Bible Reading Blog

Bible Reading Blog

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A Necessary Way of Life

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

BIBLE READING: Nehemiah 1.1-4; 2.1-8; Daniel 9.1-3; Matthew 10.38-42; Luke 19.1-10; Acts 4.23-31

The common idea in this week’s reading is what it looks like to seek God first. As soon as Nehemiah heard about the trouble in Jerusalem, he “wept and mourned for days, and… continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven” (Nehemiah 1.4). When Daniel wanted clarity about what he was reading, he “turned [his] face to the LORD God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes” (Daniel 9.3). Following the release of Peter and John from prison, they met up with their friends and “lifted their voices together to God” (Acts 4.24).

Prayer is obviously a key element to seeking God first; but notice how quickly these people engaged God. They didn’t allow their thoughts or emotions an opportunity to take over without bringing God into the picture. Almost immediately, and without pretense, they made God prominent.

Notice the persistence of Nehemiah: he fasted and prayed for days. His efforts were not a single moment of last resort but an ongoing search for God’s favor. Seeking God first was a daily activity. Notice the humility of Daniel: he plead for mercy with fasting, sackcloth and ashes. He understood his limitations and the need for God’s wisdom. Notice the trust the NT believers had in God’s word. They quoted scripture with praise and hope. They understood this is what God had promised because his word was in the forefront of their minds.

These were not decisions made in the moment, but outflows of people invested in seeking God. When we make spiritual disciplines as a habit, seeking God first moves us to action and positions us to receive God’s blessings. In Luke 19, Zacchaeus was set on seeking Jesus, so he climbed a tree just to catch a glimpse of him. The crowds surrounded Jesus… what do you think Zacchaeus expected? Surely, he didn’t expect Jesus to invite himself over! His efforts were rewarded by the presence and salvation of Jesus (Luke 19.9).

The activities we read in these episodes shouldn’t surprise us, but how often is seeking God your top priority? Do you run to him for refuge and strength or is he a last resort? Seeking God first is an activity and not just a thought in our minds. It is a determination of the will founded in our belief that God is real and Jesus is our king. If we call ourselves Christians we must “not be sluggish but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promise” (Hebrews 6.12).

In Matthew 10, Jesus taught this priority as a necessary way of life for believers who want to be rewarded by God (Matthew 10.35-42). There is no greater relationship we can value. There is no greater activity we must desire. There is no greater life we can live than to die to ourselves and seek to follow Jesus. If we are not willing to put our natural responses to the side and seek Jesus first, we are not worthy of him (Matthew 10.38).

Seek God, Like Jesus

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

BIBLE READING: Matthew 6.19-21; 22.36-38

“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6.21). We give our affections to things we think are most important. If we love a sports team, we spend time watching games and wearing team jerseys. If we value our career, we spend hours at the office. If a man spends all his time at work and never makes time for his wife, it insults the wife. When we make something a higher priority than God, we’re declaring that it’s more deserving of our love than God is. If we treasure and love God, we will seek him first.

Jesus would say the greatest commandment is to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" (Matthew 22.37). In other words, seek God first with everything we are and do. Jesus modeled practical ways we can do this. He got up early to spend time in prayer (Mark 1.35). He ordered his life to do and be what God expected him to be (Mark 1.31-32). He adamantly crafted his teaching according to what he heard from God (John 5.19, 30).

We must learn to do the same. I understand that Jesus is the Son of God who had a clearly defined purpose and destiny. It can be a daunting task to follow in his footsteps. But he left heaven to help us exposing the futility of selfish living. His teaching and example beg us to seek God first.  

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth” (Matthew 5.19). When I tell my kids “Do not do that” it’s usually a strong warning against something potentially harmful. Jesus isn’t saying, 'don’t have stuff'; but he knows the danger our earthly treasures possess. They distract us from the true treasures of knowing and trusting God. We often allow these things to not only motivate but dominate. Don’t let that happen. But how? We are so drawn and enticed by our own desires, comforts and things. The fact is we often seek our own desires and not the desires of God. To seek God first is a reset from the first thought of our day. From our waking moments, we must concern ourselves with God’s wants and not my own. My schedule, my finances, my pursuits all need to conform themselves to the thought of, “What does God want from me today?” Seeking God first doesn’t just require spiritual disciplines (prayer, bible reading, etc.). It requires we engage our most mundane moments with godly motivation. At the store, in our home, on the job, we must consider what God wants and act upon that first.

Today, don’t just claim to seek God first. Put it in your mind, treasure it in your heart, and practice it in your life. Let your words be directed by scripture. Let your activities be motivated by service. Let your heart be moved by God’s love for you and the world. Seek God first, like Jesus.

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).

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