Daily Bible Reading

A word of encouragement

Who doesn’t need or want a little encouragement every once in a while (or all the time)? We feel good when someone gives us a pat on the back, tells us we’re doing a good job, or sends a text just to say they’re thinking about us. But what about those days when those things don’t happen? What about the days when we could really use that encouraging word and it doesn’t come? What then?

It sure would be nice if our frame of mind wasn’t so dependant on outside reassurance.

I will praise the Lord at all times.
I will constantly speak his praises.
I will boast only in the Lord;
let all who are discouraged take heart.
Come, let us tell of the Lord’s greatness;
let us exalt his name together.

Psalm 34:1-3 (NLT)

It’s interesting that, in all these lines about praising God, David inserts something about the discouraged. He saw a relationship between praising God and a happy heart.

What if, when we’re feeling a little down and tend to focus more inwardly, we turned it around? What if we took the focus completely off of ourselves? Think about this, when you’re worshipping God, praising Him, speaking about His greatness, what’s your mental state like? Do you feel burdened, in need of a pick-me-up? No. It’s pretty difficult to stay down when you’re lifting God up.

When we turn our focus on to God and His greatness, first of all, our troubles become very small. Second, we allow our spirits to commune with His Spirit—our helper and comforter. Our affirmation doesn’t need to come from outside sources—it shouldn’t come from outside sources. We have the ability to lift ourselves out of the gloom and into the glorious light of God.

How can we be anything but encouraged when we shift our focus from our inward troubles and outwardly praise the Lord, speak His praises, boast in Him, tell of His greatness, and exalt His name?

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 34-35, Acts 22

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

Shelter

If someone were to list all the things that God is, that would be a really long list. Then, if they started asking others what God is, that list would keep getting longer. While God’s character and nature never change, what facet each of us sees of Him can vary dramatically.

To someone who’s father has passed away, God may fill that void as a parent. To a single mom, He is a provider. To a child, He can be a giant. Some may need comfort while others correction. Some need a friend while others may need the void of a lost spouse filled. We all need God to be different things at different times in our lives.

What we can miss, though, in our focus on just one single facet of His character is everything else that He is, can, and wants to be to us all the time. Though our view of God may change throughout our lives, one thing does not—He will never abandon anyone who truly searches for Him. It is not in His nature to turn his back on anyone.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love. Death can’t, and life can’t. The angels can’t, and the demons can’t. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, and even the powers of hell can’t keep God’s love away.

Romans 8:38 (NLT)

Maybe you feel like you’re outside of God’s love, beyond His circle of protection. Keep this in mind—shelter must be taken, refuge must be taken. If you’re outside and get caught in a downpour, you won’t be sheltered just because you wish it to be so. First you must look for and find refuge. Then you must take it.

The Lord is a shelter for the oppressed,
a refuge in times of trouble.
Those who know your name trust in you,
for you, O Lord, have never abandoned anyone who searches for you.

Psalm 9:9-10 (NLT)

Often the only thing separating you from God’s shelter and refuge is distance. And He hasn’t moved.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 7-9, Acts 17:1-15

Daily Bible Reading

Brace yourself

No one likes to answer the hard questions. I don’t mean the ones that challenge your knowledge of useless facts. I mean the ones that challenge your very existence. The questions that make you question the things you’ve build your life around. These questions are uncomfortable. They may make you squirm. They may hurt. You can choose to ignore them, but they’ll probably show up again down the road. Most of the time, it’s best to face them head on.

After Job has spent several chapters pleading to argue his case against God, God shows up in a whirlwind.

Brace yourself, because I have some questions for you, and you must answer them.

Job 38:3 (NLT)

In one way or another, we all have to answer for our choices. Job now has to answer to God for all he has said while afflicted. It won’t be pretty. His discomfort has only just begun. It’s going to hit hard. Why else would God tell him to brace himself? Other versions say things like, prepare yourself like a man, now get ready to face me!, or now get ready to fight.

The time has come for Job to face the music and take accountability for all he has said.

Have you put yourself in a place where God must tell you to brace yourself? Have you made up your mind about something without consulting Him first? Will His truth hurt or will it comfort?

When it came down to it, all Job had said against God turned out to be petty and, well, wrong. Everything he had based his argument on was proven false in just a couple of chapters. The truth hit him like a tonne of bricks and he could either accept it and move on or continue to fight against God.

If you choose to fight against God, brace yourself. It won’t be pretty.

If you choose to accept God’s correction, you may still have to brace yourself for the truth and correction, but once it’s over, you’ll find yourself back on the side of truth and wisdom without the need to fight any longer.

Sometimes the best thing we can do is stand up, get ready to face God, brace ourselves, and accept the correction that’s coming. Because after correction comes comfort.

Daily Bible reading: Job 38-39, Acts 15:1-21

Daily Bible Reading

A Season of Peace

Since today’s daily reading coincides with a devotional my pastor recently shared, I’m going to borrow a few things from Pastor Morris Watson.

Then the church had peace throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria, and it grew in strength and numbers. The believers were walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 9:31 (NLT)

Where there is peace, there is prosperity and growth. The Church is often compared to a body. Think about when you’re fighting a cold or the flu. Are you able to get stronger? Are kids able to grow when their little bodies are fighting illness? No, of course not. When there is something in the body that doesn’t belong there, not only is there not peace, but all the energy goes into fighting whatever it is that’s attacking. The Church works the same way. When there’s something there that doesn’t belong, it takes away peace and it diverts energy from promoting growth.

But when there is peace within the Church, growth and prosperity is a wonderful byproduct. When we are all of one heart, one mind, and one vision, we are then able to work together to fight off outside attacks. Even then, if we can stay focused, we can keep our peace and grow through the situation.

If we allow ourselves to be in conflict with one another or in conflict with God, we restrict our own ability to grow and be strengthened. We cannot be careless with our peace. We must encourage it in ourselves and in others.

God blesses those who work for peace,
for they will be called the children of God.

Matthew 5:9 (NLT)

When we work for peace, we work for God. God’s mission for us all is to have and to bring peace—it will never be to bring about strife.

Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.

Romans 12:18 (NLT)

When we go looking for peace and promote peace, how can we find and accomplish anything but? And in finding peace, we will also find growth and strength. We will be walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit.

Daily Bible reading: Job 19-20, Acts 9:23-43

Daily Bible Reading

Reminder

Years passed, and the king of Egypt died. But the Israelites continued to groan under their burden of slavery. They cried out for help, and their cry rose up to God. God heard their groaning, and he remembered his covenant promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Exodus 2:23-24 (NLT)

He remembered His covenant promise. Do you think that God—the God who knows everything—really forgot His promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? Do you think that God required a reminder? “Oh, shoot! I totally forgot about them. I was so busy doing my own thing somewhere else.”

I don’t think so.

So why did Israel have to cry out?

My youngest niece is three. She’s the cutest little thing. But sometimes she gets it into her head that she’s not going to talk. She’ll gesture and grunt, but refuse to speak. Can she speak? Sure, there are times when you can’t get her to stop talking. But when she wants or needs something, she needs to ask for it, not point and grunt.

I think God is the same way with us sometimes. He knows what we need. He’s never ignorant of that. But He wants us to ask. He knew what He’d promised to Israel, but He wanted them to remember what He’d promised.

This is one of the reasons that, when I teach Bible study, I put stress on learning the “In Him” scriptures. Learn what God has said about you and to you. Know who you are in Him so that, when you’re going through a rough time, you can remember and say, “Hey God, you said you’d be here. You promised me healing. You promised me comfort.”

He doesn’t need the reminder. We do.

Daily Bible reading: Exodus 1-3, Matthew 15:21-39

Daily Bible Reading

Turn

In the last year or so, Christianity has come under severe attack in the western world. While I don’t make little of those who have given their lives for the Gospel in other countries, in many ways, the attack on Christianity in North America is far worse than in the countries where people die for their faith.

The attack in many eastern countries is overt – Christians know they’re under attack. What makes it worse in North America is that the attack is often coming from within and we don’t even see it.

There is epidemic in the Church of Christians modifying their beliefs because the Truth of the Bible makes them – and others – uncomfortable. We’ve turned Christianity into gourmet coffee and warm, fuzzy feelings.

Jesus didn’t preach comfort. In fact, in Matthew 4:1, Jesus was led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit to be tempted there by the Devil. We comfortable Christians like to look at temptation itself as a sin. It’s not. It’s a test. It’s a challenge. It’s a place to prove your faith. To believe that walk with God is a walk free of temptation is ignorant as well as fatal to your faith.

Of course we can pray that God will help us to avoid temptation (Matthew 6:13), but if you’re never tempted, you’ll never be tried and never have the opportunity to strengthen your faith.

We embrace sin with the mantra, “I was born this way.” Of course you were! We all were! But that doesn’t mean we have to live that way.

From then on, Jesus began to preach, “Turn from you sins and turn to God, because the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”

Matthew 4:17 (NLT)

How can we, as the Church, help to save a world from sin when we ourselves embrace it?

This year, I’d love to see the Church stand up and speak the Truth and speak it loudly. Like, the disciples when Jesus called them, we need to drop what we’re doing and follow the only One who can lead us from temptation. We need to stop making room for excuses and start preaching the Good News about the Kingdom. Jesus’ example is rather simple – preach the Good News and heal all the sick. Crowds followed.

Turn from you sins and turn to God, because the Kingdom of Heaven is near.

Daily Bible reading: Genesis 9-11, Matthew 4