Sustain

What sustains you? Food, obviously. Hopefully sleep. Water. Maybe the help of family or friends. Perhaps there are things in life that you enjoy that make the tough times more bearable. But what about words? In many cases, words are empty. On their own, they may hold great meaning, but when offered by certain people in a certain way, they may be hollow and weightless. Worthless.

Your words are what sustain me. They bring me great joy and are my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, O Lord God Almighty.

Jeremiah 15:16 (NLT)

Few of us could say that we have it worse than Jeremiah when it comes to the words of God. The prophet spoke these words while God was in the middle of telling him of all the destruction He was going to bring upon Judah and Israel. They were to be utterly destroyed and yet, somehow, Jeremiah finds it within himself to let God know that His words are sustenance. They bring him joy and are his heart’s delight.

SUSTAIN: To bear; to uphold; to support, as a foundation; to keep from falling; to keep alive; to endure without failing or yielding.

In the midst of what must have been a truly dark time, Jeremiah still found God’s word to be full of life. Enough so to support him, to keep him from falling or failing, to keep him alive. And Jeremiah wasn’t the only one who found delight in the words of God in the middle of a trial.

Your decrees are my treasure,
they are truly my heart’s delight.

Psalm 119:111 (NLT)

How can these two men, through storms, destruction, war, and everything else that may have come against them still have found comfort in God’s words? Aren’t they just words?

The yes to all of God’s promises is in Christ, and through Christ we say yes to the glory of God. Remember, God is the one who makes you and us strong in Christ. God made us his chosen people. He put his mark on us to show that we are his, and he put his Spirit in our hearts to be a guarantee for all he has promised.

2 Corinthians 1:20-22 (NCV)

Jeremiah, David, Paul, and many others all found joy and delight in the words of God because God gave us a guarantee. He gave us His mark. He gave us His name. And because He has never failed, we can take that as our assurance that His words will indeed sustain us through whatever may be in store for us in this life.

So he will do for me all that he has planned. He controls my destiny.

Job 23:14 (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Jeremiah 14-16, 1 Timothy 5

 

Boast

Boast is a strange word. We don’t use it often and when we do, it can have negative connotations. Pride. Arrogance. Biblically speaking, the root word translated to boast can also be translated to shine.:

SHINE: To emit rays of light; to give light; to beam with steady radiance; to exhibit brightness or splendor.

Now that changes things a little bit, doesn’t it?

This is what the Lord says: “Let not the wise man gloat in his wisdom, or the mighty man in his might, or the rich man in his riches. Let them boast in this alone: that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord who is just and righteous, whose love is unfailing, and that I delight in these things. I, the Lord, have spoken.

Jeremiah 9:23-24 (NLT)

As humans, we cannot truly boast. We cannot truly shine. While we are made in God’s image, we are meant to reflect His glory, His light. We have no light of our own. Anything that we reflect other than God’s glory is a counterfeit.

But God, in His love and kindness has given us the capacity to know Him. And not just know about Him, but to truly know Him.

KNOW: To perceive with certainty; to understand clearly; to have a clear and certain perception of truth, fact, or any thing that actually exists.

God has given us both the capacity and the right to know Him, with clarity and certainty. And He delights in us when we do what He has allowed us to do. God loves it when we get to know Him. He’s not hiding from us. He doesn’t hold back from himself. He gives. Freely. This is what we should boast in—the truth that should radiate from us: that God knows us and that we can know the Creator of the universe, that He doesn’t want us to just know about Him, but that He wants us to know Him intimately and without doubt.

The more time you spend with someone, the more you reflect that person’s attitudes, ideals, and even mannerisms. It’s the same with God. Our time with Him should be so influential that we imitate Him in every way. Like a proud parent when their child mimics their (good) behavior, so God also delights in us when we act like Him.

So go ahead, boast. Shine.

Daily Bible reading: Jeremiah 9-10, 1 Timothy 3

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

Debt of love

No one wants to be in debt. There are all sorts of companies that work to get people out of debt. So how would you feel if I told you that there is a debt that you can never repay for as long as you live? Gasp! For some reason, there are those who have made this unending debt seem like a weight, a trial, a burden we must all bear. It shouldn’t be. It should be a joy, an honour, a delight to any who seek to make continuous payments on it. What sort of debt am I talking about? The debt of love.

Pay all your debts, except the debt of love for others. You can never finish paying that! If you love your neighbour, you will fulfil all the requirements of God’s law. For the commandments against adultery and murder and stealing and coveting—and any other commandment—are all summed up in this one commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to anyone. So love satisfies all of God’s requirements.

Romans 13:8-10 (NLT)

How quickly our world would change if, not even everyone, just the the Church would take these verses to heart! If just those who bear Christ’s name would also, in the same way, show Christ’s love, we’d change the world in an instant. This love I’m talking about is not what the world thinks Christian love should be, but what Jesus showed us Christian love is.

Don’t just pretend that you love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Stand on the side of good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.

Romans 12:9-10 (NLT)

Our love should not be based on how we perceive the thoughts or actions of others, but on how Jesus sees them: a lost soul in need of salvation, a confused mind in need of clarity, or a searching heart in need of an answer.

There is that old saying, love the person, hate the sin. It’s true. But in what order are we abiding by this truth? Is our hate for the sin overshadowing our love for the person? I’ve found that most sinners don’t need to be told that they’re sinners. They already know it and they already feel enough condemnation for it. What they don’t know and feel is love.

It isn’t always easy to show love for our Christian brothers and sisters, let alone those whom we know live in the sin that we are instructed to hate. But, thank God, in giving the instruction, He also gave us a way.

But let the Lord Jesus Christ take control of you, and don’t think of ways to indulge your evil desires.

Romans 13:14 (NLT)

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.

Romans 12:2a (NLT)

God wants us to allow Him to transform us so that, instead of thinking the thoughts of the world, we can think His thoughts. We don’t have to try to love with our own natural love, but we can be filled with a supernatural love. A love that we don’t have to work for. A love that comes easy.

Think of it this way: say you owed a great amount of money and had no way of paying it, then some stranger comes along and gives you far more than what you need to pay of the debt. Jesus paid a price that we could never pay for a debt that he did not owe. The only debt we are now required to pay is the debt of love—and we don’t even have to come up with the love to pay it because God has given that to us as well.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 99-102, Romans 13

Know Go(o)d

Ask anyone what good is. Then ask them what wicked is. Just about everyone will have a response. While responses to those questions may vary, the amazing thing is that nearly everyone can agree that good and wicked both exist. Not many people could tell you where the ideas come from or how we form our own opinions of what they are, but they exist nonetheless.

Does it really matter what we believe is good and what we believe is wicked? Does it matter if we all agree or disagree? Yes, it does.

But first, let’s take a look at Webster’s 1828 definitions of good and wicked:

GOOD: Having moral qualities best adapted to its design and use, or the qualities which God’s law required; virtuous, pious, religious; applied to persons, and opposed to bad, vitious, wicked, evil.

WICKED: Evil in principle or practice; deviating from the divine law; addicted to vice; sinful; immoral.

To know what wicked is, we simply have to know what it isn’t. It isn’t good. The more we know what good is, the more we are able to recognise wicked.

Who cares? Why do we need to know the difference? Didn’t God tell Adam and Eve to stay away from the tree of knowledge of good and evil? If Adam and Eve didn’t need to know, why do we?

Well, because Adam and Eve didn’t stay away from that tree. Before they ate the forbidden fruit, evil didn’t exist to them. They only knew good. They only knew God. As soon as they disobeyed God’s command and ate that fruit, evil entered their world. Now they knew the difference. We need to know the difference, too.

Oh, the joys of those
who do not follow the advice of the wicked,
or stand around with sinners,
or join in with scoffers.

Psalm 1:1 (NLT)

There are joys to be had in avoiding the wicked. What else?

But they delight in doing everything the Lord wants;
day and night they think about his law.

Psalm 1:2 (NLT)

Why would anyone want to do everything someone else wants? Remember that God is good. He only wants good things for us. Why wouldn’t we want to do what He wants?

They are like trees planted along the riverbank,
bearing fruit each season without fail.
Their leaves never wither,
and in all they do, they prosper.

Psalm 1:3 (NLT)

Now we get to the good part. The more we meditate on God’s Word, the more we understand who He is and the more we understand what good is. When we understand what good is, we recognise what wicked is. Then we can stay away from the wicked. When we stay away from wicked people and things, we become fruitful and prosperous.

Does this all make sense now? Know good. Stay away from wicked. Prosper.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 1-3, Acts 16:1-15

Delight

The English language really is a wonder. We have so many words that mean so many things. The language is constantly evolving and new words are added all the time. However, some words have also lost meaning. We tend to replace some words with others and make words that don’t really mean the same thing interchangeable.

When you think of delight, is it temporary or permanent? Is it affected by circumstance or state of mind? Delight. Joy. Happy. Content. We often use these words in place of each other. But what does delight really mean?

DELIGHT is a more permanent pleasure than joy, and not dependent on sudden excitement.

A high degree of pleasure, or satisfaction of mind; joy.

With that in mind, take a look at some of the verses in Psalm 37.

Delight yourself in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Psalm 37:4 (ESV)

But the meek shall inherit the land
and delight themselves in abundant peace.

Psalm 37:11 (ESV)

The steps of a man are established by the Lord,
When he delights in his way;
though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong,
for the Lord upholds his hand.

Psalm 37:23-24 (ESV)

None of these references have anything to do with being happy. No outside force is implied when David tells us to delight in the Lord, in abundant peace or God’s ways. Even in the hard times, as David explains, if we delight, if we find our joy in God and His will, His ways, we will find the blessing of peace.

The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord;
he is their stronghold in the time of trouble.
The Lord helps them and delivers them;
he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
because they take refuge in him.

Psalm 37:39-40 (ESV)

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 36-37; Acts 23:1-11

Joy!

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.

James 1:2 (ESV)

Joy? Really? I’m supposed to have joy in trials?

I will readily admit that joy is not usually my go-to response to a difficult situation.

But what is joy? Joy is not equal to happy. Let’s set that one straight.

HAPPY: lucky, fortunate, successful, prosperous, having secure possession of good.

So if joy isn’t happy, what is it?

JOY: a delight of the mind, from the consideration of the present or assured approaching possession of good. To rejoice; to be glad; to exult.

In Acts, Paul and Barnabas stirred up a bit of a ruckus. They had spent several weeks preaching the Good News of Jesus and people were responding. Of course, the leaders of the city would have none of this and they stirred up people against the boys. Paul and Barnabas left the city, shook the dust off their feet and moved on.

And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

Acts 13:52 (ESV)

Were they happy that they got kicked out of a city where the population was responding to their message? I doubt it. Yet they still had joy because they still had a purpose and they still had the Holy Spirit. The leaders in the city couldn’t take that away.

The next time you face trials and difficulties, try to separate your happiness from your joy. Happiness comes and goes, by joy comes from the Lord.

Daily Bible reading: Job 33-34, Acts 13:24-52