Posts

Showing posts from 2012

Come!

Scripture:

Rev. 22:17     The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.”
    And let everyone who hears say, “Come.”
    And let everyone who is thirsty come.
    Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.

Observation:

Here at the very closing verses of the Bible we find this ongoing and continuous invitation to come!  The Church and the Holy Spirit are sending out an invitation to come!  The invitation is reaching the ears of the needy -- those who are thirsting for the answers to life and they are invited to come.  And the water that will quench their thirst is available, if only they will simply come! 


Application:

Even after all of the plagues and warnings and the threats, there is still an invitation to come.  Jesus has declared that he is the first and the last, the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end -- and that he is patient and is waiting for his people to respond.  What will it take for us to come?

It is interesting to see here that it is the Spirit and the Bride who…

Where would you find yourself?

Scripture:

Rev. 18:10 they will stand far off, in fear of her torment, and say,
    “Alas, alas, the great city,
        Babylon, the mighty city!
    For in one hour your judgment has come.”
Rev. 18:11  ¶ And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn for her, since no one buys their cargo anymore,
Rev. 18:12 cargo of gold, silver, jewels and pearls, fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet, all kinds of scented wood, all articles of ivory, all articles of costly wood, bronze, iron, and marble,
Rev. 18:13 cinnamon, spice, incense, myrrh, frankincense, wine, olive oil, choice flour and wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, slaves—and human lives.
Rev. 18:24     And in you was found the blood of prophets and of saints,
        and of all who have been slaughtered on earth.”


Observation:

In this Chapter of Revelation we find the fall of Babylon the great.  The timelessness of the Bible is revealed in the fact that through the years people have identified their "Babylon."  During …

The Kingdom of our Lord

Scripture:

Rev. 11:15     Then 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:

The vision of John has expanded and he is seeing a great cosmic shift.  Evil has had the power and authority to rule over the earth.  Remember when Satan offered Jesus the earthly kingdoms?  Jesus knew that this was not a way to victory but a way of succumbing to the evil one.  The evil one tempted Jesus with power for a period of time, if he would be willing to give up his loyalty to his father.  Jesus understood the eternal implications and temporal power, wealth and authority could not sway him. 

Now, we see the great cosmic shift.  Jesus had ushered in the Kingdom of God.  Instead of siding with evil, the Kingdom had been firmly rooted and planted on the earth with the coming of the Messiah and was growing and expanding through th…

They Did Not Repent

Scripture:

Rev. 9:20 ¶ The rest of humankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands or give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk.
Rev. 9:21 And they did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their fornication or their thefts.


Observation:

Throughout history people have believed that the author of these scriptures was writing about them and their time-period.  Historically commentators and writers such as Clarke and Wesley have already placed these scriptures within a particular time context.  For them the rise of the Turkish Empire and the fall of much of the Christian East to the Muslim world was the sign that these things had come to pass.  Now, in our day, we read these scriptures again and we apply them to our lives.  There are timeless truths in these scriptures which apply to each and every generation.  Every generation has an opportunity to turn from…

The Tree of Life

Scripture:

Rev. 2:7 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To those who are victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.


Observation:

In the opening book of the Bible we learn about the beautiful garden -- Paradise -- in which Adam and Eve have the privilege of living.  Their every need is provided and yet there is a tree in the center of the garden from which they are not to eat.  This is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  At the same time there exists in the garden the tree of life.  Once they have eaten the fruit from the forbidden tree God sends them out of the garden and away from the tree of life.  Sinful humanity must not eat from this tree and they are banned from its very presence. 

Here in the final book of the Bible the tree appears again.  The promise of the tree of life is reaffirmed for the faithful followers of Jesus Christ for God has been caring for the tree all along.  The tree …

His Statutes Last Forever

Scripture:

Psalm 119:152
Long ago I learned from your statutes
  
 that you established them to last forever.

Observation:

It's the day after Christmas and for some of us across the US we are tucked into our homes, not going out on this snowy day.  People are cleaning up from yesterday's celebrations, some are out shopping and many are already looking forward to putting 2012 behind them and move into the New Year.  Quickly, within the hustle and bustle of life we can put Christmas behind us.  Yes, there may have been one day that we set aside to remember the birth of Jesus Christ, but have we already moved on?  The Psalmist writes in the past a message which reaches out to us even today.  He is speaking to his heavenly Father and realizes that the laws of God, the statutes that God has established have been created to last forever.  When the things of this world come and go, they do not.  We can trust God to carry us through the things which happened in 2012, and into the things …

The Testimony is True

Scripture:

John 21:24 This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true.
25 Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.


Observation:

Sometimes when we read the gospel accounts of Jesus they may seem far removed from us.  What are these stories?  Are they just that -- stories?  No, they are first-hand accounts of what these people encountered when they met Jesus Christ.  The gospel writers had to pick and choose what they would put down in writing.  The story of Christ's coming and life here on earth was so amazing that there was no way it could all be written! 

Application:

It's Christmas Eve and I love this night of celebration.  Growing up as a child in Germany, Christmas Eve was my very favorite day of the year.  I will always remember going to church and singing carols by candlelight.  We truly…

Labor Pains

Scripture:

John 16:20 Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. 21 A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. 22 So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.

33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Observation:

Jesus and his disciples were going through difficult days and yet this was just the very beginning of all that was going to happen to them.  Jesus knew that he was about to be arrested and the days that would follow would be emotional and painful for his followers.  For all of them life would never be peaceful ever again.  They would go on to faithfully preach the good news about Jesus and…

"I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you."

Scripture:

John 14:15 “If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. Anyone who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”

Observation:

John starts right out with relating love to the relationship with the Holy Trinity.  If we love Jesus, we will keep his commands.  He doesn't say if we fear him, or if we want to go to heaven -- he said if we LOVE him.  Love becomes the very fou…

Shepherd or Hired Hand

Scripture:

John 5:11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

Observation:


There was a radical difference between the good shepherd and the hired hand.  The good shepherd loved his flock.  The hired hand wanted to use the flock for his own benefit.  The good shepherd was willing to lay down his life for the flock -- anything so that they might be saved.  The hired hand ran from the flock and left them unprotected in the midst of danger for he had no vested interested in the survival of the flock, only in himself. 

Application:


This text can be applied at three levels.  The first is Jesus as the good shepherd and the other religious leaders as the hired hands.  That was what Jesus was facing i…

A Pastoral Response to Newtown, CT

There are times in life when we are faced with issues that touch the very core of our being and shape the culture in which we live.  In our lifetimes we have faced the crumbling of the Berlin Wall, the fall of the Soviet Union, The 1993 war in Moscow, 9/11, the Beslan school massacre (380 deaths), the Moscow theater hostage crisis, and now this needless shooting at the elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.  These may not be the moments that come to your minds or stir your attention, but they are the moments of our history.  Just writing them down brings about emotions which usually remained buried beneath the surface.

Living in the former Soviet Union we always lived with a heightened sense of awareness that we and our children were targets.  International schools are especially considered soft targets for terrorism.  Every day we sent our children off to school knowing that they had to be kept safe by those around them, and in the protective arms of God.  The school itself had a…

Whose Glory?

Scripture:

John 5:44 How can you believe when you accept glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the one who alone is God?

Observation:


Human ambition was an important feature in the lives of the religious leaders.  They loved receiving praise from one another for the things which they were doing.  Would Jesus have been the "right" kind of Messiah they would have gladly accepted praise and glory from him, but he was not what they wanted.  Just imagine applying the Sermon on the Mount to these kinds of religious leaders.  The humble Messiah was not what they wanted.  They were used to the power and the glory which came with their positions and Jesus offered none of that!  Jesus knew that their personal pride was precluding them from putting their faith and trust in him.  How could they believe?  He knew that they could not believe in him because they were too consumed with seeking one another's approval.  What was most important to them was being ac…

Look!

Scripture “Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest.
(John 4:35 NASB)
Observation
This simple conversation with the disciples comes sandwiched in the middle of the story of the woman at the well. The Samaritan woman was probably the most unlikely candidate to become a follower of Jesus Christ. The words we use to describe her should have written her out of the story. She was a Samaritan -- hated by the Jews -- and she was a woman. This pretty much made her at the lowest rung on the ladder, and yet, this is who Jesus sat down with and chose to converse with on a very personal basis. As a result she became a follower and also went and spread the good news about Jesus to all of those who lived in her village. And in the middle of that incident, Jesus reminds his followers that they are not to make excuses about telling others about him. Don…

Light in the Darkness

Image
Scripture In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
(John 1:1 NASB)
He was in the beginning with God.
(John 1:2 NASB)
All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.
(John 1:3 NASB)
In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.
(John 1:4 NASB)
The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
(John 1:5 NASB) Observation
As we continue celebrating this Advent season we try to comprehend the coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The reality is that it is at times difficult to grasp. Humanity had, and still has, fallen into the very dark depths of sin. The result is darkness. What happens when we are stuck in darkness? Sometimes we become accustomed to it and we think that this is the normal state of things.

I remember long dark winters in Russia where the darkness became normal. One hoped that the street lamps would be working so you …

Be Holy

Scripture Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
(1 Peter 1:13 NASB)
As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance,
(1 Peter 1:14 NASB)
but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior;
(1 Peter 1:15 NASB)
because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.”
(1 Peter 1:16 NASB)
Observation
Reading through the New Testament we are reminded by the varied authors that there is a goal for all of humanity and that is to take on the very nature of God and to be his holy people. This Christian life is to be one of transformation in which the believer participates with God in the process. Our responsibility is to prepare our minds by way of spiritual discipline. Yes, we are to read, to study, to learn, to take care of our physical bodies, to be sober in our spirit and…

Where are My Children?

Scripture:

James 1:26 ¶ If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless.
James 1:27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
James 2:13 For judgment will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.
James 2:14 ¶ What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you?
James 2:15 If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food,
James 2:16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that?
James 2:17 So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.

Observation:

I'm watching a beautiful sunrise over East Ohio.  A new day is dawning, and yet I know that for many people this day brings with it a greater realizati…

Fixing our eyes on Jesus

Scripture fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
(Hebrews 12:2 NASB)
Observation
As children of faith we are to fix our eyes on the goal. The goal of our lives is Jesus himself. Jesus is the one who brings to completion our faith for because of his death on the cross, he is now at the right hand of the Father in heaven. Therefore I must fix my eyes on him, the goal, and in my spiritual journey continue to move toward him on a daily basis. The end result is that I have the privilege of joining him someday in heaven.
Application
Distractions! Everywhere in life these days there are distractions. Television is a distraction. Music is a distraction. Computers are a distraction. Smart phones are a distraction. How can we ever pull ourselves from the distractions and fix our eyes on Jesus Christ? That is the challen…

Faith in Santa or Jesus?

Image
Scripture Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
(Hebrews 11:1 NASB)
Observation
This verse is the true definition of faith and according to Barnes there is no verse in the Bible greater than this. John Chrysostom said, “Faith gives reality or substance to things hoped for.” There is no faith if the object of that faith is seen. When the object of hope is unseen, then faith, according to Garvey, can exist in its fullest form! Therefore our hope is directly in proportion to the our faith which is either the "assurance" or "substance" of things hoped for. This word "assurance" or "substance" are words that really mean the foundation on which hope may be built. Therefore faith is the foundation of all hope. For example, I believe that a place such as Beijing exists. I have never been there, but I believe it is in China and therefore I act as if it's possible for me to go there s…

Gifts and Sacrifices in Prayer

Scripture For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices; so it is necessary that this high priest also have something to offer.
(Hebrews 8:3 NASB)
Observation
The writer to the Hebrews is defining Jesus' role as High Priest. What he was unable to do on earth, he is now able to do in heaven. He has his own temple and has made gifts and sacrifices that none of us can even begin to imagine. Therefore he fills the role of the High Priest as no other priest before him, nor after him will ever be able to fulfill. The two items of significance, gifts and sacrifices must be noted. They represent two different ends of the spectrum. The first are known as Eucharistic gifts. They are the gifts of gratitude for the benevolence of a mighty God who has provided all of creation for the use of his children. The second are the sacrifices for the sins of humanity, the very need for forgiveness. This then can also become our pattern for prayer and fell…

The radiance of God's glory!

Scripture And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,
(Hebrews 1:3 NASB)
Observation
Who was Jesus? People are still asking that question today. The writer to the Hebrews wrote a very lengthy sentence (verses 1-4) trying to describe who Jesus was. This portion of that explanation brings us to the core of understanding the very nature of Jesus Christ -- the tiny babe whose coming be celebrate this month. Jesus, the tiny baby, was God! God's glory and radiance cannot be separated, they are one and the same. The early church understood this as describing the sun, and the light which shone from the sun. They were so connected to one another that you could not have one without the other. The same is true for the Father and the Son -- The Son is the radiance of the glory of the Father. …

Reconciliation

Scripture For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come.
(2 Timothy 4:6 NASB)
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith;
(2 Timothy 4:7 NASB)
Make every effort to come to me soon;
(2 Timothy 4:9 NASB)
Only Luke is with me. Pick up Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service.
(2 Timothy 4:11 NASB) Observation
Paul is now facing death in Rome and is writing his final letter to his dear disciple, Timothy. He wants Timothy to come and join him while he awaits what he knows will be his final days here on this earth. Interestingly he wants Timothy to stop by and pick up Mark and bring him along. This is the very same Mark over whom Paul and Barnabas had such a bitter dispute many years before resulting in the two of them going separate directions in their ministry. Paul had been frustrated with the young Mark because he felt that he had been irresponsible. But now, in w…