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Mark 1-2: Cleansed!

 

Leprosy Victim

Leprosy Victim

The leper of Mark 1:40-45 amazes me. Jesus told him to keep his mouth shut and he couldn’t. What saddens me is Jesus has told me to keep my mouth open and I don’t.

 

The thing I need to recognize about this whole scenario is the leper couldn’t keep quiet because of the joy over his cleansing. He knew exactly how defiled and vile he had been. Therefore, he was overjoyed at his newfound cleansing. He had to tell someone.

Who do you think he told first? I imagine he told the only people that had stayed with him, the other lepers he had been relegated to live with outside the city. He probably told his family. He may have told his friends. I bet he told the next person he saw in the street. 

What I need to do is realize just how defiled and vile I was spiritually. Only then can I have the joy of the cleansing Jesus has given. Perhaps, when I remember that and meditate on it, I won’t be able to help telling people about it either.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

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August 29, 2008 Posted by | Christian Living, Evangelism, forgiveness, Mark, Miracles, sin | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Colossians 3-4: Keep My Speech Seasoned with Salt

I needed this reminder today. 

“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Colossians 4:6, ESV).

I don’t have much to say about this verse. I just needed to remind myself regarding the relationships to which I need to personally apply this verse.

 

  • Marita (my wife)
  • Tessa (my daughter)
  • Ethan (my son)
  • Ryan (my son)
  • Trina (yes, I even have to apply this to my relationship with a 9-month-old)
  • Brad and Christopher (my brothers)
  • Linda (my step-mom)
  • My friends (I won’t list them all by name)
  • My elders
  • My brethren
  • My neighbors
  • The check out clerk at Wal-Mart
  • The snotty check out clerk at whatever store
  • The guy who cut me off in traffic
  • My enemies
I could keep boing, but I’m beginning to get the point.
Keep the faith and keep reading,
ELC

August 28, 2008 Posted by | Christian Living, Colossians, Love, Relationships | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Colossians 1-2: Canceling Our Record of Debt

Debt. I hate it. Sadly, before learning how bad debt really is, I racked up my fair share of it. Even more sadly, after learning how bad it really was, I had developed habits that have been difficult to overcome. Therefore, I racked up even more of it. Now, slowly but surely, we are working our way out of it.

Worse than that, however, is my debt to God. I have sinned. I have sinned greatly. I owe God my very life. In fact, I owe God more than I can possibly pay. When I have paid it, I will be dead. Not just physically dead, but eternally, spiritually dead. Even worse, I cannot work my way out of this one. I cannot pay a little today and then a little tomorrow, make a sacrifice here and a sacrifice there and then one day be out of debt with God. It just can’t happen. 

What on earth can I do?

Nothing. 

But God has done something.

“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13-14, ESV).

God sent Jesus to live among us and then die among us. He nailed Jesus to the cross and placed my debt there with Him. He canceled my record of debt, writing “PAID IN FULL” with Jesus blood across it. He forgave me of my trespasses and made me alive in Jesus. 

How powerful and amazing is that? 

When I start getting down and discouraged, I just need this reminder now and then. That makes me glad I got to read Colossians 1-2 today.

Keep the faith and keep reading, 

ELC

August 27, 2008 Posted by | Colossians, Crucified with Christ, forgiveness, salvation | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Philippians 3-4: Pressing on for the Goal

I’m not sure that there is a more comforting set of verses than Philippians 3:12-14.

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 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” (ESV).

Wow! You mean Paul, the apostle, wasn’t perfect? He didn’t do everything right? I mean I know before he became a Christian he did some really bad things. I’ve always been certain he did become great the first day he was a Christian. But here he is writing letters to let people know how to live in their service to God and he claims he is still not perfect. He still has to grow. 

That just comforts me. I’ve been a Christian now for 22 years. That is hard for me to imagine. When I consider how badly I still mess things up spiritually I get very discouraged. Some days I even am willing to just throw in the towel. Why keep trying? 

Surely Paul felt that way sometimes. Yet, his response was to just keep pressing on. Think about it. If Paul could say he wasn’t perfect, then just like me, he could pinpoint somethings that had just happened that demonstrated his imperfection. Instead of allowing that to make him stop, he pressed on. He kept going. He understood that serving God is not about where we are, but about where we are growing.

If you’re like me, you can pinpoint a dozen things and more that have happened in the past few days to remind you how imperfect you are. Don’t let those get you down. Keep looking forward. Keep pressing forward. Keep running the race. As long as you don’t quit, you will win the prize.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

August 26, 2008 Posted by | Christian Living, Encouragement, perseverance, Philippians | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Philippians 1-2: To Live is Christ, To Die is Gain

DEATH!

The word strikes fear in the hearts of most people. Yet, it didn’t strike fear in Paul. In Philippians 1:21, he said “to die is gain” (ESV). Why? Because death was the doorway to being with Christ for Paul (cf. Philippians 1:23). Paul has accomplished here what few seem to be able to do.

We hear so much about living by faith. We also need to learn to die by faith. No doubt, I could probably write reams and reams and reams on what it means to live and die by faith. However, Paul actually gives us the key in Philippians 1:21. He wrote, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (ESV). He saw two options. If he died, he would have personal gain, going to be forever with Christ. If he lived, that would benefit Christ and Christ’s plan because he would have fruitful labor helping the lost be saved and the saved be strengthened.

The fact is, the only reason “to die is gain” for Paul was because “to live is Christ” for Paul. If the first half of that statement were not true, then the second half would not be. If we want our death to be gain, then we need our life to be Christ.

Therefore, we need to ask, “What is my life? Is my life about Christ?” If living is not for Christ and has no fruitful labor for Him, then dying will not be gain for us. We can’t have it both ways. We can’t live our lives totally for ourselves pursuing our own goals, following the desires of our flesh, seeking our own pleasure and entertainment and then expect death to be about Jesus. It just won’t work.

If we want our death to be gain, then our life has to be Christ. What is your life about today?

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

August 25, 2008 Posted by | Christian Living, Death, Faith, Philippians, salvation | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ephesians 5-6: Christlike Husbands

 

courtesy JoEllen Gilbert

courtesy JoEllen Gilbert

Far too often men love to jump on Ephesians 5:22-24. We love to talk about how our wives should submit to us. No doubt, there is a biblical principle here and I recognize God’s word says men are to be the heads of their homes. But, for the moment, I want us to recognize this follows Ephesians 5:21–“…submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” The teaching about husbands and wives, parents and children, masters and slaves is about how we each submit to each other in our varying relationships. There is a sense then in which husbands submit to their wives, parents to children and masters to slaves. No doubt, in each relationship there was/is a clear role of authority. However, each side has responsibilities and when we follow them, we are submitting to the partner in the relationship.

 

Notice the husband’s responsibility is not to be a tyrant. The husband’s responsibility is not to direct the wife in all that she must do. The husbands job is not to seek the glory and allow the wife to be his stepping stool. Rather, the husband’s job is to love his wife as Jesus loved the church. How did Jesus love the church? He left heaven, came to earth and then died here for the church. 

WOW! Men, what a mighty calling that is for us. Perhaps we will not literally have to die for our wives. However, we certainly won’t live up to that calling if we are not willing to live for our wives. Who among us could say we would die for our wives if we won’t give up our favorite TV show to talk to her? Who among us could say we would die for our wives if we won’t even sacrifice a minute to take out the trash for her when she asks (or maybe even without her asking) without a bunch of complaining. 

I admit it. I’m terrible at this. Usually, I’m a selfish bum. We must be better than that. We must live for our wives, sacrificing ourselves for her good. No, that doesn’t mean be a doormat for her every whim. We are the leaders in the home. What it means is just as Jesus leads us for our good, sacrificing Himself when that is what we needed, we must lead our homes for the good of our wives even if it means sacrificing ourselves. 

Husbands, let us learn what it means to submit to one another out of reverence for Jesus and realize this isn’t about reverence for us.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

August 22, 2008 Posted by | Ephesians, Marriage | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ephesians 3-4: Ask and Think Big

I can’t read Ephesians 3-4 without being drawn to Ephesians 3:20-21:

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (ESV).

God can do what we ask or think. Not only that, He can do all that we ask or think. Not only that, He can do more than all that we ask or think. Not only that, He can do more abundantly than all we ask or think. Not only that, He can do far more abundantly than all we ask or think. This doesn’t say He will do anything we ask or think. It simply says He can. There is no request that challenges God. There is nothing that causes God to have a V8 moment, saying, “Whoa, I don’t know about that one, that’s tough.”

But did you also notice that this is through the power working in us? This is not something He does in spite of us. This is not something He does without us. This is something He does through us. If we are surrendering to Him, He can do amazing things through us. Surely the miracles of the apostles recorded in Scripture give us at least a picture that God can do amazing things through us when He wants. You and I may just be plain ol’ Jane and John Doe, but our God is not plain. He is powerful and He can do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think by the

 power at work within us.

What does this mean? It means we need to start thinking and asking. We need to get in God’s word and figure out what He wants and start asking for it. Start asking for Him to do it through us. But more than that, we need to think and ask big. I’m not saying trying to test God. I’m just saying let’s rely on God. Let’s have faith in the God who can do beyond what we are asking, so let’s ask Him do to even more.

What a great God we serve.

Keep the faith and keep reading.

ELC

August 21, 2008 Posted by | Daily Bible Reading, Ephesians, Prayer | , , , , | Leave a comment

Ephesians 1-2: How God Sees Sin

I always have a little trouble when I get to Ephesians 2:1-3.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience–among whom we all once lied in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. (ESV)

It reminds me of the trouble I also have when I get to Romans 3:10-18.

None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.
Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.
The venom of asps is under their lips.
Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.
Their feet are swift to shed blood;
in their paths are ruin and misery,
and the way of peace they have not known.
There is no fear of God before their eyes
 (ESV).

 The problem I have is, I hear these descriptions and think, “I just wasn’t that bad.” I mean, I have done some really bad things. But I am not a bad person. I’m actually a pretty good person over all. I have great intentions. I really do fear the Lord. I don’t want to deceive. I have dallied in the passions of the flesh on occasion, but I don’t think I was really following the prince of the power of the air or was by nature a child of wrath. 

What’s amazing about that is that I have even done some exercises where I have tried to honestly lay out my sins and how far they went and I realize I really have done some really, really bad things. But to say I was like these verses describes always makes me come up short.

Perhaps it is some kind of subconscious trick so I won’t see how much I really need to surrender to God. I don’t know. Anyway, I was reading this passage and it hit me. These passages are not saying I am a sinner because I am this bad. They are saying, I am this bad because I sin. No matter how bad my sins are on some kind of scale; no matter how I compare with other sinners (there will always be someone worse in my book); no matter what I have or haven’t done, this is how I look to God when I commit any sin. This is why I need a Savior. Even when I have committed what seems to be the most harmless of minor infractions, I have turned from God to submit to Satan and followed the course of my flesh just like everybody else has done. In that moment, I have not just become a person who made a social faux pas, I have become a rebel. 

What amazes me even more are the verses that follow in Ephesians 2:4-7:

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved–and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus (ESV).

Despite how I looked to God because of my sin, He still sent Jesus to die for me so my sin could be removed and I could look holy, spotless, blameless and clean to God.

Thank you, God, for your love and mercy.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

August 20, 2008 Posted by | Ephesians, forgiveness, God, Love, sin | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Galatians 5-6: Why Do So Many Christians End Up Committing “Major” Sins

If I plant watermelon seeds, I won’t get pumpkins and vice versa. Or as Jesus would say, we can’t get figs from thistles or grapes from thornbushes. We grow what we plant.

Therefore Paul says:

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life (Galatians 6:7-8, ESV).

All too often, as we Christians argue about where to draw our personal moral lines, we end up defending planting the seeds of the flesh. You may not agree with me regarding issues like the lottery, social drinking, couples dancing, etc. I just ask you to think about this passage.

What seeds are we planting if our best friends are drinkers? What seeds are we planting when we attend their parties filled with drink? What seeds are we planting when we hang out in casinos? What seeds are we planting if we look the other way as our friends get high? What seeds are we planting if unmarried couples rub their bodies together to the rhythm of the music? What seeds are we planting when we watch shows filled with the immodest and the immoral? What seeds are we planting when the songs that entertain us glorify immorality? What seeds are we planting if the books we read, the movies we watch, the tv shows we enjoy provide a constant and steady stream of the immoral?

I hear people all the time justify the “gray areas” in which they delight and then they wonder why they struggle so much with sin? Anecdotally, we hear of the increasing numbers of unmarried pregnancies, cases of adultery, alcoholism, drug abuse, homosexuality, prescription drug abuse, divorces, etc. These stories are not from the worldly but from within Christ’s body. I’m not sure a month has gone by over the past few years that I haven’t heard of another preacher or elder committing adultery. Of course, I cannot think about these who have fallen without thinking of my own sins and recognize but for the grace of God go I. 

What is happening here? Is the problem starting at the moment of the major sin? No. The problem is in our continual fight for our personal rights to claim we can watch what we want, read what we want, listen to what we want, go where we want, drink what we want and do what we want. Whether we realize it or not we are sowing seeds to the flesh. When our general practice is to justify and defend sowing the seeds of the flesh, we shouldn’t be surprised when we reap corruption. Paul proclaimed the hard and fast rule. If we sow seeds to the flesh, we will reap corruption from the flesh. 

Somehow, Christians today think we can plant thistles but get figs. We think we can plant thornbushes but get grapes. It doesn’t work that way. When we sow the wind, we will reap the whirlwind.

If we really want to help people overcome full blown immorality, we need to quit telling them to just say, “No,” to the biggies. We need to help them start planting the right seeds. We need to start planting seeds to the Spirit. We need to increase our prayer and Bible Study. We need to deepen our relationships with other Christians. We need to come clean and confess to our brethren. We need to assemble with the saints, worshipping God and edifying one another. We need to cut off our right hands and pluck out our right eyes if they get in the way. 

Here is the great comfort. If we plant grapes, we won’t get thornbushes. If we plant figs, we won’t get thistles. When we plant seeds to the Spirit, we will reap eternal life. That cannot be helped. It is just the way things work.

Keep the faith and keep reading.

ELC

August 19, 2008 Posted by | Christian Living, Galatians, sin | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Galatians 3-4: God Can Use the Bad Times

I spent the week of New Years in the emergency room and then confined to my house because I developed pneumonia. I have never been so sick in my life. As I have heard other people say, for a time I was so sick, I was afraid I was going to die. Then I was so sick, I was afraid I wouldn’t. I was miserable. 

To be honest, in times like that I wonder why on earth God let that happen. It messed up an opportunity I had to teach at another congregation. It certainly didn’t help my family finances. It hit while Marita’s dad was extremely sick and she had to leave to go be with him. 

Now that it is eight months behind me, I recognize it really wasn’t that bad. I can hardly imagine what it must be like for people to go through really, really difficult times–the loss of a job, break up of a family, sickness and death of a child. 

There is one passage in today’s reading that really struck me. It almost seems like a throw-away statement just tucked in there between the important stuff. But it really gave me some comfort.

“You know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first, and though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus…” (Galatians 4:13-14, ESV).

This passage doesn’t give a great number of details. However, it does claim the reason Paul ended up preaching in Galatia was because he got sick. Perhaps it was something with his eyes as the continuing verses suggest. However, I can imagine how I would have felt if I were Paul. Here I am traveling around, trying to do the will of God, spreading the Gospel and saving souls. Then God up and lets me get majorly sick. I’m so sick it messes up my travel and teaching plans.

In the moment of sickness, I might be pretty upset. However, from the perspective of the letter written later, we can see God’s bigger plan. I don’t know what Paul’s interrupted plans were. However, God apparently had plans for Paul to teach the Galatians. In addition to that, God had plans for Paul to eventually write this letter to them, which would be incorporated in Scripture to help all Christians of all time. None of that would have happened if God hadn’t let Paul get sick.

Therefore, I have to remember my God is powerful enough to use my bad times in a great and glorious way to accomplish His plans. It may mess up my plans, but His plans are better anyway. 

I’m not saying it will be easy to face tough times. I’m just saying this faith can get me through, knowing that God is with me and He will use whatever happens in a way that makes me better and accomplishes His glorious work.

Keep the faith and keep reading.

ELC

August 18, 2008 Posted by | Christian Living, Faith, Galatians, providence | , , , , , , | Leave a comment