Daily Bible Reading

No perfect people

On the marquis on the front of my church, you’ll find the words No Perfect People. It is an open invitation to the lost and broken in our community that they can find a place in a church that will not judge them. Over and over again, we’ve heard of people coming in our doors because of those words. Then they came back because they held true. None of us are perfect, so how can we judge anyone else’s imperfections?

One Palm Sunday, I was invited with a group I sang with to sing the mass at the local Catholic church. I jumped at the opportunity. I enjoy learning about how other Christians express their faith. After the service, I made a comment to one of the parishioners about how our church services could be so different, yet we still worshipped the same God. The felt response I received was one of scorn; how dare I compare my contemporary church service to the sacred mass?

I think that, in our own church circles, denominations, traditions, we often forget that we are not the only Christians around. There are millions of Christians in churches all around the world who celebrate their salvation in different ways.

For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and people, He is the man Christ Jesus.

1 Timothy 2:5 (NLT)

I may not agree with everything the Catholic church does, but I can see merit in much of it. I have a great appreciation for the respect and honour given in the church. Personally, I like the open atmosphere in the church I attend, but that doesn’t make me right and them wrong. It simply makes us different.

So whether you prefer mass, a traditional hymn service, or a contemporary service with fog and a light show, remember that there are no perfect people. We all serve the same God in the way that suits us best. So long as we are obedient to the Word of God, no one is wrong and yet no one is perfect. And, in our imperfection, we have all at some point in our lives, approached the single, perfect throne of grace to be accepted by the one true God.

No matter what church tradition you find yourself a part of, we are all still a part of the same body. The Church. Where there are no perfect people, but there is perfect grace.

Daily Bible reading: Jeremiah 7-8, 1 Timothy 2

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Daily Bible Reading

Shoe93

Every church wants a good growth strategy—at least they should. We also want to see community and global outreaches at work. Some churches focus on one more than the other and that’s okay. Organisations like the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) have figured out a way to get relief to war- and disaster-torn countries faster than any other organisation. The Association of Faith Churches and Ministers (AFCM) figured out how to build a leadership and church structure on the Peruvian Amazon in a way no one had been able to accomplish before. Victory Churches International (VCI) has been able to plant churches in 43 nations while also feeding communities and providing other necessities like job skills training and orphanages.

When a small church looks at organisations like these, it can be daunting. How can we possibly make a difference? My church is a part of Victory Churches International. We provide funding for a lot of what the organisation does in Canada and abroad, but we also want to make a difference in our own community—especially since our church is located in the inner city. We see the effects of poverty and drug abuse on a daily basis. And for the five years we’ve been in our building have tried all sorts of things to add value to the community. This year—as we go into our seventh year as a church, God planted a vision in our pastor’s heart that caught fire and spread quickly.

There is a school across the street from our building. It’s the poorest school in the city. Kids come and go all the time because of the transient nature of the neighbourhood. When we approached the school about what we could do, a surprising dilemma presented itself. These kids need shoes. In the spring, we handed out shoes to kids in a migrant camp in Mexico. That was expected. To have kids right across the street from us without shoes was completely unexpected.

So began our Shoe93 campaign.

Why Shoe93? Each year, we host several events which we call Reach293 (two-ninety-three). We work to invite people to fill all 293 seats in our auditorium. Shoe93 started off as a bit of a joke, but caught on. Why not try to collect 93 pairs of shoes? Well, collect 93 pairs we did, and then some. Folks who don’t even attend our church (or any church at all) felt a tug on their hearts to give. And, as of the writing of this post, we have somewhere in the vicinity of 175 pairs of shoes (and constructed a shoe-ninety-tree). We’re now hoping to keep going and get a pair of shoes for every student in the school (about 270).

What does this have to do with today’s Bible reading? Every pair of shoes has a tag that reads:

And on your feet wear the Good News of peace to help you stand strong.

Ephesians 6:15 (ICB)

2017-09-30 11.01

I am convinced that, as kids put on their first pair of new shoes, that the preparation of the Gospel of peace (as the New King James puts it) will go with them. That 270 kids will be running around town spreading peace like we’ve never seen before and that those little feet will be preparing the ground for the Gospel to be planted in our city. I believe that this little vision turned big will be the start of a revival in my town and this won’t be the last you year of Shoe93.

If you’d like to contribute to Shoe293, visit www.noperfectpeople.co to give online. 100% of all donations will go directly to the purchase of new shoes.

Daily Bible reading: Isaiah 29-30, Ephesians 6

Daily Bible Reading

Benchwarmer

In sports, no one wants to be a benchwarmer—that one person that’s on the team just to fill out the roster and maybe get some playing time in if every other key player gets injured. A benchwarmer is the player no one knows. The player whose jersey you never see in the stands. No athlete aims for the position of benchwarmer.

So why are churches full of them?

Western churches are rife with people who are perfectly content to warm their seat on a Sunday morning and do nothing else with their faith for the rest of their life. Like a player with great talent, but no drive, we warm the pews and add an extra body to the weekly attendance count, but that’s it. We’re the player no one knows about. And that’s fine because it’s not our job to do anything else.

Or is it?

[Jesus Christ] is the one who gave these gifts to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.

Ephesians 4:11-12 (NLT)

For some reason, we, the benchwarmers in the church, have come to the conclusion that it’s up to the pastor and the rest of the church leadership team to build the church. But this verse tells us the opposite. It’s the pastor’s job to equip God’s people to do Christ’s work and build up the church. Who are God’s people? You are God’s people.

Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God.

Ephesians 4:1 (NLT)

If you’re that player who has been called up from the farm team to sit on the bench of the big league team, are you going to just keep that spot warm for a better player? Or are you going to get off your rear end and work harder to earn your spot on the field? You want to play the game worthy of the level you’ve been brought to.

So, whether or not you know what your specific call is in the body of Christ is irrelevant. Even if you do know you’re call, you are still called to build the body of Christ.

Under his direction, the whole body is fitted together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.

Ephesians 4:16 (NLT)

If you are not an apostle, a prophet, an evangelist, a pastor, or a teacher, you fall into the sixth (and possibly the most important) category—the saints, or God’s people. You are not exempt from ministry work, but rather have the important responsibility of building the body of Christ. Whether you have a title or not, you have a position in the church and it is anything but lowly. So get off that bench and start living a life worthy of your calling. Go build up the Church.

Daily Bible reading: Isaiah 24-26, Ephesians 4

Daily Bible Reading

Walking contradiction

The life of a Christian is full of contradictions. To the world, it would make no sense at all, but to the born again believer, it makes perfect sense. Die so you can live. Bind yourself so you can be free. Fear God so you fear nothing else.

The Lord said to me in the strongest terms: “Do not think like everyone else does. Do not be afraid that some plan conceived behind close doors will be the end of you. Do not fear anything except the Lord Almighty. He alone is the Holy one. If you fear him, you need fear nothing else.

Isaiah 8:11-13 (NLT)

When we have a proper, holy fear of God, there is no room for any other fear. In fact, the fear of God rejects all other fear completely.

FEAR: holy awe or reverence of God and his laws, which springs from a just view and real love of the divine character, leading the subjects of it to hate and shun everything that can offend such a holy being, and inclining them to aim at perfect obedience

Paul, like God, spoke to the church in Galatia in strong terms.

Dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to live as I do in freedom from these things.

Galatians 4:12a (NLT)

What things? The things of the law. Paul pleaded with the church to let go of the law that holds us back from the freedom that can only be found through a personal relationship with Christ. But we must wholly bind ourselves to that relationship. And that’s what faith truly is.

FAITH: to persuade, to draw towards any thing; to conciliate (to draw or bring together, to unite, to call; the primary sense of the root is to strain, to stretch, drive or draw); to believe, to obey.

Our faith in Christ draws us to him and to the Father. True faith stretches and strains toward the Truth, leaving all else behind—shunning everything that can offend God. Our fear—respect and reverence—for God leads us away from all other fear and through faith, calls us toward and unites us with perfect love which, we know, casts out all fear.

To try to understand all this through our human nature is futile. It can only be learned as we grow in our relationship with God and through divine revelation as as result of that relationship. So don’t worry if it doesn’t all make sense right away. The important thing is to keep at it.

Don’t copy the behaviors and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.

Romans 12:2a (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Isaiah 7-9, Galatians 4

Daily Bible Reading

Those faith people

The Word of Faith has earned a bad reputation in many Christian circles. Faith, in many cases, has become a dirty word. You don’t want to be one of those faith people. Sure, there are some who are of the name-it-and-claim-it or blab-it-and-grab-it crowd—people who see God as a genie in a bottle just waiting for us to make our three wishes. But those aren’t the people I’m talking about. When it comes to the Word of Faith, I’m talking about those people who spend time reading and meditating on the Word of God, learning all the things God has said, done, and promised and firmly believe that what they read is true and, if it hasn’t already, will come to pass.

If you don’t want to be one of those faith people, I’d rethink your stance because I have news for you. You can’t be a Christian without being one of those faith people.

I ask you again, does God give you the Holy Spirit and work miracles among you because you obey the law of Moses? Of course not! It is because you believe the message you heard about Christ.

In the same way, “Abraham believed God, so God declared him to be righteous because of his faith.” The real children of Abraham, then, are all those who put their faith in God.

Galatians 3:5-7 (NLT)

As Christians, our entire belief system is based on faith. You can’t knock those faith people, without knocking yourself.

What is faith? It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot see.

Hebrews 11:1 (NLT)

My faith is my confident assurance that Jesus lived, died, and lived again all as a holy sacrifice for my sins so that I can live in right standing God. And if I am in right standing with God, I want to live a life that is pleasing to Him.

So, you see, it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that there is a God and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.

Hebrews 11:6 (NLT0

So, if you have the faith to believe in God, why would you not also want to increase your faith to believe in all of His promises as well? If all you want is a safety net to keep you out of hell, that’s fine. But as for me, I want to live a life full of the promises God has made to me in His Word. I want the rewards that come with seeking Him. And if that kind of faith makes me one of those faith people, so be it. I’m not out to please you or the rest of the church. I’m out to please God.

Daily Bible reading: Isaiah 4-6, Galatians 3

Daily Bible Reading

Let’s argue this out

Without even realising it, there are things that we do that render the value of grace to nothing. Without thinking, we say things that nullify the single greatest gift that has ever been offered to us.

One way to reduce the value of grace is to impose rules and regulations on Christians as a part of church membership. Women must wear their hair long. Men must always wear a suit and tie to church. Children must be seen and never heard. A youth cannot pierce their ear. Jesus never forced any of these things on his followers. Rather, he freed them from all those laws.

I myself no longer live, but Christ lives in me. So I live my life in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not one of those who treats the grace of God as meaningless. For if we could be saved by keeping the law, then there was no need for Christ to die.

Galatians 2:20-21 (NLT)

Another way to devalue grace is to insist that people “clean themselves up” before coming to Christ. By saying that they must first overcome their vices before they can receive grace, what we are really saying is that God’s grace is great, but not that great.

Yet another—and probably the most grievous—way that we can take away the value of grace is by saying that we ourselves aren’t good enough to receive it.

“Come now, let us argue this out,” says the Lord. “No matter how deep the stain of your sins, I can remove it. I can make you as clean as freshly fallen snow. Even if you are stained as red as crimson, I can make you as white as wool.”

Isaiah 1:18 (NLT)

The entire point of grace is that none of us—no matter how good or bad—are really worthy of receiving it. Its value is based entirely on the person who receives it and what their freedom in Christ is worth to them individually. If we put rules and regulations on grace, it is no longer grace at all, but something that must be earned—which grace cannot be.

So we can argue this out, but both Paul and Isaiah have done a pretty good job of it. Grace is only grace when it is completely free. For only grace that is completely free can set a person completely free.

Daily Bible reading: Isaiah 1-3, Galatians 2

Daily Bible Reading

Team player

Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers. How can goodness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live in darkness?

2 Corinthians 6:14 (NLT)

I am well-aware that this portion of scripture is talking about believers and unbelievers. We usually take this to mean those who call themselves Christians and those who don’t. The New King James Version tells us not to be unequally yoked together. But, did you know that you can also be unequally yoked with believers?

I will admit that, as soon as I saw the word team, my mind drifted to sports. Last year, my favourite football team went through a rebuilding. That’s putting it nicely. The new head coach managed to break a league record for the highest number of different starters fielded by a single team in a season. In addition to talent, the coaching staff were looking for chemistry. In order to win, you need a team of men who have the same drive, mindset, vision, and work ethic. One person on the field who doesn’t share those qualities with the rest of the team can spoil a game or even a season. A year and a half and well over one hundred players in, we’ve started winning again. There’s hope for a spot in the playoffs.

Let’s take this to the realm of the local church. Replace players with leaders, volunteers, or regular church-goers. When we all share a vision and work together with similar ethic and effort, we win. The church grows. Plans come together. God moves. But one person applying a different set of ideals can spoil the whole thing. Ask any church leader.

Every denomination and even every church within a denomination (or outside of a denomination) has their own way of doing things. We trust that the leadership is hearing from God and are presenting that vision down the line to the rest of the body. We have several options:

  1. We can get into line. We can be those players who are on the team to win. We’ll follow every instruction passed down from the coaching staff and do everything in our power to win. In church words, so long as the pastor is in line with the Word of God, we come into line with the pastor.
  2. If you don’t agree with the coach/pastor, a few more options may present themselves. You can work to come into agreement with the leadership—so long as the vision and methods are biblically sound. Pray about it. Ask God to change your heart and your mind. If you still cannot come into agreement, a word of advice—leave. Don’t be that one person that spoils it for everyone else. If you’re the one that doesn’t agree, be quiet about it and exit gracefully without making an attempt to bring the whole thing down. If it’s not of God, it’ll come down on its own anyway.

If you are a believer, I hope that you’ve found yourself a winning team, er, church. I pray that you are in a place where you can get on board with the vision and are invited to help that ministry become all God has called it to be. If you haven’t yet found your team, I pray that you soon will or that God will do a work in you so that you can grow right where you are.

God created us with so much variety. There is no one single way to go about accomplishing His work, yet He never called anyone to go about it alone. So find those with whom you can team up. Work with them. Grow with them. Win with them. Be a team player.

Daily Bible reading: Proverbs 23-24, 2 Corinthians 6