October 15 | Daily Devotion

Lectio Continua: a continuous reading of every verse

Lectio Semi-continua: shorter reading selections from the passages

Lectio Divina

“Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high.” ~Isaiah 58:4

OLD TESTAMENT

God is not happy with His people, and the preacher gets specific about why. God’s people have abandoned the regular practice of worship. While they occasionally show their faces in the house of the Lord, they usually spend their time doing as they please (Is. 58:13).

What then would Isaiah say to modern Western Christians? Compared to the rest of the world, we are very nonchalant about our worship. I’ve been to worship services in Africa where church members are expected to stand and give their whereabouts for the previous week if they were not in church! It had better be a good excuse too, like worshipping at a friend’s church or coming down with a serious illness. However, in America, we do as we please. We sleep in, go to games, participate in community events, use Sunday as a travel day, take the kids on adventures, and do a plethora of other good things. We usually have legitimate excuses for missing worship, but are our reasonS really justifiable? Would your boss give you a day off for the things you do on Sundays? (Oh, is work more important?) Take a moment to consider this habitual nonchalance from God’s perspective. He gives us EVERTHING, and we cannot pause to worship Him for one hour a week. No wonder He’s upset with our nation!

There is hope though (for Israel and for us). Those who turn from their hypocrisy to do what is right will be blessed. Those who make worship a priority in their lives will succeed! Acknowledge the Giver, and you will be given more. “If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then will you find your joy in the Lord, and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob” (Is. 58:13-14).

Let us make worship a priority. Let us make the changes in our lives that His Word calls us to so that we can expect His blessing. These are hard hitting words from the prophet, but they are as needed today as they were when a king sat on the throne of Judah! God, give us the heart to do what You have called us to do, and bless us we pray.

NEW TESTAMENT

In the little chapter of 1 Thessalonians 3, we find a theology of big encouragement. Notice how important the faith community is in the life of the believer. There is a great deal of back and forth between the Thessalonians and Paul. Paul longs to encourage the church in person, but he can’t so he sends Timothy in his place. Timothy not only encourages the church, he also carries their heartening words back to Paul. The apostle expresses his gratitude (and more encouragement) and sends another minister to Thessalonica to offer yet more support. Paul keeps providing encouragers to the Thessalonians “to supply what is lacking in your faith” (1 Thes. 3:10). This isn’t a rebuke. The church has real, strong faith, but Paul takes seriously his responsibility to increase it all the more by ministering to them.

Some modern church people have developed this thoroughly flawed idea that Christians shouldn’t rely on other people for spiritual growth and encouragement. I’ve heard this idea expressed often. However, God means to encourage us, to fill up what is lacking in our faith, through other believers. He works through means—that is, through people—and through the physical presence of the church. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it: “The physical presence of other Christians is a source of incomparable joy and strength for the believer.”


Lectio Divina is written by F. Lionel Young III, who serves as the senior pastor of Calvary Church in Valparaiso, Indiana. He is the author of A New Kind of Missionary, a popular introduction to global Christianity.