What is the “New Covenant” and why does it matter? Hebrews 8

From my reading in Hebrews 8 in the One Year Bible New Testament.

A covenant is “the verbal content of an agreement between two persons specifying reciprocal benefits and responsibilities.” 

Before Jesus God established an “Old Covenant” with the nation of Israel. This covenant involved priests offering sacrifices for sins committed. When Jesus came he established a “New Covenant”. We no longer have to sacrifice animals because he is the perfect sacrifice.

“But now Jesus, our High Priest, has been given a ministry that is far superior to the old priesthood, for he is the one who mediates for us a far better covenant with God, based on better promises.” Hebrews 8:6

Through Jesus we have a better covenant.

The new covenant provides a way to know God in a closer way. God’s law will be in our minds, and on our hearts. The new covenant provides a way for us to really know God.

“But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their minds, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” Hebrews 8:10

Because of the new covenant we can know God personally and receive the forgiveness of all of our sins.

“And they will not need to teach their neighbors, nor will they need to teach their relatives, saying, ‘You should know the Lord.’ For everyone, from the least to the greatest, will know me already. And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.” Hebrews 8:11–12

With Jesus as our high priest we can celebrate this new covenant.

What other benefits of new covenant can you think of?

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The Importance of Giving and Receiving Scriptural Correction. Hebrews 3

From my reading in Hebrews 3 in the One Year Bible New Testament.

Sin is deadly.

One of the reasons we need others in our lives is to warn us of spiritual blind spots.

“You must warn each other every day, while it is still “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God.” Hebrews 3:13

The word “warn” here means “to ask for something earnestly… to plead for…” We are to plead with people to run from the sin that is trapping them.

Some times the most loving thing you can do is the most uncomfortable thing you can do.

We all have things in our lives that we are deceived about. If you don’t have people in your life to help you see your sin you can get “stuck” in your sin and your heart can grow hard.

Most people don’t enjoy giving or receiveing this type of “encouragement” because it doesn’t feel good.

True fellowship is forged through this type of unpleasant encouragement. One of the greatest ways to become more like Jesus is to take these warnings seriously.

Today is the only day you can ever actually do anything with.

Yesterday is gone, tomorrow isn’t here yet. As the band Switchfoot says, “today is all you got now, today is all you will ever have.”

We should feel the urgency that life is short, sin is deadly, and lives of people are at stake. Life is to short to tip toe around. If we really love the people in our lives then we must be willing to warn them of their sin in a loving humble way.

Who might you need to “warn” today about their sin? 

If someone approached you today about a sin how would you respond? 

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5 Ways To Preach Like Paul – 2 Timothy 4

From my reading in 2 Timothy 4 in the One Year Bible New Testament.

Paul gave Timothy instructions on how to preach that are very relevant for us today in 2 Timothy 4:2-4

1. Preach the word

Preach the word of God… 2 Timothy 4:2

Bible-less preaching is powerless preaching. You are not actually preaching unless you are talking about the Bible! God’s Word is the final authority on life and we should be faithful to preach God’s Word and not just our good ideas!

2. Always be prepared

Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not…  2 Timothy 4:2

A preacher should spend more time preparing himself than preparing a sermon. One of my favorite quotes on preaching is…

“I’d rather hear an unprepared sermon from a prepared man than a prepared sermon from an unprepared man.”

If you have been faithful to root yourself in the word then you will be prepared to preach if the time is favorable or not!

3. Correct and rebuke patiently

Patiently correct, rebuke… 2 Timothy 4:2

Good preaching is tough and tender. You must be willing to say the hard things, but the tricky part is saying them in a gentle and patient way.

Some preachers avoid tough subjects. This leads to shallow preaching and an spiritually malnourished flock.

Other preachers love tough issues and preach them without gentleness. This fire and brimstone approach “burns” people and causes them to not hear the message. Mary Poppins was right that a spoonful of sugar make the medicine go down. A congregation that only gets tough love from their pastor will have a tendency to be judgmental and proud if they stay.

4. Encourage people

…encourage your people with good teaching. 2 Timothy 4:2

Balanced preaching is both challenging and encouraging. People have the cares of this life battering them throughout the week and many need some encouragement. The church should be a place where people can hear encoring words to help them keep going.

5. Tell people what they need to hear, not what they want to hear

“For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths.” 2 Timothy 4:3–4

Some preachers base their teaching on what will be popular instead of God’s Word. The problem with this “next big thing” approach is the you have to constantly be changing to keep people. Sometimes as a preacher you have to say things that are not popular.

Which of these practices do you need to implement more in your preaching?

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There Is No “One Size Fits All” Approach To Ministry – 1 Thessalonians 5

From my reading in 1 Thessalonians 5 in the One Year Bible New Testament.

There is no “one size fits all” approach to ministry.

Each person must be helped in a different way. That is why the more personal touches that people can get the better. That doesn’t mean that the leader has to be the one who is helping. We all should be helping each other. Paul gives us some valuable instructions for dealing with different people.

“Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone.” 1 Thess 5:14 

Warn those who are lazy.

Lazy people need to be woken up! Laziness is not something to be laughed off but it is stealing.

When you are lazy you stealing from what you should be doing.  You are stealing from your family by not fully engaging in loving them. You are stealing from employer by not giving your best job. You are stealing from God by not serving him with your whole heart. A verse that inspires me not to be lazy is…

“A lazy person is as bad as someone who destroys things.” Pro 19:9

We must warn people that being lazy is not cute, but it actually destroys people’s lives.

Encourage those who are timid.

People need a kick in the pants sometimes. If someone is too timid to do what God has called them to do some well timed encouragement can go a long way. Sometimes when I go out to share my faith I really don’t feel like it, but the encouragement of another person can really give me the faith I need to go out and do the work.

Take tender care of those who are weak.

Tough love does not work with people who are weak. Instead they should be taken care of with tenderness. Weak people need to be cared for tenderly until they can take care of themselves. Don’t push people too hard and wear them out. Take care of them as their needs dictate.

Be patient with everyone.

Everyone needs you to be patient with them sometimes. Even the easiest and most compatible people to you will let you down eventually. My wife and I are very compatible but even then we have to give each other grace almost daily!

If you want to work with people you have to learn patience. People will let you down, and if you are prepared to respond with patience you will keep the loyalty of those you are leading and your relationships will be strong.

Is there anyone in your life or ministry that needs you to do one of these things with them?

Love is a Natural Result of Salvation – 1 Thessalonians 4

From my reading in 1 Thessalonians 4 in the One Year Bible New Testament.

When you are truly saved you will naturally develop a love for your fellow believers.

“But we don’t need to write to you about the importance of loving each other, for God himself has taught you to love one another. Indeed, you already show your love for all the believers throughout Macedonia. Even so, dear brothers and sisters, we urge you to love them even more.” 1 Thess 4:9-10

God himself taught them to love one another.

If you are going to have anyone teach you how to love God is the best teacher there is! A love for your fellow man, and especially the body of Christ is a natural overflow of being saved.

God gives us love. Even so, sometimes we need to be encouraged to love people.  It is not always easy, but should be something that we desire to do as Chrsitians.

Do you have a God-given love for other believers?

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Passion For People Is The Heart Of Ministry – 1 Thessalonians 3

From my reading in 1 Thessalonians 3 in the One Year Bible New Testament.

In this chapter you can see Paul’s heart for the Thessalonians. Here are some examples of the things that show his love.

  • He sent Timothy to strengthen and encourage them. 1-5
  • He encourages them for staying strong. 7
  • He share how he get’s new life because they are standing firm. 8
  • He thanks God for them. 9
  • He prays earnestly for their growth. 10
  • He prays that they would be united soon. 11
  • He prays that God would make their love overflow as his love overflows toward them. 12
  • He prays that their hearts would be strong, blameless, and holy. 13

Paul’s life was connected to these people.

“For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord.” 1 Thessalonians 3:8

He was passionate about their growth and longed for them to stay strong in their faith. If you are ministering to people it is okay to give them your heart. Paul did. Jesus did.

Are you deeply connected to the people that you are ministering to? 

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Minister Like Paul… Share The Gospel And Your Life! – 1 Thessalonians 2

From my reading in 1 Thessalonians 2 in the One Year Bible New Testament.

The love Paul had for the Thessalonians oozes off the pages of this chapter. One verse in particular gives us a great model for how we are to do ministry.

“We loved you so much that we shared with you not only God’s Good News but our own lives, too.” 1 Thessalonians 2:8

We to share the gospel AND we are to share our lives.

 If you really love the people you are ministering to then it will be a joy to spend your life with them. As you share your life people will “catch the disease” of loving God and others. It has been said…

“You can impress people from a distance, but you can only impact people from up close.”

When we share our lives we can set an example for people. People learn best from models. Paul was able to explain the good news and show them how it is to be lived out in daily life.

Are you really sharing your life with those you are ministering to?

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Whose Approval Are You Living For? Others or Jesus?- Galatians 1

From my reading in Galatians 1 in the One Year Bible New Testament.

We all have been tempted to live for the approval of others at some point.

Paul shared his personal philosophy with the Galatians on this issue.

“Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.” Galatians 1:10

You can’t serve God genuinely and live the approval of others.

You have to choose who you are going to live for, God or others. If you are living to serve God then it doesn’t matter how many people think you are great.

For me in ministry I am tempted to do things so that people will think that what I am doing is significant.

Ultimately it doesn’t matter what people think, it matters what God thinks!

There will be times where you will tempted to do things that do not honor God in order to please people. You must have courage do say no when those times come.

Knowing who you are serving is the first step toward freedom in this area. Many leaders have a tendency to try and tell people what they want to hear but ultimately they end up twisting scripture to say what they want it to say instead of what it actually says. They end up dishonoring God in order to make a name for themselves.

When you are living for the approval of others you are really serving yourself.

You are using others in order to gain status for yourself. On the other hand, when you are serving Jesus your motive is God’s glory and the benefit of others.

My prayer is that I would not get caught in the trap of trying to win the approval of others, but I would serve Jesus and not worry what others think.

Whose approval are you living for? God’s or others?

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The Foolishness Of Comparing Yourself To Others – 2 Corinthians 10

From my reading in 2 Corinthians 10 in the One Year Bible New Testament.

I pity the fool that compares!

Paul warns us of the folly of playing the comparison game.

“Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.” 2 Corinthians 10:12

In the comparison game you always lose.

If you are better in that area, you will be tempted to be proud. 

If  you are worse in that area, you will be tempted to be discouraged. 

I have personally struggled with comparing my ministry results with others. If I see someone succeeding more than I have a tendency to compare their results to mine. I wonder why I’m not succeeding more and can get discouraged. If they have less apparent success then there is a temptation for me to get proud and look down on them.

Another problem with comparing yourself to other people is that they are not our standard!

We should not measure ourselves by other people, we should measure ourselves by God’s standards. According to God’s standard all of us fall short. But if you agree with God about out sin, turn from it and decided to follow Jesus then you will be forgiven.

As you serve him he will ask you to be faithful.

We are called to be faithful to God, not impress or keep up with others.

Sometimes it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing we are not doing enough because you see others doing more. Others are tempted to do less than they are supposed to because they are are comparing themselves to people who are lazy!

We should look to God for our direction and not compare ourselves to others!

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The Danger Of Knowledge Without Love – 1 Corinthians 8

From my reading in 1 Corinthians 8 in the One Year Bible New Testament.

Knowledge without love leads to pride.

Knowing a lot is an extremely good thing! But when the truth is not expressed or applied in a loving way it is dangerous. The apostle Paul warned the Corinthian church about the dangers of knowledge without love.

“Now regarding your question about food that has been offered to idols. Yes, we know that “we all have knowledge” about this issue. But while knowledge makes us feel important, it is love that strengthens the church.  Anyone who claims to know all the answers doesn’t really know very much. But the person who loves God is the one whom God recognizes.” 1 Cor 8:1-3

Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up!

I love the phrase here, “Anyone who claims to know all the answers doesn’t really know very much.” Even if we know the right answer it doesn’t mean that we have to beat people over the head with it. We should always have an attitude of humility when speaking the truth. Paul wrote a similar warning to the in Ephesus.

 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.”  Eph 4:15

We can know the truth, but let us share it in a way that actually helps people!

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