URC Daily Devotion 8th August 2019

When I, Daniel, had seen the vision, I tried to understand it. Then someone appeared standing before me, having the appearance of a man, and I heard a human voice by the Ulai, calling, ‘Gabriel, help this man understand the vision.’  So he came near where I stood; and when he came, I became frightened and fell prostrate. But he said to me, ‘Understand, O mortal, that the vision is for the time of the end.’

As he was speaking to me, I fell into a trance, face to the ground; then he touched me and set me on my feet.  He said, ‘Listen, and I will tell you what will take place later in the period of wrath; for it refers to the appointed time of the end. As for the ram that you saw with the two horns, these are the kings of Media and Persia.  The male goat is the king of Greece, and the great horn between its eyes is the first king. As for the horn that was broken, in place of which four others arose, four kingdoms shall arise from his nation, but not with his power.

At the end of their rule,
   when the transgressions have reached their full measure,
a king of bold countenance shall arise,
   skilled in intrigue.
He shall grow strong in power,
   shall cause fearful destruction,
   and shall succeed in what he does.
He shall destroy the powerful
   and the people of the holy ones.
By his cunning
   he shall make deceit prosper under his hand,
   and in his own mind he shall be great.
Without warning he shall destroy many
   and shall even rise up against the Prince of princes.
But he shall be broken, and not by human hands.

The vision of the evenings and the mornings that has been told is true. As for you, seal up the vision, for it refers to many days from now.’

So I, Daniel, was overcome and lay sick for some days; then I arose and went about the king’s business. But I was dismayed by the vision and did not understand it.

URC Daily Devotion 7th August 2019

In the third year of the reign of King Belshazzar a vision appeared to me, Daniel, after the one that had appeared to me at first. In the vision I was looking and saw myself in Susa the capital, in the province of Elam, and I was by the river Ulai.  I looked up and saw a ram standing beside the river. It had two horns. Both horns were long, but one was longer than the other, and the longer one came up second. I saw the ram charging westwards and northwards and southwards. All beasts were powerless to withstand it, and no one could rescue from its power; it did as it pleased and became strong.

As I was watching, a male goat appeared from the west, coming across the face of the whole earth without touching the ground. The goat had a horn between its eyes.  It came towards the ram with the two horns that I had seen standing beside the river, and it ran at it with savage force. I saw it approaching the ram. It was enraged against it and struck the ram, breaking its two horns. The ram did not have power to withstand it; it threw the ram down to the ground and trampled upon it, and there was no one who could rescue the ram from its power. Then the male goat grew exceedingly great; but at the height of its power, the great horn was broken, and in its place there came up four prominent horns towards the four winds of heaven.

Out of one of them came another horn, a little one, which grew exceedingly great towards the south, towards the east, and towards the beautiful land. It grew as high as the host of heaven. It threw down to the earth some of the host and some of the stars, and trampled on them.  Even against the prince of the host it acted arrogantly; it took the regular burnt-offering away from him and overthrew the place of his sanctuary. Because of wickedness, the host was given over to it together with the regular burnt-offering; it cast truth to the ground, and kept prospering in what it did. Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to the one that spoke, ‘For how long is this vision concerning the regular burnt-offering, the transgression that makes desolate, and the giving over of the sanctuary and host to be trampled?’  And he answered him, ‘For two thousand three hundred evenings and mornings; then the sanctuary shall be restored to its rightful state.’

URC Daily Devotion 6th August 2019

As for me, Daniel, my spirit was troubled within me, and the visions of my head terrified me.  I approached one of the attendants to ask him the truth concerning all this. So he said that he would disclose to me the interpretation of the matter:  ‘As for these four great beasts, four kings shall arise out of the earth. But the holy ones of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom for ever—for ever and ever.’

Then I desired to know the truth concerning the fourth beast, which was different from all the rest, exceedingly terrifying, with its teeth of iron and claws of bronze, and which devoured and broke in pieces, and stamped what was left with its feet; 20 and concerning the ten horns that were on its head, and concerning the other horn that came up, and to make room for which three of them fell out—the horn that had eyes and a mouth that spoke arrogantly, and that seemed greater than the others. As I looked, this horn made war with the holy ones and was prevailing over them, until the Ancient One came; then judgement was given for the holy ones of the Most High, and the time arrived when the holy ones gained possession of the kingdom.

This is what he said: ‘As for the fourth beast,

there shall be a fourth kingdom on earth
   that shall be different from all the other kingdoms;
it shall devour the whole earth,
   and trample it down, and break it to pieces.
As for the ten horns,
out of this kingdom ten kings shall arise,
   and another shall arise after them.
This one shall be different from the former ones,
   and shall put down three kings.
He shall speak words against the Most High,
   shall wear out the holy ones of the Most High,
   and shall attempt to change the sacred seasons and the law;
and they shall be given into his power
   for a time, two times, and half a time.
Then the court shall sit in judgement,
   and his dominion shall be taken away,
   to be consumed and totally destroyed.
The kingship and dominion
   and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven
   shall be given to the people of the holy ones of the Most High;
their kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom,
   and all dominions shall serve and obey them.’

Here the account ends. As for me, Daniel, my thoughts greatly terrified me, and my face turned pale; but I kept the matter in my mind.

URC Daily Devotion 5th August 2019

In the first year of King Belshazzar of Babylon, Daniel had a dream and visions of his head as he lay in bed. Then he wrote down the dream: I, Daniel, saw in my vision by night the four winds of heaven stirring up the great sea,  and four great beasts came up out of the sea, different from one another. The first was like a lion and had eagles’ wings. Then, as I watched, its wings were plucked off, and it was lifted up from the ground and made to stand on two feet like a human being; and a human mind was given to it.  Another beast appeared, a second one, that looked like a bear. It was raised up on one side, had three tusks in its mouth among its teeth and was told, ‘Arise, devour many bodies!’ After this, as I watched, another appeared, like a leopard. The beast had four wings of a bird on its back and four heads; and dominion was given to it. After this I saw in the visions by night a fourth beast, terrifying and dreadful and exceedingly strong. It had great iron teeth and was devouring, breaking in pieces, and stamping what was left with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that preceded it, and it had ten horns.  I was considering the horns, when another horn appeared, a little one coming up among them; to make room for it, three of the earlier horns were plucked up by the roots. There were eyes like human eyes in this horn, and a mouth speaking arrogantly.

As I watched,
thrones were set in place,
   and an Ancient One took his throne;
his clothing was white as snow,
   and the hair of his head like pure wool;
his throne was fiery flames,
   and its wheels were burning fire.
A stream of fire issued
   and flowed out from his presence.
A thousand thousand served him,
   and ten thousand times ten thousand stood attending him.
The court sat in judgement,
   and the books were opened.

I watched then because of the noise of the arrogant words that the horn was speaking. And as I watched, the beast was put to death, and its body destroyed and given over to be burned with fire. As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but their lives were prolonged for a season and a time. As I watched in the night visions,

I saw one like a human being
   coming with the clouds of heaven.
And he came to the Ancient One
   and was presented before him.
To him was given dominion
   and glory and kingship,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
   should serve him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion
   that shall not pass away,
and his kingship is one
   that shall never be destroyed.

Reflection
For the early Christians, and many today, this passage from Daniel was, is,  of high importance, for two main reasons. One is that, traditionally, “one like a human being, coming with the clouds of heaven” was interpreted to be a reference to the pre-existent Word, Jesus Christ.  The other is that in this graphic and apocalyptic language the prophet exposes the futility of world powers – they seem strong, like lions, beasts and great birds but really they are exposed for what they are before the throne of God, the Ancient One.  They speak boastfully but all “earth’s proud empires” vanish before God. And in great contrast, God responds in great humility, even though all the power and glory is God’s, all dominion is given to the One who came with the glory of heaven (the clouds) but was like a human being.   Remember the wilderness temptations? The Accuser offered Jesus all the kingdoms of the world in return for his worship. It was a test of how much faith Jesus had in his true identity; an existential test. If he “truly is the Son of God” then the Accuser’s offer was meaningless to the One who had been given “dominion, glory and kingship”.  Other interpretations see the “one like a human being” as the nation of Israel – but, as a Christian, I feel it is out of kilter with the thrust of the passage – after all that would be just one more earthly power would it not? To Christians, oppressed by powerful dictators and the might of oppressive empires, this passage was, and is, very good news!
 
“So be it Lord, thy throne shall never, like earth’s proud empires pass away; thy kingdom stands and grows for ever, till all thy creatures own thy sway.”  Humble, gentle, Lord, to whom all earthly powers and empires are accountable, we pray for encouragement for all those who suffer under power misused. May we always use the power we have to bless and help, never to trample or harm.  To you be the glory. Amen!

Today’s Writer

The Rev’d Revd Peter Meek, East Midlands Synod Moderator.

Bible Version

 

New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved

URC Daily Devotion 4th August 2019

1 O Lord God, my heart is steadfast,
and with all my soul I’ll sing.
2 Harp and lyre I will awaken,
and my song the dawn will bring.

3 LORD my God, among the nations,
I will ever give you praise;
In the midst of all the peoples
I will sing of you always.

4 For your steadfast love is boundless,
greater than the heavens high;
And your faithfulness towards us
reaches even to the sky.

5 Far above the highest heavens
be exalted, O my God;
And through all the earth around us
let your glory spread abroad.

6 With your right hand save and help us;
rescue all those whom you love.
7 God has spoken from his temple,
from his holy place above:

“I will distribute in triumph
every part of Shechem’s land,
And the whole of Succoth valley
I will measure with my hand.

8 “Mine is Gilead, mine Manasseh,
Ephraim is my helmet true;
Judah I will make my sceptre
9 and on Edom toss my shoe.

“Moab will become my servant,
and upon Philistia’s shore
I will shout aloud in triumph;
I am Lord and conqueror.”

10 Who will bring me to the city
that is strongly fortified,
And to reach the land of Edom
who will be my help and guide?

11 Have you not, O God, rejected,
turned us over to our foe?
When our armies go to battle,
with them you no longer go.

12 Since all human help is worthless,
13 God will give us victory;
He it is who will defend us
and tread down our enemy.

The Editors of Sing Psalms suggest the tune Abbots Leigh to this which you can hear here.

URC Daily Devotion 3rd August 2019

Then, at break of day, the king got up and hurried to the den of lions. When he came near the den where Daniel was, he cried out anxiously to Daniel, ‘O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God whom you faithfully serve been able to deliver you from the lions?’ Daniel then said to the king, ‘O king, live for ever!  My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths so that they would not hurt me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no wrong.’ Then the king was exceedingly glad and commanded that Daniel be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.  The king gave a command, and those who had accused Daniel were brought and thrown into the den of lions—they, their children, and their wives. Before they reached the bottom of the den the lions overpowered them and broke all their bones in pieces.
Then King Darius wrote to all peoples and nations of every language throughout the whole world: ‘May you have abundant prosperity!  I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people should tremble and fear before the God of Daniel:

For he is the living God,
   enduring for ever.
His kingdom shall never be destroyed,
   and his dominion has no end.
He delivers and rescues,
   he works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth;
for he has saved Daniel
   from the power of the lions.’
So this Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.

Reflection
Certainly, Daniel got a raw deal!  He was set up by jealous, lesser men who wanted him out of the way.  It seemed like they succeeded, except for one thing that they overlooked:  Daniel’s total trust in God.
The interesting thing, however, about Daniel being thrown into the lions’ den is that God didn’t remove him before he found deliverance in it.  Imagine if Daniel had fought against being thrown into the den (which he might have been expected to do) and gone into the den fighting against it every inch of the way. Chances are the lions would have torn him to shreds before he hit the bottom.  But Daniel didn’t do that! He accepted what was happening to him and trusted his life to God, who shut the mouth of the lions.
Perhaps, the next time that any of us ask God to save us from a difficult situation, we should be asking God for deliverance in it.  Sometimes, like Daniel, God has a lesson for us to learn and before he delivers us out of it – perhaps we need to find deliverance in it.

 

Father, deliver us from anything that threatens to derail or throw us off your course for our lives. Give us strength to love people that are seemingly unlovable and build a confidence in us that is unstoppable and immovable but guard our hearts from pride. Deliver us from our own distorted thoughts, sickness, debt, sadness, struggles, hunger, pain, fear, oppression, conflict, and unbelief, for we proclaim your peace over our lives through prayer, today.
Amen

Today’s Writer

Ann Barton, Member at Whittlesford URC

Bible Version

 

New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved

URC Daily Devotion 2nd August 2019

Although Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he continued to go to his house, which had windows in its upper room open towards Jerusalem, and to get down on his knees three times a day to pray to his God and praise him, just as he had done previously. The conspirators came and found Daniel praying and seeking mercy before his God. Then they approached the king and said concerning the interdict, ‘O king! Did you not sign an interdict, that anyone who prays to anyone, divine or human, within thirty days except to you, O king, shall be thrown into a den of lions?’ The king answered, ‘The thing stands fast, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be revoked.’ Then they responded to the king, ‘Daniel, one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or to the interdict you have signed, but he is saying his prayers three times a day.’

When the king heard the charge, he was very much distressed. He was determined to save Daniel, and until the sun went down he made every effort to rescue him.  Then the conspirators came to the king and said to him, ‘Know, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no interdict or ordinance that the king establishes can be changed.’

Then the king gave the command, and Daniel was brought and thrown into the den of lions. The king said to Daniel, ‘May your God, whom you faithfully serve, deliver you!’  A stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet and with the signet of his lords, so that nothing might be changed concerning Daniel. Then the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting; no food was brought to him, and sleep fled from him.

Reflection
We don’t know whether Daniel’s window opening towards Jerusalem was a deliberate choice on his part or coincidence. One thing we can be sure of, however,  is that his decision to pray at that window, and, therefore, to be seen to be praying at that window, was a deliberate choice. He didn’t do this just occasionally, but continued to do this three times a day, every day – presumably at regular times of the day. So there’s no doubt that he knew it would be noticed and that his actions were in contravention of the edict signed by King Darius, an edict which, in their tradition, could not be countermanded or withdrawn.
Darius respected Daniel’s leadership and had intended to promote him over all the satraps (viceroys/governors) but was forced to carry out the ‘execution’. All he could do was express his hope that Daniel’s God would deliver him from the lions. Darius spent the night fasting and, no doubt, tossing and turning, as he wondered how Daniel was doing in the lions’ den.
Stories like this make me stop and wonder how I would behave under such circumstances. The fact of the matter is that God is not only interested in how we react to the major events in our lives, He is also interested in the ordinary and everyday stuff – our work, our leisure, our holidays. The question you and I need to ask ourselves is not whether we can match up to some grand gesture (like Daniel and others in the Scriptures) but whether we continue to make sure that God is part of our everyday life and that means that we should, like Daniel, make prayer a regular daily habit and not worry about who knows about it.
Heavenly Father,  forgive us for the times when busyness crowds you out of our day and we are forced to carry on in our own strength.  Help us to find those precious moments to spend time with you each and every day, to listen for your voice, your guidance and your wisdom, to rejoice with you for the good times and to feel your comforting presence when things are not going well. Amen

Today’s Writer

The Rev’d Sheila Coop, Minister, Macedonia URC, Failsworth and Oldham Town Centre Chaplaincy

Bible Version

 

New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved

URC Daily Devotion 1st August 2019

It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom one hundred and twenty satraps, stationed throughout the whole kingdom, and over them three presidents, including Daniel; to these the satraps gave account, so that the king might suffer no loss. Soon Daniel distinguished himself above all the other presidents and satraps because an excellent spirit was in him, and the king planned to appoint him over the whole kingdom. So the presidents and the satraps tried to find grounds for complaint against Daniel in connection with the kingdom. But they could find no grounds for complaint or any corruption, because he was faithful, and no negligence or corruption could be found in him. The men said, ‘We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God.’

So the presidents and satraps conspired and came to the king and said to him, ‘O King Darius, live for ever! All the presidents of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the counsellors and the governors, are agreed that the king should establish an ordinance and enforce an interdict, that whoever prays to anyone, divine or human, for thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be thrown into a den of lions. Now, O king, establish the interdict and sign the document, so that it cannot be changed, according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, which cannot be revoked.’  Therefore King Darius signed the document and interdict.

Reflection
Bureaucrats have a terrible reputation, whether civil servants, in the EU in Brussels or wherever.  And here I have to confess that, for a short time in my pre-ministerial career, I was one in the NHS.  I had a temporary job to monitor the spending of education-related money for professions allied to medicine.  Interestingly, in my NHS career, it was the only job in which there was more money in the budget than was historically being spent.  Thus, having analysed the spending and implemented robust procedures to ensure that it was spent wisely, I discovered I was, unexpectedly, a remarkably popular bureaucrat, congratulated by both an Audit Commission representative and the recipients of grants alike!

Not so for poor Daniel who, despite his impressive efficiency, provoked jealousy and ill-feeling amongst his contemporary bureaucrats (satraps and presidents.)  I see this as yet another example of early racism/antisemitism, also evident in the book of Esther, where a person of a group recognised as different or ‘other’ from ‘us’ is picked on, sidelined and discriminated by members of the majority.  

What Daniel’s colleagues did was the same evil evident in the attack on Catholics in Sri Lanka, Muslims in New Zealand, or, indeed, in random attacks such as the Manchester bombing or the Westminster Bridge atrocities.  The words of Jacinda Ahern, the New Zealand prime minister, ring true when she responded to the attacks on Muslims in Christchurch referring to those on the end of the attack, saying, ”They are us. The person who has perpetuated this violence against us is not.”  

Daniel’s enemies ultimately paid a huge price for their prejudice and I only wish they had heard the words of St. Paul in Galatians 3:28 before setting up their evil plan!

Gracious and all-inclusive God, 
as humans sometimes we seem incapable 
of recognising difference as anything other than threatening and discomfiting.  
May we learn to accept the ‘other’ as ‘us’ 
and learn to properly love our neighbour (whoever they are, however strange they might be) as ourselves.  
Amen  

Today’s Writer

The Rev’d Peter Clark is the URC Minister of the Bridport & Dorchester Joint Pastorate

Bible Version

 

New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved

Podcasts start tomorrow

Podcasts

Dear <<First Name>>
 

For some time we have been wondering if it would be possible to create “podcasts” (recordings broadcast on the internet) of the Daily Devotions.  Thanks to the interest expressed about these in the recent survey and a small army of volunteers who have worked very quickly indeed I am pleased to say that, from tomorrow morning, it is possible to listen to the Devotions!

For the next couple of months, at least, we are going to trial this – each morning there will be a link at the top of each Devotion email to allow you to listen to the Podcast – simply click on it  and you will be taken to this page where you can listen to the recording.  If you opposite click on it you should be able to download it to your own device.  In time we are going to look at distributing these through a Podcast supplier but, for the time being, we are going to put them onto the Devotions’ website.  

Happy listening!

with every good wish

Andy

PS this is a suggested new template for the Devotions – let me know what you think!

URC Daily Devotion 30th July 2019

So we begin this passage with Nebuchadnezzar coming to his senses and recognising that God is everlasting and all enduring. God is constant in a world that is always changing.

I think Nebuchadnezzar, having been on a journey where he realises that the God of Daniel and the Israelites is “the God of power and creation” is life changing, recognises that God loves him and has a plan for him.  God loves him no more and no less than anyone else. Nebuchadnezzar has a position whereby he can affect change as the king and therefore he is called by God to exercise that power not for his own glorification but for the raising up of others, for the breaking of injustice and the speaking of truth to power.

Nebuchadnezzar is in a position where he can affect changes for the good of all and to the glory of God. We are called to affect change for the good of all creation within our own means. As I write this, we have had two weeks of protests in London, which appear to have had an effect to a point. An environmental crisis has been declared by Parliament but declaring a crisis and doing something about it are different things. We now have to see what the Government will do having declared the crisis.

There is an element of reminding us that Nebuchadnezzar was prideful and that he was brought low, but he was reinstated to his position to bring changes for the better to his country. Pride for self can be dangerous, but pride in others, pride in good work, pride in a cause for justice can actually motivate us for the right reasons, but must be tempered with humility and remembering that we are called by God to build God’s now and not yet kin-dom of justice and equity.