Daily Bible Reading

Shine?

From a young age, Christians are told to let our lights shine. What does that even mean? Do I literally have to have a light? If not, what is my light? How do I let it shine? Does it have a switch? Am I responsible for flipping it? If not, how does this whole light thing work? Letting our lights shine has become a nearly meaningless and clichéd line we use all our lives without really thinking about what it means.

God, through the prophet Isaiah, breaks it down into the simplest terms.

Feed the hungry and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be bright as day.

Isaiah 58:10 (NLT)

Feed the hungry and help those in trouble. That’s it? That’s it. Matthew says it in a similar way.

In the same, way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.

Matthew 5:16 (NLT)

The term good deeds is also translated as light. In both cases, light means things like luminary, bright, clear, morning sun, to shine or make manifest. Everything about these roots indicates a rather public display.

But what about Matthew 6:1 where it tells us not to put our good deeds on public display? Well, it’s all about the heart behind the action. Jesus was talking about the hypocrites who made sure people were watching before they did something. It was all for their own selfish gain so that they themselves would be praised. But God is telling us to do these things when people are watching and when they aren’t. He tells us that our purpose behind our good deeds should be to point people back to Him.

By taking care of the very basic needs of those around us for no other reason but that they need it is allowing our light—Jesus—to shine. When we show others the love and mercy that Christ showed us, the glory is not ours, but God’s alone.

So now that you know how and why to do it, shine!

Daily Bible reading: Isaiah 56-58, 1 Thessalonians 3

 

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Daily Bible Reading

Completely different

If I asked you to picture God, what would He look like? Maybe a decrepit old man with a long white beard and glowing white robes? In your mind, He probably looks pretty human and more than likely not in the prime of his life.

“My thoughts are completely different than yours,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”

Isaiah 55:8-9 (NLT)

When we try to picture God with our natural human minds. we are bound to fail. Miserably. We cannot even begin to comprehend what God may look like because our brains are not wired to do so. So why do we even bother trying? Why must we put a natural face and physique on a supernatural God?

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.

Romans 12:2a (NLT)

It seems like I go back to this verse every other day. But it’s applicable every day. So long as our view of God is bound by our natural thinking, so we will be bound to natural results. But as we allow God to transform us, we will be changed to His way of thinking—which is completely different than ours. It may not make sense to us. It probably won’t. But once we leave our natural thinking behind and conform our thoughts to God’s thoughts, we will start getting supernatural results.

When God begins to change your way of thinking, don’t try to rationalise it. Don’t try to make sense of it with your natural mind. Because God’s thoughts are completely different than yours. Don’t expect the supernatural to make sense in the natural. I’ts not supposed to. That’s why God is God and you are not.

Daily Bible reading: Isaiah 53-55, 1 Thessalonians 2

Daily Bible Reading

No matter what

Have you ever been determined to do something no matter what? Nothing can draw you away from reaching for and attaining that goal. There is no prize you will accept but victory.

Or are you someone who has a price on everything? You want to do some things, but if the reward is great enough, you can be swayed away from the task.

DETERMINED: Having a firm or fixed purpose.

I’m sure we’ve all seen a talent show where someone is determined to become a star. Some rather dishonest people in their life have told them they can do anything. They have talent. Don’t let anyone tell you that you cannot accomplish your dream. Then they sing. It becomes apparent that someone has lied to this individual and that their determination is horribly misplaced.

Are you determined to do something? Where do you get your confidence to do what you’ve set out to do?

Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be dismayed. Therefore, I have set my face like a stone, determined to do his will. And I know that I will triumph.

Isaiah 50:7 (NLT)

When we make the determination to do the will of God, there is an assurance that comes with it. We can be confident in our decision and our coming victory.

For when we brought you the Good News, it was not only with words but also with power, for the Holy Spirit gave you full assurance that what we said was true.

1 Thessalonians 1:5a (NLT)

When our determination leads us to do the will of God, the power of the Holy Spirit within us gives us the confidence we need to fulfill our purpose no matter what. Like Isaiah, we can set our face like a stone and push ahead toward the vision God has placed before us being confident in our triumph.

Daily Bible reading: Isaiah 50-52, 1 Thessalonians 1

Daily Bible Reading

The wait

Sometimes it feels as though our life is made up more of waiting than actually doing. Just wait. Hold on a minute. Can I put you on hold? Just a moment, please. Hold your horses! We wait so much that we have lists and rooms designated for that purpose. And they’re full. All the time.

And, as much as the waiting is bothersome, everyone else’s reaction to your waiting can be even more so. When are you going to get married? When are you going to have kids? Are you having more kids? When are you ever going to get a job? What about that promotion? We can get so caught up in what everyone else thinks of our waiting that we plow ahead, bypassing God’s timing for our own.

The Bible is full of people who decided that they knew better than God. All the way back to Eve, if she’d only waited for Adam’s input before eating the fruit, things may have turned out differently. What about Sarah and Abraham? At 90, Sarah didn’t think she could wait any longer and foisted her servant on her husband so the promised child could be produced. The result was Ishmael—we’re still seeing the effects of that mistake today. The entire nation of Israel grew tired of waiting for Moses to come down from the mountain and decided it would be better to worship idols.

The list goes on and on. The short of it is that no one likes to wait. We don’t like to feel as though we’re not accomplishing anything. But what is the penalty for our impatience?

Those who wait for me will never be put to shame.

Isaiah 49:23b (NLT)

We can try to blame God all we want, but when we jump the gun on His plan, the shame is ours alone. That’s not to say that God can’t repair what we broke, but there are still consequences.

But I don’t know what to do with myself!

I get it. I hate waiting, too. I hate not being productive. My hands must be busy. I have to have something to show for my time. In the practical sense, I bring something with me when I know I have to wait. A book. A crochet project. My journal. Candy Crush. But what about when I’m waiting on God?

Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.

Colossians 4:2 (NLT)

God doesn’t make us wait to watch us squirm. He makes us wait because He’s either preparing us, preparing someone else, or preparing a situation. We will never see the entire picture, yet God is only asking us to trust in Him. The best thing to do—pray. Devote yourself to God. The wait may not be as long as you thought it was.

Live wisely among those who are not Christians, and make the most of every opportunity.

Colossians 4:5 (NLT)

Waiting doesn’t have to be, and even shouldn’t be, idle time. The wait in itself is an opportunity. An opportunity to grow in our relationship with God. An opportunity to grow in our relationships with others. An opportunity to grow our faith and trust. An opportunity to prepare ourselves for the promise to come. The only shame in waiting is if we waste the opportunities God gives us in that time.

Daily Bible reading: Isaiah 48-49, Colossians 4

Daily Bible Reading

Real life

What is real?

REAL: Actually being or existing; not fictitious or imaginary. True; genuine, not artificial, counterfeit, or fictitious.

So what is real life?

Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits at God’s right hand in the place of honor and power. Let heaven fill your thoughts. Do not think only about things down here on earth. For you died when Christ died, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your real life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.

Colossians 3:1-4 (NLT)

Your real life, your true life is hidden with Christ in God. Real life isn’t the daily grind. It isn’t your occupation, it isn’t your station in life, it isn’t even your earthly relationships. Real life is Jesus. So how do we even begin to live this life?

…for you have stripped off your old evil nature and all its wicked deeds. In its place you have clothed yourselves with a brand-new nature that is continually being renewed as you learn more and more about Christ, who created this new nature within you. In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us.

Colossians 3:9-11 (NLT)

We make so much of what we do in our lives here on earth. We have to work. We have to get an education. We have to save for retirement. We have to get married. We have to have kids. We have to provide for our kids and make sure they have an education, a job, a retirement. It’s an endless cycle that plagues us and pulls our focus off of real life and toward a mere shadow of what is to come. Work, education, saving, relationships are all important things and we should have all of those things, but when they become our primary focus, it becomes a lot easier to pick up those things that we stripped off when we came to Christ. Christ is all that matters.

And the most important piece of clothing you must wear is love. Love is what binds us together in perfect harmony.

Colossians 3:14 (NLT)

Real life and real love go hand in hand. When we put on love, we put on real life. True life.

Let the words of Christ, in all their richness, live in your hearts and make you wise. Use his words to teach and counsel each other. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.

Colossians 3:16 (NLT)

Real life is real love which is real worship. When we live the new life that we found in Christ, we live a life of love and a life of worship. When our focus is on heavenly things, we can’t help but have thankful hearts because our focus is on the truth.

But the time is coming and is already here when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for anyone who will worship him that way. For God is spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.

John 4:23-24 (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Isaiah 45-47, Colossians 3

Daily Bible Reading

Pardon me once

When my eldest niece was young and she wanted to be excused, she’d asked to be pardoned. Twice. “Pardon me. Pardon me.” Someone told her that she only needed to say pardon me once. Then next time she needed to be excused, she put into practice what she’d been told. “Pardon me once. Pardon me once.”

If you’re the one in the wrong who needs to be pardoned, you only need to ask God’s forgiveness once. We almost always look at forgiveness as something that God does strictly for our benefit. We know that God loves us so much that He sent His only Son to die as a sacrifice in our place. But as much as forgiveness is for our sake, it’s for God’s sake as well.

I—yes, I alone—am the one who blots out your sins for my own sake and will never think of them again.

Isaiah 43:25 (NLT)

When someone commits a wrong against you, you have two options: you can forgive or you can hold a grudge. The only benefit to the latter is that you can feel self-righteous by holding this fault over the person who committed it against you. But by refusing forgiveness, you are effectually cutting off that relationship from the root and preventing it from ever being able to grow.

Harbouring unforgiveness keeps that offense in front of you and, when allowed to fester, it will make you bitter. Like a weed in a garden left unchecked, it will propagate to other areas and choke out anything good. Unforgiveness forces us to look at a person and see their faults first. Everything they say or do—good or bad—goes through the filter of their sin. No relationship can ever grow or even move forward unless there is forgiveness and acceptance of it.

More than it affects the person at fault, unforgiveness, if left unchecked, can ruin the one holding on to it.

You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ. He forgave all our sins. He cancelled the record that contained the charges against us. He took it and destroyed it by nailing it to Christ’s cross. In this way, God disarmed the evil rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross of Christ.

Colossians 2:13-15 (NLT)

So when God forgives us, for His own sake as much as ours, He forgets what ever happened. He has to. If He were to remember and keep record of all our wrongdoings, forgiveness in the future would be impossible to offer. In order to remain the God who forgives, God has to blot out our sins, destroy every record that it ever happened.

When we forgive others, three things happen: we release ourselves from being bound by unforgiveness, we release the offender from their punishment, and we take away the ability from anyone else to convict that person of their sin.

This is the example God has put before us. We only have to ask to be pardoned once. For His sake, God cannot withhold forgiveness, nor can He keep any record of our wrongdoing. That is to our benefit. And, if God has done all of this for us, what right do we have to withhold forgiveness from anyone who asks it of us?

Daily Bible reading: Isaiah 43-44, Colossians 2

Daily Bible Reading

The gift that keeps on giving

It is a simple thing to accept a gift. And it can be just as simple a thing to set that gift aside and forget about it. If you receive something that you may not use right away or don’t need at the time, but may have use for it later, you can put it away and forget you ever received it.

But you must continue to believe this truth and stand in it firmly. Don’t drift away from the assurance you received when you heard the Good News.

Colossians 1:23a (NLT)

Paul understood that certain gifts can easily be forgotten. This is why he was so adamant that the church at Colosse continue to believe the truth and stand in the assurance they received when they first heard the Good News.

Accepting salvation through Christ is the easy part—keeping that salvation before us and remaining confident in it is where it may get difficult. Like a gift that is received and even welcome, yet set aside for later occasion, our salvation too, can be cast aside. And the longer it remains to the side and out of our direct line of sight, the less aware we become of it. It becomes the forgotten gift, collecting dust, unused.

For it has pleased God to tell his people that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. For this is the secret: Christ lives in you, and this is your assurance that you will share in his glory.

Colossians 1:27 (NLT)

Salvation is not a gift that is meant to be readily accepted and then set aside to be forgotten about or only pulled out on special occasions. It is meant to be used all the time. And the more we make use of it, the more we will grow, gain, and benefit from it. This gift of salvation is our assurance from God of even greater gifts to come. Like a kid excitedly waiting for his birthday party to start—with friends and presents on the way, we should be waiting in expectation of what is to come and grateful for what we’ve already received.

Daily Bible reading: Isaiah 41-42, Colossians 1