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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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.

At the Cross


Daily Bible Reading – Nehemiah 3, 4; Luke 23

Today’s Key Passage – Luke 23:32-43

 

In the events leading up to the death of Jesus, He suffered many things.  He was beaten, whipped, spit on, mocked, and nailed to a cross.  He knew that it was God’s will and God’s plan that all of this had to happen to Him, but he still must have been in complete agony.  I cannot even begin to imagine the pain Jesus must have felt on that fateful day.  Despite his misery, Jesus still asked God to forgive the people who had caused him the most pain.

We have all been hurt by other people at one time or another.  In some cases, that pain was physical, and in other cases, the pain was emotional.  As human beings, we tend to focus on that pain and on the people who caused it, and we sometimes have a difficult time forgiving the people who have hurt us the most.  Jesus’ actions show us that even when faced with the worst pain imaginable, we still have the capacity to forgive.  We may not have this ability on our own, but we can gain this ability to forgive through the power and help of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Another important thing to note from this passage is the faith of the criminal hanging on the cross next to Jesus.  By his own admission, he plainly states that he is “punished justly” and is “getting what [his] deeds deserve.” (23:41)  However, at the end of his life, when he knew he was going to die, he turned to Jesus.  Even though he saw Jesus nailed to the cross next to him, he was able to see past Jesus’ present situation to see His future glory.  The fact that Jesus forgave him of his past sins and accepted him, and even told him that he would be with Jesus in Heaven, shows that it is never too late to turn to Christ.  All we have to do is put our faith and trust in him, repent of our sins, and follow Him.  Then, like the robber, we can be with Him in paradise.

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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Gifts from God


Daily Bible Reading – Nehemiah 1, 2; Psalms 133, 134; Luke 22

Today’s Key Passage – Nehemiah 2:1-9

 

Nehemiah was distraught when he heard that the walls of Jerusalem had not yet been rebuilt.  Walls were very important in Nehemiah’s time as they offered a city protection and security.  When he heard about these things, he spent days fasting and praying and by the end he knew what he had to do – he needed to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls and restore the city.  Nehemiah knew that God had given him a great gift in life – the gift of leadership.  He wanted to use this gift to help rebuild the city both physically and spiritually.  At the time, Nehemiah was the cupbearer to the king, which meant he was in charge of the safety and quality of the king’s meals and drinks.  Nehemiah knew that God had placed him in this position for exactly this time, and he used this gift of God to ask the king for permission to rebuild the city and to ask the king for help.

Every single person on this earth has been given gifts from God.  That gift may be a talent like speaking or leading, or it may be that God has placed a person in a specific environment or position for a reason.  God gives us gifts to serve Him and to further His kingdom, but not everyone uses his or her gifts for these purposes.  Others spend years trying to determine what their gifts are and how to use them for God.

If you have found your gifts, use them for God’s work.  Find an outlet to serve Him and then take action.  If you are not sure of your gifts yet, keep praying and God will show you how you can help and what you can do for His Kingdom.  As long as we always keep our eyes on Him, we can use our individual gifts to bring Him glory and honor in everything we do.

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The Guilt of Sin


Daily Bible Reading – Ezra 9, 10; Psalm 131; Luke 21

Today’s Key Passage – Ezra 9:1-9

 

Ezra knew the seriousness of sin, and he knew that no one sins without affecting others.  Ezra was so overcome with guilt and sorrow over the sins of his people that he “tore [his] tunic and cloak, [and] pulled hair from [his] head and beard” (9:5).  Ezra also knew that despite his sins and the sins of his people, God’s love and mercy had spared the nation when they did nothing to deserve it.

For many people, religion and guilt go hand in hand.  Sometimes we can all feel like religion or church puts an unwanted spotlight on our sin, and it causes us to feel guilty for what we have done, but this is not what God wants.  God loves each of us so much that he made the ultimate sacrifice – he gave his one and only Son to take away all of our sin and our guilt.  We can live guilt-free knowing that through Jesus Christ we are saved – not by what we have done or not done in our past, but by what He did for us.  God saved us by His grace and mercy alone.  It is a free gift and all we have to do is receive it.  When we do sin, the freedom of Christ allows us to go to God, confess this sin to Him, and ask for his help in repentance.

Instead of trying to run away from God out of guilt or shame, we can run TO God for help in restoring our relationship with Him.  God will always accept us and love us just as we are.  While it is true that He abhors sin, He truly loves us unconditionally just as we love our own children. When you sin and are truly sorry, confess this to God, ask for His forgiveness, and then accept his grace and mercy.  Accept that your sin has been washed away and that God has forgotten it.  Then, turn from that sin and run toward God by making the necessary corrections and walking in step with Him.  Never let the guilt of sin weigh you down.  Instead, focus on the wonderful grace and mercy of God.

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 Dangerous Journey


Daily Bible Reading – Ezra 7, 8; Luke 20

Today’s Key Passage – Ezra 8:21-23

 

Ezra’s journey to Jerusalem would take him and his people about 900 miles on foot through dangerous territory, and would eventually take four months to complete.  Before heading out on this journey, Ezra took the time to fast and pray that God would protect them. (8:23)  Even before making all of the physical preparations for this trip, Ezra understood the importance of making spiritual preparations.  Ezra knew that he and his people could not make this journey alone – they needed God to help them along the way.

Like Ezra, we cannot make our journeys in life alone either.  Most of our journeys in life are not as hard and dangerous as a 900-mile walk through the desert, and maybe that is why we sometimes neglect to spend the proper amount of time making our spiritual preparations before we begin.  When we take the time to seek out God’s help, however, we can prepare ourselves for whatever might lie ahead.  Every time we put Him first in what we do, we get closer to Him.  God is at work in everything that we do on a daily basis, and if we take the time to ask Him for guidance and protection, we become better prepared to handle all of the ups and downs along the way.

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 Donkey’s Role


Daily Bible Reading – Esther 9, 10; Luke 19

Today’s Key Passage – Luke 19:28-44

 

Last week, we read Zechariah’s prophecy that the Messiah would ride into Jerusalem on a donkey’s colt. (Zechariah 9:9)  In today’s key passage, Jesus made his triumphant entry into Jerusalem fulfilling this prophecy.  Jesus knew what He was going to face in Jerusalem.  He knew He would be degraded, beaten, and ultimately killed, but He went there anyway because this was the will of the Father.  This was God’s ultimate plan for humanity.  As He entered Jerusalem on that donkey, the crowd, familiar with Zechariah’s words, rejoiced at the coming of their King.  They spread their cloaks and palm branches along the road and shouted, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” and “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (19:38)  Of course, a short time later these same people would yell, “Crucify him!” (23:21), but it must have been quite a site to see Jesus on the donkey that day.

While preaching about this story, I once heard a pastor ask the question, “What if the donkey thought all of the praise and shouting that day was for him?”  While it is humorous to humanize a donkey in this way and imagine what he might have been thinking on that fateful day, it does bring up an interesting point.  See, the donkey needed to know his role.  He needed to understand that all of the fanfare of that moment had absolutely nothing to do with him.  No one was shouting because of what he was doing, they were shouting about what Jesus was doing.  The donkey was simply there to lift up Jesus.  Ironically, our role is exactly the same as the donkey.  We are not here on this earth to receive shouts of joy and praise.  We are not here to see fanfare based on what we are doing.  Our role in this life is simply to lift up Jesus.  Let us all be like the donkey today, and lift Him up for the praise He deserves.

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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No Coincidence


Daily Bible Reading – Esther 3-8; Luke 18

Today’s Key Passage – Esther 4:1-17

 

Have you ever noticed how sometimes the perfect song comes on the radio right when you need to hear it?  Have you ever gotten the phone call from a friend or loved one right when you needed to hear his or her voice the most?  Have you ever received a financial blessing right when you were feeling overwhelmed by bills?  The world would call these things coincidence.  If you look deeper, though, you can clearly see that examples like these are evidence of something much more.  They are, in fact, evidence of God’s sovereignty and providence.

In our readings yesterday and today from the book of Esther, we find many examples of God’s care in action.  It was no coincidence that Esther became queen of Persia (2:17), or that it happened shortly before Haman convinced King Xerxes to issue a decree to kill all of the Jews. (3:5-15)  It was no coincidence that when Esther went to speak with the king uninvited, he welcomed her instead of having her killed, which was his custom. (5:1-2)  It was no coincidence that King Xerxes had the history of his reign read to him, was reminded that Mordecai saved his life, and decided to honor him on the same night that Haman came to convince the king to have Mordecai killed. (6:1-11)  It was no coincidence that the evil Haman was hanged on the very same gallows he had built to hang Mordecai. (7:1-10)  While God’s name is never actually mentioned anywhere in the book of Esther, it is clear that Esther’s entire story is one great testimony to God’s love and power.

Never underestimate God’s ability to provide you with just what you need at exactly the right time, and to use you right when He needs you the most.  He can use any means to bring about His plans.  When you begin to wonder why He has you in a certain place or why you are facing certain circumstances, be open to His direction and His will, and realize that He may have you there “for such a time as this“. (4:14)

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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Extra Credit


Daily Bible Reading – Esther 1, 2; Psalm 150; Luke 17

Today’s Key Passage – Luke 17:1-10

 

When she was in the third grade, my daughter would receive a list of words at the beginning of each week to study in preparation for a spelling test on Friday.  On the list of words, her teacher would provide two “extra credit” words, which were much more difficult than the other words on the list.  If spelled correctly on the test, these two words could take the place of other words that may have been misspelled.  Because of their importance, my daughter would always spend a bit more time studying those two words just in case she made any mistakes with the other words.

Many times, we can wrongly believe that when we live obediently to God’s Word we are doing “extra credit” work.  We might feel that a few good deeds can make up for any sinfulness we may cling to in our hearts.  In today’s key passage, Jesus dispels this myth.  He tells His disciples to be careful not to cause anyone else to sin (17:1-2), to correct wrongdoers, and to forgive others who repent. (17:3-4)  The disciples realized they could never be obedient to these commands in their own strength and asked Jesus to increase their faith (17:5), but Jesus told them that even a small amount of faith was sufficient for them to obey. (17:6)  He then went on to tell them a parable about a servant who worked for his master not to receive praise, but because it was his duty. (17:7-10)

As followers of Christ, we are His servants.  When we act in accordance to His will, we should not do so in order to garner praise or to try to build up “extra credit” in Heaven.  We should live according to His commands because it is our duty.  Instead of feeling prideful for the deeds we complete in His name, we can all feel blessed to be given the opportunity to serve Him and others, and we can obey His Word because of our great love for 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.

Being Grateful


Daily Bible Reading – Ezra 5, 6; Psalm 138; Luke 16

Today’s Key Passage – Psalm 138

 

There are many recurring themes in the book of Psalms, and one of these themes is gratefulness.  King David was certainly grateful to God, and that spirit of thanksgiving shines through in our key passage today.  David praised God for His love and faithfulness (138:2), and for making him bold and stouthearted (138:3).  He was grateful for being saved during all of his times of trouble (138:7), and knew that God would never abandon him. (138:8)  David understood an important truth about God.  Our proper response to Him should always be one of gratefulness, because He will always fulfill His purposes for us (138:8) and will always answer when we call on Him. (138:3)

Most of us cry out to God in our times of need.  We go to Him with our requests and we ask Him to help us in our most dire situations.  There is obviously nothing wrong with this, as God wants us to take our most sincere needs to Him in prayer, but we can all have a tendency to be one-sided in our prayers.  Spending time with God and having a relationship with Him should be about more than just asking Him for a laundry-list of needs, wants, and desires.  It is important that we not forget to be grateful for all that He has provided.  When we forget about this important piece, we are more likely to get frustrated when we have to wait for God’s answer to our prayers, and we are more likely to question whether He is listening to us in our times of need.  When we focus first on being grateful to Him for the prayers He has already answered, it becomes much easier to wait for His timing and to trust that He will come through for us again.  Spend some time today thanking God for the prayers He has answered.  Thank Him for the big prayers and the small ones in which He has been faithful to you, and praise Him for all the prayers He will answer for you in the future.

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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