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

Make common

We all know that common sense isn’t nearly as common as its name implies. And common sense isn’t the only thing that isn’t as common as it should be.

You are generous because of your faith. And I am praying that you will really put your generosity to work, for in so doing you will come to an understanding of all the good things we can do for Christ.

Philemon 6 (NLT)

The New Living Translation makes this verse pretty clear, but Barnes Notes on the Bible expounds on it even more.

Calvin has well expressed the sense of this passage, “…For although faith has its proper seat in the heart, yet it communicates itself to men by good works.” The meaning is, that [Paul] desired Philemon would so make common the proper fruits of faith by his good deeds toward others, that all might acknowledge it to be genuine and efficacious.

Barnes Notes on the Bible

My faith is personal. Yes, of course it is. It should be. But our faith should be anything but selfish. Like we discussed earlier this week, being a Christian, by definition, is to be Christ-like. And even Jesus, in his most personal moments, took the time to generously minister to others.

GENEROUS: Liberal, bountiful, free to give; strong, full of spirit; full, overflowing, abundant; sprightly, courageous.

That doesn’t sound much like something meant to be kept on the inside.

Think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds.

Hebrews 10:24 (NLT)

James 2:26 states that …faith that does nothing is dead (NCV). Works or good deeds are not what saves us—grace has done that—but works are what prove our faith to everyone else. Works are what draw others to our faith. Works substantiate our claim to belong to Christ. And, as we act more and more like Christ, not only to we look more and more like him, but we get to know him better and have a deeper understanding of who he is and strengthen our personal relationship with him.

Like common sense, the fruits of our faith are not nearly as common as they should be. We shouldn’t have to tell others we’re Christians. Our good deeds should do it for us.

Daily Bible reading: Jeremiah 36-37, Philemon

I insist

When we insist on something, we’re usually polite about it. Let me get the bill, I insist. We’re just being nice.

INSIST: Literally, to stand or rest on. To press or urge for any thing with immovable firmness; to persist in demands.

Not so polite now, is it? To insist on something is to stand firm, without moving or wavering. Paul, in his letter to Titus insists that he stand on the truth of the message of Christ.

But then God our Savior showed us his kindness and love. He saved us, not because of the good things we did, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins and gave us a new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us because of what Jesus Christ our Savior did. He declared us not guilty because of his great kindness. And now we know that we will inherit eternal life. These things I have told you are all true. I want you to insist on them so that everyone who trust in God will be careful to do good deeds all the time. These things are good and beneficial to everyone.

Titus 3:4-8 (NLT)

Not only should we insist on the Truth, but we should insist on it for a reason—so that we will all be careful to do good deeds all the time.

Look at one who’s received a heart transplant. Someone had to die in order for that person to live. Now that they have a new heart, they will not—they cannot—go back to living the way they lived before. They must live a life worthy of the gift they received. The same goes for us. While we’re not going to drop dead if we don’t do good deeds, to live a life without change is hardly living a life worthy of the price Jesus paid so that we could be free from those things that tie us down.

We have been called to so much more than just a simple belief in Christ. Believing that Jesus is the Son of God and that he died and rose again to pay the price for our sins is only the beginning. God, the creator of the universe, has a plan for each of us. He, in His infinite grace and mercy, has far greater things in mind for us than we could ever comprehend. To keep on living the way we always lived is an insult to the price that Jesus paid.

Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God.

Ephesians 4:1 (NLT)

Let’s think about our lives. Think about the gift of grace we have been given. And think about the ways that we can live worthy of that gift one day at a time. Start with one good deed. Then another. Then another.

I insist.

Daily Bible reading: Jeremiah 33-35, Titus 3

Your name here

As we read the Bible, we should always take into consideration the context in which the verses were written. Who wrote them? Who are they talking to? Are they talking about a specific event or period of time? Is it culturally relevant? There are many variables that can change the way we perceive the Word of God. As Pastor Morris Watson put it in his message Do You Know What You’re Asking For?, not everything in the Bible is meant for us personally. But that’s not to say that we can’t take some of it personally.

There are those who like to take scripture and insert their own name into it. I’m not usually one to make a habit of it, but since today’s portion of scripture already has a name in it, why not try inserting your own name in place of Timothy’s?

But you, (insert your name here), belong to God; so run from all these evil things, and follow what is right and good. Pursue a godly life, along with faith, love,  perseverance, and gentleness. Fight the good fight for what we believe. Hold tightly to the eternal life that God has given you, which you have confessed so well before so many witnesses.

1 Timothy 6:11-12 (NLT)

Paul has been writing to Timothy about avoiding many of the pitfalls the Jewish nation was prone to. We’re pretty much in the same boat as the Jews were at that time. The world pushes against us trying to force us into their way of thinking and holding on to the truth becomes more and more difficult.

So today, if you find your faith being pressured, remember these words. Insert your name here and remember that you belong to God. Follow what is right and good. Pursue a godly life. All of these things that Paul encouraged Timothy to do still apply to us today.

Take these words to heart. Take them personally and then you and I can fight the good fight for what we all believe.

Daily Bible reading: Jeremiah 17-19, 1 Timothy 6

Planned with purpose

I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my spokesman to the world.

Jeremiah 1:5 (NLT)

Though these words are spoken by God directly to Jeremiah, it is not the first time we’ve seen this idea. David, too, spoke of God knowing each of us before we were ever conceived.

You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed.

Psalm 139:16 (NLT)

When you make plans, when you set out to begin a project, what is your intended outcome? Do you plan to fail? Do you make certain that your project will never be suitable for its intended use? Of course not!

While you may have measures in place in case of failure, you don’t plan with it at the forefront of your mind. You plan for success. You do everything in your power to be sure that all of your time, energy, and effort does not go to waste.

God put a lot of thought, time, and effort into creating every human being. Psalm 139 talks about all of the thoughts God thinks about you. They are too many to count. We all began in God. As a thought. When He began to form you in your mother’s womb, His plans for you were all about success, never failure.

So when you make an excuse that you aren’t good enough or that you don’t have what it takes to answer the call of God on your life, you’re really insulting God’s plans. God didn’t create you with a failsafe or a kill switch or failure precautions because He created you exactly the way He needed you to fulfill His plans for you. You are what He intended you to be and you have all that you need to fulfill His purpose.

Do you get off track? We all do. But that doesn’t negate God’s plan or purpose. Remember that He knew all of your days before you even existed. The life you’ve lived, the mistakes you made can still be used for His glory. Nothing you can say or do can change the fact that God planned you with purpose.

Daily Bible reading: Jeremiah 1-2, 2 Thessalonians 2

Shine?

From a young age, Christians are told to let our lights shine. What does that even mean? Do I literally have to have a light? If not, what is my light? How do I let it shine? Does it have a switch? Am I responsible for flipping it? If not, how does this whole light thing work? Letting our lights shine has become a nearly meaningless and clichéd line we use all our lives without really thinking about what it means.

God, through the prophet Isaiah, breaks it down into the simplest terms.

Feed the hungry and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be bright as day.

Isaiah 58:10 (NLT)

Feed the hungry and help those in trouble. That’s it? That’s it. Matthew says it in a similar way.

In the same, way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.

Matthew 5:16 (NLT)

The term good deeds is also translated as light. In both cases, light means things like luminary, bright, clear, morning sun, to shine or make manifest. Everything about these roots indicates a rather public display.

But what about Matthew 6:1 where it tells us not to put our good deeds on public display? Well, it’s all about the heart behind the action. Jesus was talking about the hypocrites who made sure people were watching before they did something. It was all for their own selfish gain so that they themselves would be praised. But God is telling us to do these things when people are watching and when they aren’t. He tells us that our purpose behind our good deeds should be to point people back to Him.

By taking care of the very basic needs of those around us for no other reason but that they need it is allowing our light—Jesus—to shine. When we show others the love and mercy that Christ showed us, the glory is not ours, but God’s alone.

So now that you know how and why to do it, shine!

Daily Bible reading: Isaiah 56-58, 1 Thessalonians 3

 

Pardon me once

When my eldest niece was young and she wanted to be excused, she’d asked to be pardoned. Twice. “Pardon me. Pardon me.” Someone told her that she only needed to say pardon me once. Then next time she needed to be excused, she put into practice what she’d been told. “Pardon me once. Pardon me once.”

If you’re the one in the wrong who needs to be pardoned, you only need to ask God’s forgiveness once. We almost always look at forgiveness as something that God does strictly for our benefit. We know that God loves us so much that He sent His only Son to die as a sacrifice in our place. But as much as forgiveness is for our sake, it’s for God’s sake as well.

I—yes, I alone—am the one who blots out your sins for my own sake and will never think of them again.

Isaiah 43:25 (NLT)

When someone commits a wrong against you, you have two options: you can forgive or you can hold a grudge. The only benefit to the latter is that you can feel self-righteous by holding this fault over the person who committed it against you. But by refusing forgiveness, you are effectually cutting off that relationship from the root and preventing it from ever being able to grow.

Harbouring unforgiveness keeps that offense in front of you and, when allowed to fester, it will make you bitter. Like a weed in a garden left unchecked, it will propagate to other areas and choke out anything good. Unforgiveness forces us to look at a person and see their faults first. Everything they say or do—good or bad—goes through the filter of their sin. No relationship can ever grow or even move forward unless there is forgiveness and acceptance of it.

More than it affects the person at fault, unforgiveness, if left unchecked, can ruin the one holding on to it.

You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ. He forgave all our sins. He cancelled the record that contained the charges against us. He took it and destroyed it by nailing it to Christ’s cross. In this way, God disarmed the evil rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross of Christ.

Colossians 2:13-15 (NLT)

So when God forgives us, for His own sake as much as ours, He forgets what ever happened. He has to. If He were to remember and keep record of all our wrongdoings, forgiveness in the future would be impossible to offer. In order to remain the God who forgives, God has to blot out our sins, destroy every record that it ever happened.

When we forgive others, three things happen: we release ourselves from being bound by unforgiveness, we release the offender from their punishment, and we take away the ability from anyone else to convict that person of their sin.

This is the example God has put before us. We only have to ask to be pardoned once. For His sake, God cannot withhold forgiveness, nor can He keep any record of our wrongdoing. That is to our benefit. And, if God has done all of this for us, what right do we have to withhold forgiveness from anyone who asks it of us?

Daily Bible reading: Isaiah 43-44, Colossians 2

In conclusion

As we come to the end of the book of Ecclesiastes, some may be left with the idea that, since nothing seems to really matter, we should just live our lives in pursuit of personal pleasure.

“All is meaningless,” says the Teacher, “utterly meaningless.”

Ecclesiastes 12:8 (NLT)

There’s nothing like a bit of encouragement from the Teacher (largely presumed to be Solomon) first thing in the morning. If everything still to come is meaningless (11:8), why bother trying to do good? Why should we help other people when we can help ourselves? Because it is our duty—not as Christians, but as human beings.

Here is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is the duty of every person.

Ecclesiastes 12:13 (NLT)

As soon as someone tells me that I have to do something, I suddenly don’t want to do it whether it’s good or not. Words like fear and obey are often not see in the best of light and we tend to not want to comply when they’re thrust at us. If you’ve been following along in your daily Bible reading, though, you’ll have already come across hundreds of reasons why fearing God and obeying His commands are really good things.

Fear of the Lord teaches wisdom…

Proverbs 15:33 (NLT)

Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge…

Proverbs 1:7 (NLT)

Fear of the Lord leads to life…

Proverbs 19:23 (NLT)

Life. Wisdom. Knowledge. Who doesn’t want those? We should fear the Lord. And not just out of duty, but because we want to.

And what about obedience?

Praise the Lord! How joyful are those who fear the Lord and delight in obeying his commands.

Psalm 112:1 (NLT)

When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.

John 15:10 (NLT)

Joy! Love! We could go on all day about the benefits of fearing God and obeying His commands. It may be our duty, but it is also to our benefit to do so. If the wisest man who ever lived concluded that we should do these things, perhaps there’s something to it.

Daily Bible reading: Ecclesiastes 10-12, 2 Corinthians 11:16-33

Your lot in life

There are people I refer to as Eeyore Christians. You know, always depressed, pessimistic, gloomy. Glass half empty kind of people. These are the sort of people who may say that they’ve just accepted their lot in life. And they believe themselves to be of great piety as they say it.

But, guess what? These people are sorely mistaken! Too many Christians have taken that one small phrase from a larger portion of scripture and have used it to justify the fact that they refuse to work harder or find any joy at all right where they are. Accepting your lot in life has absolutely nothing to do with settling for a sub-par existence.

And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—that is indeed a gift from God.

Ecclesiastes 5:19 (NLT)

Have you ever heard someone say that they just had to accept their lot in life and say it with joy? I doubt it. It’s usually with that Eeyore drone as though they are meant to go through life alone, unhappy, sick, and poor.

But there is nothing in this portion of Ecclesiastes that would indicate all of those things are our lot in life. It points to the opposite.

Even so, I have noticed one thing, at least, that is good. It is good for people to eat well, drink a good glass of wine, and enjoy their work—whatever they do under the sun—for however long God lets them live. And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—that is indeed a gift from God. People who do this rarely look with sorrow on the past, for God has given them reasons for joy.

Ecclesiastes 5:18-20 (NLT)

Is poverty a gift from God? No! Is pain a gift from God? No! Is sorrow a gift from God? No!

The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give life in all its fullness.

John 10:10 (NLT)

To accept your lot in life is to accept a life of fullness no matter where you find yourself. Life may not be what you thought or planned it would be, but that doesn’t mean that you have to slog through it accepting all the junk life may throw at you. To accept your lot in life means to trust that God still has a good plan for you. It means to look for the joy in the things you see and do every day. It means be thankful and grateful for today and all that comes with it. And, above all, it means enjoying life.

So go ahead, accept your lot.

Enjoy what you have rather than desiring what you don’t have.

Ecclesiastes 6:9a (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Ecclesiastes 4-6, 2 Corinthians 10

Worship

WORSHIP: To respect; to honor; to treat with civil reverence.

Worship isn’t just what we do when we sing on Sunday mornings. It’s what we have the opportunity to do every day of our lives. Our generosity, when done in the name of the Lord, is both an act of worship as well as the inspiration for worship.

Yes, you will be enriched so that you can give even more generously. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will break out into thanksgiving to God.

2 Corinthians 9:11 (NLT)

God gives us opportunities all the time—if we have a mind to look for them. There are infinite ways that we can show generosity to those around us. We need only pay attention and act when we see a need.

For God is the one who gives seed to the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will give you many opportunities to do good, and he will produce a great harvest of generosity in you.

2 Corinthians 9:10 (NLT)

God has not blessed us so that we can hoard our blessings. He has blessed us so that we can in turn bless others. The more we strive to worship God by blessing others, the more room we make in our own lives to receive a blessing. The Church should be producing a perpetual harvest of generosity. We should be drawing good out of each other so that we can draw more people into the Kingdom.

Look for opportunities to worship God through your actions this week. Allow Him to produce a harvest of generosity in you.

Daily Bible reading: Ecclesiastes 1-3, 2 Corinthians 9