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

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Daily Bible Reading

Fight!

In an attempt to make Christianity sound better than the dark side, I’ve heard many a Christian tell people that everything is wonderful once you make a decision for Christ. The impression is given that all your troubles will dissolve and you’ll never have another need so long as you live if only you’ll give your life to Jesus. Anyone who’s lived the Christian life for any length of time at all knows this simply isn’t true! I’d like to meet that one person who has never had a bad day since their conversion. I’d like to know their secret. I’m sure we all would!

Christianity isn’t a romp through the tulips. It isn’t green meadows filled with wildflowers and birdsong. It isn’t a day at the beach. It isn’t a permanent vacation from the realities of life. It’s a fight.

Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News.

Philippians 1:27 (NLT)

When share our faith with people, we’re not sending out party invitations. We’re recruiting to an army. Yes, God can and will provide for our needs. He can make our lives better. We can live in prosperity and happiness. God wants all of those things for us. But He also wants us to fight because enemies will come against us. And if we’re not prepared, we will be easily and quickly overcome.

David spoke of his battles in Psalm 18. He is known as the man after God’s own heart. If even he had to fight, we can’t expect to escape the battle. But God didn’t send David out unarmed and unprepared and neither will He send us out without equipping us.

God arms me with strength;
he has made my way safe.

Psalm 18:32 (NLT)

He prepares me for battle;
he strengthens me wo draw a bow of bronze.

Psalm 18: 34 (NLT)

You have armed me with strength for the battle;
You have subdued my enemies under my feet.

Psalm 18:39 (NLT)

Being a Christian doesn’t mean that we won’t have to fight. It means quite the opposite. But it also means that we can go into our battles knowing that, not only has God prepared us for it, but He has gone before us.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 17-18, Acts 19:1-20

Daily Bible Reading

Behind the scenes

Read through the book of Esther. You won’t find any mention of God.

Does this surprise you?

If you know the story, you probably imagine it with folks praying and praising and God leading someone to do this and telling someone else to do that. The name of God is never mentioned, but we cannot deny the fact that He is still there behind every action taken throughout the story.

Maybe you feel like your life has started a little like Esther’s. She wasn’t born a queen. She was born to a race which, more often than not, was scorned throughout Persia. The Jews had more than their fair share of enemies. As if that wasn’t bad enough, she lost both her parents and her uncle took in his orphaned niece. For many, this would be reason enough to give up. But somewhere along the line, whether it was her nature or the nurture of her wise uncle, Mordecai, Esther grew into a beautiful, wise, strong woman.

As she grew up, Esther couldn’t know that she would one day capture the attention of the king. She couldn’t have known that God was preparing her to rescue her people from an enemy who would see them all dead. She couldn’t have known that she would have to put her own life on the line to spare the lives of her people.

We can never really know what God may be preparing us for as we go through life. Your struggles now may be strengthening you to do something great. And if you give in now, you may never know what God had in store for you in the future.

Like the book of Esther, you may not see God working in your life, but don’t make the mistake of believing He’s not there working, fighting, preparing behind the scenes on your behalf.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “they are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Esther 7-10, Acts 6

Daily Bible Reading

Do not get a few

When you pray for a miracle, do you you expect just enough to get by? Or do you expect God to throw open the floodgates and bless you beyond anything you can think or imagine? How do you prepare yourself to receive your miracle?

I’m sure that we’ve all heard the story of the widow’s oil. Elisha had offered to help this woman so that she does not have to sell her two children as slaves to her creditors. All she has is a jar of oil. Elisha tells her to collect empty vessels. He could have told her to gather all she had in her own home, but he goes further than that.

The he said, “Go, borrow vessels at large for yourself from all your neighbors, even empty vessels; do not get a few.”

2 Kings 4:3 (NASB)

He sends this woman and her sons all around the neighbourhood to prepare for a big miracle. Do not get a few. The miracle the widow received was directly related to her preparation for it. Had she only gathered a few vessels, I wonder if she even would have received her miracle since she would have been in disobedience to the word from the Lord.

When you pray for a miracle based on a promise from God’s Word, prepare yourself for the complete and total fulfillment of that promise. When Jesus says he will heal you, prepare for complete—not partial—healing. When the Word says that God will supply for all your needs, prepare for all, not a little.

I think that, many times, we miss out on our miracles because we don’t want to bother God with the big things. We just ask Him for a little hoping that we won’t annoy Him with our request. But He doesn’t want to perform little miracles. As we read through the Word, we see over and over and over again that God is a God of great big miracles. Stop preparing for the minute and get ready for the monumental.

Daily Bible reading: 2 Kings 4-5, John 4:1-30

Daily Bible Reading

Get dressed

Much to the dismay of my mother, I’m a sports fan. Not all sports, mind you. I’m a baseball and football kind of girl (though I’ll watch hockey if the occasion calls for it). When February rolls around, I get excited because that means that Major League Baseball spring training begins and the long winter without my favourite team is over. I park my comfy chair in front of the big screen and watch to see how my players worked on their game over the winter months.

You can tell who spent the off-season on the beach and who spent it at the gym or with trainers. Some guys aren’t as quick to get around the bases or catch that fly ball to left field. Other guys have trimmed down and come up with some new strategies to improve their game. And then there are the minor league players—the guys who have previously impressed the team scouts and have been invited to join the big boys for the spring. They get a chance to try to prove their worth and maybe even earn a spot in the starting line up.

Be dressed for service and well-prepared.

Luke 12:35 (NLT)

MLB spring training can be full of surprises. Those guys who spent their time off on the beach may find themselves quickly replaced by the young pitcher who spent his off-season perfecting his curve ball. The tried and true second baseman may be bumped for the kid who shows up to the diamond early every day dressed for action. The biggest characteristic that will define the team going into the first weeks of the schedule is preparation. If a player waits until spring to try to get himself into shape, he may find himself bumped down a few levels.

But I’m not an athlete, how is this supposed to apply to me?

Every Christian—no matter what they may or may not feel called to do—should be like the players who spend the winter training hard and getting better. The Bible is not a textbook just for teachers, but a guidebook for life—your life.

Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke, and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.

2 Timothy 4:2 (NIV)

While Paul may be writing to Timothy, this is for all of us. Ministry is not just for pastors, teachers, preachers, apostles, and evangelists. It’s for all of us.

Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if you are asked about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it.

1 Peter 3:15 (NLT)

If you wait to be called up to prepare, you’ll never get the call. But, if you work on preparation daily, you’ll be ready at any moment to respond with words of hope, love, and truth. In sports, natural ability will only get you so far. Often, it’s the lesser talented guys who work the hardest that get the job. The same works for us. Those who are prepared get the call and are rewarded for it.

Don’t wait. Get up. Get dressed. Be prepared.

Daily Bible reading: 1 Samuel 4-6, Luke 12:35-59

Daily Bible Reading

Gone Ahead

Do you ever wonder how much preparation God has done on your behalf? If you’re like me, probably not at all. But what if He has. What if, like with Israel, God has gone ahead of you and prepared something great? What if there is one person, like John the Baptist, cousin of Jesus, who has set out before you and made a way where there was no way? What if we really believed that God is for us?

“I know the Lord has given you this land,” [Rahab] told them. “We are all afraid of you. Everyone is living in terror for we have heard how the Lord made a dry path for you through the Red Sea when you left Egypt…”

Joshua 2:9-10a (NLT)

I tend to forget just how much preparation went into Israel’s settlement in the Promised Land. For 40 years, rumours of their exploits went through the nations, and like any good story, it probably got embellished along the way. By the time these stories reached Jericho, it was no wonder the inhabitants were living in terror.

Israel was a huge nation who had left Egypt and crossed a sea on dry land. They’d been led in the wilderness for a full generation by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. They’d been fed with manna that arrived like the dew every morning. They drank sweet water from a rock. They defeated every enemy the Lord set them up against.

While these stories were working fear into the hearts of their enemies, they were building strength and courage in Israel.

I command you—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

Joshua 1:9 (NLT)

This is why, in the previous verse, Israel is reminded to meditated on God’s Word. To study it day and night so that they would be able to obey it and remember it and with it, have success.

The same stands true for us today. God has gone ahead of us—whether we’re aware of it or not. The closer we keep His Word to us, the stronger we’ll be. The more courageous we will be. The more confident we will be in the God who has made plans for good and not disaster, to give you a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11).

The enemy before us is already terrified. They’ve already lost the battle. If we go in confident in the One who sent us and His Word for us, we can’t lose.

Daily Bible reading: Joshua 1-3, Luke 1:57-80

Daily Bible Reading

Remarkable

I doubt that I would ever consider myself to be a remarkable person. Not that I don’t aspire to, but I’m not sure that there is much I have accomplished thus far in my life to merit having it spoken of for millennia to come.

In Matthew 26, a woman—presumed to be Mary, sister of Lazarus—enters the room where Jesus and his disciples are sharing what was to be their last meal together. She has with her a jar of atrociously expensive perfume which she proceeds to break and empty the contents thereof over Jesus. The disciples, of course are indignant and—as often the case—have missed the point of these actions entirely.

Jesus sets them straight and explains the purpose behind the poured out perfume. The woman has prepared his body for burial in advance. She has honoured him in an extravagant manner. Her actions will be spoken of throughout the ages. We still talk about her selfless extravagance today.

I wonder if I could ever do something like that. I don’t mean being extravagant for the sake of people seeing just how much I can give—that would be wasteful, but to rather be led by the Spirit of God to do something beyond what would ever be expected of me in order to honour Jesus and his Gospel.

Could I ever truly be remarkable for the sake of His call?

Daily Bible reading: Leviticus 10-12, Matthew 26:1-19