Daily Bible Reading

The great pursuit

Psalm 23 is one of my favourite passages in the entire Bible. I attribute this to my mother. While she was pregnant with me, she took up a project to cross stitch the entire chapter. She completed it in the hospital right before I was born. It’s now framed and hangs on the wall in my bedroom and is one of the last things I see before I go to bed every night.

Psalm 23

There is so much packed into these six verses. I can barely begin to scratch the surface, but I want to give you a little bit from each verse.

The Lord is my shepherd;
I have everything I need.

Psalm 23:1 (NLT)

If we follow Jesus like sheep do a shepherd, our needs will be fulfilled. God isn’t a magic genie to see to our needs and whims when we feel like rubbing the lamp. He is there to lead us and guide us. It’s under His guidance that our needs our met.

He lets me rest in green meadows;
He leads me beside peaceful streams.

Psalm 23:2 (NLT)

Turmoil and stress don’t have to be a part of our daily lives. Like being under God’s guidance allows for our needs to be met, if we follow His lead, we will be drawn to rest and peace.

He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
bringing honor to his name.

Psalm 23:3 (NLT)

Strength is required to walk God’s path. There is nothing that says walking with God will be easy, but He does give us the strength to do it. And, if we’re not bringing honour to His name, we’re probably not on His path.

Even when I walk
through the dark valley of death,
I will not be afraid,
for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
protect and comfort me.

Psalm 23:4 (NLT)

When, not if. We will go through dark times. That’s pretty much a guarantee. But even in those times, God has promised that He will be with us—guiding us, protecting us, comforting us.

You prepare a feast for me
in the presence of my enemies.
You welcome me as a guest,
anointing my head with oil.
My cup overflows with blessings.

Psalm 23:5 (NLT)

Our enemies will not suddenly decide to leave us alone because we decide to put our trust in God. We will still have enemies. They may still surround us. Yet God is there, providing for us in the middle of the battleground. And there, we can even find blessings!

Surely your goodness and unfailing love
will pursue me.
all the days of my life,
And I will live in the house of the Lord forever.

Psalm 23:6 (NLT)

We make a grave mistake when we believe we have to chase after God’s love. His love comes after us. His love is there in peaceful rest. His love is there in the dark valley of death. His love is there in the presence of our enemies. His love is there in His house.

It’s time to stop chasing after God’s love. If we’d only just slow down for a moment, it will catch up to us and overtake us. In His love, we will find peace, rest, strength, guidance, provision, anointing, blessing, and goodness.

We don’t have to pursue God’s love because He is always pursuing us.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 22-24, Acts 20:1-16

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Daily Bible Reading

Beam me up!

I’m not what one would consider a Trekkie, but I do enjoy Star Trek. I’ve always wanted to be teleported. To be able to say into your com, “Beam me up, Scottie!” and be lifted from one place to another in a matter of moments would be pretty sweet. But long before Kirk was captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise, a man from Samaria was beamed from one place to another—without Scottie at the control panel.

The latter portion of Acts 8 gives us the account of Philip and a man we know as the Ethiopian. Philip had been leading a successful ministry in Samaria when an angel came and told him it was time to move along. Now. He needed to be on a certain road at a certain time. No time to waste! Philip didn’t hesitate. He went.

On his journey, he came across the treasurer of Ethiopia. A man of great power and authority. Philip was able to give witness of Jesus and even baptized the man. As soon as Philip had baptized this stranger, he was gone. He didn’t leave. He was just gone. The eunuch never saw Philip again, but still took the Good News with him.

Meanwhile, Philip found himself in another city altogether. He continued to preach the Good News there and in every town along the way until he came to Caesarea (Acts 8:40).

While the fact that Philip was able to minister to this high-ranking official from Ethiopia may seem insignificant, the entire account is not. I don’t believe the fact that the Ethiopian took the Good News with him was even the most important part of this story—I believe Philip’s obedience is.

Perhaps Philip was not the first person God had sent to speak to the eunuch. Maybe, on his journey, the man had come across many believers. But he had yet to hear and accept the Good News. God needed someone to reach him. Philip was maybe not the first one who was told to go, but he was the one who responded. Not only did he respond, but he went immediately. There was no waiting. No wrapping things up in Samaria. No setting up the next leader so that the ministry wouldn’t be without. He left. He needed to be on a certain road at a certain time or the call would have been for naught.

Once that first task was accomplished, God then took Philip to a completely different city. Philip had already proven himself faithful. He’d go where God needed him when God needed him to go.

I am quite certain that if the large majority of us suddenly disappeared from our lives and landed in a foreign city we wouldn’t just continue on our merry way. We’d call home. We’d try to get home. We would be quite livid at having been unexpectedly uprooted. We would have a hard time detaching ourselves from our former lives if at all.

Philip understood that, in ministry, his life was not his own. His life’s mission was to accomplish the will of God in whatever that capacity may be. His faithfulness to the call allowed God to move him from one place to another with no interruption in what Philip was able to accomplish. His preaching never stopped. He didn’t try to rush back to Samaria or send someone to make sure things were going okay. God moved him, so he kept preaching.

How confident are you in your Christian walk that, if God decided to beam you up, you’d just go with it?

Daily Bible reading: Job 13-15, Acts 8:26-40

Daily Bible Reading

Power to the people

As a church leader, it always surprises me when I hear Christians say that they have no need of the local church. They’re good to worship God alone in the privacy of their own home. I don’t disagree with private and personal worship, but I strongly disagree with individuals distancing themselves from the group that Jesus himself ordained.

Reading through the Book of Acts, I am more and more convinced of the benefit as well as the need for Christians to be a part of a local body. In an article titled 4 Reasons Christians Need the Church, the following reasons are given:

  • We need other Christians. If you want to know what you believe, listen to what your friends say. The more time we spend around people who ridicule God, the more we allow their attitudes to affect our thoughts and attitudes. The more time we spend with God’s people and in His presence, the more like Jesus we become.

  • We need opportunities to discover our spiritual gifts, Every one of us has a skill God wants to use to help others know Him and follow Him. We will never uncover what God has equipped and called us to do if we don’t get involved.

  • We need authority. We don’t have to believe anything anyone tells us about God. He appointed men and women in the church to lead us and to teach us. God gave us the Bible and the church so we can know what’s from Him. Through the church’s authority structure, we can test and see what’s of God and what isn’t when we can’t tell on our own. When we’ve prayed, read the Bible and still aren’t sure what to do, the church is where we go for advice.

  • We never stop needing grace. Church people are not perfect people. No matter how long we’ve been following Jesus, we are going to screw up, fall short and sin. And when we do, we need a place where we can come to be healed, restored and renewed. That place is the church.

I believe there are a few other reasons why Christians need the church.

  • We need to see signs and wonders. That I can find, the Bible has no record of a single person going around performing miracles with absolutely no support system. Miracles, signs and wonders are always tied to a group of people serving God. When we see God move, our faith is stirred to see Him move in more and greater ways.
  • We need accountability. Try driving your car down road a dark night with no moon or stars, and no headlights to light your path. How long are you able to stay on the road? Our church family is there to help keep us on the road. Do we always like to be corrected? Certainly not! But it doesn’t mean we don’t need it. By walking out our faith together, we keep each other on the right path. Alone, people have the tendency to wander and get lost.

And finally:

  • There is great strength in numbers. Study revivals. Study the great evangelists of the modern era. When people gather with a common purpose, God moves in mighty ways. When God moves mightily, people will come to watch. Soon those people have been added to the Church and more people will come to see what’s happening. Yes, the church can grow by individuals discipling individuals. In fact, we need mentors. But we also need numbers. The Great Commission is not a solo project. It is a global project.

Meanwhile, the apostles were performing many miraculous signs and wonders among the people… And more and more people were brought to the Lord—crowds of both men and women. As a result of the apostles’ work, sick people were brought out into the streets on beds and mats so that Peter’s shadow might fall across some of them as he went by. Crowds came in from the villages around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those possessed by evil spirits, and they were all healed.

Acts 5:12-16 (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Esther 1-3, Acts 5:1-16

Daily Bible Reading

By the hand

But Peter said, “I don’t have any money for you. But I’ll give you what I have. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up and walk!”

Then Peter took the lame man by the right hand and helped him up. And as he did, the man’s feet and anklebones were healed and strengthened.

Acts 3:6-7 (NLT)

How many times have you heard of people praying, yet receiving nothing? How many times have you prayed and received nothing? Some people will keep on praying while others just give up. If God didn’t answer them the first time, why would He answer at all?

But what if all that was missing was a helping hand? What if all your prayer needed was a little extra boost from a friend or someone who cared enough to help you out?

Notice that, in this passage, the man wasn’t healed the instant Peter told him to get up and walk. Nor did the man get up on his own. Peter lifted him up and then strength came to his limbs.

Maybe you’re the one who needs the extra hand or maybe you’re the one who can give the extra hand. Either way, we shouldn’t let a little seemingly unanswered prayer stop us from receiving the things God has promised to us. A little extra help may be required to see it through. Don’t stop praying. Look to the next step. Maybe God is waiting on you to ask for a hand. Maybe God is leading you to lend a hand. Our own pride and selfishness could very well be the things that are preventing us from seeing more miracles.

Let’s not pull each other down, let’s lift each other up so we can all begin to walk, leap and praise God.

Daily Bible reading: Nehemiah 7-8, Acts 3

Daily Bible Reading

About the future

Yesterday we talked about the couple on the road to Emmaus—Cleopas and his wife. They walked seven miles with Jesus without recognising him. Cleopas talked for seven miles of all that had happened to Jesus while Jesus spoke to him of all the prophecies concerning the Messiah. Cleopas was still clueless. It wasn’t until they’d reached their destination, invited Jesus to stay for dinner and Jesus blessed and broke the bread that they realised who they’d been with the entire time.

Cleopas and his wife returned to Jerusalem to share their story with the rest of the disciples only to discover that Jesus had also shown himself to Peter. While all this is happening, Jesus suddenly appears again. He’s there. He’s not there. What are these people supposed to think? (Even after Jesus had said all along something like this would happen.) Even though Jesus stood before his believers with scars on his hands and feet and boiled fish in his belly, they doubted.

Then he [Jesus] said, “When I was with you before, I told you that everything written about me by Moses and the prophets and in the Psalms must come true.” Then he opened their minds to understand these many scriptures.

Luke 24:44-45 (NLT)

These followers of Jesus knew him. They knew the scriptures. They had grown up hearing and reading the prophecies about the coming Saviour, yet when that Saviour stood right in front of them returned from the dead, they couldn’t understand. Not until it was revealed to them.

How many situations do we go through in our lives when we can’t see God? We beg and we plead and we walk away in disappointment because we couldn’t see the answer. We stand on the promises of God only to throw them back in His face because we are blinded by our own hurt and pain. Spiritual tunnel vision. We only see one thing.

Yet God sent the Spirit to show us many things.

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not be presenting his own ideas; he will be telling you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future. He will bring me glory by revealing to you whatever he receives from me. All that the Father has is mine; this is what I mean when I say that the Spirit will reveal to you whatever he receives from me.

John 16:13-15 (NLT)

If we truly believe and trust in God, we be assured that the Holy Spirit will lead and guide us into all truth. Even in the difficult situations—the times when it seems as though God is far—the Spirit can reveal Truth to us. He can open up our vision to see purpose in the pain and to help us through our hurt.

Cleopas and his wife assumed Jesus had abandoned them to the point of walking away, yet Jesus chose to walk with them on their journey. They didn’t understand everything until they’d returned, but Jesus was still there. Walking with them. Talking to them words from the past about the future.

If you’re like the disciples in Jerusalem, disappointed, but still waiting for a miracle or like Cleopas and his wife, walking away, Jesus is there. He appeared to both parties where they were. Don’t fool yourself into thinking he can’t reach you where you are.

Daily Bible reading: 1 Kings 12-13, Luke 24:36-53

Daily Bible Reading

Detour

How much of the Bible do you believe? A little bit? A lot? All of it?

In the short time Jesus ministered on earth, those who followed him saw miracle after miracle. They listened to his teachings. They trusted him. They believed he was the fulfillment of the prophecies that said one would come to be the King of the Jews. Jesus was that man. Jesus’ followers believed of him what they wanted to believe.

Jesus made no secret of the fact that He would have to die. But He also never hid the fact that He would rise again. These things His followers seemed to ignore.

It’s now Sunday following Jesus’ death. (We know that He wasn’t put to death, but He gave up His own life.) Jesus’ followers are dismayed because He’s dead. The man who was supposed to rescue them from the tyranny of Roman rule had be put in the grave. Some people stick around. Maybe someone else will step into His shoes. Others leave.

We meet a couple on the road to Emmaus. We’ve never met these two before. Some scholars believe they were husband and wife. Cleopas was the man’s name. We never learn the name of his companion. These two were discussing the events of the last few days when a man joins them on their journey and asks about their conversation. Cleopas, astonished that this stranger has no idea of what just happened in Jerusalem, goes on to tell this man about all that had taken place.

Jesus goes on to explain all of the prophecy in the scripture that pointed to Him and all that had to happen. Cleopas and his companion are taken in by this man and, when they reach Emmaus, invite him to dine with them and spend the night as it was getting late. It wasn’t until Jesus took the bread from the table, blessed it, and broke it, that Cleopas and his wife truly saw the man before them.

How often do we walk away in disappointment, baffled that what we thought was supposed to happen didn’t? We believed what we wanted to believe and ignored the stuff we didn’t like because it didn’t suit us. But still, in our ignorance, Jesus is with us—walking beside us on the road that leads away from the place we’re supposed to be. Yet, if we’d only believed everything He said, we’d have never left in the first place.

Listen to or read Seven Mile Miracle by Steven Furtick. You’ll learn that God is not the God of the destination, but the God of the detour. He is found, not in the dramatic, but in the details.

Our Christian walk is just that, a journey, not a destination. It is a long walk and—get this—Jesus walks it with us! No matter where you are—whether you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be or you’ve walked away in disappointment, Jesus is right there walking the road with you.

Daily Bible reading: 1 Kings 10:11, Luke 24:1-35

Daily Bible Reading

The Walk

What’s in front of you? Right now, it’s a device of some sort that has a connection to the internet. What’s on that device? Truth? Lies? What do you put in front of yourself on a daily basis? What, if anything, do you put away from yourself?

David got pretty serious about what he allowed in his presence.

I will ponder the way that is blameless.
Oh when will you come to me?
I will walk with integrity of heart within my house;
I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless.
I hate the work of those who fall away;
it shall not cling to me.
A perverse heart shall be far from me;
I will know nothing of evil.

No on who practices deceit shall dwell in my house;
no one who utters lies shall continue before my eyes.

Psalm 101:2-4, 7 (ESV)

Now we could have the argument that, if we are to fulfill the Great Commission, that we can’t put all of these people away from us. I don’t think that’s what David means here, though. I believe he is looking at the people he surrounds himself with on a daily basis. The people he allows to speak into his life and influence his decisions.

I will look with favor on the faithful in the land,
that they may dwell with me;
he who walks in the way of the blameless shall minister to me.

Psalm 101:6 (ESV)

Who or what do you allow to influence you on a daily basis? Are you intentional about what you allow before you and what you put away from you?

Think about these verses today. Pay attention to what you allow to direct your day. Do you favour the faithful? Do you turn from those who utter lies?

Why not try to walk in integrity today?

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 99-102; Romans 13