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

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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

Daily Bible Reading

Completely different

If I asked you to picture God, what would He look like? Maybe a decrepit old man with a long white beard and glowing white robes? In your mind, He probably looks pretty human and more than likely not in the prime of his life.

“My thoughts are completely different than yours,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”

Isaiah 55:8-9 (NLT)

When we try to picture God with our natural human minds. we are bound to fail. Miserably. We cannot even begin to comprehend what God may look like because our brains are not wired to do so. So why do we even bother trying? Why must we put a natural face and physique on a supernatural God?

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

Romans 12:2a (NLT)

It seems like I go back to this verse every other day. But it’s applicable every day. So long as our view of God is bound by our natural thinking, so we will be bound to natural results. But as we allow God to transform us, we will be changed to His way of thinking—which is completely different than ours. It may not make sense to us. It probably won’t. But once we leave our natural thinking behind and conform our thoughts to God’s thoughts, we will start getting supernatural results.

When God begins to change your way of thinking, don’t try to rationalise it. Don’t try to make sense of it with your natural mind. Because God’s thoughts are completely different than yours. Don’t expect the supernatural to make sense in the natural. I’ts not supposed to. That’s why God is God and you are not.

Daily Bible reading: Isaiah 53-55, 1 Thessalonians 2

Daily Bible Reading

No matter what

Have you ever been determined to do something no matter what? Nothing can draw you away from reaching for and attaining that goal. There is no prize you will accept but victory.

Or are you someone who has a price on everything? You want to do some things, but if the reward is great enough, you can be swayed away from the task.

DETERMINED: Having a firm or fixed purpose.

I’m sure we’ve all seen a talent show where someone is determined to become a star. Some rather dishonest people in their life have told them they can do anything. They have talent. Don’t let anyone tell you that you cannot accomplish your dream. Then they sing. It becomes apparent that someone has lied to this individual and that their determination is horribly misplaced.

Are you determined to do something? Where do you get your confidence to do what you’ve set out to do?

Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be dismayed. Therefore, I have set my face like a stone, determined to do his will. And I know that I will triumph.

Isaiah 50:7 (NLT)

When we make the determination to do the will of God, there is an assurance that comes with it. We can be confident in our decision and our coming victory.

For when we brought you the Good News, it was not only with words but also with power, for the Holy Spirit gave you full assurance that what we said was true.

1 Thessalonians 1:5a (NLT)

When our determination leads us to do the will of God, the power of the Holy Spirit within us gives us the confidence we need to fulfill our purpose no matter what. Like Isaiah, we can set our face like a stone and push ahead toward the vision God has placed before us being confident in our triumph.

Daily Bible reading: Isaiah 50-52, 1 Thessalonians 1

Daily Bible Reading

New strength

As many of us age, we may find ourselves longing for the strength of our youth. Our bodies no longer recover like they used to. Definition and tone has been lost to obscurity and perhaps a spare tire around the midsection. Once, hefting an entire load of groceries from the trunk and into the house seemed to take minimal effort. Now three trips are needed to make the haul. We want our old strength back. But until someone finally finds the legendary Fountain of Youth, that’s just not going to happen.

But what if, instead of regaining our old strength, we could gain an entirely new strength?

But those who wait on the Lord will find new strength. They will fly high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.

Isaiah 40:31 (NLT)

I don’t think that Isaiah is talking about heading back to the gym with newfound energy, but when we wait on God, He will give us not only more strength, but new strength—one we never had before.

For I can do everything with the help of Christ, who gives me the strength I need.

Philippians 4:13 (NLT)

God doesn’t just give us the strength we want, He gives us the strength we need—the strength we need to accomplish His work and His will. He gives us the strength to put our focus on Him.

Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned from me and heard from me and saw me doing, and the God of peace will be with you.

Philippians 4:8b-9 (NLT)

This new strength that is found when we wait on the Lord gives us the ability to do the things that Paul talks about in these verses. Our new strength give us the ability to set our minds on the things of Christ and resist those things that are not of him.

Daily Bible reading: Isaiah 39-40, Philippians 4

Daily Bible Reading

Sing!

Then you will sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, making music to the Lord in your hearts. And you will always give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 5:19-20 (NLT)

When I was a kid and my mom would still send me off to school, she’d stand on the front step and holler out a song title at my sister and I. She would then stand on the step until she could hear us singing the song as we walked down the street.

More often than not, that song would stay with us throughout the day and we’d come home singing choruses like This is the Day or Celebrate Jesus (it was the nineties, have a little grace).

Mom was on to something. Her intent was to send us off to school with the presence of the Holy Spirit. Now, more than 20 years later, I’m still asking God to give me songs to sing while I work. When I’m alone in an room with great acoustics, why wouldn’t I sing? And if someone else walks in the room and hears me praising God while I work, what does that matter?

Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs aren’t just things to do to fill the silence, but they are a byproduct of being filled with the Holy Spirit and allowing him to control our lives. Verse 19 is preceded by this:

Instead, let the Holy Spirit fill and control you.

Ephesians 5:18b (NLT)

Then you will sing...

If you’ve got the Holy Spirit, don’t be afraid to sing the songs he puts in your heart. Even if you can’t sing. My dad always says that God told us to make a joyful noise. He never said it had to be on key.

So sing!

Daily Bible reading: Isaiah 27-28, Ephesians 5

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