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

Giving Our Best to God


Daily Bible Reading – Nehemiah 13; Malachi 1, 2; Acts 4

Today’s Key Passage – Malachi 1:6-14

In the Old Testament, offering animals as a sacrifice to God was an important ritual.  In the days of Malachi, the people in Jerusalem had started to deviate from God’s plan.  They were doing many sinful things, one of which is described in our key passage today.  The spirit of the original Old Testament offering was to bring God the best animals to be sacrificed, but the people of Jerusalem began bringing the crippled and diseased animals to God instead of their very best. (1:7-8)  God was not happy with the people for this, and refused to accept their offerings.

In the New Testament Jesus was the Lamb of God who offered himself as the ultimate sacrifice to God to take away the sins of the entire world.  His sacrifice put an end to the need for sacrificing animals, but even today, we are still called to make offerings to God.  We make offerings to God today in the form of our time, our talents, and our money.  We do this as a way to glorify God and to put him first in our lives and as a demonstration of our love and faith in Him.  Just as it was in Malachi’s day, it is important to give God our very best.

It is easy today to get off-course and to forget to give God our very best.  Sometimes due to other commitments that take up our time, talents, and money, we can have the tendency to try to give God what is “left over”.  This is not God’s desire for us.  When we have a guest over to our house for dinner, we would never offer them leftovers from a previous dinner.  We would make them a feast!  This is the same way we should treat God.  When we give God our best every day, we can be sure that our offerings will always be pleasing to 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.

 

Gifts from God


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

Today’s Key Passage – Nehemiah 2:1-9

 

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

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

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

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.

Counting the Cost


Daily Bible Reading – Zechariah 10-12; Psalm 126; Luke 14

Today’s Key Passage – Luke 14:25-35

 

In late 2011, the lease on my vehicle was set to expire, and my wife and I were left with a decision.  We could choose to keep my vehicle and pay off the remaining balance, or purchase a new vehicle.  In anticipation of this decision, I poured through magazines and websites counting the true cost of each option.  I researched things like fuel mileage, insurance premiums, and predicted reliability to ensure I was well informed on exactly what each option would end up costing us down the road.  My goal in all of this research was to be able to make an educated decision based on all of the expected costs, because anything less would have been irresponsible.

Likewise, Jesus wanted His disciples to count the true cost of following Him.  Being a disciple, both then and now, involves more than just knowing about Jesus or trying to apply some of His principles to our lives.  He is not looking for a halfhearted commitment or a passing acknowledgment of faith.  Instead, Christ is asking each of us to be willing to give up everything to follow Him.  To be His disciple, we are called to love Him more than our families, friends, possessions, and even our own lives. (14:26-33)  The cost of following Jesus can be high, but the reward far surpasses that cost, because when we truly decide to give everything to Jesus and trust Him as our Savior, we are rewarded with eternal life.  I once heard it said that following Christ costs more than anything in this world except NOT following Him, and that is a price I pray more people are willing to pay.

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.

Worship God


Daily Bible Reading – Ezekiel 42-44; Revelation 22

Today’s Key Passage – Revelation 22:8-9

 

In 2011, my wife and I started watching a new television show called Buried Treasure.   In it, two brothers travel across the country helping people find unknown treasures and antiques that they have in their homes.  We enjoyed watching it because many of the people on the show have a legitimate need for the money they will get from selling their possessions.  Whether it is a family that needs to pay medical bills or a father wanting to provide for his adult children, people’s financial circumstances can be changed in an instant when something of value is found in their homes.  Unfortunately, there was a downside to this show.  We saw several occasions where treasures were found that could really help a family pay their bills, but the owners refused to sell because of an emotional attachment to the items.  In some cases, the attachment people had to their possessions seemed dangerously close to idolatry.

I thought about this show today as I read our key passage.  Near the end of his book of Revelation, the apostle John is reflecting on all of the things he has been shown by the angel of the Lord.  He had witnessed miraculous things firsthand, and must have felt overwhelmed when he fell down at the feet of the angel to worship him. (22:8)  Immediately, the angel corrected him and told him that he was simply a fellow servant and that John should only worship God. (22:9)

So often in this life, we can be tempted to worship something or someone other than God.  Sometimes it is a possession that we really like.  Other times it is a person that we place on a pedestal, such as a public figure, a pastor, or even a spouse.  While most of us are aware that worshiping money or possessions is a sin, we can sometimes forget this when it comes to people.  There is a fine line between respect or admiration and idolatry.  It is important that we keep in mind that every person on this earth, regardless of position, is simply a fellow servant of God (whether the person recognizes it or not).  I pray that today we will all ask ourselves what or whom we are worshiping, and I hope we will all resign to only worship God.

During your Bible reading today, what “key passages” stood out to you?  Leave a comment below to share what God is showing you about His Word today.

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

Serving More Than One God


Daily Bible Reading – 2 Kings 17; 2 Chronicles 28; Psalm 46; James 3

Today’s Key Passage – 2 Kings 17:24-33

 

For the past week, we have been reading Isaiah’s prophesies against the Israelites.  Isaiah warned them that they were going to be conquered by the Assyrians and sent into exile.  In today’s reading, this event finally came to fruition.  The king of Assyria brought foreigners in to live in the towns of Samaria. (Vs. 24)  Because these foreign people did not worship God, He sent lions to kill some of them. (Vs. 25)  In a panic, the Assyrian king sent one of the exiled priests back to Bethel to teach the new inhabitants how to worship the Lord. (Vs. 28)  Unfortunately, there was a problem with this plan.  The new inhabitants of Israel began worshiping God in an effort to appease Him, but at the same time, they wanted to continue worshiping their other gods. (Vss. 29-32)  The people were trying to serve more than one god, which is definitely not what God wanted, and would later lead to their destruction.

Like the rest of the Bible, this story is as relevant today as it was when it happened.  Even today, many people feel the temptation to try to serve God while still clinging to the “gods” of their past.  These “gods” might be money, a possession, a person, or an activity.  When we are saved, God begins changing us for the better.  Because of this change, there are going to be things from our past lives that are no longer acceptable for a follower of Christ.  This process is different for each one of us.  For example, one person might find that he can no longer drink alcohol at all while another person might find it acceptable to have a drink occasionally.  The problem, however, lies in the person who is not willing to be changed.  A person who spends Sunday mornings worshiping God and then every Friday night getting drunk with their friends is trying to serve more than one god.  A person who reads all about a Godly marriage in the Bible but continues to cheat on his wife is trying to serve more than one god.  There is a big difference between trying to appease God and trying to please him, and attempting the former without concentrating on the latter simply does not work.  God is not looking to be one of many gods you are serving.  He is the one true God and He wants to be the only God in your life.  If you have other gods you are trying to serve, get rid of them.  There is only room for one God in your life.

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.

Proverbs’ Guide to Finances


Daily Bible Reading – Proverbs 19-21; Romans 13

Today’s Key Passage – Proverbs 19:17; 20:4; 20:17; 21:20; 21:25-26

 

Managing our finances is one of the toughest things for most people to do well.  Countless books have been written on the subject.  Countless television personalities offer their advice.  It seems that many people, particularly in a down economy, are trying to understand how to better manage their finances.  As followers of Christ, we are not exempt from this need.  In fact, the Bible has many passages regarding how to properly manage our finances, particularly in Proverbs.  The book of Proverbs is filled with wisdom on how a follower of Christ should effectively deal with money.  The first step in managing our finances is realizing that everything we have comes from God.  He gives us every dollar we have or will ever have and expects us to properly steward what He has entrusted us to have.  With that foundation in place, we can begin to look at specifics in Proverbs for some practical advice on managing money.  In today’s key passage, there are five principles we should all follow to properly manage our finances in a God-honoring way.

Give – “He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward him for what he has done.” (Vs. 19:17) – Perhaps the most important lesson anyone can learn about managing finances is the importance of giving.  As followers of Christ, we are called to help those people who are less fortunate that us.  We are called to give generously and with a happy heart.  Without a giving spirit, no other advice on finance will ever amount to anything.

Work Hard – “A sluggard does not plow in season; so at harvest time he looks but finds nothing.” (Vs. 20:4) – Proverbs has a lot to say about laziness.  When God provides us with a job, He expects us to work hard.  He expects us to try our best.  We cannot simply lie around doing nothing and expect God to provide for us.  God does provide, but He expects us to be involved in the process.  He expects us to do our part.

Work Honestly – “Food gained by fraud tastes sweet to a man, but he ends up with a mouth full of gravel.” (Vs. 20:17) – It is not enough to just work hard.  We have to be honest in our business dealings, just as we are honest in our personal dealings.  No amount of money is worth compromising your honesty and integrity.  Honor God with your work.

Save For the Future – “In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil, but a foolish man devours all he has.” (Vs. 21:20) – During times of plenty, we are called to save money for times of less.  Do not misunderstand here – we are not called to hoard everything we make, but putting some money away for a rainy day is sound advice.  If you find that you are spending everything you make, you are spending entirely too much.

Be Happy With What You Have – “The sluggard’s craving will be the death of him, because his hands refuse to work. All day long he craves for more, but the righteous give without sparing.” (Vss. 21:25-26) – One of the problems with money is that for many people, having more means wanting more.  Do you constantly want to buy a new item?  Are you constantly looking for your next big purchase?  When we are happy with what God has provided instead of wishing for more, we will find it much easier to honor God with the money we do have.

Managing our finances in a God-honoring way is an important part of the Christian walk, but never forget that the money we make and the things we buy are temporary compared to the eternal things of God.  With that in mind, the best place we can turn for advice on managing our finances is God’s Word.  As we follow His directions, we will find it much easier to be good stewards.

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.

Solomon Asks for Wisdom


Daily Bible Reading – 1 Kings 3; 2 Chronicles 1; Psalm 78; 2 Thessalonians 2

Today’s Key Passage – 1 Kings 3:4-15

 

Most of us, at one time or another, have played the little game of “3 wishes” with ourselves or with others.  The game goes something like this – you have been given three wishes, and you can ask for anything you want.  What would your wishes be?  The answers to this question are typically humorous and pretty informative.  In fact, if you ever want to really understand what drives another person, ask him or her this question.  In today’s key passage, we see a real-life example of this game in Scripture.  Solomon was the new king and one night in a dream, God appeared to him and said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” (Vs. 5)  Now we all have moments of greatness in our lives.  These are moments when we do the right thing, say the right thing, or think the right thing.  In my opinion, Solomon’s greatest moment comes in the next few lines of Scripture.  In response to God, we read in verses 7-9, “Now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong.”  When given the chance to ask God for anything, Solomon chose to ask for wisdom.  The next line of Scripture is beautiful in its simplicity as we read, “The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this.” (Vs. 10)

My question today for each of us might be a convicting one.  If you were in the same position as Solomon, what would you say?  If God appeared to you today and told you to ask for whatever you want, what would you ask for Him to give you?  I ask that you spend some time today prayerfully considering this question, because while it may seem like an easy one, the answer will directly reflect where your heart is in relation with God’s will.  When considering this question, remember that no matter what we say our answer would be, God knows our heart and He knows what we would truly ask from Him.  He knows what is in our deepest prayers and He knows what drives us and motivates us.  Would your answer be pleasing to Him?  If not, the good news is that God has the power to change our hearts.  He has the power to help our will line up with His perfect will.  In fact, that is what our walk with God is really all about – growing and maturing in our faith as we become more like Christ.  My prayer today is that you would prayerfully consider your request, that your request would be pleasing to God, and that He will give you the desire of your heart.  Just as God granted Solomon’s request for wisdom, He will grant your request as well when it lines up with His perfect will.

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.

Pilate Washes His Hands of Jesus


Daily Bible Reading – 2 Samuel 18; Psalm 56; Matthew 27

Today’s Key Passage – Matthew 27:11-26

 

In 1818, Ignaz Phillip Semmelweis was born into a world of dying women.  The finest hospitals in the world lost one out of six young mothers to the scourge of “childbed fever.”  A doctor’s daily routine began in the dissecting room where he performed autopsies.  From there, he made his way to the hospital to examine expectant mothers without ever pausing to wash his hands.  Dr. Semmelweis was the first man in history to associate such examinations with the resultant infection and death of the new mothers.  His own practice was to wash with a chlorine solution, and after eleven years and the delivery of 8,537 babies, he lost only 184 mothers–about one in fifty.  Though none of his colleagues believed him at the time, we know today about the importance of washing our hands.  In today’s key passage however, we see a different kind of hand washing.  The religious leaders were calling for Jesus execution, and Pilate was feeling the pressure.  He knew what he should do.  His own conscience told him that Jesus was not guilty of anything, and his wife confirmed his suspicions, but Pilate knew that if he released Jesus he would have a possible revolt on his hands that could cost him his job.  Since he could not come up with a solution that would make everyone happy, he decided to make no decision at all.  We read in verse 24, “When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. ‘I am innocent of this man’s blood,’ he said. ‘“It is your responsibility!'”  Pilate wanted to simply walk away from the decision and not take responsibility for the outcome, but in the end, he still allowed Jesus to be crucified.  In the end, he was still guilty.

There are many times when we can all feel tempted to simply “wash our hands” of a situation.  When we see people who do not know Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior, we may be tempted to not deal with the question of who He is.  When we see temptations in our lives that may lead us to sin, it is often too difficult to cut those temptations out of our lives completely.  When we see other believers sinning, it is often easier to stay quiet instead of correcting them in love.  When we see someone in need, it is often easier to walk by him instead of stopping to help.  I could fill this page and probably a couple more simply listing out examples of when we might be tempted to “wash our hands” of a situation instead of dealing with it, but the point is that in each of these examples there is one common truth – washing our hands does not make us innocent.  Walking away and choosing not to deal with a problem does not solve it, and in the eyes of God, we will still be found guilty.  When you are tempted to wash your hands of a situation, instead ask God for His guidance.  Allow Him to lead you to the right answer.  Allow Him to lead you down the right path.

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.

To become a fan of The Daily Bible Plan’s Facebook Page, CLICK HERE.

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If you like this post, please SHARE it with others to spread the Word of God.

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

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