Bible Reading Blog

Bible Reading Blog

Congregational Bible Reading

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Nothing is Hidden

Monday, October 14, 2019

BIBLE READING: Luke 12

The internet has become an integral part of our lives. Nearly everyone owns a smart device enabling us to connect with people and businesses across the globe with the tap of our finger. Technology is empowering… but it is also, frightening. Have you ever talked about buying a new car and all of a sudden you start seeing ads for that car? The integration of technology into our lives has made us keenly aware that others are paying attention to us.

We sometimes like to think that we have moments of privacy when no one sees what we do or knows what we think. That may be true with reference to people, but this is not true of God. His omniscience penetrates every part of our lives.

“Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed or hidden that will not be known. Therefore, whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops” (Luke 12.2-3)

God knows even the most mundane details of our lives (Luke 12.7). But more than that, he knows the things we don’t want anyone else to know. “you discern my thoughts from afar… Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether” (Psalm 139.2, 4)

A being who knows all our secrets should be feared; hence why Jesus admonishes his disciples in this way (Luke 12.4-5). But Jesus isn’t using a scare tactic to coerce people into following God. He’s presenting a stark reality for those who refuse to acknowledge the presence of God. Awareness of God’s presence promotes greater humility, clearer thinking and better decisions.

Respect for his intimate knowledge of our lives and our accountability to him means we will conduct our lives like an open book, where we have nothing to hide. If we are righteous before God, we have nothing to fear from him. As 1 John 3.1-3 suggests, those who live in light of the hope of the return of God, knowing that he knows everything, will purify themselves with the hope of his return and the responsibility it puts on us to be faithful.

If your every thought and action were on display for all to see, how would you feel about that? Others may not be privvy to this, but there is never a moment too insignificant that God is not watching. Not with an eye to destroy us but to discipline us (Hebrews 12.5-13). However, if we reject his discipline, it will not end well for us (see Hebrews 12). And so, we must practice righteousness and so become more like our Father.

“...be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, ...” (2 Peter 3.14-15)

Love God, Love Others

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

BIBLE READING: Luke 10

“Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10.25) 

When the lawyer asked his question, it was not as though he didn’t know what the law said. He knew he was to love God with all his heart, soul, and strength, and love his neighbor as himself; but would he do it?

Many of us are in the same boat with the lawyer. Sometimes we have an information problem, but in many instances we don’t have a knowing problem; we have a doing problem. Twice Jesus said to the lawyer, “Do this.”

Many people know the parable of the Good Samaritan and regard it as a noble story of an extraordinary individual; but this is God’s expectation for everyone who would follow Him. Jesus’ affirmation of the lawyer’s response (Luke 10.27) is more than a declaration of understanding. Loving God means serving others and showing mercy. This is the real issue of the parable.

The inclusion of the priest and Levite emphasizes this point in the story. There is an unspoken expectation that followers of God will lead a compassionate, merciful life. That is why people in need often seek out spiritual counselors. If these characters were common people, we might have excused their behavior… but everyone understands these men SHOULD have stopped to help.

Jesus’ emphasis on serving as a means of loving God highlights that our call is not about following the right checklist or simply maintaining our personal relationship with the Father; it’s about taking God’s will seriously and meeting people’s needs as we can. 

In California, more than 600 lawyer hopefuls were taking the state bar exams in the Pasadena Convention Center when a 50- year-old man taking the test suffered a heart attack. Only two of the 600 test takers, John Leslie and Eunice Morgan, stopped to help the man. They administered CPR until paramedics arrived, then resumed taking the exam. Citing policy, the test supervisor refused to allow the two additional time to make up for the 40 minutes they spent helping the victim. Jerome Braun, the state’s bar senior executive for admissions, backed the decision stating, ‘If these two want to be lawyers, they should learn a lesson about priorities.’

The truth is that only two people of the 600 had learned that lesson. Perhaps we have some lessons to learn, as well. Sometimes we become so consumed with our own spiritual journey that we do not see others bloodied and beaten along the way. The parable of the Good Samaritan sets a clear expectation for God’s people: a love for God always translates into love for humanity.

“Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth” (1 John 3:18)

The Nicest Yard

Monday, September 30, 2019

BIBLE READING: Luke 8

My neighbor across the street has the nicest yard on the block. It is green, manicured and weed-free because she takes care of it every day. My yard on the other hand is not given as much attention, and it shows. Although it looks nice, it is not uncommon for my yard to have overgrown edges or weeds in the yard. If you were to compare our yards today, the difference is evident. But that difference did not happen overnight. We each made decisions over time that produced two different outcomes.

So, it is with the condition of our hearts. In Jesus’ parable of the sower (Luke 8.4-8) he taught that our hearts are like soil that must be cultivated. If the soil is hard, or it has imperfections or weeds growing in it, the result will not be fruit but failure.

It is important to note that Jesus’ teaching does not look at the reaction to God’s word in a single moment but over a period of time. Just as with maintaining a beautiful lawn, spiritual fruitfulness takes patience and intentionality. It is a process developed by daily choices to hear the word and “hold it fast” (Luke 8.15).

To develop this process, there are 2 important things we must do:

1. Be honest about our priorities. My neighbor doesn’t have to tell me how much she cares about her yard; I know because she works on it every morning. I could blow smoke and tell you I care about my yard, but the results say something different. Until I am willing to be honest about my current situation, the results won’t change.

Our actions speak louder than words, but when both are in alignment and pointing towards spiritual growth, we have better clarity to make good choices.

2. Pull the weeds. Sometimes my neighbor’s yard has weeds… but they don’t last long. She pulls them out daily because she only wants good things growing in her yard. That’s the attitude we need when it comes to our spiritual lives!

It takes conscious effort to focus on God and his ways. Many of us have lives filled with activities and responsibilities, which are not inherently evil. However, these things may be weeds choking our growth. Jesus encourages us to constantly evaluate our lives and remove things detrimental to our spiritual focus.

Ultimately, God’s Word produces the growth, but we have incredible power to limit what it can do in our lives. It is critical to cultivate a way of life that embraces the Word of God as an agent of change and allows the Word to do its work.  

“[hear] the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience” (Luke 8.15)

Always Be Humble

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

BIBLE READING: Luke 7

“A woman of the city, who was a sinner, stood behind Jesus. She was weeping and began washing his feet with her tears and her hair, kissing them repeatedly. The Pharisee who invited Jesus thought to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known what sort of woman this is who is touching him… she is a sinner!”” (Luke 7.37-39, paraphrased)

The Pharisee was right about one thing: this woman was a sinner (Luke 7.47). But his comment highlights a deception that religious people “have it together.” The great paradox of faith is that those who don’t “have it together” but are humbled by their failings, will become the greatest (Luke 9.48). Ironically, those who should be the humblest are often the most judgmental towards others.  

Having been a Christian for nearly 20 years, I understand the struggle. It is hard to read scripture and still see fault in my life. No one likes to feel vulnerable and have to admit  imperfections. That makes us appear shaky in our faith and can lead to feelings of hopeless because of our failings. But that is not a sign of weak faith; it is a testament to the need and power of Jesus (2 Corinthians 12.9-10).

The forgiveness offered from Jesus prompts us to greater humility. This manifests in many ways, but it always demonstrated in relationships with others, especially those we deem unworthy. Much like this Pharisee, we sometimes mask our insecurities with comparison thinking (see also Luke 18.11-12). We must guard against this attitude because it will eventually manifest as unsympathetic ambivalence towards the needs of others. Although we may appear righteous, it is easy to identify the fruit of this attitude in our lives: Do I look at others with compassion or do disregard those who don’t appear to "have it together"?

Ultimately, comparison thinking can lead to self-deception regarding our condition before God. Paul regularly warned believers not to think more of themselves (Romans 12.3) and to serve one another in humility (Philippians 2.3). Your sins may not be evident to others, but they exist. A religious front will not change your condition. We all need the forgiveness of sins Jesus offers (Ephesians 1.7-8; 1 John 2.1-2). Some are forgiven much, others little (Luke 7.47); but the freedom from sin is the same for all.  

Paul reminds us that “all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory” (Romans 3.23), but not all remember the life-changing power of encountering Jesus. The challenge of faith is maintaining humility as we grow. We need not always be so desperate, but we must always be humble (James 4.6-7; 1 Peter 5.5-6).

“…by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think but to think with sober judgment… Do not be haughty but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.” (Romans 12.3, 16)

Don't Forget to Pray

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

BIBLE READING: Luke 5-6

“But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.” (Luke 5.16)
“In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God.” (Luke 6.12)

These verses highlight Jesus’ intentionality when it came to prayer. He was never “too busy” or thoughtless of his prayer time. In fact, he chose to steal away when he was exceptionally in demand (Luke 5.15) or overwhelmed with his schedule (Luke 6.19).

Jesus’ example in prayer is especially profound considering his statement in Luke 4.43: “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God… for I was sent for this purpose.” If this was his purpose, then why remove himself from the people to pray? Because it gave him clarity as he reconnected with the Father (see Luke 22.42).  

There are two critical things Jesus did when it came to prayer:

He made time. The demand for Jesus did not alter his priority. He was going to do the will of the Father (Luke 2.49; 4.43; John 6.38), and that meant he could not lose his connection to God. He would often get up early (Mark 1.35) or stay up late (Luke 6.12) to ensure he had quality time with the Father.

When we were dating, Kelsey and I would sometimes stay up late talking. I almost always struggled to function the next day, but I didn’t care because it was time well-spent with the one I loved. When someone is important to us, we will make time for them.  

He went away. Not just to the next room… Luke tells us he would go to “desolate” places (Luke 6.12). Jesus frequently left everyone and everything to be with the One he valued the most.

There are times for those quick, in-the-moment prayers, but to really connect with God we need to reduce the distractions. Think about what the relationship with your spouse would look like if you only talked to them when things were difficult or when others were around. It would be impossible to build intimacy or demonstrate value. Sometimes we just need to get away and spend alone time with God.

Life can be hectic. We may feel like we’ve got a million things demanding our attention. Making time or getting away may seem impossible. Sometimes we divide our attention to try and get more done… but we must never neglect to pray. It is the most valuable thing God has given to believers. Jesus demonstrates that prayers offers great confidence and peace as we develop a deeper, more intentional relationship with our Father.

“…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made know to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understand will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4.6-7)

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