Daily Bible Reading

Debt of love

No one wants to be in debt. There are all sorts of companies that work to get people out of debt. So how would you feel if I told you that there is a debt that you can never repay for as long as you live? Gasp! For some reason, there are those who have made this unending debt seem like a weight, a trial, a burden we must all bear. It shouldn’t be. It should be a joy, an honour, a delight to any who seek to make continuous payments on it. What sort of debt am I talking about? The debt of love.

Pay all your debts, except the debt of love for others. You can never finish paying that! If you love your neighbour, you will fulfil all the requirements of God’s law. For the commandments against adultery and murder and stealing and coveting—and any other commandment—are all summed up in this one commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to anyone. So love satisfies all of God’s requirements.

Romans 13:8-10 (NLT)

How quickly our world would change if, not even everyone, just the the Church would take these verses to heart! If just those who bear Christ’s name would also, in the same way, show Christ’s love, we’d change the world in an instant. This love I’m talking about is not what the world thinks Christian love should be, but what Jesus showed us Christian love is.

Don’t just pretend that you love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Stand on the side of good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.

Romans 12:9-10 (NLT)

Our love should not be based on how we perceive the thoughts or actions of others, but on how Jesus sees them: a lost soul in need of salvation, a confused mind in need of clarity, or a searching heart in need of an answer.

There is that old saying, love the person, hate the sin. It’s true. But in what order are we abiding by this truth? Is our hate for the sin overshadowing our love for the person? I’ve found that most sinners don’t need to be told that they’re sinners. They already know it and they already feel enough condemnation for it. What they don’t know and feel is love.

It isn’t always easy to show love for our Christian brothers and sisters, let alone those whom we know live in the sin that we are instructed to hate. But, thank God, in giving the instruction, He also gave us a way.

But let the Lord Jesus Christ take control of you, and don’t think of ways to indulge your evil desires.

Romans 13:14 (NLT)

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.

Romans 12:2a (NLT)

God wants us to allow Him to transform us so that, instead of thinking the thoughts of the world, we can think His thoughts. We don’t have to try to love with our own natural love, but we can be filled with a supernatural love. A love that we don’t have to work for. A love that comes easy.

Think of it this way: say you owed a great amount of money and had no way of paying it, then some stranger comes along and gives you far more than what you need to pay of the debt. Jesus paid a price that we could never pay for a debt that he did not owe. The only debt we are now required to pay is the debt of love—and we don’t even have to come up with the love to pay it because God has given that to us as well.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 99-102, Romans 13

Daily Bible Reading

Act like it!

Christians should be the happiest, most joyful people on the plant. There are some who call themselves Christians that may balk at that statement, but it’s the truth. There are no scriptures in the Bible that would indicate that Christians must be a solemn people, prone to frowns and fits of self-deprecation.

So you should not be like cowering, fearful slaves. You should behave instead like God’s very own children, adopted into his family—calling him “Father, dear Father.”

Romans 8:15 (NLT)

Everything that I’ve found in scripture that speaks of how we should act as children of God indicates that we should stand out from the crowd—not because we are miserable, but because we have something that everyone else does not. Our faces, our actions, our attitudes, our responses should reflect the Spirit of God that lives on the inside of us.

But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them are not Christians at all.)

Romans 8:9 (NLT)

2017-08-05 15.17.05
Saskatchewan Roughriders receiver #89, Duron Carter, tossing a pass to my nephew.

I was recently at a CFL football game with my sister and her two boys. We had passes that allowed us down on the field before the game while the players were warming up. Even though our team doesn’t win nearly as often as we would like them to, we’re still big fans and cheer them on. So there we were cheering on some warm-up catches when one of the best receivers in the league tossed a pass to my nephew. My nephew (who plays football) managed to throw back a decent spiral, got a smile and a wave from the player. It was a special moment. We made sure everyone knew he’d caught the only pass from that player that day. Both our words and our actions indicated that this kid was something special.

If a single pass from a professional football player can make our day, how much more should the fact that we have been made heirs with Christ reflect in our lives?

With all the noise and distraction around us, it can get difficult to remember who we really are. That’s why it is so important to take the time to listen to the voice of the Spirit within us.

For his Holy Spirit speaks to us deep in our hearts and tells us that we are God’s children.

Romans 8:16 (NLT)

God hasn’t left us on our own. Just like your last name is a perpetual reminder of who you are, who you belong to, and where you came from, the Holy Spirit within us is there to also remind us of who we are, who we belong to, and where we came from.

Listen to that voice that God put in you. You are a child of God. A child of the King. Brothers and sister of Christ. Heirs of the Promise and so much more. And it’s okay to act like it. Our membership in the Kingdom of God is something to be celebrated and shared.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 78-81, Romans 8:1-18

Daily Bible Reading

Control freak

Nobody likes to hear the S word. Sin isn’t something anyone wants to or enjoys talking about. Even sinners don’t like their actions to be referred to as sin. It’s a dirty word. And so it should be. But just because sin is dirty, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t address it or even talk about it. Ignoring it won’t make it go away. So how do we deal with it?

We don’t.

He [Jesus] died once to defeat sin, and now he lives for the glory of God.

Romans 6:10 (NLT)

Jesus already dealt with sin. He defeated it. There is no maybe about it. There were no little stragglers that escaped. Jesus got it all. He didn’t just win the battle, he won the war.

What does this mean for us?

Our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin.

Romans 6:6 (NLT)

There are days where sin feels mighty powerful in my life. I struggle with the temptation to give in—and often do. But if it’s lost its power, why is the struggle still there?

Don’t you realize that whatever you choose to obey becomes your master? You can choose sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God and receive his approval.

Romans 6:16 (NLT)

Perhaps our struggle isn’t so much with sin as it is with control. Until the day we leave this earth, sin will always be an option. But just because it’s there doesn’t mean we have to allow it to control us. We should aim for the exact opposite.

So you should consider yourselves dead to sin and able to live for the glory of God through Christ Jesus.

Romans 6:11 (NLT)

Romans 6 goes on to talk about how we should be using our bodies as tools to bring glory to God. A tool is something to be used, controlled by the one using it. Our bodies should not control us, but we rather, should control our bodies. When we give ourselves over to sin, we give up control. Likewise, when we give ourselves over to God, we give Him control. The less control we hold for ourselves—the more we give to God, the less likely we are to give it up to sin. In a culture where control is everything, this is a difficult thing to comprehend or even accept. Yet the benefits in giving all control to God far outweigh the disadvantages (because there are no disadvantages).

For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin.

Romans 6:7 (NLT)

Sin doesn’t have to control us. We don’t have to try to control sin. We must simply give all control over to God. Easy in words, not so much in action. But I believe that the more we strive to give God complete control and ask for His grace in doing so, the more freedom we will find.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 6:23 (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 75-77, Romans 6

Daily Bible Reading

Just the right time

There’s a lot of waiting for the right time. We hear it often. There’s a right time for farmers to plant crops. There’s a right time for a couple to start a family. There’s a right time for that special person to come along. There’s a right time to start school. There’s a right time for that promotion. There’s a right time for just about everything.

Because we spend so much of our lives waiting for the right time, it often has an effect on our response to Jesus. Some people are told that they have to wait for the right time for salvation. Well, guess what? It’s now!

Indeed, God is ready to help you right now. Today is the day of salvation.

2 Corinthians 6:2b (NLT)

There are those that may leave the impression that a person must be in the right place in their lives in order to be saved. You need to finish something. You need to change something. You need to know more. You need to do less.

When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.

Romans 5:6 (NLT)

Utterly helpless. That doesn’t sound like a person who has it all together. That sounds like a person who has completely fallen apart. That is the person Jesus came to save. Jesus didn’t die only for those people who are good enough. News flash—no one is good enough. We cannot save ourselves from our own sin.

But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.

Romans 5:8 (NLT)

Jesus took to the cross of his own free will knowing full-well that there would be those who would refuse his sacrifice. There would be those who would try to earn the gift that he was giving. Some might even try to pay for it. Knowing all of that, he still gave up his life on the cross for all of us who would recognise our own sinfulness and humble ourselves enough to accept what he went through—shedding his blood as the final sacrifice that would wipe our sins from all heavenly record.

Because of Jesus, we can step into a new relationship with God free from any guilt and shame that may plague us.

So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God—all because of what our Lord Jesus Christ has done for us in making us friends of God.

Romans 5:11 (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 73-74, Romans 5

Daily Bible Reading

Free gift

Like many of the Jews in Paul’s time, there are a lot of people now who are still under the impression that God won’t hand out His grace unless we work for it. If I can just do this one thing, then God will love me or if I can accomplish that, then I’ll be worthy. That’s not how this faith thing works.

So that’s why faith is the key! God’s promise is given to us as a free gift. And we are certain to receive it, whether or not we follow Jewish customs, if we have faith like Abraham’s.

Romans 4:16 (NLT)

God’s promise—salvation—is given to us as a free gift. All we need is faith like Abraham. So what did Abraham’s faith look like?

Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. He was absolutely convinced that God was able to do anything he promised. And because of Abraham’s faith, God declared him to be righteous.

Romans 4:20-22 (NLT)

All Abraham did was believe that whatever God said was true—whether he could see it immediately or not. In fact, the longer Abraham believed without seeing, the more he brought glory to God! God didn’t tell Abraham His promise would be fulfilled if only Abraham did A, B, and C. He simply made the promise.

But people are declared righteous because of their faith, not because of their work.

Romans 4:5 (NLT)

The law is impossible to fulfill. God knew that when He gave it to Israel. The fact that we cannot fulfill the law on our own makes our need for a covenant with God obvious. That is why Jesus was sent to be the fulfillment of the law (Matthew 5:17).

It takes all the pressure off of us when we come to the realisation that Jesus came and did what we could never do on our own. The only price we must pay to receive the free gift of salvation is our humility—admitting that we cannot do enough works to make ourselves worthy, but need to accept what Jesus did for us on the cross in order to be made righteous. I once heard a pastor say that the greatest fight to our faith is learning not to fight. Abraham simply believed and was made righteous. The more he believed, the more he brought glory to God.

…you are faithful to your promises, O God.

Psalm 71:22b (NLT)

Let’s stop complicating righteousness. It’s one of the easiest things in the world to receive. I was born into this world with a sinful nature. I cannot do anything to make myself worthy of God’s call. God made a way for me and it’s free. All I need to do is hold out my hand and accept it. It’s a free gift.

And really, who doesn’t want to accept a free gift?

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 70-72, Romans 4

Daily Bible Reading

Set apart

CONSECRATE: To make or declare to be sacred, by certain ceremonies or rites; to appropriate to sacred uses; to set apart, dedicate, or devote, to the service and worship of God.

When I read this word, I can’t help but take it personally. My name literally means consecrated to God. But you don’t have to be named Elizabeth to be consecrated to God.

…you are a chosen people. You are a kingdom of priests, God’s holy nation, his very own possession. This is so you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

1 Peter 2:9 (NLT)

One translation says we are set aside to be a royal order of priests. Set apart. Consecrated.

But Israel was unfaithful concerning the things set apart for the Lord.*

Joshua 7:1a (NLT)

*The Hebrew term used here refers to the complete consecration of things or people to the Lord, either by completely destroying or by giving them as an offering.

The blood of Jesus as a sacrifice completes our consecration. We belong to God. We are His possession.

In our reading in Joshua today, we see how the selfishness of just one man caused the death of many as well as Israel’s defeat in battle. Because one man withheld what belonged to God, the entire nation suffered.

Since this line of study is so personal to me, I had to ask myself the question of whether or not I’ve been faithful with the thing set apart for the Lord. That thing is my life. Have I been faithful to God with my life? Am I that one person who causes the entire body to suffer loss because of my own selfishness? God, I hope not.

But if I am, if you are, there is still hope! Israel was able to rectify the situation. While the unfaithful man and his family were stoned to death and burned, we have a greater hope. Israel built an altar and offered sacrifices before the Lord. Our sacrifice has already been made. Jesus blood was enough and still is enough to intercede for our unfaithfulness.

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood.

Romans 3:23-25a (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Joshua 7-8, Luke 2:25-52

Daily Bible Reading

Your faith

In many circles, the message of faith is one that is avoided, never spoken of, mocked, or even spurned. I read an article just the other day from a secular news site about the North American prosperity message – it didn’t talk about how God wants His people to be blessed so that they can be a blessing to others, but rather made it out that Christians play the offering basket like a slot machine.

Faith is not a message to be shied away from.

So, you see, it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that there is a God and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.

Hebrews 11:6 (NLT)

You can’t be a Christian and not be a person of faith. The faith message isn’t some name it and claim it, blab it and grab it message. It is a message of hope. A message of salvation. A message of a God who truly wants to bless His people.

This is what the Scripture says: “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart.” That is the teaching of faith that we are telling.

Romans 10:8 (NCV)

The purpose of the message of faith isn’t to make Christians rich. It is to proclaim the Good News of who Jesus is and what He has done for us. Your faith has the potential to change not only your life, but the lives of those around you.

In our reading for today from the Gospel of Matthew, we find an account of a leader of a synagogue who tells Jesus that, if only he could come lay hands on his daughter, she will be raised from the dead (Matthew 9:18). Because of that man’s faith, his daughter lived and reports of the miracle spread throughout the countryside.

A woman who had been bleeding for twelve years thought that if she could just touch Jesus’ robe, she’d be healed.

Jesus turned around and said to her, “Daughter, be encouraged! Your faith has made you well.” And the woman was healed at that moment.

Matthew 9:22 (NLT)

And still, after that, two blind men followed Jesus believing He could restore their sight.

Then he touched their eyes and said, “Because of your faith, it will happen.”

Matthew 9:29 (NLT)

Your faith is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, it is something to tell the world about! As you continue reading through the Gospels, see how much faith accomplished.

What could happen because of your faith?

Daily Bible reading: Genesis 27-28, Matthew 9:18-38