Daily Devotions

The Challenge and Joy of Reading

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This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth; you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to act in accordance with all that is written in it. For then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall be successful. (Joshua 1:8)

Reading has been a God-given gift. It has challenged me, entertained me, inspired me, and blessed me. If I am in someone’s home or office, I love to look at their bookshelves and find out what they’ve read and ask what books they cherish. Writer Ryan Holiday, shares, “Literature is the accumulation of painful lessons humans have learned by trial and error.” The Bible is a compilation of books, letters, parables, etc., that shares the story of the painful lessons’ humans have learned by trial and error, and how God intervened to create hope and life eternal.

Too often people give up on reading the Bible because they are intimidated by its length and ancient history, etc. I would recommend starting with one of the Gospels. Read about the story of Jesus’ activity in this world and his resurrection and ascension. Then, read the book of Acts, and find out about how the faithful took Jesus’ teachings, and the gift of the Holy Spirit, to continue Jesus’ legacy. Then, go back to the book of Genesis and read about what the ancient Judaic religion had to say about the creation of the world and its early development. Read it with an eye on the individual stories. All these stories help us learn the painful lessons, and trial and error of the faithful before us. Reading it this way, the Bible makes more sense and becomes a living document – used and guided by the Holy Spirit. 

Today, think about the way you’ve read the Bible in the past. Were you able to get through it? If not, try it the way I described. After Genesis, read Paul’s letter to the Romans, to see how Paul used the early Churches’ teachings to form an early theology of what we are to believe and do. Then go back to the Old Testament and read Exodus, etc. Be sure to get a good study Bible, like the HarperCollins Study Bible in the NRSV. Read the introduction before you read the chapters, and be sure to read the notes at the bottom. Soon, the Bible will come alive and we will learn from the lessons of those who have gone before us.

Courageous Thinking Vs. Positive Thinking

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Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff-they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4)

It was “The Power of Positive Thinking” that brought Norman Vincent Peale celebrity and a huge bank account. The Power of Positive Thinking birthed the Crystal Cathedral and the syrupy sermons of Robert Schuler. Amidst its simplified self-help, it had millions of adherences in the 1950’s through the 1980’s. Now, however, the tide has turned on the positive thinking empire.

According to Dr. Russ Harris, and his book “The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living,” “Positive thinking is not going to magically get rid of all your pain. We don’t learn, at least in Western culture, how to deal effectively with the pain that’s inevitable in life.” For Harris, healthy living isn’t found through the avoidance of Positive Thinking, but about learning the skills necessary for you to courageously face and address your pain.

The key to learning to face your pain is the recognition that pain is a resource, rather than a weapon. Pain helps us realize we are in need of attention in some area. Ignoring, or masking the pain, keeps it festering in your life. Learning to let the emotion flow through you, and interacting with the core of the pain, is the means to healing.

Today, prayerfully ask God to bring the courage necessary to face your pain. Don’t mask it with alcohol, or trying to fake yourself out by forcing yourself to think positively. “Walk through the valley of the shadow of death,” but know that it cannot destroy you. God will be there to guide your way and give you the courage to address your pain and find healing. It isn’t quick and doesn’t have cute lines, but it is effective. Start today, living a life of Courageous Thinking!

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