Daily Bible Reading

Behind the scenes

Read through the book of Esther. You won’t find any mention of God.

Does this surprise you?

If you know the story, you probably imagine it with folks praying and praising and God leading someone to do this and telling someone else to do that. The name of God is never mentioned, but we cannot deny the fact that He is still there behind every action taken throughout the story.

Maybe you feel like your life has started a little like Esther’s. She wasn’t born a queen. She was born to a race which, more often than not, was scorned throughout Persia. The Jews had more than their fair share of enemies. As if that wasn’t bad enough, she lost both her parents and her uncle took in his orphaned niece. For many, this would be reason enough to give up. But somewhere along the line, whether it was her nature or the nurture of her wise uncle, Mordecai, Esther grew into a beautiful, wise, strong woman.

As she grew up, Esther couldn’t know that she would one day capture the attention of the king. She couldn’t have known that God was preparing her to rescue her people from an enemy who would see them all dead. She couldn’t have known that she would have to put her own life on the line to spare the lives of her people.

We can never really know what God may be preparing us for as we go through life. Your struggles now may be strengthening you to do something great. And if you give in now, you may never know what God had in store for you in the future.

Like the book of Esther, you may not see God working in your life, but don’t make the mistake of believing He’s not there working, fighting, preparing behind the scenes on your behalf.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “they are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Esther 7-10, Acts 6

Daily Bible Reading

If you build it…

Many of us can quote the whispered line from Field of Dreams, if you build it, he will come. Nehemiah was kind of the Ray Kinsella of his time. God was the voice whispering to him to build it. Build what? The wall surrounding Jerusalem.

Nehemiah, however, wasn’t an Iowa corn farmer. He was the king’s cup bearer in Persia. He’d never even been to Jerusalem. Yet, when he heard of the disrepair the city had fallen to, God’s vision weighed so heavily on his heart that he had to go. He prayed for strength and courage to approach the king. No only did the king allow him to go, but Nehemiah left with letters which would allow him to pass through other lands on his way and also gave him access to the king’s resources.

Nehemiah showed up in a strange city full of distant relatives and somehow managed to get everyone working together to rebuild the wall. How’s that for a family reunion? From the lowest of the low to the city leaders, with God’s vision set before them, they all worked together.

There are those who would say that the God of the Old Testament is not the same as the God of the New Testament.

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

Hebrews 13:8 (NLT)

God doesn’t change. The God that stirred Nehemiah, a lowly servant, to rebuild Jerusalem is the same God who is still stirring within men and women today. He is planting vision in those daring enough to see beyond themselves and today.

Christians who did most for the present world were those who thought most of the next.

C.S. Lewis.

There are those who build for the sake of building. They want the glory that comes with a grand structure. And there are those who build for the sake of the Kingdom of God. They want the glory to go to the One who alone can fill the structure.

It is time that the Church allow herself to be stirred. Time for those who are willing to be led by the Spirit of God to build the Kingdom of God. It is time that we strive to become the Church that Christ will return for.

It’s time to sneak a peek at tomorrow’s reading:

‘In the last days,’ God says,
‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy.
Your young men will see visions,
and your old men will dream dreams.
In those days I will pour out my Spirit
Even on my servants—men and women alike—
and they will prophesy.

Acts 2:17-18 (NLT)

Are you ready to think less of this world and more of the next? If you build it…

Daily Bible reading: Nehemiah 1-3, Acts 2:1-13

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

Faith like a child

Then the king summoned all the leaders of Judah and Jerusalem. And the king went up to the Temple of the Lord with all the people of Judah and Jerusalem, and the priests, and the prophets—all the people from the least to the greatest. The king read to them the entire Book of the Covenant that had been found in the Lord’s Temple. The king took his place of authority beside the pillar and renewed the covenant in the Lord’s presence. He pledged to obey the Lord by keeping all his commands, regulation, and law with all his heart and soul. In this way, he confirmed all the terms of the covenant that were written in the scroll, and all the people pledged themselves to the covenant.

2 Kings 23:1-3 (NLT)

This sounds like something that happened in Solomon’s day. Surely these are the actions of a great and wise king in a long line of God-fearing kings.

But it’s not.

This is Josiah. He was eight when he ascended to the throne and reigned only thirty-one years. He didn’t even make it over the hill. Wisdom and faith were not traits that were common in his lineage. In fact, he came after a long line of evil and rebellious kings. Yet somehow, he understood the importance of a covenant with the Lord.

Though previous kings had sought to honour God, Josiah was the first to utterly destroy pagan worship in Israel—the idols, altars, shrines, and priests. Then he reinstituted the Passover which had not been celebrated as such since the time when the judges ruled in Israel (2 Kings 23:22).

I say all this so that we can learn from the kid who became king. Age does not equal wisdom. Wisdom is simply the proper use of knowledge. Josiah had already commanded that the Temple be rebuilt and when the Book of the Law was rediscovered, Josiah suddenly had a wealth of knowledge at his fingertips.

The Book of the Law had all but disappeared from tradition in Judah. Josiah could have chosen to leave things as they were and not stir up trouble during his reign. But instead, he chose to apply his newfound knowledge. Because of the wisdom of a young man, a nation was saved from destruction.

“You were sorry and humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard what I said against this city and its people, that this land would be cursed and become desolate. You tore your clothing in despair and wept before me in repentance. So I have indeed heard you, says the Lord. I will not send the promised disaster against this city until after you have died and been buried in peace. You will not see the disaster I am going to bring on this place.”

2 Kings 22:19-20 (NLT)

Don’t assume that all things from the aged are wise and don’t dismiss the words of a youth. God can bring forth truth and wisdom from anyone willing to see and pursue it.

Daily Bible reading: 2 Kings 23-25, John 7:1-31

Daily Bible Reading

Quickly

Let’s assume that, if you attend church regularly, that you trust your pastor and other church leaders. You trust that he or she is a man or woman of God. You trust that they spend regular time in prayer and reading their Bible. You trust that their messages are Holy Spirit-led.

Then they approach you and tell you something you didn’t expect. It may be a word in season or it may be a word of correction. Some people take it to heart and are encouraged or work to make necessary changes in their lives. Others may ruminate on it for a while before responding. And others will get mad, stay away, or even leave the church thinking, what right does this person have to say this to me?

The truth is that they have every right. If you consider yourself to be a member of a church, you’ve put yourself into a position of submission to the pastor and the leaders he or she has put in place. So long as they are speaking and acting according to the Word of God, they have a certain amount of authority over you.

So why does our response matter so much?

Israel has wandered away from God. There are yet a few righteous men and women, but not many. Jehu is leading the army. Elisha is the prophet. Elisha sends a man of God to anoint Jehu as the next king. Jehu can do several things: he can send the man away, scoffing at him, he can listen to what he has to say and think about it, or he can accept the word and act on it.

Jehu accepts the anointing.

Jehu went back to his fellow officers, and one of them asked him, “What did that crazy fellow want? Is everything all right?”

“You know the way such a man babbles on,” Jehu replied.

“You’re lying,” they said. “Tell us.” So Jehu told them what the man had said and that at the Lord’s command he had been anointed king over Israel.

They quickly spread out their cloaks on the bare steps and blew a trumpet, shouting, “Jehu is king!”

2 Kings 9:11-13 (NLT)

Israel may have gone astray, but something (I believe the Holy Spirit) was still working in them. A deep respect and honour for the Word of God still resided in these men and, instead of getting upset that Jehu had been chosen to be the next king or taking the time to think about this news and whether or not they wanted to accept it, they immediately responded to it.

When we have a relationship with God, He will lead us and guide us. His Spirit works in and through us. He brings us insight and revelation.

When we are in submission to the leaders God has placed before us, God uses them to help lead and guide us. Between God speaking to our leaders and the Spirit working in us, I believe that we are well able to discern truth and allow that truth to guide us. When a word is presented to us from a trusted source and resonates within our spirits as truth, our response, like Jehu’s men, should be immediate. If we trust God and we trust our leaders, the time to ponder should be minimal. We should respond quickly.

Daily Bible reading: 2 Kings 9-11, John 5:1-24

Daily Bible Reading

Out

No one likes to be publicly called out when they’ve done something wrong. We humans like to keep our shame to ourselves and out of the limelight. Social media has gone a long way to out our wrongdoings—real or perceived. Just because we can out someone doesn’t mean we should. And, on the flipside, just because we can hide our wrongs, doesn’t make it right.

The story of David and Bathsheba is one told often. Leonard Cohen (and countless others since) even sang about it in his popular song Hallelujah. We see a king go to extremes to obtain a beautiful woman. He commits adultery. He commits murder. He tries to hide it all.

Some might think that God was playing the bully when He sent the prophet Nathan to deal with David. Yes, David was mortified and probably enraged that he’d been found out. The payment for his sin was the death of his first child with Bathsheba. Hey God, that’s a little harsh, don’t you think?

David was the man God had anointed as a youth to be king over Israel. Since Samuel first poured oil on his head, David was accountable to a different set of standards (not that it’s okay to sleep with the spouses of other people and then have their spouse killed so you can have that person to yourself). At this point, God had already promised David an eternal lineage of kings. The ball of salvation for all mankind was already rolling. Had David been allowed to continue along the line of the actions that lead to Uriah’s death, the lineage to Jesus could have been permanently sullied.

Instead, God sends Nathan to have a chat with the king. David knew what he did was wrong—he did it all in secret, after all. But it wasn’t until it was made public that he was able to deal with it.

It’s never comfortable to have someone else know about your sin. We’d all like to keep our secrets, well, secret. But without acknowledgement, there can be no healing.

Then David confessed to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”

Nathan replied, “Yes, but the Lord has forgiven you, and you won’t die for this sin.”

2 Samuel 12:13-14 (NLT)

We must ask this: it is easier to live with the secret of our sin or to out ourselves and be freed from it?

Daily Bible reading: 2 Samuel 10-12, Luke 19:29-48

Daily Bible Reading

Arrival

Imagine you’ve been expecting someone. You’ve been waiting for a long time. You’ve never actually met this person, but you think you know what to expect. So you wait. And you keep waiting.

What if this person isn’t quite what you expected? What if, because they’re not what you were waiting for, you ignore all the signs that point to their arrival? What if someone you don’t trust points that person out to you? Do you believe them?

Jesus’ arrival was long-expected. The people of Israel had been waiting centuries for Him to show up. You’d think that they’d all be watching for the signs that would point to Him. You’d think that they’d know it when He showed up in their towns. You’d think that people would go on ahead shouting that the Messiah had finally come!

The last thing you’d expect would be that the demons would be the one proclaiming His power. But that’s exactly what happened.

Once when he as in the synagogue, a man possessed by a demon began shouting at Jesus, “Go away! Why are you bothering us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One sent from God.”

Luke 4:33-34 (NLT)

Some were possessed by demons; and the demons came out at his command, shouting, “You are the Son of God.” But because they knew he was the Messiah, he stopped them and told them to be silent.

Luke 4:41 (NLT)

The people of Israel had become complacent. They’d ignored the signs of the coming Messiah. They were thrilled that there was a man who could heal and cast out demons, but they didn’t recognise Jesus for who He truly was. It was the demons who knew exactly who Jesus was and why He had come. They’d had the run of the place for centuries, but that was all about to stop.

Jesus had arrived. He had the power to cast them down and they knew it.

Now we have the same power. Our King has come. He has put His power in us. Demons should hear the power of Christ in our words and flee. Unlike the Jews, we don’t have to wait. Sickness, disease, demons, death should all flee because we have arrived.

Daily Bible reading: Joshua 14-15, Luke 4:33-44