Daily Bible Reading

Tear your heart out

Hearing stories of the war and destruction that make up a lot of the Old Testament, many people who don’t know God are eager to paint Him as a tyrant. A big bully who destroyed entire nations (and even the earth once) on a whim. What they fail to see are the dire warnings that preceded all of that. Every time. Before death and destruction came warnings from men of God pleading with the nations to turn from their wicked ways and return to the Lord. God wanted to show mercy, but because man always seems to know better…

That is why the Lord says, “Turn to me now, while there is still time! Give me your hearts. Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Don’t tear your clothing in your grief; tear your hearts.” Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful. He is not easily angered. He is filled with kindness and is eager not to punish you.

Joel 2:12-13 (NLT)

Does that sound like a tyrant to you? If God is eager not to punish you, why then do we make him the villain of the story?

Because we don’t want to have to name the real villain. You. Me.

If God is truly gracious and merciful like He says He is, that would mean that we are the true bullies. We taunt God with our hearts and our love and then withhold them from Him. Put yourself in His place. You’ve created something so that you’d have companionship. You give that creation free will so that they will love you because they want to, not because they have to. You give them everything they could possibly need. And yet they still turn away from you. Again. And again. You must punish their evil deeds, but you don’t really want to, so you give a warning. And another warning. All with the hope that they will turn back to you and you won’t have to punish them. They come back for a little while. And then they leave again.

Be honest, how many opportunities would you give your creation to return?

God has given us infinite opportunities to return to Him. He doesn’t want to punish us. He wants to love us. He wants to shower us with His grace and mercy, but we have to put ourselves in a position to receive it.

We must tear our hearts. Our minds and our attitudes must be changed, our old patterns destroyed and replaced with a new way of thinking. Until we rend our old, stony hearts and allow God to replace that ugly mess, we cannot expect to experience all the goodness that He has planned for us.

So don’t be afraid to tear your heart out because God has a new one waiting for you.

Daily Bible reading: Joel 1-3, Revelation 4

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Daily Bible Reading

Now is the time

When someone asks me to do something I’d already planned on doing, immediately I want to say no. It has turned from being an optional thing into a thing that must be done. And, now that it must be done, I don’t want to do it anymore. It’s not the greatest attitude to have. Especially when it comes to spiritual things.

I said, “Plant the good seeds of righteousness, and you will harvest a crop of my love. Plow up the hard ground of your hearts, for now is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and shower righteousness upon you.

Hosea 10:12 (NLT)

These statements from the Lord were not given as options. You might want to plant the good seeds of righteousness. Maybe think about plowing up the hard ground of your hearts. No, these are statements of things that must be done if we want to reap the rewards that are also described.

Chances are that you’ve planted something before. Maybe in school. Perhaps a garden in your yard. A flower pot on your patio. The soil is as important as the seed. This is why Jesus told a whole story about the soil. In the parable of the sower, Jesus took the time to describe the different types of soil in detail, but never gave any indications as to what the seed may have been or looked like.

As he scattered it across the field, some seeds fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate them.

Matthew 13:4 (NLT)

We can assume that the footpath was hard, packed, well-trod soil—if you can even call it soil anymore. When soil is hard and packed, a seed cannot even get far enough into the ground to sprout roots. All that potential becomes nothing more than bird food. God tells us that we must plow up that hard ground. Now is the time to do it.

Unlike planting, soil preparation can happen at any time. A farmer can start preparing a field for planting a year or more in advance. If the plot of land is particularly hard and stony, it will take time to make it useful for planting. So long as the ground is accessible, it can be prepared.

Our hearts are the same as the unprepared field. We don’t need to wait for a certain season to start. We just need to prepare ourselves to receive the seed. God will take care of the rest. But if we never take the time to prepare ourselves, we can never expect to reap a harvest. Any seed that may be scattered will be snatched away.

Let’s stop waiting and procrastinating. Get the job done while it is still a choice, not a duty. Now is the time to seek the Lord.

Daily Bible reading: Hosea 9-11, Revelation 2

Daily Bible Reading

More important

Every Sunday before church starts, we encourage our volunteers to join in corporate prayer. I sometimes feel like a broken record calling people to stop what they’re doing and come and pray. I’d rather our hearts and spirits be joined together in prayer than have every technical aspect of the service perfect.

Oh, that we might know the Lord! Let us press on to know him! Then he will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn or the coming of rains in early spring.

Hosea 6:3 (NLT)

Oh, that we might know the Lord! Is there any better or more significant that we can strive toward in this life? Is there anything more important than knowing the very One who created us?

Anyone who has spent a long time serving in church may find themselves in a circle of service. Your spiritual life may be lacking and yet you try to convince yourself that what you do in the church makes up for it. I’ve been there. I’ve done that. We must all find a balance between service and relationship. I believe we all need both. But service without the relationship is empty.

I want you to be merciful; I don’t want your sacrifices. I want you to know God; that’s more important than burnt offerings.

Hosea 6:6 (NLT)

More important than our offerings is knowing God. And not just knowing about Him. Truly knowing Him. Understanding His love and grace. Passionately pursuing Him. Serving is an important part of our Christian walk. But it is more important to know Him whom we serve.

Daily Bible reading: Hosea 5-8, Revelation 1

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

Sustain

What sustains you? Food, obviously. Hopefully sleep. Water. Maybe the help of family or friends. Perhaps there are things in life that you enjoy that make the tough times more bearable. But what about words? In many cases, words are empty. On their own, they may hold great meaning, but when offered by certain people in a certain way, they may be hollow and weightless. Worthless.

Your words are what sustain me. They bring me great joy and are my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, O Lord God Almighty.

Jeremiah 15:16 (NLT)

Few of us could say that we have it worse than Jeremiah when it comes to the words of God. The prophet spoke these words while God was in the middle of telling him of all the destruction He was going to bring upon Judah and Israel. They were to be utterly destroyed and yet, somehow, Jeremiah finds it within himself to let God know that His words are sustenance. They bring him joy and are his heart’s delight.

SUSTAIN: To bear; to uphold; to support, as a foundation; to keep from falling; to keep alive; to endure without failing or yielding.

In the midst of what must have been a truly dark time, Jeremiah still found God’s word to be full of life. Enough so to support him, to keep him from falling or failing, to keep him alive. And Jeremiah wasn’t the only one who found delight in the words of God in the middle of a trial.

Your decrees are my treasure,
they are truly my heart’s delight.

Psalm 119:111 (NLT)

How can these two men, through storms, destruction, war, and everything else that may have come against them still have found comfort in God’s words? Aren’t they just words?

The yes to all of God’s promises is in Christ, and through Christ we say yes to the glory of God. Remember, God is the one who makes you and us strong in Christ. God made us his chosen people. He put his mark on us to show that we are his, and he put his Spirit in our hearts to be a guarantee for all he has promised.

2 Corinthians 1:20-22 (NCV)

Jeremiah, David, Paul, and many others all found joy and delight in the words of God because God gave us a guarantee. He gave us His mark. He gave us His name. And because He has never failed, we can take that as our assurance that His words will indeed sustain us through whatever may be in store for us in this life.

So he will do for me all that he has planned. He controls my destiny.

Job 23:14 (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Jeremiah 14-16, 1 Timothy 5

 

Daily Bible Reading

The reason and reward

LOVE: In a general sense to be please with; to regard with affection, on account of some qualities which excite pleasing sensations or desire of gratification.

ENDURANCE:  Continuance; a state of lasting or duration; lastingness. A bearing or suffering; a continuing under pain or distress without resistance, or without sinking or yielding to the pressure; sufferance; patience.

What do love and endurance have to do with each other? Paul takes these two seemingly unrelated words and puts them together in a single statement.

May the Lord bring you into an ever deeper understanding of the love of God and the endurance that comes from Christ.

2 Thessalonians 3:5 (NLT)

Why would we need to have a deeper understanding of God’s love as well as endurance? Could it be that the two are not as unrelated as they would seem? As far as Paul is concerned, they go hand in hand.

As Christians, we should always be striving to have a deeper understanding of the love of God. After all, it’s the reason we’re Christians in the first place. Without God’s love, we are nothing.

So where does this endurance come into play?

In his letters to various churches, Paul has made it pretty clear that we can expect pressure in our walk with Christ. (If you never experience pressure because of your faith, you should probably rethink your faith.) Because of this pressure, we will require endurance, continuance, the ability to go through pain distress without sinking or yielding. Anyone who has no reason to endure pain or distress will most likely give up easily. Why bother if there is no reason or reward? But we have both reason and a reward to endure.

When we have that ever deeper understanding of the love of God, we have a reason to endure. We know what we have been rescued from and we know whom it was who rescued us. It is because of the love of God that we can endure. He is our reason. And, as we endure whatever trials the world may throw at us, we become stronger in God’s love and gain an even deeper understanding of who He is and all He has done for us. His love makes us stronger. His love is our reward.

Without a revelation God’s love, endurance is pointless. But as we are brought into an ever deeper understanding of the love of God, we understand why we must also know the endurance that comes from Christ.

He is our reason. He is our reward.

Daily Bible reading: Jeremiah 3-4, 2 Thessalonians 3

Daily Bible Reading

Worthy

Do you ever have a hard time receiving a gift when you know you don’t deserve it? You try to give it back, but the person giving it to you insists that you take it.

Our lives in Christ are full of gifts that we are not worthy of. From beginning to end, God grants us gifts that we have no business receiving. Yet, in addition to giving us these gifts, He also makes us worthy of them.

And so we keep on praying for you, that our God will make you worthy of the life to which he called you. And we pray that God, by his power, will fulfill all your good intentions and faithful deeds.

2 Thessalonians 1:11 (NLT)

When God calls us to a life beyond our means, He holds no expectations that we work ourselves to the bone to become worthy of that life. He’s given us the gift and He is the only one who can make us good enough to receive it. That’s the point.

Then everyone will give honor to the name of our Lord Jesus because of you, and you will be honored along with him. This is all made possible because of the undeserved favor of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ.

2 Thessalonians 1:12 (NLT)

Because we are undeserving and because we are unable to live up to the life God has called us to in our own strength, we must rely on the power of the Holy Spirit within us to accomplish what God has called us to do. In this way, not only do we increase the Kingdom of God, but we bring honour and glory to the name of Jesus. When the world sees us do what we cannot do, they will have no choice but to recognise the power of God.

So go ahead, accept that gift. And in accepting the gift of the call of God on your life, accept the fact that He has made you worthy to receive it and He will give you all that you need to do it. And, most importantly, after all of this happens, be sure to give the glory to the only One who is worthy of it.

Daily Bible reading: Isaiah 65-66, 2 Thessalonians 1