This week I’m reflecting on ten years of writing devotions. The most important thing that has happened to me through this process is that I have grown to know God more deeply through His Word. It’s something that each of us as believers need to do. Our daily reading shouldn’t be about quantity, but quality. I’ve learned to read it until I hear from God and see how something applies to my life and yours. The Bible was given to us to train us, to correct us, to real God to us and so much more. The more we dig into it, meditate on it and apply it, the more like Christ we will be.
Here are some Bible verses on the benefits of reading and applying God’s Word.
1. Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.
Joshua 1:8 NLT
2. Blessed [fortunate, prosperous, and favored by God] is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked [following their advice and example], Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit [down to rest] in the seat of scoffers (ridiculers). But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And on His law [His precepts and teachings] he [habitually] meditates day and night.
Psalms 1:1-2 AMP
3. Every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 NET
4. “God means what he says. What he says goes. His powerful Word is sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel, cutting through everything, whether doubt or defense, laying us open to listen and obey. Nothing and no one can resist God’s Word. We can’t get away from it—no matter what.
Hebrews 4:12-13 MSG
5. Yahweh’s Word is perfect in every way; how it revives our souls! Yahweh’s laws lead us to truth, and his ways change the simple into wise. Yahweh’s teachings are right and make us joyful; his precepts are so pure! Yahweh’s commands challenge us to keep close to his heart! The revelation-light of his Word makes my spirit shine radiant.
When I was in my teens, I was introduced to what it meant to live by a code. I was taught that it was important to have a set of guiding principles by which to live your life. I didn’t know then how much they would shape my life and help me through making decisions. All these years later I still have the code memorized and think of the characteristics often. They are still the words I live by because they are so fundamental. These words apply to my mental, physical and spiritual life. They are: alert, clean, honest, courageous, loyal, courteous, obedient and spiritual. Each has its own saying that defines it and how I should live.
When the Israelites were freed from slavery in Egypt, they didn’t have a code to live by. After living in Egypt and slavery for so long, their guiding principles were what the Egyptians told them to do. So the first place God led them to was Mount Sinai to meet with them and to give them some principles to live by. Today, we call them the Ten Commandments. You can find them in Exodus 20. These commandments were a set of rules to live by to ensure that people did the right thing by God, themselves and others if only they would follow them. He further defined the Law through Leviticus, but these were the core ones to guide their lives.
Today, we have the entire Bible to show us how to live. Psalm 119:11 says, “I have hidden Your Word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (NLT). The word “hidden” means to store up and treasure as your most valuable possession to the point that it governs your life. God’s Word is not just a mere set of morally good ideas and principles that we should just read. It’s inspired by God and is to be used for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). It is what we need to treasure above all other things in our heart because of the eternal impacts it has on us. When we value it and place it in a position in our life to govern our decisions, we will live the way God called us to. It is our Code for living.
Have you ever let anyone down? I have. I’ve been the person who was supposed to show up, and didn’t. I’ve been the person was supposed to speak up, and stayed quiet. I’ve even been the person who said I’d do something, and didn’t. Chances are, someone like me has failed you along the way. People can be unreliable at times and even fail us when we need them the most. They have good intentions, but don’t always come through when you need them to. Because that’s happened to us, many of us live by the saying, “I don’t give out trust. You have to earn it.”
As I read through the Bible, there are plenty of stories of how people have failed each other and God. There’s no one perfect in there because perfect people don’t exist. But amidst all the imperfect people is a God who is perfect and never fails to do what He says. No matter how many times, or how badly people treat God, He always keeps His Word. He always shows up. He always does what He says He will do. God never fails. He may not always answer the way we want Him to, but He always keeps His promises because His Word never fails.
Here are some Bible verses on some ways God never fails.
1. Meanwhile, I’m sure you’re on my side— no victory shouts yet from the enemy camp! You know me inside and out, you hold me together, you never fail to stand me tall in your presence so I can look you in the eye.
Psalm 41:11-12 MSG
2. My word is like the snow and the rain that come down from the sky to water the earth. They make the crops grow and provide seed for planting and food to eat. So also will be the word that I speak— it will not fail to do what I plan for it; it will do everything I send it to do.
Isaiah 55:10-11 GNT
3. The earth and sky will wear out and fade away before one word I speak loses its power or fails to accomplish its purpose.
Matthew 24:35 TPT
4. For the word of God will never fail.
Luke 1:37 NLT
5. It is because of the LORD’S loving-kindnesses that we are not consumed, Because His [tender] compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great and beyond measure is Your faithfulness.
One of the questions I ask young adults is, “How do you personally define a successful life?” If they struggle with the answer, we fast forward until their 80 and look at their life. Then I ask, “If you had a successful life in your eyes, what would you see?” Many times I hear people say, “Lots of kids or grandkids,” or “A full bank account,” or “Lots of property.” If they know where they want to end up, they can start working towards getting there. Now let’s flip the question, “At the end of your life, how will Jesus know you lived a successful life?”
I don’t mean that question as a Jesus Juke. I want you to think about whether you’re living for yourself or for Him. Do your goals match up with the goals He has for you? 2 Corinthians 5:15 says, “He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them” (NLT). If at the end of your life, you attained your measure of success, but not His, you’ve failed. In Mark 8:36, Jesus said, “And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?”
2 Corinthians 5 goes on to tell us that when we are in Christ, we receive a new life. With a new life comes new purpose. We no longer are to live for ourselves (old life). We are to now live for Christ (new life). This new life produces different fruit than the old one. The definition of success changes because your purpose changes. If you’re still working under your old definition of success in your new life, spend time asking God what His definition of success is for your life. It’s not too late to begin fulfilling your purpose in your new life.
One of my daily prayers is, “Lord, help us to hear your voice more clearly, and give us the courage to do what you say.” That prayer prompted my son to say, “I’ve never heard God’s voice before. Is He speaking?” I told him that God is always speaking. It’s up to us to find a quiet place and listen. I then explained that God rarely speaks to us audibly. He usually speaks to us through the Bible or He whispers in our heart.
One of the times God spoke audibly was in 1 Samuel 3. Samuel was just a boy and lived in the Temple with Eli the priest. In the middle of the night, God called to Samuel. He thought Eli had called him, so he went into the room where Eli was sleeping to ask what he wanted. Eli told him that he hadn’t called him and sent him back to bed. This happened three times before Eli figured out what was going on. He then sent him back with instructions should he hear the voice again.
Verse 10 says, “And the Lord came and called as before, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ And Samuel replied, ‘Speak, your servant is listening.’” As I told my son, I believe that God is always speaking to us. It’s up to each one of us to listen. Just like you have to learn to actively listen to someone, we have to purposefully listen for God’s voice. When you open the Bible, pray, “Speak, your servant is listening.” Do it when you pray as well, then give God Time to speak.
We live in such a busy world that we rarely take the time to slow down and listen. The same voice that spoke billions of galaxies into existence wants to speak to you today. Any relationship requires two way communication. God isn’t looking for someone who will follow a bunch of rules. He’s looking for someone to speak with. That’s why christianity isn’t about a bunch of regulations, even thought we’ve made it that. It’s about having a relationship. All relationships rise and fall on communication. Yours and God’s is no different.
Next to Black Friday, the day after Christmas is one of the busiest shopping days of the year. Why? Because it’s the day people take back the gifts someone else gave them, and exchange them for what they want. It doesn’t matter that someone else looked high and low for the perfect gift. We want what we want, and now we can take what was given to us and use it to get something else. It’s a day full of long lines and enticing sales.
Mankind has been doing something like this since God gave us the gift of His Son. We have tried to exchange His gift for something that doesn’t make us change. We want the benefits of Him sending His Son without the cost to our lives. Paul said it best in Romans 1:25, “They exchange the truth about God for a lie” (GNT). People like certain parts of the Bible, but they don’t like others so they exchange them for things they want to believe.
We can’t get caught up in doing this ourselves. It’s easier to want to exchange God’s truths for things we want to believe, but that isn’t how God operates. The good news is that Paul goes on to tell us that God is patient with us. Romans 2:4 says, “Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?” (NLT). Even when we try to exchange God’s truths, He is patient.
What ways have you tried to exchange God’s truths? We’ve all done it. I believe we can pray, and ask God to open our eyes to His truths. We can ask for help from the Holy Spirit to help us live the lives we were called to live. God Loves each one of us and is patient with us. We are capable of living the life He called us to through the power of the Holy Spirit (see Romans 8). Our lives are the most fruitful and fulfilled when we accept His truths instead of exchanging them.
When I was growing up, nearly every store had a person from the Salvation Army out front ringing a bell. They would be outside from Black Friday until Christmas. People would put their change in the bucket and the Salvation Army would use that to help the poor and needy. These days, you don’t see many of those bell ringers with buckets. It’s sad to me. If nothing else, they were a reminder that there are people who are poor among us and need help.
Jesus told us that there would always be poor people who needed help. He often encouraged people to help them. This time of year is particularly hard for people who live check to check. They now have to somehow find a way to buy a tree, presents and decoration. Christmas can be expensive. This season of giving, keep your eye open and your heart available to hear from God. He still cares for the poor and uses others to meet their needs.
Here are some Bible verses about helping those in need.
1. She extends a helping hand to the poor and opens her arms to the needy.
Proverbs 31:20 NLT
2. Give to the poor and you will never be in need. If you close your eyes to the poor, many people will curse you.
Proverbs 28:27 GNT
3. Do not neglect to do good, to contribute [to the needy of the church as an expression of fellowship], for such sacrifices are always pleasing to God.
HEBREWS 13:16 AMP
4. Mercy to the needy is a loan to GOD, and GOD pays back those loans in full.
Proverbs 19:17 MSG
5. But when you help a needy person, do it in such a way that even your closest friend will not know about it.
Each year, I take one week off from writing to help me refresh and reset. This is that week. To help you stay faithful to your daily devotional time, I’m bringing back a series I wrote a few years ago on disciplines we as Christians need to have. Enjoy and I’ll be back next week with all new devotions. Avoiding Injury
The way to avoid or minimize injury in sports is to do all the right things. The same applies spiritually. One of the things you can do to prevent injury is stretching. When is the last time you stretched yourself spiritually? I’m not talking about a faith pledge financially. I’m talking about stepping out in faith and you really doing something positive for the Kingdom. It could be walking up to a stranger and just telling them, “God wanted me to tell you that He loves you.” It could be fasting for three days with water only to grow closer to God. It could be any number of things that you don’t think you can do for God.
Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.” The same thing applies spiritually. If you don’t stretch yourself and think you can do more than you are right now, you’re right. You will stunt your growth and never do more than what you’re doing today. God wants us to step out of the boat like Peter did. When he saw Jesus walking on the water and asked Jesus to call him out of the boat, I’m sure his mind told him that he couldn’t do it. Thankfully his faith in God told him that he could. Have you asked jesus to call you out of your boat? Which voice are you listening to? Stretch yourself.
So before you begin your in depth training for Godliness you need to be able to do some things first. You need to be able to read God’s Word without interruption. How much you read isn’t important in the beginning. It’s not about reading a chapter a day or at a time. God can speak to you with just one verse, but you need to be where you can hear Him speak to you through it. Get away from all distractions and the noise in your life. Jesus went away from others to hear God. You should too.
You also need to be in the habit of praying and listening. Prayer is important. I think contemplative prayer is even more so. I’ll do a post on this soon because it’s more than just praying what comes to mind. It’s purposefully thinking through your prayers. That’s something you work up to though. Beyond just praying, you need to learn to quiet your mind and give God time to speak to you. We, like Elijah in I Kings 19:11-14, think that God speaks loudly all the time. We want Him to speak to us audibly. Elijah saw a windstorm that tore rocks loose from the mountains, but God’s voice wasn’t there. He saw an earthquake, but God’s voice wasn’t there. He even saw fire, but God’s voice wasn’t there either. After the fire, there was a gentle whisper of God’s voice. That’s how God speaks to us. We need to get to where we can hear His voice, then quiet our mind and listen for it.
Tomorrow I’ll wrap this series up with some final thoughts and encouragement to continue your training for Godliness.
Several years ago, we had a pair of cats. One Sunday morning, as we sat in church, my mother in law called. You could hear the cat wailing in pain as she explained it was trapped. My wife heard the cat crying even though she wasn’t on the phone. She had compassion on the cat and said she had to go save it. As she tried to get him loose, he scratched her. She kept working on it and eventually set him free from his predicament.
Many times, we find ourselves in a similar predicament. We’re stuck or in a bad place, and we call out to God for help. When He shows up to alleviate the pain and situation, we attack Him. He still does what a parent does to rescue His children though. Despite what you may believe, He is full of compassion for us. If you’re stuck and need to be set free, call out and He will come. He loves you and wants to set you free.
Here are some Bible verses on God’s Compassion for you.
1. For the Lord will give justice to his people and have compassion on his servants.
Psalms 135:14 NLT
2. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.
Psalms 103:13 HCSB
3. He is good to everyone and has compassion on all he made.
Psalm 145:9 GNT
4. Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins.
Psalms 51:1 NLT
5. The LORD is gracious and full of compassion, Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.
PSALM 145:8 AMP
One of the greatest disparities between people today and every other generation in history is the amount of knowledge that is so readily available. In the past, knowledge was handed down from books and elders. Today, the internet has everything you need to know. I’ve used YouTube to learn how to do mechanical work on my car, cook dinner, learn about history and so much more. Living in the age of the internet has definitely increased people’s knowledge.
What it hasn’t done is increase wisdom. I believe because we have forgotten the difference between the two. Knowledge puffs up, but wisdom builds up. Since time began, wisdom has been passed down from elders. With all the knowledge available, we have forgotten to walk with the wise to gain wisdom. God’s desire is that you and I grow in wisdom. Remember, it was the Tree of Knowledge that brought sin into the world. God isn’t against us being knowledgeable, but He understands that knowledge without wisdom is dangerous.
Here are some Bible verses on wisdom.
1. Those who trust their own insight are foolish, but anyone who walks in wisdom is safe.
Proverbs 28:26 NLT
2. Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him.
James 1:5 HCSB
3. Getting wisdom is the most important thing you can do. Whatever else you get, get insight.
Proverbs 4:7 GNT
4. Wisdom belongs to the aged, and understanding to the old.
Job 12:12 NLT
5. He who walks [as a companion] with wise men will be wise, But the companions of [conceited, dull-witted] fools [are fools themselves and] will experience harm.
PROVERBS 13:20 AMP