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

Look!

It’s nice to have people around (if you’re a people person, anyway). It can make you feel important or somehow special to not only have people around, but to have people follow you. Once you get used to having people following you, hanging on your every word, it can be difficult to let that go. But that is exactly what John the Baptist did.

John, Jesus’ cousin, was only a few months older than Jesus. God commissioned him to go ahead of Jesus to proclaim the Messiah, the new King of the Jews, the Son of God. In doing this, John amassed followers—people who believed in his message and allowed John to baptise them in water. These people would follow him around and would help to collect even more followers.

Then Jesus’ time came.

John had a choice to make. He could cling to his followers and continue preparing the way for the Lord or he could do as he did and let go.

The following day, John was again standing with two of his disciples. As Jesus walked by, John looked at him and then declared, “Look! There is the Lamb of God!”

John 1:35-36 (NLT)

John knew that it wasn’t up to him to keep collecting disciples for himself, but rather to make disciples for Christ. He carried no animosity whatsoever toward his cousin and he willinging allowed his followers to go.

Then John’s two disciples turned and followed Jesus.

John 1:37 (NLT)

Just like that. John lost two followers and Jesus gained two.

Our Commission is the same a John’s—prepare the way for the Son of God and point Him out to any who will listen. But then the difficult part comes, when they’ve met Jesus, we need to let them go. I don’t mean to say that we introduce people to Jesus and then walk away, leaving them to struggle in their newfound faith. New believers need to be taught the Word of God. They need to learn how to be followers of Jesus. But once they have an understanding of the new life they have gained, we don’t get to “keep” them. They are no longer our followers, but Jesus’ followers.

Like John, we need to be able to point and say, “Look! There is the Lamb of God!” And then we need to allow those people to follow Christ, not us. It can be difficult sometimes when those people choose a direction we may not have chosen for them. John had probably grown close to Andrew and Peter as they followed him. It is quite possible that they were both followers and friends. Yet, when the time came, he did not hold them back, but pointed at Jesus. Look! John had done his work well because, without question, Andrew and Peter stepped away from John and into step with Jesus.

Daily Bible reading: 1 Kings 16-18, John 1:29-51

Daily Bible Reading

Detour

How much of the Bible do you believe? A little bit? A lot? All of it?

In the short time Jesus ministered on earth, those who followed him saw miracle after miracle. They listened to his teachings. They trusted him. They believed he was the fulfillment of the prophecies that said one would come to be the King of the Jews. Jesus was that man. Jesus’ followers believed of him what they wanted to believe.

Jesus made no secret of the fact that He would have to die. But He also never hid the fact that He would rise again. These things His followers seemed to ignore.

It’s now Sunday following Jesus’ death. (We know that He wasn’t put to death, but He gave up His own life.) Jesus’ followers are dismayed because He’s dead. The man who was supposed to rescue them from the tyranny of Roman rule had be put in the grave. Some people stick around. Maybe someone else will step into His shoes. Others leave.

We meet a couple on the road to Emmaus. We’ve never met these two before. Some scholars believe they were husband and wife. Cleopas was the man’s name. We never learn the name of his companion. These two were discussing the events of the last few days when a man joins them on their journey and asks about their conversation. Cleopas, astonished that this stranger has no idea of what just happened in Jerusalem, goes on to tell this man about all that had taken place.

Jesus goes on to explain all of the prophecy in the scripture that pointed to Him and all that had to happen. Cleopas and his companion are taken in by this man and, when they reach Emmaus, invite him to dine with them and spend the night as it was getting late. It wasn’t until Jesus took the bread from the table, blessed it, and broke it, that Cleopas and his wife truly saw the man before them.

How often do we walk away in disappointment, baffled that what we thought was supposed to happen didn’t? We believed what we wanted to believe and ignored the stuff we didn’t like because it didn’t suit us. But still, in our ignorance, Jesus is with us—walking beside us on the road that leads away from the place we’re supposed to be. Yet, if we’d only believed everything He said, we’d have never left in the first place.

Listen to or read Seven Mile Miracle by Steven Furtick. You’ll learn that God is not the God of the destination, but the God of the detour. He is found, not in the dramatic, but in the details.

Our Christian walk is just that, a journey, not a destination. It is a long walk and—get this—Jesus walks it with us! No matter where you are—whether you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be or you’ve walked away in disappointment, Jesus is right there walking the road with you.

Daily Bible reading: 1 Kings 10:11, Luke 24:1-35

Daily Bible Reading

Pondering

There was a man who asked Jesus how he may obtain salvation. Jesus told him to obey the commandments. The man claimed to have kept them from his youth. Then Jesus told him to take all he had, give it to the poor, and come follow Him. The man walked away dejected because he was very wealthy.

Jesus then had a conversation about it with his disciples, explaining that it is difficult for the rich to enter into heaven because it is hard to let go of earthly belongings when you have much. I believe that the disciples had a hard time with this because, after all, they had all left everything behind to follow Jesus.

He replied, “What is impossible from a human perspective is possible with God.”

Luke 18: 27 (NLT)

We usually take this verse to mean that anything is possible with God and, while I believe that God is pretty much limitless, in context this verse is about salvation.

Take a moment to think about all the people who crossed Jesus path for the purpose of asking something of him. What did they ask for? Did people come barrelling down the street begging for salvation? No. They needed something tangible. They needed to be healed. They needed a loved one brought back from the dead. They believed that Jesus was able to provide for their physical needs. And in every case where the person believed that Jesus could heal them, Jesus said the same thing, “Your faith has made you well.” Once they were healed, they joined the rest of the followers.

Are you now pondering what I’m pondering? When we the Church go out to try to reach the masses, what are we offering? When we approach those who see no need for salvation, why is that the first thing we offer? To them, we’re on a life raft offering a ride to someone who’s on a yacht. We know that we all need salvation, but they don’t know that.

So how do we get an unbeliever to believe? We fulfil the need they know they have. Once they were healed, all those people who approached Jesus were much more willing and able to accept salvation. Jesus never set the stipulation that a person needed to accept him in order to be healed. All that was required was faith. I’ve personally seen Hindus credit the Bible for healing. The Word works for everyone.

Healing is the simple thing. Salvation is the impossible. But what is impossible from a human perspective is possible with God. Maybe if we offered the possible, we’d see more people accept the impossible.

Daily Bible reading: 2 Samuel 4-6, Luke 18:18-43

Daily Bible Reading

Here and now

One day the Pharisees asked Jesus, ” When will the Kingdom of God come?”

Jesus replied, “The Kingdom of God isn’t ushered in with visible signs. You won’t be able to say, ‘Here it is!’ or ‘It’s over there!’ For the Kingdom of God is among you.”

Luke 17:20-21 (NLT)

How will the world know what the Kingdom of God looks like if they can’t see it? How do we, as the Church, present the Kingdom to an unbelieving world?

We act like it.

The Pharisees wanted specifics. They wanted Jesus to give them a bullet list of things to look for when it came to the Kingdom. But Jesus gave them the opposite. His answer was vague and specific at the same time. You won’t see it coming, but it’s here and now.

Jesus spent a lot of time telling parables that described the Kingdom.

Then Jesus said, “What is the Kingdom of God like? How can I illustrate it? It is like a tiny mustard seed planted in a garden; it grows and becomes a tree, and the birds come and find shelter among its branches.”

Luke 13:18-19 (NLT)

Jesus also likened the Kingdom of God to a little yeast used to make a lot of bread. It spreads. It permeates. It activates. It causes things to rise.

Let’s put it this way: if unbelievers are unable to see the Kingdom, it isn’t their fault, it’s because the Church has failed to show it to them. Like the mustard plant, we should provide shelter, like yeast, we should permeate.

If the Kingdom of God is here and now, let’s act like it. Let’s live like it. But I can’t see it.

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 yet see.

Hebrews 11:1 (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: 1 Samuel 30-31, Luke 17:20-37

Daily Bible Reading

The invitation

If you got an invitation directly from God to join Him at His table for a feast, would you go? Or would you make up an excuse to not have to attend? You’re probably thinking that the answer to this one is a no-brainer. No need to think about it. Of course I’m there!

Are you really?

In Luke 14, Jesus is teaching about humility. Instead of sitting at the head of the table and then embarrassing yourself when you’re asked to move down for a more honoured guest, sit at the foot and be honoured when you’re asked to move up. One man pipes up, “What a privilege it would be to have a share in the Kingdom of God!”

But Jesus goes on to share:

A man prepared a great feast and sent out many invitations. When all was ready, he sent his servant around to notify the guests that it was time for them to come. But they all began making excuses. One said he had just bought a field and wanted to inspect it, so he asked to be excused. Another said he had just bought five pair of oxen and wanted to try them out. Another had just been married, so he said he couldn’t come.

Luke 14:16-20 (NLT)

It turns out that, because the guests who were honoured with invitations wouldn’t come, the man went out and invited anyone he could find until every seat at his table was full.

But that would never be me! I’d never turn down an invitation!

I’m pretty sure we’ve all turned down an invitation or two—or even more. I’m inclined to believe that those who have been in the church for a long time turn down more invitations than those who are new to the faith.

What do I mean by invitation? I mean the opportunity to spend time with God. The chance to simply bask in His presence to do His work. When we’ve had many invitations, we tend to lose sight of the honour bestowed upon us because God wants us at His table. When we have the opportunity to serve, it is God allowing us the honour of furthering His Kingdom. When there is an invitation to worship, God is allowing us the honour of simply being in His presence.

How many times have you been too busy to attend that extra church service or too tired to put in an extra hour or two serving? I’ll be the first one to put my hand up and say that I’m guilty of doing just that.

Can you imagine how much more effective the Church would be if we would recall the honour in the invitation rather than offer excuses as to why we can’t go? God Himself has reached out His hand to you and asked you to work along side Him and to dine with Him. Why would anyone want to turn down that kind of invitation?

Daily Bible reading: 1 Samuel 13-14, Luke 14:1-4