Daily Bible Reading

The Amen

Christians say amen a lot. So much so that we probably don’t even realise we do it and, if we do, its meaning has long since been forgotten.

AMEN: As a verb, it signifies to confirm, establish, verify; to trust, or give confidence, as a noun, truth, firmness, trust, confidence.

At the end of our prayers, amen is meant to say let it be so. But Revelation gives us a different revelation of the word.

This is the message from the one who is Amen—the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation.

Revelation 3:14b (NLT)

The one who is Amen. Jesus. Read the definition of amen again, but with Jesus in mind rather than a simple word we use to close our prayers. Jesus is truth. Jesus is firmness. He is trust. He is confidence. He doesn’t just inspire these things, he embodies them.

As the Amen, he is the one in whom the revelation of God finds its perfect response and fulfillment.

International Bible Commentary

This is how Jesus introduces himself to the church at Laodicea—a church that had grown lukewarm in their faith. While they still believed, they had grown so confident in their own accomplishments that they failed to recognise Jesus as the Amen—the perfect response and fulfillment of the revelation of God.

I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish you were one of the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, I will spit you out of my mouth!

Revelation 3:15-16 (NLT)

The church was being likened to their city’s water source. Laodicea had water piped in from a hot spring five miles away. By the time the water reached the city, it was tepid, not longer hot yet not cold like the water spring in Colossae. The further from the source the water, the less like the source it is.

When Jesus said that he is ruler of God’s creation, the word ruler can also be translated as source. The cold water at Colossae was cold and refreshing. The source spring from where Laodicea got their water was hot with healing properties. But, like the lukewarm water in the city, the church there was good for very little.

So let us get back to the Amen. Let us get as close to the source of God’s creation as we possibly can. Let us be cold and refreshing or hot and healing, but not lukewarm and useless. If we begin with the Amen, let us also end with the Amen.

Daily Bible reading: Hosea 12-14, Revelation 3

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Daily Bible Reading

More important

Every Sunday before church starts, we encourage our volunteers to join in corporate prayer. I sometimes feel like a broken record calling people to stop what they’re doing and come and pray. I’d rather our hearts and spirits be joined together in prayer than have every technical aspect of the service perfect.

Oh, that we might know the Lord! Let us press on to know him! Then he will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn or the coming of rains in early spring.

Hosea 6:3 (NLT)

Oh, that we might know the Lord! Is there any better or more significant that we can strive toward in this life? Is there anything more important than knowing the very One who created us?

Anyone who has spent a long time serving in church may find themselves in a circle of service. Your spiritual life may be lacking and yet you try to convince yourself that what you do in the church makes up for it. I’ve been there. I’ve done that. We must all find a balance between service and relationship. I believe we all need both. But service without the relationship is empty.

I want you to be merciful; I don’t want your sacrifices. I want you to know God; that’s more important than burnt offerings.

Hosea 6:6 (NLT)

More important than our offerings is knowing God. And not just knowing about Him. Truly knowing Him. Understanding His love and grace. Passionately pursuing Him. Serving is an important part of our Christian walk. But it is more important to know Him whom we serve.

Daily Bible reading: Hosea 5-8, Revelation 1

Daily Bible Reading

Message received

A couple of weeks ago, I ordered some books. I was pretty excited at the time to place the order and was impatient to receive my parcel. Then I ordered a few more things and those parcels arrived in my mailbox. I had forgotten about the books until someone else ordered the same books and told me they’d received a message that they’d been sent. I could recall no such message in my inbox. So I went back to check and found only the purchase confirmation. So, 15 days after my initial purchase, I followed up.

Sometimes, I think we forget about our prayers like we do our parcels. New ones come along and take the place of the old ones and they get lost. We forget to follow up. We made the initial effort and investment, but after a while the outcome doesn’t seem so important.

We have a better example to follow than my forgotten parcel. Let’s take a look at Daniel. In chapter 9 of the book of Daniel, the man receives a vision from the angel Gabriel. It has to do with the exile of Israel. Having already been in prayer about the sinful nation, Daniel decides to seek further understanding about what he’s seen. So he starts to fast and he starts to pray. Three weeks later, a heavenly being who looks like a man appears in front of him and, like a sack of potatoes, Daniel drops to his face.

Then he said, “Dont’ be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day you began to pray for understanding and to humble yourself before God, your request has been heard in heaven. I have come to answer your prayer. But for twenty-one days the spirit prince of the kingdom of Persia blocked my way. Then Michael, one of the archangels, came to help me, and I left him there with the spirit prince of the kingdom of Persia.

Daniel 10:12-13 (NLT)

Now, I don’t know if my parcel has actually been sent out or not, but the process was started the moment I clicked complete my order. I could sit at home twiddling my thumbs hoping that the package comes before I need the books, or I can go after my purchase and be sure that it end up in my hands.

What Daniel was looking for was far more important than a couple of books. And he didn’t even get the handy confirmation email that his first prayer had even been heard. He didn’t pray once, brush off his knees and go about his business. He kept praying. He remained in a state of humility until his answer came. I wonder if he’d have ever met the one who looked like a man if he knew he’d been sent the first day. Would Daniel have been as fervent in his prayer if he knew the answer was already dispatched? Would the answer have even made it if Daniel had stopped praying?

Here’s what we can learn from Daniel: prayer and humility dispatch an answer. Continued prayer and humility ensure the message is received.

Daily Bible reading: Daniel 9-10, 2 John1

Daily Bible Reading

Intensely

Jesus gave us two commands: love God and love each other. Loving God comes pretty easy. When we realise and accept all that He has done for us, it’s a no-brainer. How can we not love the One who saved us from our own sin and set us on a path to eternal life? It’s the latter command that tends to give us more trouble.

Loving each other can be difficult. Many in the church often pray that God would give them a love for unbelievers, but I think love for our fellow believers is even harder. We give grace to the sinner when they sin. After all, that’s what they’re supposed to do. It’s when Christians—who are supposed to be better—mess up that we have a tendency to withhold the love Christ told us to give.

Now you can have sincere love for each other as brothers and sisters because you were cleansed from you sins when you accepted the truth of the Good News. So see to it that you really do love each other intensely with all your hearts.

1 Peter 1:22 (NLT)

How would you describe your love for the person who sits in your seat on Sunday morning? What would you have to say about your feelings to that elderly woman who sits behind you with the overbearing perfume that matches her voice as she warbles out the wrong words to your favourite song? What about the friend that let you down? Or the trusted leader who betrayed you? Our love for each other is apparent when things go exactly as we think they should. But where is that same love when things go awry?

What comes to mind when you read that we are to love each other intensely?

INTENSELY: To an extreme degree; vehemently; attentively; earnestly.

Peter made a point to tell the members of the church to love each other. I’m sure he had the same struggles that we all do in that it’s hard to love those whom we believe should be held to a different set of standards. Paul spoke to those situations.

Be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.

Ephesians 4:2 (NLT)

When we put our expectations of each other before our love, we will always be let down. But when we can love each other with the same intensity that God loves us, we make room for mistakes. That kind of love makes room for fault. Love first. Love intensely. You’ll be surprised at what no longer matters.

Daily Bible reading: Ezekiel 32-33, 1 Peter 1

Daily Bible Reading

The wait

Sometimes it feels as though our life is made up more of waiting than actually doing. Just wait. Hold on a minute. Can I put you on hold? Just a moment, please. Hold your horses! We wait so much that we have lists and rooms designated for that purpose. And they’re full. All the time.

And, as much as the waiting is bothersome, everyone else’s reaction to your waiting can be even more so. When are you going to get married? When are you going to have kids? Are you having more kids? When are you ever going to get a job? What about that promotion? We can get so caught up in what everyone else thinks of our waiting that we plow ahead, bypassing God’s timing for our own.

The Bible is full of people who decided that they knew better than God. All the way back to Eve, if she’d only waited for Adam’s input before eating the fruit, things may have turned out differently. What about Sarah and Abraham? At 90, Sarah didn’t think she could wait any longer and foisted her servant on her husband so the promised child could be produced. The result was Ishmael—we’re still seeing the effects of that mistake today. The entire nation of Israel grew tired of waiting for Moses to come down from the mountain and decided it would be better to worship idols.

The list goes on and on. The short of it is that no one likes to wait. We don’t like to feel as though we’re not accomplishing anything. But what is the penalty for our impatience?

Those who wait for me will never be put to shame.

Isaiah 49:23b (NLT)

We can try to blame God all we want, but when we jump the gun on His plan, the shame is ours alone. That’s not to say that God can’t repair what we broke, but there are still consequences.

But I don’t know what to do with myself!

I get it. I hate waiting, too. I hate not being productive. My hands must be busy. I have to have something to show for my time. In the practical sense, I bring something with me when I know I have to wait. A book. A crochet project. My journal. Candy Crush. But what about when I’m waiting on God?

Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.

Colossians 4:2 (NLT)

God doesn’t make us wait to watch us squirm. He makes us wait because He’s either preparing us, preparing someone else, or preparing a situation. We will never see the entire picture, yet God is only asking us to trust in Him. The best thing to do—pray. Devote yourself to God. The wait may not be as long as you thought it was.

Live wisely among those who are not Christians, and make the most of every opportunity.

Colossians 4:5 (NLT)

Waiting doesn’t have to be, and even shouldn’t be, idle time. The wait in itself is an opportunity. An opportunity to grow in our relationship with God. An opportunity to grow in our relationships with others. An opportunity to grow our faith and trust. An opportunity to prepare ourselves for the promise to come. The only shame in waiting is if we waste the opportunities God gives us in that time.

Daily Bible reading: Isaiah 48-49, Colossians 4

Daily Bible Reading

Team player

Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers. How can goodness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live in darkness?

2 Corinthians 6:14 (NLT)

I am well-aware that this portion of scripture is talking about believers and unbelievers. We usually take this to mean those who call themselves Christians and those who don’t. The New King James Version tells us not to be unequally yoked together. But, did you know that you can also be unequally yoked with believers?

I will admit that, as soon as I saw the word team, my mind drifted to sports. Last year, my favourite football team went through a rebuilding. That’s putting it nicely. The new head coach managed to break a league record for the highest number of different starters fielded by a single team in a season. In addition to talent, the coaching staff were looking for chemistry. In order to win, you need a team of men who have the same drive, mindset, vision, and work ethic. One person on the field who doesn’t share those qualities with the rest of the team can spoil a game or even a season. A year and a half and well over one hundred players in, we’ve started winning again. There’s hope for a spot in the playoffs.

Let’s take this to the realm of the local church. Replace players with leaders, volunteers, or regular church-goers. When we all share a vision and work together with similar ethic and effort, we win. The church grows. Plans come together. God moves. But one person applying a different set of ideals can spoil the whole thing. Ask any church leader.

Every denomination and even every church within a denomination (or outside of a denomination) has their own way of doing things. We trust that the leadership is hearing from God and are presenting that vision down the line to the rest of the body. We have several options:

  1. We can get into line. We can be those players who are on the team to win. We’ll follow every instruction passed down from the coaching staff and do everything in our power to win. In church words, so long as the pastor is in line with the Word of God, we come into line with the pastor.
  2. If you don’t agree with the coach/pastor, a few more options may present themselves. You can work to come into agreement with the leadership—so long as the vision and methods are biblically sound. Pray about it. Ask God to change your heart and your mind. If you still cannot come into agreement, a word of advice—leave. Don’t be that one person that spoils it for everyone else. If you’re the one that doesn’t agree, be quiet about it and exit gracefully without making an attempt to bring the whole thing down. If it’s not of God, it’ll come down on its own anyway.

If you are a believer, I hope that you’ve found yourself a winning team, er, church. I pray that you are in a place where you can get on board with the vision and are invited to help that ministry become all God has called it to be. If you haven’t yet found your team, I pray that you soon will or that God will do a work in you so that you can grow right where you are.

God created us with so much variety. There is no one single way to go about accomplishing His work, yet He never called anyone to go about it alone. So find those with whom you can team up. Work with them. Grow with them. Win with them. Be a team player.

Daily Bible reading: Proverbs 23-24, 2 Corinthians 6

Daily Bible Reading

Lay ’em down

Forbes magazine recently called the Needtobreathe the most popular band you’ve never heard of. (If you’ve never heard of them, find their music and listen to all of it.) Today’s reading reminded me of a song from their album The Outsiders, Lay’ Em Down. The bridge goes like this:

We’re all tied to the same old failings
Finding shelter in things we know
We’re all dirty like corrupted small towns
We’ll bring our troubles
Bring our troubles
And lay ’em down

Now you may say, that’s not me, I’m not dirty or corrupted, but in some way or another, we all are. We all fail. We all have troubles. But it doesn’t have to end there.

I took my troubles to the Lord;
I cried out to him, and he answered my prayer.

Psalm 120:1 (NLT)

From hangnails to hangovers to hangups, God wants us to lay all of our troubles at His feet. He’s the God of the great, big stuff, but He’s also the God of the tiny, little things, too. Look at it this way, if He cared enough to make fleas and amoebas, he really does care about the tiny little things. He cared that I had a splinter in my finger that was making work uncomfortable and he cares that you feel alone, without anyone to lean on.

In trouble—every trouble, big or small—we should be looking to God.

I look up to the mountains—
does my help come from there?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made the heavens and the earth!

Psalm 121:1-2 (NLT)

Whether you are a saint or a sinner, lost or found, rich or poor, bring your troubles. Come lay ’em down. God wants them so you don’t have to bear them.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 120-123, 1 Corinthians 6