This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: Judge fairly, and show mercy and kindness to one anot her. (Zechariah 7:9)

Thought:

Work rebuilding the temple had begun. Today’s passage is the Lord’s reply to the people who had asked if they still needed to mourn and fast each summer on the anniversary of the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. The Lord questions their motives for fasting in the first place. Just like nowadays, the people had lost sight of what really mattered. They were just acting out their rituals, primarily for social reasons, out of habit and a sense of tradition. It never takes very long before the real faith of a truly believing community becomes lost in religious practice which all too often prioritises human vanity over justice, mercy and kindness. (also see Hosea 6:6). The Bible is full of stories, time after time, of one generation turning whole-heartedly back to live the true message of The Lord, only for the following generations to fall away again, usually into worshipping idols, or simply using their pious religious practices to serve their own selfish desires. Things never turn out well in the end, for those who ignore, neglect or completely forget The Lord.

Word:

Zechariah 7:4-12 NLT

The Lord of Heaven’s Armies sent me this message in reply: “Say to all your people and your priests, ‘During these seventy years of exile, when you fasted and mourned in the summer and in early autumn, was it really for me that you were fasting? And even now in your holy festivals, aren’t you eating and drinking just to please yourselves? Isn’t this the same message the Lord proclaimed through the prophets in years past when Jerusalem and the towns of Judah were bustling with people, and the Negev and the foothills of Judah were well populated?’” Then this message came to Zechariah from The Lord: “This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: Judge fairly, and show mercy and kindness to one another. Do not oppress widows, orphans, foreigners, and the poor. And do not scheme against each other. “Your ancestors refused to listen to this message. They stubbornly turned away and put their fingers in their ears to keep from hearing. They made their hearts as hard as stone, so they could not hear the instructions or the messages that the Lord of Heaven’s Armies had sent them by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. That is why the Lord of Heaven’s Armies was so angry with them.

Goal:

How many more times will The Lord send prophets to tell the people of the earth, the people He made Himself, that they have missed the point? Who knows? I do know, however, that we already have all the information we need available to us in the Bible. Therefore my goal will be to study the Word of The Lord as closely as I can and encourage as many others who will hear to do likewise. How tragic it would be, if even with the knowledge of what God wants for our live so readily available to us, we should still miss the main point of his message! – “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” (John 13:34, 35)

Today’s readings:

Zechariah 6:1-7:14, Revelation 15:1-8, Psalms 143:1-12, Proverbs 30:24-28

Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin (Zechariah 4:10)

Thought:

Work had been started on rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem but it had come to a stop. So The Lord sent word through Zechariah that, regardless of how difficult or hopeless the task might seem, he would see the job done through the power of his Spirit. The Lord still enables those who believe in him to achieve great feats that seem to be well beyond their own strength, or which we might imagine need far more force than they do. It is very easy to become overwhelmed by the slightest opposition, I have found. But, I have also found that if you continue in your task, remaining confident and sure of your goal, even quite considerable opposition can be matched and conquered. We, as believers, are still building the temple which was begun when Jesus laid his resurrected life as the cornerstone. The project seems to have stalled in recent years and the site has even been robbed of some of the building materials that were waiting to be used. But The Lord will finish what he started through the power of his Holy Spirit and through the faith of his beloved children. (See Philippians 1:6)

Word:

Zechariah 4:6-10 NLT

Then he said to me, “This is what the Lord says to Zerubbabel: It is not by force nor by strength, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. Nothing, not even a mighty mountain, will stand in Zerubbabel’s way; it will become a level plain before him! And when Zerubbabel sets the final stone of the Temple in place, the people will shout: ‘May God bless it! May God bless it!’ ” Then another message came to me from the Lord: “Zerubbabel is the one who laid the foundation of this Temple, and he will complete it. Then you will know that the Lord of Heaven’s Armies has sent me. Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.”

Goal:

The key to today’s message is perspective. There can be no great thing accomplished without work being done. When we are overwhelmed by the scale of a project, we can become paralysed to the point where nothing happens at all, and then we have to deal with feelings of guilt, inadequacy or self loathing, or all three. When we are discouraged the very thought of a task can make us feel anxious, but so often, once we begin and make a start, it doesn’t feel so bad after all. My goal is to look forward to what these daily devotionals might be the start of. As I approach the final week of this year long project, I have realised that it is only the small beginning of a great journey of faith. I am encouraged by the thought that The Lord rejoices to see the work begin.

Today’s readings:

Zechariah 4:1-5:11, Revelation 14:1-20, Psalms 142: 1-7, Proverbs 30:21-23

And all the people who belong to this world worshiped the beast. (Revelation 13:8)

Thought:

The book of Revelation is a strange book to understand in any sensible way I have found. But that is not to say that it makes no sense at all! In today’s passage the dragon, or Satan, is joined for a time by the beast and the dragon gives the beast his power. And in this time of forty-two months the beast has authority to do whatever he wants, and all the people will worship him. On first reading through today’s passage I had to stop and read it again because I thought it meant that just prior to God’s day of judgement, all of us on earth were destined to worship Satan and so be lost to God forever on the day of The Lord. Then I realised it actually says, “and all the people who BELONG to this world.” The word ‘belong’ could not be more significant. Christians, although they live in the world, do not belong to it, they belong to God. In just the same way as children who live in a certain town do not belong to that town, they belong to their parents. It is comforting to know that come what may in future, in terms of evil reigning on earth, we who are believers, belong to God and as such will be safe from the enormous power of evil. (See John 17:13-15)

Word:

Revelation 13:1-8 NLT

Then I saw a beast rising up out of the sea. It had seven heads and ten horns, with ten crowns on its horns. And written on each head were names that blasphemed God. This beast looked like a leopard, but it had the feet of a bear and the mouth of a lion! And the dragon gave the beast his own power and throne and great authority. I saw that one of the heads of the beast seemed wounded beyond recovery—but the fatal wound was healed! The whole world marvelled at this miracle and gave allegiance to the beast. They worshiped the dragon for giving the beast such power, and they also worshiped the beast. “Who is as great as the beast?” they exclaimed. “Who is able to fight against him?” Then the beast was allowed to speak great blasphemies against God. And he was given authority to do whatever he wanted for forty-two months. And he spoke terrible words of blasphemy against God, slandering his name and his dwelling—that is, those who dwell in heaven. And the beast was allowed to wage war against God’s holy people and to conquer them. And he was given authority to rule over every tribe and people and language and nation. And all the people who belong to this world worshiped the beast. They are the ones whose names were not written in the Book of Life before the world was made—the Book that belongs to the Lamb who was slaughtered.

Goal:

My goal is to pray for the wisdom to know evil when I encounter it, and for the strength to resist it. My hope is in Jesus who has already won the ultimate victory over death and all evil. My salvation is in my faith that Jesus died for me so that I might be given eternal life instead of death. It would be easy to forget about Jesus in the face of great evil, I pray that if I should find myself faced by the beast, I would remember where to turn for courage.

Today’s readings:

Zechariah 2:1-3:10, Revelation 12:18-13:18, Psalms 141:1-10, Proverbs 30:18-20

The proud have set a trap to catch me; they have stretched out a net; they have placed traps all along the way. (Psalm140:5)

Thought:

Throughout this year, on several occasions, I have written about my journey before and after becoming a Christian. I think today’s passage from the Psalms, sheds some light on why it is that I took so long to make that final commitment only three years ago. The psalmist is crying out for mercy from The Lord from all the wickedness and evil that surrounds him. He clearly feels extremely vulnerable to the attacks of evil people who wish to catch him in the many traps they have set. I think this is an accurate reflection of how it feels to many people who are seriously considering following Jesus. I think it is all too easy for life long Christians to forget how much courage it takes non-christians to change their lives for Jesus. For me as a boy, I knew I wanted to follow Jesus. But I also knew it would be impossible for me to develop a real faith of integrity, whilst living in isolation in my boarding school environment. As a child, I knew nothing of the power of the word of God in the Bible, I was only dimly aware of the way of faith in Jesus and I had heard some bible stories. I knew, even as a child, that faced with the reality of the world as it was, I had no chance as a christian, there were just too many traps all along the way.

Word:

Psalms 140:1-6 NLT

1 O Lord, rescue me from evil people.
Protect me from those who are violent,
2 those who plot evil in their hearts
and stir up trouble all day long.
3 Their tongues sting like a snake;
the venom of a viper drips from their lips. Interlude
4 O Lord, keep me out of the hands of the wicked.
Protect me from those who are violent, for they are plotting against me.
5 The proud have set a trap to catch me; they have stretched out a net;
they have placed traps all along the way. Interlude
6 I said to the Lord, “You are my God!”
Listen, O Lord, to my cries for mercy!

Goal:

Today’s goal is really the goal of this whole year long project. I hope that I might be able to offer some support to new christians with these daily devotionals. Throughout the year I have shared my thoughts on how the scriptures of the Bible have given me inspiration and genuine strength in situations where, without my faith in the word of God, I would have been caught in one of the many traps in my path. I have testified my faith and confessed my failures, I have thanked God and challenged the church. But above all, my goal has been to encourage both believers and non believers that they can trust what God has said to us in his living word. I believe that he hears our cries for mercy and many of the answers we seek are already waiting for us in the Bible.

Today’s readings:

Zechariah 1:1-21, Revelation 12:1-17, Psalms 140:1-13, Proverbs 30:17

The future glory of this Temple will be greater than its past glory, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armie s. (Haggai 2:9)

Thought:

To read today’s passage is a real encouragement. The Lord is speaking to those who know him and believe in him still. He tells them to be strong and get to work building his temple. This task must have seemed utterly insurmountable. Temple had been magnificently richly decorated and it was a total ruin, plundered of all its finery. But he tells them that he is with them and that his spirit remains just as he promised when their ancestors came out of Egypt. He reminds them that the treasure they are lacking will arrive by his power because he will shake it from the whole world. It all belongs to him and so he will gather it all back again. But this time he will go further and this new temple will be greater than the one that he built before. And not only will it be greater, it will also be a place of peace. Jesus was to be the cornerstone of God’s great and glorious temple, and the members of his church were to be the stones of the walls and also the priests. (See John 2:19-22 and 1 Peter 2:4-7)

Word:

Haggai 2:1-9 NLT

Then on October 17 of that same year, the Lord sent another message through the prophet Haggai. “Say this to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Jeshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of God’s people there in the land: ‘Does anyone remember this house—this Temple—in its former splendour? How, in comparison, does it look to you now? It must seem like nothing at all! But now the Lord says: Be strong, Zerubbabel. Be strong, Jeshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people still left in the land. And now get to work, for I am with you, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. My Spirit remains among you, just as I promised when you came out of Egypt. So do not be afraid.’ “For this is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: In just a little while I will again shake the heavens and the earth, the oceans and the dry land. I will shake all the nations, and the treasures of all the nations will be brought to this Temple. I will fill this place with glory, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. The future glory of this Temple will be greater than its past glory, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. And in this place I will bring peace. I, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, have spoken!”

Goal:

It seems to many that the church itself is lying in ruins these days. But to those who do believe, including myself, they know that God is still with them and his spirit remains among them. And so, bearing that knowledge in mind, my goal will be to take heart in the fact that we needn’t worry about what a big task it seems to rebuild the church, because God has promised to shake all the nations himself. He says that He will fill his temple with Glory, not us. Everything belongs to The Lord because he made it all, and all power comes from him too. So all we can do is take heart and remain faithful as we do as he has asked us with true humility and devoted obedience.

Today’s readings:

Haggai 1:1-2:23, Revelation11:1-19, Psalms 139:1-24, Proverbs 30 15-16

Those who are left will be the lowly and humble, for it is they who trust in the name of the Lord. (Zephaniah 3:12)

Thought:

The Bible is full of promises and prophesies that The Lord will defeat and punish those who are evil and oppressive. But my experience in life tells me that He is slow to act. So slow in many cases, that the world laughs at those of us who have put our trust in him. They not only have no time to listen to us preach God’s good news, but they pity us for our small minded naïvety. Nevertheless, today’s passage give me great hope. It tells me that The Lord knows that wicked men don’t believe in him and have no fear of him, it tells me that although he has tried, throughout time to tell them, this passage is addressed to those of us who do believe. He is telling me, personally, that there will be justice. And when he moves among us again and his judgement reigns, all those who humbly kept the faith and believed in him will not suffer as those who rejected him will. Todays passage also reminds me of the words of Jesus as he began his famous sermon on the mount. (See Matthew 5:3-12)

Word:

Zephaniah 3:8-13 NLT

Therefore, be patient,” says the Lord. “Soon I will stand and accuse these evil nations. For I have decided to gather the kingdoms of the earth and pour out my fiercest anger and fury on them. All the earth will be devoured by the fire of my jealousy. “Then I will purify the speech of all people, so that everyone can worship the Lord together. My scattered people who live beyond the rivers of Ethiopia will come to present their offerings. On that day you will no longer need to be ashamed, for you will no longer be rebels against me. I will remove all proud and arrogant people from among you. There will be no more haughtiness on my holy mountain. Those who are left will be the lowly and humble, for it is they who trust in the name of the Lord. The remnant of Israel will do no wrong; they will never tell lies or deceive one another. They will eat and sleep in safety, and no one will make them afraid.”

Goal:

My goal today is to do exactly as I have been told, and be patient. There is little we can really do to change the way the world works, after all it is God’s creation, not ours. I will be patient and do what I can do. I can put my whole trust in God, and put his word at the very centre of my life. I can beg forgiveness for my sins each day and nurture habits of discipline and humility. I cannot necessarily defeat my enemies, but I can lay my petitions before God in prayer. I can forgive my enemies and therefore be released of the burden of worry and grievance that I would otherwise be carrying. I can strive to achieve the qualities, in my own life, that Jesus praises in the beatitudes (sermon on the mount). In so doing, I hope I might be blessed and that I might inherit the earth, that I might be comforted and that I might see God.

Today’s readings:

Zephaniah 1:1-3:20, Revelation 10:1-10, Psalms 138:1-8, Proverbs 30:11-14

What sorrow awaits you who build big houses with money gained dishonestly! (Habakkuk 2:9)

Thought:

For me, finding God, or coming to realise my faith, or being born again, came down to just one thing: owning up to my failings and short comings. I became aware that my greed for the things of the world, the status symbols, had led me to make bad choices and to behave in ways that I was ashamed of. I became aware of the glory of The Lord. I came to realise that nothing gained in any way other than that which is acceptable to God could ever really last or be worth anything. I became aware that there was no security to be found on this earth, either through wealth or power or fame, that could rival the security of God. I realised that I was lost and sad and lonely, and that I always would be, as long as I continued to ignore the wisdom and the way of God. I realised that life without acknowledging God, was and always would be, pointless.

Word:

Habakkuk 2:9-14 NLT

“What sorrow awaits you who build big houses with money gained dishonestly! You believe your wealth will buy security, putting your family’s nest beyond the reach of danger. But by the murders you committed, you have shamed your name and forfeited your lives. The very stones in the walls cry out against you, and the beams in the ceilings echo the complaint. “What sorrow awaits you who build cities with money gained through murder and corruption! Has not the Lord of Heaven’s Armies promised that the wealth of nations will turn to ashes? They work so hard, but all in vain! For as the waters fill the sea, the earth will be filled with an awareness of the glory of the Lord.

Goal:

Today I have realised afresh how futile it is to try to ignore God. To know about God from having heard and understood the gospel message, is to know the truth of the whole world throughout all time. It really is true that ill gotten gains can harm you beyond imagining. You only need to glance at the tabloid press to know that there is no business too private, as to be immune from the full public scrutiny, and there is no humiliation too small as to avert serious exposure and the full public judgement with total personal ridicule. My goal is to stand tall, knowing that my trust is entirely in Jesus and nothing else. I want to remember that Jesus is my Lord, and as such, my conscience is clear. I want to try and live by his own example and to share my experience of doing so with others, in the hope that they too, might begin to trust Jesus above all else.

Today’s readings:

Habakkuk 1:1-3:19, Revelation 9:1-21, Psalms 137:1-9, Proverbs 30:10