dailybiblereader2012

Putting God's Word into Practice…

Spent with Sorrow (Psalm 31:9-13)

Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in DISTRESS; my eye is wasted from GRIEF; my soul and my body also.  For my life is spent with SORROW, and my years with SIGHING; my strength FAILS because of MY INIQUITIES, and my bones WASTE AWAY.

Because of all MY ADVERSARIES I have become a REPROACH, especially to my neighbors, and an object of DREAD to my acquaintances; those who see me in the street flee from me. I have been FORGOTTEN like one who is dead; I have become like a BROKEN vessel. For I hear the whispering of many–TERROR on every side!–as they scheme together against me, as they plot to take my life.

Sin produces grief, results in sorrow and suffering, causes distress, and makes strength fail.  Suffering is a direct effect of sin.  Some suffering is a result of living in a world marred by sin and inhabited by sinful people.  And sometimes it is a consequence of our own sinful choices.

Whether our suffering is a product of our sins or others’ sins against us, we have two choices:  1) try to handle it ourselves and end up empty, exhausted, and angry or 2) turn to the Lord and ask for His grace! (vs. 9)

In verses 9-10, David’s sorrow was a consequence for his own sins.  He took responsibility for them, calling them “my iniquities.”  We cannot receive grace without confession.  Several weeks ago I had been battling despair and a downcast spirit.  But it wasn’t until I recognized the sin of selfish idolatry in my life and confessed it that I received grace and strength from the Lord.  Now I am walking in joy and freedom, again.  Even though the silly circumstances that were causing discontentment and discouragement haven’t changed–I didn’t lose 10 pounds, I didn’t get a new wardrobe or a bigger house–I have found joy in God’s grace alone.

It might be good to take a few moments and examine our hearts:  Could my sorrow be related to my sin?  How am I trying to handle suffering in my own failing strength instead of turning to the Lord and receiving His grace?  Do I really believe His grace is all I need?

Help me, Lord, to recognize my need for your grace!  Your Word says it is abounding even over our darkest sins (Romans 5:20).  It also says that Your grace is ALL I need–in suffering, hardships, weakness, insults, persecution and calamity (2 Corinthians 2:9-10).  May Your grace be multiplied to me!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Revelation 7 ~ Great Tribulation

Tribulation can be defined as: a cause of great suffering, difficulty, hardship, trial, or affliction.  No one likes tribulation!  Yet we all deal with it in varying ways throughout the course of life.

Although this chapter mentions the “Great Tribulation”  which is a specific seven year period of great torment on earth, I think we can learn something about the outcome and purpose of the tribulations we face.

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb…These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation.  They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. (7:9-10,14)

The great tribulation will bring salvation to uncountable multitudes of people!  The main purpose of tribulation even now is to show us our need for Jesus!  The greater the tribulation, the more valuable the salvation, the greater our worship!

Tribulation only lasts for a time.  When it comes to an end, for those who have trusted in Jesus there are precious promises waiting to be fulfilled FOREVER!

  1. Protection/shelter (vs. 15)
  2. In the presence of Jesus (vs. 15)
  3. No hunger (vs. 16)
  4. No thirst (vs. 16)
  5. No sunburns =) (vs. 16)
  6. No wandering (vs. 17)
  7. No more tears, ever! (vs. 17)

If we believe in Jesus, we can rest in His promises.  He WILL do ALL He says!  No wonder those saved out of the “great tribulation” spend their days serving and worshiping their Savior!

Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen! (12) All these things attributed to humans are fleeting–our glory and honor never last, our might is short lived, our wisdom may pass on to a generation only to fizzle out–but they belong to God forever.  That is why He alone is worthy of our worship!

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1 Peter 4:19 Swelling Truth

In Literature my son was reading the book From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.  Towards the end of the book Mrs. Frankweiler gives some advice to the youngster, Claudia:  “I think you should learn, of course, and some days you must learn a great deal.  But you should also have days when you allow what is already in you to swell up inside you until it touches everything.”  That is precisely how I feel about 1 Peter 4:19!

Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.

Throughout 1 Peter I have been reminded that forgiveness and salvation only come by way of the shed blood of Jesus (1:2). Through His resurrection from the dead He conquered death giving me new life and the hope of eternal life (1:3-4).  I have the promise that I will see Jesus face-to-face one day because I believe in Him by faith and love Him (1:7-9, 13).  I have been reminded that the Lord is holy, and because of my hope in Him and because He paid for my soul with His own blood I should want to be like Him–following His example of holiness (1:15-16).  I learned that Jesus set the ultimate example of humility by willingly suffering rejection, temptation, insults, hardships, persecution and death at the hands of His enemies in order to save us all (2:21-24).  When I am willing to suffer for His name according to His example, He will use it to strengthen me and change people’s hearts towards Him.

My Father in Heaven will never expect more from me than He required of His own Son!  Jesus is my supreme example of holiness, humility, and honor.  He is my source of hope, help and happiness!  He gives purpose to everything I go through in His name and for His glory.  Everything in 1 Peter points to Jesus and chapter 4 verse 19 is no exception.

Jesus suffered according to His Father’s will.  Matthew 26:36-40 says, “Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, ‘Sit here, while I go over there and pray.’ And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled.  Then he said to them, ‘My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.’ And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will’.”  Jesus did experience tremendous suffering from that point on in His earthly life.  His body was beaten.  He was mocked.  He had a crown of thorns pressed into His head. He was nailed to a cross.  His flesh was destroyed.

Jesus entrusted His soul to a faithful Creator.  Luke 23:44-46 tells us that before He breathed His final breath on the cross, Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!”  Sure, they could destroy His body, but His Father could preserve His soul.

Jesus suffered while doing good.  Jesus did the greatest work of all time by suffering according to His Father’s will and entrusting His soul to the faithful Creator.  He provided the way for all mankind in all ages to be redeemed, reconciled and restored to their Creator!

Our flesh may fail; our bodies may waste away; our bodies may even be destroyed through suffering.  As amazing as our bodies are, they are just tents for our eternal souls. Our souls are created by God, and He is able to save them.  We can trust Him with our souls–He is faithful!

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1 Peter 5:8-9 We Have an Enemy

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brothers and sisters throughout the world. 1 Peter 5:8-9

Peter knew he had an enemy who wanted to destroy him.  He had been tempted to deny that he knew Christ three times prior to Jesus’ crucifixion, and he blew it!  Yet he also knew of the grace, forgiveness and restoration that is offered freely through the Lord.  When Peter gives directives about how to avoid being devoured by our enemy, we would do well to listen!

Humbly depending on the Lord to care for us is one way that we can resist the devil.  The devil wants us to believe the lie that we need to protect, defend and care for ourselves.  If he can separate us from the truth of who God is and how He loves, the devil can destroy us.

Having an alert, sound mind is another way to resist the enemy.  If we know and apply God’s Word to our circumstances, we have truth as a weapon to defeat our attacker where the battle starts–in the mind.

We also need to widen our focus by taking our eyes off of our suffering and circumstances.  Satan wants us to isolate ourselves, to think that we are the only one who is suffering.   He uses suffering to make us anxious and angry.  He uses suffering to cause us to doubt God’s care and goodness.  He uses suffering to weaken us.  When we see that we are not alone in suffering, we can love and pray for each other.  We can encourage one another in faith and truth.  God uses our suffering to strengthen us!

Today if you feel like the Enemy is winning in your heart, mind and life; please message me.  I would like to pray for you!  God is bigger than our enemy, and He has the power to defeat him.

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1 Peter 4:12-19 Fiery Trials

As Christians we will suffer persecution and insults just like our Lord Jesus.  In America, those who stand firm in their faith on God’s promises and truths may be insulted, but there is little real persecution.  In other countries, however, followers of Jesus Christ are being killed every day for their unashamed faith.   In fact, I got a prayer email last week about an elder of a church in India who was praying for healing for a man.  The man quietly left the room and came back with a machete-like weapon and slit the church leaders throat while he prayed.  Along with the prayer request for this martyr’s family was a request to pray for his killer to know the forgiveness and grace of Jesus.  Wow!

Although this passage says to not be surprised by the fiery trials WHEN they come, surprisingly we are told to rejoice in those trials.  In Hebrews 12:2 we are told that Jesus, “for the joy set before Him endured the cross.”  We can embrace suffering for Jesus with joy, when we know that someday we will see Him face-to-face, and He will reach out His nail-scarred hands and welcome us home to eternal rest in His presence.  Suffering here on earth is momentary in light of eternal joy in the presence of the Lord.

There are different kinds of suffering.  Suffering for the name of Jesus and suffering because of sin.  Most of the suffering in my life is a result of sin not because of my Savior.   There are no promises of God’s power resting on sinful suffering, no promises of joy and rejoicing, no promises of experiencing the faithfulness of God.  There are four specific sins listed in verse 15: murder, stealing, evil-doing and meddling.  The first three seem obvious, but the fourth one doesn’t even seem like a sin, does it?  Meddling–getting in other people’s business–is something many of us do on a daily basis!  And a lot of the conflict in our lives is because we have meddled in someone else’s!  This kind of suffering does not lead to joy, but is meant to lead us to brokenness so that we can repent and experience joy.

Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good. 1 Peter 4:19

God is faithful.  He allows suffering for a time for His purposes and ways.  He promises that when we suffer for His name that His glory and power rests on us and that we will receive blessing (vs. 14).  Psalm 139:16 tells us that God saw our unformed body while it was still in our mother’s womb, and that he had written every day of our lives in a book before one of them came to be.  God knows us, He sees us, He loves us, He has a plan for us, and He is not surprised by our suffering.  We can trust Him with our circumstances.  We can rejoice in our suffering because He is the Redeemer and Restorer of suffering.  We can continue to do good for His glory in the midst of suffering–it doesn’t have to paralyze us and steal our purpose.

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1 Peter 4:1-11 Purity and Purpose

Purity

Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. 1 Peter 4:1-2

Jesus suffered on behalf of sinners, so that we can have victory over the sins that enslave us.  His suffering made our way for salvation.  When we “arm ourselves” with that way of thinking, it gives us another reason to embrace the suffering that we go through.  Suffering is a tool that God can use to purge us of our selfishness and pride.  Enduring suffering and overcoming sin are battles that start in the mind.  The way we think is a weapon that we can take up to make war against our unholy passions and desires.

So why does it even matter if we do battle against sin in our lives or continue in it after we have embraced the good news of Jesus Christ and His salvation by grace through faith?  Because we will stand before the Lord someday and give an account for our lives and actions.  There are only two ways that we can live: for our own human passions or for the will of God.  Living for ourselves does not demonstrate the change that takes place in our heart when we submit to the Lordship of Jesus.  When we let Him change us, and our lives don’t look like they did before, people may malign us and our old friends abandon us, but we will have the Spirit of God to carry us through until eternity.

Purpose

The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.  Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace, whoever speaks, as one who speaks the words of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies–in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.  To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 4:7-11

Jesus is coming back to take those who believe in Him by faith home to heaven!  We don’t know when that day will be…it could be today!  That begs two questions: 1) Are you ready?  If Jesus came today, would you go with Him to heaven?  2) What should we do with our time while we wait for Him to come? What do we hope to be doing when He comes?

God graciously gives us great ways to fill our time on earth…ways that are according to His will, not serving our own passions.  We are called to pray; to love others earnestly; show hospitality; and use our God-given gifts to serve one another; and generously share God’s grace with others.  Can you imagine what our lives would look like, the joy and fulfillment, the productivity/fruitfulness we would experience if we approached our daily lives with this “to-do” list?  We would be achieving the purpose of man–that God would be glorified through Jesus in our lives.

The thing that gets in the way of our loving, serving, and caring for others is our own selfish desires.  Until they are put to death, we are of no use to others.  That is why we need to do battle against our flesh.

For any John Piper or Tedashaii fans, here is a great song about making war on the flesh:

http://youtu.be/a4mbn1u0wBs

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1 Peter 1:1-2 Introduction ~ Be Encouraged

This letter is from Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ.  I am writing to God’s CHOSEN people who are living as foreigners in the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.  God the Father KNEW YOU and CHOSE YOU long ago, and His Spirit has made you HOLY. As a result, you have OBEYED him and have been CLEANSED by the blood of Jesus Christ.  May God give you MORE AND MORE GRACE AND PEACE.

Peter, was a disciple and follower of Jesus Christ during His life on earth.  He got in trouble with his big mouth several times; and in Jesus’ time of deepest need, Peter even denied he knew Jesus.  He suffered from pride and selfishness–just like me!  And he needed Jesus’ forgiveness and grace–just like me!  After Jesus affirmed Peter’s commitment to the truth, He returned to heaven.  With the promise to build His church through Peter ringing in his ears (Matthew 16:18), Peter was filled with great boldness and set about the mission entrusted to him.

Peter was no stranger to persecution.  In Acts 4 we find Peter’s first overnight jail stay for healing a lame man in the name of Jesus.  His boldness in preaching in the name of Jesus led to a second arrest and imprisonment–followed by a miraculous escape (Acts 5).  And in Acts 12, we learn of his third arrest, imprisonment and supernatural release.  Peter’s faith ultimately culminated in His martyrdom around 67 A.D. under the rule of Nero.  Peter was crucified head downward out of respect for his Savior-Jesus.

Therefore, if anyone qualified to be writing to the confused, scattered and discouraged Christians under extreme persecution, it was Peter!

Peter started right off with a hope-filled reminder and greeting.  He reminded the Christians that God knew them, chose them, and made them holy!  WE CANNOT DO ANYTHING TO MAKE OURSELVES HOLY!!!  We can only be made clean by coming to the cross and humbly bowing to King Jesus.  A true view of our standing with God helps us endure suffering.  True obedience only flows out of the change He makes in us by the blood of Jesus.  If we forget the price of our holiness, obedience will not be our default action.

Not only do we need reminded of our hope in our salvation and our value in the eyes of God, we need His grace and peace in desperate and uncertain times.  How comforting to know that when asked, God gives “more and more grace and peace”–it is multiplied in our lives and over our circumstances!

  • Where do you need God’s grace and peace today?  May it be multiplied to you!
  • Discouraged, weary???  Remember that God knows you and has chosen you!
  • Feeling like you don’t measure up???? If God has made you holy, you are holy!
  • Lacking obedience to the Lord???  Be reminded of the price that was paid to make you holy–the blood of Jesus shed on a cross!!!
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James 5:13 Advice During Times of Suffering and Joy

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray!  James 5:13a

What is the advice given for those who are suffering?  PRAYER!  Unfortunately prayer–really pouring my heart out to God–isn’t always my first response.  Grumbling, complaining, whining, eating chocolate, taking a nap, snapping at everyone around me, crying, hosting a pity-party for one, etc…that’s how I deal with suffering.

As my son and I have been meditating and memorizing Psalm 34, two verses regarding prayer have encouraged my heart. Psalm 34:4 says, “I prayed to the Lord, and He answered me.  He freed me from ALL my fears.”  And verse 6 says, “In my desperation I prayed and the Lord listened. He saved me from ALL my troubles.”  Troubles and fears equal suffering!  Prayer is really our only solution.

God hears! God answers! God frees, rescues, and delivers!  God cares about us in our suffering more than any human on earth.  He is more readily available than any earthly friend.  He alone knows the purpose of our suffering.  He holds the answers to our biggest question–“Why???”  He is the God of all comfort who comforts us in our affliction (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).  His peace that is beyond our understanding can fill and guard our minds and hearts (Philippians 4:7).  He is our refuge and strength, a very present and well-proved help in times of trouble (Psalm 46:1).

Is anyone among you suffering?  LET HIM PRAY!!!

Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. James 5:13b

Again, there is a whole range of actions that flow out of a cheerful heart:  doling out extra smiles, showing unexpected kindness, eating chocolate (can also be a cause for cheerfulness), etc…  When we think about what makes us cheerful, it should all point us back to Jesus and fill our hearts and mouths with songs of praise to our great God!  Here are some things that make me cheerful:

  1. Able to pay an unexpected bill. God provides! (Genesis 22:14)
  2. Sunny day, cool breeze, perfect white clouds in a crisp blue sky. The Lord created and sustains the whole universe by the power of His command (Colossians 1:16-17).
  3. Hot cup of coffee and time to myself. God leads me to rest and restores my soul (Psalm 23:1-2).
  4. Completing my “to do” list.  The Lord is my strength! (2 Timothy 2:1, Psalm 28:7)
  5. Receiving a gift from a friend. Every good and perfect gift come from God (James 1:17).

Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise!

Every emotion and circumstance in life should point our hearts to God–whether by desperation in prayer or by gratitude in praise!

How am I responding to “life” today? Prayer or praise is God’s solution!

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James 5:1-12 Patience is More Than a Virtue

Be PATIENT, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer WAITS for the precious fruit of the earth, being PATIENT about it, until it receives the early and the late rains.  You also be PATIENT.  Establish your hearts for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. As an example of suffering and PATIENCE, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained STEADFAST. You have heard of the STEADFASTNESS of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. (James 5:7-11)

We are told to be patient, to wait, or to be steadfast about seven times in these few verses–to patiently wait for the Lord’s return; to patiently wait for the Lord to provide what we need; to be patient in trials, hardships and suffering.

We are not naturally patient.  Patience is a result of surrendering to God’s Spirit in our lives (Galatians 5:22-23) and a product of various trails in life (James 1:2-4).

Steadfastness comes with blessing, but it is only produced through suffering!  So we can rejoice in our trials because they result in blessing.  Keeping our eyes fixed on the ONE who blesses, the ONE who is compassionate and merciful, the ONE in whom lies our eternal hope through His return can give us a clearer perspective and enable us to embrace trials for our good.

When patience is not evident in our lives, two pitfalls can plague us:

  1. James 5:1-6.  We stop waiting on the Lord.  We become self-indulgent, laying up earthly treasures for ourselves.  We get selfish and greedy.  We try to provide for ourselves.  The results can be  credit card debt, overworked and exhausting days, suffering relationships, and financial anxiety/stress.
  2. James 5:12.  We lose our credibility and integrity.  We say we believe one way with our mouths; but we don’t follow through with our actions.  We defame the name of Christ! When, as His followers, we don’t keep our promises, we become a poor reflection of His character.  We may say how good God is and swear that He is enough for us, but when trials come we jump ship or grumble instead of holding fast to Him.

There is great value in patience, but it is only grown in surrender and suffering.  “Let us know the Lord; let us press on to know him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; HE WILL COME TO US like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.” Hosea 6:3

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Hebrews 13:10-14 Post Vacation Reminder

Returning to real life and ministry from vacation can have one of two results: return with fresh zeal and passion or return with hesitation and complacency.  This past week, I found myself in the second group.  I knew a lot of the same “burdens and battles” we were facing before we left were still waiting for us upon our return and honestly I just wanted to hide.  God used these verses (specifically 12-14) and much prayer to remind me, it’s not about me, to suck it up and get back in the “game.”

So Jesus also SUFFERED outside the gate in order to SANCTIFY the people through HIS OWN BLOOD. Therefore LET US GO TO HIM outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. (12-14)

Jesus suffered exclusion, rejection and pain to make people holy.  Now, I know that He is the only One who can make people holy; but as His ambassadors on this earth, it is our responsibility to spend our lives helping people in the area of holy living through discipleship.  So it shouldn’t surprise us when we face rejection and suffering when we are trying to live our lives like Jesus.  

William Lane said, “Christian identity is a matter of ‘going out’ now to Him.  It  entails the costly commitment to follow Him resolutely despite suffering.”

Will I meet Jesus outside the camp at the place of suffering for the sake of others?  If my hope is set on eternity, I will!  I will not give up!  

Lord give me the strength to serve and suffer for the sanctification of others.  Give me the heart and desire to continue the ministry of love. In Jesus, my suffering Savior’s name, amen.

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