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

Daily Bible Reading

Aim higher

For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God. And other people will approve of you, too. So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.

Romans 14:17-19 (NLT)

Inclusion is the chant, but division is the outcome. We see it in the news every day. One side yelling at another side, each one believing they’re right. But if you would ask the individuals, most everyone says they want the same thing—peace and harmony. So why are the results the opposite? Why are we tearing each other down instead of building each other up?

I believe it all begins with the individual. Luke said that, whatever is in your heart determines what you say (Luke 6:45b). When one side is screaming at another, one must wonder what is really in their hearts? Is it the peace and justice they claim to want or is it hate and division?

Our aim, like Paul tells us, should be for harmony in the church and [to] try to build each other up. So how do we do that? I think David’s thoughts can start us down the right track.

Praise the Lord, I tell myself;
with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, I tell myself,
and never forget the good things he does for me.

Psalm 103:1-2 (NLT)

If what is in our hearts will determine what we say, let’s get good things in our hearts. Here in Psalm 103, David speaks to himself, reminding his spirit of the good things God has done. He’s putting good things into his heart so that good things will come out of his mouth.

Getting the good stuff to stick is hard when we’re constantly being bombarded with noise and negativity, but if David could do it, if Paul could do it, we can, too.

For we are not our own masters when we live or when we die. While we live, we live to please the Lord. And when we die, we go to be with the Lord. So in life and in death, we belong to the Lord.

Romans 14:7-8 (NLT)

Start with reminding yourself who you belong to, whom you serve. Then remind yourself of all He has done for you and for those who have gone before you. Fill your heart and your mind with goodness and peace and joy. Then your aim for harmony won’t seem to lofty.

Try a daily confession. Write your own from verses that speak to you or find one (like this) that lines up with the Word of God. Speak to yourself like David did. Tell yourself who you are and what God has done for you. You may be surprised by what you start to say. When those good things start to pour out from your spirit, the natural effect will be the building up of those around you.

Let us, as the Church, aim higher.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 103-104, Romans 14

Daily Bible Reading

Proclaim

I have a difficult time watching or reading the news these days. Gone are the days of unbiased news reports and, just as George Orwell predicted when he wrote his book 1984 (in 1949), everything we do and say is under scrutiny. Social justice warriors demand that everyone fall into line with their opinions and the Church has become one of their largest targets. Much to the dismay of Christians around the globe, there are many churches that have given in to these ludicrous demands. They are allowing the world to change their way of thinking in hopes that they can change the world’s way of thinking. That’s now how this works.

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is.

Romans 12:2 (NLT)

If the Church keeps watering down its message, soon there won’t even be a message worth sharing. Our message is not one of tolerance nor is it a message of condemnation. But it is is one of joy, peace, and love everlasting. Our message should be as the psalmist wrote thousands of years ago. I leave you to meditate on these words.

Sing a new song to the Lord!
Let the whole earth sing to the Lord!
Sing to the Lord; bless his name.
Each day proclaim the good news that he saves.
Publish his glorious deeds among the nations.
Tell everyone about the amazing things he does.
Great is the Lord! He is most worthy of praise
He is to be revered above all the gods.
The gods of other nations are merely idols,
but the Lord made the heavens!
Honor and majesty surround him;
Strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.

O nations of the world, recognize the Lord;
recognize that the Lord is glorious and strong.
Give to the Lord the glory he deserves!
Bring your offering and come to worship him.
Worship the Lord in all his holy splendor.
Let all the earth tremble before him.
Tell all the nations that the Lord is king.
The world is firmly established and cannot be shaken.
He will judge all peoples fairly.

Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice!
Let the sea and everything in it shout his praise!
Let the fields and their crops burst forth with joy!
Let the trees of the forest rustle with praise before the Lord!
For the Lord is coming!
He is coming to judge the earth.
He will just the world with righteousness
and all the nations with his truth.

Psalm 96 (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 96-98, Romans 12

Daily Bible Reading

Moving shadows

Once you’re gone, how long will you be remembered? Who will remember you? What will you be remembered for? When one considers a stretch of unending time and all of the billions of people who exist and have existed, we’re all just a blip on the radar. How many individuals have made a truly lasting impact?

This thought isn’t meant to discourage nor is it meant to deter you from doing something worthwhile. It should push you toward positive action.

We are merely moving shadows,
and all our busy rushing ends in nothing.
We heap up wealth for someone else to spend.
And so, Lord, where do I put my hope?
My only hope is in you.

Psalm 39:6-7 (NLT)

Because it is so difficult and rare for a single person to impact eternity, it would make a lot more sense to join forces with a group of people who can have a greater effect. This is one of the reasons why the local church is so important. It helps us as individuals to learn and to be accountable to each other, but it also allows us, working together, to leave a greater and longer-lasting impression on the world around us. Further still, it ensures that no single person gets all the glory. When a group of people work together toward a common goal, it is only God who can be glorified.

Alone, it is easy to fall into the busy rushing of daily life. When we go it alone, we forget that we aren’t really alone. But when we can put our hope in the Lord and trust Him to guide us, He will surely lead us to other like-minded people. Our busy rushing becomes more focused and more hands and resources are added to the work. The work becomes greater. And a greater work has a larger impact.

We all have to make a choice: do I want to be merely a moving shadow or will I put my hope and trust in the Lord and add my portion to a larger work so that my impact will be far greater than anything I could generate on my own?

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 38-40, Acts 23:12-35

Daily Bible Reading

Preservation

Even though it may not feel like it, we do not live in the first generation that has been overcome with lies disguised as truth. David was struck with an agony many faithful Christians feel today. And never in my life has his words seemed so apt.

Help, O Lord, for the godly are fast disappearing!
The faithful have vanished from the earth.

Psalm 12:1 (NLT)

David’s cry is not so different from that which we are hearing from those churches that have remained faithful—even when it would seem that popular culture wants them to alter the foundation of their doctrine. Even when the words of Jesus himself are considered hateful.

When the world is full of lies, even though it may be easier, it is our responsibility as those who bear the name of Christ both to preserve and to proclaim the truth. Our trust must be in our God, not our government. Our government can’t (or maybe even won’t) save us, but God already has. It is that fact that should keep us on our path in pursuit of truth—God has already saved us!

Therefore, Lord, we know you will protect the oppressed,
preserving them forever from this lying generation,
even though the wicked strut about
and evil is praised throughout the land.

Psalm 12:7-8 (NLT)

The pull of the world may be strong, but God is stronger. The lies may hide the truth, but the Truth lives longer.

Our help is from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.

Psalm 124:8 (NLT)

When the wicked strut about, remember who your help is and where it comes from. God can and will preserve His Church. Trust in that.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 10-12, Acts 17:16-34

Daily Bible Reading

Get out of the way!

I’ve been to a lot of church services. I grew up in the day when we went to church twice on Sundays, once on Wednesdays, and attended extra services when a guest speaker was in town. We had youth group on Fridays and maybe even a mid-week Bible study. When I say I grew up at church, I mean that I actually spent the majority of my time at the church. Not much has changed.

In all of those church services, I saw a lot of ministry lines, altar calls, hands go up for prayer. But I rarely saw a pastor or speaker interrupt his or her sermon to do so. They weren’t wrong, but in recent studies and conversations, I’ve begun to wonder if they were always right.

While they were at Lystra, Paul and Barnabas came upon a man with crippled feet. He had been that way from birth, so he had never walked. He was listening as Paul preached, and Paul noticed him and realized he had faith to be healed. So Paul called to him in a loud voice, “Stand up!” And the man jumped to his feet and started walking.

Acts 14:8-10 (NLT)

As far as I can tell, this is the first the crippled man had heard the Good News.  It was Paul and Barnabas’ first trip to the area and they were bringing a new message to the people there. Churches and training centres hadn’t been set up yet. The apostles were setting up the groundwork for future ministry.

Then this crippled man shows up. He hears a message of miracles and salvation and his faith is stirred. What do we do now?

In some churches, he’d be required to spend several weeks in studies on faith and healing before someone may or may not lay hands on him.

In other churches, he’d be told that healing isn’t for today, God made him crippled for a reason.

Yet in other churches, he might have to wait for the end of the message for a call to the altar to be offered and hope that someone could help him to the front before the altar closes to new arrivals.

But what did Paul do? The moment he recognized that this man had faith, he stopped what he was doing and called out to him to stand. He didn’t pause to teach on how healing works. He didn’t have to explain what faith is. He didn’t fall to his knees to petition God with pleading groans so the man could be set free from his affliction. In fact, I haven’t found anywhere in the Gospels where this was the case.

Miracles happened when faith was present and the men of God acted on their recognition of it. Long, flowery prayers not needed. Explanations unnecessary. A simple command was all that was required to activate the faith that was already there.

If God says He’ll do something, it’s up to us to believe and proclaim that He will do it. And when the gift of faith shows up, get out of the way! Shut up and let God show off. This message we preach is not about us. It’s about the God who came to give us abundant life. What we have to say is far less important than what God came to do.

Start looking for faith and then practice acting on it immediately. It may require retraining our minds and our spirits to respond in a different way, but if the result is seeing the crippled walk, the blind seeing, and the sick healed, it’s worth it. Isn’t it?

Daily Bible reading: Job 35-37, Acts 14

Daily Bible Reading

A Season of Peace

Since today’s daily reading coincides with a devotional my pastor recently shared, I’m going to borrow a few things from Pastor Morris Watson.

Then the church had peace throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria, and it grew in strength and numbers. The believers were walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 9:31 (NLT)

Where there is peace, there is prosperity and growth. The Church is often compared to a body. Think about when you’re fighting a cold or the flu. Are you able to get stronger? Are kids able to grow when their little bodies are fighting illness? No, of course not. When there is something in the body that doesn’t belong there, not only is there not peace, but all the energy goes into fighting whatever it is that’s attacking. The Church works the same way. When there’s something there that doesn’t belong, it takes away peace and it diverts energy from promoting growth.

But when there is peace within the Church, growth and prosperity is a wonderful byproduct. When we are all of one heart, one mind, and one vision, we are then able to work together to fight off outside attacks. Even then, if we can stay focused, we can keep our peace and grow through the situation.

If we allow ourselves to be in conflict with one another or in conflict with God, we restrict our own ability to grow and be strengthened. We cannot be careless with our peace. We must encourage it in ourselves and in others.

God blesses those who work for peace,
for they will be called the children of God.

Matthew 5:9 (NLT)

When we work for peace, we work for God. God’s mission for us all is to have and to bring peace—it will never be to bring about strife.

Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.

Romans 12:18 (NLT)

When we go looking for peace and promote peace, how can we find and accomplish anything but? And in finding peace, we will also find growth and strength. We will be walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit.

Daily Bible reading: Job 19-20, Acts 9:23-43