Daily Bible Reading

Power to the people

As a church leader, it always surprises me when I hear Christians say that they have no need of the local church. They’re good to worship God alone in the privacy of their own home. I don’t disagree with private and personal worship, but I strongly disagree with individuals distancing themselves from the group that Jesus himself ordained.

Reading through the Book of Acts, I am more and more convinced of the benefit as well as the need for Christians to be a part of a local body. In an article titled 4 Reasons Christians Need the Church, the following reasons are given:

  • We need other Christians. If you want to know what you believe, listen to what your friends say. The more time we spend around people who ridicule God, the more we allow their attitudes to affect our thoughts and attitudes. The more time we spend with God’s people and in His presence, the more like Jesus we become.

  • We need opportunities to discover our spiritual gifts, Every one of us has a skill God wants to use to help others know Him and follow Him. We will never uncover what God has equipped and called us to do if we don’t get involved.

  • We need authority. We don’t have to believe anything anyone tells us about God. He appointed men and women in the church to lead us and to teach us. God gave us the Bible and the church so we can know what’s from Him. Through the church’s authority structure, we can test and see what’s of God and what isn’t when we can’t tell on our own. When we’ve prayed, read the Bible and still aren’t sure what to do, the church is where we go for advice.

  • We never stop needing grace. Church people are not perfect people. No matter how long we’ve been following Jesus, we are going to screw up, fall short and sin. And when we do, we need a place where we can come to be healed, restored and renewed. That place is the church.

I believe there are a few other reasons why Christians need the church.

  • We need to see signs and wonders. That I can find, the Bible has no record of a single person going around performing miracles with absolutely no support system. Miracles, signs and wonders are always tied to a group of people serving God. When we see God move, our faith is stirred to see Him move in more and greater ways.
  • We need accountability. Try driving your car down road a dark night with no moon or stars, and no headlights to light your path. How long are you able to stay on the road? Our church family is there to help keep us on the road. Do we always like to be corrected? Certainly not! But it doesn’t mean we don’t need it. By walking out our faith together, we keep each other on the right path. Alone, people have the tendency to wander and get lost.

And finally:

  • There is great strength in numbers. Study revivals. Study the great evangelists of the modern era. When people gather with a common purpose, God moves in mighty ways. When God moves mightily, people will come to watch. Soon those people have been added to the Church and more people will come to see what’s happening. Yes, the church can grow by individuals discipling individuals. In fact, we need mentors. But we also need numbers. The Great Commission is not a solo project. It is a global project.

Meanwhile, the apostles were performing many miraculous signs and wonders among the people… And more and more people were brought to the Lord—crowds of both men and women. As a result of the apostles’ work, sick people were brought out into the streets on beds and mats so that Peter’s shadow might fall across some of them as he went by. Crowds came in from the villages around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those possessed by evil spirits, and they were all healed.

Acts 5:12-16 (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Esther 1-3, Acts 5:1-16

Daily Bible Reading

Share

We’re told all our lives that we need to share. Share your toys. Share your snacks. Share your room. Share the car. Share your office. Share, share, share. We’re told so often as we grow up that we have to share that when we’re all grown our response is often, oh good, I don’t have to share anymore. Sharing is something that we did because we had to not because we wanted to.

I believe that an attitude of generosity is something we could all use a little more of. I don’t necessarily mean in the way of finances, either. Money isn’t necessarily what someone in need actually needs.

The very first church in the Book of Acts grew by leaps and bounds in its first days. Was it because of the stellar preaching? I don’t think so. Many of those who joined up with the apostles had already seen and heard Jesus speak. I’m not sure anyone could teach better than Jesus. Was it because of the incredibly modern and up-to-date facilities? What facilities? They started with 120 people crammed in someone’s upper room. There was no church building to meet in.

Peter has just finished speaking his first message to the new church and here’s how the people responded:

Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church—about three thousand in all. They joined with the other believers and devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, sharing in the Lord’s Supper and in prayer.

A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together constantly and shared everything they had. They sold their possessions and shared the proceeds with those in need. they worshipped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity—all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their group those who were being saved.

Acts 2:41-47 (NLT)

Note that they didn’t start all sorts of programs. There was no men’s ministry or women’s ministry or kid’s ministry. There were no outreach programs or missions teams. The church worked and lived together as a community and God did mighty things in their midst. Notice that nothing they did specifically added to their numbers. And each day the Lord added to their group those who were being saved. The church did their thing and God did His thing.

There have been moments in my Christian life when church looked like this description in Acts. We did all sorts of things with other church members. We did life together. We saw the miraculous and we saw our church grow. But that seems to be the exception, not the rule. I long to see my church as well as the Global Church live and grow together—without division and without selfishness.

Whether you attend a small church or a large church, this example in Acts can serve as something to strive for. They started with a modest 120 and grew by three thousand that first day! And from there their generosity grew along with their numbers.

The world is looking for community, what better way to find it than in the church?

Daily Bible reading: Nehemiah 4-6, Acts 2:14-47

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

I am willing

A man with leprosy came and knelt in front of Jesus, begging to be healed. “If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean,” he said. Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out and touched him. I am willing, he said. Be healed!

Mark 1:40-41 (NLT)

I am not a people person. There are days when, if I know I will have to be around more people than normal for an extended period of time, I’ll lock myself away to be alone. I don’t take kindly to interruptions on those days.

Yet Jesus, no matter what day it was—if a close relative or friend died, if he’d already been surrounded by people for days, if he’d been preaching for hours—never turned anyone away. Not only did he not turn anyone away, he willingly healed them.

I am constantly in awe of Jesus’ compassion. It knows no end. We can go to him with anything at any time and he is willing.

He is willing.

Daily Bible reading: Leviticus 24-25, Mark 1: 23-45

Daily Bible Reading

From called to chosen

For a long time, the Church portrayed itself as an exclusive club. That only certain people were worthy of even an invitation to join. How this ever became a doctrine is beyond me because it is completely contrary to what Jesus taught.

If anything, the church should the be the most inclusive* gathering on the planet. There should be no one left without an invitation.

So what happens when everyone is invited? Jesus shared a story of a king who was putting on a wedding feast. He’d prepared and sent out invitations and all those invited declined. (Who passes up the opportunity for a free feast?) In fact (and this sounds a little too familiar), some of those who were invited responded in anger and violence. Finally, the king sent his servants out to invite anyone they could find since he deemed the original invitees unworthy.

The servants brought in anyone and everyone they could find who would accept the invitation. Good people. Bad people. All people.

But there was one man who accepted the late invitation, yet failed to properly prepare. The king had him bound and thrown out.

This may seem extreme, but the man was invited into the presence of the king! If you suddenly received an invitation to Buckingham Palace, I’m reasonably certain that you wouldn’t show up in sweatpants and a tank top. You’d more than likely immediately head out and find something appropriate to wear in the presence of royalty.

I’ve heard many in and outside of the church whine and complain about the church being an exclusive place where they don’t have a place. Here’s the thing: we’re all invited. God has done His part by sending out the invitation. It is up to us to RSVP. It is up to us to show up. And it is entirely up to us whether or not we show up prepared.

If you’re invited to try out for your favourite CFL team and show up without any of the proper equipment, you’ll be immediately struck off the list of candidates. You can’t very well then complain about not making the team because the team did their part in sending the invitation. The preparation is on you.

For may are called, but few are chosen.

Matthew 22:14 (NLT)

You are called. Whether or not you are chosen depends entirely on your level of preparation.

*I feel that, by using the word inclusive, I need to  offer further explanation. Today’s  culture would have the word mean that we must not only invite all, but accept all choices and preferences regardless of what the Bible teaches. I do not condone this use of the word. Jesus was welcoming of all as humans, but urged all those invited to leave their sin behind. The inclusive part is in the invitation, not the lifestyle.

Daily Bible reading: Exodus 29-30, Matthew 22:1-22

Daily Bible Reading

Sound Advice

I have trouble letting go of things. If I know I can get the job done, I’d rather run myself ragged than let someone else do it for me and risk not having it done my way.

Now, I’m not Moses, but Moses was in a similar situation. Israel had escaped Egypt and were now wandering the desert complaining. (Do you ever catch yourself whining even when you’re in the middle of a miraculous situation?) Moses, being the one in communication with God had been set up as a judge of sorts over the entire nation. People would line up for days in order to have him settle a dispute. Then Jethro comes along. Moses’ father-in-law shares some sound advice.

“Now let me give you a word of advice, and may God be with you. You should continue to be the people’s representative before God, bringing him their questions to be decided. You should tell them God’s decisions, teach them God’s laws and instructions, and show them how to conduct their lives. But find some capable, honest men who fear God and hate bribes. Appoint them as judges over groups of one thousand, one hundred, fifty, and ten.”

Exodus 18:19-21 (NLT)

Maybe you’re like me and are the type to take everything on yourself. Or maybe you’re someone who fears God and hates bribes. Either way, you’re needed.

God needs the people who can do it all, but He also needs people who can take a share and do some. Just because you may not be able to lead one thousand doesn’t mean you can’t oversee ten. And just because you oversee ten doesn’t mean you’re any less important than the person looking over all of it.

God didn’t put all these orders in place for the sake of making work for Himself. They’re in place because structure is necessary in order to do a good work. No one person can do it all on their own. Some people are ready to lead large groups, while others are able to lead small. There truly is a place for everyone and, the sooner we are able to find our own place, the better we are all able to grow together.

Daily Bible reading: Exodus 16-18, Matthew 19:16-30

Daily Bible Reading

Be mad, have faith

It’s that time of year. The time of year when many television stations begin to air one cheesy movie after another. I’m a sucker for them. I’ll watch over again movies I’ve seen every year since I was a kid. They were cheesy then, and they’re even more cheesy now.

In one particular film, a very profound point was made. A woman – who claimed to be an unbeliever – was ranting about her life. Her cheating husband, the parents who abandoned her. She was mad at God for all of it. But then someone (of course the man she’d end up falling in love with and marrying by the end of the move) pointed out to her that you can’t be mad at someone you don’t believe in.

There are a lot of people these days mad for a lot of reasons. And a lot of people asking how God could have allowed all of this to happen. There has to be a measure of belief for that question to even be asked. To me, people who start a question with, “If God really exists…” are looking for a reason to believe. They are searching for faith.

What an opportunity we have as believers to show God to the world.

If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and heal their land.

2 Chronicles 7:14 (NKJV)

It only takes a little faith to start something big. We’ve all heard about the mustard seed – something tiny can produce something massive in comparison.

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

Hebrews 11:6 (ESV)

Both the Old and New Testaments say the same thing, turn to God, seek Him, He will reward you.

Now is not the time to stand and point fingers. Now is the time to get on your knees and seek the God who wants to reward us. The God who wants to see our lands healed and restored to what they were intended to be – for the United States, one nation under God, for Canada, God having dominion from sea to sea.

Sometimes, it’s okay to be mad at God. At the very least, it means you have the faith needed to draw near to Him. Just don’t stay mad.

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