Daily Bible Reading

Speak without a sound

Inside, the people were all shouting, some one thing and some another. Everything was in confusion. In fact, most of them didn’t even know why they were there.

Acts 19:32 (NLT)

There are a lot of people in a lot of places making a lot of noise. Like this crowd in Ephesus, they found a cause and joined the fray without even knowing why they were there. It all sounds too familiar. How much noise are we surrounded by? How many people are shouting to make their voice heard over the rest? How much of it really matters?

The heavens tell of the glory of God.
The skies display his marvellous craftsmanship.
Day after day they continue to speak;
night after night they make him known.
They speak without a sound or a word;
their voice is silent in the skies;
yet their message has gone out to all the earth,
and their words to all the world.

Psalm 19:1-4a (NLT)

Isn’t in incredible that the crowd at Ephesus had to shout to be heard and most of them didn’t even know why they were shouting! Yet the heavens are silent in their declaration and their message can be heard across the entire world.

Think about your message today. Consider the volume of your words and actions. Are you adding to the noise or are you making a silent declaration?

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 19-21, Acts 19:21-41

Daily Bible Reading

Hail to the King!

The next day, news that Jesus was on the way to Jerusalem swept through the city. A huge crowd of Passover visitors took palm branches and went down the road to meet him. They shouted,

“Praise God!
Bless the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hail to the King of Israel!”

John 12:12-13 (NLT)

All of these people had gathered because they had heard Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. That was great. They heard a great story and got in the moment and publicly praised Jesus. I wonder, though, how many of those same people, several days later, shouted, “Crucify!” Was their praise simply the effects of a mob mentality? Is ours?

When we, as a church, get together on Sundays to praise and worship, God is glorified. We are all encouraged. We get together and great things happen in the presence of God. But how much of that carries over into Monday, Tuesday, and the rest of the week?

God is most certainly interested in our corporate worship. It is an important part of our relationship with Him. But He is also interested in our private devotion—what we do outside of Sunday.

Is our public worship a reflection of our private moments with Him or are we merely going with the flow—affected by the mob, first praising Jesus then accusing him?

Our public worship should not be directed by the crowd around us, but should rather be an extension of our private devotion.

Daily Bible reading: 2 Chronicles 1-3, John 12:1-19

Daily Bible Reading

Pilate project

I don’t like reading the account of Jesus’ death. I find it difficult to take every time I read it. Perhaps that’s a good thing. If I could breeze through the crucifixion of Christ, I don’t believe I would have the right to call myself by his name.

I don’t believe there was a person Jesus came across that did not have, at the very least, the opportunity to change. Even knowing his death was near, Jesus’ ministry was still active. Following his betrayal by Judas, Jesus was brought before Pontius Pilate—the Roman leader in Jerusalem at the time.

Pilate was a hard and cruel man. Luke 13:1 speaks of how Pilate had murdered some people from Galilee as they were offering sacrifices at the Temple. Strike one against Jesus—he was from Galilee. Pilate also had symbols that would offend the Jews imprinted on the coins he sent into circulation. Strike two—Jesus was a Jew. When he found out that Jesus was from Galilee, Pilate sent Jesus to Herod as Galilee was under his jurisdiction. Pilate and Herod were enemies. Strike three. Pilate’s tenure in Jerusalem ended when he was called back to Rome after massacring a group of Samaritans. He was just plain mean. There was nothing in this situation that would benefit Jesus.

And yet.

Herod could find no fault in Jesus so he sent him back to Pilate. Again, Pilate could not find Jesus guilty of any crime that would merit punishment by death. To try to appease the people, he offered to have Jesus flogged. But that wasn’t enough for the crowd. Three times Pilate told the crowd there was no reason to sentence Jesus to death. Three. That number sounds familiar…

…poetical for the moment when something is finished, completed, and perfected.

(N. Geldenhuys, Commentary on the Gospel of Luke, 1950, p. 384, n. 4)

After denying the crowd’s request three times (someone else had recently denied something three times… [Luke 22:54-62]), Pilate gave in. By waiting as long as he did to sentence Jesus, he went against his own track record. I’m sure that those who brought Jesus to him thought it would be an easy task to convince Pilate to kill a Jew from Galilee.

Having spent just hours in Jesus’ presence, it could be concluded that Pilate was changed. Not only did he go against his own history of violence and cruelty, but he befriended his enemy, Herod.

For the rest of his life, I wonder how much Pilate was haunted by his actions against Jesus that day. Did he think about it often or did he try to wipe it from his memory? Was there any remorse? Did he ever understand the role he played in the greatest plan of all time? Did he know that his command to have Jesus killed would work to finish, complete, and perfect salvation for all?

If God could use even the hardest man to accomplish His will, surely there is hope for the rest of us.

Daily Bible reading: 1 Kings 3-5, Luke 23:1-26

Daily Bible Reading

He’s out of his mind

Does anyone in your family think you nuts? A little bit off? Maybe they wonder why you do the things you do. They don’t understand your faith. Don’t worry, you’re not alone.

Even Jesus’ family thought he was nuts.

When his family heard what was happening, they tried to take him away. “He’s out of his mind,” they said.

Mark 3:21 (NLT)

It could very well be that those closest to us, are the furthest from understanding.

Jesus knew what he was all about. He knew what his mission was an the apostles with him, knew Jesus and trusted in him.

But Jesus’ family, the people who should have been the most understanding, thought he was crazy. When the miracles were so numerous that the crowds surrounding him got so large, Jesus and his disciples were unable to find a place to sleep or even eat, Jesus’ family tried to put a stop to it.

They didn’t see the Son of God, they saw the man who forgot to eat. They didn’t see the miracles, they saw the crowds closing in. They didn’t see salvation, they saw a man pulled in every direction.

The point is this: if we wait until everyone around us fully understands what God has called us to do, we’ll never do it. Read your Bible—rarely, if ever, does God’s way make sense to everyone else and sometimes not even to the person doing it.

This isn’t a message to shun your family and break all ties, but it is a word to you to know the One who has called you. This is why Paul said to Timothy, for I know the one in whom I trust. We don’t have to know the what and the why if we know the Who.

Daily Bible reading: Number 1-2, Mark 3:1-21

Daily Bible Reading

Hack a hole

Soon the house where he was staying was so packed with visitors that there was no more room, even outside the door. While he was preaching God’s word to them, four men arrived carrying a paralyzed man on a mat. They couldn’t bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, so they dug a hole through the roof above his head. Then they lowered the man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus.

Mark 2:2-4 (NLT)

Have you ever thought about what this would have been like to experience? Not only being in the presence of Jesus and being able to see and hear him teach while among the crowd, but to have been in the room while a part of the roof was being removed.

I don’t know about you, but as a basement-dweller, I am very much aware of the noise above me. I know the room was crowded and probably on the noisy side, but you can’t tell me that no one noticed as chunks of clay began to fall from the ceiling. Soon, a hole appeared. Someone definitely would have noticed that. And, once the original hole appeared, hands and faces would have been seen as they hole continued to grow.

Now, if you’re sitting in church and suddenly a hole appears in the roof, I have a difficult time believing that the service would go on as usual. Surely, even if the pastor didn’t stop teaching, someone would send an usher or security team member out to see what was going on and try to put a stop to it. But no one did.

Jesus allowed these men to continue to hack a hole in the roof of Peter’s house. He allowed bits of clay to rain down onto the heads of the people below. He didn’t command that they stop and a path be made clear so that the men could walk into the house. Jesus allowed the entire situation to play out before first forgiving the sick man and then healing him.

One commentary calls these men the eager group of interrupters. When the crowds were too dense to pass through, they didn’t turn around and go home. When they received glares from the men in the room (who, by that time wore a dusting of clay), they didn’t stop digging. These eager interrupters didn’t stop what they were doing until their friend was able to walk from the home on his own steam.

At what point would you have stopped? When the crowds were too much? When the climb to the roof with an invalid was too difficult? When the clay on the roof was too thick? When the men below gave you the look of death for disrupting their meeting? When Peter gasped at the sight of the giant hole in his roof?

These men had more opportunities than most to give up, yet they did not. But I believe the most important part of this encounter is Jesus allowing it all to happen. He could have made the job easier, yet he did not. These four crazy friends worked for their buddy’s healing. Their faith took action and nothing was going to stop them, not even Jesus.

Like the strength a butterfly gains from escaping its cocoon, I believe that there are also times where the easy way is not the best way. Would the man’s healing and forgiveness held as much value if they’d been able to walk right in?

Just because Jesus allows difficulties, doesn’t mean he is no longer willing to come to our aid. Perhaps he is rooting for us to build our own strength and faith first.

Daily Bible reading: Leviticus 26-27, Mark 2

Daily Bible Reading

Hosanna! to Crucify!

The human mind has an incredible ability to change. We can have one thought one moment and a completely different one the next. The introduction of one tiny piece of information can change our way of thinking for years to come. Even pressure from people around you can force a change in thought or opinion.

Upon Jesus entry into the city, Jerusalem was stirred. He rode in on a young donkey saddled in coats. People who knew who he was spread their own cloaks on the ground before him. They cried,

“Praise God for the Son of David!
Bless the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Praise God in the highest heaven!”

Matthew 21:9b (NLT)

What a wondrous reception for the Son of God.

But while the people in Jerusalem were celebrating the arrival of a prophet, Jesus had to have known that this same crowd would turn on him. These people that were shouting words of welcome and blessing would be the same crowd that would shout just days later, “Crucify him!”

How easily swayed man can be. There are so many who will merely shout the word of the day whether it be Hosanna! or Crucify!

It is in this analogy that we see the great importance not just of making a simple confession of faith, but of making disciples. Words can change from day to day, but when your words become your way of life, you will not be so easily swayed.

In Jerusalem, we see crowds who followed the loudest voice no matter what it said. When the voice shifts from blessing to cursing, does your own voice add to the noise or are you the one who remains steadfast shouting Hosanna! while the crowd calls Crucify!?

Daily Bible reading: Exodus 25-26, Matthew 21:1-22

Daily Bible Reading

Alone

I like to be alone. In fact, in order to stay functional, I need to be alone. Often and for long periods of time. I tend to resent anyone who may disturb the time I’ve set aside for myself.

Jesus had moments where He needed to be alone. But once His ministry was in full swing, those moments seemed to disappear altogether.

As soon as Jesus heard the news, he went off by himself in a boat to  a remote area to be alone. But the crowds heard where was was headed and followed by land from many villages.

Matthew 14:13 (NLT)

First of all, let’s back up. The reason that Jesus wanted to be alone was because He had just heard news of John the Baptist’s—his cousin—death. He was grieving.

I get annoyed on any given day when I want to be alone and am interrupted. I can’t imagine trying to mourn a close family member being followed by thousands of people. I have a feeling my response to those followers would be less than gracious.

A vast crowd was there as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

Matthew 14:14 (NLT)

Not only did Jesus set aside His own wants and grief, but in a moment when He could have used some compassion, He had compassion on all of those who interrupted His mourning. If you keep reading, you’ll discover that this was the same moment where Jesus fed the thousands with just five loaves and two fish.

I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to graciously give up my alone time, but Jesus’ example makes me think I should try. My grief and need for solitude could perhaps be the moment that God most wants to use for the miraculous.

Daily Bible reading: Genesis 44-45, Matthew 14:1-21