Devotional thoughts (Monday through Thursday mornings) from the pastor of Exeter Presbyterian Church in Exeter, NH // Sunday Worship 10:30am // 73 Winter Street

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Daniel 5

Nebuchadnezzar was the father (or perhaps just the predecessor) of Belshazzar. The new emperor invited 1000 of his lords with all their wives and concubines to an event where the guests were drinking wine with the highest ruler in Babylon. Belshazzar called for his servants to bring the holy vessels of Israel's God to aid them in their celebration. The gathered assembly not only “drank wine” with these objects taken from the temple in Jerusalem, they also “praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone.”
Suddenly “the fingers of a human hand appeared” and wrote a message from God on the wall that no one could understand. Belshazzar was terrified. He called for all his wise men to give him the correct meaning of the letters, but “they could not read the writing or make known to the king the interpretation.”
At the suggestion of the queen, Daniel was called and offered a great reward to make known the message that God was bringing to Belshazzar. Daniel had no interest in any compensation, but he was able to speak important words with great boldness and clarity at just the right moment. The Lord had “numbered the days” remaining in the reign of Belshazzar. He could have learned from the events that had taken place in Nebuchadnezzar's life, but instead he had been “weighed in the balances” by the Judge of all the earth “and found wanting.” The kingdom of Babylon would be “divided and given to the Medes and the Persians.”
The Babylonian officials did not have to wait very long to find out just how accurate Daniel's words were. “That very night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was killed.” Darius the Mede immediately took his place.
God rules over all, and He reveals His plans according to His own purposes. It is always dangerous to take what the Lord has set apart as special and to use it as something common. In the New Testament world, we have no inanimate sacred vessels. Christ Himself and the people of the worldwide church who bear His Name have taken the place of every sacramental treasure. We have been washed with His blood and filled with the Spirit of God.
Those who defile the Name of Jesus or abuse His treasured bride will one day have to answer to the Lord God Almighty. We are not objects that belong to depraved and idolatrous men. We have been created in the image of God and purchased by the sacrifice of the Lamb. We are saints of the Most High God. He will protect us and defend us forever from those who hate His beloved people.

Prayer from A Book of Prayers

O God, we thank you for the gift of the greatest King of all human history. Not every ruler on earth is one of the best among men. Some are exceedingly wicked, foolish, and oppressive. They come for a season and then they are gone. The time comes when they discover that their days are numbered. They learn that they have been found wanting, and their authority is taken from them. How are we to submit to wicked governors? We know that we must worship You only. We cannot do those things that would be against Your commandments just to have peace with those who are powerful. We cannot avoid duties to You just to have safety among those who would demand our absolute devotion. Though these leaders may have the power to kill, they cannot cast us into hell. We will not fear them above You. Help us to be faithful stewards of any authority we have been granted during our brief time in this fading world. May we use what You have given us to honor You, for we know that we may be called to account for our lives even this very day.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Daniel 4

Nebuchadnezzar had a dream that made him afraid. No one was able to give him an interpretation of what he had seen, so he called upon Daniel to enlighten him. When everything eventually came to pass just as the Hebrew prophet had said it would, the great emperor of Babylon had been brought down a notch in his own assessment and had come to understand that God was worthy of worship. He insisted on giving his own testimony publicly for all to consider.
Nebuchadnezzar was a great “tree.” The “beasts of the field” and the “birds of the heavens” lived under his protection. Yet at just the right moment when he was most impressed with the glory of his own majesty, God brought him low. For an ordained period of time, “he was driven from among men and ate grass like an ox.”
According to the Lord's appointment, this season of discipline came to an abrupt conclusion. “At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored Him who lives forever.” The king himself concluded that God's reign is “an everlasting dominion.” The Almighty does everything “according to His will among the hosts of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth.”
Though Nebuchadnezzar may not have given up on his polytheism, he had certainly gained a better understanding of his own condition as one who was very much subordinate to Daniel's God. He acknowledged that the Hebrew deity was the King of heaven. “All His works are right and His ways are just; and those who walk in pride He is able to humble.”
It is not only majestic rulers who need to learn the difference between the Creator and the creature. While it is indeed very difficult for a rich and powerful man to enter the kingdom of God (Matthew 19:24), even a poor man can be overcome by pride. God instructs us all to stop thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought. We should remember that we exist for His pleasure and that at the proper time He will exalt the lowly. (Romans 12:3 and 1 Peter 5:6)
The story of the Lord's discipline of Nebuchadnezzar and his subsequent restoration to his former high estate is all quite interesting. Even more captivating, however, is the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He willingly lowered Himself for our salvation, even to the point of His death on the cross for our sins. Even the most wretched sinner who truly repents and believes can live with a confident expectation that he will eventually be raised up to live and reign with Jesus forever. This good news fills us not only with amazement but also with eternal gratitude and love.

Prayer from A Book of Prayers

O Father, You speak the truth to people according to Your great plan. You have created the heavens and the earth. Even a sparrow does not fall to the ground except according to Your decree. There is a King who is far above all the rulers of this world, and we have heard His voice and have eagerly received Him. Your revelation is a great help to us in our lives. We are so thankful for Your servants who have brought us the Word of truth. Through this blessing we have been kept from great foolishness and unnecessary self-preoccupation. You have rescued us from all kinds of dangerous thinking and behavior. May we use all that we are and all that we have for Your purposes. We will extol You forever, for You are able to bring low all those who walk in arrogance, and to lift up all those who glorify You.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Daniel 3

King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold” as the focus of a new system of idolatrous worship for all “peoples, nations, and languages.” Standing on “the plain of Dura” at ninety feet tall and nine feet wide, this object was not merely a work of art. When the music of various instruments was heard, everyone was to immediately “fall down and worship” or face the deadly sanction of being “cast into a burning fiery furnace.”
Certain of Nebuchadnezzar's officials who had access to the king used this occasion to attack their enemies. They “maliciously accused the Jews,” particularly noting Daniel's three friends, as offenders who would not obey the king's edict. “These men, O king, pay no attention to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
Nebuchadnezzar, in “furious rage,” called in Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to explain themselves. They were given opportunity to comply with the king's law, which they refused. Their answer was simple, direct, appropriate, and in its own way, respectful: “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of your hand.” Jehovah was infinitely greater than Nebuchadnezzar. “But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
The king was “filled with fury.” He ordered that the heat of the fire be raised very substantially, so much so that the guards who brought the three Hebrew men to their expected doom were themselves killed by their exposure to the flames. Meanwhile, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego not only survived the ordeal, but were miraculously preserved in every way.
Everyone there that day saw a fourth figure in the furnace, one “like a son of the gods.” He was with them in their worst trial. Did they all die instantly? No, only the ropes that had bound them were consumed.
No one was able to deny that the condemned captives had experienced a powerful deliverance. What did Nebuchadnezzar conclude? “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent His angel and delivered His servants, who trusted in Him, and set aside the king's command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God.” The king went on to issue a new decree prohibiting any speech against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He also promoted them in the province of Babylon.
Who was that fourth person who entered into the furnace with the three men of faith? Was it an angel of the Lord, or was it God Himself in a visible manifestation? We know that God is able to rescue His people from any situation, and that He has saved us eternally and supremely by coming into this fallen world to suffer and die that we might live forever. Even now Jesus will carry us through every difficulty. God is our strength and our salvation. We trust that He will give us faithful words to say in any time of testing.

Prayer from A Book of Prayers

Great God and King, the rulers of this world are so easily carried away with their grandeur. We will not worship them or serve their false gods. Help us to be respectful, to submit to lawful authority, and to serve You by living in an orderly way. Keep us faithful to You if we should ever face the persecution of powerful people. Surely You will either deliver us from our trials or bring us immediately into Your glorious presence. In all the difficulties that we face, we trust that the Son of God is with us. The fire of men is nothing compared to the eternal fire that Your enemies will face. You alone are able to save us, for Yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Monday Morning Clarity - 1 Chronicles 3:10-14

God preserved the line of the kings of Judah against all human odds.

Some were quite good over all, some very evil, most fit into the "hard to say" group.

Even the best ultimately could not satisfy.

Only Jesus could defeat sin and death.

He is pleased to live in those who will tremble at His Word.

Sermon Notes
Sermon Audio

Sunday, June 18, 2017

The Rule of Leading Men

The Rule of Leading Men
The New Hampshire Company
- a work in progress -
Summer, 2017


Know this:
Turn from sin.
Trust in God who raises the dead.
Live in simplicity and sincerity.
Present yourselves to God
And make disciples
As you look for the coming of the Son of Man
Who died for us
And leads us by the hand and keeps us.
He is the King of glory.
Our hearts find our rest in Him.
Now may the God of peace be with you and give you everything you need to love Him well.

Section 1: Historic Christian Communion with God and the Church According to The Lord's Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation. But deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.

O Great I-AM, “Our Father” You've become.
Adopted us through Jesus Christ Your Son.

Your holy people sanctify Your Name,
And pray that all the earth will do the same.

May Satan's head be crushed beneath our feet.
Come soon King Jesus; make Your reign complete!

Teach us to know Your Word and to obey,
Content that You will rule the world today.

Feed us with heaven's bread that all may live,
And add Your blessings with each gift You give.

For Jesus' sake, forgive our many sins,
As we forgive both enemies and friends.

Protect us from temptation's darkest hour,
And if we fall, deliver by Your power.

To You alone, our Father, God, and Friend,
Be kingdom, power, glory, without end!

Section 2: Historic Christian Ethics According to the Ten Commandments

I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
You shall have no other gods before me.
You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.
You shall not murder.
You shall not commit adultery.
You shall not steal.
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor's.

Section 3: Historic Christian Doctrine According to The Nicene Creed

We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of his Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made; who for us and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; he suffered and was buried; and the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father; and he shall come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.
And we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets; and we believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church; we acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Epilogue: The Means of Grace

Prayer and Worship
The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments
Baptism and the Lord's Supper

Meditation Scriptures for Prologue
Know this:
Corinthians 1:8 For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers...

Turn from sin.
Romans 6:12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions.

Trust in God who raises the dead.
2 Corinthians 1:9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.

Live in simplicity and sincerity.
2 Corinthians 1:12 For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you.

Present yourselves to God

Romans 6:13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.

And make disciples

Matthew 28:19-20 [19] Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, [20] teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

As you look for the coming of the Son of Man

Matthew 24:27 For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.

Who died for us

Isaiah 53:5 [5] But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.

And leads us by the hand and keeps us.

Isaiah 42:6 I am the LORD; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations.

He is the King of glory.
Psalm 24:10 Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory!

Our hearts find our rest in Him.

Psalm 131 [1] O LORD, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. [2] But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. [3] O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and forevermore.

Now may the God of peace be with you and give you everything you need to love Him well.

Hebrews 13:20-21 [20] Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, [21] equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.


Friday, June 09, 2017

Daniel 2

Nebuchadnezzar had troubling images during his sleep that he could not understand. All of the various mystics advising the leader of the Babylonian empire were “summoned to tell the king his dreams.” This was an unusual request. Rather than asking for an interpretation, Nebuchadnezzar wanted them to reveal what they could not possibly know. If they did not tell him the facts of what he had seen, he promised that they would be “torn limb from limb.”
Daniel was part of the group at risk. When he understood that his life might soon be taken from him, he asked about the urgency of Nebuchadnezzar's edict. When he was given further details about the king's demands, he asked for an audience with this powerful ruler, “that he might show the interpretation to the king.” Meanwhile, Daniel asked his friends to “seek mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery.”
Their plea to the Almighty yielded a great blessing and saved many lives, since “the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night.” Daniel's immediate response was praise. “Blessed be the Name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might. He changes times and seasons; He removes kings and sets up kings.” This is one of the themes of the entire book of Daniel. The Lord God is in charge of all the powers of the earth.
When the young Hebrew prophet appeared before Nebuchadnezzar he did not claim credit for his accurate message. “There is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries and He has made known to king Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days.” Daniel insisted that the solution to the problem came to him, “not because of any wisdom I have.” He gave glory to God and also showed appropriate deference to the emperor.
The king's dreams were full of important prophecies that would be played out over many centuries. Combined with other visions received by Daniel, we can know for certain that the image of gold, silver, bronze, and iron/clay stood for four regimes: Babylon, Media/Persia, Greece, and Rome.
Most importantly, during the time of the Romans “the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed.” This new realm “shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end.” While other rulers may come and go, there is an eternal resurrection world ruled by Jesus. The Son of God's very unusual government “shall stand forever.”
Nebuchadnezzar was very impressed by Daniel's report. “Truly your God is God of gods and Lord of kings and a Revealer of mysteries.” The truth regarding several successive empires was a message that God had chosen to make known. Why did He do so?
First, we remember that the Almighty does everything for His own glory. We should be impressed with the Lord of creation and providence. His astounding uncovering of what false spiritual advisers could never have guessed was in direct response to the pleas of His beloved servants. These events came about for the right use of the Lord's prophet, Daniel. It was also part of God's project of humbling Nebuchadnezzar, a very proud ruler.
Finally, Daniel 2 is for the encouragement of the Lord's chosen people in every age. We enter into the drama of a tragedy averted and give glory to the Father and the Son. Our faith is strengthened by these prophetic words, and we can know for certain that the kingdom of Jesus is truly forever.

Prayer from A Book of Prayers

Father God, You are sovereign over both our waking and sleeping. You are aware of every detail of history and have a full understanding of all that is yet to come. This is not merely a knowledge of the future, for You have decreed all things that will come to pass. You are God, and there is no other. In various times and places You have chosen to reveal a small portion of Your great knowledge to Your servants the prophets. You gave them revelations in visions, events, and in words. You blessed them with a greater knowledge of who You are, and revealed deep and hidden things about the past, present, and future according to Your holy will. You never said more then You intended. You never spoke incorrectly. Your Word is perfect. You can make a slave the most important man in a mighty empire when You choose to reveal mysteries through a humble man. You ordain the rising and falling of kings and kingdoms. Beyond all of the powers of men, and all of their authority, You have brought about the coming of the Your Son's reign. You inaugurated this new world during the time of a very impressive empire among men. That empire is now long gone, but Your church continues to this day. It is on the offensive through numerous struggles, and even the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. You are a Revealer of mysteries, now wonderfully contained in written revelation. Your Scripture is a living Word that daily brings the breath of life to Your people in Your church.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Daniel 1

The prophet Daniel was brought to Babylon during a time when Judah was forced into submission by a much more powerful empire. Many of the poor remained in the Promised Land, but some of the promising young people among the Judeans were selected to be trained for better service to Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon.
Daniel and his closest companions were treated very well by the “chief of the eunuchs,” the officer responsible for their care. They were taught “the literature and language of the Chaldeans” and were provided “a daily portion” of the food and drink that the king himself consumed. The aim of this plan was to help them in adopting the necessary Babylonian view of life that would make them competent servants of the emperor.
The first of several crisis points in the history of Daniel's days in Babylon centered around the food and drink that they were expected to receive. Daniel “resolved that he would not defile himself” as a person who was still seeking to follow Jewish law even during his time in captivity. He proposed to the chief eunuch that he and his friends would eat only vegetables for a test period of ten days.
The results of that trial pleased the king's servant. The four Hebrew men “were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king's food.” It was Jehovah who gave Daniel and the others favor with their captors. God made them both strong in body and accomplished in learning. The Lord equipped them with “skill in all literature and wisdom.” In particular, Daniel was given “understanding in all visions and dreams,” a fact that would be of great importance in future years.
The king himself agreed with the assessment of the chief eunuch. Nebuchadnezzar found the Hebrew men “ten times better” than others who were following the royal protocol for the preparation of skilled assistants. So began Daniel's many decades of service and trial in the courts of imperial power. Through it all, he remained devoted to the Lord despite very challenging trials.
Daniel became a powerful example for future servants of God of the way that the Lord might choose to honor those who consecrate their lives to Him in a time of great trouble. When Jesus explained Himself to those who were ready to stone Him for what they claimed to be disrespectful behavior against the God of the Jews, He said in John 10:36 that He was someone whom the Father had “consecrated and sent into the world.” Jesus later prayed for His future disciples, “As you sent Me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I also consecrate Myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.” (John 17:18-19)
Like Daniel, Jesus remembered who He was during a time when others would have moved Him far away from His Father's Word. We who have heard and believed the gospel need to remain steadfast in the truth of God even under the intense pressure that may come against us as we seek to obey our Savior.

Prayer from A Book of Prayers

Glorious and Sovereign Lord, make Your plans for Your people shine forth in the brightest colors in our darkest days. When our prospects seem bleak, You remain a bountiful Provider of every good gift. You can still care for Your children though they are strangers in a strange land. We are strengthened by Your Word and refreshed by Your Spirit. When it would appear that we would be destroyed in a time of trouble, You are able to do amazing things. You can give Your servants health, wisdom, learning, grace, diligence, and many other blessings. When we lack everything else, there is no greater gift than Your presence among us. Be with us day by day, and bless Your church in wonderful ways as we live in the midst of this fading world. Glorify Your Name through the provision of help that could only have come from You.