encouragement

Psalms 75-77

Today we’re reading Psalms 75-77.

What gives us comfort and hope when we are in distress? According to Psalm 77, it is the past (vv. 5, 11-12). As he remembered God’s ways in the past, his acts recorded in the books of Moses (vv. 13-20), his faith was strengthened and he appealed to the Lord for help while he was in distress (vv. 1-2, 10).

Are you struggling with a need in your life? Reading the scriptures and considering how God has worked in the past may be the very thing you need to strengthen your faith and bring boldness to your prayer life.

1 Thessalonians 4

Today we’re reading 1 Thessalonians 4.

In this chapter Paul moved from discussing his history with the Thessalonians to addressing how they should live as Christians (vv. 1-2). Sexual purity was first on his list, an evergreen topic in every age (vv. 3-8). Next was the issue of loving others and general living in light of our life in Christ (vv. 9-12). The Thessalonians had a God-given gift for Christian love, so much so that Paul said he didn’t really even need to write to them about it (vv. 9-10). When Paul wrote, “you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia” (v. 10a), he is referring to the generosity of the Thessalonian believers toward other believers and church in the wider region around them. This suggests that the Thessalonians had instinctively reached out to other churches and had been generous toward whatever needs they had.

Even though the Thessalonians had already demonstrated their love, Paul “urge[d] you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more.” We all, from time to time, quit doing things that are good and productive just because they can be costly. Paul wasn’t chiding them for losing some of the loving ways they had developed; he was encouraging them not to stop doing the God-honoring things they had done by instinct.

As a parent and as a pastor, it is easy to take for granted the good things that our children and our church family members do. I might congratulate my kids when they get good grades--or improving grades--on their report cards, but I don’t usually pat them on the back when I see them he daily work of studying and doing homework. Similarly, in our church, many people show up and serve faithfully each week. I do try to thank people from time to time, but it’s easy just to expect it. Positive reinforcement, though, can mean a lot. It matters more to some people than others based on their personalities, but it means something to just about everyone. Like Paul, then, it would be helpful for us to notice the good things our spouse, our kids and our friends do--the areas where they are growing in their Christian lives, when they serve faithfully, when they make good choices--and encourage them to keep it up. That bit of encouragement might help others keep doing good and it might stimulate them to do more in that area.

By the way, thank you for reading these devotionals. I hear from some of you about how they have helped you build a Bible reading habit. I’m really grateful for that. Now, keep it up!

Deuteronomy 30, Psalm 119:73–96, Isaiah 57, Matthew 5

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Deuteronomy 30, Psalm 119:73–96, Isaiah 57, Matthew 5. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read Psalm 119:73-96.

It can feel pretty lonely out there at times. If you’re the only Christian in your workplace, your class, your neighborhood, or your family. You have a different way of looking at everything. You have different goals, different hopes, even different fears. It may feel at times like no one understands you. 

You may know other Christians, others who profess to worship and serve Jesus like we do; but maybe they too look at things differently and live for different things than you do. Imagine living in Israel. The stories of your culture are about God’s special blessing, special protection, and miraculous delivery from Egypt into the promised land. There are laws that regulate each week, what you can and cannot eat, what you wear, what holidays you observe and how you observe them. The Psalmist who wrote this song is immersed in a God-culture. Everyone he knew was Jewish and they all professed to be God’s worshippers. Yet he must have felt alone in his desire to know and obey God’s word because he wrote of “the arrogant” (v. 78, 85) and the wicked (v. 95). So how did he deal with this? Verse 74: “May those who fear you rejoice when they see me, for I have put my hope in your word.” It is so discouraging to see children from good families walk away from the faith. It is disheartening to see people we thought were strong Christians succumb to temptation or to unbelief. Here the Psalmist longs not only to know and to obey God’s word but to have his life so transformed by it that his hope in God’s word encouraged others who “fear you.” Yes, it’s tough to see wickedness in the world, worldliness among professing believers, and apostasy among those we treasured as brothers and sisters in Christ. But it is also encouraging to see growth in others. You and I may not be aware of how much good God is working into our lives through his word. Even this year as you’ve been reading through the Bible, God has been slowly planting godly seeds, watering them daily, and they are growing. Did it ever occur to you that your growth might just be the bolus of joy that other strong believers need as they try by the grace of God to walk with Christ daily? May your life and mine be cause those who fear God to rejoice when they see us because of our hope in God’s word. 

And, if you need a does of encouragement today, may the Lord bring into your life someone who is growing stronger in their faith who will bring you joy as well.

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/calvarybiblechurch/. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we'll talk scripture again tomorrow.

Leviticus 10, Psalms 11–12, Proverbs 25, 1 Thessalonians 4

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Leviticus 10, Psalms 11–12, Proverbs 25, 1 Thessalonians 4. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read 1 Thessalonians 4.

Death is always an unpleasant topic. It is unpleasant to think about your own death and it is sad and difficult when others we know and love die. As a pastor, I have attended more funerals than the average person. Funerals for godly believers can be worshipful and even uplifting in some ways, but they are never joyful. God did not create us to die so the irreparable separation that death brings is always difficult, even when your loved one is in heaven. Here in 1 Thessalonians 4 Paul offers words of comfort to the Thessalonians and to us about the dead. Paul’s reason for this is to give them hope even in their grief: “…so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope” (v. 13). Yes, even Christians grieve but our grief is not the grief of complete loss. Christ gives us hope even in the most tragic and unexpected death of a believer because of His resurrection from the dead: “For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.” This reminds us that, although Christ did not immediately end death with his resurrection, he did break its power over humanity. The phrase “God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him” (v. 14) reminds us that the spirits of those who die continue to exist. Christ will “bring” them with him when he returns because they are with him now. In verses 15-17, Paul describes how the process of the resurrection will happen. There will be believers “who are still alive, who are left” on earth when Jesus returns, but their gathering to Christ will not precede the resurrection of those who are dead in Christ. Instead, “the dead in Christ will rise first” (v. 16). Christ will bring their spirits with him to earth and after his trumpet and loud command, their living spirits will be reunited with their dead bodies in resurrection. Once this resurrection has occurred, those in Christ who are still alive will be “caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (v. 17). The result of this rapture is “so we will be with the Lord forever.” This is the endgame of discipleship, the harvest of new life in Jesus Christ. After living by faith on this earth we will be rewarded with an eternity with Jesus. Christians have debated when this event will occur in relationship to other events prophesied in scripture. It seems clear to me that the coming of Jesus is what the Lord tells us to look for next, so I believe in the pre-tribulational rapture though this is not the place to spell out all the reasons why. The point of this passage is not to lay out a prophetic timeline of all that the Lord has promised to do in the future. It is, instead, to “encourage one another with these words.” Death is always unpleasant, always sad, always accompanied with grief; yet in Christ we have the hope of a perfect resurrection followed by eternity with Jesus. Here is something to hold on to in faith despite whatever fears you have about death or whatever trials and struggles you face today. If you die before Jesus returns, you’ll be with him and return with him when he comes. If you live until his return, you will be gathered in the air with him and all those who have died in him. Hold this hope in your hearts and live today like eternity is the only thing that matters. It is!

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we'll talk scripture again tomorrow.