Honestly

Honesty is becoming a rare commodity. The places where you were once assured of finding truth are fast becoming dens of falsehood. Everyone is declaring their own personal truth and spurning the existence absolute truth. As Christians, it is just as easy for us to get caught up in partial truths and complete lies. Yet all God wants from us is honesty.

But you desire honesty from the heart,
so you can teach me to be wise in my inmost being.

Psalm 51:6 (NLT)

In order to be honest, though, we need to know what it is exactly.

HONESTY: In fact, upright conduct; an actual conformity to justice and moral rectitude; fairness; candor; truth.

Honesty is the first step toward gaining wisdom. Wisdom is not something that can be obtained through deceit. Whether you are being untruthful with others or yourself, where lies lie, honesty cannot exist. And where honesty isn’t, wisdom cannot be, either.

Sounds hard. But it’s not.

If you need wisdom—if you want to know what God wants you to do—ask him and he will gladly tell you. He will not resent your asking.

James 1:5 (NLT)

Imagine that, God wants His people to be wise! In having a wise people, it means He will also have honest people. And if He has honest people, He will have humble people. All of these attributes go hand in hand. You cannot have one without the other. A humble person is wise and a wise person is honest, and so on. All it takes is a little humility to be completely, absolutely, thoroughly honest. When we bare ourselves to God, that is when He is best able to work in us. A little effort on our part produces great results.

…but those who trust in the Lord will never lack any good thing.

Psalm 34:10b (NLT)

God will gladly give us wisdom. He wants to. Wisdom is a good thing. When we can put our trust in God, we won’t be lacking those good things. God is just looking for honesty from the heart. He is looking for us to put ourselves in a place where we are teachable, moldable, useable.

It’s a good thing. Honestly.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 50-52, Acts 27:1-15

Unfailing love

O God, we meditate on your unfailing love
as we worship in your Temple.

Psalm 48:9 (NLT)

Just as this verse says, today let’s meditate on God’s unfailing love. First, let’s take a look at what it means to meditate.

MEDITATE: To dwell on any thing in thought; to contemplate; to study; to turn or revolve any subject in the mind.

We talk about God’s love a lot, but how often do we really take the time to think about what that means? What is love?

LOVE: An affection of the mind excited by beauty and worth of any kind, or by the qualities of an object which communicate pleasure, sensual or intellectual.

God sees beauty and worth in us—even when we don’t. We bring Him pleasure. We are beautiful. We are worthy. Those are phrases we hear all the time in church, and again, do we really think about what that means? Or have those terms become a part of our Christian rhetoric? God’s love for us isn’t determined by how others perceive us or how we feel when we get up on a particular morning. His love is unfailing.

UNFAILING: Not liable to fail; not capable of being exhausted.

God’s love for us will never stop. It will never run out. It will never reach it’s limit.

With these things in mind, take some time to reflect on some other verses about God’s love.

For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16 (NLT)

But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.

Romans 5:8 (NLT)

He loves whatever is just and good; the unfailing love of the Lord fills the earth.

Psalm 33:5 (NLT)

It’s easy to toss around a word like love and simply forget the true depths of its meaning. We know in our minds that God loves us, but often have a more difficult time transferring that knowledge from our intellect to our hearts, our spirits. God loves us simply because we are His creation, made in His own image and likeness.

For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.

Philippians 2:13 (NLT)

This is the God we serve. The God we love. The God who loves us with unfailing love all because it gives Him joy and pleasure to do so.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 47-49, Acts 26

The sound of silence

Silence can be one of the most difficult things to endure. For many, a great deal of discomfort is found when all noise ceases. Most of us will feel a need to fill the void of sound with babble, the radio, a YouTube video, or just about anything that will permeate the air with something other than silence.

There are times, though, when God desires our silence. Remember on the mountain, Elijah did not hear God in the wind, the quake, or the fire, but in the whispering, small voice in the stillness that followed the cacophony. With his ears ringing from the violence that had just passed, Elijah would have had to be still and listen closely to hear anything at all let alone a quiet whisper.

Be silent, and know that I am God!
I will be honored by every nation.
I will be honoured throughout the world.

Psalm 46:10 (NLT)

It is in the silence that God speaks to us. If we constantly fill our days with noise, how will we ever learn to hear His voice? If we never hear His voice, we will be more easily swayed by all of the other voices around us.

The Lord Almighty is here among us;
the God of Israel is our fortress.
                                                      Interlude

Psalm 46:11 (NLT)

God is always around us. How often do we take notice of that fact? How often do we acknowledge Him? The Psalms are filled with interludes. In many translations, you’ll find selah following a phrase. It is an intentional pause, a time for purposeful reflection. The Lord Almighty is here among us. Here. Among us. Those are certainly words that could use some additional thought.

We should take time every day not to merely endure silence, but to actively seek it out. If it requires removing yourself to a quiet place, so be it. Leave behind the noise and distractions. See what you can learn. Often the sound of silence is far more revealing than the noise.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 44-46, Acts 25

Why so sad?

These days, if you watch or read the news, it can be pretty difficult to keep yourself happy and encouraged. Most news stations report mostly bad news. We’re gluttons for the horrific stories and are drawn to the most sinister of reports. Good news gets buried in the heaps of the atrocities surrounding us.

It begs the question, how then do we remain happy, joyful, and encouraged when all we hear are awful reports?

Why am I so discouraged?
Why so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
I will praise him again—
my Savior and my God!

Psalm 42:5, 11 and 43:5 (NLT)

Three times in two chapters we see this refrain. It must have been important to the descendants of Korah for it to have been repeated so many times.

How often have you asked yourself those questions? Why am I so discouraged? Why am I so sad? And how often are we unable to come up with a reasonable response?

The writer of these Psalms had a solution—put your hope in God and praise Him. Is it really that easy? Yes, I believe it is. James 4:8 tells us to come close to God, and God will come close to you. And Psalm 22:3 says that He inhabits the praises of Israel. Our praise brings us closer to God. God inhabits, dwells, lives in our praises. How can we be anything but joyful and encouraged when God is right there, near to us and living in our praise?

Hope in the temporary will only lead to disappointment and discouragement. This will all pass away. But hope in the everlasting, the eternal leads to joy and encouragement.

Through each day the Lord pours his unfailing love upon me,
and through each night I sing his songs,
praying to God who gives me life.

Psalm 42:8 (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 41-43, Acts 24

Moving shadows

Once you’re gone, how long will you be remembered? Who will remember you? What will you be remembered for? When one considers a stretch of unending time and all of the billions of people who exist and have existed, we’re all just a blip on the radar. How many individuals have made a truly lasting impact?

This thought isn’t meant to discourage nor is it meant to deter you from doing something worthwhile. It should push you toward positive action.

We are merely moving shadows,
and all our busy rushing ends in nothing.
We heap up wealth for someone else to spend.
And so, Lord, where do I put my hope?
My only hope is in you.

Psalm 39:6-7 (NLT)

Because it is so difficult and rare for a single person to impact eternity, it would make a lot more sense to join forces with a group of people who can have a greater effect. This is one of the reasons why the local church is so important. It helps us as individuals to learn and to be accountable to each other, but it also allows us, working together, to leave a greater and longer-lasting impression on the world around us. Further still, it ensures that no single person gets all the glory. When a group of people work together toward a common goal, it is only God who can be glorified.

Alone, it is easy to fall into the busy rushing of daily life. When we go it alone, we forget that we aren’t really alone. But when we can put our hope in the Lord and trust Him to guide us, He will surely lead us to other like-minded people. Our busy rushing becomes more focused and more hands and resources are added to the work. The work becomes greater. And a greater work has a larger impact.

We all have to make a choice: do I want to be merely a moving shadow or will I put my hope and trust in the Lord and add my portion to a larger work so that my impact will be far greater than anything I could generate on my own?

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 38-40, Acts 23:12-35

Trust issues

TRUST: Confidence; a reliance, or resting of the mind on the integrity, veracity, justice, friendship, or other sound principle of another person.

In today’s world, who doesn’t have trust issues? Some of us trust too much and some of us trust too little.

For some of us our lack of trust has more to do with control than anything else. To trust someone means to give up control in a particular area. This becomes a big issue when we project our own insecurities regarding other people on God. We humanize Him to the point that we have a difficult time even trusting in the One who keeps the entire universe together.

Commit everything you do to the Lord.
Trust him, and he will help you.

Psalm 37:5 (NLT)

Everything. Yikes. I like to be in control. I like to know what’s happening and how it’s going to happen. The more I can control in a situation, the better. I don’t like unknowns. And then I put all of that insecurity on God. But here’s the thing, God isn’t an unknown. He gave us His Word to make Himself known to us.

Perhaps our greatest struggle in trusting God stems less from trust issues and more from relationship issues. When you really know someone, trusting them becomes easier. You know how they will react and respond and can predict a likely outcome for many situations. That is how it should be with God. The more we know Him, the more likely we will be able to anticipate the outcome. We have a giant book full of promises. How is it that all of that escapes our memory as soon as we’re asked to put our trust in the Lord?

Can we predict the future down to the tiniest detail? No, of course not. Only God knows all of that—and that is exactly why we should trust Him!

The steps of the godly are directed by the Lord.
He delights in every detail of their lives.

Psalm 37:23 (NLT)

How many friends do you have that delight in every detail of your life? None, right? Thought so.

For the wicked will be destroyed,
but those who trust in the Lord will possess the land.

Psalm 37:9 (NLT)

Life isn’t without its struggles, but if we can put our issues aside, get to know God better and learn to put our trust in Him, He’ll fight our battles for us.

Don’t be impatient for the Lord to act!
Travel steadily along his path.

Psalm 37:34a (NLT)

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

A word of encouragement

Who doesn’t need or want a little encouragement every once in a while (or all the time)? We feel good when someone gives us a pat on the back, tells us we’re doing a good job, or sends a text just to say they’re thinking about us. But what about those days when those things don’t happen? What about the days when we could really use that encouraging word and it doesn’t come? What then?

It sure would be nice if our frame of mind wasn’t so dependant on outside reassurance.

I will praise the Lord at all times.
I will constantly speak his praises.
I will boast only in the Lord;
let all who are discouraged take heart.
Come, let us tell of the Lord’s greatness;
let us exalt his name together.

Psalm 34:1-3 (NLT)

It’s interesting that, in all these lines about praising God, David inserts something about the discouraged. He saw a relationship between praising God and a happy heart.

What if, when we’re feeling a little down and tend to focus more inwardly, we turned it around? What if we took the focus completely off of ourselves? Think about this, when you’re worshipping God, praising Him, speaking about His greatness, what’s your mental state like? Do you feel burdened, in need of a pick-me-up? No. It’s pretty difficult to stay down when you’re lifting God up.

When we turn our focus on to God and His greatness, first of all, our troubles become very small. Second, we allow our spirits to commune with His Spirit—our helper and comforter. Our affirmation doesn’t need to come from outside sources—it shouldn’t come from outside sources. We have the ability to lift ourselves out of the gloom and into the glorious light of God.

How can we be anything but encouraged when we shift our focus from our inward troubles and outwardly praise the Lord, speak His praises, boast in Him, tell of His greatness, and exalt His name?

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 34-35, Acts 22

Trust Him

The Lord is my strength, my shield from every danger.
I trust him with all my heart.
He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy.
I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.

Psalm 28:7 (NLT)

In just one verse—four lines—David gives us a progression of strength, trust, and humility.

It begins with trouble. There would be no reason to be looking for strength and a shield if all were well. David knows that God can and will be both to him—if he puts his trust in Him to be so.

Then comes the trust. Not just a bit of trust. Not just a portion. Not just a little. David’s entire heart goes into trusting God to come to his rescue. He knows from past experience that God will help him. And he also knows that he must get out of the way and not depend on his own strength to gain the victory.

The more we are able to trust in God and put ourselves aside, the more room we make for God to be victorious. If we only trust God with a portion of our troubles, we cannot blame Him if we don’t come out of it with complete victory. Trust in Him with your whole heart, then get out of the way and let Him work.

Because David was able to trust God with his entire being, God comes to his rescue and helps him. Instead of being filled with anxiety over the situation, David is filled with joy! When we are able to put all of our trust in God’s word, our worries will be replaced with joy. How can you be anxious when God says that the battle has already been won? When we trust wholeheartedly in God, we can be confident in His strength and ability rather than wavering in our own shortcomings and weakness.

Once the battle has been fought and won by God, David bursts out in songs of thanksgiving. He gives credit where it is due—taking none for himself and giving it all to God.

In short, this verse is all about humility. David recognises where he falls short. He knows that he cannot win on his own. Instead of striving alone, he puts his trust in the best place anyone can put their trust—the Lord God. God steps in and fills the gaps lending His strength to the situation. David is at peace and filled with joy. When the victory is won, he gives the credit and thanks to God.

The battle can only be won when God gets all of our trust. Then He can be our strength and shield, our help, and our joy. In all of that, what else is there to do but give Him our thanks?

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 28-30, Acts 21:1-14

Valuable

What determines the value of your life? Is it how much money you make or how much stuff you have? Is it the quality of your education and the job you have? Is it how much you give to the poor and needy? What is it that makes life worth something if it is even worthy anything at all?

But my life is worth nothing unless I use it for doing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about God’s wonderful kindness and love.

Acts 20:24 (NLT)

Paul considered all but three years of his life to be worthless—the only years that held value were the ones he used to obey the call of God on his life.

Like Paul, we’ve all been given the same assignment—the Great Commission as described in Mark 16:15. But what about everything else? Not everyone can (or should) go into full time ministry. How do we know what else to do with our lives to make them worthwhile? How do we know what to do to give our lives worth?

Who else can we get advice from than the man after God’s heart? David certainly knew where guidance came from.

Who are those who fear the Lord?
He will show them the path they should choose.

Psalm 25:12 (NLT)

God’s call on our lives doesn’t simply appear out of thin air the moment we accept Christ as Savior. It takes time. It takes a relationship. It takes trust.

Our value and worth in life are derived from our relationship with God and our obedience to His leading. My call isn’t your call and your call isn’t your sister’s call. While we’ve all been given certain instructions as Christians, the how, when, and where may vary. Determining those factors can only come through your own personal relationship with Jesus. This is where trust and dependence on God comes in.

The Lord leads with unfailing love and faithfulness
all those who keep his covenant and obey his decrees.

Psalm 25:10 (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 25-27, Acts 20:17-38

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