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

When in doubt

Doubt, if not kept in check, can become a default. We begin to question everything. Can anyone or anything be trusted. Can you trust yourself? It’s a slippery slope that can be just as easily avoided as it is to tumble down.

When doubts fill my mind,
your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.

Psalm 94:19 (NLT)

In addition to being full of doubt, many of us also have the tendency to try to be completely independent. We don’t want to have to depend on others for anything. We can do it on our own. But that’s not what we were created for. No one was meant to live life entirely alone. Our purpose is to fulfil God’s purpose for us. We are supposed to be completely dependent on Him.

 

The Lord will not reject his people;
he will not abandon his own special possession

Psalm 94:14 (NLT)

One thing we should never allow ourselves to doubt is God’s love for us. We are His people. His own special possession. When something is in your possession, chances are that you have a specific purpose for it. This works the same between us and God. We are His. He has plans for us. And, no matter what we do or how we feel, those plans never change.

For God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn.

Romans 11:29 (NLT)

The next time you feel doubt start creeping in, remind yourself of who you are—God’s special possession. Know that you belong to Him, the creator of the universe. Once you’ve reminded yourself of who you are in God, remind yourself of who God is.

Oh, what a wonderful God we have! How great are his riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is to understand his decision and his methods! For who can know what the Lord is thinking? Who knows enough to be his counselor? And who could ever give him so much that he would have to pay it back? For everything comes from him; everything exists by his power and is intended for his glory. To him be glory evermore. Amen.

Romans 11:33-36 (NLT)

You exist by His power and are intended for His glory. Never doubt that.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 93-95, Romans 11:22-36 

Daily Bible Reading

Harmony

It doesn’t take a musical genius to know when an instrument is out of tune or someone in the orchestra hits a wrong note. It’s obvious. It stands out. It’s not right. But when it all works together—every instrument in tune, in harmony—it’s a beautiful thing.

HARMONY: the just adaptation of parts to each other, in any system or composition of things, intended to form a connected whole; concord; agreement

That same basic principle of harmony works in our relationship with God. The Holy Spirit works in us to be sure that we remain in harmony with God.

And the Holy Spirit helps us in our distress. For we don’t even know what we should pray for, nor how we should pray. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows that the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.

Romans 8:26-27 (NLT)

We can have a relationship with God and go our own way. Later on in Romans 8, Paul talks about how nothing can separate us from God’s love. We can accept salvation, accept God’s love, and go about our business. But why would we want to? Why would we want to live a life in discord with our Heavenly Father? Just like an out-of-tune orchestra, our lives, without the guidance of the Holy Spirit, will always be off. Something won’t be quite right.

But when we take advantage of the Helper God has sent us, that’s when the music happens.

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

Romans 8:28 (NLT)

On its own, this verse is often taken to mean that, as Christians, everything will always be great! Anyone who has been a Christian for more than five minutes can tell you that’s simply not true. Just because God works for our good doesn’t mean that it will always feel good. There is a reason that this verse follows a verse about being in harmony with God’s will. God works for our good. Meaning that God works things out for our good according to His will, not ours.

Is it always easy? No. Does it always feel good? No. Is there still a divine plan for our lives? Of course!

For God knew is people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn with many brothers and sisters. And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And he gave them right standing with himself, and he promised them his glory.

Romans 8:29-30 (NLT)

When we get our spirit in harmony with God’s Spirit, we put ourselves in a place to be used greatly by Him. We put ourselves in the centre of His will and His love.

Why would you want to play solo when you can harmonize with the entire orchestra?

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 82-84, Romans 8:19-39

Daily Bible Reading

Control freak

Nobody likes to hear the S word. Sin isn’t something anyone wants to or enjoys talking about. Even sinners don’t like their actions to be referred to as sin. It’s a dirty word. And so it should be. But just because sin is dirty, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t address it or even talk about it. Ignoring it won’t make it go away. So how do we deal with it?

We don’t.

He [Jesus] died once to defeat sin, and now he lives for the glory of God.

Romans 6:10 (NLT)

Jesus already dealt with sin. He defeated it. There is no maybe about it. There were no little stragglers that escaped. Jesus got it all. He didn’t just win the battle, he won the war.

What does this mean for us?

Our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin.

Romans 6:6 (NLT)

There are days where sin feels mighty powerful in my life. I struggle with the temptation to give in—and often do. But if it’s lost its power, why is the struggle still there?

Don’t you realize that whatever you choose to obey becomes your master? You can choose sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God and receive his approval.

Romans 6:16 (NLT)

Perhaps our struggle isn’t so much with sin as it is with control. Until the day we leave this earth, sin will always be an option. But just because it’s there doesn’t mean we have to allow it to control us. We should aim for the exact opposite.

So you should consider yourselves dead to sin and able to live for the glory of God through Christ Jesus.

Romans 6:11 (NLT)

Romans 6 goes on to talk about how we should be using our bodies as tools to bring glory to God. A tool is something to be used, controlled by the one using it. Our bodies should not control us, but we rather, should control our bodies. When we give ourselves over to sin, we give up control. Likewise, when we give ourselves over to God, we give Him control. The less control we hold for ourselves—the more we give to God, the less likely we are to give it up to sin. In a culture where control is everything, this is a difficult thing to comprehend or even accept. Yet the benefits in giving all control to God far outweigh the disadvantages (because there are no disadvantages).

For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin.

Romans 6:7 (NLT)

Sin doesn’t have to control us. We don’t have to try to control sin. We must simply give all control over to God. Easy in words, not so much in action. But I believe that the more we strive to give God complete control and ask for His grace in doing so, the more freedom we will find.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 6:23 (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 75-77, Romans 6

Daily Bible Reading

For the honour

We know that God is both able and willing to provide for those who trust in Him. He is great in power and rich in mercy. He wants to see us prosper and succeed. He wants us to go to Him with our praise and our needs.

When we go to God with our requests, what’s our reason for asking? Is it simply because we have a need? David made many requests of God, but in his asking, he also made an offer of sorts.

You are my rock and my fortress,
For the honor of your name, lead me out of this peril.

Psalm 31:3 (NLT)

For the honour. David wasn’t aiming to merely be set free from peril, he wanted to be lead to freedom so that he could give honour to the name of the God who brought him out.

This verse brings to mind a song from Elevation Worship* that bears the same title as this post:

Verse 1

For the honor of the Father
Who reaches out to us
That we might live inside His love
He gave His only Son

Verse 2

For the honor of the Savior
Let the cross be lifted high
The great exchange of love and grace
Came down to give us life

Verse 3

For the honor of the Spirit
Whose power lives in us
That we might see much greater things
As we embrace Your love

Verse 4

For the honor of Your kingdom
Whose reign will never end
We’ll give our lives in sacrifice
Until You come again

Bridge

Forever forever
We’ll honor You forever

All that God does in and for us is not only for us, but for Him as well. It is for His glory and honour that He supplies our needs.

And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:19 (NLT)

Go ahead and make your requests known to God, but don’t forget to give honour where honour is due. When your needs are met, be sure that God gets all the glory—He is far more deserving of the praise than we are of whatever it is we’ve asked of Him.

*For the Honor
Chris Brown | Mack Brock | Steven Furtick | Wade Joye

© 2011 Be Essential Songs (Admin. by Essential Music Publishing LLC)
Elevation Worship Publishing (Admin. by Essential Music Publishing LLC)
Daily Bible Reading

Stones

Joshua said to all the people, “This stone has heard everything the Lord said to us. It will be a witness to testify against you if you go back on your word to God.”

Joshua 24:27 (NLT)

It was common in those days to use stones as witnesses of great events (not that they’d be able to testify in a court of law). When God did something great and mighty, Israel would oft erect a large stone. This would serve as a reminder to them as well as to future generations of God’s goodness and mercy. These stones proclaimed God’s greatness to all who saw them.

Upon reading the verse in Joshua, I was reminded of another scripture regarding stones:

Jesus replied, “I tell you, if these [people] keep silent, the stones will cry out [in praise]!”

Luke 19:40 (AMP)

And then I got to thinking—dangerous, I know. Perhaps Jesus wasn’t referring to just any old stones along the road. Perhaps he was referring to all of the witness stones that the Jews had raised up over the years. Perhaps if his followers failed to proclaim his glory, those stones really would cry out their reminders of God’s grace and goodness.

As a male Jew who had spent many hours in the temple, Jesus would have well known of all the stones his ancestors had stood up. As the Son of God, he knew exactly why each and every stone sat where it did. He knew that every stone proudly proclaimed the glory and awesome works of the Father.

If we don’t proclaim the Good News, maybe those old stones will really cry out.

Daily Bible reading: Joshua 23-24, Luke 6:27-49

Daily Bible Reading

Evidence

Can you see God? You haven’t seen Him? I’ve never seen the wind. I see the effects of the wind, but I’ve never seen the wind.

Billy Graham

Today, in my part of the world, it’s windy. I’m looking out my big windows and I see snow blowing across the yard. In the moments when the wind takes a break, big white flakes swirl down and add themselves to the drifts already covering the yard. Then the wind picks up again and snow both from the sky and the ground and every other surface blasts my view.

I can see that it’s windy. I see evidence of the wind in the snow coming down as well as the drifts on the ground. But I can’t actually see the wind. If I dare to go outside for a few minutes and come back in, the evidence of the wind will be on me. I’d likely have snow stuck to one side of me and not the other. My hair would be standing on end and I’m quite certain I’d be shivering. You’d see the effects of the wind in my appearance, but neither you or I could say we’d actually seen the wind.

The quote above from Billy Graham is well known. If you listened to Christian music in the 90’s, you’d have heard a clip of it on dcTalk’s Jesus Freak album. You may have heard it used many times over the years, but have you really thought about it? Have you gone to the Word for scripture to back it up?

In Exodus, Moses is sent up Mount Sinai once more (he’d come down with tablets from God once already, but ended up smashing them upon realising Israel, in the forty days he’d been gone had reverted to worshipping a golden calf). God needed a word with Moses. And so, for another forty days and nights, Moses fasted and spoke with God face to face. When he finally came back down the mountain, the people of Israel couldn’t bear to look at him, so strong was the glory of God that shone from his face.

Oh, it was just that once, you may say. It wasn’t. Read on in Exodus 34, Moses had to come up with a veil in order to hide his face when he came out from being in the presence of God. Israel didn’t see God, but they saw the effects of His presence.

What do you look like after you’ve been in the presence of God? It’s a personal, spiritual experience, I don’t like to let people know. Why would you want to hide that kind of experience from others?  It’s just for me, no one else. If it was just for Moses, he could have kept to himself and not had to bother with covering his face. When I meet with God, it’s not like that. If you’re not at all changed, are you really meeting with God?

There are many excuses we can give, but in the end, it all comes down to the evidence. If you’ve experienced the presence of God in any way, it should show. You don’t have to literally light up the room with your face, but shouldn’t your countenance show that you’ve experienced something good? Should your attitude not reflect time spent in the presence of the Great I Am?

We might not be able to see the presence of God, but we should surely be able to see the effects of it.

Daily Bible reading: Exodus 34-36, Matthew 23:1-22