Suffering (Days 22-30): 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 (Days 15-21): 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 (Days 8-14): 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 (Days 1-7): 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.

Stand: August 22-31, 2019 (Thurs-Sat): Read through 2 Chronicles, Psalms, Daniel, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, and 1-2 Peter

Everyone’s doing it. Well, everyone else may be doing it, but you have a choice to make. Are you going to do it? Maybe it’s going to church or seeing the latest Marvel movie or shacking up. Good or bad, you’ve got a choice to make, and just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t mean that you should. Examine it. Pray about it. Ask does it bring God glory?

Three men in the Bible were presented with a choice. Everyone else was doing it, so were they going to do it. Everyone else was listening to the band play, and everyone else was bowing down to a huge statue, an idol. Everyone else felt that they had no choice because non-bowers would be thrown into a furnace of fire to be burned alive. Everyone else valued their lives more than their worship preferences, but these three men valued worshipping their God more than their lives. In fact, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to cower and proclaimed emphatically that they would not bow to the king’s idol. They were thrown into the furnace which killed the guards who had that hot job. Then the king saw not three but four men walking around in the fire. The king called the men out, and the three came out unbound and without a hint of smoke. He commended them and their God and rewarded the three. These three men stood for the Lord even when they didn’t know where that would lead them.

If you were to visit South Africa’s Krueger National Park, you’d get to see many native African animals, one of which is the impala. It’s a deer-like animal often shown by the Discovery Channel as dinner for lions and leopards. “The impala can actually jump a height of over 10 feet and leap distances of more than 30 feet. Yet zoos often keep their impalas in enclosures with walls no more than three feet high.” That sounds crazy until you understand the mind of the impala. These great leapers will not jump if they cannot see where their feet will land.

Jumping wasn’t an option for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego when they faced the choice of bowing before the idol or standing tall for God. However, these three men chose to stand for God even though they didn’t know where they would land. Maybe God would deliver. Maybe God would allow them to burn. Regardless of the consequences, regardless of where they landed, they chose to leap in faith and stand for God that day and not bow to the king’s demands.

Today, we have a choice as well: Give in to the demands of the wicked world or stand for God and His righteousness. I pray that you and I will not bow but will stand in the evil day, and after the smoke blows away, we will still be standing.

Here’s a little more application for you if you want it. Let me give you three points to take home from this biblical and historical account of the fiery furnace.

Sometimes we’re tempted to place something before God. Don’t do it.

  • Some people know what God thinks about a matter and are tempted to rethink it. They’re tempted to value their fear, family, business, belief, comfort, culture, sin, or friends more than they value God. People can rationalize any sin or situation into being OK or even promoted. If you’re tempted to place something before God, just don’t do it.

We must choose to be faithful to God regardless of the consequences.

  • These three guys chose to be bold when they were the only ones standing for righteousness. They chose to put their lives on the line for the honor of the Lord. Be bold in your stand. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were so bold. Other than Jesus, can you find any stand for the Lord quite so bold as these three young men? They were standing against the supreme ruler of the world. Life and death were in his hands, and they spoke unapologetically to the king. Be full of faith in God. Ungodly people will sometimes become hateful due to your stand for God and righteousness.

Your faithfulness must not hinge on the possible consequences.

  • You may be delivered like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, or you may burn. You may be destroyed financially due to your faithfulness to the Lord. You may be destroyed physically due to your faithfulness to the Lord. You may be destroyed socially due to your faithfulness to the Lord. However, your faithfulness must not hinge on the possible consequences.

This week you’ll read…

2 Chronicles 35-36: “But the Lord, the God of their ancestors sent word against them by the hand of His messengers, sending them time and time again, for He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place. But they kept ridiculing God’s messengers, despising His words, and scoffing at His prophets, until the Lord’s wrath was so stirred up against His people that there was no remedy” (2 Chronicles 36 in The Christian Standard Bible).

Psalms 119-120: “Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path” (Psalms 119 in The Christian Standard Bible).

Daniel 1-12: “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered King Nebuchadnezzar, ‘Your threat means nothing to us. If you throw us in the fire, the God we serve can rescue us from your roaring furnace and anything else you might cook up, O king. But even if He doesn’t, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference, O king. We still wouldn’t serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.’” (Daniel 3 in The Message Bible).

Habakkuk 1-3: “Though the fig tree does not bud and there is no fruit on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though the flocks disappear from the pen and there are no herds in the stalls, yet I will celebrate in the Lord; I will rejoice in the God of my salvation!” (Habakkuk 3 in The Christian Standard Bible).

Zephaniah 1-3: “Seek the Lord, all you humble of the earth, who carry out what He commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be concealed on the day of the Lord’s anger” (Zephaniah 2 in The Christian Standard Bible).

1 Peter 5: “Be sober-minded, be alert. Your adversary the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour” (1 Peter 5 in The Christian Standard Bible).

2 Peter 1-3: “Dear friends, don’t overlook this one fact: With the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3 in The Christian Standard Bible).

August 22 (Thurs):

 

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.

And the Gold goes to Psalms: August 15-21, 2019 (Thurs-Wed): Read through 2 Chronicles, Psalms, Hebrews, and 1 Peter

I remember playing Bible Trivia when I was younger. Now, it’s seems odd, or even irreverent, to refer to anything in the Bible as trivia, so let me share some information about the Psalms which may be lesser-known and not as important as the gospel.

Psalms has won at least four gold medals in the world of the Bible Olympics. Of course, these stats are based on our modern English translations of the Bible, not the originals. First, it is the longest book of the Bible by number of chapters with 150 although Jeremiah is longest when measured by word count. Second, Psalms has more earthly writers than any other book of the Bible. At least seven different authors or groups of authors wrote the Psalms. David wrote half of them, and about one-third of the 150 are unattributed. (Who are the authors of Psalms?) Of course, God is the author, but He used humans to write it. Third, the shortest chapter in the Bible by verses is Psalm 117 with 2 verses. Lastly, the longest chapter in the Bible by verses is Psalm 119 which has 176 verses.

Psalm 119 has some interesting facts about it in Hebrew (the language in which it was written) which don’t transfer into the English translation. Psalm 119 consists of 22 eight-line sections. Each section corresponds with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet beginning with the first letter and down to the last letter of the alphabet. Each line in a section begins with that section’s letter of the alphabet. Imagine that it was originally written in English. The first section would be the A section, and every one of the eight lines in the A section would begin with the letter A. Next, would be the B section, and on and on until the Z section at the end. This is lost in translation, but it shows you that the writers were creative and sought ways to make truth memorable for singing and reciting and teaching.

One more fact about Psalm 119 is that the psalm revolves around God’s word. “Your word” or some synonym of it occurs in practically every verse. The psalmist is made happy, convicted, taught, made wise, freed, enlightened, saved, and guided by God’s word. What about you? Are you being changed by God’s word because you’re letting it get into you?

This week you’ll read…

2 Chronicles 25-34: “The Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they didn’t listen. So He brought against them the military commanders of the king of Assyria. They captured Manasseh with hooks, bound him with bronze shackles, and took him to Babylon. When he was in distress, he sought the favor of the Lord his God and earnestly humbled himself before the God of his ancestors. He prayed to Him, and the Lord was receptive to his prayer. He granted his request and brought him back to Jerusalem, to his kingdom. So Manasseh came to know that the Lord is God” (2 Chronicles 33 in The Christian Standard Bible).

Psalms 116-119: “I have hidden Your word in my heart that I might not sin against You” (Psalms 119 in The New International Version).

Hebrews 11-13: “Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen” (Hebrews 11 in The Christian Standard Bible).

1 Peter 1-4: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you” (1 Peter 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.

NIV are daily readings linked to The New International Version on BibleGateway.com.

Like Father Like Son?: August 8-14, 2019 (Thurs-Wed): Read through 2 Chronicles, Psalms, and Hebrews

What kind of parental heritage do you have? Some people have godly parents who follow the Lord. Others have ungodly parents who follow the world and the devil’s ways. Of course, you may be someone who lacks or lacked a parent or two in your growing up years. They’ve been non-existent in your life through neglect or tragedy. Regardless, parents have a major effect on their children, but children do not always go the way of the parents. Godly parents can still have ungodly children, and ungodly parents can end up with godly children. Although parents and grandparents should work hard at training their kids in the ways of the Lord, children have a choice, and their choices will make them.

Rehoboam was an ungodly king of Judah whose father and grandfather were Solomon and David respectively. Solomon ended up going off the rails spiritually and that surely led to Rehoboam’s downward spiral. Rehoboam had a kid named Abijah who followed in his father’s footsteps. However, Abijah had a son named Asa who followed God. Then Asa had a son named Jehoshaphat who followed God. Then Jehoshaphat had a son named Jehoram who did evil in the Lord’s sight.

  • Here was the progression from David to Jehoram.
    • David begat
    • Solomon who begat
    • Rehoboam who begat
    • Abijah who begat
    • Asa who begat
    • Jehoshaphat who begat
    • Jehoram.

 

  • The simplified version:
    • Good begat
    • Good which turned Bad and begat
    • Bad which begat
    • Bad which begat
    • Good which begat
    • Good which begat
    • Bad.

Now we can’t really see their parenting styles, but we get a quick glimpse of the general direction in which they led their lives and the nation of Judah. We can see that no matter what your familial background is, you have a choice to follow God or not. God is able to work in the child in the hopelessly ungodly household or in the one who’s in a godly home. If you read 2 Chronicles 13-21, you’ll read about Abijah through Jehoram and see the progression. Some of it is spelled out better in 1-2 Kings. Here are some takeaways from the passage.

  • You may have had some ungodly parents leading you in some horribly ungodly ways, but you still have the choice to continue the ungodly legacy or break the mold and follow God.
  • You may have raised your kids to follow God, but they’re not following Him. Realize that your children make their own choices and that their bad choices are not necessarily because of you.
  • If you’ve raised your children to follow God, and they’re following Him, give God the glory.

This week you’ll read…

2 Chronicles 12-24: “‘Because you went for help to the king of Aram and didn’t ask God for help, you’ve lost a victory over the army of the king of Aram. Didn’t the Ethiopians and Libyans come against you with superior forces, completely outclassing you with their chariots and cavalry? But you asked God for help and He gave you the victory. God is always on the alert, constantly on the lookout for people who are totally committed to Him. You were foolish to go for human help when you could have had God’s help’” (2 Chronicles 16 in The Message Bible).

Psalms 109-115: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow His instructions have good insight. His praise endures forever” (Psalms 111 in The Christian Standard Bible).

Hebrews 4-10: “I have a lot more to say about this, but it is hard to get it across to you since you’ve picked up this bad habit of not listening. By this time you ought to be teachers yourselves, yet here I find you need someone to sit down with you and go over the basics on God again, starting from square one—baby’s milk, when you should have been on solid food long ago! Milk is for beginners, inexperienced in God’s ways; solid food is for the mature, who have some practice in telling right from wrong. So come on, let’s leave the preschool finger painting exercises on Christ and get on with the grand work of art. Grow up in Christ” (Hebrews 5-6 in The Message 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.