Daily Bible Reading

Our foolish preaching

If we break down the message of the Gospel and look at it as an outsider might, it really is a foolish message.

A young girl gets pregnant before her wedding. The baby doesn’t belong to her fiance, but he marries her anyway. When she goes into labour, the only place they could find to stay was a stable. The kid grows up with his mother and adoptive father and trains in the family business—carpentry. He causes a bit of a ruckus, but by all accounts (and they are few), he’s a normal kid. At the age of thirty, he decides to make a bit more of a stir and hand-selects a group of people to follow him. Commercial fisherman and social outcasts are among those selected. This man from nowhere special then travels around with his little group and pretty much stirs up the religious people. He says things that are contrary to what they believe and he hangs out with people no one should be hanging out with. He performs all sorts of miracles—which many would have attributed to witchcraft. By the end of three years, he’s earned himself an execution. When he’s dead, all that’s left of his three years of wandering the countryside are a few men and a handful of weeping women.

Great story. No wonder so many people won’t listen to it! But that’s not the end.

This strange man with a contrary message didn’t stay dead. He came back to life in glorious fashion and continued to share his message with his followers for another forty days before disappearing. He disappeared.

This is the great message we are supposed to share with the world.

When people want to tell a story about one man saving the world, they send a superhero. Someone with extraordinary strength, power, and character. Someone with skills and abilities that go beyond being able to swing a hammer and tell a great story. They tell a story about an invincible hero who will always be around to save the day.

Our hero died. On purpose.

It is the fact that Jesus walked into his own death that makes our hero’s story the most extraordinary. He didn’t do what people expected of him. He did more.

I know very well how foolish the message of the cross sounds to those who are on the road to destruction. But we who are being saved recognize this message as the very power of God.

1 Corinthians 1:18 (NLT)

In order to be the hero that saved the day once and for all, Jesus had to do things differently.

Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never find him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save all those who believe.

1 Corinthians 1:21 (NLT)

The world may see our message as foolish (void of understanding or sound judgement; weak in intellect; unwise; imprudent; acting without judgement or discretion in particular things; ridiculous; despicable), but there is far more wisdom in it than anything the world could ever come up with.

This “foolish” plan of God is far wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is far stronger than the greatest of human strength.

1 Corinthians 1:25 (NLT)

God deliberately chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose those who are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important, so that no one can ever boast in the presence of God.

1 Corinthians 1:27-29 (NLT)

We can look at this story of salvation as the world might—a sad one of a strange leader and his motley crew that somehow managed to do enough to have their story told for millennia. Or we can see it for what it really is—an incredible story of sacrifice and salvation. The story of the world’s greatest hero born in the most humble of circumstances. The story of one man who gave up his own life not for his glory, but the glory of his Father and the salvation of the world.

God alone made it possible for you to be in Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made Christ to be wisdom itself. He is the one who made us acceptable to God. He made us pure and holy, and he gave himself to purchase our freedom.

1 Corinthians 1:30 (NLT)

Our story doesn’t end with death. It continues with life. Life everlasting.

Not so foolish, is it?

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 112-115, 1 Corinthians 1

Daily Bible Reading

Proof

Life is all about proof. We all need to prove ourselves. When you’re looking for a job, you need to prove that you’re qualified. When you want to buy a house, you need to prove you can make the mortgage payments. When you want to cross a border, you need to prove who you are.

When he [Abraham] had proven himself faithful, he [God] made a covenant with him…

Nehemiah 9:8a (NLT)

Abraham had to prove himself worthy before God would cut a covenant with him. God wanted proof that this guy was going to be faithful before He bestowed blessings on him.

Many Christians are still acting like Abraham, trying to prove themselves worthy of a covenant with God. While Abraham was required to offer proof of faithfulness, God cut a covenant with us knowing full well we were all unfaithful. He knew when He sent Jesus to the cross that He was making a covenant with generation after generation of unfaithful people.

There is nothing that we can do to prove ourselves worthy of the covenant God has made with us. Our worth comes when we accept the gift God has so freely given to us.

Under the old covenant, the priest stands before the altar day after day, making sacrifices that can never take away sins. But our High Priest offered himself to God as one sacrifice for sins, good for all time. For by that one offering he perfected forever all those whom he is making holy.

Hebrews 10:11-12, 14 (NLT)

Our proof is in Jesus’ sacrifice. In his blood. It is the only proof of worth we need when we come to stand before the throne of God. Works will not make us more or less worthy of the covenant, because by that one offering Jesus perfected forever all of us whom the Father is making holy.

There’s your proof.

Daily Bible reading: Nehemiah 9-11, Acts 4:1-22

Daily Bible Reading

Continually

There are few things in life anyone does continually. We all breathe. That’s a given. Most will work continually until retirement. Some talk continually. Some sleep continually. But all of these things can, and most often do, required breaks of some sort or another. There is one thing, though, that the Bible tells us to do continually.

Pray.

Never stop praying.

1 Thessalonians 5:17 (NLT)

Many in the western church probably couldn’t tell you the last time they started praying let alone the last time they prayed without stopping.

One of the greatest needs of the present day is men and women who will not only start out to pray for things but pray on and on and on until they obtain that which they seek from the Lord.

R.A. Torrey (1956-1928)

We all want to see God move in church on Sunday, but who is really willing to pray on Monday? For most of us, the Great Awakenings of the last century are so far gone (and often forgotten), that we don’t realise how effective prayer can really be. I make a point (though not often enough) to go back and read of the great revivals that brought North America to its knees. You cannot learn about a great move of God without being stirred to see one yourself.

But who is willing to pray for a move of God? Who even knows what that kind of prayer looks like?

True prayer is an approach of the soul by the Spirit of God to the throne of God. It is not the utterance of words, it is not alone the feeling of desires, but it is the advance of the desires to God, the spiritual approach of our nature toward the Lord our God. True prayer is neither a mere mental exercise nor a vocal performance. It is far deeper than that—it is spiritual transaction with the Creator of heaven and earth.

Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892)

Acts 1:14 says that they all met together continually for prayer. Do you think the Holy Spirit would have shown up with tongues of fire if the group hadn’t waited? If they hadn’t been praying while they waited?

It is time that the Church look again toward prayer. Not just programs and growth strategies. I believe those things will come as the result of effective prayer.

The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and wonderful results.

James 5:16b (NLT)

We all have a decision to make regarding prayer. We can go on with our daily lives and offer up a prayer every once in a while when we feel like it or need heavenly help out of a jam—but what’s the point of our faith at all if that’s the case? Or we can pray continually. Continual prayer will require sacrifice on our part, but the reward is great power and wonderful results.

Daily Bible reading: Ezra 9-10, Acts 1

Daily Bible Reading

The change

Years ago, Steven Curtis Chapman wrote and released a song called The Change. In it, he talks about all the things we do as Christians that would make us appear to be different—the bracelets and cross necklaces, the bumper stickers, fridge magnets, and key chains. But do those things really make us different? The chorus of the song goes on to say:

What about the change
What about the difference
What about the grace
What about forgiveness
What about a life that’s showing
I’m undergoing the change

We all undergo a change when we allow God to invade our heart and spirit. Saul underwent that change in 1 Samuel. But so many fail to understand that the initial change is only the beginning.

God’s Spirit was on Saul, but the king never really put himself aside to allow the Spirit to do what God needed him to do. Samuel addressed Saul and relayed a message from God. Destroy the Amalekites. Remove them from the face of the earth. So Saul went to war and defeated the Amalekites. What he failed to do was to utterly destroy them. Saul and his army demolished what was worthless and plundered all that had value. They planned on sacrificing all of the animals they had pilfered. In Saul’s mind, he had obeyed the word from the Lord.

But Samuel replied, “What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Obedience is far better than sacrifice. Listening to him is much better than offering the fat of rams.

1 Samuel 15:22 (NLT)

Just because God’s Spirit is in us doesn’t mean the work is done. This is why we are to continue working out our salvation (Philippians 2:12). A life of salvation is not a one time event, but a life-long journey.

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of the 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)

Don’t just go through the motions that make it look like you’ve changed. Listen to the voice of God. Obey Him. God isn’t interested in the things we do to appear different than the rest of the word as He is interested in whether or not we obey His voice. He doesn’t want the appearance of change. He wants the real change.

Daily Bible reading: 1 Samuel 15-16, Luke 14:25-35

Daily Bible Reading

Burn it

Israel is a bit of a broken record. Over and over and over again they turn from God, cry out to God, turn from God, cry out to God. It starts to get a little tiresome as we read through the Old Testament, don’t you think?

For those few obedient people, God gives some interesting instructions. But they aren’t only to test the loyalty and faith of the few. There is purpose behind these requests.

That night the Lord said to Gideon, “Take the second bull from your father’s herd, the one that is seven years old. Pull down your father’s altar to Baal, and cut down the Asherah pole standing beside it. Then build and altar to the Lord your God here on this hilltop sanctuary, laying the stones carefully. Sacrifice the bull as a burnt offering on the altar, using as fuel the wood of the Asherah pole you cut down.”

Judges 6:25-26 (NLT)

God could have just told Gideon to build an altar and sacrifice the bull. Surely that would have been sufficient. But the sacrifice wasn’t the only thing God wanted Gideon to accomplish.

By tearing down the altar to Baal and building one to God, a challenge was issued. In the next few verses, we see the people of the tribe incensed over the fact that their altar had been torn down. They were out for blood until Gideon’s father, Joash told the people to let Baal worry about his own altar. Isn’t the god powerful enough to take care of his own place of worship?

By burning the Asherah pole (Asherah was thought to be and was worshipped as the Canaanite creator-god, El’s, wife or consort), Gideon ensured that, once delivered from the Midianites, his people would not easily be able to return to their pagan worship.

Turning from sin wasn’t good enough. We know that after reading so many accounts of Israel’s inability to remain faithful to the one God who had delivered them from slavery. The same principle applies to us. Turning from sin often isn’t enough. After all, it was tempting enough in the first place to draw us in. By simply turning away from it, how can we be sure that we won’t be tempted by it again in the future?

The best thing we can do is take a page out of Gideon’s book. Don’t just turn from sin, tear it down. Burn it. Do whatever we have to in order to rid ourselves not only of the sin, but the temptation to return to it.

Daily Bible reading: Judges 6-7, Luke 8:1-21

Daily Bible Reading

Sacrifice

Leviticus is a tough read. There are a lot of rules and regulations that no longer apply to us as God-followers simply because God sent Jesus to be the fulfilment of all that law. We don’t need to make blood sacrifices anymore because the perfect, unspoiled blood of Jesus Christ has already been shed and made permanent atonement for those who have accepted it.

So why read Leviticus?

In part, I believe it’s good to slog through this early book simply to see what we’ve truly been saved from. Reading about all the rituals and sacrifices puts an entirely new spin on what salvation really means to and for us.

Leviticus 17 talks about what happens when a sacrifice is made away from the tabernacle. A person who made a sacrifice anywhere but at the tabernacle in front of the presence of God was cast out of the community and considered to be as guilty as one who has committed murder. That’s a pretty hefty payment for something that seems rather trivial.

Thank God that we are no longer required to make blood sacrifices. I imagine all of our cities would be heavy with the scent of burning flesh if animal sacrifice was still a necessary part of reconciliation.

But what about other sacrifices we make? Our time? Our finances? Our labour? Are these not considered worthy sacrifices? Of course they are. We are all called to give beyond what we might deem to be comfortable. But the question that goes even beyond whether or not we should make sacrifices is where and how do we make these sacrifices?

In Leviticus, a sacrifice was not acceptable unless it was brought to the entrance of the tabernacle. Maybe the same is still true today. I’m sure that even I am guilty of making sacrifices just for the sake of it—like the hypocties Jesus spoke of in Matthew 6 fasting and praying in public so that all would see and commend them for their sacrifice. But that kind of offering isn’t what is pleasing to God.

Would we still make our sacrifice if no one was watching? Would we still work if no one was there to see and applaud our gift?

It is not only the gift that matters to God, but also the manner in which we bring it. Matthew 6 talks about giving gifts in private and praying behind closed doors. It is the sacrifice that we make when no one is looking that is most pleasing and acceptable to God.

Daily Bible reading: Leviticus 15-17, Matthew 27:1-31

Daily Bible Reading

Uttermost

Uttermost isn’t a word most of us use. Ever. I’m quite certain that I have friends who have never heard the word. I think we should bring it back into use. But before we do that, what does it mean, exactly?

UT’TERMOST, adjective. Extreme; being in the furthest, greatest or highest degree.

If you’ve heard the word used, it may have been in the context of something being of the uttermost importance.

The former priests were many in number because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he [Jesus] holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

Hebrews 7:23-25 (ESV)

He is able to save to the uttermost. I’ve heard people claim that they are beyond salvation. I can never understand what they think they’ve done to make themselves so unappealing to Christ and beyond His saving grace. This verse here says that He is able to save to the furthest, greatest or highest degree. Usually when you add -est to the end of a word, there is nothing that goes beyond it. You cannot go beyond the furthest. You cannot be greater than the greatest. So if Jesus is able to save to the -est degree, no one is beyond salvation.

Not only did Jesus sacrifice Himself for us, but He continues – for eternity – to make intercession for us so that we are able to live a holy life. If that’s not to the uttermost, I don’t  know what is.

Daily Bible reading: Lamentations 1-2, Hebrews 7