace! But now it is hidden, so you cannot see it.” Today, do I know what will truly bring me peace? Or have I chosen to let it be hidden from me and unattainable?

 
Jesus, You wanted us to understand this so badly. You kept telling Your disciples and by that, You keep telling us. “I’m leaving you peace. I’m giving you My peace. I don’t give you the kind of peace that the world gives. So don’t be troubled or cowardly.”( John 14:27) And right before He would be taken captive toward the cross, “I’ve told you this so that My peace will be with you. In the world you’ll have trouble. But cheer up! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) There is a different kind of peace, an eternal peace that overcomes the hardships and tragedies and heartaches and deceptions of this world. The question is, which peace will I cling unto? Will I cling to a self-serving peace that will be destroyed, that is a lie? Or will I cling to the Prince of Peace who will reign forever and invites me to the security of His presence throughout eternity?

 
Life’s not easy and peace won’t be found permanently in this world system. But I agree with Paul, that the “momentary” suffering I could ever experience here on earth could never surpass the peace of being with You eternally. And Paul’s not talking about light afflictions here. He knew of afflictions and suffering and persecution that led to death. And he believed it was all worth it to know You and to be with You, Lord, and so do I. So, let me conclude by sharing Paul’s words to us: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, ‘I believed, and so I spoke,’ we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into His presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison…” (2 Corinthians 4:7-17) So may we become weak and sick over the deception that surrounds us and use that to be appalled by it so that we rise up and cling tighter than our lives to the peace and security that is only found in God through Jesus Christ our risen, living, and intervening Savior and Lord.

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A Devil of a Choice

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Jesus replied, “I chose the twelve of you, didn’t I?  Yet one of you is a devil!”  John 6:70

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Maybe this is a strange verse to choose.  I mean, why this one over all the others in this chapter?  I could have chosen about You walking on water, or the disciples thinking You were a spirit.  I could have chosen the following day’s discussion with the people where You are trying to get them to understand that You are the Bread of Heaven that brings eternal satisfaction and life or how they didn’t believe You.  I could talk about how everybody grumbled because of who You were saying You were and how You reiterated that You are the Bread of Life come from heaven.  Or there was that statement that made many followers turn away, the one where You said, “I am telling you the truth: if you do not eat the flesh of the son of Man and drink His blood, you will not have life in yourselves.”  But I just can’t imagine the response of the disciples, the twelve, when they heard You say, “I chose all twelve of you, right?  And one of You that I chose on purpose is a devil!”

Did that stop them in their tracks?  Were they looking at everyone else trying to figure out who it was?  Or were they so confused by all this truth that might just have been over their heads for now that they just brushed it off as something else too hard to understand?  Or maybe they just decided some things were just peculiarities You had and they’d overlook that?  Or were they really hurt or were some just baffled?  Since I know the whole story, I wonder if it made Judas Iscariot angry with You?  I wonder if he shot a look at You, like, “You know?”  I wonder if he even knew his own heart already?

I think I need to go back to a recap of what’s happening.  After miraculously feeding the five thousand and more people and then having some alone time on another mountain (because they would have grabbed You to force You to be king), You walk across the water to meet up with the disciples in their boat.  You get to Capernaum and the people come across after You.  And You let them know that they are not looking at things the right way, they are not really understanding the truth behind the miracles.  And then You tie in how the food they just ate won’t satisfy them forever, just like the manna in the desert couldn’t satisfy people forever.  It’s the point behind those miracles that can satisfy forever, and the Point is You.  You are and always were the Bread from Heaven that can satisfy with eternal life.  At least six times You tell them You are the Bread of Heaven or the Bread of Life.  And You tell them that the only way to God is by believing in You and ingesting You.  This is tough stuff.  I mean, even today.  How easy is it for me to trust You with every outcome, every attitude, every part of me?

“What can we do in order to do what God wants us to do?” they ask.  Ingest the bread.  Believe.  What would have happened if the Israelites in the desert picked up the manna but never ate it, never ingested it?  They would have died in the desert.  You have to ingest the bread to live.  It’s the way bread works.  Jesus, You are far more than manna.  You are the Bread of Life.  “Those who come to [You] will never be hungry; those who believe in [You] will never be thirsty.”  I have to ingest You, ingest the Bread of Life and ingest the Living Water.  I have to believe in such a way that my life now and my eternal life depend upon it.  God, You Yourself are the One who shows me this and teaches me this and brings me to this realization because in order to realize this, I have to let go of all my other preconceived notions about Jesus.  And as though it’s not enough that the followers start arguing over this angrily, You continue.  They already don’t like what You are saying and what it is calling them to and they probably don’t fully understand.  But then You continue to push the point by saying, “For my flesh is the real food; my blood is the real drink.  Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood live in me, and I live in them.”  And I’m sure they thought, “That’s just gross!.”  Or maybe they understood the ramifications better than we think.  And many walked away from You that day.

But somehow, (was it by the enlightening of God?), the twelve remained and Peter answered, “Lord, to whom would we go?  You have the words that give eternal life.  And now we believe and know that You are the Holy One who has come from God.”  But then, wham!  “One of you is a devil!”  But I think that has absolute bearing on everything here.  Is it tough to follow You, Jesus?  Yes.  In all honesty it is hard to follow You.  It’s not easy to die to self.  It’s not easy to forsake your own life and take on Someone Else’s.  You always ask us to make the hard choice.  There’s that choice again.

You chose the twelve because You had a plan.  You were always going to be the Bread of Life and the Living Water.  But to fulfill that plan You had to make certain choices, and they were hard choices.  You chose eleven men who would become one with You.  But You chose one man who would rise against You.  You chose one man who You knew would betray You.  It wasn’t an accident.  You knew all along that He would deny Who You Are and usurp things for his own gain.  You knew that He would try to defame You.  It’s what Satan does.

But You needed him to do that.  Because it’s not until someone really tries to defame us when all eyes really start looking at us.  When it’s no longer in our own hands to justify ourselves but when someone else brings the truth out, that’s when those eyes really see.  So You chose the one who would put You on the cross, who would lead You to Your death, to Your supposed “defamation.”  But You knew.  The defamation intended would be Your exaltation.  You chose the devil to do his thing so You could be glorified above everything and do Your glorious thing by showing Your fame and raising from the grave.

Well, Lord, first and foremost I need You to continually open my eyes to understand and know Your truth.  I can’t get it on my own.  Even the disciples didn’t fully understand until after Your resurrection and until You filled them with Your Holy Spirit.  And I need to ingest You fully just as much as they needed to.  I am desperate for You.  You are my Bread of Life and my Living Water and without You there is no life.  You’ve chosen me, Lord, because You’ve allowed me to see You and know You.  And You’ve chosen me to go through hard things.  But those hard things are for my own good and for Your glory.  Remind me that I can always expect to be treated as my Master was treated.  I can expect slander and defamation.  But, since I’m Yours, as I patiently remain in You, I can also expect that at the right time, God will exalt me.  But it won’t be for my own glory, maybe for my rescue, but it will be all for Your glory.

Lord, thank You for choosing to do such a hard thing for me.  I know it was out of love.  Let me always keep that in proper perspective.  Remind me that You are always in control.  And let me not balk at the tough things in my life but let me learn to rely on You more desperately with every situation.  And Lord, we are all chosen for Your glory, but let me always be an instrument of righteousness.  Guard my heart and keep me ever sensitive to You and alive in You.