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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.

Instructions for Christian Marriage


Daily Bible Reading – Ephesians 5,6; Psalm 119:1-80

Today’s Key Passage – Ephesians 5:22-33

Submitting to another person is often a misunderstood concept.  In the past, some people have taken today’s key passage out of context or misused it, causing the idea of submission to take on a negative connotation.  There is no denying that Paul indeed said that wives should submit to their husbands as the head of the household. (5:22-23)  However, the part of this passage that is often forgotten about is the instructions Paul gives to husbands.  Marriage is a two way street.  Both parties have to submit to each other in different ways to make a marriage work and to keep both people happy.  Taking one of these instructions out of context while dismissing the other causes more harm than good.  For example, if a wife submits to her husband, but the husband is not loving his wife as he loves himself and is not putting her first above all of his needs, the marriage is going to have problems.  Likewise, if the husband is putting his wife first in everything he does and truly loving her every single day but the wife is not allowing him to be the spiritual head of the household, the marriage is going to have problems.  Paul is telling us that both of these things should happen in a happy marriage.  Men should take on the responsibility of being the spiritual leader in the home.  Husbands should be helping their wives in their walk with Christ, and wives should allow their husbands to take on this role and to follow him.  Husbands should also love and serve their wives above everything else.  Just as Jesus washed the feet of the disciples in an act of service to them, so should the husband serve the wife.  If both people in the marriage relationship are submitting to one another in these ways, then the idea of submission is not negative at all.  Submitting to one another is simply an act of love.

Think back over the times of strife in your marriage.  If you are anything like me, most arguments and moments of division can be traced back to either the husband or the wife or both failing to submit to the other person.  For the wives who are reading this, allow your husbands to lead and submit to them.  For the husbands who are reading this, remember that you have died to yourself and you now live for your wife.  Put her needs first in everything that you do.  Make her the center of your universe and serve her as you would serve the Lord.  You must take on the responsibility of being the spiritual leader in the home and ensuring that your household is serving Christ and living for Him.  To both husbands and wives, remember that submission is not a bad thing.  Submit to each other in a loving environment and watch as your marriage gets stronger as the two of you walk together with 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.

Dealing with Anger


Daily Bible Reading – Ephesians 1-4

Today’s Key Passage – Ephesians 4:25-32

 

Everyone gets angry.  Events unfold that make us feel anger.  People say things to us or about us that make us feel anger.  Feeling angry at some degree or another is basically unavoidable, but how we deal with that anger is what really defines us.  When it comes to dealing with anger, we have a few different paths we can take.  We can let the anger overtake us causing us to explode in a fit of emotion.  Obviously, this is not the way to go.  We can sit on our anger and bottle it up inside, which will lead to bitterness.  This bitterness will eventually lead to hatred if gone unchecked.  This too, is not the way to go.  Paul tells us in today’s key passage that the best way to effectively deal with anger is to deal with it immediately in a way that builds relationships instead of breaking them.  When someone makes you feel anger, do not blow up at them and say things you do not really mean to hurt them.  Do not just walk away from the situation stewing with anger, as this bitterness will eventually start to wear you down.  The best course of action is to talk to the person that caused you anger immediately.  Explain the situation IN LOVE.  Express how you feel about the situation without allowing the situation to escalate.  Try to find some common ground with the person, and try to find a way to alleviate the anger.

Of course, all of this is much easier said than done.  So how do we really accomplish all of this?  Practically speaking, how can we begin to start dealing with our anger in a healthy way instead of a harmful way?  Like everything else in this life, the answer is found in Jesus Christ.  At the first feelings of anger towards a person, immediately remind yourself that God made this person exactly as he is.  Remind yourself that God loves this person exactly as much as He loves you.  Remind yourself that this person is one of God’s children…just as you are.  In addition, remember that God has forgiven everything you have ever done.  By His grace, he has forgiven and forgotten all of your past indiscretions regardless of what they were.  He does not hold a grudge against you.  If He is able to forgive you for the worst thing you have ever done through His Son Jesus Christ, surely the least you can do is forgive this person for what he did.  Pray for God to help you to forgive this person, and to help you feel love for this person.  Finally, talk to the person calmly about the situation.  These practical steps have helped me start to deal with anger in a much more productive way.  For me, it becomes a lot harder to be angry with someone after I go through these steps above.  When I think of Christ first, the severity of the situation always begins to decrease and my anger goes along with it.  I pray that you will try these things the next time anger arises in your life, and I hope that in those situations you can find the strength to be a peacemaker.

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 Your Conscience


Daily Bible Reading – Romans 13-16

Today’s Key Passage – Romans 14:19-23

 

In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he discusses the topic of eating meat that had been offered to idols.  In the Roman world, animals were often sacrificed to a god in a pagan temple, but only part of the animal was actually burned.  The rest of the meat was taken to market and sold.  Because of this practice, it was often difficult for a Christian to know if the meat he was buying had been part of this offering to idols, so many Christians decided to abstain from eating meat altogether.  Other Christians did not feel obligated to abstain from eating meat, and these two differing opinions were causing strife and dissension in the church.  While the idea of eating meat sacrificed to pagan idols does not specifically apply in our world today, the underlying theme of what Paul says in today’s key passage certainly does.

When it comes to what constitutes a sin, in most cases the Bible is pretty clear.  Some sins such as lying, stealing, and murder are forbidden in Scripture.  It is easy for a follower of Christ to know that he or she should not do these things.  In other areas, though, things might not be so clear.  Some topics are not expressly covered in the Bible, so often people are left to question whether a particular act would constitute a sin.  In these “grey areas”, Paul is advising us to follow our conscience.  Paul says that, “whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.” (14:23)  In other words, if we have doubts about whether something is a sin, and if our conscience is telling us that it probably is a sin, then it becomes sin for us.  We are all born with a conscience.  Our conscience is a gift from God that he gives to each of us from birth to allow us to know right from wrong.  When in doubt about a particular circumstance, it is always best to follow your conscience.

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.

Is Anyone Righteous?


Daily Bible Reading – Romans 1-4

Today’s Key Passage – Romans 3:9-24

 

There are many different excuses people use to try to justify their actions.  Some people say that there is no God and therefore they do not have to follow any rules other than their own conscience.  Others think they are not as bad as other people are, and that their sins have only been minor.  Still others think that since they belong to a church or give to the needy, they are automatically righteous in God’s eyes.  Paul spends the first three chapters in Romans debunking all of these myths.  He systematically explains away all of these excuses, and is left with the truth about our righteousness.  He quotes Psalm 14 in today’s key passage to explain that in God’s eyes, none of us is innocent.

We are all guilty of sin.  Based on our own merit, we all deserve to go to hell.  I know that sounds harsh, but Biblically speaking it is the truth.  God does not pull any punches in His Scripture.  He does not try to soften the blow.  If we have ever lied – even once – we are sinners, and as we see in Romans 6:23, “the wages of sin is death“.  There is no getting around it.  There is no hiding from it.  So how do we answer the question of whether or not anyone is righteous based on his own merit?  According to the Bible, the answer is a definitive “no”.  Fortunately, through Jesus Christ we are justified.  While we will never be righteous on our own, we can become righteous in God’s sight, though faith in Jesus Christ.

Anyone who says he does not need Christ is fooling himself.  Anyone who says he “lives a good life” or that “God will understand” is fooling himself.  Anyone who says he practices “religion” but does not have an actual relationship with Jesus Christ is fooling himself.  Christ is the ONLY way.  We will never measure up without Him.  Some people call that exclusionary, but in fact, Christianity is perhaps the most inclusive religion in the world.  In most religions, there are a series of steps that you have to go through to be justified.  In those religions, you are justified by your actions.  In Biblical Christianity, there is only one thing you need to do – put your faith and your trust in Jesus.  That is it.  Of course, as followers of Christ we still follow rules.  We still try to live our lives by His standards, but we do not do this to try to gain salvation.  Our salvation is already guaranteed through our Savior.  We follow rules and try to become more Christ-like out of our gratitude for what He did for us.  His sacrifice for us was enormous.  If we truly thank Him and praise Him daily, we try our best to follow His lead, and we will share this good news!  Anyone and everyone can become righteous today.  All it takes is a little humility.  All it takes is a little faith.

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.

Encouraging Others


Daily Bible Reading – 1 Thessalonians 4,5; 2 Thessalonians 1-3

Today’s Key Passage – 1 Thessalonians 5:11-24

 

Everyone needs encouragement from time to time.  Near the end of Paul’s first letter to the church in Thessalonica, he talks about encouraging other believers.  His words in today’s key passage, though meant originally for the Thessalonians, are still poignant today and provide us with several examples of how to encourage others in our daily lives.  Paul tells us to build each other up in all ways.  (5:11)  We should respect our leaders and hold them in high regard. (5:12-13)  We should live in peace with one another. (5:13)  We should warn the idle, encourage the timid, and help the weak. (5:14)  We should be patient with everyone we meet. (5:14)  We should resist revenge. (5:15)  We should not put out the Spirit’s fire or treat prophecies with contempt. (5:19-20)  We should avoid all evil, and we should count on God’s constant help to keep us on the path. (5:22-24)

Life is hard.  Many times, we feel like we are the ones who need encouragement and therefore do not feel like we have the capacity to encourage others, but God gives us the power to do it.  Even when we feel discouraged ourselves, we can still encourage others.  Many times all it takes are a few words to turn around a person’s whole day.  In fact, in a broader sense, all it takes are a few words to turn around a person’s whole life.  While that may sound grandiose, keep in mind that most of us began on the path to Christ originally based in part on the words of another.  Words can be very powerful.  Proverbs 18:21 tells us that, “the tongue has the power of life and death“.

Perhaps Paul’s best advice for us is this – “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances“. (5:16-18)  Think about these three concepts for a second, and imagine how much better life would be if we always lived by these words.

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.

Separating the Sheep from the Goats


Daily Bible Reading – Matthew 23-25

Today’s Key Passage – Matthew 25:31-46

 

What would you do if Jesus showed up at your door today?  What if He rang your doorbell, and told you that He was hungry and thirsty?  What if He said He needed some clothes to wear or a place to stay?  Would you invite Him in?  As followers of Christ, this should be a pretty easy “Yes” for most of us.  If our Lord and Savior Himself came to us asking for help, most of us would go out of our way to help Him in any way that we can, but helping Jesus is the easy part.  This is no different than being nice to people who are nice to us.  The Bible tells us, though, that we should not just love our friends but our enemies also.  That is the harder part and the more important part.  Just as we should love our enemies, we must help those in need.  We know, Biblically speaking, that Jesus is not going to show up at our door because the next time He comes it will be in glory for the final judgment.  This parable tells us that how we react to needy people in general is how we would act towards Jesus Himself.  Are we inviting them in?  Are we giving them food, drink, and clothing?  Are we taking care of those in need?

Some people debate over what Jesus meant in this story when He said, “these brothers and sisters of mine”.  Some people argue Jesus was referring to Jewish people.  Others think He was talking about Christians in general.  Still others think He was talking about all people everywhere who are in need.  I think the argument of whom he was talking about is not nearly as important as what he was telling us to do.  What if we just assumed He meant all people everywhere who are in need?  What if we decided today to treat every person we encountered on a daily basis as if he were Jesus Christ Himself?  How much differently would we start to live?  What kind of changes would happen in our world if we began viewing every person we met in this way?  Would we not become more generous?  Would we not become more loving?  Would we not become more like Jesus Himself through our actions, which is the whole point of Christianity?  Today, let us all vow to treat everyone we encounter as if he were Jesus, and see what happens.  I promise we will all like the results…

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.

Taking Our Eyes Off Of Jesus


Daily Bible Reading – Matthew 14-16

Today’s Key Passage – Matthew 14:22-33

 

When people think about Jesus, many times they think of the image of Jesus walking on water seen in today’s key passage.  It is certainly a grand display of His power and of His command over all of creation.  When Peter called out to Jesus, he was not testing Jesus.  In fact, he was the only person on the boat who reacted to Jesus in faith. (14:28)  Walking on water was an impossible task for Peter, but instead of focusing on the improbability of his success he focused on Jesus.  Basically, Peter was saying that even though the task seemed impossible, he would try it if it was Jesus’ will.  Jesus reply to this request was a simple one.  He did not need a long dissertation to explain to Peter HOW to walk on water or to explain the physics behind it or anything else.  Jesus simply replied to Peter’s request with one word – “Come“. (14:29)

This is how it should work with our faith.  When faced with impossible choices and impossible conditions, we should look to Jesus and ask Him what His will is for us.  Does He want us to step out in faith, or cower in the boat?  More often than not, His response will be for us to come.  We may not always be comfortable.  We might not always be doing exactly what WE want to do.  However, if we truly follow His guidance and live by HIS will, we will have to step out of that boat and walk with Him in faith.

When Peter stepped out of the boat, initially he was fine.  He was actually doing the impossible and walking on water because it was Jesus will for him.  It was only when Peter took his eyes off Jesus and noticed the wind and the waves and began focusing on the impossibility of his task that he started to sink. (14:30)  Once again, it is the same thing with us.  It is not enough for us to step out in faith.  We have to keep our eyes on Jesus.  We cannot start focusing on how hard it is to do what we are doing or on any storms that may pop up along the way.  If we do that, we will start to sink and fall into despair.  If we keep our eyes on Jesus and if we have complete faith in Him to make it happen, we will not sink.  We will continue to walk with Him on the water.  Furthermore, if we do lose focus and start to sink, we can take another lesson from Peter.  When he began to sink, he did not try to save himself.  He did the only thing he could possibly do in that situation – he reached out to Jesus. (14:30)  As humans we sometimes have a tendency to try to fix everything ourselves.  Jesus is the only real answer.  He is the only real solution.  If we find ourselves sinking, we must reach out to Him for help.  Instead of pulling away when we start to sink, it is at those times that we must draw closer to Him.  Just as He did with Peter, Jesus will save us in those circumstances.

If you cannot tell, I love this story.  I love the image of Jesus walking on the water, but even more than that, I love the message that the story conveys to us.  I constantly remind myself to step out of the boat and walk in faith.  I remind myself to do His will and not mine, and I remind myself to keep my eyes on Jesus.  He is the way, the truth, and the life.  If you have not taken the time yet today, reach out to Him.  Praise Him for being such an amazing God.  Ask Him to save you from sinking.  Thank Him for his help, and then remember to keep your eyes focused on 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.

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.

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