Daily Bible Reading

Dare to hope

As humans, we suffer. There are generally two kinds of suffering, the first being the sort that we have no control over—sickness, accidents, death. The second is of our own doing—suffering from the consequences of our actions.

It is the latter sort that the people of Jerusalem were suffering when Jeremiah penned these words:

Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this:

The unfailing love of the Lord never ends! By his mercies we have been kept from complete destruction. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each day. I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!”

The Lord is wonderfully good to those who wait for him and seek him. So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the Lord.

Lamentations 3:21-26 (NLT)

These words, from a book titled Lamentations no less, seem incongruent with what was going on at the time. Jerusalem had been warned over and over again to repent from their sins or the city would be destroyed and the people would either die, starve, or be taken captive. Yet over and over again, Israel refused to repent of their sins and went about their own thing anyway. We find Jeremiah here at the time when all the prophecies of destruction were coming to pass. How is it then, that he can still say that he dares to hope? When mothers are killing and eating their children? When princes look like walking corpses? Where is the hope in that?

It is certain that whatever seeming calamity happens to you, if you thank and praise God for it, you will turn it into a blessing.

William Law

Amidst all of the pain and suffering brought on by sins of the people, Jeremiah remembered this:

Though he brings grief, he also shows compassion according to the greatness of his unfailing love.

Lamentations 3:32 (NLT)

Jesus once told a story that held similar principles. The prodigal son lived the way that he saw fit. He was forced to suffer and endure the consequences of his sin, but when he came home in repentance, love and compassion met him.

Instead, let us test and examine our ways. Let us turn again in repentance to the Lord.

Lamentations 3:40 (NLT)

Even in the middle of our consequences, we can still dare to hope. Because God is still God and He never changes. He loved us before we sinned. He loved us while we sinned. And He still loves us when we repent from our sin.

So if you’re in the middle, dare to hope because the unfailing love of the Lord never ends!

Daily Bible reading: Lamentations 3-5, Hebrews 8

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Daily Bible Reading

Worship

WORSHIP: To respect; to honor; to treat with civil reverence.

Worship isn’t just what we do when we sing on Sunday mornings. It’s what we have the opportunity to do every day of our lives. Our generosity, when done in the name of the Lord, is both an act of worship as well as the inspiration for worship.

Yes, you will be enriched so that you can give even more generously. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will break out into thanksgiving to God.

2 Corinthians 9:11 (NLT)

God gives us opportunities all the time—if we have a mind to look for them. There are infinite ways that we can show generosity to those around us. We need only pay attention and act when we see a need.

For God is the one who gives seed to the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will give you many opportunities to do good, and he will produce a great harvest of generosity in you.

2 Corinthians 9:10 (NLT)

God has not blessed us so that we can hoard our blessings. He has blessed us so that we can in turn bless others. The more we strive to worship God by blessing others, the more room we make in our own lives to receive a blessing. The Church should be producing a perpetual harvest of generosity. We should be drawing good out of each other so that we can draw more people into the Kingdom.

Look for opportunities to worship God through your actions this week. Allow Him to produce a harvest of generosity in you.

Daily Bible reading: Ecclesiastes 1-3, 2 Corinthians 9

Daily Bible Reading

Excel

If you call yourself a Christian, you are called to ministry. First, to minister to the world—whether it be your own small corner or abroad in a foreign nation. We are all called to be ministers of the Gospel. Also, we are called to the ministry of giving.

…now I want you to excel also in the gracious ministry of giving.

2 Corinthians 8:7b (NLT)

I can guarantee that God has put it on your heart to give. If you don’t believe so, you haven’t been listening.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.

James 1:17 (NKJV)

If God gives us good gifts and we are to become more and more like Him every day, should we not also be giving good gifts?

If you are really eager to give, it isn’t important how much you are able to give. God wants you to give what you have, not what you don’t have.

2 Corinthians 8:12 (NLT)

God doesn’t intend for us to give so much that we become destitute. He wants us to give not only to bless others, but to make more room in our lives.

Blow up a balloon, but don’t tie it off. Let all the air out. Blow it up again. Let the air out. Each time you let the air out, the balloon will appear larger. You’re stretching it. Making more room. There are things that God wants to give us that won’t fit into our lives the way they are. The balloon would pop. But let the air out, and you’ve made room for more the next time you fill it.

God wants to do the same with us. Giving may deflate us a bit, but God will fill us to capacity again and again, increasing our limit every time. If you tie off a balloon, no air can get in or out. The supply is cut off.

Don’t cut yourself off from God’ generous supply by being stingy. Instead, become a part of His supply chain and allow Him to bless others through the blessings He gives you.

Learn to excel at the ministry of giving.

Daily Bible reading: Proverbs 30-31, 2 Corinthians 8

Daily Bible Reading

The great pursuit

Psalm 23 is one of my favourite passages in the entire Bible. I attribute this to my mother. While she was pregnant with me, she took up a project to cross stitch the entire chapter. She completed it in the hospital right before I was born. It’s now framed and hangs on the wall in my bedroom and is one of the last things I see before I go to bed every night.

Psalm 23

There is so much packed into these six verses. I can barely begin to scratch the surface, but I want to give you a little bit from each verse.

The Lord is my shepherd;
I have everything I need.

Psalm 23:1 (NLT)

If we follow Jesus like sheep do a shepherd, our needs will be fulfilled. God isn’t a magic genie to see to our needs and whims when we feel like rubbing the lamp. He is there to lead us and guide us. It’s under His guidance that our needs our met.

He lets me rest in green meadows;
He leads me beside peaceful streams.

Psalm 23:2 (NLT)

Turmoil and stress don’t have to be a part of our daily lives. Like being under God’s guidance allows for our needs to be met, if we follow His lead, we will be drawn to rest and peace.

He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
bringing honor to his name.

Psalm 23:3 (NLT)

Strength is required to walk God’s path. There is nothing that says walking with God will be easy, but He does give us the strength to do it. And, if we’re not bringing honour to His name, we’re probably not on His path.

Even when I walk
through the dark valley of death,
I will not be afraid,
for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
protect and comfort me.

Psalm 23:4 (NLT)

When, not if. We will go through dark times. That’s pretty much a guarantee. But even in those times, God has promised that He will be with us—guiding us, protecting us, comforting us.

You prepare a feast for me
in the presence of my enemies.
You welcome me as a guest,
anointing my head with oil.
My cup overflows with blessings.

Psalm 23:5 (NLT)

Our enemies will not suddenly decide to leave us alone because we decide to put our trust in God. We will still have enemies. They may still surround us. Yet God is there, providing for us in the middle of the battleground. And there, we can even find blessings!

Surely your goodness and unfailing love
will pursue me.
all the days of my life,
And I will live in the house of the Lord forever.

Psalm 23:6 (NLT)

We make a grave mistake when we believe we have to chase after God’s love. His love comes after us. His love is there in peaceful rest. His love is there in the dark valley of death. His love is there in the presence of our enemies. His love is there in His house.

It’s time to stop chasing after God’s love. If we’d only just slow down for a moment, it will catch up to us and overtake us. In His love, we will find peace, rest, strength, guidance, provision, anointing, blessing, and goodness.

We don’t have to pursue God’s love because He is always pursuing us.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 22-24, Acts 20:1-16

Daily Bible Reading

Proof

Life is all about proof. We all need to prove ourselves. When you’re looking for a job, you need to prove that you’re qualified. When you want to buy a house, you need to prove you can make the mortgage payments. When you want to cross a border, you need to prove who you are.

When he [Abraham] had proven himself faithful, he [God] made a covenant with him…

Nehemiah 9:8a (NLT)

Abraham had to prove himself worthy before God would cut a covenant with him. God wanted proof that this guy was going to be faithful before He bestowed blessings on him.

Many Christians are still acting like Abraham, trying to prove themselves worthy of a covenant with God. While Abraham was required to offer proof of faithfulness, God cut a covenant with us knowing full well we were all unfaithful. He knew when He sent Jesus to the cross that He was making a covenant with generation after generation of unfaithful people.

There is nothing that we can do to prove ourselves worthy of the covenant God has made with us. Our worth comes when we accept the gift God has so freely given to us.

Under the old covenant, the priest stands before the altar day after day, making sacrifices that can never take away sins. But our High Priest offered himself to God as one sacrifice for sins, good for all time. For by that one offering he perfected forever all those whom he is making holy.

Hebrews 10:11-12, 14 (NLT)

Our proof is in Jesus’ sacrifice. In his blood. It is the only proof of worth we need when we come to stand before the throne of God. Works will not make us more or less worthy of the covenant, because by that one offering Jesus perfected forever all of us whom the Father is making holy.

There’s your proof.

Daily Bible reading: Nehemiah 9-11, Acts 4:1-22

Daily Bible Reading

It worked

Once all the tribes of Israel had received their inheritance, it was Joshua’s turn. Because of his loyalty and leadership, God said he could have any town he wanted. Any town in all of Israel! There were a lot of towns to choose from. And, it seems, with no hesitation, Joshua chose Timnath-serah. In the hill country. Of Ephraim.

After all the land was divided among the tribes, the Israelites gave a special piece of land to Joshua as his inheritance. For the Lord had said he could have any town he wanted. He chose Timnath-serah in the hill country of Ephraim. He rebuilt the town and lived there.

Joshua 19:49-50 (NLT)

Oh, that hill country! Joshua chose to take land and make his permanent home in the land that wasn’t enough for the descendants of Joseph. That had too many trees and too many Canaanites with iron chariots.

I’d like to think that Joshua took that particular spot to prove a point. The tribe of Ephraim wasn’t satisfied there. But Joshua and his family would be. What Ephraim saw as a burden, Joshua would prove to be a blessing.

If God has given you a blessing that requires work, but you refuse to do the work, do you think it will stay in your possession forever? Of all the places Joshua could have taken, he took the place that another tribe had made little of. Joshua was able to see the potential in the problem and decided it would be for him and his own for generations to come.

If you don’t work your blessing, someone else will.

Daily Bible reading: Joshua 19-20, Luke 5:17-39

Daily Bible Reading

Work it

I love moments of sarcasm in the Bible. One of the best is when Elijah is on top of Mount Carmel with the prophets of Baal for the purpose of calling down rain. When the rain doesn’t come, Elijah taunts the prophets suggesting that their god is on vacation or perhaps relieving himself. Who says the great prophets were boring old men?

In Joshua 17, the tribes of the descendants of Joseph come whining to Joshua that they have not been given an inheritance of land in accordance with their numbers.

The descendants of Joseph came to Joshua and asked, “Why have you given us only one portion of land when the Lord has given us so many people?”

Joshua 17:14 (NLT)

Joshua offers them the hill country. It is both inhabited and forested. They can drive out the inhabitants and go into the forestry industry. They didn’t so much like that idea since it would require more than a little work on their part so they told Joshua that they would be unable to take that land (I’m sure they were hoping for some additional prime property, something move-in ready).

Then Joshua said to the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, the descendants of Joseph, “Since you are so large and strong, you will be given more than one portion. The forests of the hill country will be yours as well. Clear as much of the land as you wish and live there. And I am sure you can drive out the Canaanites from the valleys, too, even though they are strong and have iron chariots.

Joshua 17:17-18 (NLT)

Never tell a leader you’re big and strong and then try to convince them you can’t do the work they’ve asked you to do. Joshua would have none of what the descendants of Joseph were trying to hand out. He offered them a prosperous land. If there were tribes living there, surely it wasn’t a horrible place to live. If they had iron chariots, surely the land would be prosperous. The tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh didn’t want to involve themselves in the work required to take their inheritance.

Sometimes, a blessing looks like work. I don’t think Joshua was trying to be mean when he gave those tribes exactly what they didn’t want. I’m willing to bet that Joshua saw the potential in the hill country—something the descendants of Joseph could not see at the time.

Even though God promised a large portion of prosperous land to Israel, they weren’t able to just walk in and move in. Their blessing took work. A lot of work. After five years across the Jordan River and they had yet to claim everything that God had promised to them.

Don’t despair if what’s before you doesn’t look like a blessing. If a blessing looks like something else at first, work it.

Daily Bible reading: Joshua 16-18, Luke 5:1-16