Showing posts from November, 2011

Plan your work and work your Plan

Scripture For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either.
(2 Thessalonians 3:10 NASB)
For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies.
(2 Thessalonians 3:11 NASB)
Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread.
(2 Thessalonians 3:12 NASB)
But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good.
(2 Thessalonians 3:13 NASB)
Observation In this letter to the church in Thessaloniki some very practical advice for daily living is given to the followers of Jesus Christ. To be a part of the Church community meant that you were to also take responsibility for your personal life. It sounds rather harsh, but if people weren't willing to put forth effort to work, then they were not supposed to get free food. This didn't mean that they didn't help the…

Surrounded by the Lord

Scripture Those who trust in the LORD Are as Mount Zion, which cannot be moved but abides forever.
(Psalms 125:1 NASB)
As the mountains surround Jerusalem, So the LORD surrounds His people From this time forth and forever.
(Psalms 125:2 NASB)
Observation One of the surest things in this world is a mountain! Just this week, sadly, a pilot learned that you cannot fly into a mountain, for the mountain will not be moved! The Lord is reminding His people that if they will simply put their trust in Him, they will be like a mountain. They will be strong and firm, and yet that is not all, for in this state they will also be surrounded by the Lord. The Lord Himself will be stronger than one mountain, but rather will be as the mountains which surround Jerusalem. God's children will not be left alone, but rather will be surrounded day in and day out by His mighty presence.
Application What more could we want, but to be surrounded by the Lord? The promises of Go…

What are you doing for Jesus today?

Scripture “The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’
(Matthew 25:40 NASB)
Observation Jesus was preaching a powerful sermon and it spoke right to the hearts of the religious leaders. These were the ones who thought they had everything right in terms of looking good before God. He shot them down because they had their priorities mixed up. They thought it was all about show and how it looked to the world from the outside. Instead Jesus pointed out that their motives and behavior on a day to day basis were what God would judge. This was completely foreign to their way of thinking.
Application This week we have celebrated Thanksgiving in the United States. A day of celebration, which is followed by a day called "Black Friday." I have already heard stories of Black Friday -- how people pushed and shoved and came home with bruises …

Questions and Answers

Scripture But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together.
(Matthew 22:34 NASB)
One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him,
(Matthew 22:35 NASB)
Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question:
(Matthew 22:41 NASB)
No one was able to answer Him a word, nor did anyone dare from that day on to ask Him another question.
(Matthew 22:46 NASB)
Observation In this story in Matthew we find an interesting dialog between Jesus and those who were trying to trap Him. The Sadducees came to Him first and tried to trick Him. It didn't work. So, the Pharisees decided to step forward with their questions. After they were unsuccessful at tricking Him, finally Jesus turned the tables on them and asked them a question. His question was so clever that they dare not answer it, because they would have had to concede that he was the Christ and that He was the Son of God. Instead they…

Looking for a Sign

Scripture The Pharisees and Sadducees came up, and testing Jesus, they asked Him to show them a sign from heaven.
(Matthew 16:1 NASB)
But He replied to them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’
(Matthew 16:2 NASB)
“And in the morning, ‘There will be a storm today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times?
(Matthew 16:3 NASB)
Observation The Pharisees and the Sadducees were well educated and they certainly knew the teachings of the Prophets. From childhood they had been taught the signs of the coming Messiah. Now, suddenly, the Messiah stood before them and they simply refused to believe the Truth. Instead they kept pushing Him for signs and wonders. Finally Jesus reminded them that they were willing to fall back on their education and experience to predict the weather, and yet, they were unwilling to do the same thing in regard to …

Are you willing to do really little things for God?

Scripture He presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field;
(Matthew 13:31 NASB)
and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that THE BIRDS OF THEAIR come and NEST IN ITS BRANCHES.”
(Matthew 13:32 NASB)
Observation Jesus continued to present the "upside-down" kingdom to the Disciples. The world expects great people to do great things, and by the world's definition, these are usually "big" things. Jesus explains what it means to be willing to work in the kingdom. It may mean faithfulness with something very, very small. The mustard seed is so small that one can barely even see it. And yet, the man in the story is faithful with the very small mustard seed. He takes it to the field and he plants it. Not only does he plant it, but he must take the time to nurture it. The ti…

Leadership through Servanthood

Scripture “He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.
(Matthew 10:40 NASB)
“He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward.
(Matthew 10:41 NASB)
“And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.”
(Matthew 10:42 NASB)
Observation Jesus was constantly turning the world upside down by the things that He said. Now, He was telling the leaders what it meant to receive their eternal reward. Of course, they were thinking that it was all related to the high and mighty things that they may have accomplished in their lifetime. Instead, Jesus turned it all around and told them that it boiled down to doing things like giving a simple cup of water to little children. How could that be im…

Perfection through Love

Scripture “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
(Matthew 5:44 NASB)
so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
(Matthew 5:45 NASB)
“Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
(Matthew 5:48 NASB)
Observation Jesus commands us to love those around us. We are not only to love those who like or love us, but rather, we are to love our enemies -- those who despise us! He is reminding us that by loving those who do not love us, we will be His sons. It is in this act that we join into the holy life of the Father and we are literally His children. As this entire segment is brought to a close Jesus wraps it up with the statement that we are to be perfect. That is, we will be brought to completion as God's holy children when we are completely filled by His holy love.
Application …

What are you eating?

(Matthew 4:4 NASB)
Observation Jesus had spent 40 days and nights in the wilderness and obviously He was tired and hungry. Then Satan came and tempted Him, at the point of His weakness. Jesus did not succomb to the temptation, but rather, responded out of His strength. His strength came from having spent time with God, His Father. While Jesus had not eaten physical food during His time in the wilderness, He had devoured the opportunity to feed upon every word which He had received from His Father. The result was that Jesus was able to resist the Evil one and ultimately was victorious over sin and death.
Application We must ask ourselves what we are devouring? Often we've thought of this response referring to the fact that we must fight back temptation with the Bible. However, I think it goes much beyond simpl…

The ultimate test results

I don't like feeling weak, and yet in those moments do I trust in Him.  It is the ultimate test, whether in my weaknesses I am in Christ!
Scripture And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.
(2 Corinthians 12:9 NASB)
Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?
(2 Corinthians 13:5 NASB)
Observation If you are like me, you really don't look forward to taking tests. They are one of those necessities of life and every now and then we are faced with them. It may be that we have a test in our studies, or maybe it's simply the driver's test -- or why is it when we're having some lab work done we also worry about how we'll do on the test!? Because testing is a …

Bad Economic Times

How are you responding in these times of bad economy?  There are lessons to be learned from the faithful in Macedonia.

Scripture Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia,
(2 Corinthians 8:1 NASB)
that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality.
(2 Corinthians 8:2 NASB)
Observation We may think that we are facing insurmountable obstacles in today's economic times but the world goes through cycles and the Church has faced these days in the past, and has survived. Paul was on his missionary journeys and he traveled through the area of Macedonia. He shared with them the needs of those who were struggling in other areas of the world. They, themselves, were going through a " ordeal of affliction" and "deep poverty."  Things were not just "sort-of" bad, but they were "really" bad. …

But I don't like them!

God has called us to a ministry of reconciliation.  What does that look like when there are those who have hurt you?

Scripture Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation,
(2 Corinthians 5:18 NASB)
namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
(2 Corinthians 5:19 NASB)
Observation What we find in today's scripture is that there is a direct correlation between our relationships with others and our relationship with God. Christ could easily have told the Father that He didn't like those humans! Can you imagine? Humanity had rejected everything that God, out of His love, had done for them. However, because of that deep love, God, the Creator, continued to reach out to humanity in a desire to heal the relationship. Jesus, submitting to the will of the Father, allowe…

Proud Confidence

Do you ever feel your self-confidence is put to the test?  Maybe it's time to examine where we have placed our confidence.
Scripture For our proud confidence is this: the testimony of our conscience, that in holiness and godly sincerity, not in fleshly wisdom but in the grace of God, we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially toward you.
(2 Corinthians 1:12 NASB)
Observation Paul's confidence was not in himself, but rather in God. His wholehearted belief was that God was leading him into a life of holiness and sincerity. Interestingly he mentions that he is not led by fleshly wisdom, but rather by the grace of God. For Paul this is significant for he was a highly educated man. He knew multiple languages and had studied under some of the best teachers of his day. This was a man who could have easily boasted in his education and his knowledge and yet, here he acknowledges that he is not being led by human or fleshly wisdom, but rather, trus…

A New Thing

My desire is that God does a new thing -- that a new song will be written.  How about you?

Scripture Praise the LORD! Sing to the LORD a new song, And His praise in the congregation of the godly ones.
(Psalms 149:1 NASB)
Observation It was time for a new song. This didn't happen very often. A new song was written when God had mightily intervened in the lives of the Israelites. It was as if it were time for a new chapter in the story and when that happened the people would rejoice and a new song was written. The new song was a reminder to the people of God to worship and praise Him for His mighty acts within the life of His people.
Application Are there any new songs being written today? My hope would be that new songs are being written and that the God of all Creation continues to be involved in the lives of His people. However, I believe that God's intervention in the lives of the Israelites was when they invited Him to be involved, and when they ser…

Accepting Your Gift

God, through the Holy Spirit wants to gift each and every one of us.  Are we willing to accept the gift?
Scripture But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
(1 Corinthians 12:7 NASB)
But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.
(1 Corinthians 12:11 NASB)
Observation Paul was telling the Christians in Corinth that the Holy Spirit was working in each and every person's life in a special and unique way. The result was that the community of faith had people with different gifts and abilities which brought balance to the church. Not everyone had the same gifting, but rather the culmination of their gifting created a whole. The focus was not on the gifts themselves, but on the Spirit who brought those gifts. The early church was a vibrant place where the Holy Spirit was moving through the individual members. Sadly, about a century later the growth of the church began…

Why go to church?

The trend is for regular attenders to be in church less frequently.  Are you a part of the trend?

Scripture I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD.”
(Psalms 122:1 NASB)
Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.
(1 Corinthians 10:12 NASB) Observation The Psalmist rejoiced in the fact that he could go to Jerusalem and visit the house of God. It was a joyous and blessed occasion when one was privileged to make the journey to Jerusalem to worship God in His holy house. However, over the years the Israelites forgot the real reason for their worship. Little by little they just didn't bother with the pilgrimage. God's house became something God had never intended it to be and God's people took for granted that they would always be protected by Him. While they no longer participated in regular worship of God, they expected God to be there for them whenever they wanted to call on Him. Today the ruins of…

Eat No Meat?

What are you willing to do to help others grow in their relationship with Christ?
Scripture Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause my brother to stumble.
(1 Corinthians 8:13 NASB)
Observation Paul spends quite a bit of time talking about the freedom which he has found in Christ. This freedom surpasses anything that can be found in the world. Even an individual who was born into slavery can be free in Christ -- whether physically free or not. This freedom which is found in Christ has released many from restrictions placed upon them by the world. However, some of the habits of the old life have crept into the new life. For some people within the church community eating meat which had been offered to idols was a real problem. They believed that this meat had actually been defiled by having been used in a pagan sacrifice. However, in a sense it was "used" meat and therefore was a little chea…

What's inside?

If Jesus were to look into the motivation of your heart today, what would He find?

Scripture Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.
(1 Corinthians 4:5 NASB)
Observation We think that we are quite skilled at keeping the motivations of our heart a secret. We do our best to keep them hidden from the light of day. While we keep our deepest thoughts and motivations hidden we strike out at what we judge as inconsistencies in others. Paul saw this very thing happening in the baby church which he had birthed in Corinth. He warned those within this congregation to stop passing judgment based on their limited understanding. He knew that a time would come when Jesus would pass judgment based on what was inside!
Application We cannot see inside, to the heart and motivat…

Singular Unity

Scripture Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment.
(1 Corinthians 1:10 NASB)
So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.
(1 Corinthians 3:7 NASB)
Observation Paul had discovered that there was disunity in the church in Corinth. They were arguing with one another over who had played the greatest role in the development of the church. Some were proudly proclaiming that they were disciples of Apollos, some of Peter, and others of Paul. They were arguing over who had been their leader and which one of them was really the best or the most influential. All of this frustrated Paul because he knew that this was not what was important in the life of the church. Rather, Paul worked to call them all back to the very foundation of the church. It didn't m…

Remember the Poor!

ScriptureThey only asked us to remember the poor—the very thing I also was eager to do.
(Galatians 2:10 NASB)
Observation Paul had gone to Jerusalem to have a meeting with the leaders of the Church. It was an important meeting as they were discussing the foundational "rules" for Christianity. The big discussion revolved around the practice of circumcision. If a Greek, who was not Jewish, became a believer, would he have to be circumcised. It was all about following the rules or the laws. Finally, after much prayer and discussion the report came back that this was not a priority. The only priority which Paul was given was to "remember the poor."
Application At times I think we fail to realize that ministering to the poor was the number one priority of the early church. As we can see in this situation with Paul, even the personal concerns, or concerns over personal holiness took a back seat to ministering to the poor.
During the years of…

Sometimes it's better to just keep your mouth shut.

Scripture Then Pilate questioned Him again, saying, “Do You not answer? See how many charges they bring against You!”
(Mark 15:4 NASB)
But Jesus made no further answer; so Pilate was amazed.
(Mark 15:5 NASB)
Observation Jesus stood before His accusers and they were shouting all kinds of accusations and insults at Him. Some of the accusations were the truth, "He says He's the son of God!" Yes, He is the Son of God and He could have called down fire and brimstone on those who were accusing Him, and yet, He stood there and silently took it all. The way to victory was not going to be through words, but rather by way of actions. The natural response would have been to defend Himself. However, He didn't respond and Pilate "was amazed."
Application There are times in life when people may throw accusations around about you. As a follower of Jesus Christ often there are those who simply don't "get" it. They don't unders…

Who's winning?

Are we trying to live the Christian life in our own strength?  If so, we will lose out for the flesh is weak!

Scripture “Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
(Mark 14:38 NASB)
Observation The disciples had really good intentions. They had just finished supper with Jesus and now He wanted to go to one of His favorite places to pray. Jesus had been trying to tell them about what was coming but they really didn't understand. While Jesus is praying for His very life, the disciples are falling asleep. They just don't comprehend the urgency of the situation. In their hearts they truly believed that they would do anything to support Jesus. Peter had even declared that he would be willing to die for Jesus, and yet, within just a few hours he would deny Christ three times. The flesh won the day.
Application How often do we become excited about spiritual things and we take off believin…

What is your relationship with money?

Where would you find yourself in this story?
Scripture Then they came to Jerusalem. And He entered the temple and began to drive out those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves;
(Mark 11:15 NASB)
and He would not permit anyone to carry merchandise through the temple.
(Mark 11:16 NASB)
And He began to teach and say to them, “Is it not written, ‘MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER FOR ALL THE NATIONS’? But you have made it a ROBBERS’ DEN.”
(Mark 11:17 NASB)
And He sat down opposite the treasury, and began observing how the people were putting money into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large sums.
(Mark 12:41 NASB)
A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent.
(Mark 12:42 NASB)
Calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury;

Thanks, Grandpa!

Scripture I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; From where shall my help come?
(Psalms 121:1 NASB)
My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth.
(Psalms 121:2 NASB)
Observation Psalm 121 is one of my favorite. It has great words and a message of hope to all of us who need it. However, that's not the reason it's one of my favorites. As a child, I rarely saw my grandparents, because we lived on two different continents. It's a strange thing when you only see your grandparents once every four years of your life and yet, there was something special that I remembered about my grandfather. This man had an incredible personal relationship with God. Even as a child, I had that figured out. Whenever we visited their home we would have to stop and have devotions several times a day. I was convinced that Grandpa had the whole Bible memorized for he could quote long passages. This, I believe, was one of his favorites and so as I read it today,…