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

Aim higher

For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God. And other people will approve of you, too. So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.

Romans 14:17-19 (NLT)

Inclusion is the chant, but division is the outcome. We see it in the news every day. One side yelling at another side, each one believing they’re right. But if you would ask the individuals, most everyone says they want the same thing—peace and harmony. So why are the results the opposite? Why are we tearing each other down instead of building each other up?

I believe it all begins with the individual. Luke said that, whatever is in your heart determines what you say (Luke 6:45b). When one side is screaming at another, one must wonder what is really in their hearts? Is it the peace and justice they claim to want or is it hate and division?

Our aim, like Paul tells us, should be for harmony in the church and [to] try to build each other up. So how do we do that? I think David’s thoughts can start us down the right track.

Praise the Lord, I tell myself;
with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, I tell myself,
and never forget the good things he does for me.

Psalm 103:1-2 (NLT)

If what is in our hearts will determine what we say, let’s get good things in our hearts. Here in Psalm 103, David speaks to himself, reminding his spirit of the good things God has done. He’s putting good things into his heart so that good things will come out of his mouth.

Getting the good stuff to stick is hard when we’re constantly being bombarded with noise and negativity, but if David could do it, if Paul could do it, we can, too.

For we are not our own masters when we live or when we die. While we live, we live to please the Lord. And when we die, we go to be with the Lord. So in life and in death, we belong to the Lord.

Romans 14:7-8 (NLT)

Start with reminding yourself who you belong to, whom you serve. Then remind yourself of all He has done for you and for those who have gone before you. Fill your heart and your mind with goodness and peace and joy. Then your aim for harmony won’t seem to lofty.

Try a daily confession. Write your own from verses that speak to you or find one (like this) that lines up with the Word of God. Speak to yourself like David did. Tell yourself who you are and what God has done for you. You may be surprised by what you start to say. When those good things start to pour out from your spirit, the natural effect will be the building up of those around you.

Let us, as the Church, aim higher.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 103-104, Romans 14

Daily Bible Reading

Act like it!

Christians should be the happiest, most joyful people on the plant. There are some who call themselves Christians that may balk at that statement, but it’s the truth. There are no scriptures in the Bible that would indicate that Christians must be a solemn people, prone to frowns and fits of self-deprecation.

So you should not be like cowering, fearful slaves. You should behave instead like God’s very own children, adopted into his family—calling him “Father, dear Father.”

Romans 8:15 (NLT)

Everything that I’ve found in scripture that speaks of how we should act as children of God indicates that we should stand out from the crowd—not because we are miserable, but because we have something that everyone else does not. Our faces, our actions, our attitudes, our responses should reflect the Spirit of God that lives on the inside of us.

But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them are not Christians at all.)

Romans 8:9 (NLT)

2017-08-05 15.17.05
Saskatchewan Roughriders receiver #89, Duron Carter, tossing a pass to my nephew.

I was recently at a CFL football game with my sister and her two boys. We had passes that allowed us down on the field before the game while the players were warming up. Even though our team doesn’t win nearly as often as we would like them to, we’re still big fans and cheer them on. So there we were cheering on some warm-up catches when one of the best receivers in the league tossed a pass to my nephew. My nephew (who plays football) managed to throw back a decent spiral, got a smile and a wave from the player. It was a special moment. We made sure everyone knew he’d caught the only pass from that player that day. Both our words and our actions indicated that this kid was something special.

If a single pass from a professional football player can make our day, how much more should the fact that we have been made heirs with Christ reflect in our lives?

With all the noise and distraction around us, it can get difficult to remember who we really are. That’s why it is so important to take the time to listen to the voice of the Spirit within us.

For his Holy Spirit speaks to us deep in our hearts and tells us that we are God’s children.

Romans 8:16 (NLT)

God hasn’t left us on our own. Just like your last name is a perpetual reminder of who you are, who you belong to, and where you came from, the Holy Spirit within us is there to also remind us of who we are, who we belong to, and where we came from.

Listen to that voice that God put in you. You are a child of God. A child of the King. Brothers and sister of Christ. Heirs of the Promise and so much more. And it’s okay to act like it. Our membership in the Kingdom of God is something to be celebrated and shared.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 78-81, Romans 8:1-18

Daily Bible Reading

A word of encouragement

Who doesn’t need or want a little encouragement every once in a while (or all the time)? We feel good when someone gives us a pat on the back, tells us we’re doing a good job, or sends a text just to say they’re thinking about us. But what about those days when those things don’t happen? What about the days when we could really use that encouraging word and it doesn’t come? What then?

It sure would be nice if our frame of mind wasn’t so dependant on outside reassurance.

I will praise the Lord at all times.
I will constantly speak his praises.
I will boast only in the Lord;
let all who are discouraged take heart.
Come, let us tell of the Lord’s greatness;
let us exalt his name together.

Psalm 34:1-3 (NLT)

It’s interesting that, in all these lines about praising God, David inserts something about the discouraged. He saw a relationship between praising God and a happy heart.

What if, when we’re feeling a little down and tend to focus more inwardly, we turned it around? What if we took the focus completely off of ourselves? Think about this, when you’re worshipping God, praising Him, speaking about His greatness, what’s your mental state like? Do you feel burdened, in need of a pick-me-up? No. It’s pretty difficult to stay down when you’re lifting God up.

When we turn our focus on to God and His greatness, first of all, our troubles become very small. Second, we allow our spirits to commune with His Spirit—our helper and comforter. Our affirmation doesn’t need to come from outside sources—it shouldn’t come from outside sources. We have the ability to lift ourselves out of the gloom and into the glorious light of God.

How can we be anything but encouraged when we shift our focus from our inward troubles and outwardly praise the Lord, speak His praises, boast in Him, tell of His greatness, and exalt His name?

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 34-35, Acts 22

Daily Bible Reading

The baby and the bathwater

Brothers, listen! In this man Jesus there is forgiveness for your sins. Everyone who believes in him is freed from all guilt and declared right with God—something the Jewish law could never do. Be careful! Don’t let the prophets’ words apply to you. For they said,

‘Look, you mockers,
be amazed and die!
For I am doing something in your own day,
something you wouldn’t believe
even if someone told you about it!

Acts 13:38-41 (NLT)

Obviously the Jewish leaders didn’t take kindly to the fact that they’d been called mockers. It only added to the proof that they were, in fact, the fulfillment of that particular prophecy. They chose to ignore all the signs that pointed to Jesus. They loved the law so much that they failed to see the fulfillment of it.

We’ve already accepted Jesus as Lord, how does this apply to us at all?

I think the prophecy from Habakkuk 1:5 still applies to a lot of people today. Like the Jewish leaders, there are a great many Christians stuck to their traditions rather than to God Himself. Like the leaders in the synagogue, they scoff at change. If everything has been working for the last hundred years, why should it change now? God never changes! 

No, God doesn’t change, but that doesn’t mean that we won’t see things we’ve never seen before. The world had never seen God in the way of Jesus. That was new. The miracles that Jesus performed had never been seen before. Those were new. The men Jesus selected to follow him weren’t great men or local leaders. That was new, too. Yet everything Jesus did still lined up with what God had been saying all along.

There’s that old phrase that says, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. The Church is often more guilty of this than any other group around. Oh, that’s new. Can’t be from God! And then we go along our merry way the same way we’ve gone along our entire lives. Like the temple leaders in Jesus’ time, we miss out on all God has for us. They missed out on the greatest miracle in the history of the world because they were content with the status quo. They were content with their status, period. To admit that Jesus was the Messiah and that anyone could be forgiven at any time would put them out of a job.

See, I will do a new thing. It will begin happening now. Will you not know about it? I will even make a road in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.

Isaiah 43:19 (NLT)

So when you hear about God doing something that you’ve never heard of before, check it out. Compare it against His Word. Just because you’ve never seen or experienced it before doesn’t mean it’s not God. Don’t get so stuck in tradition that you miss out on an outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

In the end, the priests went back to the temple and their mundane lives demanding perfect adherence to the Law.

And the believers were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

Acts 13:52 (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Job 33-34, Acts 13:24-52

Daily Bible Reading

A Season of Peace

Since today’s daily reading coincides with a devotional my pastor recently shared, I’m going to borrow a few things from Pastor Morris Watson.

Then the church had peace throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria, and it grew in strength and numbers. The believers were walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 9:31 (NLT)

Where there is peace, there is prosperity and growth. The Church is often compared to a body. Think about when you’re fighting a cold or the flu. Are you able to get stronger? Are kids able to grow when their little bodies are fighting illness? No, of course not. When there is something in the body that doesn’t belong there, not only is there not peace, but all the energy goes into fighting whatever it is that’s attacking. The Church works the same way. When there’s something there that doesn’t belong, it takes away peace and it diverts energy from promoting growth.

But when there is peace within the Church, growth and prosperity is a wonderful byproduct. When we are all of one heart, one mind, and one vision, we are then able to work together to fight off outside attacks. Even then, if we can stay focused, we can keep our peace and grow through the situation.

If we allow ourselves to be in conflict with one another or in conflict with God, we restrict our own ability to grow and be strengthened. We cannot be careless with our peace. We must encourage it in ourselves and in others.

God blesses those who work for peace,
for they will be called the children of God.

Matthew 5:9 (NLT)

When we work for peace, we work for God. God’s mission for us all is to have and to bring peace—it will never be to bring about strife.

Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.

Romans 12:18 (NLT)

When we go looking for peace and promote peace, how can we find and accomplish anything but? And in finding peace, we will also find growth and strength. We will be walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit.

Daily Bible reading: Job 19-20, Acts 9:23-43

Daily Bible Reading

To boldly go

… to boldly go where no man has gone before.

You’ve probably heard that phrase more than a few times. It’s the mission of the starship Enterprise.

Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.

The Church has a similar mission—only it’s a life-long one, not just five years.

And then he told them, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone.”

Mark 16:15 (NLT)

Did you know that this instruction from Jesus doesn’t apply only pastors? It applies to Christians. Period. But a lot of us tend to look at this as a job not an opportunity. The more we see taking the Gospel to the world as work, the less we’re apt to do it. So how did the early church manage to grow so much so quickly?

“And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give your servants great boldness in their preaching. Send your healing power; may miraculous signs and wonders be done through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”

After this prayer, the building where they were meeting shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. And they preached God’s message with boldness.

Acts 4:29-31 (NLT)

The church prayed and—amazingly enough—God answered their prayers!

They didn’t pray for their leaders to be bold, they prayed for boldness for themselves. Every member of the church received the power of the Holy Spirit to preach the Good News boldly. We don’t have to share the Gospel, we get to. And we don’t have to do it on our own power. If your desire is to see more people brought into the Kingdom of God, God is not going to withhold the power of His Spirit to help you do so.

Jesus told us to bring the Gospel to the world, but he also promised the Helper.

It’s time that the Church—the whole Church, every member of the Church—pray for boldness to preach the Good News. Now is not the time to sit back and reevaluate our message so that we don’t risk offending certain groups of people. Now is the time for us to pray for the power of the Holy Spirit to fall on us all so that we boldly go forth and preach God’s message.

Daily Bible reading: Nehemiah 12-13, Acts 4:23-37