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The Unlikely Messenger


Daily Bible Reading – Job 3, 4; Acts 8, 9

Today’s Key Passage – Acts 9:1-22

 

In today’s key passage, we find the conversion of a man named Saul.  Saul, later called Paul, was a notorious persecutor of Christians who witnessed and approved the stoning of Stephen for preaching the Gospel (7:54-60).  One day, as Saul was walking to Damascus in search of Christians to imprison, the Risen Christ met him on the road.  This meeting with Jesus, as well as the events that followed with a disciple named Ananias, led to Saul’s miraculous conversion to Christianity.  He was immediately baptized and began preaching the Gospel to others, spreading the good news about Jesus.

Paul’s encounter with the living Christ led to a dramatic transformation in his life.  He went from hunting Christians to leading them, and would go on to shape the history of Christianity more than perhaps any other apostle.  While Paul undoubtedly had lived a sinful and evil life before he came to Christ, his transformation made him an amazing witness to others of what Jesus can do in a person’s life.  Jesus did not let Paul’s past get in the way of the mission He had in mind for Paul, and even though Paul was certainly not looking for a personal relationship with the living God, Jesus still searched him out and found him in His own time.

The story of Paul gives all of us hope.  It proves that no one is too far away from God.  It shows us that no matter what we have done in the past, and no matter where we might be in the present, God is searching for us and has a plan for our future.  Due to his past, Paul was an unlikely messenger of the Gospel who was transformed into one of the greatest messengers of all.  God continues to encounter people every day and transform their lives to advance His kingdom.  Do you know someone who might be far away from God due to his or her past or present?  Share with them the story of Paul today, and let them know that there is hope for the future in Jesus Christ.

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

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

At the Cross


Daily Bible Reading – Nehemiah 3, 4; Luke 23

Today’s Key Passage – Luke 23:32-43

 

In the events leading up to the death of Jesus, He suffered many things.  He was beaten, whipped, spit on, mocked, and nailed to a cross.  He knew that it was God’s will and God’s plan that all of this had to happen to Him, but he still must have been in complete agony.  I cannot even begin to imagine the pain Jesus must have felt on that fateful day.  Despite his misery, Jesus still asked God to forgive the people who had caused him the most pain.

We have all been hurt by other people at one time or another.  In some cases, that pain was physical, and in other cases, the pain was emotional.  As human beings, we tend to focus on that pain and on the people who caused it, and we sometimes have a difficult time forgiving the people who have hurt us the most.  Jesus’ actions show us that even when faced with the worst pain imaginable, we still have the capacity to forgive.  We may not have this ability on our own, but we can gain this ability to forgive through the power and help of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Another important thing to note from this passage is the faith of the criminal hanging on the cross next to Jesus.  By his own admission, he plainly states that he is “punished justly” and is “getting what [his] deeds deserve.” (23:41)  However, at the end of his life, when he knew he was going to die, he turned to Jesus.  Even though he saw Jesus nailed to the cross next to him, he was able to see past Jesus’ present situation to see His future glory.  The fact that Jesus forgave him of his past sins and accepted him, and even told him that he would be with Jesus in Heaven, shows that it is never too late to turn to Christ.  All we have to do is put our faith and trust in him, repent of our sins, and follow Him.  Then, like the robber, we can be with Him in paradise.

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 Guilt of Sin


Daily Bible Reading – Ezra 9, 10; Psalm 131; Luke 21

Today’s Key Passage – Ezra 9:1-9

 

Ezra knew the seriousness of sin, and he knew that no one sins without affecting others.  Ezra was so overcome with guilt and sorrow over the sins of his people that he “tore [his] tunic and cloak, [and] pulled hair from [his] head and beard” (9:5).  Ezra also knew that despite his sins and the sins of his people, God’s love and mercy had spared the nation when they did nothing to deserve it.

For many people, religion and guilt go hand in hand.  Sometimes we can all feel like religion or church puts an unwanted spotlight on our sin, and it causes us to feel guilty for what we have done, but this is not what God wants.  God loves each of us so much that he made the ultimate sacrifice – he gave his one and only Son to take away all of our sin and our guilt.  We can live guilt-free knowing that through Jesus Christ we are saved – not by what we have done or not done in our past, but by what He did for us.  God saved us by His grace and mercy alone.  It is a free gift and all we have to do is receive it.  When we do sin, the freedom of Christ allows us to go to God, confess this sin to Him, and ask for his help in repentance.

Instead of trying to run away from God out of guilt or shame, we can run TO God for help in restoring our relationship with Him.  God will always accept us and love us just as we are.  While it is true that He abhors sin, He truly loves us unconditionally just as we love our own children. When you sin and are truly sorry, confess this to God, ask for His forgiveness, and then accept his grace and mercy.  Accept that your sin has been washed away and that God has forgotten it.  Then, turn from that sin and run toward God by making the necessary corrections and walking in step with Him.  Never let the guilt of sin weigh you down.  Instead, focus on the wonderful grace and mercy of 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.

Lost and Found


Daily Bible Reading – Zechariah 13-14; Psalm 147; Luke 15

Today’s Key Passage – Luke 15:1-32

 

In today’s key passage, we find three of Jesus’ most well known parables.  The parables of the lost sheep (15:1-7), lost coin (15:8-10), and lost son (15:11-32) all speak of God’s unwavering forgiveness, but each is unique in the way in which each item is lost and how it comes to be found.  In the parable of the lost sheep, the sheep foolishly wanders away from his shepherd.  In the parable of the lost coin, the woman’s coin is lost through no fault of its own.  In the parable of the lost son, the son blatantly defies his father’s will.  In the first two parables, the shepherd and the woman frantically search for their lost items, but in the third the father patiently waits for his son to return.  In all three cases, when what was lost is found there is a great celebration, just as there is a celebration in Heaven every time a lost soul comes back to the Father.

Every person in this world starts out as lost.  Some are lost through no fault of their own, perhaps growing up not knowing about Jesus.  Others are lost because they foolishly wandered away from God.  Still others are lost because they have blatantly defied God’s will and have rejected Him.  In any case, God spends a lifetime searching for these lost souls.  Sometimes, He finds them relatively easily, and other times He has to wait patiently for them to return to Him.  Has Heaven celebrated your return yet?  If so, rejoice in knowing that you are saved and help others find their way back to God.  If not, it is time to start heading home.  No matter what sins we have committed or how far we are from Him, we can always return to our Father’s house.  When we do, we will not be turned away, rejected, or ridiculed for our mistakes.  Instead, we will be welcomed by the loving arms of Jesus, and the celebration will finally begin.

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.

Wondering Why


Daily Bible Reading – Zechariah 7-9; Luke 13

Today’s Key Passage – Luke 13:1-9

 

On any given day, we hear news of tragedy striking somewhere in the world and we are often left to wonder why.  At one time or another, most of us have struggled with understanding why bad things happen.  The people in Jesus’ day also wondered why tragedies happened, and He spoke of two of these events in our key passage today.  In the first, Pilate killed a group of Galileans and mixed their blood with their sacrifices. (13:1)  In the second, a tower fell and killed 18 people in Jerusalem. (13:4)  Jesus used these examples to reject a common misconception that many people had at the time that the tragedies must have struck the people because of their sins.  He pointed out that none of the people killed in these two tragedies were worse sinners than anyone else was, and then used the lesson of the events to teach the people about repentance.

Today, when we see tragedies unfold around us, we can wastefully spend our time wondering why the events have happened and looking for someone to blame, or we can learn a lesson from the teaching of Jesus and see the events as a call to repentance.  The truth is that any of us could see our last moments on earth at any time.  We never know exactly when or how we will die, but we do know that our deaths are certain.  Each time we see someone killed without warning, we are reminded of the temporary nature of this life and the need to maximize the time we have on this planet doing Kingdom work.  As we reflect on those events, we can use the time to ensure we have repented of our sins and are living a life holy and blameless in God’s sight, and we can spend our time helping others find salvation through 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.

Returning to God


Daily Bible Reading – Zechariah 1-3; Luke 11

Today’s Key Passage – Zechariah 1:1-6

 

The prophet Zechariah was another of the minor prophets who spoke to the Jews in Jerusalem who had returned from captivity in Babylon.  Like his contemporary Haggai, Zechariah preached a message to the people asking them to resume their work on the temple.  In today’s key passage, Zechariah received a word from God that he shared with his people.  As I read it today, I was struck by how appropriate God’s message was: not only for the returning exiles, but also for all of us today.  It is not a complex message, but it is one that is both meaningful and powerful.  Speaking through Zechariah, God told the people, “Return to me…and I will return to you.” (1:3)

There are many times when each of us may feel as though God is far away.  We may feel this way when we are dealing with persecution or grief.  We may wonder where God is when we are facing difficult financial times or when struggling with a major life change.  There is a funny truth, though, about this feeling that God is far from us.  See, God has not actually gone anywhere.  He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  When we feel like He is far from us, it is not because He has moved but because we have.  God is faithful and true, and He will never turn away from us.  Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of us.  Throughout history, man has continually turned away from God in one way or another, and each time we do, the distance between us and God grows.  If you are feeling like God is far away from you, remember His words to the people of Judah.  “Return to me…and I will return to you.”  If we want to feel closer to God, all we have to do is turn toward Him and move in His direction.

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.

A Hardened Heart


Daily Bible Reading – Ezekiel 22-24; Revelation 9

Today’s Key Passage – Revelation 9:20-21

 

For the last few days, we have been reading about God’s judgments during the end times in the book of Revelation.  At this point in our reading, the people of earth have already experienced the seven seal judgments and most of the seven trumpet judgments.  So far, they have seen many things including a great earthquake, hail and fire mixed with blood, a mountain thrown into the sea, and the darkening of a third of the sun and the moon.  In today’s reading, they faced a plague of locusts and the release of the four fallen angels.  Up to this point in the prophecy, over one-half of the world’s population will have been killed by God’s judgments.  Amazingly, even after seeing all of these things, there will still be people who will refuse to repent of their sins and turn to God. (Vss. 20-21)

When we read today’s key passage, most of us will probably think that the people who refuse to repent must be some sort of super-villains.  The truth is that each of these people will start their lives as innocent babies just like the rest of us.  The reason they will be unable to repent is that their hearts will be so hardened toward God following years of sin.  This is the way sin works.  These people will not wake up one day and just decide to be evil.  Their hearts will become hardened over time until eventually they will be unable to recognize God at all.  This is why sin is so dangerous, and why we must be careful not to rationalize sin in our lives.  One sin leads to two, which leads to dozens, which ultimately leads to a hardened heart.  Fortunately, when we confess our sins as soon as we recognize them, and completely turn away from them, we can save our hearts from becoming hardened toward 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.

Making Excuses


Daily Bible Reading – Ezekiel 17-19; Revelation 7

Today’s Key Passage – Ezekiel 18:1-32

 

It was not my fault.  I did not know I was supposed to do that.  I was waiting for approval.  I was just trying to keep up with the flow of traffic.  Over the course of our lives, we have all made excuses.  When we miss a deadline at work, forget to do our homework, or get pulled over for speeding, we might try to make an excuse.  Sometimes we might even try to excuse our own sin.

This is what the people of Judah were trying to do in our key passage today.  They believed God was punishing them for the sins of their ancestors, and not their own.  This led many of the people to wrongly believe that they might as well sin because they were already doomed.  Others believed that if their ancestors were good and followed God’s commands, they would be saved simply through their lineage and could do whatever they pleased.  All of this wrong thinking was leading the people further away from God and keeping them from repenting of their sins, so God set the record straight through the prophet Ezekiel.  He said, “The soul who sins is the one who will die.” (Vs. 4)

We are all responsible for our own actions.  When we choose to sin, we can try to make excuses or blame someone else, but at the end of the day, we are all accountable to God.  If God’s message stopped there, it would be bad news for all of us who have fallen short of His standards.  Fortunately, there is much more to His story.  God told the people of Judah, “if a wicked man turns away from all the sins he has committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right, he will surely live; he will not die.” (Vs. 21)  Though we have sinned, we are saved by His overwhelming grace through faith in Jesus Christ.  So what are we left to do?  “Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit.” (Vss. 30-31)

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.

Are You a Good Person?


Daily Bible Reading – 2 Kings 24; Jeremiah 22; Psalm 112; John 18

Today’s Key Passage – Psalm 112

 

Have you ever wondered whether you are a good person?  If you are anything like me, you probably have.  Most people, if asked directly, will say that they believe they are a good person, even if they have doubts or questions in the back of their minds.  More often than not, the problem with this question lies in perspective.  How one person defines “good” can radically differ from another person’s definition.  Because of this perspective problem, most of us have a difficult time clearly discerning whether we are actually “good”.  Fortunately, in today’s key passage we find a way to answer this question.  To truly find out if we are “good people”, we need only to look from God’s perspective.

In Psalm 112, we see a clear set of guidelines as to how God defines a good person.  According to the psalmist, a good person fears the Lord and delights in His commands. (Vs. 1)  He or she is righteous (Vs. 3), as well as gracious and compassionate. (Vs. 4)  A good person is generous and just (Vs. 5), and has an unshakable faith. (Vs. 6)  Finally, a good person has no fear of bad news because of his trust in the Lord. (Vss. 7-8)

The next time you find yourself wondering whether you are a good person; take a quick look at the characteristics found in Psalm 112.  While we may not always live up to God’s definition of a good person based on our own performance, we can rest in the promise of knowing that we are all made perfect not by our own works but by faith in Jesus Christ.  Secure in that knowledge, we can strive to live up to His standards as our way of thanking Him and demonstrating our love for Him, so that others may see our good deeds and praise our Father in Heaven.

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.

Genuine Repentance


Daily Bible Reading – Hosea 6-9; Hebrews 3

Today’s Key Passage – Hosea 6:1-7

 

I grew up in a Christian home.  My family and I went to church every week, and if asked I would have called myself a Christian.  For the first 34 years of my life though, I had a wrong interpretation of repentance.  Though I called myself a Christian, I never actually read the Bible.  In my life, I knew that I was sinful.  I knew that I did things that were not pleasing to God.  At night, I would pray to Him and ask Him to forgive me for my sinfulness.  I would list out all of the bad things I had done that day for God and ask Him to forgive each one.  The problem was that in all of those years, I never really had any interest in changing my behavior.  I viewed God as a “get out of jail free card” in a sense.  I desired His forgiveness, His mercy, His blessings for my life, and His promise of salvation, but I did not desire actual change.

Our key passage today begins with Israel’s seeming repentance.  We read, “Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence. Let us acknowledge the LORD; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.” (Vss. 1-3)  Now this all sounds really good.  It sounds like Israel is sorry for its sins and it sounds like Israel is ready to turn away from them and back to God.  The thing about God, however, is that He knows our hearts.  He knew that time and time again Israel called on Him for mercy and for help, but they never actually desired change.  God responded to Israel by saying, “Your love is like the morning mist, like the early dew that disappears.” (Vs. 4)  God knew that Israel’s claims to want to return to Him were empty.  He knew that they were only interested in the material benefits God could provide.

Many people today are still misled about repentance.  People believe that as long as they are sorry for what they do, they can continue to live their lives in a sinful way without any consequences.  In fact, some churches even preach a message like this to their congregations.  They preach a “health and wealth” message of the Gospel because it is popular and it does not require actual change in the hearts of the audience.  Sadly, these churches are doing a disservice to the body of Christ because this message is not Biblical.  Time and time again in the Bible, God makes Himself perfectly clear.  He is not looking for us to simply desire forgiveness.  He is not looking for us to simply desire His mercy.  God is looking for genuine repentance.  He wants us to turn completely away from sin and turn completely toward Him.  He wants us to give up our lives of sin and replace them with lives focused on God.  Asking for forgiveness without asking God to change you is like a person calling himself a Christian without ever reading the Bible.  It is an empty gesture, and it is not what God wants for us.  Genuine repentance is a not a fleeting feeling of remorse over a sinful act.  Genuine repentance is a lifetime commitment to stop walking in the ways of evil and instead walk in the ways of God.  Anything less is like a morning mist.  Anything less is like the early dew that disappears.  Love God with all of our heart, soul, and mind, and turn completely toward Him with everything 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.

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