Read the Bible in a Year

Each day, we'll post passages so that you can read the Bible in one year. This is part of The Colossians 13:16 Project, sponsored by Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia. You're invited to worship with us Sundays, at 11:00 a.m. or Saturdays, at 6:30 p.m. You may also want to consider joining one our adult Bible Studies: Thursdays at 12:00 noon and Sundays at 9:30 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. We also have a full range of programs for children. If you want more information about the church, check out the other blogs. And please feel free to leave any comments.

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Friday, November 30, 2012

Bible Readings for November 30, 2012


Today our passages are Daniel 7:1-28; 1 John 1:1-10; Psalm 119:153-176; and Proverbs 28:23-24. The readings are from The Message by Eugene H. Peterson.

Daniel 7:1-28 (The Message)

Daniel 7

A Vision of Four Animals
 1 In the first year of the reign of King Belshazzar of Babylon, Daniel had a dream. What he saw as he slept in his bed terrified him—a real nightmare. Then he wrote out his dream:  2-3 "In my dream that night I saw the four winds of heaven whipping up a great storm on the sea. Four huge animals, each different from the others, ascended out of the sea.
 4 "The first animal looked like a lion, but it had the wings of an eagle. While I watched, its wings were pulled off. It was then pulled erect so that it was standing on two feet like a man. Then a human heart was placed in it.
 5 "Then I saw a second animal that looked like a bear. It lurched from side to side, holding three ribs in its jaws. It was told, 'Attack! Devour! Fill your belly!'
 6 "Next I saw another animal. This one looked like a panther. It had four birdlike wings on its back. This animal had four heads and was made to rule.
 7 "After that, a fourth animal appeared in my dream. This one was a grisly horror—hideous. It had huge iron teeth. It crunched and swallowed its victims. Anything left over, it trampled into the ground. It was different from the other animals—this one was a real monster. It had ten horns.
 8 "As I was staring at the horns and trying to figure out what they meant, another horn sprouted up, a little horn. Three of the original horns were pulled out to make room for it. There were human eyes in this little horn, and a big mouth speaking arrogantly.
 9-10 "As I was watching all this,
   "Thrones were set in place
   and The Old One sat down.
His robes were white as snow,
   his hair was white like wool.
His throne was flaming with fire,
   its wheels blazing.
A river of fire
   poured out of the throne.
Thousands upon thousands served him,
   tens of thousands attended him.
The courtroom was called to order,
   and the books were opened.
 11-13 "I kept watching. The little horn was speaking arrogantly. Then, as I watched, the monster was killed and its body cremated in a roaring fire. The other animals lived on for a limited time, but they didn't really do anything, had no power to rule. My dream continued.
 13-14"I saw a human form, a son of man,
   arriving in a whirl of clouds.
He came to The Old One
   and was presented to him.
He was given power to rule—all the glory of royalty.
   Everyone—race, color, and creed—had to serve him.
His rule would be forever, never ending.
   His kingly rule would never be replaced.
 15-16 "But as for me, Daniel, I was disturbed. All these dream-visions had me agitated. So I went up to one of those standing by and asked him the meaning of all this. And he told me, interpreting the dream for me:
 17-18 "'These four huge animals,' he said, 'mean that four kingdoms will appear on earth. But eventually the holy people of the High God will be given the kingdom and have it ever after—yes, forever and ever.'
 19-22 "But I wanted to know more. I was curious about the fourth animal, the one so different from the others, the hideous monster with the iron teeth and the bronze claws, gulping down what it ripped to pieces and trampling the leftovers into the dirt. And I wanted to know about the ten horns on its head and the other horn that sprouted up while three of the original horns were removed. This new horn had eyes and a big mouth and spoke arrogantly, dominating the other horns. I watched as this horn was making war on God's holy people and getting the best of them. But then The Old One intervened and decided things in favor of the people of the High God. In the end, God's holy people took over the kingdom.
 23-25 "The bystander continued, telling me this: 'The fourth animal is a fourth kingdom that will appear on earth. It will be different from the first three kingdoms, a monster kingdom that will chew up everyone in sight and spit them out. The ten horns are ten kings, one after another, that will come from this kingdom. But then another king will arrive. He will be different from the earlier kings. He will begin by toppling three kings. Then he will blaspheme the High God, persecute the followers of the High God, and try to get rid of sacred worship and moral practice. God's holy people will be persecuted by him for a time, two times, half a time.
 26-27 "'But when the court comes to order, the horn will be stripped of its power and totally destroyed. Then the royal rule and the authority and the glory of all the kingdoms under heaven will be handed over to the people of the High God. Their royal rule will last forever. All other rulers will serve and obey them.'
 28 "And there it ended. I, Daniel, was in shock. I was like a man who had seen a ghost. But I kept it all to myself."


1 John 1:1-10 (The Message)

1 John 1

 1-2From the very first day, we were there, taking it all in—we heard it with our own ears, saw it with our own eyes, verified it with our own hands. The Word of Life appeared right before our eyes; we saw it happen! And now we're telling you in most sober prose that what we witnessed was, incredibly, this: The infinite Life of God himself took shape before us.  3-4We saw it, we heard it, and now we're telling you so you can experience it along with us, this experience of communion with the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. Our motive for writing is simply this: We want you to enjoy this, too. Your joy will double our joy!
Walk in the Light
 5This, in essence, is the message we heard from Christ and are passing on to you: God is light, pure light; there's not a trace of darkness in him.  6-7If we claim that we experience a shared life with him and continue to stumble around in the dark, we're obviously lying through our teeth—we're not living what we claim. But if we walk in the light, God himself being the light, we also experience a shared life with one another, as the sacrificed blood of Jesus, God's Son, purges all our sin.
 8-10If we claim that we're free of sin, we're only fooling ourselves. A claim like that is errant nonsense. On the other hand, if we admit our sins—make a clean breast of them—he won't let us down; he'll be true to himself. He'll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing. If we claim that we've never sinned, we out-and-out contradict God—make a liar out of him. A claim like that only shows off our ignorance of God.


Psalm 119:153-176 (The Message)

 153-160 Take a good look at my trouble, and help me—
      I haven't forgotten your revelation.
   Take my side and get me out of this;
      give me back my life, just as you promised.
   "Salvation" is only gibberish to the wicked
      because they've never looked it up in your dictionary.
   Your mercies, God, run into the billions;
      following your guidelines, revive me.
   My antagonists are too many to count,
      but I don't swerve from the directions you gave.
   I took one look at the quitters and was filled with loathing;
      they walked away from your promises so casually!
   Take note of how I love what you tell me;
      out of your life of love, prolong my life.
   Your words all add up to the sum total: Truth.
      Your righteous decisions are eternal.
 161-168 I've been slandered unmercifully by the politicians,
      but my awe at your words keeps me stable.
   I'm ecstatic over what you say,
      like one who strikes it rich.
   I hate lies—can't stand them!—
      but I love what you have revealed.
   Seven times each day I stop and shout praises
      for the way you keep everything running right.
   For those who love what you reveal, everything fits—
      no stumbling around in the dark for them.
   I wait expectantly for your salvation;
      God, I do what you tell me.
   My soul guards and keeps all your instructions—
      oh, how much I love them!
   I follow your directions, abide by your counsel;
      my life's an open book before you.
 169-176 Let my cry come right into your presence, God;
      provide me with the insight that comes only from your Word.
   Give my request your personal attention,
      rescue me on the terms of your promise.
   Let praise cascade off my lips;
      after all, you've taught me the truth about life!
   And let your promises ring from my tongue;
      every order you've given is right.
   Put your hand out and steady me
      since I've chosen to live by your counsel.
   I'm homesick, God, for your salvation;
      I love it when you show yourself!
   Invigorate my soul so I can praise you well,
      use your decrees to put iron in my soul.
   And should I wander off like a lost sheep—seek me!
      I'll recognize the sound of your voice.


Proverbs 28:23-24 (The Message)

 23 In the end, serious reprimand is appreciated
   far more than bootlicking flattery.

 24 Anyone who robs father and mother
   and says, "So, what's wrong with that?"
   is worse than a pirate.




Copy of engraved portrait of Angelina Grimke, ca. 1845. From the Women's Rights Collection, 1853-1958, Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute.Thought for the Day

American abolitionist, writer, and suffragist Sarah Grimk√© wrote, “I know nothing of man's rights, or woman's rights; human rights are all that I recognise.”

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Bible Readings for November 29, 2012


Today our passages are Daniel 6:1-28; 2 Peter 3:1-18; Psalm 119:129-152; and Proverbs 28:21-22. The readings are from The Message by Eugene H. Peterson.

Daniel 6:1-28 (The Message)

Daniel 6

Daniel in the Lions' Den
 1-3 Darius reorganized his kingdom. He appointed one hundred twenty governors to administer all the parts of his realm. Over them were three vice-regents, one of whom was Daniel. The governors reported to the vice-regents, who made sure that everything was in order for the king. But Daniel, brimming with spirit and intelligence, so completely outclassed the other vice-regents and governors that the king decided to put him in charge of the whole kingdom.  4-5 The vice-regents and governors got together to find some old scandal or skeleton in Daniel's life that they could use against him, but they couldn't dig up anything. He was totally exemplary and trustworthy. They could find no evidence of negligence or misconduct. So they finally gave up and said, "We're never going to find anything against this Daniel unless we can cook up something religious."
 6-7 The vice-regents and governors conspired together and then went to the king and said, "King Darius, live forever! We've convened your vice-regents, governors, and all your leading officials, and have agreed that the king should issue the following decree:
    For the next thirty days no one is to pray to any god or mortal except you, O king. Anyone who disobeys will be thrown into the lions' den.
 8 "Issue this decree, O king, and make it unconditional, as if written in stone like all the laws of the Medes and the Persians."
 9 King Darius signed the decree.
 10 When Daniel learned that the decree had been signed and posted, he continued to pray just as he had always done. His house had windows in the upstairs that opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he knelt there in prayer, thanking and praising his God.
 11-12 The conspirators came and found him praying, asking God for help. They went straight to the king and reminded him of the royal decree that he had signed. "Did you not," they said, "sign a decree forbidding anyone to pray to any god or man except you for the next thirty days? And anyone caught doing it would be thrown into the lions' den?"
    "Absolutely," said the king. "Written in stone, like all the laws of the Medes and Persians."
 13 Then they said, "Daniel, one of the Jewish exiles, ignores you, O king, and defies your decree. Three times a day he prays."
 14 At this, the king was very upset and tried his best to get Daniel out of the fix he'd put him in. He worked at it the whole day long.
 15 But then the conspirators were back: "Remember, O king, it's the law of the Medes and Persians that the king's decree can never be changed."
 16 The king caved in and ordered Daniel brought and thrown into the lions' den. But he said to Daniel, "Your God, to whom you are so loyal, is going to get you out of this."
 17 A stone slab was placed over the opening of the den. The king sealed the cover with his signet ring and the signet rings of all his nobles, fixing Daniel's fate.
 18 The king then went back to his palace. He refused supper. He couldn't sleep. He spent the night fasting.
 19-20 At daybreak the king got up and hurried to the lions' den. As he approached the den, he called out anxiously, "Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve so loyally, saved you from the lions?"
 21-22 "O king, live forever!" said Daniel. "My God sent his angel, who closed the mouths of the lions so that they would not hurt me. I've been found innocent before God and also before you, O king. I've done nothing to harm you."
 23 When the king heard these words, he was happy. He ordered Daniel taken up out of the den. When he was hauled up, there wasn't a scratch on him. He had trusted his God.
 24 Then the king commanded that the conspirators who had informed on Daniel be thrown into the lions' den, along with their wives and children. Before they hit the floor, the lions had them in their jaws, tearing them to pieces.
 25-27 King Darius published this proclamation to every race, color, and creed on earth:

    Peace to you! Abundant peace!
         I decree that Daniel's God shall be worshiped and feared
   in all parts of my kingdom.
         He is the living God, world without end. His kingdom
   never falls.
         His rule continues eternally.
         He is a savior and rescuer.
         He performs astonishing miracles in heaven and on earth.
         He saved Daniel from the power of the lions.
 28 From then on, Daniel was treated well during the reign of Darius, and also in the following reign of Cyrus the Persian.


2 Peter 3:1-18 (The Message)

2 Peter 3

In the Last Days
 1-2 My dear friends, this is now the second time I've written to you, both letters reminders to hold your minds in a state of undistracted attention. Keep in mind what the holy prophets said, and the command of our Master and Savior that was passed on by your apostles.  3-4First off, you need to know that in the last days, mockers are going to have a heyday. Reducing everything to the level of their puny feelings, they'll mock, "So what's happened to the promise of his Coming? Our ancestors are dead and buried, and everything's going on just as it has from the first day of creation. Nothing's changed."
 5-7They conveniently forget that long ago all the galaxies and this very planet were brought into existence out of watery chaos by God's word. Then God's word brought the chaos back in a flood that destroyed the world. The current galaxies and earth are fuel for the final fire. God is poised, ready to speak his word again, ready to give the signal for the judgment and destruction of the desecrating skeptics.
The Day the Sky Will Collapse
 8-9Don't overlook the obvious here, friends. With God, one day is as good as a thousand years, a thousand years as a day. God isn't late with his promise as some measure lateness. He is restraining himself on account of you, holding back the End because he doesn't want anyone lost. He's giving everyone space and time to change.  10But when the Day of God's Judgment does come, it will be unannounced, like a thief. The sky will collapse with a thunderous bang, everything disintegrating in a huge conflagration, earth and all its works exposed to the scrutiny of Judgment.
 11-13Since everything here today might well be gone tomorrow, do you see how essential it is to live a holy life? Daily expect the Day of God, eager for its arrival. The galaxies will burn up and the elements melt down that day—but we'll hardly notice. We'll be looking the other way, ready for the promised new heavens and the promised new earth, all landscaped with righteousness.
 14-16So, my dear friends, since this is what you have to look forward to, do your very best to be found living at your best, in purity and peace. Interpret our Master's patient restraint for what it is: salvation. Our good brother Paul, who was given much wisdom in these matters, refers to this in all his letters, and has written you essentially the same thing. Some things Paul writes are difficult to understand. Irresponsible people who don't know what they are talking about twist them every which way. They do it to the rest of the Scriptures, too, destroying themselves as they do it.
 17-18But you, friends, are well-warned. Be on guard lest you lose your footing and get swept off your feet by these lawless and loose-talking teachers. Grow in grace and understanding of our Master and Savior, Jesus Christ.
   Glory to the Master, now and forever! Yes!


Psalm 119:129-152 (The Message)

 129-136 Every word you give me is a miracle word—
      how could I help but obey?
   Break open your words, let the light shine out,
      let ordinary people see the meaning.
   Mouth open and panting,
      I wanted your commands more than anything.
   Turn my way, look kindly on me,
      as you always do to those who personally love you.
   Steady my steps with your Word of promise
      so nothing malign gets the better of me.
   Rescue me from the grip of bad men and women
      so I can live life your way.
   Smile on me, your servant;
      teach me the right way to live.
   I cry rivers of tears
      because nobody's living by your book!
 137-144 You are right and you do right, God;
      your decisions are right on target.
   You rightly instruct us in how to live
      ever faithful to you.
   My rivals nearly did me in,
      they persistently ignored your commandments.
   Your promise has been tested through and through,
      and I, your servant, love it dearly.
   I'm too young to be important,
      but I don't forget what you tell me.
   Your righteousness is eternally right,
      your revelation is the only truth.
   Even though troubles came down on me hard,
      your commands always gave me delight.
   The way you tell me to live is always right;
      help me understand it so I can live to the fullest.
 145-152 I call out at the top of my lungs,
      "God! Answer! I'll do whatever you say."
   I called to you, "Save me
      so I can carry out all your instructions."
   I was up before sunrise,
      crying for help, hoping for a word from you.
   I stayed awake all night,
      prayerfully pondering your promise.
   In your love, listen to me;
      in your justice, God, keep me alive.
   As those out to get me come closer and closer,
      they go farther and farther from the truth you reveal;
   But you're the closest of all to me, God,
      and all your judgments true.
   I've known all along from the evidence of your words
      that you meant them to last forever.


Proverbs 28:21-22 (The Message)

 21 Playing favorites is always a bad thing;
   you can do great harm in seemingly harmless ways.

 22 A miser in a hurry to get rich
   doesn't know that he'll end up broke.



Verse of the Day

“[God's Love Never Fails]Praise the LORD! He is good. God's love never fails. Praise God in heaven! God's love never fails.” - Psalm 136:1,26
Today's passage is from the Contemporary English Version.



Thought for the Day

English writer, remembered for his humanistic essays and literary criticism, and as an art critic, drama critic, social commentator, and philosopher William Hazlitt wrote, “The art of life is to know how to enjoy a little and to endure very much.”

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Bible Readings for November 28, 2012


Today our passages are Daniel 5:1-31; 2 Peter 2:1-22; Psalm 119:113-128; and Proverbs 28:19-20. The readings are from The Message by Eugene H. Peterson.
 

Daniel 5:1-31 (The Message)

Daniel 5

The Writing of a Disembodied Hand
 1-4 King Belshazzar held a great feast for his one thousand nobles. The wine flowed freely. Belshazzar, heady with the wine, ordered that the gold and silver chalices his father Nebuchadnezzar had stolen from God's Temple of Jerusalem be brought in so that he and his nobles, his wives and concubines, could drink from them. When the gold and silver chalices were brought in, the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines, drank wine from them. They drank the wine and drunkenly praised their gods made of gold and silver, bronze and iron, wood and stone.  5-7 At that very moment, the fingers of a human hand appeared and began writing on the lamp-illumined, whitewashed wall of the palace. When the king saw the disembodied hand writing away, he went white as a ghost, scared out of his wits. His legs went limp and his knees knocked. He yelled out for the enchanters, the fortunetellers, and the diviners to come. He told these Babylonian magi, "Anyone who can read this writing on the wall and tell me what it means will be famous and rich—purple robe, the great gold chain—and be third-in-command in the kingdom."
 8-9 One after the other they tried, but could make no sense of it. They could neither read what was written nor interpret it to the king. So now the king was really frightened. All the blood drained from his face. The nobles were in a panic.
 10-12 The queen heard of the hysteria among the king and his nobles and came to the banquet hall. She said, "Long live the king! Don't be upset. Don't sit around looking like ghosts. There is a man in your kingdom who is full of the divine Holy Spirit. During your father's time he was well known for his intellectual brilliance and spiritual wisdom. He was so good that your father, King Nebuchadnezzar, made him the head of all the magicians, enchanters, fortunetellers, and diviners. There was no one quite like him. He could do anything—interpret dreams, solve mysteries, explain puzzles. His name is Daniel, but he was renamed Belteshazzar by the king. Have Daniel called in. He'll tell you what is going on here."
 13-16 So Daniel was called in. The king asked him, "Are you the Daniel who was one of the Jewish exiles my father brought here from Judah? I've heard about you—that you're full of the Holy Spirit, that you've got a brilliant mind, that you are incredibly wise. The wise men and enchanters were brought in here to read this writing on the wall and interpret it for me. They couldn't figure it out—not a word, not a syllable. But I've heard that you interpret dreams and solve mysteries. So—if you can read the writing and interpret it for me, you'll be rich and famous—a purple robe, the great gold chain around your neck—and third-in-command in the kingdom."
 17 Daniel answered the king, "You can keep your gifts, or give them to someone else. But I will read the writing for the king and tell him what it means.
 18-21 "Listen, O king! The High God gave your father Nebuchadnezzar a great kingdom and a glorious reputation. Because God made him so famous, people from everywhere, whatever their race, color, and creed, were totally intimidated by him. He killed or spared people on whim. He promoted or humiliated people capriciously. He developed a big head and a hard spirit. Then God knocked him off his high horse and stripped him of his fame. He was thrown out of human company, lost his mind, and lived like a wild animal. He ate grass like an ox and was soaked by heaven's dew until he learned his lesson: that the High God rules human kingdoms and puts anyone he wants in charge.
 22-23 "You are his son and have known all this, yet you're as arrogant as he ever was. Look at you, setting yourself up in competition against the Master of heaven! You had the sacred chalices from his Temple brought into your drunken party so that you and your nobles, your wives and your concubines, could drink from them. You used the sacred chalices to toast your gods of silver and gold, bronze and iron, wood and stone—blind, deaf, and imbecile gods. But you treat with contempt the living God who holds your entire life from birth to death in his hand.
 24-26 "God sent the hand that wrote on the wall, and this is what is written: mene, teqel, and peres. This is what the words mean:
    "Mene: God has numbered the days of your rule and they don't add up.
 27 "Teqel: You have been weighed on the scales and you don't weigh much.
 28 "Peres: Your kingdom has been divided up and handed over to the Medes and Persians."
 29 Belshazzar did what he had promised. He robed Daniel in purple, draped the great gold chain around his neck, and promoted him to third-in-charge in the kingdom.
 30-31 That same night the Babylonian king Belshazzar was murdered. Darius the Mede was sixty-two years old when he succeeded him as king.


2 Peter 2:1-22 (The Message)

2 Peter 2

Lying Religious Leaders
 1-2But there were also lying prophets among the people then, just as there will be lying religious teachers among you. They'll smuggle in destructive divisions, pitting you against each other—biting the hand of the One who gave them a chance to have their lives back! They've put themselves on a fast downhill slide to destruction, but not before they recruit a crowd of mixed-up followers who can't tell right from wrong.  2-3They give the way of truth a bad name. They're only out for themselves. They'll say anything, anything, that sounds good to exploit you. They won't, of course, get by with it. They'll come to a bad end, for God has never just stood by and let that kind of thing go on.
 4-5God didn't let the rebel angels off the hook, but jailed them in hell till Judgment Day. Neither did he let the ancient ungodly world off. He wiped it out with a flood, rescuing only eight people—Noah, the sole voice of righteousness, was one of them.
 6-8God decreed destruction for the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. A mound of ashes was all that was left—grim warning to anyone bent on an ungodly life. But that good man Lot, driven nearly out of his mind by the sexual filth and perversity, was rescued. Surrounded by moral rot day after day after day, that righteous man was in constant torment.
 9So God knows how to rescue the godly from evil trials. And he knows how to hold the feet of the wicked to the fire until Judgment Day.
Predators on the Prowl
 10-11God is especially incensed against these "teachers" who live by lust, addicted to a filthy existence. They despise interference from true authority, preferring to indulge in self-rule. Insolent egotists, they don't hesitate to speak evil against the most splendid of creatures. Even angels, their superiors in every way, wouldn't think of throwing their weight around like that, trying to slander others before God.  12-14These people are nothing but brute beasts, born in the wild, predators on the prowl. In the very act of bringing down others with their ignorant blasphemies, they themselves will be brought down, losers in the end. Their evil will boomerang on them. They're so despicable and addicted to pleasure that they indulge in wild parties, carousing in broad daylight. They're obsessed with adultery, compulsive in sin, seducing every vulnerable soul they come upon. Their specialty is greed, and they're experts at it. Dead souls!
 15-16They've left the main road and are directionless, having taken the way of Balaam, son of Beor, the prophet who turned profiteer, a connoisseur of evil. But Balaam was stopped in his wayward tracks: A dumb animal spoke in a human voice and prevented the prophet's craziness.
 17-19There's nothing to these people—they're dried-up fountains, storm-scattered clouds, headed for a black hole in hell. They are loudmouths, full of hot air, but still they're dangerous. Men and women who have recently escaped from a deviant life are most susceptible to their brand of seduction. They promise these newcomers freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption, for if they're addicted to corruption—and they are—they're enslaved.
 20-22If they've escaped from the slum of sin by experiencing our Master and Savior, Jesus Christ, and then slid back into that same old life again, they're worse than if they had never left. Better not to have started out on the straight road to God than to start out and then turn back, repudiating the experience and the holy command. They prove the point of the proverbs, "A dog goes back to its own vomit" and "A scrubbed-up pig heads for the mud."


Psalm 119:113-128 (The Message)

 113-120 I hate the two-faced,
      but I love your clear-cut revelation.
   You're my place of quiet retreat;
      I wait for your Word to renew me.
   Get out of my life, evildoers,
      so I can keep my God's commands.
   Take my side as you promised; I'll live then for sure.
      Don't disappoint all my grand hopes.
   Stick with me and I'll be all right;
      I'll give total allegiance to your definitions of life.
   Expose all who drift away from your sayings;
      their casual idolatry is lethal.
   You reject earth's wicked as so much rubbish;
      therefore I lovingly embrace everything you say.
   I shiver in awe before you;
      your decisions leave me speechless with reverence.
 121-128 I stood up for justice and the right;
      don't leave me to the mercy of my oppressors.
   Take the side of your servant, good God;
      don't let the godless take advantage of me.
   I can't keep my eyes open any longer, waiting for you
      to keep your promise to set everything right.
   Let your love dictate how you deal with me;
      teach me from your textbook on life.
   I'm your servant—help me understand what that means,
      the inner meaning of your instructions.
   It's time to act, God;
      they've made a shambles of your revelation!
   Yea-Saying God, I love what you command,
      I love it better than gold and gemstones;
   Yea-Saying God, I honor everything you tell me,
      I despise every deceitful detour.


Proverbs 28:19-20 (The Message)

Doing Great Harm in Seemingly Harmless Ways
 19 Work your garden—you'll end up with plenty of food;
   play and party—you'll end up with an empty plate.

 20 Committed and persistent work pays off;
   get-rich-quick schemes are ripoffs.

 
Verse of the Day
 
“Praise the LORD and pray in his name! Tell everyone what he has done.” - 1 Chronicles 16:8
Today's passage is from the Contemporary English Version.



Thought for the Day

English essayist Charles Lamb wrote, “Let us live for the beauty of our own reality.”

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Bible Readings for November 27, 2012


Today our passages are Daniel 4:1-37; 2 Peter 1:1-21; Psalm 119:97-112; and Proverbs 28:17-18. The readings are from The Message by Eugene H. Peterson.

Daniel 4:1-37 (The Message)

Daniel 4

A Dream of a Chopped-Down Tree
 1-2 King Nebuchadnezzar to everyone, everywhere—every race, color, and creed: "Peace and prosperity to all! It is my privilege to report to you the gracious miracles that the High God has done for me. 3"His miracles are staggering,
   his wonders are surprising.
His kingdom lasts and lasts,
   his sovereign rule goes on forever.  4-7 "I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at home taking it easy in my palace, without a care in the world. But as I was stretched out on my bed I had a dream that scared me—a nightmare that shook me. I sent for all the wise men of Babylon so that they could interpret the dream for me. When they were all assembled—magicians, enchanters, fortunetellers, witches—I told them the dream. None could tell me what it meant.
 8 "And then Daniel came in. His Babylonian name is Belteshazzar, named after my god, a man full of the divine Holy Spirit. I told him my dream.
 9 "'Belteshazzar,' I said, 'chief of the magicians, I know that you are a man full of the divine Holy Spirit and that there is no mystery that you can't solve. Listen to this dream that I had and interpret it for me.
 10-12 "'This is what I saw as I was stretched out on my bed. I saw a big towering tree at the center of the world. As I watched, the tree grew huge and strong. Its top reached the sky and it could be seen from the four corners of the earth. Its leaves were beautiful, its fruit abundant—enough food for everyone! Wild animals found shelter under it, birds nested in its branches, everything living was fed and sheltered by it.
 13-15 "'And this also is what I saw as I was stretched out on my bed. I saw a holy watchman descend from heaven, and call out:

   Chop down the tree, lop off its branches,
         strip its leaves and scatter its fruit.
   Chase the animals from beneath it
         and shoo the birds from its branches.
   But leave the stump and roots in the ground,
         belted with a strap of iron and bronze in the grassy meadow.

 15-16 Let him be soaked in heaven's dew
         and take his meals with the animals that graze.
   Let him lose his mind
         and get an animal's mind in exchange,
   And let this go on
         for seven seasons.

 17 The angels announce this decree,
         the holy watchmen bring this sentence,
   So that everyone living will know
         that the High God rules human kingdoms.
   He arranges kingdom affairs however he wishes,
         and makes leaders out of losers.
 18 "'This is what I, King Nebuchadnezzar, dreamed. It's your turn, Belteshazzar—interpret it for me. None of the wise men of Babylon could make heads or tails of it, but I'm sure you can do it. You're full of the divine Holy Spirit.'"
"You Will Graze on the Grass Like an Ox"
 19 At first Daniel, who had been renamed Belteshazzar in Babylon, was upset. The thoughts that came swarming into his mind terrified him.     "Belteshazzar," the king said, "stay calm. Don't let the dream and its interpretation scare you."
    "My master," said Belteshazzar, "I wish this dream were about your enemies and its interpretation for your foes.
 20-22 "The tree you saw that grew so large and sturdy with its top touching the sky, visible from the four corners of the world; the tree with the luxuriant foliage and abundant fruit, enough for everyone; the tree under which animals took cover and in which birds built nests—you, O king, are that tree.
    "You have grown great and strong. Your royal majesty reaches sky-high, and your sovereign rule stretches to the four corners of the world.
 23-25 "But the part about the holy angel descending from heaven and proclaiming, 'Chop down the tree, destroy it, but leave stump and roots in the ground belted with a strap of iron and bronze in the grassy meadow; let him be soaked with heaven's dew and take his meals with the grazing animals for seven seasons'—this, O king, also refers to you. It means that the High God has sentenced my master the king: You will be driven away from human company and live with the wild animals. You will graze on grass like an ox. You will be soaked in heaven's dew. This will go on for seven seasons, and you will learn that the High God rules over human kingdoms and that he arranges all kingdom affairs.
 26 "The part about the tree stump and roots being left means that your kingdom will still be there for you after you learn that it is heaven that runs things.
 27 "So, king, take my advice: Make a clean break with your sins and start living for others. Quit your wicked life and look after the needs of the down-and-out. Then you will continue to have a good life."
The Loss and Regaining of a Mind and a Kingdom
 28-30 All this happened to King Nebuchadnezzar. Just twelve months later, he was walking on the balcony of the royal palace in Babylon and boasted, "Look at this, Babylon the great! And I built it all by myself, a royal palace adequate to display my honor and glory!"  31-32 The words were no sooner out of his mouth than a voice out of heaven spoke, "This is the verdict on you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your kingdom is taken from you. You will be driven out of human company and live with the wild animals. You will eat grass like an ox. The sentence is for seven seasons, enough time to learn that the High God rules human kingdoms and puts whomever he wishes in charge."
 33 It happened at once. Nebuchadnezzar was driven out of human company, ate grass like an ox, and was soaked in heaven's dew. His hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a hawk.
 34-35 "At the end of the seven years, I, Nebuchadnezzar, looked to heaven. I was given my mind back and I blessed the High God, thanking and glorifying God, who lives forever:
   "His sovereign rule lasts and lasts,
   his kingdom never declines and falls.
Life on this earth doesn't add up to much,
   but God's heavenly army keeps everything going.
No one can interrupt his work,
   no one can call his rule into question.
 36-37 "At the same time that I was given back my mind, I was also given back my majesty and splendor, making my kingdom shine. All the leaders and important people came looking for me. I was reestablished as king in my kingdom and became greater than ever. And that's why I'm singing—I, Nebuchadnezzar—singing and praising the King of Heaven:
   "Everything he does is right,
   and he does it the right way.
He knows how to turn a proud person
   into a humble man or woman."


2 Peter 1:1-21 (The Message)

2 Peter 1

 1-2I, Simon Peter, am a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ. I write this to you whose experience with God is as life-changing as ours, all due to our God's straight dealing and the intervention of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ. Grace and peace to you many times over as you deepen in your experience with God and Jesus, our Master.
Don't Put It Off
 3-4Everything that goes into a life of pleasing God has been miraculously given to us by getting to know, personally and intimately, the One who invited us to God. The best invitation we ever received! We were also given absolutely terrific promises to pass on to you—your tickets to participation in the life of God after you turned your back on a world corrupted by lust.  5-9So don't lose a minute in building on what you've been given, complementing your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing the others. With these qualities active and growing in your lives, no grass will grow under your feet, no day will pass without its reward as you mature in your experience of our Master Jesus. Without these qualities you can't see what's right before you, oblivious that your old sinful life has been wiped off the books.
 10-11So, friends, confirm God's invitation to you, his choice of you. Don't put it off; do it now. Do this, and you'll have your life on a firm footing, the streets paved and the way wide open into the eternal kingdom of our Master and Savior, Jesus Christ.
The One Light in a Dark Time
 12-15Because the stakes are so high, even though you're up-to-date on all this truth and practice it inside and out, I'm not going to let up for a minute in calling you to attention before it. This is the post to which I've been assigned—keeping you alert with frequent reminders—and I'm sticking to it as long as I live. I know that I'm to die soon; the Master has made that quite clear to me. And so I am especially eager that you have all this down in black and white so that after I die, you'll have it for ready reference.  16-18We weren't, you know, just wishing on a star when we laid the facts out before you regarding the powerful return of our Master, Jesus Christ. We were there for the preview! We saw it with our own eyes: Jesus resplendent with light from God the Father as the voice of Majestic Glory spoke: "This is my Son, marked by my love, focus of all my delight." We were there on the holy mountain with him. We heard the voice out of heaven with our very own ears.
 19-21We couldn't be more sure of what we saw and heard—God's glory, God's voice. The prophetic Word was confirmed to us. You'll do well to keep focusing on it. It's the one light you have in a dark time as you wait for daybreak and the rising of the Morning Star in your hearts. The main thing to keep in mind here is that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of private opinion. And why? Because it's not something concocted in the human heart. Prophecy resulted when the Holy Spirit prompted men and women to speak God's Word.


Psalm 119:97-112 (The Message)

 97-104 Oh, how I love all you've revealed;
      I reverently ponder it all the day long.
   Your commands give me an edge on my enemies;
      they never become obsolete.
   I've even become smarter than my teachers
      since I've pondered and absorbed your counsel.
   I've become wiser than the wise old sages
      simply by doing what you tell me.
   I watch my step, avoiding the ditches and ruts of evil
      so I can spend all my time keeping your Word.
   I never make detours from the route you laid out;
      you gave me such good directions.
   Your words are so choice, so tasty;
      I prefer them to the best home cooking.
   With your instruction, I understand life;
      that's why I hate false propaganda.
 105-112 By your words I can see where I'm going;
      they throw a beam of light on my dark path.
   I've committed myself and I'll never turn back
      from living by your righteous order.
   Everything's falling apart on me, God;
      put me together again with your Word.
   Festoon me with your finest sayings, God;
      teach me your holy rules.
   My life is as close as my own hands,
      but I don't forget what you have revealed.
   The wicked do their best to throw me off track,
      but I don't swerve an inch from your course.
   I inherited your book on living; it's mine forever—
      what a gift! And how happy it makes me!
   I concentrate on doing exactly what you say—
      I always have and always will.


Proverbs 28:17-18 (The Message)

 17 A murderer haunted by guilt
   is doomed—there's no helping him.

 18 Walk straight—live well and be saved;
   a devious life is a doomed life.


Verse of the Day

“Let the message about Christ completely fill your lives, while you use all your wisdom to teach and instruct each other. With thankful hearts, sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.” - Colossians 3:16
Today's passage is from the Contemporary English Version.



Thought for the Day

Academy Award-winning American writer Sidney Sheldon wrote, “Try to leave the Earth a better place than when you arrived.”

Monday, November 26, 2012

Bible Readings for November 26, 2012


Today our passages are Daniel 2:24–3:30; 1 Peter 4:7–5:14; Psalm 119:81-96; and Proverbs 28:15-16. The readings are from The Message by Eugene H. Peterson.
 

Daniel 2:24-3:30 (The Message)

 24 So Daniel went back to Arioch, who had been put in charge of the execution. He said, "Call off the execution! Take me to the king and I'll interpret his dream."
 25 Arioch didn't lose a minute. He ran to the king, bringing Daniel with him, and said, "I've found a man from the exiles of Judah who can interpret the king's dream!"
 26 The king asked Daniel (renamed in Babylonian, Belteshazzar), "Are you sure you can do this—tell me the dream I had and interpret it for me?"
 27-28 Daniel answered the king, "No mere human can solve the king's mystery, I don't care who it is—no wise man, enchanter, magician, diviner. But there is a God in heaven who solves mysteries, and he has solved this one. He is letting King Nebuchadnezzar in on what is going to happen in the days ahead. This is the dream you had when you were lying on your bed, the vision that filled your mind:
 29-30 "While you were stretched out on your bed, O king, thoughts came to you regarding what is coming in the days ahead. The Revealer of Mysteries showed you what will happen. But the interpretation is given through me, not because I'm any smarter than anyone else in the country, but so that you will know what it means, so that you will understand what you dreamed.
 31-36 "What you saw, O king, was a huge statue standing before you, striking in appearance. And terrifying. The head of the statue was pure gold, the chest and arms were silver, the belly and hips were bronze, the legs were iron, and the feet were an iron-ceramic mixture. While you were looking at this statue, a stone cut out of a mountain by an invisible hand hit the statue, smashing its iron-ceramic feet. Then the whole thing fell to pieces—iron, tile, bronze, silver, and gold, smashed to bits. It was like scraps of old newspapers in a vacant lot in a hot dry summer, blown every which way by the wind, scattered to oblivion. But the stone that hit the statue became a huge mountain, dominating the horizon. This was your dream.
 36-40 "And now we'll interpret it for the king. You, O king, are the most powerful king on earth. The God of heaven has given you the works: rule, power, strength, and glory. He has put you in charge of men and women, wild animals and birds, all over the world—you're the head ruler, you are the head of gold. But your rule will be taken over by another kingdom, inferior to yours, and that one by a third, a bronze kingdom, but still ruling the whole land, and after that by a fourth kingdom, ironlike in strength. Just as iron smashes things to bits, breaking and pulverizing, it will bust up the previous kingdoms.
 41-43 "But then the feet and toes that ended up as a mixture of ceramic and iron will deteriorate into a mongrel kingdom with some remains of iron in it. Just as the toes of the feet were part ceramic and part iron, it will end up a mixed bag of the breakable and unbreakable. That kingdom won't bond, won't hold together any more than iron and clay hold together.
 44-45 "But throughout the history of these kingdoms, the God of heaven will be building a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will this kingdom ever fall under the domination of another. In the end it will crush the other kingdoms and finish them off and come through it all standing strong and eternal. It will be like the stone cut from the mountain by the invisible hand that crushed the iron, the bronze, the ceramic, the silver, and the gold.
    "The great God has let the king know what will happen in the years to come. This is an accurate telling of the dream, and the interpretation is also accurate."
 46-47 When Daniel finished, King Nebuchadnezzar fell on his face in awe before Daniel. He ordered the offering of sacrifices and burning of incense in Daniel's honor. He said to Daniel, "Your God is beyond question the God of all gods, the Master of all kings. And he solves all mysteries, I know, because you've solved this mystery."
 48-49 Then the king promoted Daniel to a high position in the kingdom, lavished him with gifts, and made him governor over the entire province of Babylon and the chief in charge of all the Babylonian wise men. At Daniel's request the king appointed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to administrative posts throughout Babylon, while Daniel governed from the royal headquarters.

Daniel 3

Four Men in the Furnace
 1-3 King Nebuchadnezzar built a gold statue, ninety feet high and nine feet thick. He set it up on the Dura plain in the province of Babylon. He then ordered all the important leaders in the province, everybody who was anybody, to the dedication ceremony of the statue. They all came for the dedication, all the important people, and took their places before the statue that Nebuchadnezzar had erected.  4-6 A herald then proclaimed in a loud voice: "Attention, everyone! Every race, color, and creed, listen! When you hear the band strike up—all the trumpets and trombones, the tubas and baritones, the drums and cymbals—fall to your knees and worship the gold statue that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. Anyone who does not kneel and worship shall be thrown immediately into a roaring furnace."
 7 The band started to play, a huge band equipped with all the musical instruments of Babylon, and everyone—every race, color, and creed—fell to their knees and worshiped the gold statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
 8-12 Just then, some Babylonian fortunetellers stepped up and accused the Jews. They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, "Long live the king! You gave strict orders, O king, that when the big band started playing, everyone had to fall to their knees and worship the gold statue, and whoever did not go to their knees and worship it had to be pitched into a roaring furnace. Well, there are some Jews here—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—whom you have placed in high positions in the province of Babylon. These men are ignoring you, O king. They don't respect your gods and they won't worship the gold statue you set up."
 13-15 Furious, King Nebuchadnezzar ordered Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to be brought in. When the men were brought in, Nebuchadnezzar asked, "Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you don't respect my gods and refuse to worship the gold statue that I have set up? I'm giving you a second chance—but from now on, when the big band strikes up you must go to your knees and worship the statue I have made. If you don't worship it, you will be pitched into a roaring furnace, no questions asked. Who is the god who can rescue you from my power?"
 16-18 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered King Nebuchadnezzar, "Your threat means nothing to us. If you throw us in the fire, the God we serve can rescue us from your roaring furnace and anything else you might cook up, O king. But even if he doesn't, it wouldn't make a bit of difference, O king. We still wouldn't serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up."
 19-23 Nebuchadnezzar, his face purple with anger, cut off Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He ordered the furnace fired up seven times hotter than usual. He ordered some strong men from the army to tie them up, hands and feet, and throw them into the roaring furnace. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, bound hand and foot, fully dressed from head to toe, were pitched into the roaring fire. Because the king was in such a hurry and the furnace was so hot, flames from the furnace killed the men who carried Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to it, while the fire raged around Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
 24 Suddenly King Nebuchadnezzar jumped up in alarm and said, "Didn't we throw three men, bound hand and foot, into the fire?"
    "That's right, O king," they said.
 25 "But look!" he said. "I see four men, walking around freely in the fire, completely unharmed! And the fourth man looks like a son of the gods!"
 26 Nebuchadnezzar went to the door of the roaring furnace and called in, "Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the High God, come out here!"
    Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego walked out of the fire.
 27 All the important people, the government leaders and king's counselors, gathered around to examine them and discovered that the fire hadn't so much as touched the three men—not a hair singed, not a scorch mark on their clothes, not even the smell of fire on them!
 28 Nebuchadnezzar said, "Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego! He sent his angel and rescued his servants who trusted in him! They ignored the king's orders and laid their bodies on the line rather than serve or worship any god but their own.
 29 "Therefore I issue this decree: Anyone anywhere, of any race, color, or creed, who says anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego will be ripped to pieces, limb from limb, and their houses torn down. There has never been a god who can pull off a rescue like this."
 30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon.


1 Peter 4:7-5:14 (The Message)

 7-11Everything in the world is about to be wrapped up, so take nothing for granted. Stay wide-awake in prayer. Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. Be quick to give a meal to the hungry, a bed to the homeless—cheerfully. Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it: if words, let it be God's words; if help, let it be God's hearty help. That way, God's bright presence will be evident in everything through Jesus, and he'll get all the credit as the One mighty in everything—encores to the end of time. Oh, yes!
Glory Just Around the Corner
 12-13Friends, when life gets really difficult, don't jump to the conclusion that God isn't on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner.  14-16If you're abused because of Christ, count yourself fortunate. It's the Spirit of God and his glory in you that brought you to the notice of others. If they're on you because you broke the law or disturbed the peace, that's a different matter. But if it's because you're a Christian, don't give it a second thought. Be proud of the distinguished status reflected in that name!
 17-19It's judgment time for God's own family. We're first in line. If it starts with us, think what it's going to be like for those who refuse God's Message!

   If good people barely make it,
   What's in store for the bad?
So if you find life difficult because you're doing what God said, take it in stride. Trust him. He knows what he's doing, and he'll keep on doing it.

1 Peter 5

He'll Promote You at the Right Time
 1-3 I have a special concern for you church leaders. I know what it's like to be a leader, in on Christ's sufferings as well as the coming glory. Here's my concern: that you care for God's flock with all the diligence of a shepherd. Not because you have to, but because you want to please God. Not calculating what you can get out of it, but acting spontaneously. Not bossily telling others what to do, but tenderly showing them the way.  4-5When God, who is the best shepherd of all, comes out in the open with his rule, he'll see that you've done it right and commend you lavishly. And you who are younger must follow your leaders. But all of you, leaders and followers alike, are to be down to earth with each other, for—

   God has had it with the proud,
   But takes delight in just plain people.
 6-7So be content with who you are, and don't put on airs. God's strong hand is on you; he'll promote you at the right time. Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you.
He Gets the Last Word
 8-11Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The Devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up. You're not the only ones plunged into these hard times. It's the same with Christians all over the world. So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won't last forever. It won't be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ—eternal and glorious plans they are!—will have you put together and on your feet for good. He gets the last word; yes, he does.  12I'm sending this brief letter to you by Silas, a most dependable brother. I have the highest regard for him.
   I've written as urgently and accurately as I know how. This is God's generous truth; embrace it with both arms!
 13-14The church in exile here with me—but not for a moment forgotten by God—wants to be remembered to you. Mark, who is like a son to me, says hello. Give holy embraces all around! Peace to you—to all who walk in Christ's ways.


Psalm 119:81-96 (The Message)

 81-88 I'm homesick—longing for your salvation;
      I'm waiting for your word of hope.
   My eyes grow heavy watching for some sign of your promise;
      how long must I wait for your comfort?
   There's smoke in my eyes—they burn and water,
      but I keep a steady gaze on the instructions you post.
   How long do I have to put up with all this?
      How long till you haul my tormentors into court?
   The arrogant godless try to throw me off track,
      ignorant as they are of God and his ways.
   Everything you command is a sure thing,
      but they harass me with lies. Help!
   They've pushed and pushed—they never let up—
      but I haven't relaxed my grip on your counsel.
   In your great love revive me
      so I can alertly obey your every word.
 89-96 What you say goes, God,
      and stays, as permanent as the heavens.
   Your truth never goes out of fashion;
      it's as up-to-date as the earth when the sun comes up.
   Your Word and truth are dependable as ever;
      that's what you ordered—you set the earth going.
   If your revelation hadn't delighted me so,
      I would have given up when the hard times came.
   But I'll never forget the advice you gave me;
      you saved my life with those wise words.
   Save me! I'm all yours.
      I look high and low for your words of wisdom.
   The wicked lie in ambush to destroy me,
      but I'm only concerned with your plans for me.
   I see the limits to everything human,
      but the horizons can't contain your commands!


Proverbs 28:15-16 (The Message)

 15 Lions roar and bears charge—
   and the wicked lord it over the poor.

 16 Among leaders who lack insight, abuse abounds,
   but for one who hates corruption, the future is bright.



Verse of the Day

“We should be grateful that we were given a kingdom that cannot be shaken. And in this kingdom we please God by worshiping him and by showing him great honor and respect.” - Hebrews 12:28
Today's passage is from the Contemporary English Version.



Thought for the Day

English real estate entrepreneur, philosopher, and founder of the Province of Pennsylvania William Penn wrote, “Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.”

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Bible Readings for November 25, 2012

Today our passages are Daniel 1:1–2:23; 1 Peter 3:8–4:6; Psalm 119:65-80; and Proverbs 28:14. The readings are from The Message by Eugene H. Peterson.

Daniel 1-2:23 (The Message)

Daniel 1

Daniel Was Gifted by God
1-2 It was the third year of King Jehoiakim's reign in Judah when King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon declared war on Jerusalem and besieged the city. The Master handed King Jehoiakim of Judah over to him, along with some of the furnishings from the Temple of God. Nebuchadnezzar took king and furnishings to the country of Babylon, the ancient Shinar. He put the furnishings in the sacred treasury. 3-5 The king told Ashpenaz, head of the palace staff, to get some Israelites from the royal family and nobility—young men who were healthy and handsome, intelligent and well-educated, good prospects for leadership positions in the government, perfect specimens!—and indoctrinate them in the Babylonian language and the lore of magic and fortunetelling. The king then ordered that they be served from the same menu as the royal table—the best food, the finest wine. After three years of training they would be given positions in the king's court. 6-7 Four young men from Judah—Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah—were among those selected. The head of the palace staff gave them Babylonian names: Daniel was named Belteshazzar, Hananiah was named Shadrach, Mishael was named Meshach, Azariah was named Abednego. 8-10 But Daniel determined that he would not defile himself by eating the king's food or drinking his wine, so he asked the head of the palace staff to exempt him from the royal diet. The head of the palace staff, by God's grace, liked Daniel, but he warned him, "I'm afraid of what my master the king will do. He is the one who assigned this diet and if he sees that you are not as healthy as the rest, he'll have my head!" 11-13 But Daniel appealed to a steward who had been assigned by the head of the palace staff to be in charge of Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: "Try us out for ten days on a simple diet of vegetables and water. Then compare us with the young men who eat from the royal menu. Make your decision on the basis of what you see." 14-16 The steward agreed to do it and fed them vegetables and water for ten days. At the end of the ten days they looked better and more robust than all the others who had been eating from the royal menu. So the steward continued to exempt them from the royal menu of food and drink and served them only vegetables. 17-19 God gave these four young men knowledge and skill in both books and life. In addition, Daniel was gifted in understanding all sorts of visions and dreams. At the end of the time set by the king for their training, the head of the royal staff brought them in to Nebuchadnezzar. When the king interviewed them, he found them far superior to all the other young men. None were a match for Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. 19-20 And so they took their place in the king's service. Whenever the king consulted them on anything, on books or on life, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his kingdom put together. 21 Daniel continued in the king's service until the first year in the reign of King Cyrus.

Daniel 2

King Nebuchadnezzar's Dream
1-3 In the second year of his reign, King Nebuchadnezzar started having dreams that disturbed him deeply. He couldn't sleep. He called in all the Babylonian magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, and fortunetellers to interpret his dreams for him. When they came and lined up before the king, he said to them, "I had a dream that I can't get out of my mind. I can't sleep until I know what it means." 4 The fortunetellers, speaking in the Aramaic language, said, "Long live the king! Tell us the dream and we will interpret it." 5-6 The king answered the fortunetellers, "This is my decree: If you can't tell me both the dream itself and its interpretation, I'll have you ripped to pieces, limb from limb, and your homes torn down. But if you tell me both the dream and its interpretation, I'll lavish you with gifts and honors. So go to it: Tell me the dream and its interpretation." 7 They answered, "If it please your majesty, tell us the dream. We'll give the interpretation." 8-9 But the king said, "I know what you're up to—you're just playing for time. You know you're up a tree. You know that if you can't tell me my dream, you're doomed. I see right through you—you're going to cook up some fancy stories and confuse the issue until I change my mind. Nothing doing! First tell me the dream, then I'll know that you're on the up and up with the interpretation and not just blowing smoke in my eyes." 10-11 The fortunetellers said, "Nobody anywhere can do what you ask. And no king, great or small, has ever demanded anything like this from any magician, enchanter, or fortuneteller. What you're asking is impossible unless some god or goddess should reveal it—and they don't hang around with people like us." 12-13 That set the king off. He lost his temper and ordered the whole company of Babylonian wise men killed. When the death warrant was issued, Daniel and his companions were included. They also were marked for execution. 14-15 When Arioch, chief of the royal guards, was making arrangements for the execution, Daniel wisely took him aside and quietly asked what was going on: "Why this all of a sudden?" 15-16 After Arioch filled in the background, Daniel went to the king and asked for a little time so that he could interpret the dream. 17-18 Daniel then went home and told his companions Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah what was going on. He asked them to pray to the God of heaven for mercy in solving this mystery so that the four of them wouldn't be killed along with the whole company of Babylonian wise men.
Dream Interpretation: A Story of Five Kingdoms
19-23 That night the answer to the mystery was given to Daniel in a vision. Daniel blessed the God of heaven, saying, "Blessed be the name of God,
forever and ever.
He knows all, does all:
He changes the seasons and guides history,
He raises up kings and also brings them down,
he provides both intelligence and discernment,
He opens up the depths, tells secrets,
sees in the dark—light spills out of him!
God of all my ancestors, all thanks! all praise!
You made me wise and strong.
And now you've shown us what we asked for.
You've solved the king's mystery."


1 Peter 3:8-4:6 (The Message)

Suffering for Doing Good
8-12Summing up: Be agreeable, be sympathetic, be loving, be compassionate, be humble. That goes for all of you, no exceptions. No retaliation. No sharp-tongued sarcasm. Instead, bless—that's your job, to bless. You'll be a blessing and also get a blessing.

Whoever wants to embrace life
and see the day fill up with good,
Here's what you do:
Say nothing evil or hurtful;
Snub evil and cultivate good;
run after peace for all you're worth.
God looks on all this with approval,
listening and responding well to what he's asked;
But he turns his back
on those who do evil things.
13-18If with heart and soul you're doing good, do you think you can be stopped? Even if you suffer for it, you're still better off. Don't give the opposition a second thought. Through thick and thin, keep your hearts at attention, in adoration before Christ, your Master. Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you're living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy. Keep a clear conscience before God so that when people throw mud at you, none of it will stick. They'll end up realizing that they're the ones who need a bath. It's better to suffer for doing good, if that's what God wants, than to be punished for doing bad. That's what Christ did definitively: suffered because of others' sins, the Righteous One for the unrighteous ones. He went through it all—was put to death and then made alive—to bring us to God. 19-22He went and proclaimed God's salvation to earlier generations who ended up in the prison of judgment because they wouldn't listen. You know, even though God waited patiently all the days that Noah built his ship, only a few were saved then, eight to be exact—saved from the water by the water. The waters of baptism do that for you, not by washing away dirt from your skin but by presenting you through Jesus' resurrection before God with a clear conscience. Jesus has the last word on everything and everyone, from angels to armies. He's standing right alongside God, and what he says goes.

1 Peter 4

Learn to Think Like Him
1-2Since Jesus went through everything you're going through and more, learn to think like him. Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way. Then you'll be able to live out your days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want. 3-5You've already put in your time in that God-ignorant way of life, partying night after night, a drunken and profligate life. Now it's time to be done with it for good. Of course, your old friends don't understand why you don't join in with the old gang anymore. But you don't have to give an account to them. They're the ones who will be called on the carpet—and before God himself. 6Listen to the Message. It was preached to those believers who are now dead, and yet even though they died (just as all people must), they will still get in on the life that God has given in Jesus.

Psalm 119:65-80 (The Message)

65-72 Be good to your servant, God;
be as good as your Word.
Train me in good common sense;
I'm thoroughly committed to living your way.
Before I learned to answer you, I wandered all over the place,
but now I'm in step with your Word.
You are good, and the source of good;
train me in your goodness.
The godless spread lies about me,
but I focus my attention on what you are saying;
They're bland as a bucket of lard,
while I dance to the tune of your revelation.
My troubles turned out all for the best—
they forced me to learn from your textbook.
Truth from your mouth means more to me
than striking it rich in a gold mine.

73-80 With your very own hands you formed me;
now breathe your wisdom over me so I can understand you.
When they see me waiting, expecting your Word,
those who fear you will take heart and be glad.
I can see now, God, that your decisions are right;
your testing has taught me what's true and right.
Oh, love me—and right now!—hold me tight!
just the way you promised.
Now comfort me so I can live, really live;
your revelation is the tune I dance to.
Let the fast-talking tricksters be exposed as frauds;
they tried to sell me a bill of goods,
but I kept my mind fixed on your counsel.
Let those who fear you turn to me
for evidence of your wise guidance.
And let me live whole and holy, soul and body,
so I can always walk with my head held high.


Proverbs 28:14 (The Message)

14 A tenderhearted person lives a blessed life;
a hardhearted person lives a hard life.



Verse of the Day

“Whatever you say or do should be done in the name of the Lord Jesus, as you give thanks to God the Father because of him.” - Colossians 3:17
Today's passage is from the Contemporary English Version.
 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Rokotov_Portrait_Catherine_II.jpg
Thought for the Day
 
Empress of Russia Catherine the Great wrote, “I praise loudly. I blame softly.”