Learning to Fly


Daily Bible Reading – Isaiah 50-52; Psalm 92; 2 Peter 1

Today’s Key Passage – 2 Peter 1:3-11

 

Airplanes have always fascinated me.  I have read all about Bernoulli’s Principle and I understand the physics of how a plane flies, but what really interests me are pilots.  Every time I walk past an open cockpit door, I am amazed that anyone could possibly learn how to use all of the buttons, switches, and gauges.  What looks like a jumbled mess to me is simply another day at the office for a trained pilot.  This thought brings me to an interesting question for today – what if someone walked up to you tomorrow and gave you an airplane?  I am talking about a genuine, no strings attached, free airplane.  It would certainly be an amazing and valuable gift, but for most of us, there would be a problem.  When we received the airplane, we would have everything we need to achieve flight, yet most of us still would not be able to fly because we do not know how to use the airplane.  We would find ourselves with a choice.  Either we could let the airplane sit around collecting dust, never to be used, or we could learn how to fly.

I thought about this question today as I read our key passage.  The apostle Peter says, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” (Vs. 3)  Many of us walk around this life with many questions in our heads.  We wonder if we are good enough, if we know enough, or if we can really fulfill God’s vision for us.  It is easy for us to think things like, “one day maybe I will be able to do this” or “one day maybe I will be able to stop doing that”.  What we often seem to forget is that when we were saved, the Holy Spirit came to live inside of us.  When that happened, God gave us everything we need to live a godly life and to follow him completely.  He gave us this free gift with no strings attached so that we “may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” (Vs. 4)  Just like when we received the free airplane, with the Holy Spirit we have everything we need to live a life that is fully pleasing to God and to serve Him completely.  The problem, though, is that we might not immediately know how to use the free gift.  Each of us has the full power of the Lord of Lords living inside of us, but if we do not learn how to use that power, it becomes as useless to us as the plane we do not know how to fly, and we spend our time trying to overcome sin and temptation through our own strength.  The good news is that we can learn to utilize the power of God in our lives.  Do not leave the power of God’s Holy Spirit sitting around collecting dust.  Spend the time getting to know how to use His free gift through prayer and Bible study, and you can learn how to fly.

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.

Surviving a Lion Attack


Daily Bible Reading – Isaiah 46-49; 1 Peter 5

Today’s Key Passage – 1 Peter 5:8-11

 

Lions are interesting animals.  As the king of the jungle, the lion is the ultimate predator.  In fact, the only time lions are considered prey is when they are being hunted by humans.  Lions hunt in packs, and they rely on teamwork to catch their prey and survive.  Like most good hunters, lions position themselves downwind of the animals they are hunting, and when they attack they look for either the animal that is alone or they go for the animal that is injured or the weakest of the herd.  When they find that weak target, they attack with the full force of the pack, bringing the prey down and sharing the reward.  Fortunately, lions rarely attack humans, but it does happen on occasion.  The best tip to avoiding a lion attack is to be aware of your surroundings and not risk encroaching on a lion’s territory.  If an attack does happen, your best bet is to stand your ground, face the lion head on, stretch your arms out wide, and yell as loudly as you can.  Since this is not typical “prey behavior”, the lion will often change its mind about the attack and walk away.

If you are wondering why I am telling you all of this about lions, the answer can be found in today’s key passage.  Peter tells us that, “the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (Vs. 8)  Like a lion, the enemy often waits for you to be at your most vulnerable point before attacking.  He might look for you in the moments when you are alone or cut off from other believers.  He might stalk you when you are feeling weak, tired, or helpless.  These are the times when the temptations to sin will attack you with their full force.  Just as we can with real lions, we can avoid most of these attacks by being “self-controlled and alert” (Vs. 8) but sometimes attacks are inevitable.  When an attack does happen, our best bet is to, “Resist him, standing firm in the faith.” (Vs. 9)  James gives us similar advice when he says, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7)

All of us can survive a “lion” attack – not by our own strength, but with the power of the Holy Spirit on our side.  When you are facing an attack, stand firm and resist it, remembering that, “the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” (Vs. 10)

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 End is Near


Daily Bible Reading – Isaiah 43-45; 1 Peter 4

Today’s Key Passage – 1 Peter 4:7-11

 

I played baseball for most of my childhood.  I started playing when I was five or six years old and played through high school.  During my senior year, one day about halfway through the season the realization hit me that the end was near because I knew that I did not have the skills necessary to play in college.  As mostly a relief pitcher, I never really knew when I was going to play, so I came to understand that any game could be my last.  With this in mind, I found myself working just a little bit harder in practice.  When I was called on to pitch in games, I found myself throwing just a little bit harder, and I found myself trying to relish every single minute I spent on the field.  I still remember the last game I ever played in high school.  After twelve or thirteen years of living a breathing baseball, I stood on that field one last time after the game was over.  As I stood there looking around the field, I thought about all of the fields I played on over the years.  I thought about all of the wins and all of the losses, all of the good times and the bad.  I experienced many emotions that day, but the one emotion I did not have was regret, because I knew I played all those years to the full extent of my ability.

In today’s key passage, Peter gives us a gentle reminder that the end of our days is near.  As followers of Christ, we know that we will leave this world either when Jesus comes for the rapture or when He decides our time is complete.  In either case, we do not know when our last day on earth will be.  It could be today, tomorrow, or 50 years from now.  Of course, we all realize that any day can be our last, but often we choose not to live with that in mind.  We always think we will have more time to love others or to try to save that unbelieving friend.  We think we will have more time to spend in prayer or in reading God’s Word.  We think we will have more time to live as Christ has asked and to fulfill His vision for our lives.  The bottom line, though, is that we simply do not know.  We cannot afford to procrastinate.  We cannot afford to put off until tomorrow what we could do today.  We have to live every day as if it might be our last.  When we do, we will find ourselves serving God just a little bit harder.  We will find ourselves praying just a little bit harder.  We will find ourselves trying to reach others for Christ just a little bit harder.  Then when we get to our last day, whenever that might be, we can look back on our lives without regret.  You never know when your last day will be.  Live like it is 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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Be Prepared


Daily Bible Reading – Isaiah 40-42; 1 Peter 3

Today’s Key Passage – 1 Peter 3:15-16

 

Most of us know that the Boy Scout motto is “Be Prepared”.  While I was never a Boy Scout, I still like to live with this motto in mind, as it just seems like good advice.  When I pack for a trip, I always pack more than I think I will need, just in case I end up having to stay another night or spill anything on my clothes.  In my vehicle, I always keep basic tools, a flashlight, and an air pump just in case I ever break down.  When going to a meeting or an appointment, I always leave a few minutes early just in case I am caught in traffic.  These are just a few of the ways in which I try to be prepared for the worst-case scenario.

We can also strive to be prepared for the best-case scenario.  In today’s key passage, the apostle Peter gives us two pieces of advice to help us be prepared for the best scenario of all – sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.  First, he says, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect”. (Vs. 15)  Peter knew a very simple truth that each of us should keep in mind – you never know when someone might ask you about your faith, and when this happens, we must be prepared to answer.  The best way to be prepared for this eventuality is through practice.  Practice telling friends or family members your personal testimony.  When asked about our faith, often the most appropriate response is not to tell others what Jesus can do for them, but rather what Jesus has done for you.  By using this approach, you can gently and respectfully share your faith and avoid making the other person feel defensive.

The second way to be prepared to share the Gospel is through the way you live your life.  Peter continues his earlier thought by saying, “keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” (Vs. 16)  When we live according to God’s Word, we keep a clear conscience and avoid the guilt that accompanies sin.  When others see our behavior in action, they will be able to observe firsthand the power of God in our lives.  For some people, this might be enough to cause them to seek God on their own, wanting to change their own lives for the better.  For others, while your behavior may not stop them from slandering you entirely, it will cause their words to serve only as an embarrassment for them.

Our complete witness for Christ is a combination of what we say and what we do.  When we are able to share our story about how God has changed our lives, and are able to back up that story with our actions and behaviors, we will always be prepared.

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.

The Story of Your Life


Daily Bible Reading – 2 Kings 20; Isaiah 38,39; Psalm 75; 1 Peter 2

Today’s Key Passage – 2 Kings 20:20-21

 

Have you ever noticed that there is usually a big difference between a person’s autobiography and a biography written by another author?  This seems to happen quite often with public figures.  A celebrity or politician will write an autobiography, and then someone else will come along and write a biography about that person and the two books will be remarkably different.  The stories and events included in the two books will differ.  The spin will differ.  Sometimes the overall impression about the person will differ.

If you were to write the story of your life, what would it look like?  You might write about your childhood or you might write about some key events in your life.  Perhaps you would include stories about some of your greatest accomplishments.  In contrast to that book, if God were to write the story of your life, what would that book look like?  I thought about this today, and I believe that for most of us, the two books would be remarkably different.

For the last few days, we have been reading about Hezekiah, king of Judah.  During Hezekiah’s life, perhaps his greatest secular accomplishment was the building of a 1777-foot tunnel from the Gihon spring to the Pool of Siloam.  When facing an attack by the Assyrians, Hezekiah wanted to ensure that his enemy could not cut off his water supply, so he had his men build this tunnel to provide the people of Jerusalem fresh drinking water throughout the siege.  Militarily, it was a brilliant move for a king to make, and if Hezekiah were writing the story of his life, it likely would have been highlighted.  Hezekiah might have spent several chapters writing about the construction of this tunnel, and what it meant for his people.  Interestingly, though, in the Bible it is barely mentioned.  We read about it briefly in 2 Chronicles 32, and we see it again today in our key passage.  This story, which might have been a highlight of Hezekiah’s autobiography, was only mentioned in four verses in the story of Hezekiah told by God.

In each of our lives, we all have events and accomplishments that we might think are important.  There are things that each of us would likely choose to highlight in our own autobiographies.  At the end of the day, though, what we would write about ourselves does not really matter much.  What is truly important is what God would write about us if He were writing our biographies.  His book about us would be about our faith and our trust in Him, and all of the earthly things that we consider important would barely be mentioned.  As you think about your life on a daily basis, think about the book God is writing about you.  Think about the things you are doing and not doing that He thinks are important.  Think about the story of your life, as written by the Creator of the universe, and make sure you are giving Him good material to work with.

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.

Praying for the Right Reasons


Daily Bible Reading – Isaiah 36-37; Psalm 76; 1 Peter 1

Today’s Key Passage – Isaiah 37:14-20

 

Even before I was saved, I used to spend time praying before going to sleep at night, though I vary rarely prayed for the right reasons.  For example, I would often pray that God would allow me to win the lottery.  Moreover, I did not want to win the lottery so I could do anything good like helping the homeless or building a church.  I wanted to win the lottery so I could buy a big house and a Ferrari.  Of course, looking back on it now my prayers were nothing short of sinful, yet at the time I was always at least a little surprised and disappointed when my lottery numbers failed to win.  See, I used to look at prayer the same way a small child looks at blowing out the candles on a birthday cake.  I would simply make a wish and hope for the best.  I never gave any thought to praying for the right reasons or praying according to God’s will, mostly because at that point in my life I had never actually read the Bible.

Hezekiah was a man who knew how to pray for the right reasons.  As we saw in yesterday’s reading, the Assyrian king had Jerusalem besieged, and was threatening to attack.  In the face of a seemingly hopeless situation, Hezekiah went to God in prayer.  Fortunately for us, the text of his prayer is preserved in our key passage today (as well as in 2 Kings 19).  Hezekiah began his prayer by praising and exalting God. (Vss. 15-16)  He then asked God to deliver his people from the hands of the Assyrians, but perhaps not for the reason you might think.  Hezekiah did not ask to be delivered to save himself from death or exile.  He did not even ask to be delivered simply to save his people.  Hezekiah asked God to be delivered, “so that all kingdoms on earth may know that you alone, O LORD, are God.” (Vs. 20)

When we pray, we need to constantly seek to know God’s will and not our own.  So how do we know if our prayers are in line with God’s will?  One good way to test our prayers is by asking ourselves who would benefit if our prayers were granted.  If our prayers only benefit ourselves, we are probably not praying according to God’s will.  Even if our prayers benefit others, we still may not be praying according to His will.  The true test is whether or not the answer to our prayers will advance God’s Kingdom.  The more we learn about the Lord through his Word and the more we grow in Him, the better we will get at discerning His will.  When we know and surrender to God’s perfect will, we will find that we are able to pray for the right reasons.

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.

Competing Messages


Daily Bible Reading – 2 Kings 18,19; 2 Chronicles 32; James 5

Today’s Key Passage – 2 Kings 18:17-37

 

In my job, I have spent a lot of time in airports over the years.  One thing I have learned about airports is that there are many competing messages you have to deal with.  When sitting at a gate waiting on a flight, it is common to hear all of the messages from the surrounding gates.  There have been many times when I have heard a message about a delay, a cancellation, or a gate change, and wrongly believed the affected flight was my own.  If you are not paying close attention, and if you do not check the source of the message, it is easy to be confused or led astray.

In today’s key passage, the people in Jerusalem had to deal with competing messages.  The Assyrian forces had already captured all of the fortified cities in Judah and were threatening to attack Jerusalem.  King Hezekiah told the people not to be afraid because God would fight for them (2 Chronicles 32:7-8), but the field commander of the Assyrian army had a different message.  He told the Israelites that God could not help them against his vast army. (Vss. 33-35)  He told them that Hezekiah was lying to them about God’s protection, and made many promises in an attempt to get them to surrender. (Vss. 31-32)  If they were not careful, the people in Jerusalem could have easily been confused or led astray by listening to the wrong message.

All of us have to face competing messages on a seemingly daily basis.  The messages might be different people asking for or telling us different things, or they might be competing activities vying for our time.  The most common example of competing messages is when our own consciences tell us one way to live while the world around us tells us another.  In each case, we have to be very careful.  The last thing we want is to become confused or to be led astray.  We need to check the source of the messages we receive, and we have to compare them to the Word of God.  As we grow in the Lord through spending time with Him daily, we will get better at discerning which messages we should listen to and which ones we should disregard.  Like the field commander’s message, the most tempting messages to listen to will be the ones promising you great things.  Always keep in mind, though, that if these messages conflict with what you know about God, then the promises are nothing more than empty lies.  Stand firm in the Lord, and keep His messages closest to your heart.

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 Restoration Project


Daily Bible Reading – 2 Chronicles 29-31; James 4

Today’s Key Passage – 2 Chronicles 29:1-30

 

When Hezekiah became king at the age of twenty-five, he knew the people of Judah needed to return to God.  After sixteen years under the leadership of the evil king Ahaz, they were in desperate need of a major restoration project.  Most of us at some point in our lives are going to stumble and fall, and when we do, we will need the same thing.  Whether we are away from God for an hour or for years, we can learn a lot about restoring our relationship with God by the steps King Hezekiah took with the people of Judah.

During Ahaz’s reign, he closed the temple, so the first step Hezekiah took was to reopen it. (Vs. 3)  For us today, our lives and our hearts are our temples, and when we turn away from God, we close them down.  To begin our restoration project, we must reopen our hearts to God.  Hezekiah knew how far the people were from God, and he recognized the consequences of their sins. (Vss. 6-10)  We must also acknowledge the consequences of our own sinfulness, and seek to place God back into the forefront of our lives.

Hezekiah’s next step was to remove everything from the temple that was offensive to God. (Vss. 16-17)  In addition, he replaced all of the unclean and evil items with items that would be pleasing to God. (Vss. 18-19)  As we continue our own restoration projects, we must do the same thing.  We must remove anything from our lives that has caused us to stray from God’s path, and replace the evil inside of us with God’s Word and His Spirit.  Just as Hezekiah rededicated the temple to the Lord (Vss. 20-23), we must rededicate our lives to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  While Hezekiah had to sacrifice animals as a sin offering to God (Vss. 24-28), all we need to do is ask God for forgiveness of our sins and recognize the perfect sacrifice already made for us by Christ.

The final step in Judah’s restoration and our own is praising God. (Vss. 29-30)  Once we have successfully restored our relationship with Him, we can praise Him for His mercy, His grace, and His forgiveness.  The wonderful thing about God is that no matter how far away from Him we might become or how broken we may be, we can always be restored to a right relationship with Him.  If you have found yourself far from God recently, begin your restoration project today.  The sooner you begin, the sooner you will be able to rest in the loving arms of 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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Serving More Than One God


Daily Bible Reading – 2 Kings 17; 2 Chronicles 28; Psalm 46; James 3

Today’s Key Passage – 2 Kings 17:24-33

 

For the past week, we have been reading Isaiah’s prophesies against the Israelites.  Isaiah warned them that they were going to be conquered by the Assyrians and sent into exile.  In today’s reading, this event finally came to fruition.  The king of Assyria brought foreigners in to live in the towns of Samaria. (Vs. 24)  Because these foreign people did not worship God, He sent lions to kill some of them. (Vs. 25)  In a panic, the Assyrian king sent one of the exiled priests back to Bethel to teach the new inhabitants how to worship the Lord. (Vs. 28)  Unfortunately, there was a problem with this plan.  The new inhabitants of Israel began worshiping God in an effort to appease Him, but at the same time, they wanted to continue worshiping their other gods. (Vss. 29-32)  The people were trying to serve more than one god, which is definitely not what God wanted, and would later lead to their destruction.

Like the rest of the Bible, this story is as relevant today as it was when it happened.  Even today, many people feel the temptation to try to serve God while still clinging to the “gods” of their past.  These “gods” might be money, a possession, a person, or an activity.  When we are saved, God begins changing us for the better.  Because of this change, there are going to be things from our past lives that are no longer acceptable for a follower of Christ.  This process is different for each one of us.  For example, one person might find that he can no longer drink alcohol at all while another person might find it acceptable to have a drink occasionally.  The problem, however, lies in the person who is not willing to be changed.  A person who spends Sunday mornings worshiping God and then every Friday night getting drunk with their friends is trying to serve more than one god.  A person who reads all about a Godly marriage in the Bible but continues to cheat on his wife is trying to serve more than one god.  There is a big difference between trying to appease God and trying to please him, and attempting the former without concentrating on the latter simply does not work.  God is not looking to be one of many gods you are serving.  He is the one true God and He wants to be the only God in your life.  If you have other gods you are trying to serve, get rid of them.  There is only room for one God in your 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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Belief vs. Obedience


Daily Bible Reading – Isaiah 32-35; James 2

Today’s Key Passage – James 2:14-26

 

How many Christians do you know?  It seems like an easy question to answer, but for most of us, it is not.  In our society today, the line of who is and who is not a Christian has become a bit blurred.   From pop stars wearing crosses to people marking “Christian” in their religious views on Facebook, there are many people today claiming to be followers of Christ.  The problem is that in many cases, people are calling themselves Christians without really understanding what that word means.  It has become somewhat diluted over time.  For the first 30 years or so of my life, I claimed to be a Christian.  When anyone asked me about my religious beliefs, I always said I was a Christian, but my behavior did not match up to my claims.  I believed in God.  I even believed in Jesus.  What I did not understand, however, is that there is a big difference between belief and obedience.

In today’s key passage, James talks about empty faith.  He talks about people claiming to have faith in God whose actions do not match their words.  Apparently, this has been an issue since the beginning of Christianity.  There have always been people who have claimed to be Christians without following through on their claims, and the line has always been blurred in the difference between belief and obedience.  James said, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.” (Vs. 19)  The bottom line is that belief in God is simply not enough.  Knowing about God or knowing the story of Jesus does not make a person a Christian.  Going to church on Sunday or reading the Bible does not make a person a Christian.  Believing in God does not make a person a Christian, because even the demons believe in God.  While we are all initially saved by God’s grace alone, what makes a person a true follower of Christ is obedience.  Jesus never said, “You are my friends if you believe in me”.  He never said, “You are my friends if you go to church on Sunday or get a cross tattoo”.  What Jesus actually said was, “You are my friends if you do what I command.” (John 15:14)  The mark of a Christian does not lie in belief.  The mark of a true follower of Christ lies in obedience.   Make sure your words are matching up to your actions.

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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