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

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

Be strong

Then David continued, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Don’t be afraid or discouraged by the size of the task, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. He will see to it that all the work related to the Temple of the Lord is finished correctly.”

1 Chronicles 28:20 (NLT)

We, the Church, have the great task of building the Kingdom of God. We are to go into all the world preaching the Gospel and making disciples of all nations. That is a sizeable task. It can be daunting if we take the entire work upon ourselves as individuals or even individual churches.

But it is not our responsibility alone. While we should feel a great sense of responsibility to carry out the Great Commission, the pressure to complete it does not rest on any one individual, but the Church as a whole.

Jesus said that he would build his Church and the gates of hell would not prevail against it. If he promised it, he will perform it.

Like David instructing Solomon on building the Temple, Jesus instructed us on building the Church. David’s words to his son are as applicable to us in our endeavour to build the Kingdom of God as they were to Solomon in his to build the Temple.

We must be strong and courageous, and do the work. God is with us. He won’t fail us. He won’t forsake us. He has called us to work with Him and will equip us with all we need to complete the task as we need it.

Daily Bible reading: 1 Chronicles 28-29, John 11:47-57

Daily Bible Reading

Persistence pays

One day Jesus told his disciples a story to illustrate their need for constant prayer and to show them that they must never give up.

Luke 18:1 (NLT)

The story that follows this statement about a woman who demands justice from a godless judge. She is so persistent that the man finally gives her what she wants.

The the Lord said, “Learn a lesson from this evil judge. Even he rendered a just decision in the end, so don’t you think God will surely give justice to this chosen people who plead with him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?”

Luke 18:6-7 (NLT)

There is something to be said for persistence. If you have kids or have even been around them, you know this. Jesus even talks about them later in the same chapter of Luke.

I assure you, anyone who doesn’t have their kind of faith will never get into the Kingdom of God.

Luke 18: 17 (NLT)

Our prayers should be constant. Without end. Ongoing until we get a response. Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 to keep on praying. Another translation says to pray without ceasing.

You mean I’m supposed to pray all the time? Yes! Like a kid who won’t leave his parent alone until they finally cave, that is how we’re supposed to be with God. Our everyday sort of faith is meant to be continual. All the time. In every moment. Persistent.

Does that mean we need to be muttering prayers under our breath all the time? No. But, as much as possible, we need to be aware of the Kingdom around us. The more in tune we are with the Holy Spirit, the more we will be able to continue praying. Whether it’s a long, urgent prayer in private or a quick word in your spirit as you go about your business, persistence in prayer is what gets results.

The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and wonderful results.

James 5:16b (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: 2 Samuel 1-3, Luke 18:1-17

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

House Rules

Growing up, we had house rules. There were certain guidelines anyone living or coming in to our home were expected to abide by. There were different rules at my cousin’s house. Different rules at my grandparent’s house. Different rules at all of my friends’ houses. Every house has its own set of rules.

All through Leviticus, God is telling Israel to be holy because I am holy. He basically tells them that they are who they are because of Him. He is Lord. He is holy. Because He is Lord, they have the opportunity to be made holy. He says, “I am the Lord who makes them holy.” (Leviticus 21:23) House rules.

So long as Israel called themselves set apart to be God’s people—along with anyone else who may be living with them—they were set apart. To continue to be set apart, there was a rule book to comply with. A pretty strict set of instructions, if you ask me, but those were God’s house rules. So long as you abide by them, you can stay in the house. If you break them, out you go.

Though we no longer abide by the Levitical law, there were still a great many things that Jesus told us to do: love God, love your neighbours, repent from your sin, follow me, keep your word, don’t lust, seek first the kingdom of God… Jesus outlined what a life following him should look like. He taught it. He lived it. He wrote new house rules.

My question to the Church would be this: if you don’t keep the house rules, what makes you think you’re still able to live in the house? The rule always was (and still is) that, as long as you live under this roof, you abide by these rules. God basically said the same thing in Leviticus and Jesus reiterated it in the Gospels. Where do we get off trying to break the rules and think we get to stay in the house?

We can be made holy by one thing and one thing alone—the blood of Jesus Christ. By accepting his blood, we accept his teachings, and we accept his name as our own. We make the decision to live a life set apart. We live by a different rule book. And here’s the catch—we don’t make the rules and we don’t get to change the rules. It’s not our house. It’s God’s house.

Daily Bible reading: Leviticus 22-23, Mark 1:1-22

Daily Bible Reading

Proper fruit

Say you’re house sitting for your best friend and your friend asks that you keep an eye on the house and take care of the plants in the greenhouse.You are given a list of instructions on how to mind the greenery. Your friend leaves and, for a few days, you are diligent in heading over to the house, keeping an eye on things and tending to the plants. But as the days stretch into a week and into the next, you’re less interested in taking care of the plants. They’re just house plants after all. Don’t they pretty much take care of themselves? Why bother with this long list of things to do? By the time your friend is set to return from a bit of an extended vacation, you’ve forgotten about the plants. You go through the house to check on things one last time and notice the state of the vegetation. It’s not too bad, but it’s not all that good. You swipe up the dried petals that had fallen off, toss them in the trash, and cover the evidence so you friend believes you’ve taken good care of the “kids”. The friend returns and all is well. So you think.

Several days later your friend approaches you and asks if the plants bloomed. You sheepishly  nod and are forced to explain your lapse in care. While embarrassed about the situation, you don’t see what the big deal is.

As it turns out, your friend was eager to see the first harvest of fruit from the trees. Had you followed through with the care instructions, you’d have opened the greenhouse at the right time to allow bees and hummingbirds in to pollinate the buds. But you failed to followed the directive. The greenhouse remained shut up, the buds dropped off never having been pollinated. There will be no harvest.

The next time your friend goes out of town, you’re the last person on the list to watch the greenhouse.

In neglecting to follow your friend’s instructions, you’ve not only let yourself down, but you’ve lost your chance of being able to enjoy a harvest with one of the people you care for most. Did your friend stop being your friend over the whole debacle? No. But some faith and trust in you has been lost and the opportunity will not be offered to you again.

What I mean is that the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation what will produce the proper fruit.

Matthew 21:43 (NLT)

While, in this scripture, Jesus was talking to the Jewish leaders, it can apply to us all here and now. If you’re one of the ones who fails to produce good fruit, there will be someone else who can come up with good fruit. If you’re not bringing in a harvest where God has planted you, He will plant someone else.

I once heard a pastor of a large, successful church in a very un-churched area say that he wasn’t by any means the first person God called to the area. He was just the first person to say yes and not quit. 20 years later, they have one of the largest congregations in the city. Where others had failed to be fruitful, he was faithful to the calling and was able to produce fruit where others said it couldn’t be done.

Are you content with leafy trees or are you willing to be patient and tend to the buds in order to produce a fruitful harvest?

Daily Bible reading: Exodus 27-28, Matthew 21:23-46