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

How do I love thee?

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach…

Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Sonnet 43

Long before Elizabeth Barrett Browning penned these words, someone else wrote similar words of love. But they weren’t of a lover to a mate, but rather a Father to His children.

And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love really is.

Ephesians 3:18 (NLT)

Even Paul, as he wrote of the vastness of God’s love for us, couldn’t comprehend it in its entirety. They go much further than a sonnet.

May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it. Then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

Ephesians 3:19 (NLT)

There is great power in knowing how much someone loves you. You know that person will stand beside you and fight with you—even for you. You know that you have someone at your back, at your side, or in front of you if need be. That love makes you stronger because you know that you are not alone.

How much stronger should we be because of the love that God has poured out for us? This is not a sappy, fluffy, poetic sort of love, but a love of great strength and power.

Now glory be to God! By his mighty power at work within us, he is able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare to ask or hope.

Ephesians 3:20 (NLT)

When you love someone and that person reciprocates your love, you work together to strengthen that bond and to strengthen each other. Just imagine how much stronger you could be if you more fully understood the love that God has for you? Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s words are frail in comparison to the greatness of the love that God has already bestowed upon us. Though we are loved freely, purely, and with passion, God’s love for us is far too great to be contained within the confines of iambic pentameter.

Daily Bible reading: Isaiah 22-23, Ephesians 3

Daily Bible Reading

Walking contradiction

The life of a Christian is full of contradictions. To the world, it would make no sense at all, but to the born again believer, it makes perfect sense. Die so you can live. Bind yourself so you can be free. Fear God so you fear nothing else.

The Lord said to me in the strongest terms: “Do not think like everyone else does. Do not be afraid that some plan conceived behind close doors will be the end of you. Do not fear anything except the Lord Almighty. He alone is the Holy one. If you fear him, you need fear nothing else.

Isaiah 8:11-13 (NLT)

When we have a proper, holy fear of God, there is no room for any other fear. In fact, the fear of God rejects all other fear completely.

FEAR: holy awe or reverence of God and his laws, which springs from a just view and real love of the divine character, leading the subjects of it to hate and shun everything that can offend such a holy being, and inclining them to aim at perfect obedience

Paul, like God, spoke to the church in Galatia in strong terms.

Dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to live as I do in freedom from these things.

Galatians 4:12a (NLT)

What things? The things of the law. Paul pleaded with the church to let go of the law that holds us back from the freedom that can only be found through a personal relationship with Christ. But we must wholly bind ourselves to that relationship. And that’s what faith truly is.

FAITH: to persuade, to draw towards any thing; to conciliate (to draw or bring together, to unite, to call; the primary sense of the root is to strain, to stretch, drive or draw); to believe, to obey.

Our faith in Christ draws us to him and to the Father. True faith stretches and strains toward the Truth, leaving all else behind—shunning everything that can offend God. Our fear—respect and reverence—for God leads us away from all other fear and through faith, calls us toward and unites us with perfect love which, we know, casts out all fear.

To try to understand all this through our human nature is futile. It can only be learned as we grow in our relationship with God and through divine revelation as as result of that relationship. So don’t worry if it doesn’t all make sense right away. The important thing is to keep at it.

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

Romans 12:2a (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Isaiah 7-9, Galatians 4

Daily Bible Reading

No plan B

There are some things in life I like to have planned out. When I know I have to be somewhere, I plan my route. I know which roads I will take and, if there is an unforeseen backup, I’ll have a secondary plan. Plan B.

God had no such thing. There was no plan B in case His whole humanity thing went sideways—which it totally did. God is smart. He’s smarter than smart. He’s all-knowing. When He put mankind on the earth and told them not to eat from a certain tree, He knew full well that they were going to eat from that tree. And He also knew what He was going to do about it.

May grace and peace be yours from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. He died for our sins, just as God our Father planned, in order to rescue us from this evil world in which we live. That is why all glory belongs to God through all the ages of eternity. Amen.

Galatians 1:3-5 (NLT)

He died for our sins, just as God our Father planned. I’m sure that all of Jesus’ followers would have liked to have been in on that plan. I cannot imagine how they must have felt having the person they assumed would be their king killed for a crime he didn’t commit. We have the ability to read through both the Old and New Testaments and see a bigger picture. We can see how God’s plan for our salvation—which included the death (and resurrection) of Jesus—began with Adam and Eve.

You can look at God’s lack of forward planning two ways:

  1. He’s really not all that bright. Who works out a plan so grand without any backup measures whatsoever? That’s just crazy right? Everyone needs a plan B. But… we’ve already established that God is omniscient.
  2. He’s a genius. Before time even existed, He put into motion the greatest escape plan of all time. And it wasn’t even for Himself—it was for us.

God was so confident in what He started that He never worried about failure. He had one shot and He took it and let it play out for thousands of years. All so that you and I could be redeemed.

I can’t even get across town without a plan B. God rescued all of humanity.

Daily Bible reading: Song of Solomon 6-8, Galatians 1

Daily Bible Reading

Harmony

It doesn’t take a musical genius to know when an instrument is out of tune or someone in the orchestra hits a wrong note. It’s obvious. It stands out. It’s not right. But when it all works together—every instrument in tune, in harmony—it’s a beautiful thing.

HARMONY: the just adaptation of parts to each other, in any system or composition of things, intended to form a connected whole; concord; agreement

That same basic principle of harmony works in our relationship with God. The Holy Spirit works in us to be sure that we remain in harmony with God.

And the Holy Spirit helps us in our distress. For we don’t even know what we should pray for, nor how we should pray. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows that the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.

Romans 8:26-27 (NLT)

We can have a relationship with God and go our own way. Later on in Romans 8, Paul talks about how nothing can separate us from God’s love. We can accept salvation, accept God’s love, and go about our business. But why would we want to? Why would we want to live a life in discord with our Heavenly Father? Just like an out-of-tune orchestra, our lives, without the guidance of the Holy Spirit, will always be off. Something won’t be quite right.

But when we take advantage of the Helper God has sent us, that’s when the music happens.

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

Romans 8:28 (NLT)

On its own, this verse is often taken to mean that, as Christians, everything will always be great! Anyone who has been a Christian for more than five minutes can tell you that’s simply not true. Just because God works for our good doesn’t mean that it will always feel good. There is a reason that this verse follows a verse about being in harmony with God’s will. God works for our good. Meaning that God works things out for our good according to His will, not ours.

Is it always easy? No. Does it always feel good? No. Is there still a divine plan for our lives? Of course!

For God knew is people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn with many brothers and sisters. And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And he gave them right standing with himself, and he promised them his glory.

Romans 8:29-30 (NLT)

When we get our spirit in harmony with God’s Spirit, we put ourselves in a place to be used greatly by Him. We put ourselves in the centre of His will and His love.

Why would you want to play solo when you can harmonize with the entire orchestra?

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 82-84, Romans 8:19-39

Daily Bible Reading

The friendship of God

FRIENDSHIP: An attachment to a person, proceeding from intimate acquaintance, and a reciprocation of kind offices, or from a favorable opinion of the amiable and respectable qualities of his mind.

There can be no friendship without confidence, and no confidence without integrity.

Everyone needs friends. Life is miserable when done alone. We weren’t meant to do it alone. Friends can get you through dark times. Friends can make you laugh. Friends can provide for you in ways no one else can.

A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.

Proverbs 17:17 (NLT)

Friendship carries evidence. You cannot be friends with someone without having evidence of that person in your life. Maybe a gift they’ve given, something they’ve left at your house, a message on your phone. Even in non-physical ways. On a bad day, a friend can pick you up. When you’re excited, they rejoice with you. In some way or another, your life will have evidence of a relationship with that person.

What about God? In James 2:23, it says that Abraham believed God, so God declared him to be righteous. He was even called a “friend of God”. Abraham’s life surely showed evidence of his relationship with God.

Even Job knew the benefits of being friends with God.

…the friendship of God was felt in my home.

Job 29:4b (NLT)

I don’t know that any of us wouldn’t want the benefits of being friends with God—both Abraham and Job were very prosperous men because of their loyalty to the Father. But the benefits come at a price. Friendship with God costs something. We all have it—time and effort. It’s the same price tag on every relationship.

You can’t call up an old high school buddy after twenty years of silence and ask to borrow their car. But if you’ve stayed in contact with them, nurtured that relationship, and put time and effort into your friendship, that person is much more likely to help you out in whatever way they can.

God will never ignore us when we call out to Him in need, but if we only ever call out to Him in need, why should we expect Him to respond like a best friend would? Maybe, if we would continuously put time and effort into our friendship with God, those times of need won’t be so drastic and we won’t need to cry out. Perhaps our lives will show evidence of a friendship with God like Abraham and Job. A close friend may even see the need before we do. God knows our needs and wants to fulfill them. How much more would He be able to do that if we nurture the friendship of God?

Daily Bible reading: Job 29-30, Acts 12