October 25: Good Opportunities and Difficult Decisions

Daniel 1:1–2:16; 1 Thessalonians 2:1–3:5; Job 40:3–12

When Daniel is invited to dine at the king’s table—a great honor reserved for the favored (Dan 1:1–4)—he turns down the offer. Instead of eating food and wine fit for a king, Daniel and the other Israelites settle on a diet of vegetables and water (Dan 1:12).

Daniel’s decision seems to contradict human nature. When a good situation comes along (like being invited to eat at the royal table), we often jump at the chance. Yet in doing so, we may fail to consider the ramifications. Daniel knows that eating at the king’s table means compromising Yahweh’s commands against eating certain foods. So when he’s offered a great opportunity, he is bold enough to say no and to offer an alternative (Dan 1:10–14). Daniel knows that God will provide for those who love Him. He also knows that being in God’s will is more important than anything else, even if it means facing opposition.

Paul’s statement in 1 Thess 2:2 demonstrates that he understood this as well: “But after we had already suffered and been mistreated in Philippi … we had the courage in our God to speak to you the gospel of God amid much opposition.” Opposition did not deter Paul from doing what was right in God’s eyes, just as it didn’t prevent Daniel from keeping God’s commands.

When we’re faced with the promises of this world, how do we react? Do we boldly pursue money, fame, or power? Or do we deny these things for the sake of following God’s will? The purpose to which we’ve been called is too important to be set aside for things that will fade over time. We must be willing to face opposition boldly instead of pursuing what the world has to offer. Even when we have to depend on a miracle—as Daniel depended on God to keep him healthy when others were eating better food—we must make God’s will the priority. No matter how difficult it becomes, we have to seek God’s will. When we consider that our relationship with God is eternal, what matters is not the opinion of one king, but the opinion of the King of the universe.

What opportunities do you have that are not God’s will?

John D. Barry


October 26: Red Ropes and Restricted Access

Daniel 2:17–3:30; 1 Thessalonians 3:6–4:12; Job 40:13–24

I often want to keep certain areas of my life roped off. God can reign over some of my relationships, but not to the extent that I need to make gut-wrenching decisions to fall in line with His will. God can move in my Bible study, but I keep the chaos of my work life outside the bounds of His sovereignty. I am in charge, I think, and I allow only restricted access.

We might not readily admit it, but subconsciously we often operate with this mindset. Paul speaks to the Thessalonians about the nature of faith. He spent time with the believers in Thessalonica, instructing them about God and life. He now sends word to encourage them to move along in faith. “We ask you and appeal to you in the Lord Jesus that, just as you have received from us how it is necessary for you to live and to please God, just as indeed you are living, that you progress even more” (1 Thess 4:1). He continues to instruct them in sanctification—the work of becoming holy by serving God, loving God, and loving others.

Even though he is grateful for the Thessalonian believers’ faith, Paul doesn’t want them to remain at a standstill. He doesn’t want his example to be their measuring rod. He turns the believers over to Christ, entreating them to pursue Him.

God doesn’t expect us to meet a faith quota. He wants to claim all areas of our lives fully for Himself. This is not an option; it is “necessary for you to live and to please God” (1 Thess 4:1). Nothing escapes His notice or His attention. But He doesn’t expect us to go about this work on our own—that would only result in disaster. He gives us His Spirit, through whom He continues to form and shape us. Whether it’s our relationships, our work life, or our time spent studying and pondering His Word, God expects our total allegiance.

Do you want to allow God only restricted access to your life? Pray today about an area of your life that needs to be transformed.

Rebecca Van Noord


October 27: Dreams of Redemption

Daniel 4:1–37; 1 Thessalonians 4:13–5:11; Job 41:1–9

I’ve known people who seemed beyond saving—who seemed to have gone too far down the wrong path to ever turn to the right one. But in the Bible we see that this is not the case. God is capable of turning anyone’s heart. One of the most shocking examples is Nebuchadnezzar.

In a decree to all the nations he rules (and perhaps other nations as well), Nebuchadnezzar remarks: “It is pleasing to me to recount the signs and wonders that the Most High God worked for me. How great are his signs and wonders, how strong is his kingdom, an everlasting kingdom; and his sovereignty is from generation to generation” (Dan 4:2–3). He then goes on to recount a dream that Yahweh planted in his mind.

Before Nebuchadnezzar experiences redemption, he tastes humiliation and endures great trials (Dan 4:28–33). But Yahweh does not intend to merely humble the king—He intends to make him a righteous man who can be used for His good purposes. We don’t know whether Nebuchadnezzar ever fully accepts Yahweh as his God and turns from his evil practices, but it does seem that he experiences repentance: “But at the end of that period, I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted up my eyes to heaven, and then my reason returned to me; and I blessed the Most High and the one who lives forever I praised and I honored” (Dan 4:34). In return, God restores him.

We can never predict how God will use people, and at times we may be shocked by whom He uses. Some people we think are lost may end up being found after all. Let’s dream of redemption for those who need it most.

What people in your life need redemption? For whom are you praying? Have you lost hope about anyone God may still redeem?

John D. Barry


October 28: Respect

Daniel 5:1–6:28; 1 Thessalonians 5:12–28; Job 41:10–20

Instead of easing the burdens of our church leaders, we often add to them. The sometimes thankless job of ministry is weighed down with our taking and not giving, our complaining, and our squirming under authority.

We can see from Paul’s letters that church communities haven’t changed much since the first century. In his letter to the believers in Thessalonica, Paul requests: “Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and rule over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them beyond all measure in love, because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves” (1 Thess 5:12).

A passage like this might convict us for our bad attitude or lack of service. We might make a greater effort to love and respect those who are in positions of authority. Or we might try to ease the load of our leaders by serving in our communities. But unless we address the disorder within our hearts, our efforts won’t lead to the peace that Paul commands.

In Thessalonica, members of the community seem to have had a problem with authority. After Paul urges them to “be at peace” (1 Thess 5:12), he tells them to “admonish the disorderly” (1 Thess 5:14). He demonstrates that the problem is deeper—it rests within the natural chaos of our own hearts. It’s easy to find creative ways to be disorderly and compound this chaos—passive-aggressive behavior, defensiveness, or cynicism. Yet Paul says, “see to it that no one pays back evil for evil” (1 Thess 5:15).

The disorder of our hearts and minds needs to be transformed. Only when we are presented with a true picture of ourselves and a true picture of what God has done for us can we begin to understand the chaos in our hearts. Only when God rules our chaos can we be an agent of peace in our communities.

How can you relieve the burdens of leaders in your community? What needs to change about your attitude toward them?

Rebecca Van Noord


October 29: Apocalyptic at Its Best

Daniel 7:1–8:27; 2 Thessalonians 1:1–12; Job 41:21–34

Daniel is full of spooky scenes. If Daniel doesn’t scare you a bit, you’ve probably watched too many horror movies.

Apocalyptic literature in the Bible has a way of playing tricks on us. It’s full of vivid imagery that can be haunting—and that’s intentional. The pictures it paints are meant to stay with us. We’re meant to remember what these passages are teaching. Of course, the same can be said of the entire Bible, but apocalyptic literature is especially vivid because its message requires us to choose: to follow or to turn away from God at the most important time—the end.

The dreams Daniel has, including those recorded in Dan 7:3–14, are images of what is and is to come. The beasts in Daniel were evocative symbols for his audience. When they heard of the lion with eagles, they envisioned Babylon (Dan 7:4). When the bear appeared, they thought of Media (Dan 7:5). Likewise, the leopard with four wings and heads symbolized Persia (Dan 7:6). And the ten-horned beast with iron teeth represented Greece (see Dan 7:7; see also Dan 2). These beasts would become memory devices for Daniel’s audience. Later, when Greece entered the scene, the people could say, “I won’t follow the empire, for they are evil. Like a ten-horned beast with iron teeth, the empire will maul us and eat us alive.”

When we misread large sections of the Bible, such as apocalyptic literature, we lose sight of what matters most about it: remembering the truth. Daniel wanted us to call it like it is. If we see evil, we need to remember that it will destroy us. We need to remember the vividness of Daniel’s descriptions. Evil can, and will, capture us if we compromise. But our good God is here as our guide—let’s lean on Him.

Where are you currently compromising?

John D. Barry


October 30: An Obstructed View

Daniel 9:1–10:21; 2 Thessalonians 2:1–17; Job 42:1–9

We need to see ourselves as we truly are, but we can’t do that on our own. Our communities can help us glimpse a more accurate reflection, but we truly know ourselves only when we know God. His light brings us understanding.

After suffering incredible loss, Job tries to understand his pain. He speaks some truth, but he often misunderstands God’s motives and minimizes His love. As his friends try to help him grapple with his grief, they sometimes point out truth, but more often they cause even more pain and confusion. It’s only when God arrives to enlighten Job’s understanding that everything changes. First God questions Job’s knowledge (Job 38:19–21), power (Job 38:25–38), and ideas about justice (Job 40:10–12). Then He shows Job that He is all of these things.

The realization exposes Job’s heart. “Then Job answered Yahweh and said, ‘I know that you can do all things, and any scheme from you will not be thwarted. “Who is this darkening counsel without knowledge?” Therefore I uttered, but I did not understand; things too wonderful for me, but I did not know. “Hear and I will speak; I will question you, then inform me.” By the ear’s hearing I heard of you, but now my eye has seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes’ ” (Job 42:1–6).

We might struggle to understand our frailty before a God who is all-knowing and all-powerful. We might be blinded by pride and self-righteousness, which can hinder us from seeing our need for God. But it is only then that we discover how we can be redeemed from our needy state.

Although God had never stopped loving Job, He further demonstrated His love by blessing Job once again. We can be convinced of God’s love for us because He sent His only Son to die for our sins. Although He is great and we are small, He was willing to die for our sins. We can be assured of His love for us.

What area of your life is filled with pride? How can you humbly allow God to expose who you truly are?

Rebecca Van Noord


October 31: Speaking the Truth

Daniel 11:1–12:12; 2 Thessalonians 3:1–18; Job 42:10–17

“And now I will reveal the truth to you” (Dan 11:2). How much better would our world be if more of us were willing to take this kind of stand—to make these kinds of statements?

The truth Daniel refers to are the prophecies foretelling what will happen in the Persian Empire. Great power and wealth are coming, and with them comes the fear of how that power and wealth may be used. If we read between the lines of the prophet’s statements in Dan 11, we can feel the trepidation. He is concerned that wickedness will once again sweep over the land.

Such was the case for Paul: “Pray for us, that the word of the Lord may progress and be honored … and that we may be delivered from evil and wicked people, for not all have the faith” (2 Thess 3:1–2). Paul was aware that unbelievers would seek his life. He wasn’t sure what the future would look like. We can imagine the fear that he must have felt, wondering, “What is next? What is coming? Who is my friend? Who is my enemy?”

If you have ever been in a situation where it seems you have more enemies than friends, you know that speaking the truth becomes increasingly difficult over time. The prophecies in Dan 11 suggest a time like this, and Paul’s words tell us that life for the early Christians was uncertain. Many Christians today lead relatively safe and easy lives. For Christians in some parts of the world, though, Paul’s situation is far too familiar. But no matter our present situation, we must boldly speak the truth.

What is God asking you to say?

John D. Barry[1]

 

[1] Barry, J. D., & Kruyswijk, R. (2012). Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.