Daily Bible Reading

Dumpster diving

You’ve spent hours getting ready. Your hair is done. Your makeup is perfect. Your gown has been perfectly tailored and pressed. Shoes. Jewelry. It’s all there. You walk down the street so proud of the new you. Everything has changed.

You come upon a dark alley and take a few tentative steps in. Before too long, you’re standing in front of a dumpster. The smell is revolting, but you plunge ahead anyway. An old crate serves as a step. You flip the lid open and dive right in.

Disgusting. Right? Yet we do it all the time.

What this means is that those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun!

2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT)

The moment we invite Jesus to be a part of our lives, we’re that person who’s all dressed up. Everything is new. Everything is different. And every time we return to our old ways, it’s like launching ourselves into that dank, depressing dumpster full of the old things that God already removed from our lives.

Is it difficult to leave those things behind? Of course it is. To start any sort of new life is rarely easy. It’s why Paul told the Romans to constantly be renewing their minds. Just because our spirits were made instantly new doesn’t mean that our minds don’t have to catch up. The renewal process there is continual.

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)

To embrace a new life means to let an old one go. That old you stinks. It belongs in the dumpster. The new you has no business chasing after the things that made you who you used to be. We should be chasing after the new things God has placed before us—the things that are becoming of our new selves.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress. And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us.

Hebrews 12:1 (NLT)

Jesus came in his tuxedo and pulled us out of the dumpster when we were stinking of sin and shame. He came to us so we wouldn’t have to return to that old life. In order to maintain our miraculously new lives, we need to turn away from the past that weighs us down and look ahead.

We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, on whom our faith depends on from start to finish.

Hebrews 12:2a (NLT)

So brush the dirt and stench off of your new self and quit your dumpster diving. It’s time to live a new life, leaving the old behind.

Daily Bible reading: Proverbs 23-24, 2 Corinthians 5

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Daily Bible Reading

Thus saith the Lord

If you grew up in church, did prophecy scare you? Were you ever concerned that God would hijack your mouth and force you to holler out a word in King James English? Did you ever worry that, even if you wanted to prophesy that you’d have to start memorizing the King James Bible and learn exactly where to insert your thee’s and thou’s?

There’s nothing wrong with a prophecy given that includes words like thee or thou, but that’s not how it has to be. If you’ve never read a King James Bible, you can still prophesy. If you don’t like public speaking, that’s okay. If you have a quiet voice, that’s fine, too. All you need is love, a willing heart, and a desire to speak God’s word to build up and encourage others.

Let love be your highest goal, but also desire the special abilities the Spirit gives, especially the gift of prophecy.

1 Corinthians 14:1 (NLT)

Many people shy away from all things prophetic because they had a bad experience. Maybe a preacher came to town and offered up a whole lot of condemnation in the name of the Lord. Know this—prophecy is not condemning. It is not accusing.

But one who prophesies is helping others grow in the Lord, encouraging and comforting them.

1 Corinthians 14:3 (NLT)

Prophecy is also not a fortune to be told. If it doesn’t already confirm what God has been showing you, write it down and put it on the back burner. The prophetic isn’t a guide to life, it is a confirmation of what God is already doing in your life.

So, you want to ask God for the gift of prophecy. What if I get it wrong? But what if you get it right? Here’s my opinion and you can take it or leave it—if you’ve asked God for a gift and you believe He’s given it to you, you have to start somewhere. And, if you know that prophecy is to encourage and build up and give someone an encouraging word, at the very least, a person walks away lifted up. At the very best, you’ve spoken a word into their life that confirms something God has already been speaking to them. It can be as simple as, “Hey, I was praying for you and this is what I believe God showed me…”

You never know what God will drop into your heart until you take the first step. So put away thoughts of a booming thus saith the Lord and start to entertain (and talk about) the little things that God is showing you. There may yet be a prophet in there somewhere!

Daily Bible reading: Proverbs 5-6, 1 Corinthians 14:1-20

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

Ever living

sourdough-starterA Bible study I’m involved in recently brought about the discussion of sourdough bread. Yup. Bread—and how we can liken it to our faith.

I enjoy baking. I like a challenge and will rise up to meet nearly every one that is presented before me. Several years ago, I set out to master sourdough bread. Sourdough is unique in that it uses natural yeasts formed in a fermented starter. The more sour the starter, the more flavourful the bread. The bread isn’t the tricky part, the starter is.

Some people are fortunate enough to have inherited or otherwise obtained an old starter. Some have been going for a century or more. To someone who has no understanding of the process, this can be a horrifying idea. So let’s start at the beginning.

To start a sourdough starter you need flour and water. That’s it. The portions vary depending on who writes the recipe. I’m an equal parts kind of person. Mix up some flour and water and let it fester in a warm place for 12-24 hours. After a day, remove some of the starter and feed the remaining portion more flour and water. Repeat this process for a week. Yep, you let it fester for a week. After a week, it should be all bubbly and smell a bit like beer. Congratulations, you now have an active sourdough starter and can keep using it and feeding it and keeping it active for as long as you want.

But what if you don’t want to keep making bread several times a week? You can put your starter to sleep. Me, I have two containers in my fridge of starter I began several years ago. But here’s the kicker, I can’t just pull it out and use it. It’s dormant. The alcohol content has separated and formed a preservative layer on the top. In order to use it again, I have to stir it up, remove some and start the feeding process over again until I get that rich, bubbly starter back. It can take a week or more.

If you’ve been reading this through a spiritual filter, you may now be seeing parallels between a sourdough starter and your spiritual life. When you first come to Christ, it’s like someone gave you some active starter. It’s bubbly and active. As long as you keep feeding your spirit, it will stay active and useful. But as soon as you stop feeding it, things start to separate. Your spirit isn’t as active. If you haven’t let your relationship with God sit for too long, you can feed it and get it to work right away. But if you’ve left it sitting for too long, it might need more than a little help and some extra time. It will need to be stirred up. Some things might have to be removed and the active ingredients added back in. The process may need to be repeated several times before you’re good to go again.

If you’re active and ready to be used, that’s fantastic. If you’ve been sitting for a little while, take the time to feed your spirit and get yourself activated again. If you’ve been sitting for a long time and have that separate layer on the top, take the time to stir yourself up.

I see the fermentation as the Holy Spirit. In its dormant state, the layer of alcohol hovers over the mixture, protecting it from going bad. Yet it is also the component that adds flavour and leavening when it’s time to make the bread.

The end of Luke 20 speaks of how God never views us as dead. As soon as our spirits become alive in Him, we are ever alive. Whether we live our lives as active starter ready to be used at any moment or have allowed ourselves to become dormant, the Spirit is still there waiting to be stirred and fed and reactivated in our lives.

Daily Bible reading: 2 Samuel 15-16, Luke 20:27-47