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

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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Giving Our Best to God


Daily Bible Reading – Nehemiah 13; Malachi 1, 2; Acts 4

Today’s Key Passage – Malachi 1:6-14

In the Old Testament, offering animals as a sacrifice to God was an important ritual.  In the days of Malachi, the people in Jerusalem had started to deviate from God’s plan.  They were doing many sinful things, one of which is described in our key passage today.  The spirit of the original Old Testament offering was to bring God the best animals to be sacrificed, but the people of Jerusalem began bringing the crippled and diseased animals to God instead of their very best. (1:7-8)  God was not happy with the people for this, and refused to accept their offerings.

In the New Testament Jesus was the Lamb of God who offered himself as the ultimate sacrifice to God to take away the sins of the entire world.  His sacrifice put an end to the need for sacrificing animals, but even today, we are still called to make offerings to God.  We make offerings to God today in the form of our time, our talents, and our money.  We do this as a way to glorify God and to put him first in our lives and as a demonstration of our love and faith in Him.  Just as it was in Malachi’s day, it is important to give God our very best.

It is easy today to get off-course and to forget to give God our very best.  Sometimes due to other commitments that take up our time, talents, and money, we can have the tendency to try to give God what is “left over”.  This is not God’s desire for us.  When we have a guest over to our house for dinner, we would never offer them leftovers from a previous dinner.  We would make them a feast!  This is the same way we should treat God.  When we give God our best every day, we can be sure that our offerings will always be pleasing to 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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May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you today.

 

Answering Prayers


Daily Bible Reading – Nehemiah 11, 12; Psalm 1; Acts 3

Today’s Key Passage – Acts 3:1-10

 

The crippled beggar positioned himself in the same place every day – right at the entrance to the temple.  He did this because he felt it was the best place for him to be to get what he thought he really needed.  In the beggar’s mind, he believed money would be the answer to his prayers, so he sat in the same place daily hoping for someone to come along and give him something.  When Peter saw him, he had a different idea.  Peter told the man “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you” (3:6) and then he promptly healed the man by the power of Jesus Christ.  Peter was unable to answer the prayer the beggar was asking for, but that he had something much better to give him.  The power of the Holy Spirit healed the man and allowed him to walk.  Undoubtedly, this was a much better gift than a couple of coins.

I think God answers many of our prayers in the same way.  Often we are like the crippled beggar, begging God to give us what we think we really need.  When we fail to receive what we were begging for, it is easy to think that our prayer went unanswered.  In reality, though, that is not the case.  Perhaps God, in his infinite wisdom, knows that what we were begging for is not really what we needed.  God is amazingly faithful.  He hears and answers all of our prayers in one way or another.  The love that He has for each of us is unending.  He wants the very best for us in everything we do on a daily basis.  His plan for all of us is perfect and He always knows what He is doing.  When we surrender everything to Him and let Him take over everything in our lives, we allow God to do more than just answer our prayers.  When we trust in Him completely, sometimes instead of giving us what we have asked for, He can give us something much better.

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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Living in Community


Daily Bible Reading – Nehemiah 9, 10; Acts 2

Today’s Key Passage – Acts 2:42-47

 

Just as the Gospels provide us with a description of Jesus’ life and ministry, the book of Acts provides us with a description of the early days of the church and the first Christians.  The first Christians (even before they were called Christians) lived together in community, sharing everything they had with one another.  These early followers of Christ focused on four things – the apostles’ teaching, fellowship with one another, the breaking of bread together, and prayer. (2:42)  They lived a life modeled after the life of Jesus, and because they did, people were drawn to them and they “added to their number daily those who were being saved” (2:47).

How are you at living together in community?  Are you modeling the life of Jesus and the early Christians by focusing on the same four key things?  Sometimes it is hard to look past all of the temporal obligations we have on a daily basis such as work commitments, bills, and school assignments to focus on the eternal things that truly matter.  God did not design people to live on their own – He designed us to live in community with each other and to “do life together”.  One of the best things my wife and I ever did together was find a church where we could live life with other believers – not just one day a week but every day.  By living in community with other believers, we can stay focused on what really matters in life – the life-saving message of Jesus Christ and working for the kingdom of God.  Instead of living a life of solitude, when we live together in community with other believers, others will be drawn to us.  More importantly, when we live together in community with other believers, others will be drawn to a personal relationship with 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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Being Witnesses


Daily Bible Reading – Nehemiah 7, 8; Acts 1

Today’s Key Passage – Acts 1:1-11

 

Following Jesus’ death and resurrection, his disciples were hoping for swift action.  Like the other Jews of this time-period, they hated being under Roman rule, and they wanted Jesus to free Israel and be their king.  Jesus, however, had other plans.  He told them to be patient, informing them that God would work on his own timetable and would do things based on His design.  (1:7)  He also told them that instead of worrying about when that timetable would be, they should focus on being His witnesses. (1:8)

What does it mean to be a witness for Jesus?  For some people, being a witness means standing on a street corner and telling people about Christ.  For others, being a witness means telling the person sitting next to you on an airplane the good news of the Gospel.  For still others, being a witness means talking to family members and sharing your faith.  None of these are bad examples of being a witness, but by themselves, they are not a complete picture of what a witness should be.

Everyone has heard the saying that actions speak louder than words.  While it is important to share our faith with others and to try to bring as many people to Christ as possible, it is even more important to live like a Christ-follower every day.  Living a life modeled after the life of Jesus pays far greater dividends when trying to reach people for Christ than any words we can say.  Living a “Christ-like life” creates a joy and energy about us that can be seen and felt by every single person we encounter.  This irresistible lifestyle will draw people to us and make them think, “What can I do to have that kind of joy and energy in MY life?”  When we allow the Holy Spirit to live through us, we become the best possible witnesses for Christ without ever having to say a word.

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 Empty Tomb


Daily Bible Reading – Nehemiah 5, 6; Psalm 146; Luke 24

Today’s Key Passage – Luke 24:1-35

 

The women who went to the tomb were bringing spices to honor Jesus, in much the same way as people bring flowers to a cemetery today.  They wanted to pay their respects to the man they had followed for so long and who they thought had died.  The “two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning” (24:4) were angels of the Lord who said to them “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” (24:5)  The angels reminded the women that Jesus was not dead, and was instead resurrected just as He and the Scriptures had foretold.

Many people today still look for the living among the dead.  People hear the Gospel and believe it to be a history lesson that does not mean much to their current lives.  Many people believe that Jesus was “a great man” or “a great prophet” but are unable to see that He is so much more than that.  Like the men Jesus first appeared to after the resurrection on the road to Emmaus (24:13-35), many people are unable to recognize Jesus for who he really is.  He is not a fairy tale or a historical figure.  He is the living, breathing God who still reigns today in the hearts of Christ followers everywhere.

Following the resurrection, Jesus spent 40 days with His disciples.  At first, many of them had trouble understanding or believing that Jesus was alive and was standing with them.  After these 40 days, however, these disciples went on to start the Church.  Many of them were imprisoned, persecuted, exiled, and even killed because of their faith in Jesus Christ.  They withstood all of this punishment and refused to deny Jesus or renounce their faith for one simple reason – they had encountered the living Jesus and KNEW that He was exactly who he claimed to be – the Son of God who washed away the sins of the world.

Have you encountered the living Jesus?  He can show up in your life in a big way and live with you forever, and all you have to do is ask.

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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