July 11, 2018: His Love Endures Forever

July 11, 2018:

Today's Bible Reading: 1 Chronicles 26-28, Psalm 136, Luke 9:37-50, 1 Thessalonians 2:1-9 Psalm 136: If one of the first rules of interpretation is to look for repetition to be able to discern the main theme of a text, then the main theme of this text is pretty clear! “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever” (136:1). Clearly, this psalm is intended to teach us that God’s love endures forever, and because of that, therefore, to give thanks to God. That said, under that overall theme, there are particular subsections here regarding ways we can see that God’s love endures forever—and that therefore, separately as well as jointly, fuels our giving thanks to God. The first is who God is in his essence (136:1-3). God, in his own nature, is good. He is the God of gods, and the Lord of lords. That is, God, in his own…

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July 10, 2018: Praise the Lord!

July 10, 2018:

Today's Bible Reading: 1 Chronicles 23-25, Psalm 135, Luke 9:28-36, 1 Thessalonians 1 Psalm 135: One of the questions that is frequently asked of Christians – and which Christians themselves at least sometimes also ask – is why is it that we should “praise the Lord.” Is God insecure that we need to keep telling him how great he is? And what is it about God that is so great that he should be praised anyway? One of the best answers to this was given by C.S. Lewis: that praise is what you do when you enjoy something; praise not only affirms the enjoyment, it actually completes the joy. But still, what is it about God that is so joyful and therefore so worthy of praise? This psalm connects some of these dots for us and helps us understand why to “praise the Lord.” First, we are to praise God for he is good,…

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July 9, 2018: The Blessing of Unity!

July 09, 2018:

Today's Bible Reading: 1 Chronicles 20-22, Psalm 133-134, Luke 9:18-27, Colossians 4:10-18 Psalm 133: Unity is a much-undervalued commodity. And yet, when rightly grasped and applied, it is one of the most precious possessions of all. The apostle Paul urges us to make every effort to maintain the “unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” And this first psalm, Psalm 133, exults in the experience of such unity among fellow disciples of the Lord. “How good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” (133:1). What is such unity like? The images used to describe the experience of this unity are not immediately accessible to the modern reader. Verse 2, the unity is like oil coming down Aaron’s beard! Verse 3, it’s like dew falling on the mountains of Zion! The point of both of these images is that unity is something that, ultimately, comes down. The great mistake of…

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July 8, 2018: I Will Not Give Sleep to My Eyes

July 08, 2018:

Today's Bible Reading: 1 Chronicles 17-19, Psalm 132, Luke 9:1-17, Colossians 4:1-9 Psalm 132: Remembering David is something that seems not particularly relevant to the modern Christian, but this psalm shows us why it is important. First of all, he is a model of commitment to God’s people and to God’s house. He “vowed to the Mighty One of Jacob, ‘I will not enter my house or get into my bed…until I find a place for the Lord’” (132:2-3, 5). This commitment was well-meaning, even if in the end it was redirected by God from a house to an eternal household (2 Samuel 7:9). This same redirection of David’s commitment to build a house is reflected in this psalm too: “The Lord swore to David a sure oath from which he will not turn back: ‘One of the sons of your body I will set on your throne’” (132:11). But while David’s commitment to God…

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July 7, 2018: Profound Peace

July 07, 2018:

Today's Bible Reading: 1 Chronicles 15-16, Psalm 130-131, Luke 8:40-56, Colossians 3:15-25 Psalm 130: De Profundis—out of the depths I cry to you. We think of being “profound” as a state of wisdom or insight. But there is a profundity in despair, and this psalmist is in despair. He cries out to God. And what he declares about God is purest gospel: “with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared” (130:4). Cry out to God, ask him for pardon and mercy, and do so because such forgiveness can only come from God, and with him there is forgiveness. Not only with God is there forgiveness, but also “with him” is “steadfast love” and “plentiful redemption” (130:7). Therefore, “he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities” (130:8). In the end, the forgiveness we long for is based in the knowledge of who God is in himself: forgiving, loving, redeeming. This is the God…

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July 6, 2018: Oppression

July 06, 2018:

Today's Bible Reading: 1 Chronicles 12-14, Psalm 129, Luke 8:26-39, Colossians 3:1-14 Psalm 129: Oppression and injustice are real experiences for millions of people in our world—some of them also being Christians. The reasons for such oppression and injustice are complicated, and beyond the scope of this devotional to adequately discuss, but the cause is simple, if simply devastating. We live in a fallen world, and while our fellowship with God is on the basis of Christ’s justification, our relationships to each other, and especially to the fallen world around us, are liable at all times to have at least vestiges of depravity and disease stubbornly resisting the progress of the gospel. Perhaps you have had some injustice committed against you. This psalm is not focused on the individual experience of injustice—as pertinent and painful as that can be—but on the corporate experience of suffering, in particular the oppression of God’s people as a…

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July 5, 2018: The Lord Bless You!

July 05, 2018:

Today's Bible Reading: 1 Chronicles 10-11, Psalm 128, Luke 8:16-25, Colossians 2:16-23 Psalm 128: Almost in answer to the question implicitly posed by the previous psalm (how can you be a person whose life is a house the Lord is building?), this psalm makes it clear where blessing comes from. “Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways!” (128:1). If you are wanting to have a blessed life—not just material blessings or superficial moments of happiness, but that sense of being in the right and on the right path, and connected to the source of meaning and purpose of the whole universe—then “fear the Lord.” A Christian fears God though he is also a friend of God. As intimate a relationship as a Christian has with his or her Father God, the godly Christian never forgets that that relationship is with the Almighty. Picture Susan and Lucy coming close to…

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July 4, 2018: Unless the Lord Builds the House

July 04, 2018:

Today's Bible Reading: 1 Chronicles 7-9, Psalm 127, Luke 8:1-15, Colossians 2:8-15 Psalm 127: The first part of the psalm focuses on work. All hard work leads to profit (Proverbs 14:23), but “unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain” (127:1). There is no ultimate profit, benefit, reward, or point to hard work unless you are working for the Lord. When you are working for God—whatever it is that you are doing, if you are doing it for him, that is to please him—then there is point to it all. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” (Colossians 3:23, NIV). With this focus on God and the eternal confidence that comes with the personal knowledge of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, we can know that our “labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians…

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July 3, 2018: Joy

July 03, 2018:

Today's Bible Reading: 1 Chronicles 5-6, Psalm 126, Luke 7:36-50, Colossians 2:1-7 Psalm 126: What is it that causes real joy? There are many different theories out there about what makes you happy. There is the song that has a permanent website that is meant to encourage people to be happy. The wildly popular Yale psychology course on happiness is now online. Any number of self-help books promise happiness through one technique or another. But what is it that does not just match our lifestyles with the hardwired predispositions of our brains in order to achieve maximum circumstantial happiness (a satisfaction with what is “happening”), but actually gives us a lasting joy, even when such circumstances are far from us? The attainment of that joy (part of the fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5:22) is part of the promise of the Spirit-filled Christian life. How can we find that kind of happiness, aka real…

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July 2, 2018: Trust God

July 02, 2018:

Today's Bible Reading: 1 Chronicles 3-4, Psalm 125, Luke 7:18-35, Colossians 1:15-29 Psalm 125: Some people seem as if they could withstand anything. They have an inner calm and resilience that seems to belie any attacks against them and gives them a rugged true grit that is admirable. Christians are meant to be people who are loving and kind, but also strong. We are to be those who love our neighbors, but also those who resist evil and can be counted on to act with self-control and self-discipline. We are to have the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, etc.), and also the armor of God (the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit, etc.). What is the secret to being the kind of Christian who can stand firm even when under attack, and who has the kind of resilience that can keep going even in the midst…

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