Accepting God’s Invitation


Daily Bible Reading – Matthew 20-22

Today’s Key Passage – Matthew 22:1-14

 

I remember the first time I read today’s key passage.  I understood the metaphor that the invited guests that refused to come to the banquet were representative of people who have heard God’s message for the world but have chosen to ignore Him and reject Him.  I understood that God sent the invitation to everyone just as God’s grace and salvation is open to everyone.  The one thing I did not understand was the one man who was found without wedding clothes who was kicked out of the banquet.  This seemed harsh to me.  In my young mind, my first thought was – what if the man could not afford wedding clothes?  It seemed so unfair to me, and it was a stumbling block for me, but then I started to learn more about God and about His Scriptures, and I came to understand this passage.  You see, in the days of Jesus when a wedding was announced, the guests were GIVEN wedding clothes to wear.  The person throwing the party freely gave every invited guest some fancy clothes to wear.  This changed everything for me.  The only reason this man would not be wearing the wedding clothes was because he did not think he needed them.  Perhaps he was too proud to wear the clothes or too arrogant.  For whatever reason, I could understand the king’s anger at this man for not putting on the clothes he had provided.

God is having a party and it is called eternal life.  It is going to be the best party you can imagine and everyone is invited.  You have received your invitation and it is in your hands whether you will attend.  God even provided us all with wedding clothes to wear in the form of His Son Jesus Christ.  Jesus provided the wedding clothes for us by what He did on the cross.  All you have to do to receive the gift of eternal life is put on the wedding clothes that Christ has provided for you, and you will be welcomed with open arms.  As we all walk through this life, let us all put on the wedding clothes provided by Jesus, and let us all help others change their clothes as well.

During your Bible reading today, what “key passages” stood out to you?  Leave a comment below to share what God is showing you about His Word today.

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Taking Action for Jesus


Daily Bible Reading – Matthew 17-19

Today’s Key Passage – Matthew 17:24-27

 

Our Bible reading today contains many great stories.  Reading Matthew 17 through 19 we see the Transfiguration, the disciples arguing about who would be the greatest, Jesus warning against temptation, the parable of the unforgiving debtor, Jesus teaching about marriage and divorce, and Jesus speaking to the rich young man just to name a few.  With all of these great stories to choose from, it may seem like an odd choice for me to write about Peter finding the coin in the fish’s mouth.  The simple truth is that when I was reading Scripture today, the Holy Spirit kept bringing me back to this passage.  The fact that a coin was found in a fish’s mouth was obviously a miraculous thing, and that alone warrants our attention.  Even more than that, though, I think this passage really gives us valuable insight about doing our part for God’s kingdom.

God (the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) is the sovereign ruler over the entire universe.  Everything imaginable is under the authority of God.  Everything that we have comes from God.  It all belongs to Him, and we are simply allowed to use it for a while we are here on this Earth.  Since we know this is true, Jesus could have simply reached into his pocket, pulled out the coin for the taxes, and handed it to Peter.  Just as Jesus multiplied bread and fish to feed thousands or turned water into wine, He could have also just created this coin and handed it over, but that was not His way in this story.  The end was the same as Peter ended up with the coin, but Jesus went about it differently.  To get the coin, Peter had to take action.  It was not just given to him, he had to go and do something for Jesus to get it.  To receive the coin for the taxes, Peter had to go out and do some fishing.  Do not get me wrong, that alone is some action.  He had to get some bait, get his fishing pole, go to the lake, cast, wait, etc.  Even more important than the action of having to fish, however, is the faith that Peter had to have.  If a friend of yours told you to go catch a fish and you would find a coin in its mouth, you would think your friend was insane.  When Jesus told Peter to do this, though, he did not question it.  He did not argue about the probability of success.  He did not argue about the amount of work that was involved to catch a single fish.  He did not beg Jesus for the coin.  Peter went and did what Jesus told him to do, and that, my friends, is faith.

God wants us to have everything we need, and He will provide for us, but to receive his gifts, we sometimes have to take action.  For some things like grace and salvation, God freely gives without expecting us to work for them.  For other things, God wants us to follow His directions.  He speaks to us daily about His will.  He tells us what He wants us to do just as Jesus instructed Peter.  He wants us to have the kind of faith in Him that Peter had.  When God speaks, He wants us to act upon His words, even if they seem impossible or improbable.  Listen to Him today.  What does He want you to do?  Where is He trying to lead you?  What would happen if you decided to just have faith in Him and follow His directions?  Whatever it might look like for you, take action today.  When we follow His directions, there is no limit to what we might find.

During your Bible reading today, what “key passages” stood out to you?  Leave a comment below to share what God is showing you about His Word today.

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Taking Our Eyes Off Of Jesus


Daily Bible Reading – Matthew 14-16

Today’s Key Passage – Matthew 14:22-33

 

When people think about Jesus, many times they think of the image of Jesus walking on water seen in today’s key passage.  It is certainly a grand display of His power and of His command over all of creation.  When Peter called out to Jesus, he was not testing Jesus.  In fact, he was the only person on the boat who reacted to Jesus in faith. (14:28)  Walking on water was an impossible task for Peter, but instead of focusing on the improbability of his success he focused on Jesus.  Basically, Peter was saying that even though the task seemed impossible, he would try it if it was Jesus’ will.  Jesus reply to this request was a simple one.  He did not need a long dissertation to explain to Peter HOW to walk on water or to explain the physics behind it or anything else.  Jesus simply replied to Peter’s request with one word – “Come“. (14:29)

This is how it should work with our faith.  When faced with impossible choices and impossible conditions, we should look to Jesus and ask Him what His will is for us.  Does He want us to step out in faith, or cower in the boat?  More often than not, His response will be for us to come.  We may not always be comfortable.  We might not always be doing exactly what WE want to do.  However, if we truly follow His guidance and live by HIS will, we will have to step out of that boat and walk with Him in faith.

When Peter stepped out of the boat, initially he was fine.  He was actually doing the impossible and walking on water because it was Jesus will for him.  It was only when Peter took his eyes off Jesus and noticed the wind and the waves and began focusing on the impossibility of his task that he started to sink. (14:30)  Once again, it is the same thing with us.  It is not enough for us to step out in faith.  We have to keep our eyes on Jesus.  We cannot start focusing on how hard it is to do what we are doing or on any storms that may pop up along the way.  If we do that, we will start to sink and fall into despair.  If we keep our eyes on Jesus and if we have complete faith in Him to make it happen, we will not sink.  We will continue to walk with Him on the water.  Furthermore, if we do lose focus and start to sink, we can take another lesson from Peter.  When he began to sink, he did not try to save himself.  He did the only thing he could possibly do in that situation – he reached out to Jesus. (14:30)  As humans we sometimes have a tendency to try to fix everything ourselves.  Jesus is the only real answer.  He is the only real solution.  If we find ourselves sinking, we must reach out to Him for help.  Instead of pulling away when we start to sink, it is at those times that we must draw closer to Him.  Just as He did with Peter, Jesus will save us in those circumstances.

If you cannot tell, I love this story.  I love the image of Jesus walking on the water, but even more than that, I love the message that the story conveys to us.  I constantly remind myself to step out of the boat and walk in faith.  I remind myself to do His will and not mine, and I remind myself to keep my eyes on Jesus.  He is the way, the truth, and the life.  If you have not taken the time yet today, reach out to Him.  Praise Him for being such an amazing God.  Ask Him to save you from sinking.  Thank Him for his help, and then remember to keep your eyes focused on Him.

During your Bible reading today, what “key passages” stood out to you?  Leave a comment below to share what God is showing you about His Word today.

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The Parable of the Weeds


Daily Bible Reading – Matthew 11-13

Today’s Key Passage – Matthew 13:1-43

 

Jesus often spoke to the people in parables.  He knew that people who were truly seeking Him would understand the parables if they were receptive, while others would simply hear the parables as meaningless stories. (13:13)

In the parable of the weeds, He talks about the weeds that grew among the wheat.  When they first start growing, the young weeds and the young wheat look exactly the same.  It is impossible to distinguish between the two until they become mature.  The servants were told by the owner not to try to pull up the weeds because they might inadvertently also root up the wheat.  Instead, the owner would allow the weeds to grow among the wheat until it was time for the harvest, and at that time, he would separate the weeds, burn them, and place the wheat in the barn.  Jesus went on to explain to His disciples that the field is the world, the good seed is the people of the kingdom, and the weeks are the people of the evil one. (13:37-43)

How many times have we heard people argue that God should just do away with all evil and bad things in the world right now?  While this would seem like the easy way to us, that is not God’s plan and that is not God’s timing.  The weeds (unbelievers) and the wheat (believers) are allowed to live together in this world for now, but eventually, the harvest WILL come.  Eventually, based on God’s perfect timing, all of the evil in this world WILL be pulled out and thrown into the fire.  As we wait for that day, we must stand firm and remember that we are the wheat.

 

During your Bible reading today, what “key passages” stood out to you?  Leave a comment below to share what God is showing you about His Word today.

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Disowning Jesus


Daily Bible Reading – Matthew 8-10

Today’s Key Passage – Matthew 10:17-33

 

I have a friend who is still afraid to acknowledge Jesus.  He is still in the “investigating” stage of his journey.  He has started going to church and has started reading the Bible, and he is really, really close to accepting Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior.  Yet, he is not quite ready to take that step.  He will not yet talk about Christianity in public.  Outside of me and one other believer, he does not really talk about faith outside of the church.  I pray every day that he will take that step, and I know that at some point the Holy Spirit will move him to action.  Until that day comes, I will wait, listen to him, try to answer his questions, and pray.

Jesus wants us to acknowledge Him.  He does not want to be disowned, and He is not just talking about acknowledging Him in our words.  He is not just talking about what we say to our friends about him or what we post on Facebook.  Jesus wants us to acknowledge Him in everything we do.  Jesus wants us to acknowledge Him in our actions.  We have all been in situations when we have to make the choice between acknowledging Him and disowning Him.  When a temptation arises for sin, we can acknowledge Jesus or disown Him.  When we are face to face with a non-believer, we can acknowledge Jesus or disown Him.  Regardless of what we say or write, our actions in those times need to match up to God’s Word.  Remember that our actions speak much louder than our words.  To most of the non-believers we know, the only interaction they have with Biblical Christianity is through us.  When given a choice, most non-believers will read our behavior before they read the Bible, so our actions must match up to what Jesus said in His Word.  We must acknowledge Him today.  Then on the Day of Judgment, we have nothing to fear because we will know that when Jesus sees us He will run to us with open arms and say, “Well done good and faithful servant”.

During your Bible reading today, what “key passages” stood out to you?  Leave a comment below to share what God is showing you about His Word today.

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Do Not Worry About Tomorrow


Daily Bible Reading – Matthew 5-7

Today’s Key Passage – Matthew 6:25-34

 

I have always been a person that worries a lot.  I am not really sure why, but I have spent most of my life worrying about things.  Will I be able to pay the bills?  Will I be able to do this or that?  Will this work out?  How will I be able to do this?  All of these thoughts have consumed me.  It is funny when I look back over some of the things that have caused me worry in the past.  In the grand scope of things, most of them seem pretty insignificant.  Even though I constantly battle this, I eventually realized that worry is really nothing more than a lack of faith.

In today’s key passage, Jesus tells us not to worry.  He tells us that God will provide for us.  He tells us that if God takes care of birds and flowers, he will most definitely take care of us.  Jesus knew that if we spent time worrying about things, those things would eventually overcome our entire lives.  If we spend time worrying about paying the bills and about money for example, then eventually money will begin to consume our thoughts.  Before you know it, we will start putting money first over God.  This is definitely not what God wants for us.  God wants us to put Him first.  Jesus tells us to seek first the Kingdom of Heaven and to seek first His righteousness.

When I feel myself starting to worry, I now have to stop myself and think about this passage.  I constantly remind myself of God’s love for me.  I constantly remind myself to seek first the Kingdom of Heaven.  I constantly remind myself that God is completely sovereign over the entire universe and that everything that happens is by His will and not mine.  Finally, I constantly remind myself to have faith in Him to provide what I need.  I cannot provide anything on my own.  Just as a loving father on earth provides for his children, our Father in Heaven will provide for us.

During your Bible reading today, what “key passages” stood out to you?  Leave a comment below to share what God is showing you about His Word today.

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Following God’s Instructions


Daily Bible Reading – Matthew 1-4

Today’s Key Passage – Matthew 1:18-25

 

In the days of Jesus’ birth, a Jewish marriage had three steps.  The two families agreed on a union, made a public announcement of the upcoming marriage, and then the couple got married and began living together.  When Mary discovered she was pregnant, it was during the second step in the marriage process.  Mary and Joseph were pledged to be married, but were not yet allowed to live together.  When others found out that Mary was pregnant before the actual marriage, both Mary and Joseph would face ridicule and would be seen as sinners.  During this second phase, the relationship could only be broken off by death or divorce.  When Joseph found out that Mary was pregnant, his initial thought was to divorce her quietly.  By Jewish civil law, he could have also chosen to have her stoned to death.  However, an angel of the Lord spoke to Joseph and explained the situation.  Joseph faced a difficult choice – to follow the instructions of others, or to follow the instructions of God.

We are all faced with the same difficult choice today.  We can live our lives according to what the world thinks, or we can live according to what God thinks. Most things we buy in a store come with an instruction manual.  We too have an instruction manual called the Bible.  In it, God tells us how we should live our lives.  I do not know about you, but the Bible I read is pretty thick.  It is filled with instructions for how to live a life that is pleasing to God, and most of these instructions are very different from the instructions of this world.  The world tells us to put ourselves first, but God instructs us to love Him more than we love ourselves.  The world tells us that other people do not matter, but God instructs us to love others and to serve them.  The world tells us to amass as much money as possible, but God instructs us to give freely of our time, money, and talents.  The world tells us not to talk about religion in public, but God instructs us to go out and preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth.  At the end of the day, we can choose to listen to what the world tells us to do and ignore what the Bible says, or we can choose to live by God’s Word.

Imagine how much different the story of Jesus’ birth would have been if Joseph would have chosen to care more about what other people thought than what God thought.  Imagine if Joseph decided to follow the world’s instructions instead of following God’s instructions.  We have the gift of hindsight when looking at the story of Joseph.  We can easily see how different things would have been if Joseph had chosen to ignore God’s instructions.  We do not have that luxury when looking at our own lives.  We do not know what will happen in the future or how many lives we might touch if we choose to follow God’s instructions, but we do know that God has given us a set of instructions to follow.  He has told us what to do in our lives.  Joseph faced a very difficult situation and chose to follow God’s instructions.  Every day, we must decide to do the same thing.

During your Bible reading today, what “key passages” stood out to you?  Leave a comment below to share what God is showing you about His Word today.

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May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you today.

Led Astray From Jesus


Daily Bible Reading – Psalm 124; 2 Corinthians 11-13

Today’s Key Passage – 2 Corinthians 11:1-15

 

As we discussed yesterday, the people in Corinth were being led astray from Jesus Christ.  False teachers had come in preaching a false gospel and shook the faith of the Corinthians.  Paul was worried for them.  He loved the Corinthians and did not want to see them fall away from their faith by following the wrong leaders.  He compares what is going on with the false apostles to what happened when Satan deceived Eve in the Garden of Eden, and he worried that the Corinthians would be led astray from their sincere and pure devotion to Christ.

When people first accept Christ, they experience this sincere and pure devotion to Jesus Christ that Paul describes.  When the Holy Spirit moves a person to begin a personal relationship with Jesus, he or she decides to put Jesus first in everything.  After the “bloom is off the rose” though, sometimes things change.  Sometimes, when hard times hit, people can be led astray.  Sometimes other things come up in life that take over the position of importance that was once reserved for Christ.  When a new believer turns to Christ, the enemy will do whatever he can to try to lead them back away from Him.

Jesus wants to be first in our lives.  He wants to come before everything else in our hearts.  When we put other things before Jesus, we are not truly honoring what He did for us the way we should.  It is an easy temptation in this world to get caught up in other things.  People can easily put money, work, school, relationships, addictions, and sin before Jesus.  Before long, people can begin spending less and less time with Him.  Prayers turn into an afterthought – something we do quickly right before we go to sleep.  Reading the Bible slows down and eventually stops altogether.  The person who was once “on fire” for the Lord is suddenly only lukewarm and then eventually ice-cold.  It is a real danger, and it happens a lot.

Daily devotion to Jesus Christ can keep us from being led astray.  Everyday, we should spend time thinking about what Jesus did for us.  Remember the joy you felt when you first encountered the living God?  Think of that joy daily.  Think about the changes He has made in your life.  Praise Him daily for His greatness.  Make reading the Bible and prayer a priority, scheduling a time and place daily to spend with the Lord.  Ask God for His help in putting Him first above everything else in your life.  When you sin, immediately confess it to God and ask for His forgiveness.  Trust in the Lord in all that you do, and never forget His enormous sacrifice for you.  Remember that the Holy Spirit is living inside of you and enables you to obey, and then rest in your new identity in Christ.

During your Bible reading today, what “key passages” stood out to you?  Leave a comment below to share what God is showing you about His Word today.

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Comparing Ourselves to God’s Standards


Daily Bible Reading – 2 Corinthians 7-10

Today’s Key Passage – 2 Corinthians 10:12-18

 

In Paul’s fourth letter to the Corinthians (captured in Scripture as 2 Corinthians), he spent some time in chapter 10 defending his authority and his ministry.  Other false teachers had come along and tried to lead the Corinthians away from the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  These false teachers attacked Paul and spent a lot of time trying to get the Corinthians to follow their teachings instead of the true teachings of Christ.  The false teachers were boasting about their own accomplishments and comparing themselves to Paul and with other teachers to try to gain credibility.  In today’s key passage, Paul says that comparing ourselves to other people is dangerous and that we are better off comparing ourselves to God’s standards.  In addition, instead of boasting about our own accomplishments, we should boast about what God has done through us.

What happens when we try to compare ourselves to others?  The first problem we encounter is when we find that others have things we do not have.  When we compare ourselves to others and find that they have more (possessions, money, spiritual gifts, etc.), we usually find ourselves being jealous.  This jealousy leads to ungratefulness for all of the things that God has given us.  Obviously, this is dangerous.  The second problem we encounter is when we find we have more than others do.  When we compare ourselves to others and find that we have more (possessions, money, spiritual gifts, etc.) we could begin to feel prideful – obviously another dangerous place to be.  As you can see, either way you go, comparing ourselves to others can lead to sin.

What if instead of comparing ourselves to others, we compare ourselves to God’s standards?  Keep in mind that God’s standard is perfection, which is pretty difficult.  As a simple way to illustrate this, take a look at the Ten Commandments.  When was the last time you violated one of these?  By God’s standard, anyone who violated a single one of these commandments would be forever separated from him.  That is, until Jesus Christ came along.  Jesus Christ allowed us to bridge the gap between God and us.  God knew that none of us could be perfect, so He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for our sins.  He had to make this sacrifice for us because He knew we could never live up to His perfect standards.  When you think of it like this, it makes it pretty hard to feel ungrateful about what He did for us, and it also makes it pretty hard to feel prideful for what we have done compared to what He did.  Instead of worrying about what others have or do not have, ask yourself how you compare to what God wants and how your life compares to Jesus Christ.  If we ask ourselves these questions daily, we will yearn to grow in our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

During your Bible reading today, what “key passages” stood out to you?  Leave a comment below to share what God is showing you about His Word today.

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We Are New Creations in Christ


Daily Bible Reading – 2 Corinthians 3-6

Today’s Key Passage – 2 Corinthians 5:11-21

 

When I was a kid, I was really into baseball cards.  I would collect them and put them into protective sleeves, and I can still remember the joy and excitement that came with opening a new package of cards to see what was inside.  The best part was trading the cards with my friends.  We would gather around with our cards and try to come up with trades, each giving up something in order to get what we really wanted.  While the details of every trade were different, there was one similarity – in each trade, both parties were giving up something of value.  No one would trade a priceless card for a worthless one.  This system of trade is common in most things in this world.

The trade that Jesus Christ made for us on the cross was entirely different.  He traded something priceless for something worthless.  He traded his righteousness for our sins.  He gave us eternal life, while bearing the weight of all of our baggage and sinfulness.  This was more than just an exchange or a trade – this was a gift.

When we become believers in Christ, we also make a trade.  We trade in our old lives for new ones.  At conversion, we are not fixed, repaired, or rehabilitated.  We are made entirely new creations.  Think about that for a second – WE ARE ENTIRELY NEW CREATIONS.  All of the old things that we used to be are dead – we are reborn in Christ.  What does this mean?  Does this mean we should continue to do the things we always did?  No.  Does it mean we will find pleasure and peace in the things that used to bring us pleasure and peace?  No.  We are entirely new.  When the Holy Spirit comes to live inside of us, He changes things around.  He does a complete overhaul.  All of a sudden, the things we used to enjoy now cause us pain.  The shows and movies we used to watch now become unwatchable.  The activities we used to engage in now become unacceptable.  Some people see this as “rules” or as God limiting us, but that is not the case.  We are not changed to try to take anything away from us.  The Holy Spirit changes us to help us understand what real pleasure and peace are.  We die to our old selves daily not because we are forced to by a set of rules, but because we want to.  The Holy Spirit makes us want to.  Furthermore, not only does the Holy Spirit convict us into wanting to change our behaviors, He gives us the power to do it.

How have you changed since asking Jesus to come into your life?  Can you quantify it?  Is it tangible?  Do you see huge differences in how you were vs. how you are today?  More importantly, do others see differences in how you were vs. how you are today?  If the answer is no, then it might be time to reevaluate if you have truly accepted Jesus Christ as the Lord of your life.  Are you still living for things outside of Him?  Are you a new creation or are you still your old self that has just been fixed a little bit here and there?  Die to your old self and your old ways, and be reborn in Christ Jesus.  The day of salvation is today.  The time is now.  Let tomorrow be the first day living as a new creation in Jesus Christ.

During your Bible reading today, what “key passages” stood out to you?  Leave a comment below to share what God is showing you about His Word today.

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May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you today.

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