Daily Bible Reading

Free gift

Like many of the Jews in Paul’s time, there are a lot of people now who are still under the impression that God won’t hand out His grace unless we work for it. If I can just do this one thing, then God will love me or if I can accomplish that, then I’ll be worthy. That’s not how this faith thing works.

So that’s why faith is the key! God’s promise is given to us as a free gift. And we are certain to receive it, whether or not we follow Jewish customs, if we have faith like Abraham’s.

Romans 4:16 (NLT)

God’s promise—salvation—is given to us as a free gift. All we need is faith like Abraham. So what did Abraham’s faith look like?

Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. He was absolutely convinced that God was able to do anything he promised. And because of Abraham’s faith, God declared him to be righteous.

Romans 4:20-22 (NLT)

All Abraham did was believe that whatever God said was true—whether he could see it immediately or not. In fact, the longer Abraham believed without seeing, the more he brought glory to God! God didn’t tell Abraham His promise would be fulfilled if only Abraham did A, B, and C. He simply made the promise.

But people are declared righteous because of their faith, not because of their work.

Romans 4:5 (NLT)

The law is impossible to fulfill. God knew that when He gave it to Israel. The fact that we cannot fulfill the law on our own makes our need for a covenant with God obvious. That is why Jesus was sent to be the fulfillment of the law (Matthew 5:17).

It takes all the pressure off of us when we come to the realisation that Jesus came and did what we could never do on our own. The only price we must pay to receive the free gift of salvation is our humility—admitting that we cannot do enough works to make ourselves worthy, but need to accept what Jesus did for us on the cross in order to be made righteous. I once heard a pastor say that the greatest fight to our faith is learning not to fight. Abraham simply believed and was made righteous. The more he believed, the more he brought glory to God.

…you are faithful to your promises, O God.

Psalm 71:22b (NLT)

Let’s stop complicating righteousness. It’s one of the easiest things in the world to receive. I was born into this world with a sinful nature. I cannot do anything to make myself worthy of God’s call. God made a way for me and it’s free. All I need to do is hold out my hand and accept it. It’s a free gift.

And really, who doesn’t want to accept a free gift?

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 70-72, Romans 4

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

Whiner

Let’s face it, at some point we will all go through a time in our lives when we’re disappointed. When life doesn’t live up to what it was supposed to be. A time when we feel let down, left out, or left behind. Many would have you believe that you can’t go to God with these feelings. That God won’t listen to your complaints. Well, guess what? He will.

God doesn’t only want to be your God in the good times. He wants to be your God all the time. And that includes the crappy times.

Read through Job 10. The man has gone from praising God for all his blessings and wealth to pretty much collapsing in the floor in a tantrum. He’s lowered himself to whining to God about his situation. But here’s the thing—he’s still talking to God. Though he feels like God has completely abandoned him, he’s still talking to God and hasn’t turned from God.

It’s okay to feel down. We all do sometimes. And it’s even okay—more than okay—to let God know about it. He already knows how you feel, after all, and is probably overjoyed when we come to Him in our low times. It means that He still means something to us. It means that we still have a measure of faith that He can do something about our situation.

Not only did Job not turn from God, he still listened to the wisdom of his friends. Many of us have a tendency to push away the people who are most able to help us. The last thing you want to hear when you’re in a bad situation is someone who isn’t in that same situation. But, Job still allowed his friends to try to talk some sense into him. They corrected him. They encouraged him. And, amazingly enough, he still listened. How do I know this? It’s all written down. The entire book is a conversation between Job and his buddies.

The moral of the story is this: it’s okay to be a whiner to God sometimes. He can handle it. But it’s not okay to be a whiner all the time. As difficult as it may be, you still have to allow yourself to be encouraged and corrected.

Daily Bible reading: Job 10-12, Acts 8:1-25

Daily Bible Reading

Power to the people

As a church leader, it always surprises me when I hear Christians say that they have no need of the local church. They’re good to worship God alone in the privacy of their own home. I don’t disagree with private and personal worship, but I strongly disagree with individuals distancing themselves from the group that Jesus himself ordained.

Reading through the Book of Acts, I am more and more convinced of the benefit as well as the need for Christians to be a part of a local body. In an article titled 4 Reasons Christians Need the Church, the following reasons are given:

  • We need other Christians. If you want to know what you believe, listen to what your friends say. The more time we spend around people who ridicule God, the more we allow their attitudes to affect our thoughts and attitudes. The more time we spend with God’s people and in His presence, the more like Jesus we become.

  • We need opportunities to discover our spiritual gifts, Every one of us has a skill God wants to use to help others know Him and follow Him. We will never uncover what God has equipped and called us to do if we don’t get involved.

  • We need authority. We don’t have to believe anything anyone tells us about God. He appointed men and women in the church to lead us and to teach us. God gave us the Bible and the church so we can know what’s from Him. Through the church’s authority structure, we can test and see what’s of God and what isn’t when we can’t tell on our own. When we’ve prayed, read the Bible and still aren’t sure what to do, the church is where we go for advice.

  • We never stop needing grace. Church people are not perfect people. No matter how long we’ve been following Jesus, we are going to screw up, fall short and sin. And when we do, we need a place where we can come to be healed, restored and renewed. That place is the church.

I believe there are a few other reasons why Christians need the church.

  • We need to see signs and wonders. That I can find, the Bible has no record of a single person going around performing miracles with absolutely no support system. Miracles, signs and wonders are always tied to a group of people serving God. When we see God move, our faith is stirred to see Him move in more and greater ways.
  • We need accountability. Try driving your car down road a dark night with no moon or stars, and no headlights to light your path. How long are you able to stay on the road? Our church family is there to help keep us on the road. Do we always like to be corrected? Certainly not! But it doesn’t mean we don’t need it. By walking out our faith together, we keep each other on the right path. Alone, people have the tendency to wander and get lost.

And finally:

  • There is great strength in numbers. Study revivals. Study the great evangelists of the modern era. When people gather with a common purpose, God moves in mighty ways. When God moves mightily, people will come to watch. Soon those people have been added to the Church and more people will come to see what’s happening. Yes, the church can grow by individuals discipling individuals. In fact, we need mentors. But we also need numbers. The Great Commission is not a solo project. It is a global project.

Meanwhile, the apostles were performing many miraculous signs and wonders among the people… And more and more people were brought to the Lord—crowds of both men and women. As a result of the apostles’ work, sick people were brought out into the streets on beds and mats so that Peter’s shadow might fall across some of them as he went by. Crowds came in from the villages around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those possessed by evil spirits, and they were all healed.

Acts 5:12-16 (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Esther 1-3, Acts 5:1-16

Daily Bible Reading

Your God

Judah is getting ready for battle. Several other nations armies have joined forces and come up against them. King Jehoshaphat is giving the big rally speech.

Believe in the Lord your God, and you will be able to stand firm.

2 Chronicles 20:20b (NLT)

The Lord your God. Not the Lord my God.

This was a time when Judah enjoyed a renewed covenant with God. Jehoshaphat did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight. The Levites spent time going throughout the land teaching people about the covenant they had with God. Call them the early itinerant ministers.

The people of Judah had personal relationship with the Lord. They weren’t dependent on the relationship that the priests or the king had. They knew God for themselves. Their God was going to save them. They put their trust in Him, not their leaders.

After consulting the leaders of the people, the king appointed singers to walk ahead of the army, singing to the Lord and praising him for his holy splendor. This is what they sang:

“Give thanks to the Lord;
his faithful love endures forever.”

2 Chronicles 20:21 (NLT)

Their trust in their king and their faith in their God allowed them to go ahead of the battle signing praise to the Lord. Judah could stand and sing as though they’d won because they had enough of a relationship with God to know that His character was victorious. When God led His people into battle, they won. Judah didn’t have to hope for a good outcome. They knew that if they put their faith in God, He would fight the battle for them.

And that’s exactly what He did.

The song went forth and the opposing armies obliterated each other leaving the plunder for Judah to gather.

What kind of victory will you see when you believe in the Lord your God and go ahead with praise as though the battle has already been won?

Daily Bible reading: 2 Chronicles 20-22, John 16:1-15

Daily Bible Reading

Attitude

Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.”

John 11:21-22 (NLT)

This is the same Martha who had been whining to Jesus about Mary who would sit at his feet rather than help in the kitchen. She’s come a long way since then and has obviously taken the time not just to work, but to listen to Jesus as well.

“Yes, Lord,” she told him. “I have always believed you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who has come into the world from God.”

John 11:27 (NLT)

Martha, not Mary, was the first to greet Jesus when he finally arrived after hearing of Lazarus’ illness. Martha had to go get Mary so Jesus could speak with her. Martha, the more practical of the two believed that Jesus could do whatever God wanted him to do in the situation and told Jesus so. Mary, the more emotional of the two almost seemed to blame Jesus for their brother’s death.

When Mary arrived and saw Jesus, she fell down at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

John 11:32 (NLT)

Both women told Jesus the same thing, but with completely different attitudes. There is a time to be like Mary—breaking open a jar of expensive perfume to pour over Jesus’ feet. To sit and listen to the Son of God and drink in all he has to say. And there is a time to be like Martha—more practical. Able to think clearly in times of turmoil and crisis.

Jesus didn’t scorn either woman, but praised them both for their attitudes and faith.

Daily Bible reading: 1 Chronicles 26-27, John 11:18-46

Daily Bible Reading

Big, fat liar

But if I do his work, believe in what I have done, even if you don’t believe me. Then you will realize that the Father is in me, and I am in the Father.

John 10:38 (NLT)

There are a lot of people who believe that Jesus was a prophet and a great man yet they do not believe that he is the Son of God. These people accept that he had an incredible ministry for several years, gathered many followers and then, at the height of his fame, was put to death. They believe that Jesus was a good teacher and charismatic enough to amass disciples, but he was nothing more than that.

This raises one big question: if you believe that Jesus was a great man and that his teachings hold great truth and wisdom, but all that stuff about being the Son of God was just a bunch of crazy talk, doesn’t that make Jesus a big, fat liar? And if Jesus was a big, fat liar about the one thing that he based his entire ministry on, how can you possibly believe anything else he had to say?

Jesus said it himself, if you don’t believe in him, believe in what he did. But if you believe in what he did, you would have to admit that he truly is the Son of God.

Either Jesus really is the Son of God, brought to earth, lived, died, and was raised to life or he was one heck of a con man.

Daily Bible reading: 1 Chronicles 20-22, John 10:22-42