Daily Bible Reading

Planned with purpose

I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my spokesman to the world.

Jeremiah 1:5 (NLT)

Though these words are spoken by God directly to Jeremiah, it is not the first time we’ve seen this idea. David, too, spoke of God knowing each of us before we were ever conceived.

You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed.

Psalm 139:16 (NLT)

When you make plans, when you set out to begin a project, what is your intended outcome? Do you plan to fail? Do you make certain that your project will never be suitable for its intended use? Of course not!

While you may have measures in place in case of failure, you don’t plan with it at the forefront of your mind. You plan for success. You do everything in your power to be sure that all of your time, energy, and effort does not go to waste.

God put a lot of thought, time, and effort into creating every human being. Psalm 139 talks about all of the thoughts God thinks about you. They are too many to count. We all began in God. As a thought. When He began to form you in your mother’s womb, His plans for you were all about success, never failure.

So when you make an excuse that you aren’t good enough or that you don’t have what it takes to answer the call of God on your life, you’re really insulting God’s plans. God didn’t create you with a failsafe or a kill switch or failure precautions because He created you exactly the way He needed you to fulfill His plans for you. You are what He intended you to be and you have all that you need to fulfill His purpose.

Do you get off track? We all do. But that doesn’t negate God’s plan or purpose. Remember that He knew all of your days before you even existed. The life you’ve lived, the mistakes you made can still be used for His glory. Nothing you can say or do can change the fact that God planned you with purpose.

Daily Bible reading: Jeremiah 1-2, 2 Thessalonians 2

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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

 

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

In conclusion

As we come to the end of the book of Ecclesiastes, some may be left with the idea that, since nothing seems to really matter, we should just live our lives in pursuit of personal pleasure.

“All is meaningless,” says the Teacher, “utterly meaningless.”

Ecclesiastes 12:8 (NLT)

There’s nothing like a bit of encouragement from the Teacher (largely presumed to be Solomon) first thing in the morning. If everything still to come is meaningless (11:8), why bother trying to do good? Why should we help other people when we can help ourselves? Because it is our duty—not as Christians, but as human beings.

Here is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is the duty of every person.

Ecclesiastes 12:13 (NLT)

As soon as someone tells me that I have to do something, I suddenly don’t want to do it whether it’s good or not. Words like fear and obey are often not see in the best of light and we tend to not want to comply when they’re thrust at us. If you’ve been following along in your daily Bible reading, though, you’ll have already come across hundreds of reasons why fearing God and obeying His commands are really good things.

Fear of the Lord teaches wisdom…

Proverbs 15:33 (NLT)

Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge…

Proverbs 1:7 (NLT)

Fear of the Lord leads to life…

Proverbs 19:23 (NLT)

Life. Wisdom. Knowledge. Who doesn’t want those? We should fear the Lord. And not just out of duty, but because we want to.

And what about obedience?

Praise the Lord! How joyful are those who fear the Lord and delight in obeying his commands.

Psalm 112:1 (NLT)

When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.

John 15:10 (NLT)

Joy! Love! We could go on all day about the benefits of fearing God and obeying His commands. It may be our duty, but it is also to our benefit to do so. If the wisest man who ever lived concluded that we should do these things, perhaps there’s something to it.

Daily Bible reading: Ecclesiastes 10-12, 2 Corinthians 11:16-33

Daily Bible Reading

Your lot in life

There are people I refer to as Eeyore Christians. You know, always depressed, pessimistic, gloomy. Glass half empty kind of people. These are the sort of people who may say that they’ve just accepted their lot in life. And they believe themselves to be of great piety as they say it.

But, guess what? These people are sorely mistaken! Too many Christians have taken that one small phrase from a larger portion of scripture and have used it to justify the fact that they refuse to work harder or find any joy at all right where they are. Accepting your lot in life has absolutely nothing to do with settling for a sub-par existence.

And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—that is indeed a gift from God.

Ecclesiastes 5:19 (NLT)

Have you ever heard someone say that they just had to accept their lot in life and say it with joy? I doubt it. It’s usually with that Eeyore drone as though they are meant to go through life alone, unhappy, sick, and poor.

But there is nothing in this portion of Ecclesiastes that would indicate all of those things are our lot in life. It points to the opposite.

Even so, I have noticed one thing, at least, that is good. It is good for people to eat well, drink a good glass of wine, and enjoy their work—whatever they do under the sun—for however long God lets them live. And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—that is indeed a gift from God. People who do this rarely look with sorrow on the past, for God has given them reasons for joy.

Ecclesiastes 5:18-20 (NLT)

Is poverty a gift from God? No! Is pain a gift from God? No! Is sorrow a gift from God? No!

The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give life in all its fullness.

John 10:10 (NLT)

To accept your lot in life is to accept a life of fullness no matter where you find yourself. Life may not be what you thought or planned it would be, but that doesn’t mean that you have to slog through it accepting all the junk life may throw at you. To accept your lot in life means to trust that God still has a good plan for you. It means to look for the joy in the things you see and do every day. It means be thankful and grateful for today and all that comes with it. And, above all, it means enjoying life.

So go ahead, accept your lot.

Enjoy what you have rather than desiring what you don’t have.

Ecclesiastes 6:9a (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Ecclesiastes 4-6, 2 Corinthians 10

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