Daily Bible Reading

Aim higher

For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God. And other people will approve of you, too. So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.

Romans 14:17-19 (NLT)

Inclusion is the chant, but division is the outcome. We see it in the news every day. One side yelling at another side, each one believing they’re right. But if you would ask the individuals, most everyone says they want the same thing—peace and harmony. So why are the results the opposite? Why are we tearing each other down instead of building each other up?

I believe it all begins with the individual. Luke said that, whatever is in your heart determines what you say (Luke 6:45b). When one side is screaming at another, one must wonder what is really in their hearts? Is it the peace and justice they claim to want or is it hate and division?

Our aim, like Paul tells us, should be for harmony in the church and [to] try to build each other up. So how do we do that? I think David’s thoughts can start us down the right track.

Praise the Lord, I tell myself;
with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, I tell myself,
and never forget the good things he does for me.

Psalm 103:1-2 (NLT)

If what is in our hearts will determine what we say, let’s get good things in our hearts. Here in Psalm 103, David speaks to himself, reminding his spirit of the good things God has done. He’s putting good things into his heart so that good things will come out of his mouth.

Getting the good stuff to stick is hard when we’re constantly being bombarded with noise and negativity, but if David could do it, if Paul could do it, we can, too.

For we are not our own masters when we live or when we die. While we live, we live to please the Lord. And when we die, we go to be with the Lord. So in life and in death, we belong to the Lord.

Romans 14:7-8 (NLT)

Start with reminding yourself who you belong to, whom you serve. Then remind yourself of all He has done for you and for those who have gone before you. Fill your heart and your mind with goodness and peace and joy. Then your aim for harmony won’t seem to lofty.

Try a daily confession. Write your own from verses that speak to you or find one (like this) that lines up with the Word of God. Speak to yourself like David did. Tell yourself who you are and what God has done for you. You may be surprised by what you start to say. When those good things start to pour out from your spirit, the natural effect will be the building up of those around you.

Let us, as the Church, aim higher.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 103-104, Romans 14

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Daily Bible Reading

Proclaim

I have a difficult time watching or reading the news these days. Gone are the days of unbiased news reports and, just as George Orwell predicted when he wrote his book 1984 (in 1949), everything we do and say is under scrutiny. Social justice warriors demand that everyone fall into line with their opinions and the Church has become one of their largest targets. Much to the dismay of Christians around the globe, there are many churches that have given in to these ludicrous demands. They are allowing the world to change their way of thinking in hopes that they can change the world’s way of thinking. That’s now how this works.

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. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is.

Romans 12:2 (NLT)

If the Church keeps watering down its message, soon there won’t even be a message worth sharing. Our message is not one of tolerance nor is it a message of condemnation. But it is is one of joy, peace, and love everlasting. Our message should be as the psalmist wrote thousands of years ago. I leave you to meditate on these words.

Sing a new song to the Lord!
Let the whole earth sing to the Lord!
Sing to the Lord; bless his name.
Each day proclaim the good news that he saves.
Publish his glorious deeds among the nations.
Tell everyone about the amazing things he does.
Great is the Lord! He is most worthy of praise
He is to be revered above all the gods.
The gods of other nations are merely idols,
but the Lord made the heavens!
Honor and majesty surround him;
Strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.

O nations of the world, recognize the Lord;
recognize that the Lord is glorious and strong.
Give to the Lord the glory he deserves!
Bring your offering and come to worship him.
Worship the Lord in all his holy splendor.
Let all the earth tremble before him.
Tell all the nations that the Lord is king.
The world is firmly established and cannot be shaken.
He will judge all peoples fairly.

Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice!
Let the sea and everything in it shout his praise!
Let the fields and their crops burst forth with joy!
Let the trees of the forest rustle with praise before the Lord!
For the Lord is coming!
He is coming to judge the earth.
He will just the world with righteousness
and all the nations with his truth.

Psalm 96 (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 96-98, Romans 12

Daily Bible Reading

The great pursuit

Psalm 23 is one of my favourite passages in the entire Bible. I attribute this to my mother. While she was pregnant with me, she took up a project to cross stitch the entire chapter. She completed it in the hospital right before I was born. It’s now framed and hangs on the wall in my bedroom and is one of the last things I see before I go to bed every night.

Psalm 23

There is so much packed into these six verses. I can barely begin to scratch the surface, but I want to give you a little bit from each verse.

The Lord is my shepherd;
I have everything I need.

Psalm 23:1 (NLT)

If we follow Jesus like sheep do a shepherd, our needs will be fulfilled. God isn’t a magic genie to see to our needs and whims when we feel like rubbing the lamp. He is there to lead us and guide us. It’s under His guidance that our needs our met.

He lets me rest in green meadows;
He leads me beside peaceful streams.

Psalm 23:2 (NLT)

Turmoil and stress don’t have to be a part of our daily lives. Like being under God’s guidance allows for our needs to be met, if we follow His lead, we will be drawn to rest and peace.

He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
bringing honor to his name.

Psalm 23:3 (NLT)

Strength is required to walk God’s path. There is nothing that says walking with God will be easy, but He does give us the strength to do it. And, if we’re not bringing honour to His name, we’re probably not on His path.

Even when I walk
through the dark valley of death,
I will not be afraid,
for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
protect and comfort me.

Psalm 23:4 (NLT)

When, not if. We will go through dark times. That’s pretty much a guarantee. But even in those times, God has promised that He will be with us—guiding us, protecting us, comforting us.

You prepare a feast for me
in the presence of my enemies.
You welcome me as a guest,
anointing my head with oil.
My cup overflows with blessings.

Psalm 23:5 (NLT)

Our enemies will not suddenly decide to leave us alone because we decide to put our trust in God. We will still have enemies. They may still surround us. Yet God is there, providing for us in the middle of the battleground. And there, we can even find blessings!

Surely your goodness and unfailing love
will pursue me.
all the days of my life,
And I will live in the house of the Lord forever.

Psalm 23:6 (NLT)

We make a grave mistake when we believe we have to chase after God’s love. His love comes after us. His love is there in peaceful rest. His love is there in the dark valley of death. His love is there in the presence of our enemies. His love is there in His house.

It’s time to stop chasing after God’s love. If we’d only just slow down for a moment, it will catch up to us and overtake us. In His love, we will find peace, rest, strength, guidance, provision, anointing, blessing, and goodness.

We don’t have to pursue God’s love because He is always pursuing us.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 22-24, Acts 20:1-16

Daily Bible Reading

Lead

How often do you ask to be lead rather than to lead? Who really wants to follow when you can be a leader?

How often do you ask what you should be doing? Who really wants to be told what to do when you can tell someone else what to do?

Lead me in the right path, O Lord,
or my enemies will conquer me.
Tell me clearly what to do,
and show me which way to turn.

Psalm 5:8 (NLT)

Life isn’t all about being the one in charge. Sometimes—and even more often than we think—it should be about asking for direction and instruction. It’s about letting someone else be in charge. God’s guidance isn’t there to stifle us. He doesn’t want to lead us like a dog on a leash.

But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
let them sing joyful praises forever.
Protect them,
so all who love your name may be filled with joy.
For you bless the godly, O Lord,
surrounding them with your shield of love.

Psalm 5:11-12 (NLT)

We don’t have to listen to God’s directions and instructions, we get to. When we put ourselves into God’s plan, not only is it His will that all things work together for our good (Romans 8:28), but He surrounds us with His shield of love. We can take refuge in Him. He will protect us.

Submitting to God is not a trial. It’s a joy. A privilege.

I will lie down in peace and sleep,
for you alone, O Lord, will keep me safe.

Psalm 4:8 (NLT)

Submitting to God leads to joy. It leads to peace. It leads to love. Who else can you follow that will lead you to all of that?

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 4-6, Acts 16:16-40

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

A Season of Peace

Since today’s daily reading coincides with a devotional my pastor recently shared, I’m going to borrow a few things from Pastor Morris Watson.

Then the church had peace throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria, and it grew in strength and numbers. The believers were walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 9:31 (NLT)

Where there is peace, there is prosperity and growth. The Church is often compared to a body. Think about when you’re fighting a cold or the flu. Are you able to get stronger? Are kids able to grow when their little bodies are fighting illness? No, of course not. When there is something in the body that doesn’t belong there, not only is there not peace, but all the energy goes into fighting whatever it is that’s attacking. The Church works the same way. When there’s something there that doesn’t belong, it takes away peace and it diverts energy from promoting growth.

But when there is peace within the Church, growth and prosperity is a wonderful byproduct. When we are all of one heart, one mind, and one vision, we are then able to work together to fight off outside attacks. Even then, if we can stay focused, we can keep our peace and grow through the situation.

If we allow ourselves to be in conflict with one another or in conflict with God, we restrict our own ability to grow and be strengthened. We cannot be careless with our peace. We must encourage it in ourselves and in others.

God blesses those who work for peace,
for they will be called the children of God.

Matthew 5:9 (NLT)

When we work for peace, we work for God. God’s mission for us all is to have and to bring peace—it will never be to bring about strife.

Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.

Romans 12:18 (NLT)

When we go looking for peace and promote peace, how can we find and accomplish anything but? And in finding peace, we will also find growth and strength. We will be walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit.

Daily Bible reading: Job 19-20, Acts 9:23-43

Daily Bible Reading

The taste of freedom

If you’ve made it through your teen years, you may remember the taste of freedom you had the first time your parents let you take the car out on your own. When you got home, you’d already begun planning your next adventure. One time would never satisfy your craving for freedom. The more you were given, the more you wanted.

Once the Israelites had their first taste of freedom from slavery, they couldn’t imagine going back. But unlike your teenage self, they didn’t chase it as vehemently as a kid would the keys to the family car. They got complacent in between bouts of peace. Another group of people would come and stifle their liberties. Eventually, though, they’d tire of the oppression and cry out to God. God, in His infinite faithfulness and grace, would raise up a leader to pull Israel from their lethargy and bring them once again into victory.

Once the victory had been won, though, and Israel once again enjoyed peace, they’d settle back in for another round with their enemies to start the cycle again. They’d get tired of being pushed around and cry out to God and God would yet again raise up another leader to deliver them.

Had Israel relished in their victory and become addicted to the high it afforded them, maybe they wouldn’t have been so quick to settle down. God was doing amazing things in their midst, but it was almost as though miracles had become so commonplace that they no longer seemed miraculous. They failed to remind themselves of all their God had done for them and fell into a false sense of security. They sought God only when they couldn’t handle the situation any more.

I think we can often be accused of the same response to God. We only call out to Him when we’re desperate. What would happen if we were desperate for Him all the time? If we call out to Him not because we need something from Him, but because we need Him? What if just a taste of freedom was no longer satisfactory, but we demanded to live our lives basking in the glorious freedom that comes from an intimate and continual relationship with the God who sets us free?

Are you satisfied with just a taste or do you want to be standing in line at the 24/7 buffet?

Daily Bible reading: Judges 3-5, Luke 7:31-50