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Imitating an Apostle


Daily Bible Reading – Philippians 1-4

Today’s Key Passage – Philippians 3:1-21

In the early days of Christianity, just as it is today, the goal of a Christ follower was to live a Christ-like life.  Today, though, we have a huge advantage over the early Christians.  Today, if someone wants to learn about Jesus, all he has to do is pick up a Bible and start reading the New Testament.  In the Gospels, a person can read all about the life of Jesus Christ.  He can read about how Christ lived and what He taught.  If we want to find a person to imitate, we have to look no further than the Source.  For the early Christians, however, no such text existed.  There was no such thing as the New Testament in the early days of Christianity.  The story of Jesus life had not yet been written down in a form that was readily available to all seekers.  Paul knew this.  Paul knew that the people he encountered did not have a means to easily experience Christ directly.  He knew it would be difficult for others to follow Christ’s example if they were unable to see his example the way we can today.  In the absence of being able to imitate Christ, Paul told the Philippians to imitate him.  Paul was not claiming to be perfect.  In fact, at the beginning of today’s key passage he clearly states that he has not arrived at his goal of being Christ-like.  Despite his imperfections, the fact that Paul was able to tell others to imitate him is a testament to the way he lived his life.  He lived as a readily available example of Christ.

How many of us could say the same thing?  Imagine a person who had no way of knowing about Jesus Christ.  Imagine that this person had never read the Bible and did not have access to one.  Imagine that this person may have heard a few things about Christ, some true and some not, but had no way to tell the difference.  Imagine that the only way this person could try to become Christ-like would be to imitate you.  How would that go?  If this person tried to copy you in everything that you said and did, would they become more Christ-like?  While this may sound like a scary thought to a certain degree, it is not altogether far from reality.  Most of the people we know who do not know Christ are almost exactly like the imaginary person I described.  While most of the people we encounter do have access to a Bible, the simple truth is that they will not spend the time, at least initially, to read about Jesus Christ in the New Testament.  Instead, they will watch you and perhaps even imitate you.  Think about this today as you encounter people.  Are you acting as a good example for Jesus Christ?  If someone is watching you, are you leading him closer to Christ or driving him away from Him?  As we all attempt to reach the goal of a Christ-like life, let us all try to be good examples today for others to imitate.

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 Angel at the Tomb


Daily Bible Reading – Matthew 28; 1 Thessalonians 1-3

Today’s Key Passage – Matthew 28:1-10

 

When Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (who was either Clopas’ wife or the mother of James and John) went to the tomb, they were expecting to find Jesus inside.  What they found instead was an angel of the Lord and an empty tomb.  The angel gave them four messages.  First, the angel said, “do not be afraid“. (28:5)  The resurrection of Jesus Christ is a joyful event, not something to fear.  Secondly, the angel told them that, “He is not here; He has risen“. (28:6)  Jesus was not dead as was initially believed by the disciples.  He is not found among the dead, for He is alive and living with His believers.  Third, the angel told them to, “come and see the place where he lay“. (28:6)  The angel was telling them to look at the evidence of the empty tomb.  The angel wanted them to see for themselves that the resurrection was a fact and not something fake.  Finally, he told them to, “go quickly and tell” about the resurrection. (28:7)  The news of a risen Jesus was meant to be shared with others so that everyone could know the good news.

These four messages from the angel applied to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, and they apply to us today.  We should all hear these four messages and follow the two Mary’s examples.  The two Mary’s heard the words of the angel and did what they were told.  They were not afraid of the resurrection.  They understood that Jesus was risen.  They examined the evidence of the resurrection for themselves and found it to be true, and they went and spread the good news of Jesus resurrection.  We should all do the same.  Every time we follow these steps and spread the good news of Jesus resurrection, we are advancing the Kingdom of God.  When was the last time you shared the good news of Jesus with someone else?  We all have the power through the Holy Spirit to do it.  God wants us to do it.  The only thing stopping us from sharing the news is ourselves.  Ask God for boldness in sharing the Gospel and He will give it to you.  Use the gifts He has given you to reach other people for 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.

Accepting God’s Invitation


Daily Bible Reading – Matthew 20-22

Today’s Key Passage – Matthew 22:1-14

 

I remember the first time I read today’s key passage.  I understood the metaphor that the invited guests that refused to come to the banquet were representative of people who have heard God’s message for the world but have chosen to ignore Him and reject Him.  I understood that God sent the invitation to everyone just as God’s grace and salvation is open to everyone.  The one thing I did not understand was the one man who was found without wedding clothes who was kicked out of the banquet.  This seemed harsh to me.  In my young mind, my first thought was – what if the man could not afford wedding clothes?  It seemed so unfair to me, and it was a stumbling block for me, but then I started to learn more about God and about His Scriptures, and I came to understand this passage.  You see, in the days of Jesus when a wedding was announced, the guests were GIVEN wedding clothes to wear.  The person throwing the party freely gave every invited guest some fancy clothes to wear.  This changed everything for me.  The only reason this man would not be wearing the wedding clothes was because he did not think he needed them.  Perhaps he was too proud to wear the clothes or too arrogant.  For whatever reason, I could understand the king’s anger at this man for not putting on the clothes he had provided.

God is having a party and it is called eternal life.  It is going to be the best party you can imagine and everyone is invited.  You have received your invitation and it is in your hands whether you will attend.  God even provided us all with wedding clothes to wear in the form of His Son Jesus Christ.  Jesus provided the wedding clothes for us by what He did on the cross.  All you have to do to receive the gift of eternal life is put on the wedding clothes that Christ has provided for you, and you will be welcomed with open arms.  As we all walk through this life, let us all put on the wedding clothes provided by Jesus, and let us all help others change their clothes as well.

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.

Disowning Jesus


Daily Bible Reading – Matthew 8-10

Today’s Key Passage – Matthew 10:17-33

 

I have a friend who is still afraid to acknowledge Jesus.  He is still in the “investigating” stage of his journey.  He has started going to church and has started reading the Bible, and he is really, really close to accepting Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior.  Yet, he is not quite ready to take that step.  He will not yet talk about Christianity in public.  Outside of me and one other believer, he does not really talk about faith outside of the church.  I pray every day that he will take that step, and I know that at some point the Holy Spirit will move him to action.  Until that day comes, I will wait, listen to him, try to answer his questions, and pray.

Jesus wants us to acknowledge Him.  He does not want to be disowned, and He is not just talking about acknowledging Him in our words.  He is not just talking about what we say to our friends about him or what we post on Facebook.  Jesus wants us to acknowledge Him in everything we do.  Jesus wants us to acknowledge Him in our actions.  We have all been in situations when we have to make the choice between acknowledging Him and disowning Him.  When a temptation arises for sin, we can acknowledge Jesus or disown Him.  When we are face to face with a non-believer, we can acknowledge Jesus or disown Him.  Regardless of what we say or write, our actions in those times need to match up to God’s Word.  Remember that our actions speak much louder than our words.  To most of the non-believers we know, the only interaction they have with Biblical Christianity is through us.  When given a choice, most non-believers will read our behavior before they read the Bible, so our actions must match up to what Jesus said in His Word.  We must acknowledge Him today.  Then on the Day of Judgment, we have nothing to fear because we will know that when Jesus sees us He will run to us with open arms and say, “Well done good and faithful servant”.

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.

Following God’s Instructions


Daily Bible Reading – Matthew 1-4

Today’s Key Passage – Matthew 1:18-25

 

In the days of Jesus’ birth, a Jewish marriage had three steps.  The two families agreed on a union, made a public announcement of the upcoming marriage, and then the couple got married and began living together.  When Mary discovered she was pregnant, it was during the second step in the marriage process.  Mary and Joseph were pledged to be married, but were not yet allowed to live together.  When others found out that Mary was pregnant before the actual marriage, both Mary and Joseph would face ridicule and would be seen as sinners.  During this second phase, the relationship could only be broken off by death or divorce.  When Joseph found out that Mary was pregnant, his initial thought was to divorce her quietly.  By Jewish civil law, he could have also chosen to have her stoned to death.  However, an angel of the Lord spoke to Joseph and explained the situation.  Joseph faced a difficult choice – to follow the instructions of others, or to follow the instructions of God.

We are all faced with the same difficult choice today.  We can live our lives according to what the world thinks, or we can live according to what God thinks. Most things we buy in a store come with an instruction manual.  We too have an instruction manual called the Bible.  In it, God tells us how we should live our lives.  I do not know about you, but the Bible I read is pretty thick.  It is filled with instructions for how to live a life that is pleasing to God, and most of these instructions are very different from the instructions of this world.  The world tells us to put ourselves first, but God instructs us to love Him more than we love ourselves.  The world tells us that other people do not matter, but God instructs us to love others and to serve them.  The world tells us to amass as much money as possible, but God instructs us to give freely of our time, money, and talents.  The world tells us not to talk about religion in public, but God instructs us to go out and preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth.  At the end of the day, we can choose to listen to what the world tells us to do and ignore what the Bible says, or we can choose to live by God’s Word.

Imagine how much different the story of Jesus’ birth would have been if Joseph would have chosen to care more about what other people thought than what God thought.  Imagine if Joseph decided to follow the world’s instructions instead of following God’s instructions.  We have the gift of hindsight when looking at the story of Joseph.  We can easily see how different things would have been if Joseph had chosen to ignore God’s instructions.  We do not have that luxury when looking at our own lives.  We do not know what will happen in the future or how many lives we might touch if we choose to follow God’s instructions, but we do know that God has given us a set of instructions to follow.  He has told us what to do in our lives.  Joseph faced a very difficult situation and chose to follow God’s instructions.  Every day, we must decide to do the same thing.

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.

Bad Company Corrupts Good Character


Daily Bible Reading – Psalm 149; 1 Corinthians 15, 16

Today’s Key Passage – 1 Corinthians 15:1-34

 

We are all surrounded by unbelief.  We all have people in our lives that are unbelievers.  We might also have people in our lives who claim to be followers of Christ but then unapologetically act contrary to the Gospel.  Television shows and movies are abound with non-Christian values and morals.  Books, newspapers, magazines, and blog posts attack Christianity and teach false Gospels.  For followers of Christ, there is no getting around it – we are all going to be faced with “bad company” from time to time.

Jesus and the disciples were also faced with bad company.  They spent much of their time surrounded by unbelievers, because Jesus knew that the sinners were the ones who needed to be saved.  We too must be in contact with unbelievers if we plan to fulfill the Great Commission and preach the Gospel to those who do not know it.  None of us can live in a protective bubble of only coming in contact with other believers if we intend to reach people for Christ.  This is why Paul’s words in today’s key passage are so important to us.

Even though we are surrounded by unbelief, we must not be misled.  We all have to guard our hearts from allowing bad company to corrupt good character.  When someone we know attacks our beliefs, we must stand firm.  We cannot waiver in our faith even for a second if we want to be effective witnesses for Christ.  We must let the Holy Spirit overflow from us, as He gives us the power to be surrounded by bad company without being corrupted.  In 1 Corinthians 16:13-14, Paul gives the church in Corinth instructions while they wait for him to return to them.  He says, “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.”  These were good instructions to the Corinthians waiting for Paul’s return and they are good instructions for all of us today as we await the return of 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.

The Proof of Jesus Christ


Daily Bible Reading – Job 26, 27; Mark 15, 16

Today’s Key Passage – Mark 15:16-41

 

Today’s key passage shows some of the events that unfolded on the fateful day when Jesus Christ was crucified.  For those of us who follow Him, we know that this day was the day that saved us all.  We understand the importance of what Jesus did.  We know that when He was placed on that cross, all of our sins were placed on it with Him.

Other people do not see the importance of the story.  Many people deny the truth that Jesus is the Messiah, and deny the fact that He is God.  Some people are still waiting today for the Messiah that was spoken of in the Old Testament to come to Earth.  Sadly, these people have missed it.

Psalm 22 was written about 1000 years before the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Look at the words in Psalm 22:16-18:

“Dogs surround me, a pack of villains encircles me; they pierce my hands and my feet. All my bones are on display; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.”

Sound familiar?  Psalm 22 lists several Messianic prophecies, including the crucifixion and the soldiers casting lots for the Messiah’s clothing.  How fitting then that Jesus words on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”(15:34), were a reference to the first verse in Psalm 22?  In all, Biblical scholars state there are over 300 Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament.  If Jesus were really the Messiah, he would have had to fulfill them all.  What some people fail to admit is that He did exactly that.

We will never be able to convince everyone that Jesus was the Messiah.  There will always be nonbelievers.  There will always be doubters.  As it is said in Ezekiel 12:2, “They have eyes to see but do not see and ears to hear but do not hear, for they are a rebellious people.”  Our duty as followers of Jesus is to try to show them the Way.  We are to tell them the story of Jesus, and offer up the proof that He was and is the Christ.  After that, all we can do is pray that the Holy Spirit will turn their hearts of stone into hearts of flesh.

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 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.

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

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.

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