I will be joyful

It’s easy to be joyful when things are going your way—when you meet that special someone, when you get a big promotion, when you receive an unexpected gift. But what about the other times, when things aren’t going the way you’d hoped? Can you still say that you’re full of joy?

We often look at the dry or dark times in our lives as seasons where God just isn’t there. We struggle on hoping to pass through the difficult season and into the one of abundant harvest so that we can find our joy again. Maybe we’re missing the point.

I don’t believe that God brings the dark times, but I do believe He will walk with us through them. Psalm 23 says that, even though we walk through the dark valley of death, He walks beside us. And not only does He walk with us, He prepares a feast for us in the presence of our enemies. He doesn’t make it all go away, but He endures it all right beside us.

Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vine; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation. The sovereign Lord is my strength! He will make me as surefooted as a deer and bring me safely over the mountains.

Habakkuk 3:17-19 (NLT)

The world may be able to take a lot of things from you, but it cannot take your confidence in your salvation. It cannot take your joy. It cannot take God away from you.

What could be worse than the thought of losing everything? The thought of an eternity without God.

If you are in a dry season, take comfort in this: God is still God, He is right beside you, and He will never, ever leave you alone. If you are in a season of abundance, keep the joy that you have now no matter what comes next. If Habakkuk could look around and see nothing but doom yet still find joy in the God of his salvation, who are we to do anything but likewise?

Daily Bible reading: Habakkuk 1-3, Revelation 14

Act out

A person stands on a stage speaking wise words with an eloquent voice. Their words are truth. Their words hold life.

A person sits in the crowd hearing words and, even though they are powerful, this person feels nothing. There is no change. They are hollow.

Then a stranger beside them gently takes their hand. Suddenly the world changes.

Which person is greater—the speaker or the silent hand-holder? Which one has more wisdom and understanding? We might be inclined to say that it’s the person speaking, but if their words have no effect, what use are they?

If you are wise and understand God’s ways, live a life of steady goodness so that only good deeds will pour forth. And if you don’t brag about the good you do, then you will be truly wise.

James 3:13 (NLT)

Telling people what you know and what you can do isn’t the same as showing people what you know and what you can do. In the end, our actions hold far more sway than our words. Words, though they may be right, are empty unless our actions back them up. Words aren’t always necessary to convey a strong message. In fact, they are rarely needed.

We all make many mistakes, but those who control their tongues can also control themselves in every other way.

James 3:2 (NLT)

As Christians, especially as those who may not be in public ministry, we may struggle with ways to share our faith. We can’t find the words. Bringing up God in conversation always seems shallow and contrived. But what if words aren’t what we need to be sharing? I’ve personally had more people ask me about my faith based on my actions than my words.

When we act out Christ’s love and live a life of steady goodness so that good deeds will pour forth, we open doors that our words could never open. We make paths where our words could never go. We affect lives in ways words never could.

Don’t try to find the right words. Try to do the right deeds.

Daily Bible reading: Ezekiel 24-26, James 3

I know how you feel

I know how you feel.  These are probably some of the most difficult words to hear. Not because they’re meant to bring comfort, but because they don’t. Odds are that the person who’s saying them to you doesn’t really know how you feel. They’re just trying to sympathize. But because you know that they don’t know how you feel, the words become empty and even more hurtful.

But there is someone who truly does know exactly how you feel.

Since he himself has gone through suffering and temptation, he is able to help us when we are being tempted.

Hebrews 2:18 (NLT)

In order to be the perfect sacrifice for all of our sin, hurt, and pain, Jesus had to have been exposed to everything we are exposed to. The only difference it that, he didn’t deserve any of it. So that he could be the one to legitimately express that he knows exactly how you feel, he went through it all. For you.

While you may not find much comfort in a stranger or even a friend offering sympathy, find comfort in Jesus. He really does know how you feel and, because he knows, he also made a way for you to get through it. Whatever your struggle is—sin, addiction, pain, mourning, sickness—Jesus is the one who can bring you through when no one else can. He knows how you feel.

Daily Bible reading: Jeremiah 40-42, Hebrews 2

Children of the Light

There are many definitions for the word light. It’s meaning goes far beyond that of simple illumination:

  • life
  • day
  • means of knowing
  • a window
  • God
  • Christ
  • joy
  • comfort
  • deliverance
  • the Gospel
  • a true Christian
  • favour

All of these things exemplify light.

For you are all children of the light and of the day; we don’t belong to darkness and night.

1 Thessalonians 5:5 (NLT)

When we claim the title child of God, it means so much more than belonging to God. And that is a wondrous thing! When Paul says that, as Christians, we are children of the light, we have life, we have a way of knowing, we have joy, comfort, deliverance, favour. And, if we have anything other than these things in our lives, we have allowed ourselves to be pulled back into the darkness that Jesus died to save us from.

DARKNESS: absence of light; obscurity; want of clarity; that quality or state which renders any thing difficult to understand; a state of being intellectually clouded; great trouble and distress

These characteristics are unbecoming of a Christian. They have no place in our lives. Do we live in a dark world that would see us all brought back into that darkness? Yes. But that is why we are called to let our light shine. Let our joy, our clarity, our comfort, our deliverance, and our favour overflow and overcome the darkness that surrounds us.

But let us who live in the light think clearly, protected by the body armor of faith and love, wearing as our helmet the confidence of our salvation.

1 Thessalonians 5:8 (NLT)

The close we get to God and the longer we remain in His presence, the more clarity we will find and the more confident we will be in our salvation. Darkness will become a distant memory that no longer has a hold on us because we are protected by these gifts from our Father.

So let us live as we are meant to, as children of the light. Let us cast all darkness from our lives and walk in the close comfort that comes with our salvation.

Daily Bible reading: Isaiah 62-64, 1 Thessalonians 5

Thus saith the Lord

If you grew up in church, did prophecy scare you? Were you ever concerned that God would hijack your mouth and force you to holler out a word in King James English? Did you ever worry that, even if you wanted to prophesy that you’d have to start memorizing the King James Bible and learn exactly where to insert your thee’s and thou’s?

There’s nothing wrong with a prophecy given that includes words like thee or thou, but that’s not how it has to be. If you’ve never read a King James Bible, you can still prophesy. If you don’t like public speaking, that’s okay. If you have a quiet voice, that’s fine, too. All you need is love, a willing heart, and a desire to speak God’s word to build up and encourage others.

Let love be your highest goal, but also desire the special abilities the Spirit gives, especially the gift of prophecy.

1 Corinthians 14:1 (NLT)

Many people shy away from all things prophetic because they had a bad experience. Maybe a preacher came to town and offered up a whole lot of condemnation in the name of the Lord. Know this—prophecy is not condemning. It is not accusing.

But one who prophesies is helping others grow in the Lord, encouraging and comforting them.

1 Corinthians 14:3 (NLT)

Prophecy is also not a fortune to be told. If it doesn’t already confirm what God has been showing you, write it down and put it on the back burner. The prophetic isn’t a guide to life, it is a confirmation of what God is already doing in your life.

So, you want to ask God for the gift of prophecy. What if I get it wrong? But what if you get it right? Here’s my opinion and you can take it or leave it—if you’ve asked God for a gift and you believe He’s given it to you, you have to start somewhere. And, if you know that prophecy is to encourage and build up and give someone an encouraging word, at the very least, a person walks away lifted up. At the very best, you’ve spoken a word into their life that confirms something God has already been speaking to them. It can be as simple as, “Hey, I was praying for you and this is what I believe God showed me…”

You never know what God will drop into your heart until you take the first step. So put away thoughts of a booming thus saith the Lord and start to entertain (and talk about) the little things that God is showing you. There may yet be a prophet in there somewhere!

Daily Bible reading: Proverbs 5-6, 1 Corinthians 14:1-20

Law to love

If, according to Galatians 5:14, the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbours as yourself”, the words law and love should be interchangeable through much of the Old Testament. Jesus came and fulfilled the law with love—great love. So what does that fulfillment look like in light of the law according to Psalm 119?

I meditate on your age-old [love];
O Lord, [it] comfort[s] me.

v. 52

Your [love has] been the music of my life
throughout the years of my pilgrimage.

v. 54

I pondered the direction of my life,
and I turned to follow your [love].

v. 59

Evil people try to drag me into sin.
but I am firmly anchored to your [love].

v. 61

Your [love] is more valuable to me
than millions in gold and silver!

v. 72

Surround me with your tender mercies so I may live;
for your [love] is my delight.

v. 77

Your [love] remains true today,
for everything serves your plan

v. 91

Even perfection has its limits,
but your [love has] no limit.

v. 96

Your [love] make[s] me wiser than my enemies,
for your [love is] my constant guide.

v. 98

Your [love] give[s] me understanding;
no wonder I hate every false way of life.

v. 104

When we look at the law through Jesus and his fulfillment of it, what a difference it makes in our understanding of these verses! It’s not a bunch of rules and regulations that we follow, but love—perfect love at that. Love that gives understanding and wisdom. Love that teaches. Love that is valuable. Love that has no limits. Love that is our delight.

If the psalmist found all of these things in the law that God gave to Israel, how much more should we be able to find in the love that fulfilled the law?

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 119:49-104, 1 Corinthians 4

When in doubt

Doubt, if not kept in check, can become a default. We begin to question everything. Can anyone or anything be trusted. Can you trust yourself? It’s a slippery slope that can be just as easily avoided as it is to tumble down.

When doubts fill my mind,
your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.

Psalm 94:19 (NLT)

In addition to being full of doubt, many of us also have the tendency to try to be completely independent. We don’t want to have to depend on others for anything. We can do it on our own. But that’s not what we were created for. No one was meant to live life entirely alone. Our purpose is to fulfil God’s purpose for us. We are supposed to be completely dependent on Him.

 

The Lord will not reject his people;
he will not abandon his own special possession

Psalm 94:14 (NLT)

One thing we should never allow ourselves to doubt is God’s love for us. We are His people. His own special possession. When something is in your possession, chances are that you have a specific purpose for it. This works the same between us and God. We are His. He has plans for us. And, no matter what we do or how we feel, those plans never change.

For God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn.

Romans 11:29 (NLT)

The next time you feel doubt start creeping in, remind yourself of who you are—God’s special possession. Know that you belong to Him, the creator of the universe. Once you’ve reminded yourself of who you are in God, remind yourself of who God is.

Oh, what a wonderful God we have! How great are his riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is to understand his decision and his methods! For who can know what the Lord is thinking? Who knows enough to be his counselor? And who could ever give him so much that he would have to pay it back? For everything comes from him; everything exists by his power and is intended for his glory. To him be glory evermore. Amen.

Romans 11:33-36 (NLT)

You exist by His power and are intended for His glory. Never doubt that.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 93-95, Romans 11:22-36