cccdailybiblereading

A daily encouragement to read the Bible with others from Christ Community Church, Conway.

Month: September, 2013

Bible Reading Day 273

Day 273: September 30 (Ephesians 1)
Good morning!
Are you ready for an adventure? We have reached the letter to the Ephesians, and this is perhaps Paul’s most powerful letter! The Epistle to the Romans is the most theologically structured letter, but Ephesians is, in some ways, more impactful (partly because it packs more into less space)!
Paul is writing from house arrest in Rome and he intends this letter to be read in several cities, so he fills it with practical advice and encouragement. The church in Ephesus was generally healthy and had few problems (in contrast to the churches in Corinth and the Province of Galatia whose letters precede this one). So Paul is able to adopt a different tone and focus on all the positives of the Christian life (although we will come to some correction later in the letter). Each chapter is full of content, so we may take a little longer in Ephesians than we have recently! Here is a good overview of the Epistle.
Let’s dive in! Verses 1&2 are the introduction, yet they already contain important content: Paul’s authority as an apostle is the result of God’s choice, God’s plan. Paul did not set out with this as his career plan. The Christians in Ephesus are God’s holy people, faithful followers of Christ Jesus. That’s powerful!
Verses 3-14 are Paul’s summary of God’s eternal plan. I won’t even try to add any comments to this section, other than to suggest you read it slowly and reflectively several times, being careful not to assume you know what it says!
After the dynamite summary of God’s plan, Paul turns to address the Christians in Ephesus in verses 15-23. He teaches them how the Christian life should look by describing what he prays for them every day. I have two suggestions for you here: first, read Paul’s words as if he wrote them to you, and see how his prayer touches your life. Second, take the same prayer an pray it for someone you love.
Have a great day!
Mark.
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Bible Reading Day 272

Day 272: September 29 (Galatians 6)
Good morning!
Today we reach the conclusion of Paul’s letter to the Galatians. The chapter is full of practical wisdom from the apostle to these churches that are learning not to be ruled by legalism.
First Paul counsels that they help one another when they fall into sin, then he adds that we should share one another’s burdens. Each of us has our own responsibilities, and we are each responsible for our conduct.
Therefore we have a choice to make – live for our own agenda, or live to please God. The fruit of this choice is life or death.
In conclusion, Paul writes that circumcision is irrelevant to salvation – that religion counts for nothing, and that God’s work in our lives makes us new people.
So today, let’s reflect on the freedom Jesus gives us, and the responsibility that goes with that freedom: to help one another when we fail, and to share His life with others.
Have a great day!
Mark.

Bible Reading Day 271

Day 271: September 28 (Galatians 5)

Good morning!

Chapter 5 is perhaps the most famous chapter of Galatians. Paul first reiterates our freedom in Christ, then goes on to contrast the works of the flesh and the works of the Spirit. The whole chapter is worthy of careful, reflective reading as we allow God to speak gently to our hearts.

The pinnacle of the chapter is verses 22 and 23: But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

Paul’s greatest desire is that we live free, and full of God’s life! The victory he extols comes at a great price, and a price you and I could never pay. It is Jesus’ death in our place that makes this all possible!

Have a great day!

Mark.

Bible Reading Day 270

Day 270: September 27 (Galatians 4)

Good morning!

Today we begin with a section of Paul’s letter to the Galatians that is central to our understanding of our relationship with God. If we could really grasp this truth, our lives would have a solid foundation!

​Verses 1-7:
Think of it this way. If a father dies and leaves an inheritance for his young children, those children are not much better off than slaves until they grow up, even though they actually own everything their father had. 2 They have to obey their guardians until they reach whatever age their father set. 3 And that’s the way it was with us before Christ came. We were like children; we were slaves to the basic spiritual principles of this world.
4 But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. 5 God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. 6 And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” 7 Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir.

What does it mean to you that you are God’s child today? What inheritance has God given you?

In verses 8-20, Paul applies these principles to the Galatians, and then from verse 21 he underlines what he has taught us by illustrating it with principles from the account of Abraham’s two wives and two sons.

God loves to take our life experiences (especially our mistakes) and turn them around to teach us and others what He is like, and what His good plans are for us.

Have a great day!

Mark.

Bible Reading Day 269

Day 269: September 26 (Galatians 3)

Good morning!

As we move into Chapter 3, Paul asks the Galatians who has bewitched, or put a spell on, them. Because only an evil deception could cause them to turn away from the free gift of the Holy Spirit through the death of Jesus. By turning back to works and law, they have let go of their heritage and rejected the very presence of God in their lives!

Believing is the key to what they have experienced, and law only opens the door to death. The contrast could not be more pronounced (verses 11 & 12): “For the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.” This way of faith is very different from the way of law, which says, “It is through obeying the law that a person has life.”

The reason this is so important is that God has given His promise to mankind, through Abraham, and Jesus (Abraham’s seed, or descendent). This promise was that one day the guard of the law would be taken away and the freedom of righteousness through faith would remain. Now all who belong to Jesus are united with Him (and therefore with each other). There are no longer any dividing walls in Him – no racial, social, or gender barriers have the power to separate us from Jesus or each other.

So what labels have been removed from your life by the love of Jesus? And how can you cooperate with God’s gift to allow your liberation from old labels and restrictions to be completed?

Have a great day!

Mark.

Bible Reading Day 268

Day 268: September 25 (Galatians 2)

Good morning!

Paul continues his personal testimony, pointing out key places where he has followed grace, and not law, and detailing the approval and welcome had had from the leaders of the church in Jerusalem (who the Judaizers would point to as the pinnacles of true Christianity).

Most of the details Paul recounts are also included in Luke’s accounts in the book of Acts. This is not just a preacher saying whatever is necessary to make his point!

The admonition of Peter by Paul must have been quite a thing to see! And what a great example for us, who are often too scared to speak up when we see a friend make a mistake. God intends us to speak the truth to each other in love. If either truth or love are lacking, great harm can result, but only those united in their belonging to the family of God can bring truth and love to bear on the issues that arise from our human weakness.

And then Paul’s central teaching for this letter: “we know that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law. And we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law.”

And finally Paul goes on to show how rebuilding the system of law is foolish, or even sinful, because only Jesus can save, not our observance of laws and requirements. And let’s not mistake what Paul is saying – his words apply equally to the old Jewish system and to the “must, ought, should” requirements that modern religion adds to faith in Jesus.

So check for any “must, ought, should” in your life today, and celebrate that the life you have is a free gift from your Heavenly Father who loves you and His Son Jesus who died for you, brought by the Holy Spirit who lives in you.

Have a great day!

Mark.

Bible Reading Day 267

Day 267: September 24 (Galatians 1)

Good morning!

A new day, a new book of the New Testament!

Today we begin the letter to the churches in Galatia. Galatia was a province of the Roman Empire in central Asia Minor (modern day Turkey). There were several churches in the cities of the southern part of the province: Iconium, Lystra, Derbe. Here is a map. And here is an overview of the book.

Paul’s letter shows us that the key issue he needed to address (and his reason for writing) was the influence of religion, specifically Judaism, on the early church. They had been set free from law and sin by accepting the death of Jesus, but already they were being deceived by religious Jews who told them they also needed to keep the law.

This is very similar to a tactic of the enemy today, telling us we are made right with God by our actions and then condemning us when we fall short.

So what can we learn about resisting this cancer of legalism? Two things stand out to me from chapter one: first, the power of testimony. Paul retells his life story, giving glory to God for all that He has done in transforming Saul into Paul. Second, the necessity of hearing God’s voice for ourselves. Paul stresses that his message is not based on human reasoning, but on the direct revelation of Jesus Christ. This is the cure for legalism’s debilitating infection in our lives. Letting God speak to us personally, and receiving His truth.

As you read chapter one today, see where God uses the written Word to speak to you, and take note of any legalistic tendencies He highlights in your own life. (We all have them, so don’t fall into condemnation. God shines His light on them so that we will come to His light, not shrink back into religious darkness).

Have a great day!

Mark.

Bible Reading Day 266

Day 266: September 23 (2 Corinthians 13)

Good morning!

Today we come to the conclusion of 2 Corinthians. Paul urges them one last time to do what is right, so that his third visit can be to strengthen them, not merely to discipline them and tear down the pride, competition, and sin they have embraced.

It would strengthen us all to meditate on the final words of the letter. Even though Paul has had to be very strong with this group of headstrong and immature believers, his heart for them is the same as the heart of Jesus – to see them set free from sin, growing in faith, and impacting their world.

Dear brothers and sisters, I close my letter with these last words: Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you.
Greet each other with Christian love. All of God’s people here send you their greetings.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Have a great day!

Mark.

Bible Reading Day 265

Day 265: September 22 (2 Corinthians 12)

Good morning!

Paul continues into Chapter 12 with his “boasting” theme (although the Chapter divisions are not Paul’s but added much later). He is making clear the difference between his boasting (about Jesus’ power shown in Paul’s weakness) and the boasting of the “super-apostles” in Corinth who were taking pride in their spiritual achievements and their powerful reputations.

This chapter includes Paul’s reference to the “thorn in his flesh” which was beneficial to him because it kept him humble. This has been the subject of debate for centuries; was this a person? an illness? blindness? depression? We do not know. Paul was clearly led by the Holy Spirit to be ambiguous on the exact details, which has enabled many more people to be helped by the general principle: that God takes the battles we face and uses them to make us humble and fruitful. There is a useful discussion of this topic here.

The conclusion which Jesus spoke to Paul applies equally to us all: “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” It is interesting that Paul then goes on to detail how he and his ministry team are united in their approach and philosophy. This is in dramatic contrast to the more recent leadership in Corinth who are motivated by pride and competition. Paul’s motive is clearly stated in verse 19: “Everything we do, dear friends, is to strengthen you.”

Let’s take a moment today to consider our weaknesses. In what areas do you find breakthrough elusive? Can you see God at work in those places? Even if you cannot yet see Him, He is at work! And who do you live to strengthen? As you gather a list of people in your mind, or in your notebook, consider how you can strengthen each one with God’s help. Even if you feel weak, He is strong.

Have a great day!

Mark.

Bible Reading Day 264

Day 264: September 21 (2 Corinthians 11:16-33)

Good morning!

Paul finishes chapter 11 with a great deal of irony and he plays on the accusations that the false apostles have leveled against him – that he is a fool, that he is less spiritual, that he is weak, and that they have much more to be proud of than Paul.

But Paul’s boasting is about things that no spiritually proud person would boast about; he has been beaten more than them, he has had more suffering than them, he has endured more persecution, been shipwrecked, lashed, imprisoned, and so on. That “bragging list” is in sharp contrast to those who make themselves out to be something special because they can impress others with an obscure teaching, or can speak in tongues more than anyone else!

In short, Paul is saying “who are you trying to impress?” If men, then behave like the “super apostles” in Corinth, if God, then be more like Paul (and like Jesus).

How would you characterize your life? Suffering or impressing people? Behaving like Jesus or acting like a super-apostle? Paul was happy to make fun of puffed up spirituality. It is one of the only ways to deflate pride!

Have a great day!

Mark.