Daily Bible Reading

If you build it…

Many of us can quote the whispered line from Field of Dreams, if you build it, he will come. Nehemiah was kind of the Ray Kinsella of his time. God was the voice whispering to him to build it. Build what? The wall surrounding Jerusalem.

Nehemiah, however, wasn’t an Iowa corn farmer. He was the king’s cup bearer in Persia. He’d never even been to Jerusalem. Yet, when he heard of the disrepair the city had fallen to, God’s vision weighed so heavily on his heart that he had to go. He prayed for strength and courage to approach the king. No only did the king allow him to go, but Nehemiah left with letters which would allow him to pass through other lands on his way and also gave him access to the king’s resources.

Nehemiah showed up in a strange city full of distant relatives and somehow managed to get everyone working together to rebuild the wall. How’s that for a family reunion? From the lowest of the low to the city leaders, with God’s vision set before them, they all worked together.

There are those who would say that the God of the Old Testament is not the same as the God of the New Testament.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Hebrews 13:8 (NLT)

God doesn’t change. The God that stirred Nehemiah, a lowly servant, to rebuild Jerusalem is the same God who is still stirring within men and women today. He is planting vision in those daring enough to see beyond themselves and today.

Christians who did most for the present world were those who thought most of the next.

C.S. Lewis.

There are those who build for the sake of building. They want the glory that comes with a grand structure. And there are those who build for the sake of the Kingdom of God. They want the glory to go to the One who alone can fill the structure.

It is time that the Church allow herself to be stirred. Time for those who are willing to be led by the Spirit of God to build the Kingdom of God. It is time that we strive to become the Church that Christ will return for.

It’s time to sneak a peek at tomorrow’s reading:

‘In the last days,’ God says,
‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy.
Your young men will see visions,
and your old men will dream dreams.
In those days I will pour out my Spirit
Even on my servants—men and women alike—
and they will prophesy.

Acts 2:17-18 (NLT)

Are you ready to think less of this world and more of the next? If you build it…

Daily Bible reading: Nehemiah 1-3, Acts 2:1-13

Daily Bible Reading

Attitude

Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.”

John 11:21-22 (NLT)

This is the same Martha who had been whining to Jesus about Mary who would sit at his feet rather than help in the kitchen. She’s come a long way since then and has obviously taken the time not just to work, but to listen to Jesus as well.

“Yes, Lord,” she told him. “I have always believed you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who has come into the world from God.”

John 11:27 (NLT)

Martha, not Mary, was the first to greet Jesus when he finally arrived after hearing of Lazarus’ illness. Martha had to go get Mary so Jesus could speak with her. Martha, the more practical of the two believed that Jesus could do whatever God wanted him to do in the situation and told Jesus so. Mary, the more emotional of the two almost seemed to blame Jesus for their brother’s death.

When Mary arrived and saw Jesus, she fell down at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

John 11:32 (NLT)

Both women told Jesus the same thing, but with completely different attitudes. There is a time to be like Mary—breaking open a jar of expensive perfume to pour over Jesus’ feet. To sit and listen to the Son of God and drink in all he has to say. And there is a time to be like Martha—more practical. Able to think clearly in times of turmoil and crisis.

Jesus didn’t scorn either woman, but praised them both for their attitudes and faith.

Daily Bible reading: 1 Chronicles 26-27, John 11:18-46

Daily Bible Reading

The joy of salvation

Lately, we’ve been talking about eternity—the things that last forever. Our spirits last forever. Whether we chose Christ or not, we’re all in this for the long haul. God lasts forever. He’s been around forever, too. Jesus’ words last forever.

Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will remain forever.

Luke 21:33 (NLT)

There aren’t many things that last forever, but how much of our focus is set on those things rather than the things that will disappear? Have you set your priorities as such that your focus is on the things that you can take with you when you pass from this world, or are you hoarding all you can here, only to have to leave it behind when Jesus comes again?

Watch out! Don’t let me find you living in careless ease and drunkenness, and filled with the worries of this life. Don’t let that day catch you unaware, as in a trap. For that day will come upon everyone living on the earth.

Luke 21:34-35 (NLT)

When I was a kid, my parents were involved in serving at church every Sunday. That meant we had to leave earlier than most. We took one car. When it was time to leave, we all had to be in that car. There were no exceptions. None. Zip. Zilch. Nada. We didn’t have the option of taking another vehicle (none of us kids were old enough to drive). Mom and Dad both had to be at church early, so it wasn’t as though one of them could come later with another vehicle. House rules stated that we go to church on Sunday. Again, no exceptions. Ready or not, we all leave at the same time.

Jesus drives the car (this is not a Jesus take the wheel kind of story). When Jesus pulls up to get us all, He’s only coming once. We can be sitting on the front step all dressed up and waiting for him or we can be rushing through our routine trying to make it out the door, toothbrush in hand. There is no second ride.

We can spend our lives dawdling around thinking we can rush through our preparations when the time comes or we can get ready now.

Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation.

2 Corinthians 6:2b (NLT)

We can make the temporary things of this world our priority, or we can turn our eyes toward the eternal and make the decision to say:

Restore to me again the joy of your salvation,
and make me willing to obey you.

Psalm 51:12 (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: 2 Samuel 19-20, Luke 21:20-38

Daily Bible Reading

Here and now

One day the Pharisees asked Jesus, ” When will the Kingdom of God come?”

Jesus replied, “The Kingdom of God isn’t ushered in with visible signs. You won’t be able to say, ‘Here it is!’ or ‘It’s over there!’ For the Kingdom of God is among you.”

Luke 17:20-21 (NLT)

How will the world know what the Kingdom of God looks like if they can’t see it? How do we, as the Church, present the Kingdom to an unbelieving world?

We act like it.

The Pharisees wanted specifics. They wanted Jesus to give them a bullet list of things to look for when it came to the Kingdom. But Jesus gave them the opposite. His answer was vague and specific at the same time. You won’t see it coming, but it’s here and now.

Jesus spent a lot of time telling parables that described the Kingdom.

Then Jesus said, “What is the Kingdom of God like? How can I illustrate it? It is like a tiny mustard seed planted in a garden; it grows and becomes a tree, and the birds come and find shelter among its branches.”

Luke 13:18-19 (NLT)

Jesus also likened the Kingdom of God to a little yeast used to make a lot of bread. It spreads. It permeates. It activates. It causes things to rise.

Let’s put it this way: if unbelievers are unable to see the Kingdom, it isn’t their fault, it’s because the Church has failed to show it to them. Like the mustard plant, we should provide shelter, like yeast, we should permeate.

If the Kingdom of God is here and now, let’s act like it. Let’s live like it. But I can’t see it.

What is faith? It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see.

Hebrews 11:1 (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: 1 Samuel 30-31, Luke 17:20-37

Daily Bible Reading

Humility and grace

The story of the prodigal son is one that is well known in the church as well as out. It is a story of great redemption. A story of humility. A story about a son.

Yet it is also a story about a father. The father often gets lost in the wild living of his youngest son. The focus tends to lean toward the boy who left with his inheritance only to return home having squandered it all. But what about the father?

So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long distance away, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.

Luke 15:20 (NLT)

If you were the kid who took your parents money, spent it on drugs, alcohol, and prostitutes, how welcoming would your father be to you if you came crawling back home? As important as the humility of the son is, I believe the grace of the father is not as, if not more, important.

When the older son is found sulking about the warm welcome his rebellious brother received, his father said to him, “Look, dear son, you and I are very close, and everything I have is yours. We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!” The father didn’t pontificate on the merits of remaining at home or the importance of money management. The father runs toward his lost son. The son who was more than likely dirty and smelly and sick.

If we have squandered our gifts, we should be humble like the son, but if we have more to give, we should be gracious like the father. Instead of looking down our noses, we should run to greet the lowly with a cloak and shoes. It isn’t our business how they arrived at their place of humility, our business as the Church is to welcome them, clothe them, and feed them.

For as often as this story is told in churches around the world, what the world still needs most is what the church often seems to lack—both humility and grace.

Daily Bible reading: 1 Samuel 19-21, Luke 15:11-32

 

Daily Bible Reading

Shake the dust off

And then he told them, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone.”

Mark 16:15 (NLT)

This verse is probably as well known to you as John 3:16. We call it the Great Commission. Every Christian is called to bring the Good News to a lost world. But what if the lost world doesn’t want the Good News?

Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned.

Mark 16:16 (NLT)

It sounds a little harsh, doesn’t it? Some churches might even preach that hearing the Good News is good enough. Surely God wouldn’t condemn someone who has heard His Gospel.

Yet that is exactly what this scripture says. Believe and be saved. Refuse and be condemned. It’s a pretty simple, but hard truth to swallow. And, once we come to the realisation that not all who hear the Good News will accept it, how do we, as the ones who present that Gospel deal with the guilt of seeing someone condemned to a life of eternal torment?

We shake the dust off our feet and move on.

If the people of the village won’t receive your message when you enter it, shake off its dust from your feet as you leave. It is a sign that you have abandoned that village to its fate.

Luke 9:5 (NLT)

We can and should hold ourselves responsible to the Great Commission. We should be sharing the Gospel and spreading the Good News to the best of our ability, but we cannot and should not hold ourselves accountable for those who refuse our message. In Luke 8, Jesus addresses the different types of people that will hear the Word. He wouldn’t have talked about the seeds that would never grow if everyone who heard the Good News accepted it with joy.

Let this lesson free you—not from the burden to share the message of salvation—but from the guilt that may come when there are those who refuse your message. If you have prepared yourself and presented Jesus to the very best of your ability, you have fulfilled your Commission. If your message isn’t received, shake the dust from you feet and move on encouraged that you are still doing the work of the Father.

Daily Bible reading: Judges 10-11, Luke 9:1-36

Daily Bible Reading

Witness to the world

These are dark days we live in where the persecution of Christianity is not only widely accepted, but praised. Our faith is under open attack. There are those around us who would have our freedom to speak the truth of the Gospel taken away. And, in many cases, it is becoming increasingly difficult to declare truth without having someone try to shut us down.

Why are so many Christians surprised by this? Who told them that a life of following Jesus was supposed to be the easy one? Jesus himself warned us of this very thing.

But beware! For you will be handed over to the courts and beaten in the synagogues. And you must stand trial before governors and kings because you are my followers. This will be your opportunity to tell them about me—yes, to witness to the world.

Matthew 10:17-18 (NLT)

Church, this is our opportunity. This is not the time to back down or to muddle the truth so much that it is no longer truth at all. This is the time to stand up—no matter what the consequence—and declare Jesus! When the words of mere men may fail us, the Word of the Lord stands forever.

When you are arrested, don’t worry about what to say in your defense, because you will be given the right words at the right time. For it won’t be you doing the talking—it will be the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

Matthew 10:19-20 (NLT)

Good Christian men (and women), rejoice! We don’t have to come up with any of the arguments. Jesus has promised that, should we have to defend Him, the Spirit will give us the words to say. So let’s stop trying to win an impossible argument with our own words. Instead, lean on the Spirit of Truth to witness to the world.

Daily Bible reading: Genesis 29-30, Matthew 10:1-23