I Did Not Know…


Daily Bible Reading – Job 16; Acts 21-23

Today’s Key Passage – Acts 22:30 – 23:11

 

Much like our current US criminal law, in Paul’s day Jewish law said that no man could be punished for a crime without being found guilty during trial.  Ananias, as the high priest, was charged with representing all of the Jewish laws, yet he commanded his men to hit Paul. (23:2)  This command was a violation of the very law Ananias was supposed to be upholding, and Paul immediately snapped at Ananias and accused him of violating the law.  When the people of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were outraged that Paul would insult the high priest, to which Paul responded by saying that he did not know Ananias was in such an important position. (23:5)

Biblical scholars offer a few different interpretations for this verse of Scripture.  Some say Paul did not know Ananias was the high priest because Paul had been away from Jerusalem for a few years.  Other scholars say that perhaps Paul’s eyesight was poor.  One other interpretation of this verse (and one that I believe is correct) is that Ananias’ actions of commanding the striking of Paul were so far from the duties of a high priest, that Paul never imagined that this man could be the high priest.

All of us have experienced times when our actions did not line up with our duties as Christ followers.  When we yell at the guy who cut us off in traffic, act rudely to the cashier who is not checking us out as quickly as we would like, or judge someone else harshly for a mistake, we are not acting the way Jesus would expect us to act as His disciples.  One of the worst things a Christ follower can hear from another person is “I did not know you were a Christian”.  When another person is shocked to learn we are Christians, it is usually because our actions are so far from the duties of what a follower of Christ should be that the person was unable to recognize that we might be Christians.  The best way we can help draw people to Christ is by our actions.  We can talk all day about how wonderful it is to be a Christian or about how much God has changed us, but if our actions do not reflect that, we are not being good witnesses for Christ.  When we let the Spirit flow through us and we remember that while we are IN this world we are not OF this world, we can help draw people closer to Jesus Christ and to salvation.

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 Incomplete Believer


Daily Bible Reading – Job 15; Acts 19, 20

Today’s Key Passage – Acts 19:1-22

 

When Paul arrived at Ephesus, he encountered twelve men who were believers in Jesus Christ.  They believed in Jesus as the Messiah, but they knew little about the significance of his death and resurrection and knew nothing about the Holy Spirit.  They said they received the baptism of John, but were not yet baptized into the name of Jesus Christ.  Once they learned more about the whole story of Jesus, they were baptized into His name and received the Holy Spirit.

These men were incomplete believers.  They knew part of the story – they knew that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah and that they needed to repent, or turn from, their sins.  What they did not know was that they also needed to turn to Jesus Christ and put all of their faith and trust in Him.  Without this knowledge, they were incomplete and were only halfway to where they needed to be.

I lived most of my life as an incomplete believer.  I knew the story of Jesus Christ.  I knew about His life, death, and resurrection and I knew that He died for my sins.  I was taught all of this as a child in Sunday School each week.  Unfortunately, I had a very limited understanding of the Bible and almost no understanding of repentance or of turning to Jesus in faith.  I believed that because I knew about Jesus and because I always apologized to Him in prayer when I sinned, that I was a “good person”.  Sadly, my beliefs were flawed and incomplete, and my life was empty and meaningless.  When I finally saw the light and got the complete picture of what it really means to be a follower of Christ, I found the missing piece of the puzzle.  The Holy Spirit entered my life and radically changed me.  I spent the first 33 years of my life living for me.  Now that I know the Way and the Truth and the Light, I plan to live the rest of my life living for Him.

We all probably know people who, like the twelve men Paul met in Ephesus, are incomplete believers.  Maybe they know part of the story, but they do not really know Jesus.  Maybe they have never walked with Him, and maybe they have never felt the incredible feeling of His unconditional love.  Our mission as followers of Christ is not just to reach the people who have never heard of Jesus, but also to reach out to the incomplete believers.  Paul did not just pass by the twelve men in Ephesus.  He knew they could find greater purpose and meaning if they knew the complete picture, so he took the time to tell them about the real Jesus.  We can do the same thing today.

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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Job’s Hope


Daily Bible Reading – Job 13, 14; Acts 17, 18

Today’s Key Passage – Job 14:7-17

 

In the days of the Old Testament, there was not much talk about the resurrection of the dead.  At this point in history, Jesus Christ had not yet lived as a man, died, and been resurrected, so there was a lot of pessimism about what happens to a man after death.  If you know the story of Job, you know that he was dealing with a lot of turmoil, both physically and mentally.  This pain was not due to anything he had done wrong as some of his friends believed, but he still had to deal with it.  In today’s key passage, we can clearly see some of Job’s pessimism about death, but more importantly, we can also see Job’s hope for eternal life.  Given Job’s current pain and suffering, he was hoping for life after death.  He was hoping for a time when he would be renewed and when his sins would be forgotten.  In John 14:19, Jesus said, “Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me.  Because I live, you also will live.”  Obviously, Job did not know about this because it had not yet happened, but Job still had hope that this would come to pass.

We have a distinct advantage over Job.  We no longer have to hope for eternal life.  We do not have to wonder about what will happen when we die.  We have God’s Word that tells us exactly what will happen.  We know about the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and we know what that means for us.  Aside from John 14:19, we can also look to other areas of the bible that tell us exactly what Jesus said about the subject.  Here are two of the many examples:

“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” (John 5:24)

“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.” (John 3:36)

We have God’s divine Word that tells us that we CAN have eternal life.  If we choose to accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, and if we repent of our sins, we can all be saved.   How powerful is it that we can move outside of just “hoping” for something to happen and it can instantly become truth.  Do you know people who are still “hoping” for eternal life?  Are there people in your life who do not know about the promise of Jesus Christ?  YOU can help them today.  YOU can help them move past hoping to truth.  YOU can share with them the gift of God’s mercy.  YOU can tell them what Job could only hope for – that they can live forever with 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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Finding the Silver Lining


Daily Bible Reading – Job 11, 12; Acts 15, 16

Today’s Key Passage – Acts 16:16-34

 

During Paul’s second missionary journey, he and Silas were in Philippi preaching the Gospel and bringing people to Christ.  As was common in the early days of Christianity, they were beaten and thrown in jail.  Paul and Silas could have spent their time in prison pining away for their freedom.  They could have become mired in self-pity due to their circumstances, or even cursed God for allowing them to be imprisoned.  Fortunately, Paul and Silas did not do any of that.  Instead, they spent their time in jail, “praying and singing hymns to God“. (16:25)  When the doors of the prison suddenly flew open (16:26), they could have immediately run away, thankful for their freedom.  Instead, they stayed and told the jailer, “We are all here!” (16:28)  Paul and Silas knew that being imprisoned was a bad circumstance, but instead of dwelling on the dark clouds of their present condition, they decided to find the silver lining.  Due to their imprisonment, they were able to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the jailer and save him and his entire family from ultimate destruction.

We often find ourselves in bad situations, and most of us know what it is like to feel completely helpless and out of control.  When we find ourselves in those situations, we have a choice.  We can pine away for better circumstances, become mired in self-pity, or even curse God for allowing us to be in our current circumstances.  Alternately, we can find the silver lining.  We can stop and realize that everything that happens to us is for a reason and is part of God’s plan.  Instead of dwelling on our circumstances, we can try to figure out how we can use our present conditions to further the Kingdom of God.  When a woman is hospitalized for a serious medical condition and uses her time to preach the Gospel to the nurse she sees every day and leads her to Christ, she has found the silver lining.  When a man loses his money and his possessions and must live on the street and he leads someone he meets at a soup kitchen to Christ, he has found the silver lining.  We can all search for the silver lining, and when we find it, it will make all the difference in the world.

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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Pleasing the Masses


Daily Bible Reading – Job 9, 10; Acts 13, 14

Today’s Key Passage – Acts 14:8-20

 

When we put our trust in trying to please a crowd, we can often become disappointed pretty quickly.  Crowds tend to have a “what have you done for me lately” mentality and can move their affections from one idea to another in the blink of an eye.  Jesus knew about this danger and, “would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men. He did not need man’s testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man”. (John 2:24-25)

In today’s key passage, we find another example of the fickle nature of crowds.  Paul and Barnabas preached the Gospel to many people in the early days of Christianity.  While preaching in Lystra, they healed a man who was, “crippled in his feet, who was lame from birth and had never walked” (14:8).  The people of Lystra were so overjoyed with the healing, they believed that Paul and Barnabas must be gods.  Paul and Barnabas immediately tried to put an end to this thinking, telling the crowd plainly that they were only human. (14:15)  Despite their protests, Paul and Barnabas still had difficulty keeping the crowd from sacrificing to them. (14:18)   Amazingly, though, in the very next sentence, we see that Paul was stoned and left for dead because, “some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over“. (14:19)

The fact is that we will never be able to please everyone.  Try as we might, there will always be someone willing to “stone” us – perhaps not literally, but figuratively.  If we live our lives trying to please the masses, we will often feel empty and disappointed when it does not work out for us.  If we live our lives trying to please God, though, we will find true happiness, because God does not suffer from the same fickle nature as man.  He is always true to His word, and He is always faithful to us, regardless of the situation.  Instead of trying to please the masses, focus on pleasing Jesus.  When we do, we will never be disappointed.

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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Unexpected Answers


Daily Bible Reading – Job 6-8; Acts 12

Today’s Key Passage – Acts 12:1-18

 

Most of us have probably experienced a time when our prayers were seemingly unanswered or when we had to wait for an answer from God.  This is a fairly common situation and one that we see time and time again in Scripture.  Today’s key passage is basically the opposite of this circumstance.  In it, God answered a prayer quickly – so quickly in fact that His answer was unexpected.

King Herod arrested some of the early Christians, including Peter.  Herod’s plan was likely to execute Peter after the Passover celebration, and he was holding Peter in prison until Passover was over.  Some of the other believers were staying in the house of Mary, the mother of John Mark.  They were praying for Peter’s release from prison and safe return to them.  While in prison, an angel of the Lord appeared to Peter and rescued him from jail – an answer to all of the prayers of the other believers.  When Peter showed up at Mary’s house after his rescue, though, a curious thing happened.  The believers, faced with the answer to their prayers, initially did not believe.  When they finally checked and saw that it was indeed Peter at the door, they were “astonished” that God had answered their prayers. (12:16)

God hears all of our prayers, and He answers those prayers according to His will.  1 John 5:14-15 says, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.”  When we pray to our Lord, we should do so believing that He will answer our prayers.  We should cling to our faith in our Father in Heaven that He will do what is right for us in all things and in all ways, for He loves us unconditionally.  When He answers our prayers, we should not be surprised at all by His faithfulness.  Instead, we should simply be thankful to a loving and perfect God, and praise Him for His providence.

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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The Narrow Path


Daily Bible Reading – Job 5; Psalm 108; Acts 10, 11 

Today’s Key Passage – Acts 10:1-48

 

Recently I watched a documentary based on Lee Stobel’s book The Case for Faith.  In it, the author discusses many of the common questions that people have about faith in Christ.  One of the most common objections to Christianity is that the path to salvation is too narrow.  In John 14:6, Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” For many unbelievers, this sounds too exclusionary.  They reason that faith in Christ cannot be the only way to salvation, because many people in this world might never hear about Him.  These unbelievers often look to people living in third-world countries as examples, claiming that they might never get the opportunity to hear the Gospel.  They use this logic to surmise that God’s plan for salvation would not discount such people.  Sadly, because of this belief, many people never give their lives to Christ and therefore never gain eternal life.

Fortunately, the answer to this objection can be found in today’s key passage.  The centurion Cornelius was a Gentile Roman officer.  As such, in the earliest days of Christianity, he did not have much of a chance of hearing the Gospel of Jesus Christ because it was against Jewish law for Jews to associate with Gentiles.  Cornelius, though, was a God-fearing man.  He gave to those in need and prayed regularly to God. (10:2)  We learn in Hebrews 11:6 that God, “rewards those who earnestly seek him”, so God sent an angel to Cornelius telling him where to find Peter.  Cornelius was obedient (10:7-8), found Peter (10:21-23), heard the Good News about Christ (10:39-43), and was saved (10:44-48).

The path to salvation is narrow.  There is only one way to receive eternal life and that is through faith in Jesus Christ.  This, however, is anything but exclusionary.  Salvation is open to all people, regardless of background, race, nationality, or past indiscretions.  People who think that God would allow a small thing like geography keep someone from hearing the Good News about Christ do not fully understand the sovereignty of God.  He rewards those who earnestly seek Him, so anyone who is sincerely looking to find God will be given the opportunity to hear the Gospel.  The next time you hear someone claiming that the path to salvation through Christ is too narrow, point them to the story of Cornelius.  Then pray that they will accept God’s free gift of eternal life.

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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The Unlikely Messenger


Daily Bible Reading – Job 3, 4; Acts 8, 9

Today’s Key Passage – Acts 9:1-22

 

In today’s key passage, we find the conversion of a man named Saul.  Saul, later called Paul, was a notorious persecutor of Christians who witnessed and approved the stoning of Stephen for preaching the Gospel (7:54-60).  One day, as Saul was walking to Damascus in search of Christians to imprison, the Risen Christ met him on the road.  This meeting with Jesus, as well as the events that followed with a disciple named Ananias, led to Saul’s miraculous conversion to Christianity.  He was immediately baptized and began preaching the Gospel to others, spreading the good news about Jesus.

Paul’s encounter with the living Christ led to a dramatic transformation in his life.  He went from hunting Christians to leading them, and would go on to shape the history of Christianity more than perhaps any other apostle.  While Paul undoubtedly had lived a sinful and evil life before he came to Christ, his transformation made him an amazing witness to others of what Jesus can do in a person’s life.  Jesus did not let Paul’s past get in the way of the mission He had in mind for Paul, and even though Paul was certainly not looking for a personal relationship with the living God, Jesus still searched him out and found him in His own time.

The story of Paul gives all of us hope.  It proves that no one is too far away from God.  It shows us that no matter what we have done in the past, and no matter where we might be in the present, God is searching for us and has a plan for our future.  Due to his past, Paul was an unlikely messenger of the Gospel who was transformed into one of the greatest messengers of all.  God continues to encounter people every day and transform their lives to advance His kingdom.  Do you know someone who might be far away from God due to his or her past or present?  Share with them the story of Paul today, and let them know that there is hope for the future 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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Weathering the Storm


Daily Bible Reading – Job 1, 2; Acts 6, 7

Today’s Key Passage – Job 2:1-10 

Stories of bad things happening to good people constantly bombard us.  Many people believe that God should shield good people from the bad things in life, and that if He really loved us He would not allow these bad things to happen.  We must realize, however, that the bad things that happen today are all due to a series of events that began in the Garden of Eden when Eve ate the apple.  Man’s rebellion from God changed a perfect world into an imperfect one.  While God is more than capable from putting an end to all of the suffering in the world today, that is not His plan.  It is difficult for our human minds to understand God’s plan sometimes, but that is because a human mind can never fully comprehend God.

God knew that Job was a good man.  He viewed Job as “blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil”. (2:3)  Satan argued that Job was only faithful to God because God had been so good to him and had never given Job a reason to lose his faith. (2:4-5)  God, fully knowing what the outcome would ultimately be, allowed Satan to test Job. (2:6)  In the first test (1:6-22), Job lost his possessions and his family.  In the second test (2:7), Satan inflicted physical pain on Job.  Throughout the tests, Job remained faithful to God.  Even when Job’s wife chided him for staying faithful to God, he continued to be blameless.  Job told his wife “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (2:10)  Job knew that while it is easy to be faithful to God during good times, it is the mark of a truly good man to be faithful during bad times.

In the face of adversity, clinging to God is the only way to weather the storm.  Do not give up on Him.  The enemy uses these bad times as the perfect opportunity to try to test our faith.  We learn from the story of Job that Satan is only allowed to do what God lets him do, and God will never let him give us more than we can handle.  Stay faithful to God in the good times and the bad, and live a life blameless and upright in His sight.

 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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Facing Persecution


Daily Bible Reading – Malachi 3, 4; Psalm 148; Acts 5

Today’s Key Passage – Acts 5:17-42

 

In the early days of Christianity, the ruling authorities warned Peter and John many times not to preach about Jesus Christ.  Each time they received a warning, they went right back to doing what they knew was right, and they continued to share their faith and tell others the good news about Jesus.  They did this because they knew they “must obey God rather than men“. (5:29)  Because of this decision to continue preaching the Gospel, they faced brutal persecution.  Today’s key passage marks the first of many times that the Apostles were beaten.  When the beating was finished, Peter and John “left the Sanhedrin, REJOICING because they had been counted worthy [by God] of suffering disgrace for the Name [of Jesus Christ].” (5:41)  It requires a tremendous amount of faith to rejoice in persecution, and the Apostles had this faith, for they knew that they were doing the right thing.

Christians today are still facing persecution to some degree.  Most of us, however, face persecution in the form of mocking, ridicule, and exclusion as opposed to being beaten and jailed (though unfortunately that does still happen in some parts of the world).  Sometimes it is difficult to see this persecution as a blessing, but we must always remember that if we are persecuted for our faith, it is only because God has counted us worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.  Jesus never said that living our lives for Him would be easy while on this earth.  Fortunately, no matter what persecutions we face here, we know we can count on blessings in Heaven.  On that day, when we stand face to face with the resurrected Christ, we can know we will never shed another tear.

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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