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Imitating an Apostle


Daily Bible Reading – Philippians 1-4

Today’s Key Passage – Philippians 3:1-21

In the early days of Christianity, just as it is today, the goal of a Christ follower was to live a Christ-like life.  Today, though, we have a huge advantage over the early Christians.  Today, if someone wants to learn about Jesus, all he has to do is pick up a Bible and start reading the New Testament.  In the Gospels, a person can read all about the life of Jesus Christ.  He can read about how Christ lived and what He taught.  If we want to find a person to imitate, we have to look no further than the Source.  For the early Christians, however, no such text existed.  There was no such thing as the New Testament in the early days of Christianity.  The story of Jesus life had not yet been written down in a form that was readily available to all seekers.  Paul knew this.  Paul knew that the people he encountered did not have a means to easily experience Christ directly.  He knew it would be difficult for others to follow Christ’s example if they were unable to see his example the way we can today.  In the absence of being able to imitate Christ, Paul told the Philippians to imitate him.  Paul was not claiming to be perfect.  In fact, at the beginning of today’s key passage he clearly states that he has not arrived at his goal of being Christ-like.  Despite his imperfections, the fact that Paul was able to tell others to imitate him is a testament to the way he lived his life.  He lived as a readily available example of Christ.

How many of us could say the same thing?  Imagine a person who had no way of knowing about Jesus Christ.  Imagine that this person had never read the Bible and did not have access to one.  Imagine that this person may have heard a few things about Christ, some true and some not, but had no way to tell the difference.  Imagine that the only way this person could try to become Christ-like would be to imitate you.  How would that go?  If this person tried to copy you in everything that you said and did, would they become more Christ-like?  While this may sound like a scary thought to a certain degree, it is not altogether far from reality.  Most of the people we know who do not know Christ are almost exactly like the imaginary person I described.  While most of the people we encounter do have access to a Bible, the simple truth is that they will not spend the time, at least initially, to read about Jesus Christ in the New Testament.  Instead, they will watch you and perhaps even imitate you.  Think about this today as you encounter people.  Are you acting as a good example for Jesus Christ?  If someone is watching you, are you leading him closer to Christ or driving him away from Him?  As we all attempt to reach the goal of a Christ-like life, let us all try to be good examples today for others to imitate.

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

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

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.

The Angel at the Tomb


Daily Bible Reading – Matthew 28; 1 Thessalonians 1-3

Today’s Key Passage – Matthew 28:1-10

 

When Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (who was either Clopas’ wife or the mother of James and John) went to the tomb, they were expecting to find Jesus inside.  What they found instead was an angel of the Lord and an empty tomb.  The angel gave them four messages.  First, the angel said, “do not be afraid“. (28:5)  The resurrection of Jesus Christ is a joyful event, not something to fear.  Secondly, the angel told them that, “He is not here; He has risen“. (28:6)  Jesus was not dead as was initially believed by the disciples.  He is not found among the dead, for He is alive and living with His believers.  Third, the angel told them to, “come and see the place where he lay“. (28:6)  The angel was telling them to look at the evidence of the empty tomb.  The angel wanted them to see for themselves that the resurrection was a fact and not something fake.  Finally, he told them to, “go quickly and tell” about the resurrection. (28:7)  The news of a risen Jesus was meant to be shared with others so that everyone could know the good news.

These four messages from the angel applied to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, and they apply to us today.  We should all hear these four messages and follow the two Mary’s examples.  The two Mary’s heard the words of the angel and did what they were told.  They were not afraid of the resurrection.  They understood that Jesus was risen.  They examined the evidence of the resurrection for themselves and found it to be true, and they went and spread the good news of Jesus resurrection.  We should all do the same.  Every time we follow these steps and spread the good news of Jesus resurrection, we are advancing the Kingdom of God.  When was the last time you shared the good news of Jesus with someone else?  We all have the power through the Holy Spirit to do it.  God wants us to do it.  The only thing stopping us from sharing the news is ourselves.  Ask God for boldness in sharing the Gospel and He will give it to you.  Use the gifts He has given you to reach other people for 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.

Separating the Sheep from the Goats


Daily Bible Reading – Matthew 23-25

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

 

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

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

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

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

Disowning Jesus


Daily Bible Reading – Matthew 8-10

Today’s Key Passage – Matthew 10:17-33

 

I have a friend who is still afraid to acknowledge Jesus.  He is still in the “investigating” stage of his journey.  He has started going to church and has started reading the Bible, and he is really, really close to accepting Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior.  Yet, he is not quite ready to take that step.  He will not yet talk about Christianity in public.  Outside of me and one other believer, he does not really talk about faith outside of the church.  I pray every day that he will take that step, and I know that at some point the Holy Spirit will move him to action.  Until that day comes, I will wait, listen to him, try to answer his questions, and pray.

Jesus wants us to acknowledge Him.  He does not want to be disowned, and He is not just talking about acknowledging Him in our words.  He is not just talking about what we say to our friends about him or what we post on Facebook.  Jesus wants us to acknowledge Him in everything we do.  Jesus wants us to acknowledge Him in our actions.  We have all been in situations when we have to make the choice between acknowledging Him and disowning Him.  When a temptation arises for sin, we can acknowledge Jesus or disown Him.  When we are face to face with a non-believer, we can acknowledge Jesus or disown Him.  Regardless of what we say or write, our actions in those times need to match up to God’s Word.  Remember that our actions speak much louder than our words.  To most of the non-believers we know, the only interaction they have with Biblical Christianity is through us.  When given a choice, most non-believers will read our behavior before they read the Bible, so our actions must match up to what Jesus said in His Word.  We must acknowledge Him today.  Then on the Day of Judgment, we have nothing to fear because we will know that when Jesus sees us He will run to us with open arms and say, “Well done good and faithful servant”.

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

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

Following God’s Instructions


Daily Bible Reading – Matthew 1-4

Today’s Key Passage – Matthew 1:18-25

 

In the days of Jesus’ birth, a Jewish marriage had three steps.  The two families agreed on a union, made a public announcement of the upcoming marriage, and then the couple got married and began living together.  When Mary discovered she was pregnant, it was during the second step in the marriage process.  Mary and Joseph were pledged to be married, but were not yet allowed to live together.  When others found out that Mary was pregnant before the actual marriage, both Mary and Joseph would face ridicule and would be seen as sinners.  During this second phase, the relationship could only be broken off by death or divorce.  When Joseph found out that Mary was pregnant, his initial thought was to divorce her quietly.  By Jewish civil law, he could have also chosen to have her stoned to death.  However, an angel of the Lord spoke to Joseph and explained the situation.  Joseph faced a difficult choice – to follow the instructions of others, or to follow the instructions of God.

We are all faced with the same difficult choice today.  We can live our lives according to what the world thinks, or we can live according to what God thinks. Most things we buy in a store come with an instruction manual.  We too have an instruction manual called the Bible.  In it, God tells us how we should live our lives.  I do not know about you, but the Bible I read is pretty thick.  It is filled with instructions for how to live a life that is pleasing to God, and most of these instructions are very different from the instructions of this world.  The world tells us to put ourselves first, but God instructs us to love Him more than we love ourselves.  The world tells us that other people do not matter, but God instructs us to love others and to serve them.  The world tells us to amass as much money as possible, but God instructs us to give freely of our time, money, and talents.  The world tells us not to talk about religion in public, but God instructs us to go out and preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth.  At the end of the day, we can choose to listen to what the world tells us to do and ignore what the Bible says, or we can choose to live by God’s Word.

Imagine how much different the story of Jesus’ birth would have been if Joseph would have chosen to care more about what other people thought than what God thought.  Imagine if Joseph decided to follow the world’s instructions instead of following God’s instructions.  We have the gift of hindsight when looking at the story of Joseph.  We can easily see how different things would have been if Joseph had chosen to ignore God’s instructions.  We do not have that luxury when looking at our own lives.  We do not know what will happen in the future or how many lives we might touch if we choose to follow God’s instructions, but we do know that God has given us a set of instructions to follow.  He has told us what to do in our lives.  Joseph faced a very difficult situation and chose to follow God’s instructions.  Every day, we must decide to do the same thing.

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

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

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.

Bad Company Corrupts Good Character


Daily Bible Reading – Psalm 149; 1 Corinthians 15, 16

Today’s Key Passage – 1 Corinthians 15:1-34

 

We are all surrounded by unbelief.  We all have people in our lives that are unbelievers.  We might also have people in our lives who claim to be followers of Christ but then unapologetically act contrary to the Gospel.  Television shows and movies are abound with non-Christian values and morals.  Books, newspapers, magazines, and blog posts attack Christianity and teach false Gospels.  For followers of Christ, there is no getting around it – we are all going to be faced with “bad company” from time to time.

Jesus and the disciples were also faced with bad company.  They spent much of their time surrounded by unbelievers, because Jesus knew that the sinners were the ones who needed to be saved.  We too must be in contact with unbelievers if we plan to fulfill the Great Commission and preach the Gospel to those who do not know it.  None of us can live in a protective bubble of only coming in contact with other believers if we intend to reach people for Christ.  This is why Paul’s words in today’s key passage are so important to us.

Even though we are surrounded by unbelief, we must not be misled.  We all have to guard our hearts from allowing bad company to corrupt good character.  When someone we know attacks our beliefs, we must stand firm.  We cannot waiver in our faith even for a second if we want to be effective witnesses for Christ.  We must let the Holy Spirit overflow from us, as He gives us the power to be surrounded by bad company without being corrupted.  In 1 Corinthians 16:13-14, Paul gives the church in Corinth instructions while they wait for him to return to them.  He says, “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.”  These were good instructions to the Corinthians waiting for Paul’s return and they are good instructions for all of us today as we await the return of 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.

Life is Short


Daily Bible Reading – Job 35, 36; 1 Corinthians 7, 8

Today’s Key Passage – 1 Corinthians 7:29-31

 

Life is short.  We have all heard that phrase a million times.  In fact, the phrase is used so often, that it is easy to hear it and not even think about what it means.  As I was reading God’s Word, today’s key passage seemed to jump off the page.  When I first read it, my initial thought was that this idea was so overused that I shouldn’t bother to write about it, but then I really started to think about the idea of life being short.  In terms of eternity, the 80 or so years most people spend on this earth are tiny in comparison.  The average human lifespan in the U.S. is 78.1 years or roughly 28,500 days.  That sounds like a lot, but compared to eternity it is nothing.  The Bible says that God has guaranteed us eternal life with Him through His Son Jesus Christ.  We will literally live forever with Him because of His gift to us.  Yet, we spend a ton of time on earth worrying about the brief 78.1 years we spend here.  The car we really want, the house we think we need, or the new gadget that just came out mean nothing in terms of eternity.  The paycheck we really want to make today will mean absolutely nothing tomorrow.  In today’s passage, Paul is urging believers not to make marriage, possessions, or financial security the ultimate goal in life.  He is urging them to keep Christ first, because everything of this world is passing away.  When we are able to surrender everything to Jesus Christ, all of the worries of this world seem insignificant.  When we are able to think in terms of eternity, a single bad day means nothing.

I once heard it said that we can live for the line or we can live for the dash.  The line refers to God’s line – his timetable.  God’s line is infinitely long.  There is a point on this line where we are born and a point where we die.  We affect the line during our lives, but the line does not begin or end with us.  The dash refers to the hyphen they place on tombstones between the date of birth and the date of death.  The dash on the tombstone represents all of our actions while on earth.  If we live for the dash, we will never be truly fulfilled because we will never be able to squeeze it all in.  If we live for the line, we can find true fulfillment and happiness knowing that we are serving God during our limited time here, and that we will be rewarded when we begin our eternity with Him.  Let us all choose today to live for the line.  Let us all choose today to think in terms of eternity, and to put God first in all that 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.

Minimizing the Cross of Jesus Christ


Daily Bible Reading – Job 30; Psalm 120; Galatians 3, 4

Today’s Key Passage – Galatians 3:1-14

 

Paul was very concerned about the Galatians.  The Galatians had started to believe the Judaizers who preached that Gentiles had to become Jews before they could become Christians.  They had started to impose Jewish legalism stating that works could earn God’s favor.  This false gospel minimized the importance of the death of Jesus Christ by implying that justification (salvation) could be gained through works.

The idea of justification by works goes against the message of the Gospel.  No man or woman can be saved by his or her own deeds.  We are all saved by the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  It is because of what He did that we can be reconciled with God, not because of anything we can do.  Believers today still run the risk of falling into the trap of justification by works.  It is easy to start feeling as if we can earn favor by doing good deeds.  It is easy for people who do many good things like serving the local church or giving to the needy to look down on other believers who do not do as much.  It is important, though, to remember that in the eyes of God, we are all the same.  In the eyes of God, a “baby Christian” is no less justified than a person who has followed Christ for decades.  Our works can be part of our sanctification over time, but our justification in the eyes of God is secure from day one.  When a person thinks that “living right” can secure salvation, that person is essentially saying that Jesus did not have to die, but we know that Jesus opened the door to salvation for us.  When it comes to eternal life, Christ is the only key that fits that lock.

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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