Daily Bible Reading

What is faith?

As Christians, we talk about faith. A lot. It is our belief system. It is the basis on which we live our lives. It is our calling. It is many things. We know that just a small amount—the measure of a mustard seed—can move a mountain. It can heal the sick and open blind eyes. Faith can raise the dead. But how many of us can accurately define faith?

Let’s go the the old standby in Hebrews:

What is faith? It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see.

Hebrews 11:1 (NLT)

I once heard a pastor say that grace is God’s grip on us and faith is our grip on God. According to Noah Webster, her statement was more than just something to be typed on a meme and posted to social media.

The sense of the verb is to strain, to draw, and thus to bind or make fast. A rope or cable is that which makes fast.

Our faith, combined with God’s grace, brings us or draws us toward God and binds us to Him. Without faith, we have no grip whatsoever. Grace alone is not enough. It is not the binding agent, faith is.

So, you see, it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that there is a God and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.

Hebrews 11:6 (NLT)

FAITH: That firm belief of God’s testimony, and of the truth of the gospel, which influences the will, and leads to an entire reliance on Christ for salvation.

When we are called upon to use our faith, our belief should not be in the desired outcome, but in the One who can bring it to pass. We must remember that faith goes beyond a little prayer and a hope. Faith is what binds us to God. It draws us closer to Him. It brings us to obedience to His Word and puts in line with His will. It is our judgement that what God has stated is the truth. And, if He promised it, He will perform it.

Daily Bible reading: Ezekiel 10-12, Hebrews 11:1-19

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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

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

God’s gift to humanity

Have you ever known someone who acted as though they were God’s gift to humanity? This person can do no wrong. Say no wrong. They are the be all and end all. Their talent and wisdom abounds… But they’re a complete jerk. You can have all the knowledge and talent in the world, but if you have no love, it’s all worthless.

If I could speak in any language in heaven or on earth but didn’t love others, I would only be making meaningless noise like a loud gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I know all the mysteries of the future and knew everything about everything, but didn’t love others, what good would I be? And if I had the gift of faith so that I could speak to a mountain and make it move, without love I would be no good to anybody. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would be of no value whatsoever.

1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (NLT)

We all tend to skip down in this chapter to the part about love being patient and kind. But what about why we should love? Have you ever wondered why this chapter about love is stuck right in the middle of a bunch of chapters about the gifts of the Holy Spirit? It wasn’t so that we’d have something nice to say at weddings. It is so that we understand that, while we should desire the gifts of the Spirit, we should desire to love more—because love is what makes the gifts work. Love came before them and love will endure after them. Without love, these incredible gifts that God gives to us are useless.

Like the person who believes they are everything to everyone, but loves no one, their words and actions are meaningless. How can someone receive a word of wisdom or prophecy if the person delivering it lacks love? How can the gift of faith be activated to heal if you don’t first love the person in need of a miracle? What is a gift worth if it is not given in love?

There are three things that will endure—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:13 (NLT)

God’s gift to humanity is not a know-it-all. God’s gift to humanity is love—the love He freely gives to us and the ability He has given us to love others. As Paul begins the next chapter, let love be your highest goal.

Daily Bible reading: Proverbs 3-4, 1 Corinthians 13

Daily Bible Reading

Come Ye Sinners

The Church is great. The Church is growing. We’ve got mega churches! We’ve got satellite churches. We’ve got multi-site churches. The Church is great. Fantastic. Never been better.

So then why did I hear just this week about someone who was afraid to come into a church building for a function because of the things that person had done? What has the Church done to make sinners believe that they are unwelcome in a church?

Because the church has made sinners unwelcome.

I’ve also heard of a local church that insists that any homeless person who wishes to attend a service has to sit in a different room where the message is streamed on a screen. We wouldn’t want to offend the regular members, would we?

Have we lost the focus of what church is all about? Church is all about sinners. People who were sinners and have found salvation and people who are still sinners who are looking for salvation. The Church, in many cases, has effectively cut off the supply that that Lord has given us.

O Israel, hope in the Lord;
for with the Lord there is unfailing love
and an overflowing supply of salvation.

Psalm 130:7 (NLT)

Where is this supply of salvation for the lost? Where is this supply of salvation for the lonely? Why has the Church hoarded it for themselves?

If we have been so greatly pardoned, why would we not want to lead others to receive that very same pardon?

Lord, if you keep a record of our sins,
who, O Lord, could ever survive?
But you offer forgiveness,
that we might learn to fear you.

Psalm 130:3-4 (NLT)

As often as we can, we should be flinging wide the doors of the church calling to the hurt, the lost, the lonely, and the sinners.

Come ye sinners the poor and needy
Weak and wounded sick and sore
And Jesus ready stands to save you
Full of pity love and power

Come ye weary heavy laden
Lost and ruined by the fall
And if you tarry until you’re better
You will never come at all

Come Ye Sinners, Dan Hamilton | Joseph Hart | Robbie Seay | Ryan Owens | Taylor Johnson

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 128-131, 1 Corinthians 7:25-40

Daily Bible Reading

Hope anew

As humans, when left entirely to our own devices, we make poor choices.

left alone

Whether it be cereal or flour all over the kitchen, makeup all over the bathroom, or permanent marker all over the sibling, no kid ever had to be taught to make a bad decision. It all comes naturally. If we are never taught any different and are left to make our own choices, it is pretty much a guarantee that life will become a series of one bad decision after another.

People need to be free to make their own choices. Yes, they do, but they also need to be taught to make the right choices.

I will teach you hidden lessons from our past—
stories we have heard and know,
stories our ancestors handed down to us.
We will not hide these truths from our children
but we will tell the next generation about
the glorious deeds of the Lord.
We will tell of his power and the mighty
miracles he did.
For he issued his decree to Jacob;
he gave his law to Israel.
He commanded our ancestors
to teach them to their children,
so the next generation might know them—
even the children not yet born—
that they might teach their children
So each generation can set its hope anew on God
remembering his glorious miracles
and obeying his commands.
Then they will not be like their ancestors—
stubborn, rebellious, and unfaithful,
refusing to give their hearts to God.

Psalm 78:2b-8 (NLT)

There are reasons why the Bible first, exists, and second, is full of verses about wisdom, knowledge, and instruction. These are not things that happen by chance. As you can see by the photos above, humans aren’t born wise. We are all prone to bad decision-making.

If you’ve been instructed to go somewhere you’ve never been before, but have not been given a map, how will you ever get there? Will chance lead you to that place? It’s doubtful.

Teach your child to choose the right path, and when they are older, they will remain upon it.

Proverbs 22:6 (NLT)

Young or old, every person must be taught to make good choices—it’s never too late. Just like Israel passed on accounts of the miraculous things God did for their nation, so should we pass on accounts of the things God has done for, in, and through us. If the people around us are never given a map, how can we expect them to arrive at salvation?

…but you go and proclaim the Kingdom of God.

Luke 9:60b (NIV)

PROCLAIM: to announce; to utter openly; to make public

Church, it is our mandate to publicly proclaim the Gospel, to utter it openly, to make it public, to know Christ and to make him known.

So you must never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord.

2 Timothy 1:8a (NLT)

This generation and the ones to follow will not be able to remember God’s glorious miracles if they never heard about them in the first place. When God does something, talk about it! When He says something, tell someone else. Give the next generation the opportunity to set their hope anew on God.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 78, Romans 7

Daily Bible Reading

Why so sad?

These days, if you watch or read the news, it can be pretty difficult to keep yourself happy and encouraged. Most news stations report mostly bad news. We’re gluttons for the horrific stories and are drawn to the most sinister of reports. Good news gets buried in the heaps of the atrocities surrounding us.

It begs the question, how then do we remain happy, joyful, and encouraged when all we hear are awful reports?

Why am I so discouraged?
Why so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
I will praise him again—
my Savior and my God!

Psalm 42:5, 11 and 43:5 (NLT)

Three times in two chapters we see this refrain. It must have been important to the descendants of Korah for it to have been repeated so many times.

How often have you asked yourself those questions? Why am I so discouraged? Why am I so sad? And how often are we unable to come up with a reasonable response?

The writer of these Psalms had a solution—put your hope in God and praise Him. Is it really that easy? Yes, I believe it is. James 4:8 tells us to come close to God, and God will come close to you. And Psalm 22:3 says that He inhabits the praises of Israel. Our praise brings us closer to God. God inhabits, dwells, lives in our praises. How can we be anything but joyful and encouraged when God is right there, near to us and living in our praise?

Hope in the temporary will only lead to disappointment and discouragement. This will all pass away. But hope in the everlasting, the eternal leads to joy and encouragement.

Through each day the Lord pours his unfailing love upon me,
and through each night I sing his songs,
praying to God who gives me life.

Psalm 42:8 (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 41-43, Acts 24