dailybiblereader2012

Putting God's Word into Practice…

Notes from Nehemiah (Chapter 12:44-47)

The role of priest was all-consuming.  They served and ministered day and night.  The people depended on them for so much.  In God’s perfect wisdom, He provided a way for their financial and physical needs to be met.  Out of the tithes and offerings of the people they ministered to, a portion was given to each who served.

The people did not give out of obligation, but out of joy.  This, I’m sure, encouraged the hearts of their ministers.

“For all the people of Judah took joy in the priests and Levites and their work!”

Think about your pastors.  Do you take joy in their work?  Do you find giving joyful, knowing a portion will meet your pastors’ families’ needs?  God is using your generosity to care for His servants!

Going a little deeper:  What was the work that the priests did that the people took joy in?  The “ministry of purification.”  Their job was to help the people maintain purity before their God.  We have ministers who serve in small ways in that capacity, but we have Someone even better.  We have a great High Priest named Jesus! Hebrews 7:24-25 says, “But because Jesus lives forever, his priesthood lasts forever. Therefore, He is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through Him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf.” In 9:13-14 it says, “Under the old system, the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow could cleanse people’s bodies from ceremonial impurity. JUST THINK HOW MUCH MORE THE BLOOD OF CHRIST WILL PURIFY OUR CONSCIENCES FROM SINFUL DEEDS SO THAT WE CAN WORSHIP THE LIVING GOD.”  And finally, in Hebrews 10:21-22 it promises, “And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.”

Do you rejoice over the work of your great High Priest-Jesus?  Are you thankful that because He shed His own blood as a sacrifice for your sins and is ministering day and night on your behalf, that you are pure before the Father and can confidently worship in His presence?

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1 John 4 ~ Marks of a Christian

This chapter points out three marks that characterize someone who calls themselves a Christian.  1) They have the ability to discern truth from a lie due to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. 2)  They confess that Jesus is God’s Son and the Savior of the world.  3) They love others like Jesus loves us.

Verses 1-6, 13.  Indwelling Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit affects our speech.  How we speaks shows if we are filled with the Holy Spirit or not.  People filled with the Spirit, don’t speak in a way that makes sense to the world.  The power of the Holy Spirit also gives us the ability to discern if others are speaking truth or lies.  The indwelling Spirit is more powerful than anything we face externally from the world.  He gives us victory over the lies of Satan and over worldly influences.

Verses 14-15.  Confession about Christ.  What we believe and confess about Jesus Christ shows whether or not we understand the good news and can truly be called by His name.  We must believe that Jesus is the Son of God.  He is not just a prophet, a teacher, a moral man–He is God’s perfect Son!  He is not just one way for people to believe and get to Heaven–He is the ONLY way to the Father!  God sent Jesus to be the Savior of the world.  Only Jesus can save from sin, death and hell.  If someone calls themselves a Christian and speaks anything other than these truths, they are not a Christian. And according to verse three they have the spirit of the antichrist in them, not the Holy Spirit of God.

Verses 7-12, 16-21.  Love one another.  God is love, and He is the giver of love.  He showed His love by sending Jesus to give us life (not to give us rules to follow or guilt), and to be the sacrifice to take away our sins (not take away our fun).  God loved us first.  We didn’t earn it–nor can we.  We didn’t love Him first or ask Him to love us.  He is love, and He gives love.  Therefore, it is impossible to know God and be unloving.  If God abides in us, so does His love!  It is also impossible to keep the first commandment to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength without keeping the second commandment to love others!

“And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.” (1 John 4:17)  How do we live and love like the Lord?

  • We love first!  No one should have to earn our love or behave in a lovable way to keep it!
  • We love in a way that gives life to others.
  • We sacrifice ourselves and give grace freely to others.

Christian means “little Christ.”  If we don’t love people we are not like Jesus at all and make a mockery of the title “Christian.” Christian is not merely a title–it is a way of life!

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1 John 3:22-24 ~ Believe and Love

And whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. AND THIS IS HIS COMMANDMENT, THAT WE BELIEVE IN THE NAME OF HIS SON JESUS CHRIST AND LOVE ONE ANOTHER, just as he has commanded us.  Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.

When we read the Bible long enough, God uses it to answer our questions.  Several days ago when I was studying the word “abide” from 1 John 2:18-29 I asked the Lord, “How do I abide in You?” The answer is to believe in the name of Jesus and love others.

To believe means to have faith in or accept something as truth.  We abide in the Lord when we daily live out our belief that Jesus is who He and His Father says He is–God the Son.  That He accomplished what He said He did–the salvation of all who believe in His finished work on the cross and resurrection.  And that He’s able to do what He says He can–the impossible.  We believe in Jesus’ position, power, and promises!  Believing in the name of Jesus means that we don’t go ahead with our own plans, but submit to the ones He has planned for us.  It means that we don’t spend our lives trying to make our own righteousness, but we completely trust in His grace alone.

Abiding in the Lord doesn’t just hinge on believing in Jesus, but also in letting that belief affect our actions–specifically in the area of love.  I have a son who thinks his sports skills should be good right away–a natural–but he is so consumed with how he looks in the process that it stunts his ability to play.  His pride prevents him from taking risks on the basketball court.  I feel like that when it comes to loving others.  As a Christian, loving others is my job and it should come naturally to me because it’s God’s character that He infused into me when I became His child.  But loving others is the most challenging part of my spiritual walk.  Pride and selfishness get in the way.  I’m too afraid to risk when it comes to loving others. (How would loving others affect me? What if my love is rejected? Do they really deserve my love?)  Obedience to God is how we demonstrate love to Him.  He has given us only one other command to obey–and that’s loving others.  Loving others demonstrates love to Him!  It’s easy to say, “I love God,” but real love is not words, it’s action (1 John 3:18).  It’s one thing to say, “I can make that basket.”  It’s another thing to shoot the ball and prove it!

Loving others is essential for abiding in Christ.  But, loving others is impossible by sheer will power and human strength.  Love happens because the Holy Spirit abides in us.  Surrendering to His power and work in our lives enables us to express the love of God to others.  Love requires laying down our pride–admitting we need supernatural help to love not only “difficult” people but all people according to God’s definition of love found in 1 Corinthians 13:1-7. Love requires laying selfishness aside–laying down our rights, our reputation, our schedule, our will–just like Jesus did (Phil. 2:3-7, Matthew 26:39).

When I don’t feel close to the Lord, I need to examine my heart to see if there is anyone that I am not loving selflessly, unconditionally, and sacrificially.  Being unloving prohibits abiding!  I know this personally because today, I was feeling distant from the Lord, and it was due to a critical spirit towards others.  Thankfully I BELIEVE that Jesus’ sacrifice and grace are the only means to forgiveness and restoration!  Now I am abiding again!!!

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1 John 3:16-19 ~ Love

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and WE OUGHT TO LAY DOWN OUR LIVES for the brothers.  But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his HEART against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, LET US NOT LOVE IN WORD OR TALK BUT IN DEED AND IN TRUTH.  By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him.

Love is not a phrase, it’s an action.  It is more than a mushy Valentine’s Day card.  (Personal peeve:  It really bothers me how many “romance” cards focus on how the receiver makes the giver feel which isn’t love at all!)

One who is filled with true, godly love doesn’t take life from others, but lays their own life down for the sake of others.  True love is sacrificially and it should cost us something! Love starts in the heart and flows out to others in generosity. Love meets the needs of others at our expense–that is, if we want to love like our Savior!  Just giving for the sake of giving is not love.  1 Corinthians 13:3 says, “If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body up to be burned (sacrifice my body), BUT HAVE NOT LOVE, I gain nothing.”  Jesus gave us all He had and sacrificed His very life–but underneath it all was intense, selfless love for sinners (Romans 5:8)! To know how to love, we have to know Jesus.

Love requires a choice.  Will I use what I have to show love to others or keep it for myself?  Will I love others in the same manner that Christ loves me?

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James 2:14-26 ~ “Sanka, You Dead Mon?”

I have got a whole jumble of notes on these verses that I took down Saturday morning.  The time with the Lord studying His Word ended in tears of repentance and fresh hope for a living, active faith.

So also faith, by itself, if it does not have works, is dead…Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?..For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. (James 2:17,20,26)

If my faith is mere knowledge and words, it is not valid or real.  True faith is displayed in actions.

  • Caring for the physical needs of others (15-16)
  • Being willing to sacrifice anything to show God He has first place in my life, He is my only hope and that I believe He is faithful to all His promises (21)
  • Provide and protect people of God even at risk to myself…offer hospitality to strangers (25)

The times I have felt most alive in my faith are active times: doing a ding-dong ditch diaper drop on someone’s porch, serving free lunch on our town square and sitting and praying with those who came, delivering handmade blankets to Heartbeats for babies and the Police Station for the children they have to remove from homes, taking a homeless lady to lunch, moving to Chicago, starting a church.

Why are my “alive” moments countable?  What is the pulse of my “faith” life now?

True faith is selfless action.  Self-centered living and even serving makes me feel dead inside–at the very least completely empty.  Inactive faith is useless.  When I don’t feel like my life has purpose, putting my faith into action would revive my purpose.

Questions to think about:  Can we “will” action from our faith?  Or should they automatically overflow from our faith?  How do we strengthen our faith?

Dead faith needs REVIVED!  Revive me Lord, make my heart beat with real, deep, impacting, active, selfless faith!

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Hebrews 13:16 Sacrifice of Action

Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

“Do not neglect to do good.” Based on my computer’s thesaurus, neglect can be interchanged with the following: forsake, ignore, overlook, leave undone, pay no attention to… How often do I neglect to do good because it doesn’t fit in my daily agenda? Because I am so blinded by my wants that I overlook the needs of others? When I think quickly on the example of Jesus, He never neglected to do good. When he was tired and wanted to be alone to rest or pray, His compassion drove Him to meet the needs of those placed in His path. He allowed crucifixion for the salvation of mankind to make His daily agenda! When I think back over my days and weeks; are they a pleasing sacrifice TO GOD or to me?

“Do not neglect to…share what you have.” This verse does not say to share what you have excess of but WHAT YOU HAVE. It does not say to share with the “needy.” In fact it doesn’t specify whom to share with, implying any and everyone. It’s not about who we share with, but that WE share no matter how little or much we think we have. We can share our time, our possessions, and our abilities for they are not really ours, but God’s gifts to us to be used as He desires.

“For such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” To sacrifice means to surrender something as an offering to God; to give something of value up for the sake of something regarded as more valuable or worthy. Is God more valuable to me than “my” life and time? The number one sacrifice of all time is Jesus Christ laying down His life for the sake of others. If my soul is that valuable to Him, shouldn’t pleasing Him be of utmost value to me?

Jesus, Himself, said in Matthew 9:13, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” Putting our faith into practice in our daily lives and dealings with others is far more pleasing to God than religious rituals.

This verse finishes like the last with “to God.” It is so hard to live my life to please God and not to please others. I can do good and share with the wrong motives. Is my good-doing and sharing about my glory or to please God? Do those actions flow out of love, gratitude and reverence for my Savior or out of need to be loved by others?

So much to think about today…

If you like piano-driven 70s music, I recommend this song by Keith Green:

http://youtu.be/A8gWDR35R8M

but if you don’t like 70s music, here is a link to the lyrics. I can’t get them out of my head this week.

http://www.metrolyrics.com/to-obey-is-better-than-sacrifice-lyrics-keith-green.html

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Hebrews 12:18-29 Too Amazing for Words

I didn’t take any notes on this portion of verses, just spent a lot of time in prayer, gratitude and worship.  If you have been made perfect by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, are a member of His church, your name is enrolled in Heaven, and know that you are receiving His Kingdom which cannot ever be shaken, then I hope you take time to worship Him today too!

Therefore let us be GRATEFUL for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken and thus let us offer to God acceptable WORSHIP with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire! Hebrews 12:28-29

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Hebrews 11:17-19 By Faith Abraham…Part 2

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it is was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.”  He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. Hebrews 11:17-19

God is a tester of faith.  Like a heavenly school teacher, he is allowed to test us anytime He chooses; and we do not know how we will be tested, when the test will come, or what will be asked of us.  Testing of our faith is for our good and God’s glory.  It produces steadfastness in us and perfects our character (James 1:3).  When our faith is tested and proven genuine, it results in praise, honor and glory when we finally see Jesus face-to-face (1 Peter 1:6-7).  However, tests also show us where we are falling short–where we have more to learn, and they reveal our true spiritual condition and on who/what we have been depending apart from the Lord.

Abraham’s test seems drastic to my earthly understanding–to be asked to sacrifice his only Son–his promise–on an altar.  As a mother, I can imagine how I would respond.  I picture myself saying, “That’s not fair.  Why would you promise me a son, then take him away? How dare you ask this of me!”  But not Abraham!  We see no arguing, no resistance, only faith-driven obedience.  Abraham recognized that when God made a promise to him to give him a son and innumerable offspring through his son, that He would do it, no matter what it took!

The phrase that stuck out to me in these verses is, “In the act of offering up.”  That means giving up something for the pleasure of someone else. Just like 14 years ago, I gave up smoking cigarettes to please my husband because I love him, how much more should I be willing to give something up to please my Lord, Savior and Treasure, Jesus Christ.  

I can vividly remember a night over a decade ago that someone I know was preparing to leave to be a missionary in North Korea.  I asked her mom, “How can you let her go into such a dangerous place, knowing you may never see her again?”  The mother’s response was, “She doesn’t belong to me; she belongs to God.”  Maybe the reason we don’t want to make sacrifices and offerings to God is because we forget to Whom we and the gifts we’ve been given truly belong.

If Abraham had not embraced the test, he would not have experience the supernatural provision and presence of the Lord!  Faith strengthens faith, and obedience brings blessing!  God provided a ram for the sacrifice in place of Isaac, and Abraham offered the ram to the Lord, naming the place on the mount, “The Lord will Provide.”  

Lord, increase my faith!  Give me supernatural obedience and more sacrificial love for you!  You are worthy!

P.S. There are a ton of gospel foreshadowings in the story of Abraham and Isaac from Genesis 22. I recommend reading that chapter with Jesus in mind.

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Hebrews 11:4 ~ By Faith, Abel

By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts.  And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks.  Hebrews 11:4

The story of Cain and Abel’s sacrifices can be found in Genesis 4:1-16 in greater detail.  Cain was the firstborn son of Adam and Eve.  He was a worker of the land, a farmer.  Abel was younger, and he was a keeper of sheep (a shepherd).  Both men offered a sacrifice to God. Cain gave of the bounty of his land–I’m sure it was a plentiful and beautiful gift!  Unfortunately vegetables don’t bleed!  And God’s requirement for a sacrifice involves the shedding of blood for the forgiveness of sins.  (They would have known this because God Himself instated the plan when He shed the blood of an innocent animal to provide a suitable covering for their parents in the Garden of Eden after they ate the forbidden fruit!) Only the sacrificial death of a perfect lamb has the power to forgive sins, therefore God accepted Abel’s offering, and Abel was commended by God as righteous!  

Abel’s faith, sacrifice and righteousness are a foreshadowing of the coming Christ. John the Baptist proclaimed of Jesus, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”  When we are covered by Christ’s sacrifice, we are acceptable to God.  There is no other way! No other hope! No other faith!

Cain became bitter and jealous of Abel for receiving God’s favor, so he killed him!  He shed the blood of an innocent man and tried to hide from God.  Abel’s faith saved him from eternal separation from God, but it did not save him out of his earthly circumstances.  Faith offers eternal protection, life and joy; but it does not always equal earthly protection and healing.  (As a side note: people who teach that God is withholding healing or good because of a lack of faith are mistaken! The physical death of a saved person IS eternal healing!)

Isn’t it cool that one of the first human beings to exist on planet Earth still speaks to us today through the commending of his faith in God and his willingness to believe that righteousness could only come through sacrifice?

Cain’s life still speaks to us too.  Cain believed God existed–he even talked with Him.  But Cain did not seek God.  He refused to do things God’s way, rebuffed opportunities to repent, and rejected God’s presence.  In fact Genesis 4:16 says, “Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord and SETTLED IN THE LAND OF WANDERING, east of Eden.”  Cain settled for far less–settled for wandering.  Isn’t that a good picture of our culture today?  Maybe that’s how you feel about life sometimes–just wandering through, day in and day out.  

Faith in Jesus Christ is the only answer.  He saves us out of wandering and wondering; gives us confidence, freedom, joy and hope.  Through faith in His sacrifice on the cross we are made acceptable to God!

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Hebrews 10:1-19 ~ If God is Good….

If God is good, why would he let His own Son die?  Sometimes we question God like this about our own suffering; like He can’t possibly understand or mean to let us suffer, like He’s made a mistake somehow.  Suffering is never a mistake or a waste in the hands of God.  When He allows suffering, there is always a purpose.  When He watched His Son die on the cross, we were the purpose!  And Jesus, He didn’t get mad or question His Father.  In fact in Hebrews 12 it says of Jesus, “For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross.”

God’s goodness and love for you and me made it necessary for Jesus to be broken, beaten, and nailed to a cross.  God knows that we are all sinners, born that way–rebellious and selfish–separated from Him.  Hebrews 9:22 says, “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.”  Jesus shed His blood once for all people for all time.

God wrote His law on our hearts and minds; therefore, it is our hearts and minds where the law is broken.  Sin runs deep–our sinful actions and speech are an outflow of our sinful hearts and minds.  Nothing can cleanse the inner man except the blood of Christ.  His perfect sacrifice can purify our hearts and minds, sanctifying us–setting us apart as holy to God.

It was God’s will that Christ should die–His good, acceptable and perfect will.

“Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.”   And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.  Hebrews 10:17-18

Freedom, joy, forgiveness, and peace are ours only through the sacrifice of Jesus.

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