Be Still and Know Daily Bible Devotion
Day 65 - Issue 39

Day 65 - Issue 39

December 4, 2021

Matthew 13.23 NLT

Jesus said, “The seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”

The parable of the sower mixes realism with huge encouragement. It confronts us with the fact that when the word of God is spoken there is a wide range of reactions. Some people just don’t want to know. Others are incredibly excited for a short while and then forget all about it. And yet others receive the word and start applying it to their lives in a serious way but are then distracted by the pressures and temptations of life. Anyone who has been involved in sharing the Good News of Jesus will recognise that all of that is an accurate reflection of life. However, and here’s the massive encouragement, when God’s word finds a home in the right soil it doesn’t merely cause growth to happen but leads to an enormous harvest. How amazing for a farmer to look at his crop and realise that this is 30, 60 or even 100 times more than he planted.

This is a really important parable for us because it is so easy to focus our attention on the discouragements of life. At times it would be tempting to give up when you see people rejecting the word of God and wandering away from the faith. Over the years I have often felt a deep personal pain when I have seen people reject the Lord. It is very easy to blame oneself and to draw attention to all the inadequacies of the church. This parable puts the many discouragements of life into a bigger context. It reminds us that the miracle will happen, and there will always be those in whose lives the word of God goes deep and has a spectacular result. I can think of countless occasions when that has happened and quite often it has been in the most unlikely situations.

The conclusion has to be that we should continue to work hard for God, even when the going gets tough and people are not responding in the way that we had hoped. As Paul said to the Corinthians, “Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.” 

QUESTION: In what way does this parable encourage you?

PRAYER: Lord God, help me to faithful in serving you today. Amen

Day 64 - Issue 39

Day 64 - Issue 39

December 3, 2021

Matthew 13.20-21 NLT

'The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word.'

These days farmers sow seed with great precision and very little is wasted, but in Jesus’ time it was a much more haphazard process. Skilled as the farmer might be, when he scattered his seed with his hand it was bound to land in a variety of places. It landed on the path, in rocky soil or amongst thorns but only a proportion would find good soil. Jesus used this parable to describe the very different ways in which people responded to his message, and we can easily recognise the truth of his words today.

The seed that landed on the rocky soil struggled from the outset because it couldn’t put down adequate roots. It grew fast for a while but soon it keeled over and died. Jesus said that this was like people who heard the message of the Kingdom and got really excited about it. But because they hadn’t put down deep roots, they soon became distracted by problems and persecution.

Their initial burst of enthusiasm was soon a distant memory. This parable teaches us many lessons but it particularly emphasises the importance of putting down deep roots. It is always encouraging when people respond enthusiastically and joyfully to the Christian message. But it isn’t enough. The sudden rush of enthusiasm needs to be followed by the growth of long tapering roots that ensure the steady flow of nourishment for the years to come. The roots grow as we get to know God better and that happens through prayer, fellowship, the reading of the Bible and by deliberately turning our attention towards God. Roots are, by their very nature, hidden but without them there can be no life.

QUESTION: How are you developing your roots in God?

PRAYER: Lord God our Father, help us to grow in you today and to find ways of developing deep roots that will sustain us for the years to come. Amen

Day 63 - Issue 39

Day 63 - Issue 39

December 2, 2021

Matthew 12.49-50 NLT

Jesus pointed to his disciples and said, “Look, these are my mother and brothers. Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother!”

We know very little about Jesus’ family. On this occasion we hear that they had come to see him and wanted to speak with him. By this time it seems that Joseph was dead and so Mary came with Jesus’ brothers and sisters. Jesus used the moment to point out that his real family was made up of those who were obedient to his Father’s will. Blood relationships are important and the Old Testament law made clear the fundamental responsibility that we all have for our birth families, but what matters far more is obedience to God’s will.

Belonging is fundamental to our well-being. We all need to have the security of knowing where we belong. Many people in our society have had a disappointing experience of family life. They have felt let down and some have been abused and rejected. But whether our experiences of family life have been bad or good, our human families are temporary and fragile. That is why it is so important for us to become children of our eternal heavenly Father. Jesus himself knew what it was to be rejected by his own people. In his Gospel John says that “to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.” (John 1.12-13) Through being born again, all of us are able to enter into the family of God and know security for time and eternity.

Being a part of the family of God is miraculous in every way. It connects us with all those in history who have lived the life of faith, and it also binds us together with all those who love him throughout our world today. On many occasions I have travelled to other parts of the world and not shared a common language with the Christians I have met. In a beautiful way it hasn’t seemed to matter. I have spent many, many hours sitting through times of worship in languages completely unknown to me. What has mattered is that we are family. We belong and always will do.

QUESTION: In what ways are you blessed by belonging to God’s eternal family?

PRAYER: Loving Heavenly Father, thank you for my brothers and sisters around the world today. Thank you for my unity with them. Amen

Day 62 - Issue 39

Day 62 - Issue 39

December 1, 2021

Matthew 12.36-37 NLT

Jesus said, “I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak. The words you say will either acquit you or condemn you.”

Mother Teresa said, “Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.” How true! I am sure we can all think of kind words that have been said to us over the years. The words might have only taken a few seconds to speak, and were probably forgotten by the speaker soon after they were spoken, but we can still remember the exact words and the effect that they had on us. We clearly need to be incredibly careful with the words that we use, and Jesus emphasises this powerfully by asserting that one day we will have to give an account for our words.

Unfortunately, Mother Teresa’s wise observation needs to be applied to our unkind words as well. They too will have long echoes. It has been wisely said, “Be careful with your words. Once they are said they can only be forgiven, not forgotten.” Because most of us speak
a large number of words, it is sadly inevitable that some of our words will have a damaging effect. Sometimes it will be because we were misunderstood, or had failed to understand the situation fully but, in truth, it will occasionally be because we were angry and we meant to hurt. Once spoken the words cannot be rubbed out. They cannot be unspoken. We might wish that we could eat our words but sadly we can’t. This places a huge responsibility upon us whenever we open our mouths and underlines our need to be humble and gracious in everything that we say. This reminds us once again of the sheer impossibility of living the Christian life in our own strength. It is only as we open ourselves to the Holy Spirit that we will be able to speak in a way that consistently pleases God and brings encouragement to others.

QUESTION: How might these reflections affect the way in which you speak today?

PRAYER: Lord God, thank you for the gift of speech. Help me to use my words today to encourage and strengthen other people. Amen

Day 61 - Issue 39

Day 61 - Issue 39

November 30, 2021

Matthew 12.35 NLT

Jesus said, “A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart.”

Jesus’ teaching couldn’t be clearer. Our words and actions flow from what’s going on in our hearts. That means that we all need to focus our attention on our hearts to ensure that there is a constant supply of goodness to feed through into our everyday lives. Jesus’ teaching to his disciples about the vine and the branches makes clear how this happens. It all relies on a continual relationship with him.

Jesus said, “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15.5) Dipping into Christian faith from time to time is not what is in view here. Merely attending Christian worship services and meetings from time to time won’t give us what we need. To receive the life of Christ we need to be fully part of the vine, opening our daily lives to the life of the Holy Spirit. As we do so the life of Christ naturally flows through into our words and actions, enabling us to be fully the people that we were created to be.

I am conscious that this will sound, to some people, like a straitjacket. Handing over your life to Christ and obeying him might sound restrictive and even stifling. How will your own personality and individuality find expression if you are only ever doing what Christ wants you to? The answer lies in his perfect knowledge of you and me, and his absolute love for us. When we are fully united to Christ’s will we are then able to be everything that we were created to be. He will lead us to be more liberated and fulfilled than in any life we could ever find for ourselves.

QUESTION: How does obedience to Christ enable us to be fully alive?

PRAYER: Lord Jesus Christ, thank you for your challenging words. Help me to ensure that my life is open to the wind of your Spirit throughout today. Amen

Day 60 - Issue 39

Day 60 - Issue 39

November 29, 2021

Matthew 12.31 NLT

Jesus said, “So I tell you, every sin and blasphemy can be forgiven—except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which will never be forgiven.”

Some years ago I went to visit a woman who was absolutely convinced that she had committed the unforgivable sin. She was devastated by this and in a state of great distress. Having listened to her carefully for a while it was clear to me that there was no possibility that she had committed the sin of blaspheming against the Holy Spirit. Jesus was describing people who had changed all the labels. They described good as evil and evil as good. That’s why they referred to Jesus as the prince of demons and suggested that that was the reason why he had the ability to cast out demons. Jesus wasn’t describing people who inadvertently say the wrong thing, but rather those who deliberately shape their lives in opposition to him. People who commit the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit wouldn’t be sad at what they had done. They would be delighted. The woman I had met couldn’t possibly have committed the unforgivable sin. We prayed together and I was able to assure her of God’s complete forgiveness.

I wish you could have seen the face of this woman when I met her some time later. It is no exaggeration to say that she was a new person. She told me how her life was completely transformed, but she didn’t need to because her face told the story. The chains that had held her back had been broken. She was so happy and relieved. Praise God!

This is a very serious passage and it says to all who will hear it, don’t mess with God. God’s love is such that he longs to forgive all those who truly repent. But if people live their lives in defiance against him then, much as he longs to forgive, it is impossible for them to receive forgiveness.

QUESTION: How would you seek to help someone if they feared that they had commit the unforgivable sin?

PRAYER: Lord God, I thank you for your perfect love for me. I repent of my sins and claim your miraculous gift of forgiveness. Amen

Day 59 - Issue 39

Day 59 - Issue 39

November 28, 2021

Matthew 11.28-30 NLT

Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you... For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

The yoke of the law was an expression that the rabbis often used. Just as two animals were firmly attached to one another by a wooden yoke, so too complying with all the requirements of the law could be incredibly oppressive. Jesus offered another yoke and his was completely different. It was still a yoke, and therefore very demanding, but his yoke was both easy and light. Those who accepted Jesus’ yoke could find refreshment and renewal.

When two oxen work together in a yoke they can be immensely powerful and effective, but it is crucial that the yoke fits comfortably. An ill-fitted yoke could cause agony. In these chapters Jesus has spelt out the massive demands that are placed on his disciples. It’s a life that is full of challenge and difficulty. Disciples of Jesus are bound to encounter division and rejection at times. However, knowing that they are working in partnership with Jesus they have a liberty and joy which enables them to face even the toughest situations with peace.

I wonder what burdens you are carrying at the moment. It may be a burden of concern for someone else. Or perhaps you are burdened by health concerns for yourself. Or maybe you are unsure of the way ahead in life. Nothing seems clear any more. Whatever your burden, if you hug it to yourself it will only grow in size. But as you share it with the Lord, and accept his yoke, you will discover the peace and rest that he wants you to know. That doesn’t mean that the problem disappears, but that you are in the strongest possible position to bear it, knowing that the Lord himself is with you, bearing the burden with you.

QUESTION: What do you understand personally by being yoked to Christ?

PRAYER: Lord God our Father, thank you that we can bring all our burdens to you knowing that you can give us the rest that we need. Amen

Day 58 - Issue 39

Day 58 - Issue 39

November 27, 2021

Matthew 11.25-26 NLT

Jesus prayed this prayer: “O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike. Yes, Father, it pleased you to do it this way!”

I seem to have spent my life being surrounded by children. When I was nine years old my mother gave birth to twin girls – much to her surprise! No-one had mentioned to her the possibility of twins until she gave birth! From then on until now I have almost always had children around me whether our own three children, our foster daughter or friends’ children who my wife has been looking after. I thank God for this blessing and dare to think that it has helped me to understand Jesus’ insistence that the only way to enter his Kingdom was by being childlike.

I don’t believe that Jesus was in any way belittling the blessing and importance of being wise and clever. His point is that wisdom and cleverness by themselves will never lead to spiritual wisdom. Indeed, they can often obstruct the path to the Kingdom by making a person arrogant and self-confident. The person who is child-like knows that they don’t have all the answers, and that gives the essential quality of humility. Only as we come to the Lord with empty hands, and a willingness to go on an adventure with him, is he able to work in our lives.

We recently acquired some caterpillars for our foster daughter. The pleasure of seeing them turn into cocoons was something in which we all shared. To see them completely change in nature was a matter of delight for all of us. And then, after a few days in a state of apparent lifelessness, our foster daughter squealed with joy when one by one they turned into beautiful butterflies. One sunny afternoon we all went into the back garden and released them. It would be possible to give a long technical scientific account of all that happened, but that could easily miss the sheer wonder of the process. It takes a childlike spirit to enter into the amazing miracle of life and growth. I think that’s what Jesus was getting at. We need to be humble enough to see the amazing miracles that God is doing in our world every single day.

QUESTION: In what ways do you need to become more childlike?

PRAYER: Lord God our Father, help us to be humble enough to look at life with childlike eyes. Amen

Day 57 - Issue 39

Day 57 - Issue 39

November 26, 2021

Matthew 10.38-39 NLT

Jesus said, “If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.”

These statements take us to the heart of Jesus’ ministry. Our society assumes that you find life by acquiring more and more things. But Jesus turns that thinking on its head and declares that the way to find life is by giving everything away. This is precisely how he lived. He was constantly giving himself to others and on the Cross he gave absolutely everything. He now spells out that this is the way of life for everyone who wants to follow him. They must consider that their life is not their own, and be ready to lose it completely in order to find the life that Jesus came to bring. Clinging on to life is the surest way of losing it.

Crucifixion was the most terrible form of torture and execution. It was carefully designed to ensure that the person being crucified suffered for the longest possible time. Some people hung from the cross for days on end before they finally died. It symbolised everything that was most barbaric and degrading, but Jesus used it as a symbol of life. For only when we give up our selfish ambitions, acquisitive spirit and lust for power can we find what it means to be truly alive.

Christ calls us all to join with him in an amazing adventure. It may lack the temporary securities and material rewards which this world prizes, but he will always lead us to an ever- deepening understanding of the solid and lasting treasure of enjoying life with him. So we should never be afraid to give our own life away. It reminds me of the game of dominos. The whole objective of the game is to give your dominos away. If you hang on to them then you’ve lost. To give your life away may not make any sense to those around us but it is nothing less than the path to life.

QUESTION: What does it mean for you to take up your cross daily?

PRAYER: Lord God, thank you for your amazing gift of life. Teach me day by day what it means to give up my life for you. Amen

Day 56 - Issue 39

Day 56 - Issue 39

November 25, 2021

Matthew 10.29-31 NLT

Jesus said, “What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.”

Jesus had just been spelling out what life was going to be like for his disciples. He made it clear that it was going to be really tough and that they would find themselves in situations of conflict and danger. But he wanted them to step out with confidence and they could do so because God knew them perfectly and would always protect them. He made the point by referring to the sparrows which were of tiny value. Surely God couldn’t be that bothered with sparrows. But, in fact, Jesus told them, not even a single sparrow could fall to the ground without God knowing all about it. Wow! In short nothing gets past God. He knows the whole story of our lives and so we can head into our futures with complete confidence knowing that he not only knows all about us, but cares for us. 

There are many situations in our lives which look ordinary. We all have some mundane, repetitive, daily tasks to do and it is, frankly, very hard to imagine that God is aware of those moments. But he is. No part of our life is beyond God’s knowledge and concern. Many people look to the future with fear. The future is so full of uncertainty and threat. Wherever we look in the world there is much that could make us anxious. The pandemic has woken us up to the danger from viruses. Violence is a perpetual threat in all societies and in some parts of the world is tearing countries apart. And we live with the ever-present threat from climate change which is disrupting so many people’s lives and livelihoods. The list of threats is seemingly endless but none of these things needs to cause us anxiety if we just look at the sparrows and remind ourselves that our heavenly Father who knows every detail of their lives, can be relied upon to care for us whatever the future brings.

QUESTION: What is your own response to all the threats which exist in the world today?

PRAYER: Loving Father, thank you that you know every detail of my life, and care for me perfectly both now and for ever. Amen

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