Bible Reading Blog
BIBLE READING: Proverbs 16
“Whoever gives thought to the word will discover good, and blessed is he who trusts in the LORD.” (Proverbs 16.20)
I start every day with bible reading. It is a critical habit that gets my day started right. However, a couple weeks ago, someone asked me about what I read that morning and I couldn’t remember. I remember reading the words, but nothing stuck…
I suspect we’ve all found ourselves here before. We check the bible reading box for the day but we’re not sure what we just read. Which begs the question, what value does it offer if we don’t remember it?
An important discipline in spiritual development is meditating on truth and looking for ways to apply it. The language of this Proverb suggests not simply a time investment but resting our mind knowing the value it offers. Consider these other verses:
“Blessed is the man… whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.” (Psalm 1.1-2)
“For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” (James 1.23-25)
Reading God’s Word is vitally important, but without extended thought, we will forget. Notice that hearing and doing are what produce blessedness (James 1.22).
We are conditioned to live on impulse and minimal information. The media offers sound bites and Twitter gives us 140 characters from which we are encouraged to form opinions. What results are often “firecracker reactions” that emotionally drive people to ignorant beliefs and create deep-seeded tensions. Our present cultural and political dynamic accentuates the folly of impetuous living. It never leads to positive outcomes and creates constant fear of the next moment.
We sometimes take this shallow approach to God’s word. We minimize the depth of God’s wisdom by relegating important truths to bumper stickers and catchy blurbs on social media. However, wisdom is a process that develops with patience and grace. Much like a diamond in the rough, it takes time and effort to uncover the beauty of God’s wisdom in our life.
There is vitality in focused thought on God’s word. It is a lamp to our feet and light to our path (Psalm 119.105). It enlightens us to right choices in difficult situations. We are foolish to be satisfied with a shallow investment in God’s Word. So, don’t just read your bible… Think about it.
“Blessed is the man who meditates day and night on God’s word. He is like a tree planted by a stream that bear fruit and thrives. In everything he does, he prospers.” (Psalm 1.1-3, paraphrased)
BIBLE READING: Psalm 27
“I am certain that I will see the LORD’s goodness in the land of the living.” (Psalm 27.13, CSB)
Affirmations are powerful tools. Your actions will always follow your thoughts, your beliefs and ideas. We often digress into depression, anxiety and failure because we have not reminded ourselves of what is sure. The affirmations of Psalm 27 empower us to confidently engage the enemy with courage
King David was keenly aware of his own insufficiency. Without the LORD he has no light, salvation or stronghold that will protect him with certainty. This is a pattern we often seen in the psalms: human insufficiency and injustice highlight the futility of trying to affect change.
David understood he was incapable of affecting change with certainty. He could wield his power, but when faced with a daunting foe the outcome was bleak. Considering the power and position of king David only magnifies the humility of his plea and the sovereignty of God.
And yet, David believes that God will act. He bookends his thoughts with confident affirmations because he trusts in the nature of God. He will see fulfillment with God. He will not live with fear and anxiety always. He believes that God’s goodness will ultimately prevail.
When faced with uncertainty, the most powerful thing we can do is affirm what we know about God. God is not bound by the limitations of time and chance. When he acts, he is always successful. God is the help and hope of the righteous and there will be justice for them against the evildoers.
It is important to see that David’s affirmations do not exclude self-awareness or action. Instead they promote greater introspection and deeper trust. Just as he was certain of God’s nature, he purposed in his heart to pursue God’s ways (Psalm 27.11) He will seek God’s favor and his face (27.4, 8). He will praise God in his hour of trouble (27.6).
Our minds are designed to overpower our carnal weaknesses and allow us to do more than we think possible. This is how you see sports figures overcome enormous odds to accomplish amazing feats. But we must take our thoughts captive (2 Corinthians 10.5) and engage them with God’s word if we will overcome the unseen challenges that plague our souls.
Affirmations of God’s power will not always lead to immediate positive results, but it will train us towards endurance. Notice the Psalm ends with an encouragement to wait on the Lord (27.14). As we learn patience, we develop confidence in God’s timing that produces hope. This is what God is trying to develop in us (Hebrews 6.19; 10.36). Our strength and courage come from his stability and victory. Do you believe that God will win?
Don’t just think it… Affirm it, believe it and live it.
“The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of who shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27.1b)
BIBLE READING: Job 17
“My spirit is broken my days are extinct; the graveyard is ready for me.” (Job 17.1)
You won’t see this verse hanging in anybody’s house. In fact, this type of attitude seems contrary to what you might expect from someone of faith. Faith primarily hinges on hope and with that is assumed one will have optimism and a positive outlook on life.
Job doesn’t seem to have those things. Job often appeared unstable as he vehemently defended his faith. Even his words about God become very pointed as he wrestled with His sovereignty (see Job 7.11; 10.1-3). And yet, God praises Job for his integrity and faith (Job 2.3). Which begs the question, “How can someone of exemplary faith be so negative about life?”
Job’s story must challenge our paradigm of faith.
I think our primary struggle to resolve Job’s attitude with his faith is that we often pretend difficult seasons shouldn’t exist. Life should always be sunshine and rainbows… but we know that’s just not true. Sometimes we hurt and must grapple with the existential question of “why?” It’s the only way we will look beyond the temporal to a bigger solution than what we can see or know. In those seasons, our deepest fears and strongest emotions of negativity often come to light.
I’m not condoning perennial negativity, but we need to be realistic about life and allow its various seasons to shape us. Job teaches that faith doesn’t exempt us from feeling helpless. In fact, it might amplify those emotions. Trusting God sometimes feels like we don’t have a safety net, and everything is crashing down. There is a helplessness we will experience because we just don’t know God’s plans.
People turn to God because they are looking for help and hope. Faith is our effort to engage with God to receive something better (Hebrews 11.13-16). For believers, it is God’s faithful and sure promises that propel them forward. These promises are life-changing, but we must remember that hope’s fulfillment is not found in this life.
This is a hard reality. We will encounter situations outside of our control that drive us to our limits. We will not always be emotionally centered or mentally stable as we deal with the issues of life. But God is patient, gracious and even welcoming as we work through these emotions (see Psalm 6; Hebrews 4.15-16; 1 Peter 5.6-7).
You may feel unstable, but God doesn’t desire for you to remain that way. Instead, faith learns to anchor itself in God. Hope is stronger when you are weaker (1 Corinthians 12.9). And so, “let us rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation and constant in prayer” (Romans 12.12) and anchor our souls in what we can confidently know about God.
“I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God.” (Job 19.25-26)
BIBLE READING: Job 11
“If iniquity is in your hand, put it far away, and let not injustice dwell in your tents. Surely then you will lift up your face without blemish; you will be secure and will not fear.” (Job 11.14-15)
God’s people often found themselves in bad circumstances because they made sinful choices (i.e. Judges 2.11-16). Hence the prophets’ refrain of ‘return to God and he will return to you’ (see 2 Chronicles 7.14, Zechariah 1.3, and Malachi 3.7). Certainly, where sin is present and known, it must be acknowledged and exposed before a relationship with God is possible (James 4.8).
But this is not the case with Job. He had no willful sin (see Job 1-2). He practiced what he preached (Job 4.3; 6.28-30) by continually acknowledging his weakness before God (Job 9.19-20) and cultivating a lifestyle of humility and repentance (Job 1.5). Although Zophar’s admonition is predicated on the cause and effect principle, it doesn’t take into account that one can’t always know the cause. That knowledge is exclusive to God (Job 11.7-10).
The feeble attempts of these men to make sense of the situation demonstrates human limitations and highlights some things we must remember:
We learn the plight of life and suffering through experience. Life is temporal and fleeting. All good will end in this life, ultimately at death. God’s grace allows for reprieve, but it is not the end game (Ecclesiastes 5.16-20; Job 6.13). Job’s comforts were taken away to build trust and broaden his vision. I fear we sometimes decry his suffering without appreciating God’s purpose: He is developing trust and longing for better things.
“God tests the righteous” (Psalm 11.5). God told Abraham to kill Isaac (Genesis 22.1-2). He sought to kill Moses after he called him to lead Israel (Exodus 4.24). All great people of faith were challenged by God’s calling because it was often contrary to what was natural. If your faith doesn’t cause you stress and struggle, God may not feel like you’re ready to be tested.
Present circumstances do not define God’s grace towards us (Matthew 5.45). Sometimes the wicked prosper and righteous suffer (Psalm 73). “Time and chance happen to everyone” (Ecclesiastes 9.11). “For everything there is a season” (Ecclesiastes 3). God’s promises play out over time and so we must learn patience and develop trust in every season.
Job wrestled with the realities of life, but he did not lose faith or become ambivalent in his efforts to turn from sin. His story highlights our need to press God during difficult times and lean into what God has revealed and promised. When we don’t understand why things are happening, we must be willing to dig deeply into our hearts and put our feet on the rock of God (Psalm 18.31). This can be hard and exhausting but is the only way to cultivate what God desires to create in us: a lifestyle of trust motivated by hope.
“Do not throw away your confidence which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.” (Hebrews 10.35-36)
BIBLE READING: Psalm 22
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?” (Psalm 22.1)
This prophetic depiction of Jesus’ death and subsequent glory captures the myriad of emotions Jesus went through during his final hours. In fact, Jesus invoked this phrase while hanging on the cross to point us to God’s plan through this horrific event (Mark 15.34). Tragedy gives way to victory (Psalm 22.24, 26, 28).
Hope is strong in the psalm, but part of what makes it powerful is the suffering. Written by David hundreds of years before Christ, it paints a chaotic picture of helplessness and need to which all can relate. We have times when every path seems wrong, every effort seems futile, and our weaknesses overwhelm our competency. Like this psalm, we vacillate between God’s control and our desire to avoid the present distress.
The sense of abandonment we feel in times of stress is very real. Even Jesus experienced this. In the garden of Gethsemane, his humanity bled out as he begged God to “let this cup pass from me” (Matthew 26.39). He knew this was God’s will, and yet even he was overwhelmed by the weakness of the flesh.
Jesus was a “man of suffering, and familiar with pain” (Isaiah 53.3, NIV). We're not happy he suffered, but it is so valuable that Jesus experienced life just like we do. The application of this psalm to himself accentuates just how much Jesus understands the struggle of life in this world. That is what allows him to be merciful and sympathetic as he makes intercession for us before God (Hebrews 2.17; 4.15-16).
Life may be hard, and you may feel like no one understands; but Jesus does. Even though he was tired and weak and abandoned by those around him, Jesus trusted God (1 Peter 2.21-23), and God rewarded him for it (1 Corinthians 15.3-4; Ephesians 1.20-23).
For believers, suffering always give way to victory, and the best part of this psalm is that it doesn’t end in defeat. “You who fear the LORD praise him!... For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted… but has heard, when he cried to him” (Psalm 22.23-24). The psalmist was revived by this hope; Jesus endured by this hope; and we too can overcome the challenges of life with this hope.
God has always been near (Acts 17.27) and thoughtful of our daily needs and struggles (Psalm 8.4). But through Jesus he has done great things to provide for those needs (Isaiah 53.3-12). This is the gospel. God offers hope to those who would turn from sin, and trust in him. If we believe God’s promises are sure, then, “let us draw near with confidence to God’s throne of grace through Jesus so we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4.16, paraphrased).
"[God] has heard, when he cried to Him... The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the LORD!" (Psalm 22.24, 26)