Daily Bible Reading

The same

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Hebrews 13:8 (NLT)

No matter what translation you read, this verse is pretty much exactly the same in every one. The Amplified adds Jesus Christ is [eternally changeless, always] the same. The word same means just that. The same. Never changing. Unaltered. Never different. That is our Savior.

Think about that for a moment. The message that Jesus taught while he walked the earth is still valid today. Just because the world has changed and humanity has changed, doesn’t mean the Gospel changes.

So do not be attracted by strange, new ideas. Your spiritual strength comes from God’s special favor…

Hebrews 13:9b (NLT)

Too often, we try to complicate the message of Jesus. It can get watered down or it can be altered to seem more appealing. But the true message of Jesus can get lost in all the things we try to do to it. If Jesus never, ever changes,why do we try to change his word? If Jesus appealed to the masses two thousand years ago what makes us think that he won’t appeal the crowds now?

We have not been called to make the message of the Gospel appealing. We’ve been called simply to share it.

And now, may the God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, equip you with all you need for doing his will. May he produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, all that is pleasing to him.

Hebrews 13:20 (NLT)

God is most please with us when we do His will His way, and He has already given us all we need to accomplish it. We don’t need to try to make up new stories or rules or ways of doing things. Jesus already set the standard and, since he never changes, why would we try to change his message?

Jesus ministered to anyone and everyone with grace and love. We should do the same.

Daily Bible reading: Ezekiel 17-19, Hebrews 13

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Daily Bible Reading

What is faith?

As Christians, we talk about faith. A lot. It is our belief system. It is the basis on which we live our lives. It is our calling. It is many things. We know that just a small amount—the measure of a mustard seed—can move a mountain. It can heal the sick and open blind eyes. Faith can raise the dead. But how many of us can accurately define faith?

Let’s go the the old standby in Hebrews:

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)

I once heard a pastor say that grace is God’s grip on us and faith is our grip on God. According to Noah Webster, her statement was more than just something to be typed on a meme and posted to social media.

The sense of the verb is to strain, to draw, and thus to bind or make fast. A rope or cable is that which makes fast.

Our faith, combined with God’s grace, brings us or draws us toward God and binds us to Him. Without faith, we have no grip whatsoever. Grace alone is not enough. It is not the binding agent, faith is.

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 (NLT)

FAITH: That firm belief of God’s testimony, and of the truth of the gospel, which influences the will, and leads to an entire reliance on Christ for salvation.

When we are called upon to use our faith, our belief should not be in the desired outcome, but in the One who can bring it to pass. We must remember that faith goes beyond a little prayer and a hope. Faith is what binds us to God. It draws us closer to Him. It brings us to obedience to His Word and puts in line with His will. It is our judgement that what God has stated is the truth. And, if He promised it, He will perform it.

Daily Bible reading: Ezekiel 10-12, Hebrews 11:1-19

Daily Bible Reading

Excel

If you call yourself a Christian, you are called to ministry. First, to minister to the world—whether it be your own small corner or abroad in a foreign nation. We are all called to be ministers of the Gospel. Also, we are called to the ministry of giving.

…now I want you to excel also in the gracious ministry of giving.

2 Corinthians 8:7b (NLT)

I can guarantee that God has put it on your heart to give. If you don’t believe so, you haven’t been listening.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.

James 1:17 (NKJV)

If God gives us good gifts and we are to become more and more like Him every day, should we not also be giving good gifts?

If you are really eager to give, it isn’t important how much you are able to give. God wants you to give what you have, not what you don’t have.

2 Corinthians 8:12 (NLT)

God doesn’t intend for us to give so much that we become destitute. He wants us to give not only to bless others, but to make more room in our lives.

Blow up a balloon, but don’t tie it off. Let all the air out. Blow it up again. Let the air out. Each time you let the air out, the balloon will appear larger. You’re stretching it. Making more room. There are things that God wants to give us that won’t fit into our lives the way they are. The balloon would pop. But let the air out, and you’ve made room for more the next time you fill it.

God wants to do the same with us. Giving may deflate us a bit, but God will fill us to capacity again and again, increasing our limit every time. If you tie off a balloon, no air can get in or out. The supply is cut off.

Don’t cut yourself off from God’ generous supply by being stingy. Instead, become a part of His supply chain and allow Him to bless others through the blessings He gives you.

Learn to excel at the ministry of giving.

Daily Bible reading: Proverbs 30-31, 2 Corinthians 8

Daily Bible Reading

Love that builds

We don’t need to grow. We’re fine exactly as we are. Said no church leader ever. No good leader (of anything) is content with status quo. Growth and improvement are the goals we continually strive toward. To be satisfied with the same thing week after week, month after month, year after year is to completely disregard the entire purpose for our gathering together as Christians in the first place.

And then [Jesus] told them, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone, everywhere.”

Mark 16:15 (NLT)

Everyone. Everywhere. Those add up to big numbers. How are we supposed to reach everyone everywhere? It’s a massive undertaking. Knowing the mission is the first step. Knowing the Good News is the next. Knowledge is great. Leaders are learners—and by leaders, I mean anyone and everyone who calls his- or herself a follower of Christ. Our knowledge of God, His Word, His Church, and His will should be ever-increasing. But it can’t stop there. Knowledge alone isn’t good enough.

Knowledge is good and it is necessary, but it is not everything. If we are going to reach everyone everywhere, we need something that is not readily available to the rest of the world.

While knowledge makes us feel important, it is love that really builds up the church. Anyone who claims to know all the answers doesn’t really know very much.

1 Corinthians 8:1b-2 (NLT)

Lennon and McCartney were on the right track when they sang that all you need is love.

We need the love that is patient and kind, not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. We need the kind of love that is so thoroughly described in 1 Corinthians 13. Without it, what we build with our own knowledge is no different than the things the world builds. It is love—true love—that sets us apart.

And it is love that really builds up the church.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 132-135, 1 Corinthians 8

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

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

Beam me up!

I’m not what one would consider a Trekkie, but I do enjoy Star Trek. I’ve always wanted to be teleported. To be able to say into your com, “Beam me up, Scottie!” and be lifted from one place to another in a matter of moments would be pretty sweet. But long before Kirk was captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise, a man from Samaria was beamed from one place to another—without Scottie at the control panel.

The latter portion of Acts 8 gives us the account of Philip and a man we know as the Ethiopian. Philip had been leading a successful ministry in Samaria when an angel came and told him it was time to move along. Now. He needed to be on a certain road at a certain time. No time to waste! Philip didn’t hesitate. He went.

On his journey, he came across the treasurer of Ethiopia. A man of great power and authority. Philip was able to give witness of Jesus and even baptized the man. As soon as Philip had baptized this stranger, he was gone. He didn’t leave. He was just gone. The eunuch never saw Philip again, but still took the Good News with him.

Meanwhile, Philip found himself in another city altogether. He continued to preach the Good News there and in every town along the way until he came to Caesarea (Acts 8:40).

While the fact that Philip was able to minister to this high-ranking official from Ethiopia may seem insignificant, the entire account is not. I don’t believe the fact that the Ethiopian took the Good News with him was even the most important part of this story—I believe Philip’s obedience is.

Perhaps Philip was not the first person God had sent to speak to the eunuch. Maybe, on his journey, the man had come across many believers. But he had yet to hear and accept the Good News. God needed someone to reach him. Philip was maybe not the first one who was told to go, but he was the one who responded. Not only did he respond, but he went immediately. There was no waiting. No wrapping things up in Samaria. No setting up the next leader so that the ministry wouldn’t be without. He left. He needed to be on a certain road at a certain time or the call would have been for naught.

Once that first task was accomplished, God then took Philip to a completely different city. Philip had already proven himself faithful. He’d go where God needed him when God needed him to go.

I am quite certain that if the large majority of us suddenly disappeared from our lives and landed in a foreign city we wouldn’t just continue on our merry way. We’d call home. We’d try to get home. We would be quite livid at having been unexpectedly uprooted. We would have a hard time detaching ourselves from our former lives if at all.

Philip understood that, in ministry, his life was not his own. His life’s mission was to accomplish the will of God in whatever that capacity may be. His faithfulness to the call allowed God to move him from one place to another with no interruption in what Philip was able to accomplish. His preaching never stopped. He didn’t try to rush back to Samaria or send someone to make sure things were going okay. God moved him, so he kept preaching.

How confident are you in your Christian walk that, if God decided to beam you up, you’d just go with it?

Daily Bible reading: Job 13-15, Acts 8:26-40