Daily Bible Reading

Fruit hurts

I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.

John 15:1-2 (NLT)

I think most everyone could agree (or at least hope) that if you a bearing good fruit, pain should be the furthest thing from your mind. Many of us are under the impression that by living a good Christian life, we should be free from trouble, worry, and pain.

What if I told you that pain is good?

So long as you’re connected with Jesus—the true vine—you shouldn’t have to worry about being cut off. But that doesn’t mean you’re free and clear from some difficulty. God loves us so much that He’s willing to cause a little pain so that we can see even more fruit.

I’m not a parent, but I’ve heard that many parents have a difficult time disciplining their children. It’s not that they want their kids to continue misbehaving, it’s because they love them that they don’t want to be the cause of pain and tears. I’m quite certain God feels the same—and even more so—about us. He loves us enough to take things away, cut things off, and redirect our paths.

The resulting pain of God’s pruning isn’t bad news. In fact, it’s great news! It means that you have fruit to start with. And it means that God wants you to produce even more fruit.

There’s an orchard near my house that looks as though it was overtaken with blight several years back. Since then, the keeper has done absolutely nothing with it. The trees are all but dead and intruding vines are taking over what is left of the branches. The owner doesn’t even care enough to have it all removed. It’s gone to waste and is being overtaken by invasive plants. In order to bring back a fruitful orchard, even more work will be required than if the keeper of the trees had just cut it all down when the blight first attacked.

God isn’t going to allow blight or invasive brambles to overtake His orchard. He is going to attack anything and everything that doesn’t belong there because He wants the greatest harvest possible.

So don’t get upset when the things that prevent fruit in your life are taken away. Rejoice because you know that God truly does care and is watching out for your best interests.

I have told you this so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!

John 15:11 (NLT)

Bearing fruit hurts. There may be a little pain now, but the payoff is more fruit in the future. The next time you feel you’re being pruned. Rejoice. God is working on you and He is working for you.

Daily Bible reading: 2 Chronicles 17-19, John 15

Daily Bible Reading

Love each other

What does it mean to love each other? Is it warm, fuzzy feelings? Is it passion? A mutual respect? When we think about Jesus’ command for us to love each other, what is the context we put it in?

So now I am giving you a new commandment. Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.

John 13:34-35 (NLT)

Yesterday, we looked at how Jesus switched positions with his disciples. He intentionally placed himself in the position of a lowly servant rather than Lord and Master. He washed the feet of those who had faithfully followed him. He served them.

Then he told them to love each other as he loved them.

How willing are you to wash the feet of the person who sits next to you in church? I have smelled the feet of some who sit beside me in church. I’m not sure I’d want to go so far as to wash them.

I don’t expect the church to suddenly install a foot-washing station for those who want to take these words literally. But I do expect us to think a little more about how we serve each other. Jesus said that our love for one another, how we serve each other as he served his followers, will prove to the world that we are his disciples. For the most part, I only see church people at church on Sunday. I don’t know much about what goes on in their daily lives or if they’d need help doing it.

However, I do think that we should know more about what goes on in the daily lives of the people we attend church with. We should know how they can be served and then we should strive to serve each other with the same love that Jesus displayed.

Sometimes a little dirty work can go a long way—it can go far enough to prove to the world that we are Jesus’ disciples.

Daily Bible reading: 2 Chronicles 10-12, John 13:18-38

Daily Bible Reading

Success!

Growing up in the church, I never ceased to be amazed at the excuses Christians will come up with for their own sin. I’m probably guilty of it myself. You hear things like, “we’re no longer under the law” or “I’m covered by grace”. While those are both true, they are not free passes for us to sin. Many believers are under the impression that, because Jesus came to fulfill the law of Moses, that we have no code to live by.

So then that was Jesus’ ministry for?

We read in the Old Testament of King Hezekiah. Finally, there’s a good one in the bunch.

He remained faithful to the Lord in everything, and he carefully obeyed all the commands the Lord had given Moses. So the Lord was with him, and Hezekiah was successful in everything he did.

1 Kings 18:6-7a (NLT)

Don’t you think we could learn a thing or two from this guy? We can simply believe in Jesus as our Lord and Saviour and basically use our salvation as a Get Out of Hell Free card so we can continue to live our lives however we want or we, like Hezekiah, can obey the Lord and see success in our lives. Shouldn’t the choice be easy?

Rather than the entire book of the law (which is pretty much impossible to follow to the letter), Jesus centred his entire ministry on two commands:

  1. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.
  2. Love your neighbor as yourself.

Matthew 22:37, 39 (NLT)

Love. That’s it. No more excuses! We don’t have a free pass to do what we want when we want. If we dare to call ourselves by the name of Christ, we should strive every moment of every day to live worthy of the name. Jesus is love. We should be love. I believe that the greatest success we can achieve on this side of heaven is to live as Christ. So I will leave you with the words of the apostle Paul:

For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ…

Philippians 1:20-22 (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: 2 Kings 18-19, John 6:22-44

Daily Bible Reading

John 3:16

For many believers, John 3:16 is the first scripture we learned and committed to memory. Many of the things that have been in our memory for a long time can lose their meaning and relevance. So let’s take a deeper look at this well-known verse. Each word is there for a purpose. By defining each one, we can see an even greater value in having this scripture close to our hearts.

For God so loved [regarded with affection, on account of some qualities which excited pleasing sensations of desire or gratification] the world [mankind; people in general] that He gave [exposed; sent forth; pledged; bestowed; transmitted from himself] his only [this and no other] Son, so that everyone [each individual of a whole collection] who believes [having a firm persuasion approaching to certainty] in him will not perish [die; lose life in any manner], but have eternal [without end of existence or duration; everlasting; endless; immortal] life [eternal happiness in heaven].

John 3:16 (NLT)

Definitions derived from Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language, 1828.

Daily Bible reading: 1 Kings 21-22. John 3:1-21

Daily Bible Reading

Dead yet alive

But before all this occurs, there will be time a of great persecution. You will be dragged into synagogues and prisons, and you will be accused before kings and governors of being my followers. This will be your opportunity to tell them about me. So don’t worry about how to answer the charges against you, for I will give you the right words and such wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to reply! Even those closest to you—your parents, brothers, relatives, and friends—will betray you. And some will be killed.

And everyone will hate you because of you allegiance to me. But no a hair of your head will perish! By standing firm, you will win your souls.

Luke 21:12-19 (NLT)

We would be foolish to believe that the times we live in are unique. Sure, there are things happening now that have never happened before, but the persecution, the turning away from God, the hatred for the Word of God isn’t new. Jesus spoke of it millennia ago.

In many places it is now considered hateful to speak the truth of the Word of God and it is punishable by law. If you live in one of these nations, you must decide where your allegiance lies—with the law of the land, or the love of the Lord.

While Jesus’ words here in Luke seem dire, they are also filled with hope. When the time for persecution comes—and it will come—He has promised to give us the words we need to stand for Truth. Though some may be killed, but none will perish. So long as we know where we stand with God, the very worst that can happen is that we lose our life on earth and gain eternity in Heaven with Jesus.

Daily Bible reading: 2 Samuel 17-18, Luke 21:1-19

Daily Bible Reading

Good sense

I’m sure we’ve all cringed while watching someone do something everyone else seems to plainly see as foolish. The fool struts into the situation believing themselves to be of the highest order. Untouchable. The most intelligent being in existence. And then it all falls apart. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I even enjoy watching it—not if it causes harm, mind you.

Nabal was that fool. Everyone else could see that he put himself in an impossible situation. While he thought himself to be untouchable, someone else saw his folly. His wife saw his stupidity. I could go on about how important women are and that men couldn’t possibly survive without them, but that’s not the point of this story.

Nabal, his land, his servants, and all of his property has been protected by David and his men while they were camped near by. No harm came to Nabal while David was in the vicinity. One might think that, whether or not Nabal had asked for the help, that Nabal would owe David something. But when David requested some provisions, the man was indignant. Who was this David to make such a request of him? How dare he ask for something he didn’t deserve! Needless to say, David wasn’t impressed.

Now, we could all sit back and watch Nabal get what he deserves or someone could step in and try to avoid what is sure to be a disastrous situation.

Abigail, Nabal’s wife, decides to step in.

I know Nabal is a wicked and ill-tempered man; please don’t may any attention to him. He is a fool, just as his name suggests. But I never even saw the messengers you sent.

1 Samuel 25:25 (NLT)

Rather than watch David kill her fool of a husband, Abigail steps in. Because of her plea (and possibly David’s weakness for beautiful women), David spares Nabal. Unfortunately for Nabal, his wife’s charity does not earn him a happy ending. He meets his demise a short while later (he suffered a stroke after the drunken rave he threw to celebrate the fact that David didn’t kill him, then God struck him and he died).

There is a point to all of this: are you Nabal—the fool, or Abigail—the one who smooths over the situation? If you are Nabal and tend to rush into situations are you able to humble yourself to listen to the Abigail in your life? Can you slow down long enough for someone to point out your folly? Can you accept redirection? If you are Abigail, are you wise enough to step in when needed? Can you do it in love and mercy?

Though Abigail didn’t appear to harbour any tender feelings toward her husband, she make the effort to save his life. She saw the error of his ways. And, had he been able to see what she saw, perhaps his fate would have been different.

This Christianity thing is no simple task. We need to lean on the Holy Spirit so we can learn when we need to be bystanders and when we need to be like Abigail and step in. Sometimes, God’s response to a situation is to send a person. Whether we need that person or we are that person, knowing God’s voice becomes ever so important.

Daily Bible reading: 1 Samuel 25-26, Luke 16:19-31

Daily Bible Reading

Never too far

Have you ever heard someone tell you that they were too far gone for God to accept them? I’ve heard it more times than I’d like to count. My initial reaction is usually anger. Who told that person that they were beyond grace? Who allowed that person to believe that of himself? How did society come so far as to produce a generation who either doesn’t know God or believes they are out of His reach? Then I remember that this is nothing new.

The Old Testament is one story after another of people finding themselves far from God. They get into trouble—deep trouble—and then suddenly remember that there was once a God who saved them from an even worse situation. In 1 Samuel, we once again, find Israel in one of these situations. The Philistines have been picking on them for quite some time and they’ve lost a significant number of troops in battle. They cannot seem to get ahead of their enemy. Finally, as a last resort, they decided to talk to the prophet. Good ole Sam puts them in their place.

Then Samuel said to all the people of Israel, “If you want to return to the Lord with all your hearts, get rid of your foreign gods and your images of Ashtoreth. Turn your hearts to the Lord and obey him alone; then he will rescue you from the Philistines.”

1 Samuel 7:3 (NLT)

The easy thing to do when you feel as though God has a abandoned you is to blame it on God. After all, you’re practically perfect, aren’t you? What could you have possibly done to pull away from God? No, it was Him who turned His back on you. Israel thought like this for generations, but them Samuel takes a stand and tells them like it is. Get rid of the garbage! You’ve been worshipping idols instead of the God who delivered you over and over again. How can you expect Him to save you when you’ve turned to kneeling before objects you yourself made?

Humility can be a difficult lesson to learn. Obviously even Israel, God’s chosen people, had a hard time figuring it out. But the crazy thing is, every single time they repented, God heard them and responded favourably. Never once did God say, “No, you’re on your own this time, kids.”

You are never, ever too far from God. You will never be beyond His reach. Grace will never be the impossible dream.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love. Death can’t, and life can’t. The angels can’t, and the demons can’t. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, and even the powers of hell can’t keep God’s love away. Whether we are high above the sky or in the deepest ocean, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:38-39 (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: 1 Samuel 7-9, Luke 13:1-21