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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.

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Regretting Our Decisions


Daily Bible Reading – Psalm 125; Matthew 26, 27

Today’s Key Passage – Matthew 27:1-10

 

We do not really know what Judas was thinking when he betrayed Jesus.  Perhaps Judas was tired of waiting on Jesus.  Perhaps he finally realized that Jesus kingdom would not be an earthly kingdom filled with money and power, but a spiritual one.  Perhaps he believed that his betrayal would force Jesus’ hand into revolting against Rome.  Because it is not written in Scripture, we can only speculate about his motives.   What we do know from Scripture is that eventually Judas regretted his decision.  When he finally realized that Jesus was not going to rise up and form a kingdom on earth against Rome and was instead going to be killed, Judas “was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders”. (27:3)  Unfortunately for Judas, it was too late.  The chief priests and the elders had already started down the path to killing Jesus and they were not about to stop their plans now just because Judas had changed his mind. (27:4-10)

Just like Judas, we often regret the decisions we make.  Many of us have things in our pasts that we wish we could change or do differently.  For most of us, these decisions led to events that cannot be changed now.  Though we feel remorse for our decisions, it is unfortunately too late to do anything to change them.  The best we can do is take these decisions to God in prayer and ask Him for forgiveness.  The best part is that if we ask Him for forgiveness with a pure heart and pure motives, He will forgive us.  Unlike humans, God does not keep a record of our past transgressions.  God is able to forgive us of our sins and then move on, and we should do the same.  Not only should we forgive others of their sins against us and move on, we should forgive OURSELVES of our past sins and move on.  If Judas had been able to that, maybe he would not have ended up hanging himself.  Maybe he could have been redeemed.  After all, Peter also disowned Jesus and was able to come back and help start the church.  Holding on to our regrets can lead to our destruction.  At the very least, holding on to our regret can keep us from living the life God intended for us.  Let go of regrets and leave them at the cross.  Then watch as God’s plan for you begins to unfold.

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 Parable of the Weeds


Daily Bible Reading – Matthew 11-13

Today’s Key Passage – Matthew 13:1-43

 

Jesus often spoke to the people in parables.  He knew that people who were truly seeking Him would understand the parables if they were receptive, while others would simply hear the parables as meaningless stories. (13:13)

In the parable of the weeds, He talks about the weeds that grew among the wheat.  When they first start growing, the young weeds and the young wheat look exactly the same.  It is impossible to distinguish between the two until they become mature.  The servants were told by the owner not to try to pull up the weeds because they might inadvertently also root up the wheat.  Instead, the owner would allow the weeds to grow among the wheat until it was time for the harvest, and at that time, he would separate the weeds, burn them, and place the wheat in the barn.  Jesus went on to explain to His disciples that the field is the world, the good seed is the people of the kingdom, and the weeks are the people of the evil one. (13:37-43)

How many times have we heard people argue that God should just do away with all evil and bad things in the world right now?  While this would seem like the easy way to us, that is not God’s plan and that is not God’s timing.  The weeds (unbelievers) and the wheat (believers) are allowed to live together in this world for now, but eventually, the harvest WILL come.  Eventually, based on God’s perfect timing, all of the evil in this world WILL be pulled out and thrown into the fire.  As we wait for that day, we must stand firm and remember that we are the wheat.

 

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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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.

Questioning God


Daily Bible Reading – Job 37,38; 1 Corinthians 12

Today’s Key Passage – Job 38:1-18

 

In much of the Book of Job, Job discussed what had happened to him with his friends.  Job spent most of his time wondering why he was made to suffer.  Job’s friends spent most of their time putting words in God’s mouth, and most of those words were wrong.  In chapter 38, God finally spoke to Job.  Instead of simply answering Job’s questions, God decided to ask Job a series of questions of his own.  Job (or any other human) could not possibly answer the questions God asked, and that was the point.  God was making the point to Job and his friends that He was completely sovereign and all-powerful.  God created the heavens and the earth without any help from anyone.  The earth and everything in it belongs to God.  Job could not understand all of the inner workings of God’s creation, because he was not there when God created the world.  If Job was unable to understand the creation itself, how could Job possibly understand God’s motives or what He was thinking?

We are all tempted to question God.  There are many times when we simply cannot understand why things are happening as they are.  In these times, we as humans tend to do one of two things.  Either we question God by asking Him why He is allowing this to happen, or we put words in God’s mouth by trying to explain His motives.  Sometimes, we try to do both.  God, however, does not need our help.  God does not need or want us to try to run the world.  God’s moral purposes are so complex that they are beyond human understanding.  How can we question God when we cannot understand things like His creation or the forces of nature?

The next time you feel tempted to question God or to try to explain His actions, remember this passage.  Remember that we were not there for creation.  Remember that we cannot explain the intricacies of this world.  Remember that we cannot explain how the wind blows or how storms move.  Most importantly, remember to trust God.  He has a plan.  He is in control.  He loves you and will always do what is best for you.  When we submit to God’s authority in our lives, we can rest in the knowledge that He will care for us completely.

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.

Weathering the Storm


Daily Bible Reading – Job 1, 2; Acts 6, 7

Today’s Key Passage – Job 2:1-10 

Stories of bad things happening to good people constantly bombard us.  Many people believe that God should shield good people from the bad things in life, and that if He really loved us He would not allow these bad things to happen.  We must realize, however, that the bad things that happen today are all due to a series of events that began in the Garden of Eden when Eve ate the apple.  Man’s rebellion from God changed a perfect world into an imperfect one.  While God is more than capable from putting an end to all of the suffering in the world today, that is not His plan.  It is difficult for our human minds to understand God’s plan sometimes, but that is because a human mind can never fully comprehend God.

God knew that Job was a good man.  He viewed Job as “blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil”. (2:3)  Satan argued that Job was only faithful to God because God had been so good to him and had never given Job a reason to lose his faith. (2:4-5)  God, fully knowing what the outcome would ultimately be, allowed Satan to test Job. (2:6)  In the first test (1:6-22), Job lost his possessions and his family.  In the second test (2:7), Satan inflicted physical pain on Job.  Throughout the tests, Job remained faithful to God.  Even when Job’s wife chided him for staying faithful to God, he continued to be blameless.  Job told his wife “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (2:10)  Job knew that while it is easy to be faithful to God during good times, it is the mark of a truly good man to be faithful during bad times.

In the face of adversity, clinging to God is the only way to weather the storm.  Do not give up on Him.  The enemy uses these bad times as the perfect opportunity to try to test our faith.  We learn from the story of Job that Satan is only allowed to do what God lets him do, and God will never let him give us more than we can handle.  Stay faithful to God in the good times and the bad, and live a life blameless and upright in His sight.

 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 Persecution


Daily Bible Reading – Malachi 3, 4; Psalm 148; Acts 5

Today’s Key Passage – Acts 5:17-42

 

In the early days of Christianity, the ruling authorities warned Peter and John many times not to preach about Jesus Christ.  Each time they received a warning, they went right back to doing what they knew was right, and they continued to share their faith and tell others the good news about Jesus.  They did this because they knew they “must obey God rather than men“. (5:29)  Because of this decision to continue preaching the Gospel, they faced brutal persecution.  Today’s key passage marks the first of many times that the Apostles were beaten.  When the beating was finished, Peter and John “left the Sanhedrin, REJOICING because they had been counted worthy [by God] of suffering disgrace for the Name [of Jesus Christ].” (5:41)  It requires a tremendous amount of faith to rejoice in persecution, and the Apostles had this faith, for they knew that they were doing the right thing.

Christians today are still facing persecution to some degree.  Most of us, however, face persecution in the form of mocking, ridicule, and exclusion as opposed to being beaten and jailed (though unfortunately that does still happen in some parts of the world).  Sometimes it is difficult to see this persecution as a blessing, but we must always remember that if we are persecuted for our faith, it is only because God has counted us worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.  Jesus never said that living our lives for Him would be easy while on this earth.  Fortunately, no matter what persecutions we face here, we know we can count on blessings in Heaven.  On that day, when we stand face to face with the resurrected Christ, we can know we will never shed another tear.

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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Answering Prayers


Daily Bible Reading – Nehemiah 11, 12; Psalm 1; Acts 3

Today’s Key Passage – Acts 3:1-10

 

The crippled beggar positioned himself in the same place every day – right at the entrance to the temple.  He did this because he felt it was the best place for him to be to get what he thought he really needed.  In the beggar’s mind, he believed money would be the answer to his prayers, so he sat in the same place daily hoping for someone to come along and give him something.  When Peter saw him, he had a different idea.  Peter told the man “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you” (3:6) and then he promptly healed the man by the power of Jesus Christ.  Peter was unable to answer the prayer the beggar was asking for, but that he had something much better to give him.  The power of the Holy Spirit healed the man and allowed him to walk.  Undoubtedly, this was a much better gift than a couple of coins.

I think God answers many of our prayers in the same way.  Often we are like the crippled beggar, begging God to give us what we think we really need.  When we fail to receive what we were begging for, it is easy to think that our prayer went unanswered.  In reality, though, that is not the case.  Perhaps God, in his infinite wisdom, knows that what we were begging for is not really what we needed.  God is amazingly faithful.  He hears and answers all of our prayers in one way or another.  The love that He has for each of us is unending.  He wants the very best for us in everything we do on a daily basis.  His plan for all of us is perfect and He always knows what He is doing.  When we surrender everything to Him and let Him take over everything in our lives, we allow God to do more than just answer our prayers.  When we trust in Him completely, sometimes instead of giving us what we have asked for, He can give us something much better.

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

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The Dangerous Journey


Daily Bible Reading – Ezra 7, 8; Luke 20

Today’s Key Passage – Ezra 8:21-23

 

Ezra’s journey to Jerusalem would take him and his people about 900 miles on foot through dangerous territory, and would eventually take four months to complete.  Before heading out on this journey, Ezra took the time to fast and pray that God would protect them. (8:23)  Even before making all of the physical preparations for this trip, Ezra understood the importance of making spiritual preparations.  Ezra knew that he and his people could not make this journey alone – they needed God to help them along the way.

Like Ezra, we cannot make our journeys in life alone either.  Most of our journeys in life are not as hard and dangerous as a 900-mile walk through the desert, and maybe that is why we sometimes neglect to spend the proper amount of time making our spiritual preparations before we begin.  When we take the time to seek out God’s help, however, we can prepare ourselves for whatever might lie ahead.  Every time we put Him first in what we do, we get closer to Him.  God is at work in everything that we do on a daily basis, and if we take the time to ask Him for guidance and protection, we become better prepared to handle all of the ups and downs along the way.

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.

No Coincidence


Daily Bible Reading – Esther 3-8; Luke 18

Today’s Key Passage – Esther 4:1-17

 

Have you ever noticed how sometimes the perfect song comes on the radio right when you need to hear it?  Have you ever gotten the phone call from a friend or loved one right when you needed to hear his or her voice the most?  Have you ever received a financial blessing right when you were feeling overwhelmed by bills?  The world would call these things coincidence.  If you look deeper, though, you can clearly see that examples like these are evidence of something much more.  They are, in fact, evidence of God’s sovereignty and providence.

In our readings yesterday and today from the book of Esther, we find many examples of God’s care in action.  It was no coincidence that Esther became queen of Persia (2:17), or that it happened shortly before Haman convinced King Xerxes to issue a decree to kill all of the Jews. (3:5-15)  It was no coincidence that when Esther went to speak with the king uninvited, he welcomed her instead of having her killed, which was his custom. (5:1-2)  It was no coincidence that King Xerxes had the history of his reign read to him, was reminded that Mordecai saved his life, and decided to honor him on the same night that Haman came to convince the king to have Mordecai killed. (6:1-11)  It was no coincidence that the evil Haman was hanged on the very same gallows he had built to hang Mordecai. (7:1-10)  While God’s name is never actually mentioned anywhere in the book of Esther, it is clear that Esther’s entire story is one great testimony to God’s love and power.

Never underestimate God’s ability to provide you with just what you need at exactly the right time, and to use you right when He needs you the most.  He can use any means to bring about His plans.  When you begin to wonder why He has you in a certain place or why you are facing certain circumstances, be open to His direction and His will, and realize that He may have you there “for such a time as this“. (4:14)

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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