Bible Reading Blog

Bible Reading Blog

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Seek God First

Tuesday, March 07, 2023

BIBLE READING: Matthew 6.33
This blog is an excerpt from Sunday's sermon, "Seek God First"

Our culture is a rat race of working long hours, finding established jobs, managing our money and prepping for retirement. If you think back on the things that have caused you the most stress in your life, wouldn’t you agree that it has to do with controlling things in the future… most of which you can’t control? The world seeks after these things because they have no confidence in anything else to secure their future (Matthew 6.32).

The people of God should have a better outlook. God knows what we need, and while we plan our ways, God directs our steps (Proverbs 16.9). So, the challenge before us from Jesus is this: seek first the kingdom of God.

If you look at your life, what could it be said you are seeking? I fear our culture of comfort and lack of overt persecution for faith can easily lull us into serving the master of apathy. The opulence around us has led us to become subjective servants of Jesus, doing enough to be better than others but not really giving it all. Remember: we cannot serve two masters (Matthew 6.32).

Who are you serving? We need to answer this honestly because people of faith seek God’s kingdom. In fact, this is the same word used of people of faith who were ‘seeking’ a homeland (Hebrews 11.14-16). Could it be said that I am seeking God’s kingdom and his righteousness? My hope is we will take this challenge personally.

We’ve all made excuses for not growing in our faith by saying things like, “I don’t have time for this or that”, but that fact is, we make time for things that are important. Priorities determine our life and our schedule. If you want to rid your mind of anxieties about life, you need to set your mind on seeking God first. I’m not saying it will make the temptation to be anxious go away; but Jesus provides this as the remedy.

Anxiety about life is in many ways a matter of perspective. We fear what we cannot control. The fact is control is a fabrication of our mind that feeds our selfishness. We simply cannot control many of life’s circumstances. But if we believe God is who he says he is, and that he will do what he says he will do, we should set our mind to seek him… “and all these things will be added to us” (Matthew 6.33).

Beyond just the practical benefits we will find, Jesus demands priority. We cannot serve two masters. We cannot give priority to anything/anyone else and expect the blessings of God’s kingdom. The mantra of Colossians 3.1 ought to move us to see where we’re going: “Set your minds on things above.” In our faith we must seek God as a priority. That means what he says gets moved to the top of the list and I obey. That must be the rhythm of our lives.

Confident of Better Things

Monday, February 27, 2023

BIBLE READING: Hebrews 6.9-12

Jesus, draw me ever nearer as I labor through the storm; you have called me to this passage, and I’ll follow though I’m worn.
May this journey bring a blessing; may I rise on wings of faith; at the end of my heart’s testing, with your likeness, let me wake.

Jesus, guide me through the tempest; keep my spirit, staid and sure; when the midnight meets the morning, let me love you even more.
May this journey bring a blessing; may I rise on wings of faith; at the end of my heart’s testing, with your likeness, let me wake.

Let the treasures of the trial form within me as I go; at the end of this long passage, let me leave them at your throne.
May this journey bring a blessing; may I rise on wings of faith; at the end of my heart’s testing, with your likeness, let me wake.

“Jesus, Draw Me Ever Nearer”
Words by Margaret Becker

Copyright ©2002


As I reflect on our bible reading from Hebrews 11, these words are a fitting summation. Many have endured the struggles of life with joy as they look ahead, and to this we have been called. “We have been born again to a living hope… to an inheritance that is imperishable… kept in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1.3-5). “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while you have been grieved, by various trial, knowing that the tested genuineness of faith… [would] be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1.6-7).

This is the rhythm of every believer’s walk of faith: suffering and then glory. “Beloved do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it come upon you… but rejoice insofar as you share in Christ’s sufferings” (1 Peter 4.12-12). “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace…  will himself restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you” (1 Peter 5.10).

The comforts of life will entice us, and we may be tempted to apathy or to give up altogether on God. But even at its best the world’s comfort is fleeting and futile. It has no purpose or fulfillment for our souls. Let us go on to maturity in Christ (Hebrews 6.1) and serve the Lord. We have learned that “God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints” (Hebrews 6.10). Those who die in faith will receive the things promised, for God has prepared for them a city (Hebrews 11.13-16).

“Therefore, since we are surround by so a great cloud of witnesses” to a great and wonderful future, “let us run with endurance the race that is set before us”, keeping our eyes on Jesus who is our forerunner in the race (Hebrews 6.19-20, 12.1-2). We can be confident of better things – things that belong to salvation (Hebrews 6.9). Through the storms and trials of this passage there is a reward for the faithful. So, let us not “be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Hebrews 6.12)

Continue in Faith

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

BIBLE READING: 2 Timothy 3

“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.” (2 Timothy 3.1-5)

I doubt Timothy was unaware of these difficulties. This has always been the way of the world [3.8]. But Paul’s warning wasn’t just a PSA. Living in a sinful world can make one frustrated, and worse, apathetic. When it’s everywhere, it can cause one to retreat, to question, to avoid dealing with it altogether.

Paul’s encouragement to Timothy was simple: “continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it” (3.14). Many things will change but the gospel will not. Continue in it. Challenging times will come for your faith, even persecution. Don’t shrink back. Keep your mind firm and fixed on what you know is right. And remember who it comes from. The word of God is not from man and the gospel is not about what we have done. It is God’s message about what God has done and it calls us to better things. The world offers that but falls miserably short. God has worked and is working for your good. Continue in that knowing that God is faithful and will not change.

As Timothy matured, I’m sure he changed his mind about a thing or two and made many changes to his lifestyle to become more godly. But one thing Paul encouraged him not to change was his faith, informed by the “sacred writings which made him wise for salvation” (3.15). If he would continue in these things, he would be “complete, equipped for every good work” (3.16)

The gospel is not complicated but the world and its desires are a present force for everyone. In fact, 2 Timothy 3.1-5 sounds a lot like our world. Culture’s moral boundaries are constantly moved to accommodate agendas. It seems each generation is becoming increasingly desensitized to absurd and blatant sin. We are not unaware of this degeneration, but we can easily become numb to its effect on our faith.

We need to practice faith that endures. To do that, faith must not only be active, but persistent. We must pray in every circumstance and without ceasing (James 5.13-18; 1 Thessalonians 5.17). We must pursue godliness and fight against sin (1 Timothy 6.11-12). We must engage other believers to encourage and comfort (1 Thessalonians 3). We know this but are we set on doing them?

We need regular exhortations to get after it. We must not be lazy or apathetic, but must daily engage life with actions of faith. Only then will we realize the power of Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonians: “and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father…” (1 Thessalonians 3.12-13a).

God is Not Ashamed

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

BIBLE READING: Hebrews 11.16
“…as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God for he has prepared for them a city.”

This verse comes at the end of a list of people who are held up as heroes of faith. And yet if you examine their lives, you quickly find that they did some regrettable, even shameful things! And yet God is not ashamed to be called their God. Why? Simply put, their desire was for Him. They were moved by faith to obedience even when it didn’t make sense (Hebrews 11.8). In their weakness, they considered God faithful (Hebrews 11.11). Even without receiving the promises, the believed that God exists and would reward them (Hebrews 11.6).

This simple yet profound belief manifested in seemingly absurd choices: to leave comfort for something unknown; to defy powerful rulers; to accept torture and death. We must observe that what the world sees as strange, God looks at with favor. Not because these actions were inherently noble but because they were performed in hopes of what God had promised. These men and women gave up everything in pursuit of something better. They left family, comfort and familiarity to chase after of the promise God. They looked forward in faith, not looking back, to give themselves the opportunity to return to what they left.

People of faith must not be near-sighted but focused on what is to come. Indulgence and apathy only callous the need we have and the desire we feel for a perfected state. People of faith do not idle in comfort but press forward in hope that beyond death is eternal life in the presence of God. The admonition to set our minds on things above (Colossians 3.2) is a call to strengthen our faith by consolidating our heart’s desires. We are not of this world and must not become placated by what it offers.

Admitting they were strangers on earth freed these people to pursue God by faith. Because of this God was not ashamed to be called their God. In fact, God took their name as part of his communicated identity to all future generations (The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – Exodus 3.6, 15, 4:5). And true to His word, God has prepared a city for them.

How would God regard you and your faith? Would he say, “have you considered my servant _______________?” or would he be ashamed your lack of faith? Could it be said that God is not ashamed to be called your God? My friends, by faith we must look forward to all that God has planned for us. We must disregard the pleasures of this world that we are leaving behind, trusting that better things are ahead because God has promised.

“Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way…” (Philippians 3.13-15)

They Were Convinced

Tuesday, February 07, 2023

BIBLE READING: Hebrews 11.37-38a
“They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—of whom the world was not worthy…”

Have you ever considered why these people of faith were treated so terribly? It wasn’t because of their kindness or their simple, reserved practice of faith. Suffering came because they took a stand, with their words and actions.

  • Elijah opposed Jezebel and the 450 prophets of Baal because he knew Baal was no god at all (1 Kings 18). His choices led him to experience the loneliness of his faith (1 Kings 19), but it was simply not enough to ignore this reality; they must be confronted.
  • The prophets Jeremiah and Uriah were both called by God to call out the people’s sins (Jeremiah 26). The people were enraged, killing Uriah and driving Jeremiah into hiding. Neither wanted to share this message and were personally affected by it; but they opened their mouth and spoke.
  • John the Baptist could have left Philip and his immoral relationship alone (Matthew 14.1-12). After all, Philip was a person of the world… shouldn’t that be expected? Instead, John called his sins to light and was eventually executed for it.
  • Stephen offered a scathing rebuke to his fellow Jews for rejecting Jesus (Acts 7). He could have stopped, shook the dust off his sandals and moved along, but instead he contended with them and was stoned to death.

If these people knew they would suffer, why did they still choose to do it? They were convinced that God was right and true. They believed that, regardless of how they felt, they needed to share God’s message with others.

To be people of faith, we must be convinced that God is true. But more than that we must be convinced of the outcome of his truth and the pressing need for change. If there is sin in our lives, it must change today. If we see others living contrary to God’s patterns, they must be warned. God is patient and merciful but that should not promote apathy. God’s word is unchanging and today is God’s opportunity to each of us. Faith must be deeply rooted in this conviction, so much that it will speak and act with urgency today.

As God’s people, our mission is to make God known in this world. We are called to shine light in the darkness. This will take different forms as we engage people where they are; but the reality of human selfishness is that we will be hated for it (John 15.18-25). But if we believe God to be true, this must be our conviction: We must confront and correct sinful behavior. We must not let the forces of darkness and evil prevail. We must make every effort to open the hearts of people with the truth of God’s word.

“We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others.” (2 Corinthians 5.10-11)

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