Daily Bible Reading

[love]

If, according to Galatians 5:14, the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbours as yourself”, the words law and love should be interchangeable through much of the Old Testament. Jesus came and fulfilled the law with love—great love. So what does that fulfillment look like in light of the law according to Psalm 119?

I meditate on your age-old [love];
O Lord, [it] comfort[s] me.

v. 52

Your [love has] been the music of my life
throughout the years of my pilgrimage.

v. 54

I pondered the direction of my life,
and I turned to follow your [love].

v. 59

Evil people try to drag me into sin.
but I am firmly anchored to your [love].

v. 61

Your [love] is more valuable to me
than millions in gold and silver!

v. 72

Surround me with your tender mercies so I may live;
for your [love] is my delight.

v. 77

Your [love] remains true today,
for everything serves your plan

v. 91

Even perfection has its limits,
but your [love has] no limit.

v. 96

Your [love] make[s] me wiser than my enemies,
for your [love is] my constant guide.

v. 98

Your [love] give[s] me understanding;
no wonder I hate every false way of life.

v. 104

When we look at the law through Jesus and his fulfillment of it, what a difference it makes in our understanding of these verses! It’s not a bunch of rules and regulations that we follow, but love—perfect love at that. Love that gives understanding and wisdom. Love that teaches. Love that is valuable. Love that has no limits. Love that is our delight.

If the psalmist found all of these things in the law that God gave to Israel, how much more should we be able to find in the love that fulfilled the law?

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 119:49-104, 1 Corinthians 4

Daily Bible Reading

Bound to be free

 

Obedience is not a word we all love. In fact, most of us likely cringe at the idea. Because along with the idea of obedience comes the issue of discipline. The two generally go hand in hand. If you don’t do the first, you’ll be exposed to the latter. But as the latter becomes less excessive, the first becomes something to be rebelled against. We want freedom! We can’t have freedom if we have to follow rules!

But what if, instead of rebelling against the very things that were intended to hold our society together, we sought to understand them? What if, instead of rallying against a perceived wrong, we learned the original intended purpose behind the law? Instead of spewing hateful rhetoric against the rules, what if we learned to love them?

Help me understand the meaning of your commandments,
and I will meditate on your wonderful miracles.

Psalm 119:27 (NLT)

Closed ears and open mouths make for a bad combination. We come up with our own ideas regarding rules and the law based on our own experience or the opinions of others.

Keep me from lying to myself;
give me the privilege of knowing your law.

Psalm 119:29 (NLT)

The writer of Psalm 119 uses phrases like: teach me, give me understanding, give me an eagerness, make me walk, turn my eyes, reassure me, help me. These are not words of rebellion, but of a longing to know and understand the meaning behind the law.

While we are no longer under the Mosaic law of the Old Testament, we the Church, are under the law that Christ gave to us—the law of love.

For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Galatians 5:14 (NLT)

God’s law, as well as the laws of the nations (I reference here Canada and the United States), are not there to stifle us or bind us. They are there to set us free. It is a privilege to live under law for without it, there is nothing but anarchy.

For you have been called to live in freedom—not freedom to satisfy your sinful nature, but freedom to serve one another in love.

Galatians 5:13 (NLT)

If instead of clinging to our own selfish and sinful desires, we would cling to the Word and promises of God, we would truly see the world change. The law of love that Jesus placed before us is not something we must follow, it is something we have the privilege of following. In love—and only in love—will we discover the freedom so many people are fighting to find.

Freedom is not in the eradication of rules and laws. It is in the complete submission and obedience to the will of God.

I will walk in freedom,
for I have devoted myself to your commandments.

Psalm 119:43 (NLT)

Binding ourselves to a law seems like an odd way to be free, but that’s the point.

Stop fooling yourselves. If you think you are wise by this world’s standards, you will have to become a fool so you can become wise by God’s standards.

1 Corinthians 3:18 (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 119:1-48, 1 Corinthians 3

Daily Bible Reading

He bends down

If you want to speak to someone of consequence, you must first put yourself in a position to be heard. If I want to speak to the Queen of England, I’m going to need a better position than the one I have. I’ll probably need a title (which she’d have to give me, but never will because I’m not British) and more than a few connections (which I don’t have because I’ve never been to England). I’m never going to have a conversation with the Queen of England, even if we share the same name.

In order to even speak to, let alone ask for aid from, a person in power or of status, we generally have to be in a position of power or status ourselves. Us lowly citizens don’t have the ear of our nation’s leaders at any given moment.

We have a tendency to put these same requirements on God. Us lowly church members can’t just talk to God, we must have a mediator, someone with greater connections, someone with position.

What a load of garbage!

I love the Lord because he hears
and answers my prayers.
Because he bends down and listens,
I will pray as long as I have breath.

Psalm 116:1-2 (NLT)

A raised position is not on the list of requirements for approaching God. In fact, I believe that the lower we are, the more likely He is to respond because the lower our state, the more sincere our prayer.

If a child cries out to a parent, how does that parent respond? They bend down to listen. If a person trips and falls, how does a friend go to help? They bend down to listen.

We called out to God in our sinful state and He bent down to listen. If God has already stooped down to pull us from our sins, He will do it again and again and again.

It is when we are at our weakest, our lowest place, that God is at His strongest.

And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”

2 Corinthians 2:9a (NKJV)

Don’t ever believe the lie that you are to lowly for God to care about.

Whenever there is prayer, there is danger of His own immediate action. He is cynically indifferent to the dignity of His position, and ours, as pure spirits, and to human animals on their knees. He pours out self-knowledge in a quite shameless fashion.

senior devil, The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis.

If God is not ashamed to bend down to listen to us, we should never be ashamed to cry out to Him at our lowest. He hears and answers our prayers.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 116-118, 1 Corinthians 2

Daily Bible Reading

Our foolish preaching

If we break down the message of the Gospel and look at it as an outsider might, it really is a foolish message.

A young girl gets pregnant before her wedding. The baby doesn’t belong to her fiance, but he marries her anyway. When she goes into labour, the only place they could find to stay was a stable. The kid grows up with his mother and adoptive father and trains in the family business—carpentry. He causes a bit of a ruckus, but by all accounts (and they are few), he’s a normal kid. At the age of thirty, he decides to make a bit more of a stir and hand-selects a group of people to follow him. Commercial fisherman and social outcasts are among those selected. This man from nowhere special then travels around with his little group and pretty much stirs up the religious people. He says things that are contrary to what they believe and he hangs out with people no one should be hanging out with. He performs all sorts of miracles—which many would have attributed to witchcraft. By the end of three years, he’s earned himself an execution. When he’s dead, all that’s left of his three years of wandering the countryside are a few men and a handful of weeping women.

Great story. No wonder so many people won’t listen to it! But that’s not the end.

This strange man with a contrary message didn’t stay dead. He came back to life in glorious fashion and continued to share his message with his followers for another forty days before disappearing. He disappeared.

This is the great message we are supposed to share with the world.

When people want to tell a story about one man saving the world, they send a superhero. Someone with extraordinary strength, power, and character. Someone with skills and abilities that go beyond being able to swing a hammer and tell a great story. They tell a story about an invincible hero who will always be around to save the day.

Our hero died. On purpose.

It is the fact that Jesus walked into his own death that makes our hero’s story the most extraordinary. He didn’t do what people expected of him. He did more.

I know very well how foolish the message of the cross sounds to those who are on the road to destruction. But we who are being saved recognize this message as the very power of God.

1 Corinthians 1:18 (NLT)

In order to be the hero that saved the day once and for all, Jesus had to do things differently.

Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never find him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save all those who believe.

1 Corinthians 1:21 (NLT)

The world may see our message as foolish (void of understanding or sound judgement; weak in intellect; unwise; imprudent; acting without judgement or discretion in particular things; ridiculous; despicable), but there is far more wisdom in it than anything the world could ever come up with.

This “foolish” plan of God is far wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is far stronger than the greatest of human strength.

1 Corinthians 1:25 (NLT)

God deliberately chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose those who are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important, so that no one can ever boast in the presence of God.

1 Corinthians 1:27-29 (NLT)

We can look at this story of salvation as the world might—a sad one of a strange leader and his motley crew that somehow managed to do enough to have their story told for millennia. Or we can see it for what it really is—an incredible story of sacrifice and salvation. The story of the world’s greatest hero born in the most humble of circumstances. The story of one man who gave up his own life not for his glory, but the glory of his Father and the salvation of the world.

God alone made it possible for you to be in Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made Christ to be wisdom itself. He is the one who made us acceptable to God. He made us pure and holy, and he gave himself to purchase our freedom.

1 Corinthians 1:30 (NLT)

Our story doesn’t end with death. It continues with life. Life everlasting.

Not so foolish, is it?

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 112-115, 1 Corinthians 1

Daily Bible Reading

True wisdom

We’ve discussed wisdom before. It’s pretty difficult to read through the Bible and avoid the subject entirely. It’s all about wisdom and obtaining it. It is wisdom.

I tried a quick search on where people believe wisdom comes from. Here are a few interesting responses I discovered:

Wisdom is a belief that’s not only true but that in the fact of our believing it leads us to feel and act in such a way that makes us suffer less or feel joy more.

Alex Lickerman M.D.

While I see the merits of this explanation, truth must first be defined and absolute. Different people believe different things to be true and acting on them with full belief can lead to varying results—some wise, but some unwise.

I truly believe that wisdom comes from experience. You can not fully understand people, things events or even situations if you don’t have life experience. If you haven’t lived through an event or heard the story of how other lived through this event you can’t possible understand it. You cannot know what it’s like to be a mother or a father until you’ve been one.

Sophie

Thanks Sophie, but I have to disagree with you here, too. While there are some things in life that must be experienced to fully understand, I’ve heard very wise words from people who’ve never experienced it at all and, on the other side, watched the fallout from very bad decisions made by people who have already experienced the situation.

Wisdom is the imprint a life has made on other lives.

Krista Tippett

Really? I hope there was more to that explanation somewhere because I can say with absolute certainty that there are many people who have been left with imprints made by very bad choices. Wisdom had nothing to do with those.

There are a lot of different ideas out there about the origin of wisdom. We can keep pondering those or we can just go to the Bible. Paul put it rather simply.

To God, who alone is wise, be the glory forever through Jesus Christ. Amen.

Romans 16:27 (NLT)

Done and done. The world can search for and explain away about wisdom all they want, but we—the Church—have access to the source of true wisdom.

Reverence for the Lord is the foundation of true wisdom.
The rewards of wisdom come to all who obey him.

Praise his name forever!

Psalm 111:10 (NLT)

True wisdom begins and ends with God. We can search everywhere, but true wisdom can be found nowhere else than in the presence of our Holy Father. Only there will we discover the foundation on which we can put our knowledge to proper and prosperous use. Seeking, honouring, and obeying God are the first and only steps required to obtain wisdom.

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.

James 1:5 (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 109-111, Romans 16

Daily Bible Reading

Speak out!

There are two ways of learning things: you can learn the hard way and figure it out on your own, or you can seek out an answer or advice from someone who already knows. The concept is not new. It’s existed literally since the beginning of time.

We seek out those who have learned the hard lessons or who have gleaned those lessons from others. It’s how we, as humans have gathered our wealth of knowledge. Each generation (should) learn from the previous. It’s all dependent on the previous generation sharing their knowledge and the current generation listening and understanding what is being passed to them.

In high school, I was a smart kid. I learned quickly. I graduated with the highest honours possible. Nearly straight A’s. A’s in everything but Math 11. I distinctly remember one day in class where I just couldn’t grasp a concept, so I asked the teacher for help. He told me I’d have to come after class if I wanted help. Not possible. Where most student’s days ended at 2:15, I had another class after that. I explained that to the teacher. He shrugged. I asked if he could help me in class (as far as I could tell, he wasn’t doing anything else, and wasn’t it his job as a teacher to teach me?). He looked at the problem and told me I should know how to do that already. Well, I don’t, which is why I’m asking for help. He said I should have learned that the year before. Obviously, I didn’t. I’d have to come to after school help. I couldn’t (I liked band class way better than math anyway). I never did fully understand the concept and my grade reflected it.

That teacher had knowledge that, had he been willing to share it with me, would have helped me to maintain my straight A status. He could have helped, yet he withheld that information. Now, that’s just high school math and, contrary to what every teacher ever told me, I never needed algebra in the “real world”—not even in the fifteen years I worked in finance and insurance. But what about the knowledge we, as Christians, have? What do we know that could help others? Has God done great things for us? Has He come to our aid when we’ve called on Him? Has He loved us? Has He rescued us?

Give thanks to the Lord for he is good!
His faithful love endures forever.
Has the Lord redeemed you? Then speak out!
Tell others he has saved you from your enemies.

Psalm 107:1-2 (NLT)

If one of the the only ways people can learn is from others, what are we showing or teaching them? Are we silent and withholding like my math teacher or are we vocal and willing to share about the great things God has done in our lives?

Those who are wise will take all this to heart
they will see in our history the faithful love of the Lord.

Psalm 107:43 (NLT)

The only way something will show up in history is if it’s recorded—whether we write it down or pass it down orally. The only way history will show the faithful love of the Lord is if we keep talking about it. History doesn’t record silence. It records difference-makers.

Has the Lord redeemed you? Then speak out!

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 107-108, Romans 12:21-33 

Daily Bible Reading

One voice

I was recently in a meeting with my pastor when he was asked about the local ministers’ group—pastors who regularly get together to discuss local church-related issues (in theory). My pastor laughed at the comment. He stopped going to those meetings a long time ago. He never even attended enough to be considered a regular. Do you want to know why? At one of these pastor’s meetings—where a group of pastors from the same city should be getting together to discuss strategies on how to help the lost in their city—a pastor stood up and said that he saw no reason for the churches in our town to work together. They’re all doing their own thing and that’s just fine.

Is it?

May God, who give this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other—each with the attitude of Christ toward the other. Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

So accept each other just as Christ has accepted you; then God will be glorified.

Romans 15:5-7 (NLT)

Everything I’ve ever read in the Bible, especially in reference to the Church, has always been that we should work together. That we are one body. A part of one mission. One family.

What should be a family business has become a rather serious case of sibling rivalry. I’ve heard many praise the fact that the city I live in is considered to be one of the most churched cities in the country (approximately one church per 1,000 residents). I beg to differ. I ask the question, how many United churches are there? Reform? Pentecostal? Mennonite? Non-denominational? There are multiples of each of these and many more. And very few, if any, were an intentional plant from another. It is a testament of split after split after split.

Don’t get me wrong, I get that there are different ways of doing things. Different denominations appeal to different people. I have no issue with that. What I take issue with is the fact that these people don’t see the need to work together, to speak with one voice.

The city is filled with people who have been exposed to and hurt by the local church. Instead of effectively working together toward a common goal, one church spurns another, creating more animosity than converts. How can God be glorified in that?

I long for the day when the Mennonite church can approach the Catholic church and join with the non-denominational church and they can all work together to proclaim the only message we’ve been called to proclaim:

For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believe in him will not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16 (NLT)

I leave you with a prayer from Paul.

So I pray that God, who gives you hope, will keep you happy and full of peace as you believe in him. May you overflow with hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 15:13 (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 105-106, Romans 15:1-20