Daily Bible Reading

One voice

I was recently in a meeting with my pastor when he was asked about the local ministers’ group—pastors who regularly get together to discuss local church-related issues (in theory). My pastor laughed at the comment. He stopped going to those meetings a long time ago. He never even attended enough to be considered a regular. Do you want to know why? At one of these pastor’s meetings—where a group of pastors from the same city should be getting together to discuss strategies on how to help the lost in their city—a pastor stood up and said that he saw no reason for the churches in our town to work together. They’re all doing their own thing and that’s just fine.

Is it?

May God, who give this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other—each with the attitude of Christ toward the other. Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

So accept each other just as Christ has accepted you; then God will be glorified.

Romans 15:5-7 (NLT)

Everything I’ve ever read in the Bible, especially in reference to the Church, has always been that we should work together. That we are one body. A part of one mission. One family.

What should be a family business has become a rather serious case of sibling rivalry. I’ve heard many praise the fact that the city I live in is considered to be one of the most churched cities in the country (approximately one church per 1,000 residents). I beg to differ. I ask the question, how many United churches are there? Reform? Pentecostal? Mennonite? Non-denominational? There are multiples of each of these and many more. And very few, if any, were an intentional plant from another. It is a testament of split after split after split.

Don’t get me wrong, I get that there are different ways of doing things. Different denominations appeal to different people. I have no issue with that. What I take issue with is the fact that these people don’t see the need to work together, to speak with one voice.

The city is filled with people who have been exposed to and hurt by the local church. Instead of effectively working together toward a common goal, one church spurns another, creating more animosity than converts. How can God be glorified in that?

I long for the day when the Mennonite church can approach the Catholic church and join with the non-denominational church and they can all work together to proclaim the only message we’ve been called to proclaim:

For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believe in him will not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16 (NLT)

I leave you with a prayer from Paul.

So I pray that God, who gives you hope, will keep you happy and full of peace as you believe in him. May you overflow with hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 15:13 (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 105-106, Romans 15:1-20

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Daily Bible Reading

Proclaim

I have a difficult time watching or reading the news these days. Gone are the days of unbiased news reports and, just as George Orwell predicted when he wrote his book 1984 (in 1949), everything we do and say is under scrutiny. Social justice warriors demand that everyone fall into line with their opinions and the Church has become one of their largest targets. Much to the dismay of Christians around the globe, there are many churches that have given in to these ludicrous demands. They are allowing the world to change their way of thinking in hopes that they can change the world’s way of thinking. That’s now how this works.

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is.

Romans 12:2 (NLT)

If the Church keeps watering down its message, soon there won’t even be a message worth sharing. Our message is not one of tolerance nor is it a message of condemnation. But it is is one of joy, peace, and love everlasting. Our message should be as the psalmist wrote thousands of years ago. I leave you to meditate on these words.

Sing a new song to the Lord!
Let the whole earth sing to the Lord!
Sing to the Lord; bless his name.
Each day proclaim the good news that he saves.
Publish his glorious deeds among the nations.
Tell everyone about the amazing things he does.
Great is the Lord! He is most worthy of praise
He is to be revered above all the gods.
The gods of other nations are merely idols,
but the Lord made the heavens!
Honor and majesty surround him;
Strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.

O nations of the world, recognize the Lord;
recognize that the Lord is glorious and strong.
Give to the Lord the glory he deserves!
Bring your offering and come to worship him.
Worship the Lord in all his holy splendor.
Let all the earth tremble before him.
Tell all the nations that the Lord is king.
The world is firmly established and cannot be shaken.
He will judge all peoples fairly.

Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice!
Let the sea and everything in it shout his praise!
Let the fields and their crops burst forth with joy!
Let the trees of the forest rustle with praise before the Lord!
For the Lord is coming!
He is coming to judge the earth.
He will just the world with righteousness
and all the nations with his truth.

Psalm 96 (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 96-98, Romans 12

Daily Bible Reading

Hope anew

As humans, when left entirely to our own devices, we make poor choices.

left alone

Whether it be cereal or flour all over the kitchen, makeup all over the bathroom, or permanent marker all over the sibling, no kid ever had to be taught to make a bad decision. It all comes naturally. If we are never taught any different and are left to make our own choices, it is pretty much a guarantee that life will become a series of one bad decision after another.

People need to be free to make their own choices. Yes, they do, but they also need to be taught to make the right choices.

I will teach you hidden lessons from our past—
stories we have heard and know,
stories our ancestors handed down to us.
We will not hide these truths from our children
but we will tell the next generation about
the glorious deeds of the Lord.
We will tell of his power and the mighty
miracles he did.
For he issued his decree to Jacob;
he gave his law to Israel.
He commanded our ancestors
to teach them to their children,
so the next generation might know them—
even the children not yet born—
that they might teach their children
So each generation can set its hope anew on God
remembering his glorious miracles
and obeying his commands.
Then they will not be like their ancestors—
stubborn, rebellious, and unfaithful,
refusing to give their hearts to God.

Psalm 78:2b-8 (NLT)

There are reasons why the Bible first, exists, and second, is full of verses about wisdom, knowledge, and instruction. These are not things that happen by chance. As you can see by the photos above, humans aren’t born wise. We are all prone to bad decision-making.

If you’ve been instructed to go somewhere you’ve never been before, but have not been given a map, how will you ever get there? Will chance lead you to that place? It’s doubtful.

Teach your child to choose the right path, and when they are older, they will remain upon it.

Proverbs 22:6 (NLT)

Young or old, every person must be taught to make good choices—it’s never too late. Just like Israel passed on accounts of the miraculous things God did for their nation, so should we pass on accounts of the things God has done for, in, and through us. If the people around us are never given a map, how can we expect them to arrive at salvation?

…but you go and proclaim the Kingdom of God.

Luke 9:60b (NIV)

PROCLAIM: to announce; to utter openly; to make public

Church, it is our mandate to publicly proclaim the Gospel, to utter it openly, to make it public, to know Christ and to make him known.

So you must never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord.

2 Timothy 1:8a (NLT)

This generation and the ones to follow will not be able to remember God’s glorious miracles if they never heard about them in the first place. When God does something, talk about it! When He says something, tell someone else. Give the next generation the opportunity to set their hope anew on God.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 78, Romans 7

Daily Bible Reading

Preservation

Even though it may not feel like it, we do not live in the first generation that has been overcome with lies disguised as truth. David was struck with an agony many faithful Christians feel today. And never in my life has his words seemed so apt.

Help, O Lord, for the godly are fast disappearing!
The faithful have vanished from the earth.

Psalm 12:1 (NLT)

David’s cry is not so different from that which we are hearing from those churches that have remained faithful—even when it would seem that popular culture wants them to alter the foundation of their doctrine. Even when the words of Jesus himself are considered hateful.

When the world is full of lies, even though it may be easier, it is our responsibility as those who bear the name of Christ both to preserve and to proclaim the truth. Our trust must be in our God, not our government. Our government can’t (or maybe even won’t) save us, but God already has. It is that fact that should keep us on our path in pursuit of truth—God has already saved us!

Therefore, Lord, we know you will protect the oppressed,
preserving them forever from this lying generation,
even though the wicked strut about
and evil is praised throughout the land.

Psalm 12:7-8 (NLT)

The pull of the world may be strong, but God is stronger. The lies may hide the truth, but the Truth lives longer.

Our help is from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.

Psalm 124:8 (NLT)

When the wicked strut about, remember who your help is and where it comes from. God can and will preserve His Church. Trust in that.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 10-12, Acts 17:16-34

Daily Bible Reading

Get out of the way!

I’ve been to a lot of church services. I grew up in the day when we went to church twice on Sundays, once on Wednesdays, and attended extra services when a guest speaker was in town. We had youth group on Fridays and maybe even a mid-week Bible study. When I say I grew up at church, I mean that I actually spent the majority of my time at the church. Not much has changed.

In all of those church services, I saw a lot of ministry lines, altar calls, hands go up for prayer. But I rarely saw a pastor or speaker interrupt his or her sermon to do so. They weren’t wrong, but in recent studies and conversations, I’ve begun to wonder if they were always right.

While they were at Lystra, Paul and Barnabas came upon a man with crippled feet. He had been that way from birth, so he had never walked. He was listening as Paul preached, and Paul noticed him and realized he had faith to be healed. So Paul called to him in a loud voice, “Stand up!” And the man jumped to his feet and started walking.

Acts 14:8-10 (NLT)

As far as I can tell, this is the first the crippled man had heard the Good News.  It was Paul and Barnabas’ first trip to the area and they were bringing a new message to the people there. Churches and training centres hadn’t been set up yet. The apostles were setting up the groundwork for future ministry.

Then this crippled man shows up. He hears a message of miracles and salvation and his faith is stirred. What do we do now?

In some churches, he’d be required to spend several weeks in studies on faith and healing before someone may or may not lay hands on him.

In other churches, he’d be told that healing isn’t for today, God made him crippled for a reason.

Yet in other churches, he might have to wait for the end of the message for a call to the altar to be offered and hope that someone could help him to the front before the altar closes to new arrivals.

But what did Paul do? The moment he recognized that this man had faith, he stopped what he was doing and called out to him to stand. He didn’t pause to teach on how healing works. He didn’t have to explain what faith is. He didn’t fall to his knees to petition God with pleading groans so the man could be set free from his affliction. In fact, I haven’t found anywhere in the Gospels where this was the case.

Miracles happened when faith was present and the men of God acted on their recognition of it. Long, flowery prayers not needed. Explanations unnecessary. A simple command was all that was required to activate the faith that was already there.

If God says He’ll do something, it’s up to us to believe and proclaim that He will do it. And when the gift of faith shows up, get out of the way! Shut up and let God show off. This message we preach is not about us. It’s about the God who came to give us abundant life. What we have to say is far less important than what God came to do.

Start looking for faith and then practice acting on it immediately. It may require retraining our minds and our spirits to respond in a different way, but if the result is seeing the crippled walk, the blind seeing, and the sick healed, it’s worth it. Isn’t it?

Daily Bible reading: Job 35-37, Acts 14

Daily Bible Reading

Be a lert

Be alert. We need more lerts.

That silly joke comes to mind almost every time I hear the word alert. It’s stupid, I know. It was funny when I was twelve. But now that I’m older, perhaps there is more to it than nonsense.

There is no such thing as a lert. There should be. We should all be lerts.

And since you don’t know when that time will come, be on guard! Stay alert!

Mark 13:33 (NLT)

Jesus is speaking of the end of time. When the world (and even much of the Church) will fall away. He speaks this warning to his people. Stay alert! Jesus knows that humans are fickle creatures. We’re more apt to pick the easy way rather than the right way. Sit rather than stand. We’d rather sleep than be awake.

Jesus’ intent was never to come back for a lazy Church. He’s looking for a spotless, blameless Bride. Vibrant and full of life. His life. His Word. We need not only to keep the Word near to us and in our hearts, but we are to proclaim it to the nations.

And here’s what many find the most difficult: we are not to add to or take away from it. Once the Word has been meddled with, it is no longer the word and therefore no longer contains the power to change lives.

We need to stay alert so that we can be sure we are preaching the true, life-changing Word of God. We need to wake up the sleepers so that we can meet our Groom with wide eyes and oil in our lamps.

Be a lert!

Daily Bible reading: Deuteronomy 14-16, Mark 13:14-37

Daily Bible Reading

Blind

When I read through the passages leading up to Jesus’ death, I am always baffled at how the very men who should have been first to recognise who Jesus was were the ones who put him to death.

Jesus is standing before the high priest and the priest demands to know if Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus, of course, says that he is. No problem, right?

Big problem!

Then the high priest tore his clothing to show his horror and said, “Blasphemy! Why do we need other witnesses? You have heard his blasphemy. What is your verdict.”

Matthew 26:65 (NLT)

I’m not sure why the priest got so upset when Jesus told him exactly what he wanted to hear. The priest should have been thrilled to finally meet the promised Messiah. Instead, he is enraged because the Messiah doesn’t look like expected. Jesus didn’t come to promote the law, but rather to fulfil it. This went beyond what the priests were able to comprehend.

I wonder if we don’t sometimes act like the high priest at this time. Do we get so caught up in doing church that we forget why we do anything at all? If Jesus were standing in front of us proclaiming himself, would we see him for who he is or would we, like the priest, cry, “Blasphemy!”?

Let us not let the how blind us to the why. Rather than being so concerned about the rule book, let us instead focus on the fact that we’ve been invited to join in action.

Daily Bible reading: Leviticus 14, Matthew  26:55-75