Monthly Archives: September 2012

Wondering Why


Daily Bible Reading – Zechariah 7-9; Luke 13

Today’s Key Passage – Luke 13:1-9

 

On any given day, we hear news of tragedy striking somewhere in the world and we are often left to wonder why.  At one time or another, most of us have struggled with understanding why bad things happen.  The people in Jesus’ day also wondered why tragedies happened, and He spoke of two of these events in our key passage today.  In the first, Pilate killed a group of Galileans and mixed their blood with their sacrifices. (13:1)  In the second, a tower fell and killed 18 people in Jerusalem. (13:4)  Jesus used these examples to reject a common misconception that many people had at the time that the tragedies must have struck the people because of their sins.  He pointed out that none of the people killed in these two tragedies were worse sinners than anyone else was, and then used the lesson of the events to teach the people about repentance.

Today, when we see tragedies unfold around us, we can wastefully spend our time wondering why the events have happened and looking for someone to blame, or we can learn a lesson from the teaching of Jesus and see the events as a call to repentance.  The truth is that any of us could see our last moments on earth at any time.  We never know exactly when or how we will die, but we do know that our deaths are certain.  Each time we see someone killed without warning, we are reminded of the temporary nature of this life and the need to maximize the time we have on this planet doing Kingdom work.  As we reflect on those events, we can use the time to ensure we have repented of our sins and are living a life holy and blameless in God’s sight, and we can spend our time helping others find salvation through 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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Not by Might nor by Power


Daily Bible Reading – Zechariah 4-6; Luke 12

Today’s Key Passage – Zechariah 4:1-9

 

Zerubbabel was the man responsible for ensuring that the rebuilding of the temple was completed.  Like a modern day construction foreman, he was in charge of all aspects of the project.  Imagine the pressure that Zerubbabel must have faced knowing that his job was to rebuild God’s holy temple.  Not only did he have a huge task ahead of him, he also faced many challenges.  From the oppression Zerubbabel and the Jews faced from their enemies to their own weariness and discouragement, the construction was not going to be easy.  Fortunately, God knew that Zerubbabel would need encouragement to succeed in his mission, and He provided that encouragement in the form of the prophet Zechariah.  God’s words to Zechariah, intended to be shared with Zerubbabel to offer him encouragement, can also provide much-needed relief for many of us today.  God told Zerubbabel, “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit.” (4:6)

The world would have us believe that we are only able to accomplish as much as our own strength and resources can provide.  Because of this, when facing a formidable task many of us can tend to focus on our shortcomings.  We might think about how tired or weak we are, and decide we will never succeed.  Perhaps we focus on our lack of financial resources and worry that we may not be able to complete what we began.  The secret, though, is that as followers of Christ we do not need to listen to what the world has to say about our abilities.  Our own strength and power mean nothing compared to the awesome resources of our loving Father in Heaven.  Instead of relying on what we can do on our own, let us all rely on His power to help us overcome any challenge.  When we allow the Holy Spirit to reign in our lives, there is no limit to what we can accomplish.

 

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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Returning to God


Daily Bible Reading – Zechariah 1-3; Luke 11

Today’s Key Passage – Zechariah 1:1-6

 

The prophet Zechariah was another of the minor prophets who spoke to the Jews in Jerusalem who had returned from captivity in Babylon.  Like his contemporary Haggai, Zechariah preached a message to the people asking them to resume their work on the temple.  In today’s key passage, Zechariah received a word from God that he shared with his people.  As I read it today, I was struck by how appropriate God’s message was: not only for the returning exiles, but also for all of us today.  It is not a complex message, but it is one that is both meaningful and powerful.  Speaking through Zechariah, God told the people, “Return to me…and I will return to you.” (1:3)

There are many times when each of us may feel as though God is far away.  We may feel this way when we are dealing with persecution or grief.  We may wonder where God is when we are facing difficult financial times or when struggling with a major life change.  There is a funny truth, though, about this feeling that God is far from us.  See, God has not actually gone anywhere.  He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  When we feel like He is far from us, it is not because He has moved but because we have.  God is faithful and true, and He will never turn away from us.  Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of us.  Throughout history, man has continually turned away from God in one way or another, and each time we do, the distance between us and God grows.  If you are feeling like God is far away from you, remember His words to the people of Judah.  “Return to me…and I will return to you.”  If we want to feel closer to God, all we have to do is turn toward Him and move in His direction.

 

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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A Time to Act


Daily Bible Reading – Haggai 1, 2; Psalm 129; Luke 10

Today’s Key Passage – Haggai 1:1-2:5

 

Yesterday we saw how the opposition facing the Jews caused them to temporarily stop rebuilding the temple.   In today’s reading, over 15 years had elapsed and the people of Jerusalem had still not gone back to the construction project.  Instead of building the temple, the Jews spent their time building their own houses, and they rationalized their lack of service by saying that it was not yet time to work on the temple. (1:3)  Fortunately, the prophet Haggai received a word from the Lord that would spark the Jews into action.  He told them that it was time to get back to work, and after 15 years of delays the people of Jerusalem went back to work only 23 days after hearing Haggai’s message.

Many times, we all know what God wants us to do, but we fail to act.  We might receive direction from him in our prayer time, while reading His Word, or when listening to a powerful message at church, but then we quickly forget about it or delay actually getting started.  While it is important that we wait for God’s timing and prayerfully move forward only when He tells us to, it is equally important that when we know His direction we act swiftly and decisively.  Do not allow yourself to rationalize delays when God tells you it is time to act.  Instead, listen to His words in Haggai 2:4 – “Be strong…and work.  For I am with you.”

 

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 Opposition


Daily Bible Reading – Ezra 4; Psalms 113, 127; Luke 9

Today’s Key Passage – Ezra 4:1-24

 

The Jews returning to Jerusalem from exile wanted nothing more than to rebuild the temple of the Lord.  Unfortunately, their task was not an easy one.  Not only did they have to deal with the logistics of rebuilding the temple and all of the work involved, they also faced opposition to the rebuilding efforts from their neighbors.  When Assyria conquered the northern kingdom of Israel, many people were relocated to live in this region, and now these people wanted to keep the Jews from rebuilding the temple for fear that they would gain power.  The enemies of Judah tried several tactics to stop the construction.  First, they attempted to infiltrate the people of Judah by offering to help so they could sabotage their efforts. (4:2)  When this failed, they tried to stop the construction by discouraging and intimidating the Jews. (4:4-5)  Finally, they took their complaint to the king, falsely accusing the Jews of rebellion.  In the short term, all of this opposition worked and the rebuilding efforts were temporarily put on hold. (4:23-24)  Eventually though, God’s plans could not be thwarted, and the temple was ultimately completed.

When we step out in faith in service to God, we too may face opposition.  This opposition might come from unbelievers, or perhaps even friends and family members.  Sometimes, the opposition comes from powers and principalities that we cannot truly understand.  It can be easy for us to become frustrated with this opposition, especially when it works in temporarily stopping our efforts.  However, we can take comfort in knowing that when we are following Christ and acting according to His will, His plans will ultimately succeed.  Our God is all-powerful and completely sovereign, and there is absolutely nothing that can keep Him from accomplishing His mission and achieving His goals.  We may sometimes feel like we are facing a brick wall, but to God this wall is simply a hurdle that is easily navigated.  When facing opposition, pray for the strength to get through the tough times while maintaining a loving attitude toward your oppressors, and pray for God’s will to be done.  God, in His infinite wisdom, will take care of the rest.

 

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 Highest Priority


Daily Bible Reading – Ezra 2, 3; Luke 8

Today’s Key Passage – Ezra 3:1-6

 

Like most people, I do not enjoy moving.  I have moved several times over the years, and each time I have faced the same dilemma.  Once everything is moved into the new home, the question always becomes where to begin.  If you have ever moved, you have likely faced the same issue and the question is usually answered based on your immediate priorities.  Since you know you are going to need clothes to wear, you might begin by unpacking your wardrobe.  Perhaps you need to make a meal, so the kitchen boxes might come first.  If you are tired from a long day of moving, getting the bed in order might become the most important thing.  Whatever the case, your first steps when moving to a new home will always be dictated by your highest priority.

After years of exile, the remnant of God’s chosen people were finally returning to Jerusalem.  In today’s key passage, we find out about their highest priority during the move into their new home.  When they returned to Jerusalem, they found that they were surrounded by strangers who had settled in the lands surrounding the city.  Though they were afraid of being attacked by one of their new neighbors, they did not immediately begin by building a wall around the city or by worrying about their defenses. (3:3)  Instead, their first step was to rebuild the altar and (eventually) God’s temple.  They knew that their highest priority was to worship God.

We can all learn a lesson from the people in our story today.  How often do we choose to spend our time building our physical lives instead of our spiritual ones?  In this life, we are constantly faced with changing priorities, and often we can all be tempted to make God and afterthought.  Like the people returning to Jerusalem, though, we must all make better choices.  When it comes to finding our highest priority, the correct answer is always our loving Heavenly Father.  When we choose to put Him first in all that we do, our priorities will always be in the right order.

 

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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Questions about Jesus


Daily Bible Reading – Ezra 1; Psalms 84-85; Luke 7

Today’s Key Passage – Luke 7:18-35

 

John the Baptist knew what his role was in this life.  He knew that he was to prepare the way for God’s chosen one – the Messiah.  He had heard all of the stories about Jesus, and he knew that Jesus must have been sent by God.  The only problem was that he was not sure if Jesus was just another prophet or the Anointed One of God, so he sent two of his disciples to Jesus to ask him. (7:18-20)  Jesus response to John’s disciples tells us a lot about Him.  He could have been upset about being questioned.  He could have been angry that John felt the need to ask questions about Him instead of simply believing blindly.  This, of course, was not Jesus’ response.  Jesus told John’s disciples to report back to John all the things He had done. (7:22)  Jesus healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, and raised the dead, among other miraculous deeds.  He wanted John the Baptist to decide for himself if Jesus was the Messiah based on the evidence at hand.  Then, as further evidence that Jesus was not upset about being questioned, He spoke to the crowd about John the Baptist’s greatness among men. (7:28)

Most of us, whether we are followers of Christ or not, have had questions about Jesus.  They might be questions we have already answered, or they might be lingering thoughts that appear from time to time.  Is Jesus really the Messiah?  Does He really know me?  Did He really die for my sins?  Does He really see me as perfect and beautiful?  Does He really love me?  If you have ever felt guilty for asking yourself these questions about Jesus, today’s key passage will be a real blessing for you.  See, Jesus does not get angry about being questioned.  Having questions about Him does not mean there is something wrong with your faith or that you are not a “good Christian”.  Just like John, Jesus invites us to examine the evidence about Him and decide for ourselves that He is who He says He is.  The more we learn about Him through reading God’s Word and spending time with Him in prayer, the fewer questions we will have about Him.  Then, as we answer our questions about Him, we will grow to trust Him and love Him with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength.

 

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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Becoming a Star


Daily Bible Reading – Daniel 11, 12; Luke 6

Today’s Key Passage – Daniel 12:1-3

 

Over the last decade or so, American television ratings have been largely dominated by reality shows.  There have been countless shows over the years in this genre – some of them wildly popular and others that flopped.  We have seen singing competitions and dancing competitions.  Competitors have tried to survive on deserted islands, raced across the globe, lived with strangers, and tried to find true love.  While most of the time, the grand prize of each show is different, all of the reality shows have one thing in common – they showcase people who want to become stars.  So many people today share this dream of becoming a star, which explains why reality shows never have trouble finding contestants or viewers.  Unfortunately, most of the time these reality “stars” burn out relatively quickly, giving new meaning to the term, “fifteen minutes of fame”.  Most of these contestants find that their stardom is temporary, and when it fades, they are left with very little.

Fortunately, in today’s key passage we read about a better way to become a star.  God’s messenger is talking to the prophet Daniel about the end times, and tells him that his faithful people will one day be delivered. (12:1)  The messenger says that in the last days the dead will rise from their graves, some to everlasting life and others to everlasting contempt. (12:2)  He then goes on to say, “Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.” (12:3)  Unlike the temporary stardom so many people today crave, we can all become eternal “stars” by being wise and leading others to God’s righteousness.  Instead of dealing with rude judges who might criticize our efforts on national television, we only have to face one judge – the King of kings and the Lord of lords – and we will always be found perfect in His sight.  If you want to be a star, become a star for God today, and let your light shine brightly for eternity.

 

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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When Answers Are Delayed


Daily Bible Reading – Daniel 9, 10; Psalm 123; Luke 5

Today’s Key Passage – Daniel 10:4-19

 

I have spent a lot of time at airports over the last several years traveling for work.  Travel days are usually painful, even under the best conditions.  You have to make sure you arrive at the airport in plenty of time.  You have to go through the dance at the security checkpoints of removing shoes and belts, and taking laptops and liquids out of your bags.  Once through security, you have to wait to board your flight and then you have to wait to take off.  Even when everything goes smoothly, air travel can be quite a hassle; but things can get exponentially worse with the mention of a single word – delayed.  When flights are delayed, an already difficult experience can quickly turn into a nightmare.

Flights, of course, are not the only things that can be delayed.  In today’s key passage, the prophet Daniel had been praying to God for weeks with no answer when finally a vision appeared to him.  The messenger from God explained to Daniel that as soon as he began praying, God heard his words and that he was sent to provide a reply. (10:12)  Unfortunately, the messenger was delayed by a powerful spiritual being for 21 days and was unable to reach Daniel. (10:13)  Previously, Daniel received an answer to one of his prayers before he even finished praying (9:20-23), so this three-week wait must have been difficult for him, yet he continued to pray and fast until he received his answer.  When the messenger did arrive, he not only answered Daniel’s prayer, he gave Daniel peace and strength when he was at his weakest. (10:18-19)

Sometimes the answers to our prayers will come quickly, and other times the answers will be delayed.  Either way, we can rest in the knowledge that God hears our prayers as soon as we speak them, and that eventually He will provide an answer.  It is important, then, for us to continue to pray expectantly and passionately even when the answers do not come right away.  Then, when God’s answers finally arrive, we can know that He will give us peace and strength exactly when we need them the most.

 

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 Nazareth or Capernaum


Daily Bible Reading – Daniel 7, 8; Psalm 137; Luke 4

Today’s Key Passage – Luke 4:14-37

 

In today’s key passage, we find Jesus preaching in two different places to two very different results.  First, we see Jesus preaching in his hometown of Nazareth. (4:16-27)  On the Sabbath day, He went to the synagogue and preached to the crowd, but they were resistant to His message.  They were so resistant, in fact, that they tried to kill Him. (4:28-30)  The problem was that the people in Nazareth were so familiar with Jesus that they failed to listen to His teachings.  They knew all about Jesus because they had seen Him living in their town for years.  They had seen Him grow up from a boy, and they were unable to overcome their preconceived notions about who Jesus really was, so they rejected Him.

Following His unsuccessful trip to Nazareth, Jesus went to preach in Capernaum. (4:31-37)  Just as He did in Nazareth, Jesus preached to the people on the Sabbath, but this time the result was much different.  Instead of resisting His message, they accepted it with joy.  They listened to Jesus’ teaching and they were amazed at His authority, and because of their response to Jesus, many people were healed and many people followed Him.

Spiritually speaking, all of us are either living in Nazareth or Capernaum.  Personally, I spent the first 34 years of my life living in Nazareth.  I knew all about Jesus.  I grew up in a family that went to church every weekend and who talked about Jesus all the time.  The problem was that I was so familiar with Jesus, I took Him for granted and I ignored Him.  I knew about Him, but I did not really know Him personally.  I let my preconceived notions about who He was keep me from really finding Him, and even though I knew about Him, I chose to live my life as if I did not.  Fortunately, all of that changed for me in March of 2010 when I “moved” to Capernaum.  I finally listened to His teaching.  I finally responded to His call.  I finally met the real Jesus, and my life will never be the same.

Where are you living today?  Are you living in Nazareth, so familiar with Jesus that you are ignoring Him and taking Him for granted; or are you living in Capernaum, receiving His message with joy and spreading the news about Him?  I pray that you will all move with me to Capernaum, and I pray that you will know the real Jesus.

 

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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