Death Is Not the End: October 15-21, 2019 (Tues-Mon): Read through Jeremiah, Lamentations, Nahum, and 1-2 Thessalonians

“In the 2007 film The Bucket List, two terminally ill men—played by Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman—take a road trip to do the things they always said they would do before they ‘kicked the bucket.’ Before the film’s release, Nicholson was interviewed by Parade magazine. Reflecting on his personal life, Nicholson said, ‘I used to live so freely. The mantra for my generation was “Be your own man!” I always said, “Hey, you can have whatever rules you want—I’m going to have mine. I’ll accept the guilt. I’ll pay the check. I’ll do the time.” I chose my own way. That was my philosophical position well into my fifties. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve had to adjust.’

“But reality has a way of getting the attention of even Jack Nicholson. Later in the interview, he adds, ‘We all want to go on forever, don’t we? We fear the unknown. Everybody goes to that wall, yet nobody knows what’s on the other side. That’s why we fear death.’”[1]

One of the greatest fears which humans have is the fear of death. Coupled with that fear is the fear of the unknown. What’s on the other side? Thankfully, we have the Bible to guide our thinking and belief about the other side, but we’ve still never been there. All we know is living and breathing. The idea of stopping breathing is hard to think about. However, we believers can have hope now as we contemplate our “end.” Our end although is just a beginning. The Apostle Paul wrote, We don’t want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, concerning those who are asleep, so that you won’t grieve like the rest, who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, in the same way, through Jesus, God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep. For we say this to you by a word from the Lord: We who are still alive at the Lord’s coming will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the archangel’s voice, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are still alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.(1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 CSB).

Believers have a wonderful future even if it includes death. Non-believers, however, have a horrible future even if they have all the money, power, and prestige that the world can offer because death begins a tremendous and timeless torment. Believers, can endure suffering because it’s momentary (2 Corinthians 4:16-18) compared to the forever celebration on the other side with Jesus, so as you contemplate your life, remember that death is not the end.

This week you’ll read…

Jeremiah 29-42: “You will call to Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29 CSB).

Lamentations 5: “Bring us back to you, God—we’re ready to come back. Give us a fresh start” (Lamentations 5 MSG).

Nahum 1: “The Lord is good, a stronghold in a day of distress; He cares for those who take refuge in Him” (Nahum 1 CSB).

1 Thessalonians 2-5: “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the archangel’s voice, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first” (1 Thessalonians 4 CSB).

2 Thessalonians 1-3: “For we hear that there are some among you who are idle. They are not busy but busybodies. Now we command and exhort such people by the Lord Jesus Christ to work quietly and provide for themselves” (2 Thessalonians 3 CSB).

 

MSG are daily readings linked to The Message Bible on BibleGateway.com.

CSB are daily readings linked to The Christian Standard Bible on BibleGateway.com.

NLT are daily readings linked to The New Living Translation on BibleGateway.com.

[1] Dotson Rader, “I Want to Go on Forever,” Parade (December 9, 2007)

Faith, Hope, and Love: October 8-14, 2019 (Tues-Mon): Read through Psalms, Jeremiah, Lamentations, and First Thessalonians

Do you have a thankful heart? Do people know you as a thankful person? Paul was just such a person. He was thankful for how God was working in believers’ lives, and oftentimes he expressed that thanks to them in his letters. In First Thessalonians 1, Paul mentions three reasons for giving thanks to God for the believers in Thessalonica: faith, hope, and love. “We always thank God for all of you, making mention of you constantly in our prayers. We recall, in the presence of our God and Father, your work produced by faith, your labor motivated by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 1 CSB).

He was thankful for their work produced by faith. Doesn’t this sound like James that faith without works is dead. Paul was thankful that their faith was producing. They didn’t have a dead faith or just a said faith. They had a faith that acted. They had a real, living faith that worked.

Paul was also thankful for their labor motivated by love. People have all kinds of motivations for their labor. Some labor from the motivation of money or fear or guilt, but the Thessalonians’ labor was motivated by the supreme motive—love. They weren’t laboring to avoid conflict or negative emotions. They weren’t laboring selfishly for what they could get out of it. They labored because of love.

Lastly, he was thankful for their endurance inspired by hope. Hope will keep you hanging on when your strength is stripped away and your will has withered. Hope endures.

These three—faith, hope, and love—were not conjured characteristics. These people were changed characters. Jesus had radically saved them, and faith hope, and love were the results of the change. How prominent are these three in your life?

This week you’ll read…

Psalm 145-150: “​Hallelujah! Praise God in His sanctuary. Praise Him in His mighty expanse. Praise Him for His powerful acts; praise Him for His abundant greatness. Praise Him with trumpet blast; praise Him with harp and lyre. Praise Him with tambourine and dance; praise Him with strings and flute. Praise Him with resounding cymbals; praise Him with clashing cymbals. Let everything that breathes praise the Lord. Hallelujah!” (Psalm 150 CSB)

Jeremiah 15-28: “‘The heart is more deceitful than anything else, and incurable—who can understand it? I, the Lord, examine the mind, I test the heart to give to each according to his way, according to what his actions deserve” (Jeremiah 17 CSB).

Lamentations 3-4: “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3 NIV).

1 Thessalonians 1: “We always thank God for all of you, making mention of you constantly in our prayers. We recall, in the presence of our God and Father, your work produced by faith, your labor motivated by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 1 CSB).

 

MSG are daily readings linked to The Message Bible on BibleGateway.com.

CSB are daily readings linked to The Christian Standard Bible on BibleGateway.com.

NLT are daily readings linked to The New Living Translation on BibleGateway.com.

Conqueror: October 1-7, 2019 (Tues-Mon): Read through Psalms, Jeremiah, and Lamentations

While visiting Grand Coulee Dam, a man and his family were surprised to see that the visitors’ center was dark. It was a sunny day, so they thought the center might have tinted windows, but as they got closer, they realized there were no lights on. They went in and saw that none of the displays were working. Suddenly it became clear: there was no power to the center. Due to some technical difficulty, the visitors’ center that sat only hundreds of feet from a hydroelectric dam had no power. How could something be so close to the power source, yet not be “plugged in”?[1]

Paul wrote Timothy, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment” (2 Timothy 1:7 CSB). Clearly, God didn’t give believers fear, but He did give us power! God didn’t give you a spirit which makes you afraid, but one which makes you strong and powerful, a spirit which makes you confident and brave, but we must “plug in” to the power.

In Romans 8:37-39, Paul calls us hypernikes, or more than conquerors, and you’re much more powerful than a pair of athletic shoes. He says, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (CSB). “Nike” is a Greek word which means victory. Paul says that we’re hypernikes, or more than conquerors. We’re more than victorious. What’s that mean? Your school football team comes up against a team, and it’s a grudge match for all four quarters. It’s back and forth the whole time, but 15 seconds before the clock runs out, your team manages a field goal which puts you ahead at the end. They’re victorious (nike). Now suppose your football team goes up against another team, and at the end of the 1st quarter it’s 21-0 your way. By halftime, it’s 35-0, and by the end of the game it’s 72-0. Your team is not just a conqueror. They’re more than conquerors. They’re hypernikes. They’ve utterly defeated their opponent.

Being more than a conqueror doesn’t rest in our ability. Paul said, “What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us?” (Romans 8:31 CSB) We have power that works in us, but it’s not us. Paul also proclaimed, “I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13 CSB). We have spiritual Under Armour. Kevin Plank started Under Armour in his grandma’s basement in 1996. He operated by selling undershirts from the trunk of his car. He did that for three years until he could finally start paying himself. The founder of Under Armour eventually became a hypernike in the world of sports clothing. In a spiritual way, we have some Under Armour in the form of the Holy Spirit. Luke wrote, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8 CSB). “I pray that He may grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power in the inner man through His Spirit…Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us” (Ephesians 3:16,20 CSB). As believers, we have the greatest power within us.

A little boy was spending his Saturday morning playing in his sandbox. He had with him his box of cars and trucks, his plastic pail, and a shiny, red plastic shovel. In the process of creating roads and tunnels in the soft sand, he discovered a large rock in the middle of the sandbox. The boy dug around the rock, managing to dislodge it from the dirt. He pushed and nudged the rock across the sandbox by using his feet. When the boy got the rock to the edge of the sandbox, however, he found that he couldn’t roll it up and over the little wall. Determined, the little boy shoved, pushed, and pried, but every time he thought he had made some progress, the rock tipped and then fell back into the sandbox. The little boy grunted, struggled, pushed, shoved—but his only reward was to have the rock roll back, smashing his chubby fingers. Finally, he burst into tears of frustration. All this time the boy’s father watched from the living room window as the drama unfolded. At the moment the tears fell, a large shadow fell across the boy and the sandbox. It was the boy’s father. Gently but firmly he said, “Son, why didn’t you use all the strength that you had available?” Defeated, the boy sobbed back, “But I did, Daddy. I did! I used all the strength that I had!” The father kindly corrected, “No, son, you didn’t use all the strength you had. You didn’t ask me.” With that the father reached down, picked up the rock, and removed it from the sandbox.[2]

If you’re a believer in Jesus, you’ve got the unlimited power of God in your life. Ask for help in everything!

This week you’ll read…

Psalm 138-144: “For it was You who created my inward parts; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I will praise You because I have been remarkably and wondrously made. Your works are wondrous, and I know this very well” (Psalm 139 CSB).

Jeremiah 1-14: “The word of the Lord came to me: I chose you before I formed you in the womb; I set you apart before you were born. I appointed you a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1 CSB).

Lamentations 1-2: “The Lord has done what He planned; He has accomplished His decree, which He ordained in days of old” (Lamentations 2 CSB).

 

MSG are daily readings linked to The Message Bible on BibleGateway.com.

CSB are daily readings linked to The Christian Standard Bible on BibleGateway.com.

NLT are daily readings linked to The New Living Translation on BibleGateway.com.

[1] PreachingToday.com. (2003). More Perfect Illustrations: For Every Topic and Occasion (p. 212). Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

[2] Hot Illustrations for Youth Talks

Suffering: September 22-30, 2019 (Sun-Mon): Read through Isaiah, James, 1-3 John, and Jude

Just desserts. Suffering for something done which was stupid or sinful. We’ve all been there because we’re all stupid or sinful at times. We suffer because of our own shortcomings, but we also suffer because of other people’s failings. At other times, we suffer just as a common condition of mankind. A relative’s death brings crushing suffering. A diagnosis of cancer places a heavy weight on you and your family. A friend suffers with Alzheimer’s while you visit your 30-year friend as a stranger. Your business goes belly-up as a result of a downturn in the economy. Your employer transfers you to another state. An injury due to a texting driver nags you daily. There wasn’t anything that you did that directly led to the suffering, but you have to endure it nonetheless. God wants us to look to Him in our suffering, whether we’ve done it to ourselves or not. However, there’s a special kind of suffering of which God takes notice—suffering because we’ve done something right.

Suffering for doing what’s right is biblical. Let’s focus on suffering which you may endure because you did something to lead to it. You did something right. This is commendable. Peter says, For God is pleased with you when you do what you know is right and patiently endure unfair treatment. Of course, you get no credit for being patient if you are beaten for doing wrong. But if you suffer for doing good and endure it patiently, God is pleased with you (1 Peter 2 NLT). The Old Testament prophets suffered for doing what’s right. James says, Brothers and sisters, take the prophets who spoke in the Lord’s name as an example of suffering and patience. See, we count as blessed those who have endured (James 5 CSB). The apostles suffered for preaching the gospel. Stephen was stoned for speaking the truth. Peter and John were imprisoned for healing a man and giving glory to Jesus. Eventually, Paul was executed as well as ten of the original twelve. Peter went on to explain, For you were called to this, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps (1 Peter 2 CSB). Peter then recalls a passage in Isaiah 53 about the Suffering Servant Jesus. You’ll read this this week. Yet he himself bore our sicknesses, and he carried our pains; but we in turn regarded him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced because of our rebellion, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on him, and we are healed by his wounds (Isaiah 53 CSB).

If you’re suffering, endure patiently. If you’re suffering for doing something good, then endure patiently, and take comfort that you’re walking in Jesus’ steps. You’re walking in Jesus’ sandals. He’s been there. However, the difference is that Jesus suffered for doing what was right, and He’d done no wrong–ever.

This week you’ll read…

Isaiah 49-66: “We all went astray like sheep; we all have turned to our own way; and the Lord has punished Him for the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53 in The Christian Standard Bible).

James 5: “Elijah was a human being as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the land. Then he prayed again, and the sky gave rain and the land produced its fruit” (James 5 in The Christian Standard Bible).

1-3 John: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1 in The Christian Standard Bible).

Jude 1: “Now to Him who is able to protect you from stumbling and to make you stand in the presence of His glory, without blemish and with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority before all time, now and forever. Amen” (Jude 1 in The Christian Standard Bible).

 

CSB are daily readings linked to The Christian Standard Bible on BibleGateway.com.

MSG are daily readings linked to The Message Bible on BibleGateway.com.

NLT are daily readings linked to The New Living Translation on BibleGateway.com.

Living Faith Works: September 15-21, 2019 (Sun-Sat): Read through Psalms, Isaiah, and James

Jesus’ brother James wrote one of most beloved books of the Bible—James. It’s beloved because it’s so practical. He preached about doing. He preached that a real, saving faith will produce righteous works. A belief that doesn’t move you to action is a false faith in the same vein as a demon’s faith. James wrote that we must not merely be hearers but doers. This is the main idea of the big little book of James. True faith will result in action. It’s not merely an alleged faith but an applied faith. If you look throughout the book, you’ll see how James basically says that if you claim to have faith, you should be living it out here and here and here.

You say that you have faith, but…

  • Are you looking after the needy (James 1)?
  • Are you treating people equally (James 2)?
  • Are you treating some people better because it benefits you more (James 2)?
  • Do you pass by truly needy brothers or sisters in Christ without lending a hand when you have the means (James 2)?
  • Does your faith affect what and how you speak to others (James 3)?
  • Whose wisdom do you seek and use—God’s or the world’s (James 3)?
  • Are you just trying to get your own way by fighting with others (James 4)?
  • Are you making your own plans or seeking God’s will (James 4)?
  • Are you treating your employees harshly or with a heavy hand (James 5)?
  • Are you patiently enduring suffering (James 5)?
  • Are you being truthful? Are you keeping your word (James 5)?
  • Are you confessing your sin (James 5)?
  • Are you praying (James 5)?
  • Are you helping other believers turn back to Christ (James 5)?

Remember that you are not saved by your works. However, a truly living faith works.

This week you’ll read…

Psalms 135-137: “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His faithful love endures forever” (Psalms 136 in The Christian Standard Bible).

Isaiah 34-48: “Youths may become faint and weary, and young men stumble and fall, but those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not become weary, they will walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40 in The Christian Standard Bible).

James 1-4: “But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1 in The Christian Standard Bible).

 

CSB are daily readings linked to The Christian Standard Bible on BibleGateway.com.

MSG are daily readings linked to The Message Bible on BibleGateway.com.

NLT are daily readings linked to The New Living Translation on BibleGateway.com.

No Escape: September 8-14, 2019 (Sun-Sat): Read through Psalms and Isaiah

The story is told of a merchant who sent his servant to the marketplace to purchase supplies. In just a little while, the servant returned but was pale and terribly frightened and exclaimed, “Master, just a moment ago as I was in the bazaar, I was jostled by a woman in the crowd. When I turned around, I saw that it was Death that had jostled me. She saw me and made a menacing motion. Now, please let me borrow your horse, and I shall ride away from this city and avoid my fate. I will go to Samarra, and Death will not find me there. The master loaned him his horse, and the servant hopped on and spurred the horse hard, riding as fast as the horse could take him to Samarra. Then the master went down to the market and saw Death standing in the crowd. The master went over to Death and asked, “Why did you make a menacing motion to my servant when you saw him this morning?” Death responded, “That was not a menacing motion. It was a jolt of surprise. I was amazed to see him in town, for I have an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.”[1]

This story may imply that no one can outrun his fate, but life is not fatalistic. It’s not “whatever will be will be.” Life is given and taken by the Life-giver. God is not an impersonal Fate to whom we must submit. He is a personal God who is in control of galaxies and guppies and yet has chosen to lavish love on lowlifes like us. God is the grand orchestrator. He is the God “who opens and no one will close, and who closes and no one opens” (Revelation 3:7 in The Christian Standard Bible). He is the One whose judgment no one can thwart as Isaiah the prophet states, “Whoever flees at the sound of panic will fall into a pit, and whoever escapes from the pit will be caught in a trap…” (Isaiah 24:18 in The Christian Standard Bible). As the man in the Death story was unable to undo Death’s plan, so no one will undo God’s doings. As the man attempted to thwart Death’s plan, he actually carried it out. So, too, our actions will not subvert God’s plan. I can’t explain exactly how God’s control and our freedom paradoxically work together, but they do. I also know that God’s rule over the affairs of man and the universe far surpass our control and freedom which are only gifts from God anyway. He’s in ultimate control, and, whether you like it or not, there’s no escape from Him.

This week you’ll read…

Psalms 128-134: “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony!” (Psalms 133 in The Christian Standard Bible).

Isaiah 19-33: “Lord, be gracious to us! We wait for You. Be our strength every morning and our salvation in time of trouble” (Isaiah 33 in The Christian Standard Bible).

CSB are daily readings linked to The Christian Standard Bible on BibleGateway.com.

MSG are daily readings linked to The Message Bible on BibleGateway.com.

NLT are daily readings linked to The New Living Translation on BibleGateway.com.

[1] https://www.k-state.edu/english/baker/english320/Maugham-AS.htm

STOP IT: September 1-7, 2019 (Sun-Sat): Read through Psalms and Isaiah

Stop it! Have you ever said that to your kids? Stop smacking! Stop running in the house! Stop hitting your brother! Stop it! Stop! Stop! Stop! Some people would say to stop using that stop-language. It’s too negative. Lol. They say to be positive in your language. Keep your lips together when eating, dear. Running is for outside, honey. Keep your hands to yourself, sweetheart. That does sound nice, but do I have to refer to my kids as dear, honey, and sweetheart? Can’t I say ungrateful whiner and money-grabber. There’s that negative thinking again. I jest, of course.

The truth of the matter is that negative and positive language are both appropriate at times and inappropriate at times. I’m all for looking for ways to say things better, but when your child is about to walk in front of a moving car in the parking lot, “Honey, look both ways before crossing the lane” is not going to keep your child free of harm. That negative, psyche-damaging language is the only way to go. STOP! DON’T MOVE! Wisdom and love teach us when and how to use both types of words.

Notice God’s words through the prophet, “…Stop doing evil. Learn to do what is good…” (Isaiah 1:16-17 The Christian Standard Bible). Both kinds of language are present in these two sentences. They’re like opposite sides of the same coin. We need to be directed away from the bad and directed toward the good. You needed it when you were young, and you need it today as well. Look at that sin in your life. Stop it! Now look at God’s word. See. This is what you’re to do—the good. Keep on doing this. This is a lifelong process to grow in practical righteousness and distance our behavior from the filthiness of the world. If you still don’t like negative language in your life, I’ve got two words for you. Stop it!

This week you’ll read…

Psalms 121-127: “Unless the Lord builds a house, its builders labor over it in vain; unless the Lord watches over a city, the watchman stays alert in vain” (Psalms 127 in The Christian Standard Bible).

Isaiah 1-18: “Then I heard the voice of the Lord asking: Who should I send? Who will go for Us? I said: Here I am. Send me” (Isaiah 6 in The Christian Standard Bible).

CSB are daily readings linked to The Christian Standard Bible on BibleGateway.com.

MSG are daily readings linked to The Message Bible on BibleGateway.com.

NLT are daily readings linked to The New Living Translation on BibleGateway.com.