Bible Reading Blog

Bible Reading Blog

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The Turning Point

Tuesday, March 08, 2022

BIBLE READING: Genesis 12

Humanity was on a downward trend (Genesis 6.5-6). Even after the restart there was an immediate regression into sinfulness (Genesis 11.20-23). Genesis 12 is a noticeable and dramatic turning point. Even though it’s not the beginning of the bible story, Genesis 12 is a definitive moment in the history of humanity. It sets the scene for the rest of the bible and offers hope to an otherwise hopeless story.

We need to see 3 important things that happen in Genesis 12:

  1. God reached out. Don’t miss this detail… If God doesn’t decide to come to Abram, there are no promises, Abram never leaves his home, and the ugly patterns from Genesis 3-11 continue. God could have left humanity to those things. But He didn’t want that. “For God so loved the world” that he made the first move in a much larger plan to change the outcome.

  2. God had a plan. This is the key point that gets developed through the rest of the bible. Part of the plan involves Abram’s immediate circumstance – blessings for him and his family. But it also involves blessings for everyone through him. Genesis 12 creates momentum and expectation as God’s people look for this plan to come to fulfillment.

  3. Abram responded. The bible tells us simply that “Abram went, as the LORD had told him” (Genesis 12.4). We cannot glaze over the enormity of that statement as it changed the entire course of his life. But it was not an isolated choice. Every time God revealed himself to Abram, there is a corresponding action (Genesis 12.1, 4; 12.7; 13.14, 18). His faith produced a total life movement in response to God. There was nothing sacred, nothing he held back, no “yes, but…” banter with God to address the other things he had going on in his life. I suspect if it were me, there would be a paragraph in the bible that says, "and Daniel asked "why"." Maybe it’s just me… but I think not.

We tend to desire predictability and resolution. We build homes and make investments for the future to give us confidence and security. We take comfort in knowing what will happen next, even if it’s not great. But we need to consider that God has always called people of faith to trust him and follow where he leads. Sometimes that means letting go of things that make us comfortable.

Genesis 12 not only teaches us patterns in our relationship with God but also reminds us our lives are directed by God’s revelation. People of faith are defined by God’s control over every aspect of our lives: finances, relationships, location, service, etc. Sometimes we deny God control over certain areas of our lives, and it hinders our growth. We need to think seriously about whom and what we trust. But most importantly we need to order our lives in faith, so that not only will we be blessed but so God may be shown to be great in our lives.  

Appointed to His Service

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

BIBLE READING: Ephesians 3

“For this reason, I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles…” (Ephesians 3.1)

Paul felt an obligation and compulsion to teach the Gentiles because that’s what God had revealed to him. This is a pattern he wants believers to latch onto. When God reveals, we should move. To emphasize the personal nature of this pattern, Paul digresses briefly into self-evaluation (Ephesians 3.7-8). “I am the least of all the saints” – he considers how worthless and unworthy he really should have been considered – but he doesn’t stay there long.

We would do well to consider his attitude because it’s easy to beat ourselves up sometimes. Especially if we see ourselves clearly as Ephesians 2.1-3 expects us to, we can be overwhelmed by our own insufficiency and deficiency. But Paul never wallows in his weakness. The closest he gets to that is in 2 Corinthians 12 when he is pleading with the Lord about his thorn in the flesh. But even then, he comes out of it quickly – why? Because when he is weak, then God is strong.

Like Paul, we each have a ministry that we must fulfill because of the gospel. And like Paul, there will always be challenges. People will oppose or reject us. We may doubt that we are capable of telling others about Jesus. But God is not concerned with what we think we can or cannot do. He uses the best and worst of circumstances to work his will. He knows we are weak at times and will fail. He knows we fight the same battles every day for days, weeks and maybe even years. He knows how Satan attacks us and makes us feel worthless.

But to God we are not hopeless or worthless. Nothing is beyond his control. He takes dead people and makes us alive to demonstrate this point. So, when you feel broken, messed up, or not good enough, remember that nothing is too difficult for God. This attitude will not only encourage your heart but place your trust where it belongs: On God, who promises life and hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (2 Corinthians 1.9-10).

We have much work to do in the service of Jesus, and we must not allow our weaknesses to overpower us. Instead, let us trust in his guidance (Psalm 119.105). His power is a stronghold in the day of distress (Nahum 1.7). His promises are an emphatic reminder of his faithfulness (Hebrews 13.5). Let us not concern ourselves with what we cannot do. Instead let us see the opportunity God has presented us to serve others and let us do the work to which we have been called.

"I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy..." (1 Timothy 1.12-13a)

The Habit of Some

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

BIBLE READING: Hebrews 10

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10.24-25)

I still remember the first Sunday back from Covid quarantine. The energy was palpable. We were excited to be there and enthusiastic about worshipping together. I left feeling a sense of purpose and thanksgiving for my brethren. I think we all understood the value of being together. But that moment has passed, and with it, the enthusiasm of some for being together.

Time has a way of doing that to us all. Even first century believers lost sight of the great value their time together supplied (Hebrews 10.32-36). When faith is easy, people tend to revert to what is easy. Especially with the technology we have, it’s much easier to stay home and watch a live stream than to get dressed and interact with real people. But to neglect being with God’s people is not only detrimental to you but says a lot about your faith. It’s not that important. It’s not a priority. I’m not talking about those who have health issues or extenuating circumstances. Many of those folks would love to be able to sit in the pews again. But that’s because they have developed a habit through maturity and conviction.

As the writer of Hebrews reminds us, spiritual negligence is a habit (Hebrews 10.25). Just like it takes time to form good habits, forsaking the assembling can become something that comes natural because of constant repetition. We all need to be stirred up from time to time to remember the purpose of our assembling together. It’s not just about checking the box but being engaged with the needs of others. We know how that feels when others do that for us. There is nothing as powerful as a word of encouragement or a hug from a friend in Christ. Feelings come and go. We need the rhythm of regular interactions with our brethren to keep us focused, encouraged, and accountable. When we get together with this purpose, we all benefit, and God is honored.

Mature believers take advantage of every opportunity to be with God’s people. The more you understand Scripture, the clearer you see the reality of what’s coming, and the more compelled you feel to surround yourself with people going the same direction as you. You won’t have this urgency if your faith is lazy or if you develop habits that keep you distracted. Too many people have been lulled by the comforts of this world and a false idea that my faith is my own and I don’t need anyone else. That’s just simply not God’s plan. We are a body joined together by Christ and serving his purpose (1 Corinthians 12). As often as we can, we need to be together.

In the Presence of God, On Our Behalf

Tuesday, February 08, 2022

BIBLE READING: Hebrews 9

Where does God desire to be worshipped? Throughout Jewish history the answer would have been the tabernacle or temple. It was designed by God as a chosen place to make his name and presence dwell (Exodus 25.8-9; 40.34). These places of worship allowed the people to experience the presence of God among them, both for comfort and fear.

But the advent of Jesus altered this form. It was never God’s plan to have a physical place of worship where his presence dwelt, but rather for people to worship him in spirit and truth (John 4.23). Now, our body is the temple of the living God, if we will allow it (1 Corinthians 6.19). Previous forms in worship, from the layout of the structures to the sacrifices, to the need for a high priest to intercede were not only shadows of true worship (Hebrews 8.5) but were efforts to teach the holy nature of God. One could not take their relationship with him lightly or regard sin as a small thing. To approach the presence of God required preparation, penitence, and sacrifice.

To understand proper worship of God today, we must understand these forms. Between God and us there is a separation, not by physical space but in holiness. This gap can only be bridged with purification, intercession, and a sacrificial death. Thankfully Jesus Christ has fulfilled the requirements to meet these needs (Hebrews 9.24-26), but for what purpose? “To appear in the presence of God on our behalf” (Hebrews 9.24b). Without the death of Jesus and his exaltation through the power of his indestructible life (Hebrews 7.16), we would be unable to draw near to God all. His exalted position in heaven is the only reason we can “boldly approach the throne of grace to find help in time of need” (Hebrews 4.16).

Why does this matter? It is not simply the favor of God that we long for the most, but His presence. Our longings for security, comfort and fulfillment are the craving of our spirit to be near God.

We can now worship God in his holy place (Hebrews 10.19). We can boldly approach him in his power to make our requests known (Philippians 4.6). We can find comfort and hope from the One who gives life. But to do so, we prepare our lives in purity and holiness (Romans 12.1-12; 1 Thessalonians 4.3-5). We must feed our souls in spirit and truth (1 Peter 1.22-25). It is the word of God that directs us into the presence of God. It is the surety of his promises that solidify our hope and peace.

God knows what we need, and his desire is for his people to enjoy the blessings of being near him (Psalm 73.23-28; Revelation 21.3). Thanks to Jesus, we can do that now. So, “let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10.22-23).

Fake News

Tuesday, February 01, 2022

BIBLE READING: Matthew 28

“[the chief priests and elders] said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” (Matthew 28.13-14)

Forget what ACTUALLY happened. If Jesus came back from the dead, that is the worst possible scenario for these religious leaders (John 11.48). So, that’s not the story many people heard. Imagine the confusion as people tried to reconcile the resurrection story with the message of the religious leaders—one they thought could be trusted. Surely, they weren’t making this up… right?

I don’t need to convince you the same thing happens today. We live in a world riddled with “fake news” as people craft a narrative to serve their purposes. Sadly, even the church is not immune to these things. People will come in as a wolf among sheep, leading people to believe their lies (Matthew 7.15). Hence, the bible calls us to be people of discernment and wisdom (Proverbs 3.21-24; Colossians 2.8; Romans 12.1-2; Hebrews 5.14; 1 John 4.1). This principle must be applied to every area of our lives because…

Not everyone has pure motives. Some people serve their own interests. They are only interested in using people to accomplish their selfish goals. Maybe their agenda seems noble, but their motives will be revealed over time (1 Timothy 5.24-25). We must not be naïve to accept someone simply because of what they claim to know or to be. It is true, we cannot judge the thoughts of someone’s heart, but we can test their words and actions according to God’s word. We must be like the Bereans who didn’t accept Paul at his word – “they searched the scriptures to see if these things were so” (Acts 17.11).

Even the truth can be undermined by someone with authority. For good or bad, people are more willing to accept the word of a leader. Maybe it’s fear. Maybe it’s respect. It appears right to accept what the ‘experts’ say. In any case, their position affords them the opportunity to take advantage of people even when the truth is present. “Do not be deceived” is the constant warning in scripture. Follow where the evidence leads, not where someone tells you to look.

Not everyone has good information. Even people with good hearts don’t always know the truth. Apollos was zealous to teach, but he didn’t have the full story (Acts 18.24-28). Paul was caught up in Jewish tradition before having his life rocked with the truth by Jesus, himself (Acts 9.1-19). We need to follow Luke’s example and search out the truth for ourselves (Luke 1.1-4). It’s easy to accept information that speaks to my point of view; but we need to be mindful of what we’re looking for. In a world that promotes “speaking your truth”, we need to be firmly rooted in honesty, humility, and a commitment to pursuing what is true.

“You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8.32)

“Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.” (Colossians 2.8, NKJ)

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