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Intentional Mentorship

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Scripture:
Acts 11:25 Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for an entire year they met with the church and taught a great many people, and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called “Christians.”
Observation:
Barnabas was in the city of Antioch where his ministry continued to grow and develop. He realized that he needed assistance in this work and so, we can imagine that he began to pray and ask for God’s direction. Who came to his mind, but Saul. These two had become acquainted soon after Saul’s conversion and Barnabas had introduced him to the leadership in Jerusalem. The situation in Jerusalem was too volatile for Saul, now Paul, and so it’s believed that he was sent to his home region of Tarsus for his own safety where he continued ministering in the name of Jesus Christ. He was probably not accepted by his own family or welcomed into his own home. We assume this because the language used …

Open Communication

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Scripture:
Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple; and there were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail. (Rev. 11:19 NRSV)
Observation:
The continuing vision of John is vivid, opening up the heavens and allowing him to view God’s temple. There, in the middle of the temple we see the ark of the covenant. This ark which has not been seen by God’s people since around 586 BC. John would have never seen the ark and yet, now he is privileged to catch a glimpse. 
This view of the ark of the covenant reveals the open communication which is now to be seen between heaven and earth. The long-hidden ark is preserved and is in God’s temple as a reminder that God does not forget the promises which have been made. The everlasting covenant of God and humanity remains intact. Our long-suffering God continues to reach out to all of humanity. It is this view of the ark that reflects an opening of the lines of c…

Eternal Sabbath

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Scripture:
Rev. 11:15Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign forever and ever.”
Observation:
When the trumpet is sounded, there is the revelation of a new day. This is the final, and eternal Sabbath when the Lord and his Christ will reign together, for eternity. It is the celebration of the victory and dominion of the one who is the true King of all things. Now, He will reign forever and ever and ever. There is an affirmation here of the unity of the Father and the Son, for in their oneness, they will reign. This is the answer to the prayer that Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy kingdom come” (Matthew 6:10). Christ has already won the victory over death and now his ascension to the throne becomes eternal.
Application:
This vision from Revelation is one in which we see the final and ultimate rule of God on the throne. It is a place where all of creatio…

Spoiling God’s Reputation

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Scripture:
Ezek. 45:9   Thus says the Lord GOD: Enough, O princes of Israel! Put away violence and oppression, and do what is just and right. Cease your evictions of my people, says the Lord GOD.
Observation:
The vision of restoration for God’s people includes justice and righteousness. In this case it is the princes of Israel who have exploited their people for their own advantage. They are the ones who have ruined God’s reputation, not only among their own people, but among the outsiders who have been looking in. The vision of the restoration which is to come will reflect God’s holiness. God’s people will practice no violence or oppression, and they will do what is right and just.
Application:
What does the world have to say about Christians these days? What are the things for which Christians are advocating? How are Christians known? Followers of Christ must recognize that their behavior determines God’s reputation in the world. That is a heavy burden to bear, and yet it is reality.
A…

The Holiness of God’s Presence

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Scripture:
Ezek. 37:28 Then the nations shall know that I the LORD sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary is among them forevermore.
Observation:
This statement comes at the end of the affirmation of God’s promise to the people. The people will never be deserted by God because God’s dwelling will be right in their midst. God’s reputation will be restored among all the nations of the earth through the salvation and unification of the children of the covenant. The people will be sanctified, or made holy, by God’s presence, for God dwells in the sanctuary. This is the residence of God, and when God is in the house, the house and all of the people of the house are made holy.
Application:
Have you ever walked into the sanctuary of a church late at night, when no one was there? I grew up as a preacher’s kid and there were plenty of opportunities to make my way through the church building at odd hours, in the evening, and sometimes in the dark. No matter my age, there was something that I sensed wh…

The Promise of Holiness

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Scripture:
Ezek. 28:25   Thus says the Lord GOD: When I gather the house of Israel from the peoples among whom they are scattered, and manifest my holiness in them in the sight of the nations, then they shall settle on their own soil that I gave to my servant Jacob. 26 They shall live in safety in it, and shall build houses and plant vineyards. They shall live in safety, when I execute judgments upon all their neighbors who have treated them with contempt. And they shall know that I am the LORD their God.
Observation:
After speaking oracles against many of Israel’s neighbors Ezekiel returns us for a moment of reflection upon the promise for Israel. This is the hope of restoration: when they return home and are restored, then the very holiness of God will be revealed in them. God will be sanctified in the eyes of those who do not believe because of the restoration of God’s people.
Application:
Ultimately the Israelites were never to see this come to completion. It was, however, a word of …

Contemplating the God Who Issues Commands

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Scripture:
Ezek. 1:1   In the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month, as I was among the exiles by the river Chebar, the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God. 2 On the fifth day of the month (it was the fifth year of the exile of King Jehoiachin), 3 the word of the LORD came to the priest Ezekiel son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar; and the hand of the LORD was on him there.
Observation:
Ezekiel was a priest who had been taken into exile along with his fellow Jewish brothers and sisters. They had been settled in a region to the south of Babylon, along the river Chebar. It was not uncommon to spend time along a flowing river and meditate. A foreign land was considered unclean, and the site of running water was seen as a place of purity. Therefore, Ezekiel found this place to seek the face of God.
What happens in his meditation is that he has a vision of God. It is a vision of God’s very throne room, and much of it beyond desc…