Daily Bible Reading

Bound to be free

 

Obedience is not a word we all love. In fact, most of us likely cringe at the idea. Because along with the idea of obedience comes the issue of discipline. The two generally go hand in hand. If you don’t do the first, you’ll be exposed to the latter. But as the latter becomes less excessive, the first becomes something to be rebelled against. We want freedom! We can’t have freedom if we have to follow rules!

But what if, instead of rebelling against the very things that were intended to hold our society together, we sought to understand them? What if, instead of rallying against a perceived wrong, we learned the original intended purpose behind the law? Instead of spewing hateful rhetoric against the rules, what if we learned to love them?

Help me understand the meaning of your commandments,
and I will meditate on your wonderful miracles.

Psalm 119:27 (NLT)

Closed ears and open mouths make for a bad combination. We come up with our own ideas regarding rules and the law based on our own experience or the opinions of others.

Keep me from lying to myself;
give me the privilege of knowing your law.

Psalm 119:29 (NLT)

The writer of Psalm 119 uses phrases like: teach me, give me understanding, give me an eagerness, make me walk, turn my eyes, reassure me, help me. These are not words of rebellion, but of a longing to know and understand the meaning behind the law.

While we are no longer under the Mosaic law of the Old Testament, we the Church, are under the law that Christ gave to us—the law of love.

For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Galatians 5:14 (NLT)

God’s law, as well as the laws of the nations (I reference here Canada and the United States), are not there to stifle us or bind us. They are there to set us free. It is a privilege to live under law for without it, there is nothing but anarchy.

For you have been called to live in freedom—not freedom to satisfy your sinful nature, but freedom to serve one another in love.

Galatians 5:13 (NLT)

If instead of clinging to our own selfish and sinful desires, we would cling to the Word and promises of God, we would truly see the world change. The law of love that Jesus placed before us is not something we must follow, it is something we have the privilege of following. In love—and only in love—will we discover the freedom so many people are fighting to find.

Freedom is not in the eradication of rules and laws. It is in the complete submission and obedience to the will of God.

I will walk in freedom,
for I have devoted myself to your commandments.

Psalm 119:43 (NLT)

Binding ourselves to a law seems like an odd way to be free, but that’s the point.

Stop fooling yourselves. If you think you are wise by this world’s standards, you will have to become a fool so you can become wise by God’s standards.

1 Corinthians 3:18 (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 119:1-48, 1 Corinthians 3

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Daily Bible Reading

Fight!

In an attempt to make Christianity sound better than the dark side, I’ve heard many a Christian tell people that everything is wonderful once you make a decision for Christ. The impression is given that all your troubles will dissolve and you’ll never have another need so long as you live if only you’ll give your life to Jesus. Anyone who’s lived the Christian life for any length of time at all knows this simply isn’t true! I’d like to meet that one person who has never had a bad day since their conversion. I’d like to know their secret. I’m sure we all would!

Christianity isn’t a romp through the tulips. It isn’t green meadows filled with wildflowers and birdsong. It isn’t a day at the beach. It isn’t a permanent vacation from the realities of life. It’s a fight.

Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News.

Philippians 1:27 (NLT)

When share our faith with people, we’re not sending out party invitations. We’re recruiting to an army. Yes, God can and will provide for our needs. He can make our lives better. We can live in prosperity and happiness. God wants all of those things for us. But He also wants us to fight because enemies will come against us. And if we’re not prepared, we will be easily and quickly overcome.

David spoke of his battles in Psalm 18. He is known as the man after God’s own heart. If even he had to fight, we can’t expect to escape the battle. But God didn’t send David out unarmed and unprepared and neither will He send us out without equipping us.

God arms me with strength;
he has made my way safe.

Psalm 18:32 (NLT)

He prepares me for battle;
he strengthens me wo draw a bow of bronze.

Psalm 18: 34 (NLT)

You have armed me with strength for the battle;
You have subdued my enemies under my feet.

Psalm 18:39 (NLT)

Being a Christian doesn’t mean that we won’t have to fight. It means quite the opposite. But it also means that we can go into our battles knowing that, not only has God prepared us for it, but He has gone before us.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 17-18, Acts 19:1-20

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

Quit your quarrel

Stop quarrelling with God! If you agree with him, you will have peace at last, and things will go well for you.

Job 22:21 (NLT)

Fighting with God is fruitless, yet we’ve all either done it or been tempted to. We say we want His will for our lives, but when He asks something difficult of us, suddenly we’re not so confident in our proclamation to do whatever He wants us to do.

If you believe in God as Creator and Almighty, there really is no point in quarrelling with Him. He’s all-powerful. In what world will you ever win the argument?

If you don’t believe in God, why fight at all. You don’t even believe He really exists.

Job’s words tie in to the verse in Acts we talked about yesterday. If you can have peace, things will go well for you. By ending our quarrels with God, we put ourselves in a place of peace with Him. When we’re at peace with God, He is then able to grow and strengthen us.

Had Job quit his quarrel with God earlier, perhaps he’d have seen peace and prosperity return much sooner than he did.

As it is. learn from Job’s struggles. Quit your quarrel with God.

Listen to his instruction, and store them in your heart. If you return to the Almighty and clean up your life, you will be restored. Give up your list for money and throw your precious gold into the river. Then the Almighty himself will be your treasure. He will be your precious silver!

Job 22:22-25 (NLT)

You cannot be in contention with God and have Him be your treasure at the same time. You must decide what’s best—trying to argue a fight you cannot win or to have peace with God, your treasure.

Daily Bible reading: Job 21-22, Acts 10:1-23

Daily Bible Reading

No hesitation

David was just a kid when he took on Goliath. He was never supposed to be on the battlefield. He was only there because he was bringing supplies to his brothers and would be bringing a report back to his father. As the youngest of eight sons, David had no business being where he was at that time.

For forty days, Goliath stood before Israel’s army with an invitation to fight. For forty days, Israel’s army shuddered in fear at the thought of taking on the giant. In one instant, David heard the challenge and had heard more than enough. He was filled with righteous indignation when he heard the nerve that Goliath had to mock God’s people. This kid was the first person to man up.

As Goliath moved closer to attack, David quickly ran out to meet him.

1 Samuel 17:48 (NLT)

 

When the rest of the army hesitated, they made room for fear. Every minute they waited to slay the giant, was another minute fear was allowed to take root.

HES’ITATE, verb, to strop or pause respecting decision or action; to be doubtful as to fact, principle or determination; to be in suspense or uncertainty.

David didn’t hesitate. I believe that, the moment he heard the challenge, he accepted it—even before he said anything to anyone else.

How was David able to do what the rest of the army could not?

David shouted in reply, “You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord Almighty—the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. Today the Lord will conquer you…

1 Samuel 17:45-46b (NLT)

With the Spirit of the Lord mightily upon him (1 Samuel 16:13), David knew exactly who he was and who was fighting not only with him, but for him.

“And everyone will know that the Lord does not need weapons to rescue his people. It is his battle, not ours. the Lord will give you to us!”

1 Samuel 17:47 (NLT)

With God’s Spirit living in us and God fighting our battles for us, why do we, like the Israelite army hesitate? Why do we pause long enough to allow fear into our lives? We should all be like David, running out to meet our giants head on.

If God is for us, who can ever be against us?

Romans 8:31b (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: 1 Samuel 17-18, Luke 15:1-10

Daily Bible Reading

Purge

When God brought Israel into the land He had promised to them, He gave them a directive—clear the land. Not for agricultural reasons, but for spiritual ones. Israel was to either drive out or destroy the peoples in the land and then get rid of their religious garbage. All of it. If they couldn’t get the people out, they were not to make any sort of treaty with them. When it’s broken down like that, it seems pretty simple. And even more so because, as long as they kept fighting and pushing out the previous residents, God was fighting for and with Israel. They had victory in the bag!

But, Israel maybe got tired of fighting. They maybe got complacent. Perhaps they captured enough land to satisfy their current needs. (Should we be surprised that Ephraim and Manasseh—the tribes who complained about not receiving enough land—left a rather large population of Canaanites to live in their inheritance?) Or maybe after the death of Joshua, Israel was suddenly floundering and didn’t know what to do.

It may seem like no big deal. Israel made it to the Promised Land! They had defeated enough of their enemies so that they could occupy the land comfortably and, of those enemies who had not been driven out, they were able to enslave many of them. Good deal, right?

Wrong. By failing to do the one thing God had commanded, Israel pretty much ensured their own failure for generations to come. God knew full well how fickle His people were. He knew that without a strong hand of leadership, they were apt to stray from the Law. Temptation was a deep pit made easy to fall into.

Had Israel managed to purge foreign gods from the land, temptation to stray from God would have been purged right along with them. Nothing God commands is just for the sake of doing it. The command to Israel to clear and clean out the land was for their own good. It would have been to their betterment. They could have lived prosperous and victorious. Instead, because they had turned from God, God turned from them and the battles they fought could no longer be won.

I think we can often be like Israel. We settle for good enough and fail to see the evil seep in from places we didn’t properly take control of. When we settle, our guard goes down and temptation sneaks up on us. Before we know it, we’re like Israel, trying to fight a battle we no longer have the ability to win. When God tells us to put aside our evil ways, it’s not because He wants to be mean, it’s because He wants to protect us.

The more we are able to drive worldly temptations from our lives, the better we are to withstand those temptations. But we don’t have to do all the work on our own. If we choose to fight, God will fight with us and for us and, if God is fighting for us, who or what can stand against us?

Daily Bible reading: Judges 1-2, Luke 7:1-30

Daily Bible Reading

His plan, His time

Do you ever get tired of waiting for God? Do you pray hoping for an answer right away, but it seems an awful long time coming? Do you need something now, but God needs you to wait?

Sometimes, I believe that God answers our prayers the way we want just to prove a point. That point being that our way isn’t necessarily the best way. Other times, God lets us go ahead on our own, again, to prove the same point. We don’t know best.

Israel tried their way over and over again. I shake my head in wonder at how they could have been so stupid. But then I have to wonder how many times I’ve done the exact same thing.

In Deuteronomy 1:42-26, we get a recap of a select group from the Israelite camp who figured they knew best. Moses had just told them that, because of their disobedience, they would not be allowed to enter the Promised Land. I’d be a little peeved, too, if I were on the doorstep of something great and then was told I wouldn’t be able to take part in it. But these guys were going in. Not even a strong warning from Moses would keep them from their purpose. They marched on in. And they were chased right out.

It wasn’t God’s plan. It wasn’t God’s time.

But then, after nearly 40 years had passed, the time was right. God was giving Moses the final instructions on how everything was to go down. We get a recap of all that had happened since their departure from Egypt. The time to go in and fight would soon be at hand and this time there would be no tail-tucking or running involved.

Do not be afraid of the nations there, for the Lord your God will fight for you.

Deuteronomy 3:22 (NLT)

When the time is right and when the plan is the Lord’s, He goes ahead and sets the battle for us. Notice, though, that just because God was on their side, it didn’t mean that Israel was exempt from fighting. Men were still trained for battle. Blacksmiths still made strong, effective weapons. Armour was worn. Leaders were chosen. Battles were planned. Israel would have to fight for their promise.

God would do His part and deliver on His word, but His people still need to do their part to retrieve it.

Daily Bible reading: Deuteronomy 3-4, Mark 11:20-33