Take note. Take courage.

Many have tried, but no one has been able to accurately predict Jesus’ return. A quick internet search will return with lists of dates that have been predicted by the insane, the well-respected, and everyone in between. They all have one thing in common though—they were all wrong.

Take note: I will come unexpectedly as a thief! Blessed are all who are watching for me, who keep their robes ready so they will not need to walk naked and ashamed.

Revelation 16:15 (NLT)

No one wants to get caught with their pants down. Preparedness is key if we want to save ourselves much embarrassment and ridicule.

According to the Mishna (Jewish oral traditions), the captain of the temple in Jerusalem went his round of the precincts by night, and if a member of the temple police was caught asleep at his post, his clothes were taken off and burned, and he was sent away naked in disgrace.

International Bible Commentary

All through the Bible, believers are told to keep watch, be prepared, stay alert. Yet here, at the very end of the book, Jesus is still telling us to pay attention.

It’s difficult to wait when you don’t know how long the wait will be. Most of us have spent time in a waiting room. Whether it be at a doctor’s office, the department of motor vehicles, the lawyer, the financial advisor, or any other assortment of places where we may required to wait. Usually, we have an estimate of how long our wait will be, but as that time stretches, we become impatient and restless. Most of us have even entertained thoughts of giving up all together. But what’s the point in that? We’ve already spent all that time waiting, why not make it productive?

Take courage, all you people still left in the land, says the Lord. Take courage and work, for I am with you, says the Lord. My Spirit remains among you, just as I promised when you came out of Egypt, so do not be afraid.

Haggai 2:4b-5 (NLT)

God, through the prophet Haggai, got the remaining Israelites to rebuild the Temple. Their focus had long been on getting the things they needed to survive, but they were barely getting by. It wasn’t until that remnant began to work together with the common purpose of preparing a place for the Lord that their natural harvest suddenly increased.

What are you doing with your wait? We have no guarantee that Jesus will return in our lifetime. Are we just going to be grateful that we have our ticket to Heaven and leave it at that? Or are we going to get to work? Are we going to be content with barely getting by and risk being caught off guard? Or are we going to work together to prepare the bride, the Church that Jesus is returning for?

Daily Bible reading: Haggai 1-2, Revelation 16

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

Now is the time

When someone asks me to do something I’d already planned on doing, immediately I want to say no. It has turned from being an optional thing into a thing that must be done. And, now that it must be done, I don’t want to do it anymore. It’s not the greatest attitude to have. Especially when it comes to spiritual things.

I said, “Plant the good seeds of righteousness, and you will harvest a crop of my love. Plow up the hard ground of your hearts, for now is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and shower righteousness upon you.

Hosea 10:12 (NLT)

These statements from the Lord were not given as options. You might want to plant the good seeds of righteousness. Maybe think about plowing up the hard ground of your hearts. No, these are statements of things that must be done if we want to reap the rewards that are also described.

Chances are that you’ve planted something before. Maybe in school. Perhaps a garden in your yard. A flower pot on your patio. The soil is as important as the seed. This is why Jesus told a whole story about the soil. In the parable of the sower, Jesus took the time to describe the different types of soil in detail, but never gave any indications as to what the seed may have been or looked like.

As he scattered it across the field, some seeds fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate them.

Matthew 13:4 (NLT)

We can assume that the footpath was hard, packed, well-trod soil—if you can even call it soil anymore. When soil is hard and packed, a seed cannot even get far enough into the ground to sprout roots. All that potential becomes nothing more than bird food. God tells us that we must plow up that hard ground. Now is the time to do it.

Unlike planting, soil preparation can happen at any time. A farmer can start preparing a field for planting a year or more in advance. If the plot of land is particularly hard and stony, it will take time to make it useful for planting. So long as the ground is accessible, it can be prepared.

Our hearts are the same as the unprepared field. We don’t need to wait for a certain season to start. We just need to prepare ourselves to receive the seed. God will take care of the rest. But if we never take the time to prepare ourselves, we can never expect to reap a harvest. Any seed that may be scattered will be snatched away.

Let’s stop waiting and procrastinating. Get the job done while it is still a choice, not a duty. Now is the time to seek the Lord.

Daily Bible reading: Hosea 9-11, Revelation 2

The great pursuit

Psalm 23 is one of my favourite passages in the entire Bible. I attribute this to my mother. While she was pregnant with me, she took up a project to cross stitch the entire chapter. She completed it in the hospital right before I was born. It’s now framed and hangs on the wall in my bedroom and is one of the last things I see before I go to bed every night.

Psalm 23

There is so much packed into these six verses. I can barely begin to scratch the surface, but I want to give you a little bit from each verse.

The Lord is my shepherd;
I have everything I need.

Psalm 23:1 (NLT)

If we follow Jesus like sheep do a shepherd, our needs will be fulfilled. God isn’t a magic genie to see to our needs and whims when we feel like rubbing the lamp. He is there to lead us and guide us. It’s under His guidance that our needs our met.

He lets me rest in green meadows;
He leads me beside peaceful streams.

Psalm 23:2 (NLT)

Turmoil and stress don’t have to be a part of our daily lives. Like being under God’s guidance allows for our needs to be met, if we follow His lead, we will be drawn to rest and peace.

He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
bringing honor to his name.

Psalm 23:3 (NLT)

Strength is required to walk God’s path. There is nothing that says walking with God will be easy, but He does give us the strength to do it. And, if we’re not bringing honour to His name, we’re probably not on His path.

Even when I walk
through the dark valley of death,
I will not be afraid,
for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
protect and comfort me.

Psalm 23:4 (NLT)

When, not if. We will go through dark times. That’s pretty much a guarantee. But even in those times, God has promised that He will be with us—guiding us, protecting us, comforting us.

You prepare a feast for me
in the presence of my enemies.
You welcome me as a guest,
anointing my head with oil.
My cup overflows with blessings.

Psalm 23:5 (NLT)

Our enemies will not suddenly decide to leave us alone because we decide to put our trust in God. We will still have enemies. They may still surround us. Yet God is there, providing for us in the middle of the battleground. And there, we can even find blessings!

Surely your goodness and unfailing love
will pursue me.
all the days of my life,
And I will live in the house of the Lord forever.

Psalm 23:6 (NLT)

We make a grave mistake when we believe we have to chase after God’s love. His love comes after us. His love is there in peaceful rest. His love is there in the dark valley of death. His love is there in the presence of our enemies. His love is there in His house.

It’s time to stop chasing after God’s love. If we’d only just slow down for a moment, it will catch up to us and overtake us. In His love, we will find peace, rest, strength, guidance, provision, anointing, blessing, and goodness.

We don’t have to pursue God’s love because He is always pursuing us.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 22-24, Acts 20:1-16

Fight!

In an attempt to make Christianity sound better than the dark side, I’ve heard many a Christian tell people that everything is wonderful once you make a decision for Christ. The impression is given that all your troubles will dissolve and you’ll never have another need so long as you live if only you’ll give your life to Jesus. Anyone who’s lived the Christian life for any length of time at all knows this simply isn’t true! I’d like to meet that one person who has never had a bad day since their conversion. I’d like to know their secret. I’m sure we all would!

Christianity isn’t a romp through the tulips. It isn’t green meadows filled with wildflowers and birdsong. It isn’t a day at the beach. It isn’t a permanent vacation from the realities of life. It’s a fight.

Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News.

Philippians 1:27 (NLT)

When share our faith with people, we’re not sending out party invitations. We’re recruiting to an army. Yes, God can and will provide for our needs. He can make our lives better. We can live in prosperity and happiness. God wants all of those things for us. But He also wants us to fight because enemies will come against us. And if we’re not prepared, we will be easily and quickly overcome.

David spoke of his battles in Psalm 18. He is known as the man after God’s own heart. If even he had to fight, we can’t expect to escape the battle. But God didn’t send David out unarmed and unprepared and neither will He send us out without equipping us.

God arms me with strength;
he has made my way safe.

Psalm 18:32 (NLT)

He prepares me for battle;
he strengthens me wo draw a bow of bronze.

Psalm 18: 34 (NLT)

You have armed me with strength for the battle;
You have subdued my enemies under my feet.

Psalm 18:39 (NLT)

Being a Christian doesn’t mean that we won’t have to fight. It means quite the opposite. But it also means that we can go into our battles knowing that, not only has God prepared us for it, but He has gone before us.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 17-18, Acts 19:1-20

Behind the scenes

Read through the book of Esther. You won’t find any mention of God.

Does this surprise you?

If you know the story, you probably imagine it with folks praying and praising and God leading someone to do this and telling someone else to do that. The name of God is never mentioned, but we cannot deny the fact that He is still there behind every action taken throughout the story.

Maybe you feel like your life has started a little like Esther’s. She wasn’t born a queen. She was born to a race which, more often than not, was scorned throughout Persia. The Jews had more than their fair share of enemies. As if that wasn’t bad enough, she lost both her parents and her uncle took in his orphaned niece. For many, this would be reason enough to give up. But somewhere along the line, whether it was her nature or the nurture of her wise uncle, Mordecai, Esther grew into a beautiful, wise, strong woman.

As she grew up, Esther couldn’t know that she would one day capture the attention of the king. She couldn’t have known that God was preparing her to rescue her people from an enemy who would see them all dead. She couldn’t have known that she would have to put her own life on the line to spare the lives of her people.

We can never really know what God may be preparing us for as we go through life. Your struggles now may be strengthening you to do something great. And if you give in now, you may never know what God had in store for you in the future.

Like the book of Esther, you may not see God working in your life, but don’t make the mistake of believing He’s not there working, fighting, preparing behind the scenes on your behalf.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “they are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Esther 7-10, Acts 6

Do not get a few

When you pray for a miracle, do you you expect just enough to get by? Or do you expect God to throw open the floodgates and bless you beyond anything you can think or imagine? How do you prepare yourself to receive your miracle?

I’m sure that we’ve all heard the story of the widow’s oil. Elisha had offered to help this woman so that she does not have to sell her two children as slaves to her creditors. All she has is a jar of oil. Elisha tells her to collect empty vessels. He could have told her to gather all she had in her own home, but he goes further than that.

The he said, “Go, borrow vessels at large for yourself from all your neighbors, even empty vessels; do not get a few.”

2 Kings 4:3 (NASB)

He sends this woman and her sons all around the neighbourhood to prepare for a big miracle. Do not get a few. The miracle the widow received was directly related to her preparation for it. Had she only gathered a few vessels, I wonder if she even would have received her miracle since she would have been in disobedience to the word from the Lord.

When you pray for a miracle based on a promise from God’s Word, prepare yourself for the complete and total fulfillment of that promise. When Jesus says he will heal you, prepare for complete—not partial—healing. When the Word says that God will supply for all your needs, prepare for all, not a little.

I think that, many times, we miss out on our miracles because we don’t want to bother God with the big things. We just ask Him for a little hoping that we won’t annoy Him with our request. But He doesn’t want to perform little miracles. As we read through the Word, we see over and over and over again that God is a God of great big miracles. Stop preparing for the minute and get ready for the monumental.

Daily Bible reading: 2 Kings 4-5, John 4:1-30