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Comparing Ourselves to God’s Standards


Daily Bible Reading – 2 Corinthians 7-10

Today’s Key Passage – 2 Corinthians 10:12-18

 

In Paul’s fourth letter to the Corinthians (captured in Scripture as 2 Corinthians), he spent some time in chapter 10 defending his authority and his ministry.  Other false teachers had come along and tried to lead the Corinthians away from the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  These false teachers attacked Paul and spent a lot of time trying to get the Corinthians to follow their teachings instead of the true teachings of Christ.  The false teachers were boasting about their own accomplishments and comparing themselves to Paul and with other teachers to try to gain credibility.  In today’s key passage, Paul says that comparing ourselves to other people is dangerous and that we are better off comparing ourselves to God’s standards.  In addition, instead of boasting about our own accomplishments, we should boast about what God has done through us.

What happens when we try to compare ourselves to others?  The first problem we encounter is when we find that others have things we do not have.  When we compare ourselves to others and find that they have more (possessions, money, spiritual gifts, etc.), we usually find ourselves being jealous.  This jealousy leads to ungratefulness for all of the things that God has given us.  Obviously, this is dangerous.  The second problem we encounter is when we find we have more than others do.  When we compare ourselves to others and find that we have more (possessions, money, spiritual gifts, etc.) we could begin to feel prideful – obviously another dangerous place to be.  As you can see, either way you go, comparing ourselves to others can lead to sin.

What if instead of comparing ourselves to others, we compare ourselves to God’s standards?  Keep in mind that God’s standard is perfection, which is pretty difficult.  As a simple way to illustrate this, take a look at the Ten Commandments.  When was the last time you violated one of these?  By God’s standard, anyone who violated a single one of these commandments would be forever separated from him.  That is, until Jesus Christ came along.  Jesus Christ allowed us to bridge the gap between God and us.  God knew that none of us could be perfect, so He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for our sins.  He had to make this sacrifice for us because He knew we could never live up to His perfect standards.  When you think of it like this, it makes it pretty hard to feel ungrateful about what He did for us, and it also makes it pretty hard to feel prideful for what we have done compared to what He did.  Instead of worrying about what others have or do not have, ask yourself how you compare to what God wants and how your life compares to Jesus Christ.  If we ask ourselves these questions daily, we will yearn to grow in our faith in the Lord 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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Correcting Other Christians


Daily Bible Reading – Job 41, 42; 2 Corinthians 1, 2

Today’s Key Passage – 2 Corinthians 2:1-11

 

Living a Christian life does not happen in a vacuum.  We know from the Bible that God intends for us to live together in community with other Christians.  This fellowship not only helps us grow as followers of Jesus Christ, it also helps us reach others.  Unfortunately, in doing this we are sometimes faced with circumstances where one of the other believers we are “doing life with” starts to stray from the path.

The idea of having to confront another believer terrifies me.  Like most people, I do not really like confrontation, and I try to avoid it whenever possible.  For a long time, I believed that when I saw another Christian sinning I should not say anything.  After all, I figured it was not my job to confront him, and I was afraid that I would come off as judgmental, but there is a fundamental difference in judging someone and correcting them in love.  This revelation came to me when another believer confronted me for something I was doing.  At first, I was angry at being “called out”, but I soon came to realize that this man was coming to me out of his love for me.  He saw an error I was making, and cared enough about me to bring it to my attention.  Matthew 18:15 says, “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.”  When Paul had to correct the Corinthians in today’s key passage, he did it out of love.  Even though he had “great distress and anguish of heart“, he knew that if he truly loved them and cared about them he had to correct them.

In his book, Who You Are When No One’s Looking, Pastor Bill Hybels discusses the “tough love” required to be a follower of Christ.  He lays out a four-point plan to dealing with confrontation.  Step one is clarifying the issue to really understand the problem.  Step two is cleansing your spirit to ensure we do not feel critical, angry, or judgmental before we confront someone.  In Matthew 7:3, Jesus says, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”.  Cleansing the spirit allows us to avoid pointing out the speck in our brother’s eye if we have a plank in our own eye.  Step three is carefully selecting the time and place to talk with the believer.  Step four, probably the most important, is to pray to God for help.

By following these points, we can ensure that when we are forced to confront another believer, we do it correctly.  Obviously, the easiest thing to do it is to say nothing at all, but as we know, the easy thing is very rarely the right thing.  If you really love others more than yourself, sometimes it is necessary to correct another Christian.  When this time comes, remember to do it in love.

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 Judgmental Christian


Daily Bible Reading – Job 34; 1 Corinthians 4-6

Today’s Key Passage – 1 Corinthians 4

 

How many times have you heard Christians described as judgmental?  How many times have you felt judged by other believers?  How many times have you judged another?  Being judgmental is really easy to do.  It is easy to look at others situations and start to judge them, even if that is not necessarily our intention.  It is also easy to judge ourselves.  Being judgmental, however, is not our job.  Our role as followers of Christ is to lift others up, not drag them down by judging them.  People tend to look down at others who have less wealth, less education, or less talent.  In addition, people tend to look down on others who do not do as much to serve the church, who do not give as much to the church, or who do not help the needy.  While all of this may be easy to do, it is also all sin.  Looking down on others for any reason is sin in God’s eyes.  He is the only just and right judge.  He is the only one who is perfect enough to judge other people.  Do not get me wrong, as followers of Christ it is our duty to confront another Christian if they are committing sin and refuse to repent, but even in those situations, we are to confront them with love and condemn their actions instead of their person.  When we start to condemn them as people, we cross over from being a helpful brother or sister in Christ to being judgmental and to sinning ourselves.

Paul says it best when he says, “Then you will not be puffed up in being a follower of one of us over against the other. For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” (4:7)  The next time the urge comes to judge another person, just remember that everything you have – all of your wealth, power, education, talents, treasures, qualities, and characteristics – were given to you by God.  You did not earn them.  God gave them to you by His grace.  When we think of things in this way, it becomes much less tempting to judge others.

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.

Satan’s Defeat


Daily Bible Reading – Ezekiel 38, 39; Psalm 145; Revelation 20

Today’s Key Passage – Revelation 20:1-10

 

In September 2011, some friends and I went to the theater to see the movie Rise of the Planet of the Apes.  We walked into the movie with great anticipation, but I must admit that all of us left a little disappointed.  We were hoping to watch a dramatic, drawn-out battle in the movie, but what we found instead was about an hour and forty minutes of building followed by about 15 minutes of actual battle, which left us unsatisfied.

Those looking for a long, drawn-out battle will not find it in Revelation 20 either.  Though the entire book of Revelation (and really the entire Bible) builds toward a battle between the forces of good and evil, the actual event is quite short.  In fact, Satan’s ultimate defeat – the event we have waited for since his first appearance in Genesis – is dealt with in a single sentence.  When I thought about this today, I concluded that I believe God did this on purpose.  I believe God wanted John to only spend one sentence on Satan’s final destruction as a way of demonstrating His power.  There is no doubt that Satan is powerful.  There is no doubt that he attacks us and that his attacks can be quite strong sometimes.  The wonderful truth, though, is that as powerful as Satan may be, he is no match for God.  Our Lord Jesus is so powerful, in fact, that He can dispense with Satan in a single blow, and can throw him into the lake of burning sulfur to be “tormented day and night for ever and ever”. (20:10)  While this battle will be short, it will not leave any one of us unsatisfied, because Satan’s defeat will mark the end of all evil and sin.  What a glorious day that will be indeed.

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 the Enemy Falls


Daily Bible Reading – Lamentations 1, 2; Obadiah; Revelation 14

Today’s Key Passage – Obadiah 1:8-16

 

A few years ago, before I was saved, I had a troublesome client at work.  Most of our conversations involved him complaining about my company and berating me personally, which culminated in a meeting in which I was forced to endure him yelling and cursing at me at the top of his lungs for about an hour.  Despite all of this, he continued to do business with us up until the day he called to tell me that his company was going out of business, due in large part to his management.  While I am not proud to admit it now, at the time, I remember feeling a sense of joy and relief at his misfortune.  I was happy that I would not have to deal with him anymore, but more than that I was glad that he had fallen so far.  As I read today’s key passage today, I thought about him for the first time in years, and I was reminded of my sinfulness.

The prophet Obadiah was speaking out against the people of Edom.  He condemned the Edomites for gloating, saying, “You should not look down on your brother in the day of his misfortune, nor rejoice over the people of Judah in the day of their destruction, nor boast so much in the day of their trouble.” (Vs. 12)  When people are cruel to us, it is easy to give in to the temptation of feeling pleasure when they experience misfortune.  While it is easy to extend grace to a friend who is suffering, the true test of our character is how we react when our enemy falls.  Proverbs 24:17 reminds us, “Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice”.  Even if we think he or she deserves punishment, we must never be happy about someone else’s suffering, because God alone is the judge.

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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Eating the Little Scroll


Daily Bible Reading – Ezekiel 25-28; Revelation 10

Today’s Key Passage – Revelation 10:1-11

 

In today’s key passage, the prophecy of God’s final judgment continues through the apostle John.  A mighty angel comes down from Heaven carrying a little scroll. (Vss. 1-2)  While we are not told exactly what the scroll contained because John was told not to provide details (Vs. 4), we do know that it had to do with God’s judgment on unbelievers. (Vss. 6-7)  John was told to take the scroll from the angel (Vs. 8), and when he did, the angel told John to eat it. (Vs. 9)  When he did, just as the angel predicted, the scroll tasted as sweet as honey in John’s mouth, but quickly soured his stomach. (Vs. 10)

When we first read passages like these in the book of Revelation, we might feel a little confused.  We may not immediately understand what the passage means to us today or how we can apply it to our lives.  Fortunately, the more we study God’s Word and prayerfully consider His passages, God tends to provide us with understanding and show us an application.  When we read about God’s final judgments against this world, as followers of Christ the words are as sweet as honey.  We long for Christ’s victorious return and we long for the new earth.  Unfortunately, there is another side to that coin.  While we rejoice in what the end times will mean for us as believers, our stomachs quickly sour as we think about the fate of unbelievers.  There are so many people in this world that will be lost, and that simple fact hurts our hearts and makes us feel ill.  This sickening feeling is what drives us to continue to spread the Gospel each day, and to keep trying to reach the lost.  As God changes our hearts, we begin to grieve for the things that grieve Him, and nothing grieves Him more than the thought of a lost soul.

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.

Where is Your Focus?


Daily Bible Reading – Jeremiah 45-47; Psalm 105; John 21

Today’s Key Passage – John 21:18-22

 

A few years ago, I was playing golf with a friend of mine on a course that was new to me.  From about 180 yards away, I hit a beautiful approach shot that landed about three feet from the hole.  I will be the first to say I am not a great golfer, so I was understandably excited until I turned to my friend to see his reaction.  As he stared at the green with a shocked look on his face, he slowly turned to me and started laughing.  Unfortunately, I quickly learned that I was incorrectly aiming for the green of an adjacent hole and not the one we were currently playing.  I ended up on the wrong green because I was focusing in the wrong direction.

In today’s key passage, we see that Peter had a similar problem.  Following Jesus’ resurrection, He was walking with Peter and talking to him about the difficult times he would face ahead. (Vss. 18-19)  As Peter listened to Jesus, he noticed that John was following them, and asked Jesus, “Lord, what about him?” (Vs. 21)  Instead of thinking about how he could serve Jesus, Peter was focusing in the wrong direction.  To this, Jesus simply answered by saying, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” (Vs. 22)

All of us can fall into the trap of comparing our lives to other people.  We wonder why others have received a blessing we have not received or why their walk with God is different from our own.  We can even become judgmental and start comparing someone else’s devotion to Christ to our own.  When these temptations strike, we must remember Jesus’ words as he gently says, “What is that to you?”  No matter what is happening with anyone else, our role is to follow Him.  Instead of focusing on what God is doing in other people’s lives, keep your focus clearly aligned on Jesus.  When you do, you will never have to worry about ending up on the wrong green.

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.

Jumping to Conclusions


Daily Bible Reading – 2 Kings 23; 2 Chronicles 35; John 7

Today’s Key Passage – John 7:10-44

 

This may sound strange, but when I was younger, I had a big problem with the New International Version of the Bible.  I grew up hearing and occasionally reading parts of the King James Version of the Bible, and the NIV just seemed too easy.  I was used to struggling through the Bible and not really understanding most of the passages, so when I first saw the clear language of the NIV, it almost felt like I was cheating.  Eventually I got over this hurdle and started reading the NIV, and I quickly realized I had jumped to the wrong conclusion about it.  I made the decision that it could not possibly be a good translation before I really knew anything about it.

Many of the Jews in Jesus’ day jumped to the wrong conclusions about Him.  In the early part of His ministry, Jesus taught at the temple during the Feast of Tabernacles. (Vs. 14)  Some of the people who had heard about Jesus thought He was a “good man” while others believed He was a “deceiver”. (Vs. 12)  When He spoke to the crowd, some people immediately believed He was the Christ (Vs. 41), while others thought He was demon-possessed. (Vs. 20)  Some of the Jews simply could not get past the fact that Jesus was from Nazareth. (Vss. 41-42)  They jumped to the conclusion that the Messiah could never have come from Galilee, so they missed knowing Jesus as Christ.

All of us jump to conclusions on occasion.  We do it in a variety of situations, but none of them are more damaging than when we jump to conclusions about Jesus.  Anytime we fear the worst is going to happen, worry that we are not good enough, or doubt that a situation is going to work out; we are jumping to a conclusion about Christ.  We are jumping to the conclusion that our God is simply not big enough to solve our everyday issues or problems.  This type of thinking, even though most of the time it is unintentional, is toxic to our faith.  Do not let yourself jump to the wrong conclusions about Jesus.  Instead, focus on all that He has done and conclude that He is who He said He is – the Alpha and the Omega and the King of Kings.

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.

Facing God


Daily Bible Reading – Amos 4-6; Psalms 86,87; Titus 1

Today’s Key Passage – Amos 4:6-13

 

Amos was a shepherd from Judah who was sent by God to prophesy to the northern kingdom of Israel.  At the time, Israel was a powerful nation with a good economy, but the nation was also spiritually corrupt, so God sent prophets to try to convince the Israelites to repent.  As you read his words, you will notice the boldness of Amos and the directness of his words.  He feared no king or priest in this world, and he spoke the words of God with honesty and integrity.  He denounced the sin of all of Israel’s neighbors, likely to the delight of his Israelite audience, before turning his attention to Israel itself and denouncing their sins before God.  In today’s key passage, Amos is talking to the Israelites about their stubbornness in the eyes of the Lord.  Speaking through His prophet, God declares that He used many methods to attempt to draw His people back to Him.  He sent famine to their lands, but the Israelites would not repent.  He sent drought to their lands, but the Israelites would not repent.  He sent pestilence to their lands, but the Israelites would not repent.  God even sent plagues and death to their lands and replaced some of the leaders, but still the Israelites would not repent.  No matter what God tried, the Israelites remained an evil nation filled with sinfulness.  What was God to do?  He answered that question in verses 12 and 13 when He said, “‘Therefore this is what I will do to you, Israel, and because I will do this to you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel.’  He who forms the mountains, creates the wind, and reveals his thoughts to man, he who turns dawn to darkness, and treads the high places of the earth—the LORD God Almighty is his name.”  After constantly refusing to return to God, the Israelites were reminded that they were going to have to face God.

When I read this passage, I cannot help but think of our world today.  After repeated warnings, signs, and evidence of the glory of God, there are still many people who refuse to repent.  Despite all that God did in sending His only Son to create a bridge between the sinful world and the perfect Father, there are still many people who refuse to accept Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.  Despite all that the Bible says, there are still many “Christians” who choose to live by the standards of this world instead of living by God’s standards.  My prayer today is that everyone in this world will be reminded that we will all have to face God.  Whether we like it or not, we all must prepare to meet our God.  That day is coming for all of us.  Are you, your family, and your friends prepared to meet the Lord?

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.

Shaking the Dust


Daily Bible Reading – Leviticus 15-17; Acts 18

Today’s Key Passage – Acts 18:1-11

 

Paul left Athens and went to Corinth, which at the time was the most important city in Greece.  While there, he continued to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the people and spoke the truth to them.  The Jews in Corinth who were sinning did not want to hear the truth, though, so they “opposed Paul and became abusive“.  Paul was once again being persecuted for speaking the truth, and he “shook out his clothes in protest” to the Jews.  Paul, who was arguably the best preacher of all time, faced rejection like this often.  As good as he was at preaching the Gospel, there were times when he simply could not get his message across to people.  Sometimes the people he faced had hardened their hearts to the point where they were simply unable to hear the truth in his message.  More often than not, sinners “hate the one who reproves in court and despise him who tells the truth.” (Amos 5:10), so Paul would find himself being abused and persecuted.  In this case, Paul followed an important lesson taught by Jesus himself and “shook out his clothes in protest”.

Jesus knew all about rejection.  He constantly faced rejection from others because of his teaching, and we can learn an important lesson in how He handled that rejection.  When people asked Jesus to leave a town, He did not try to argue with them.  He simply left and moved on.  When the rich young man refused Jesus offer to sell everything and follow Him, Jesus did not chase after him and try to convince him.  Jesus simply let him leave.  When Jesus was sending out his disciples to serve, He taught them this important lesson.  He told them, “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town.” (Matthew 10:14).

When we speak the truth in love, we will sometimes face rejection.  When we attempt to lead someone to Christ, we might not immediately succeed.  When we attempt to correct another person who is sinning, we might not immediately succeed.  We might even be persecuted for our efforts – probably not physically but emotionally.  We might be mocked and ridiculed by others.  We might be called judgmental for speaking the truth.  People might use our past sins prior to being saved against us or even make up lies about us to try to diminish our witness.  The fact is that not everyone we share the Gospel with will listen, and Jesus’ lesson is for us to go elsewhere and “shake the dust”.  There are many times when we might be tempted to chase after these people, but more often than not, that will only lead them further away from God.  When we try to “hold onto the dust” of others, it will only serve to discourage us and might even make us less likely to share our faith in the next situation.  Do not let a little rejection come between you and your service to Christ.  Remember His words to Paul – “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm 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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May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you today.

 

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