Taking the Read Through The Bible Challenge?

If you are taking the challenge to read the Bible in a year, stop by my other blog:


Weekly posts and an opportunity to ask questions or give your perspective. Let's study the Bible TOGETHER!

30 April 2012

Living in Love - 30 April

We’ve spent the last five weeks looking at the two greatest commandments and examined how we can act these commandments out in our lives. Before we can truly live them out, we need to learn one vital truth – we need to understand love from God’s perspective.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16 (KJV)

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 1 John 4:9-10 (ESV)

Who does “whosoever” include? The paper clip thief? The politician (especially in the “other party?) The rapist? The child molester? The liar? The murderer? Your friends? Your enemies? You?

Stop and think about those questions for a minute. You know what your sins are. God saved you from them, and He expects you to repent (turn away) and work each day to live a more godly life. Most people don’t think they are “bad” sinners. They don’t group themselves with some of the seedier people in our society, and think they are somehow “better”. Can you find a passage in Scripture to support this way of thinking? Of course you can’t! God sees the paper clip thief in the same light that He sees the axe murderer – and you. So why aren’t we trying to love our enemies as sinners and bring them into the family of God? Why does our pride keep us from loving as Christ loved?

For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24  and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. Romans 3:22-25 (ESV)

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23 (ESV)

Who do you hate so thoroughly that you want to see them in hell for eternity? If a person pops to mind, you need to get on your knees and repent! Susie or Joe in the next cubicle need Christ just as much as you and your family. If someone had not loved you enough to show you that you needed a Savior, you’d be going to hell as well. Instead, because of someone showing you unconditional, agape love, you have received God’s free gift of eternal life.

I pray you will join me and take some time in the next few days to think about the people you dislike, find unbearable, can’t stand, and even hate. Name them. Make a list if you need to. Once you have your list, take those people to God’s throne. He put them in your path so you could show the unconditional love of Christ. Their presence is not an unhappy accident. It’s a God-given opportunity for personal growth – and for sharing the Gospel. I am making a pledge – will you join me:

Just for this moment, with God’s help, I pledge:
I will treat others as I want to be treated;
I will refrain from harsh words and thoughts, and in their place, will say a quick prayer;
I will not make passive aggressive statements or posts and in their place will say a quick prayer;
I will pray for the one who speaks ill of me;
I will remember that those who act or speak unlovingly are angry, or hurting, or need Christ – just like me.
I will remember that to some, I AM Christianity.
Just for the moment – with God’s help.

See you Wednesday!

27 April 2012

Living in Love - 27 April

Did you find a way to show practical love? How did it make you feel about your walk with God? Did it make you want to continue the adventure?

Jesus didn’t call us to show love to only those in our social circle. He called us to love everyone. In His day, the outcast and hated person was the tax collector. Who is the outcast in your social circle? Think of one specific person, or group of people, as you apply Jesus’ teaching to this area of your life.

As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. 10 And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” Matt 9:9-13 (ESV)

25 April 2012

Living in Love - 25 April

I trust your time with God this week has been fruitful! Have you taken time to thank Him for Who He is?

On Monday, we discovered that we can walk as children of God or children of the devil. We studied a passage that showed us that children of God practice righteousness. I challenged you to look at your life and ask God to help you walk more as a child of God every day. Today we continue in the same passage and get some practical application.

23 April 2012

Living in Love - 23 April

All around us we see people who call themselves Christian. You may have seen media or sports figures who espouse Christianity, and you’ve heard people call them “hypocrites” because their walk doesn’t match their talk.

How can we prove that we are Christians? We can show love to those around us in very practical ways. We can model the behavior that we see in God – even before we loved God, He loved us and sent Jesus to die for us. Without the love of God, our salvation would have been impossible.

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.  1 John 3:1-3 (ESV)

20 April 2012

Living in Love - 20 April

On Wednesday, we discussed ways we are to live as believers, as well as ways we could be a stumbling block to others. Today we’ll talk about love.

We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. 15  Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. 1 John 3:14-15 (ESV)

Ouch! Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer? Yikes! I’d better look carefully at my acquaintances and make sure that I don’t hate! Besides not showing Christ’s love, it shows we still abide in death.  What actions show Christ’s love?

18 April 2012

Living in Love - 18 April

On Monday we discussed loving our brother and learned that our brother should include both Christians and non-Christians. We talked about treating everyone with love, fulfilling the two greatest commandments. Today we will discuss the standard Jesus set for His disciples.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13:34-35 (ESV)

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. John 15:12 (ESV)

Notice that Jesus didn’t suggest. He commanded that we love one another. And how did Jesus show His love for us? By laying down His life. Can you think of other specific ways that Jesus demonstrated His love?

16 April 2012

Living in Love - 16 April

It’s easy to feel compassion for someone who doesn’t know Christ. We excuse their behavior because they haven’t met the Savior. But how do we act toward a Christian brother or sister who doesn’t worship like we do, dresses differently, or enjoys different music?

And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: 6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. 1 John 2:3-6 (ESV)

What’s the major characteristic of one who knows God? Do we become a Christian by keeping God’s commandments?

The word “but” is used for contrast. What contrasts do you see in verses 4 and 5?

Verse 6 tells us that we should walk as Christ walked. Doesn’t that seem impossible? How do you feel when you make a conscious choice to walk as Christ walked?

Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. 8 At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. 9 Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. 10 Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. 11 But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. 1 John 2:7-11 (ESV)

In this passage, brother refers to fellow believers. It’s the agape, or unconditional love. It’s the love that isn’t a feeling – it’s an act of your will.

We spend a lot of time telling others that we love them. We have the “meet and greet” part of the church service where hugs are given and encouraging words are spoken. Is this the type of love that these verses refer to, or is there something more?

Part of our testimony is in our relationships with other people. Obviously, we won’t like everyone we encounter, but we are expected to love them – to show them Jesus through our actions. Who do you know (either churched or unchurched) that you need to change your attitude toward? Who needs to see agape love? Who do you need to pray for?

Obviously, we need to show agape love to unbelievers. It is also important to show that love to believers as well.

Think of the church member who just gets on your nerves. S/he  is not your cup of tea; every time you encounter the person, you want to turn away, or shudder, or ignore. Yep, you don’t like them. But does that matter when we discuss agape love? Is shunning that person the best way to encourage the body? If you chose to show agape love, could it change the way you think about that person? Could it encourage someone else to show agape love? What  could your one action do to change your world?

I pray that you think about the areas in your life where agape love shines – and where it doesn’t. I know I need to really think about it because I have that “one person” in my life to whom I’ve chosen to show no love. I need to fix it – today.

See you Wednesday.

13 April 2012

Living in Love - 13 April

Jesus gave us a long list of actions which are completely opposite what the world tells us to do:

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back.

We are unable to do that by ourselves, and the Bible is filled with stories of God’s people failing when they fail to follow His commands. An early church orator, Stephen, preached a sermon to the Jewish leaders of his time which underscored the utter depravity of the Jewish people (Acts 7:1-54). His reward was death. As Stephen was dying, he showed us the second greatest commandment in action.

Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. 55 But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. 58 Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep. Acts 7:54-60 (ESV)

Did you happen to notice who was present (verse 58)? Could you have given the same statement as Stephen (v. 60) as you breathed your final breaths?  Why do you think that the leaders were so angry? Could it be that they were feeling convicted and didn’t want to hear the truth? We feel the same today. It’s nicer to listen to a “feel good” sermon than to listen to an expository sermon where truths are given in no uncertain terms. But Jesus expects us to hear every command in His Word – and to obey. When we fall, He’s there to pick us up.

I think that this love your neighbor command is one of the more difficult to obey. It’s one I work on all the time. When I get it right, I stop to praise God and pray that I don’t fall into the sin of pride because of my “good behavior”. When I get it wrong, I know that God is there to forgive me, pick me up, and help me to carry on.

What is love? It’s an act of your will. It’s hard work. It’s meeting the needs of those around us. It’s wrapped up in this simple verse:

These things I command you, that ye love one another. John 15:17 (KJV)

I’d love to hear how this study is helping you. Where have you achieved success in the second greatest commandment? Where do you fall short? Do you need special prayer, or someone to talk to? Leave a message or email me privately. I look forward to hearing how God uses this study to improve your daily walk.

I will see you Monday!

11 April 2012

Living in Love - 11 April

On Monday we learned that our neighbor is everyone, no matter what. We see that this is a tough commandment to follow, but know that day by day Jesus can give us the strength to improve.

Jesus told us that He is the fulfillment of the law, and took some time to explain the intent of the law.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45  so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46  For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48  You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matt 5:43-48 (ESV)

09 April 2012

Living in Love - 09 April

Last week we looked at the greatest commandment. We learned that we need to honestly commit our entire life to God. It’s not a “fuzzy” kind of love – it requires both obedience and service. It also requires us to surrender our thoughts, emotions and actions to the One who created the universe.  Love is not a feeling, it’s an act of your will.

This week, we will consider the second greatest commandment and what it should look like in our lives.

You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord. Lev 19:18 (ESV)

And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Matt 22:39 (ESV)

Yikes! The Leviticus passage gives us more insight into the commandment. What aspects of your life need to be changed to reflect obedience to the command in Leviticus?

If you’re like me, you look for wiggle room … maybe you even ask “so who’s my neighbor”? Jesus didn’t give us much wiggle room when He answered the lawyer who tried to trip Him up.

And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live. 29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers? 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”
Luke 10:25-37 (ESV)

When Jesus told the lawyer that he had answered the questions correctly, we find that he tried to justify himself. Why do you think he needed to do that? Does Jesus’ reply show us that knowing the answer is enough?

Why do you think that Jesus spoke in parables? Would the point have been as clear had Jesus simply stated facts?

In Jesus’ time the Samaritans were the most despised group of people. They were shunned and hated simply because they were Samaritans. Yet this most despised man showed more compassion than his “friends” who left him for dead. A priest even avoided the scene. I’m sure that each person in the story had a “reason” to avoid the dying man, but Jesus’ point is clear. We are to show mercy on everyone – not matter their circumstances, or skin color, or nationality, or …

We are not to “affirm” people’s sins – but we are to reach out to people who are hurting or in need. They are sinners, just as we are, and we are to show them the same compassion that Jesus shows us.

How did the Samaritan show compassion?
·         Felt compassion,
·         Bandaged him,
·         Cleansed/medicated the wounds
·         Transported him to an inn
·         Told the innkeeper that he would pay any extra charges.

Not all of us are in a financial position like this Samaritan, but we can all show compassion as our finances allow. In what other ways can we show compassion?

How did the Samaritan’s actions show obedience to the second greatest commandment? Based on his actions, do you think that the Samaritan was operating on a desire to do good or simply obedience to the law?

So who is your neighbor? What type of attitude change will we need if the neighbor isn’t of our political party, religion, nationality, economic status?

I need to take some time to ask God’s forgiveness for times when I turned away from a neighbor because I didn’t like them, or didn’t understand them, or didn’t agree with them. I need to ask God to help me learn to be joyfully obedient to the second greatest commandment. I pray that you will also see areas in your life where you can ask for guidance to improve!

See you Wednesday.