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Showing posts from January, 2012

Powerful Transformation in the Spirit

Scripture

Acts 6:8 ¶ Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people.
Acts 6:10 But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke.
Acts 6:15 And all who sat in the council looked intently at him, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.

Observation

Stephen was one of those selected by the church community to minister to the widows and to wait on tables.  He was also a man who was filled with the Holy Spirit and had a desire to be transformed into the image of Christ.  Not only did he have the desire, but he was being transformed into a genuine reflection of Christ.  He was able to perform miracles, he was filled with wisdom and even face became radiant.  In the light of his life, the priests became frustrated for they could not compete against the power of the Holy Spirit.

Application

Stephen had experienced the transformational power of being filled with the Holy Spirit which leads to holiness.  It was not a holines…

What to do with strangers?

Scripture

Ex. 23:9 ¶ You shall not oppress a resident alien; you know the heart of an alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.

Observation


There are numerous variations on the translation of the word that we find here as "alien."  It can also be translated as foreigner or stranger.  God was reminding the Israelites what it felt like to be "foreigners" in Egypt and that there would be times when there would be "foreigners" among them.  From the very beginning the faith of the Jews was an evangelistic faith, one that would invite "strangers" or "foreigners" into their community and, if they were obedient to God, they, too could be a part of the community. 

Application

We, too, are never to forget what it feels like to be "strangers."  This may mean different things for us but lets begin with what it feels like when we are new to Christ.  When we first give our lives to him, we certainly feel like "strangers" among…

Responsibility for the Pit

Scripture

Ex. 21:33 ¶ If someone leaves a pit open, or digs a pit and does not cover it, and an ox or a donkey falls into it,
Ex. 21:34 the owner of the pit shall make restitution, giving money to its owner, but keeping the dead animal.
Acts 4:5  ¶ The next day their rulers, elders, and scribes assembled in Jerusalem,
Acts 4:6 with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family.
Acts 4:21 After threatening them again, they let them go, finding no way to punish them because of the people, for all of them praised God for what had happened.

Observation

In Exodus we find some very basic rules being given to the people.  These include rules regarding responsibility.  You can't dig a pit and leave it open because this becomes something very dangerous.  Animals can fall into a pit and die, and the very livelihood of the people depends on caring well for the precious few things they had with them.  You couldn't be careless for it might…

A Booming Voice from the Mountain

Scripture

Ex. 20:1 ¶ Then God spoke all these words:
Ex. 20:18 ¶ When all the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking, they were afraid and trembled and stood at a distance,

Observation


The Ten Commandments were given to the children of Israel on more than one occasion.  Here, this first time, God actually spoke the Commandments to them.  They could  see the flashes of lightening, and hear the thunder and blaring trumpet.  All of this was accompanied by  smoke coming from the mountain.  That's an amazing show of God's presence among his people.  There was no doubt that this was coming to them directly from God.  And yet, they were terrified and stood back and told Moses to go and talk to God. 

Application

How often do we say that we wish God would speak to us in this way?  If only God would show up and talk to me in a booming voice, then I'd know exactly what I'm supposed to do!  If only God would reveal himself and all…

Going out with Faith

Scripture

Ex. 14:8 The LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt and he pursued the Israelites, who were going out boldly.
Ex. 14:14 The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.”
Ex. 16:35 The Israelites ate manna forty years, until they came to a habitable land; they ate manna, until they came to the border of the land of Canaan.
Acts 2:47 praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

Observation

Today we find a common thread between the Old Testament and New Testament readings.  In the Old Testament we find the children of Israel finally leaving Egypt, and when the moment comes they leave boldly!  They've been given their instructions, God has been faithful and they leave with confidence in him.  Along the way however, they become scared as the Egyptians follow them and they wonder what they are to do.  God tells them that they are to do nothing.  He will fight for them.…

A New Beginning

Scripture

Ex. 12:2 This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you.
Acts 1:4 While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me;
Acts 1:5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

Observation

When God was preparing the Israelites to leave Egypt he promised them a new life.  As a seal of that promise he told them to reset their calendars for their lives would have a new beginning.  The month of their deliverance was to be the first month of the year for them -- starting the calendar over again and marking it from a significant moment -- when God had delivered them from Egypt!  This was their new beginning.  Move to the New Testament and we find another significant new beginning.  Jesus has come to the earth, lived and died and is now preparing to ascend into heaven.…

Feeling the Darkness

Scripture

Ex. 10:21 ¶ Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward heaven so that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, a darkness that can be felt.”

Observation

     There have only been a few times in my life when I have experienced complete and total darkness.  It's true that when it's that dark you can't see your hand in front of your face.  It was this type of darkness that God sent to the Egyptians.  God, himself even described it as a darkness which may be felt.  That is a frightening darkness for there is not one single shred of light breaking in.  Literally the darkness feels like it envelopes you, it becomes disorienting and you don't know which way to go. 

Application

     The Egyptians experienced this kind of darkness for three days.  They pleaded with Moses to have God return the light for they were terrified, and yet, after the light returned, they no longer seemed afraid of the darkness, or of God.  Why is it that we can find ourselves…

Behind the Scenes

Scripture But they kept on insisting, saying, “He stirs up the people, teaching all over Judea, starting from Galilee even as far as this place.”
(Luke 23:5 NASB)
Now Herod was very glad when he saw Jesus; for he had wanted to see Him for a long time, because he had been hearing about Him and was hoping to see some sign performed by Him.
(Luke 23:8 NASB)
Now Herod and Pilate became friends with one another that very day; for before they had been enemies with each other.
(Luke 23:12 NASB)
“No, nor has Herod, for he sent Him back to us; and behold, nothing deserving death has been done by Him.
(Luke 23:15 NASB)
“Therefore I will punish Him and release Him.”
(Luke 23:16 NASB)
Pilate, wanting to release Jesus, addressed them again,
(Luke 23:20 NASB)
And he said to them the third time, “Why, what evil has this man done? I have found in Him no guilt demanding death; therefore I will punish Him and release Him.”
(Luke 23:22 NASB)
But they were insistent, with loud voices asking …

A Crutch

Scripture The LORD said to him, “What is that in your hand?” And he said, “A staff.”
(Exodus 4:2 NASB)
Then He said, “Throw it on the ground.” So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from it.
(Exodus 4:3 NASB)
“You shall take in your hand this staff, with which you shall perform the signs.”
(Exodus 4:17 NASB)
Observation Moses had just experienced God revealing himself to him by way of the burning bush. One can only imagine how stunned Moses was at the experience. Now God was telling him to go and to be a leader and Moses was terrified. God decided that he would allow him to have a crutch, or a tool to help him through this time of leadership. The crutch was the staff which Moses was carrying in his hand. God told Moses to simply look down and see what it was that he was carrying with him. It was a staff. This would have been something that Moses would have normally carried as part of his job. It was simple and most people had …

It will lead to an opportunity

Scripture And He said, “See to it that you are not misled; for many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not go after them.
(Luke 21:8 NASB)
“When you hear of wars and disturbances, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end does not follow immediately.”
(Luke 21:9 NASB)
“It will lead to an opportunity for your testimony.
(Luke 21:13 NASB) Observation Don't we all love opportunities? It sounds like something really good that may be in store for us, but when Jesus describes the opportunity, it may drive people away. What he is saying here is in stark contrast with what many believers would like to think will happen in the future. Jesus is talking about times when things are difficult. He is saying that there will be those who try to divert peoples' attention away from him. They will try to have us believe that they are the Messiah, or that they are pointing the way to him who will return. There wi…

The Greater Condemnation

Scripture And while all the people were listening, He said to the disciples,
(Luke 20:45 NASB)
“Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love respectful greetings in the market places, and chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets,
(Luke 20:46 NASB)
who devour widows’ houses, and for appearance’s sake offer long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation.”
(Luke 20:47 NASB)
Observation Over and over Jesus warns people around him about the condemnation that is to come. However, most of the words of warning are for those who think that they are doing well spiritually and in religious life. Curious, isn't it? He warned his disciples to beware of the scribes. These people wore really nice clothes, and they were wonderful at patting one another on the back as they passed each other on the street. They made sure that all the right protocol was followed and that they were treated with special honor. And yet, Je…

Seek

Scripture When Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, “Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house.”
(Luke 19:5 NASB)
When they saw it, they all began to grumble, saying, “He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.”
(Luke 19:7 NASB)
“For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
(Luke 19:10 NASB)
Observation As I read this scripture today the simple song, "Zaccheus was a wee little man and a wee little man was he" has kept going through my mind. It's a simple story that many of us probably remember hearing numerous times in our childhood. Jesus comes into the town and a short man, unable to see over the crowd climbs up into a tree so that he can catch a glimpse of the man, Jesus, as he walks by. Instead of walking by, Jesus stops, looks up into the tree and calls the man by name. The man is shocked, because he's a tax collector! That was pretty much a dirty word -- for…

Jesus instructs on prayer

Scripture Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart,
(Luke 18:1 NASB)
And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge said;
(Luke 18:6 NASB)
now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them?
(Luke 18:7 NASB)
“I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”
(Luke 18:8 NASB)
“But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’
(Luke 18:13 NASB)
“I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
(Luke 18:14 NASB)
But Jesus called for them, saying, “Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom…

Why are you staring at one another?

Scripture Now Jacob saw that there was grain in Egypt, and Jacob said to his sons, “Why are you staring at one another?”
(Genesis 42:1 NASB)
Give ear to my words, O LORD, Consider my groaning.
(Psalms 5:1 NASB)
Heed the sound of my cry for help, my King and my God, For to You I pray.
(Psalms 5:2 NASB)
Observation Jacob and his family were starving for the famine had already become severe in the land. There was nothing left to eat and yet, no one was doing anything. Jacob chided his sons and asked them why they were just sitting around and staring at one another. They didn't seem to know what to do. The Psalmist reminds us that we are to bring our needs and concerns before the Lord. He will consider our groaning and heed our cry for help, if only we'd stop staring at one another!
Application There is a call to action found in these verses today. How often do we end up in difficult circumstances of life and respond by staring at one another? We are …

Some Practical Advice

Scripture “Let Pharaoh take action to appoint overseers in charge of the land, and let him exact a fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt in the seven years of abundance.
(Genesis 41:34 NASB)
“Then let them gather all the food of these good years that are coming, and store up the grain for food in the cities under Pharaoh’s authority, and let them guard it.
(Genesis 41:35 NASB)
“Let the food become as a reserve for the land for the seven years of famine which will occur in the land of Egypt, so that the land will not perish during the famine.”
(Genesis 41:36 NASB)
“He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.
(Luke 16:10 NASB)
“Therefore if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you?
(Luke 16:11 NASB)
“And if you have not been faithful in the use of that which is another’s, who will give you that which is yo…

A hole of your own making

Scripture He has dug a pit and hollowed it out, And has fallen into the hole which he made.
(Psalms 7:15 NASB)
Observation The Psalmist is speaking here about those who do evil. They have dug a pit and most certainly have made it a large one, never being content with something simple. What is this pit? Often it's the path that we begin to take when we are disobedient to the leading of the Lord. We begin down a path of of deceit and along the way there have to be more and greater lies to keep up the facade. Eventually the hole which we have dug becomes increasingly large and no longer are we able to step over or around it, but we simply fall in. It seems that at that moment is when we cry out to God and ask him why he has placed us in this hole.
Application Looking back we realize that God has not placed us in this hole, but rather, we have taken ourselves down this path. However, to get out of the hole means that we must stop blaming others for our c…

Oholibamah?

Scripture Esau took his wives from the daughters of Canaan: Adah the daughter of Elon the Hittite, and Oholibamah the daughter of Anah and the granddaughter of Zibeon the Hivite;
(Genesis 36:2 NASB)
These were the sons of Esau’s wife Oholibamah, the daughter of Anah and the granddaughter of Zibeon: she bore to Esau, Jeush and Jalam and Korah.
(Genesis 36:14 NASB)
These are the sons of Esau’s wife Oholibamah: chief Jeush, chief Jalam, chief Korah. These are the chiefs descended from Esau’s wife Oholibamah, the daughter of Anah.
(Genesis 36:18 NASB)
These are the children of Anah: Dishon, and Oholibamah, the daughter of Anah.
(Genesis 36:25 NASB)
Now these are the names of the chiefs descended from Esau, according to their families and their localities, by their names: chief Timna, chief Alvah, chief Jetheth,
(Genesis 36:40 NASB)
chief Oholibamah, chief Elah, chief Pinon,
(Genesis 36:41 NASB)
“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles hims…

Yeast

Scripture And again He said, “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God?
(Luke 13:20 NASB)
“It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened.”
(Luke 13:21 NASB)
Observation Over and over again in the New Testament we hear about the kingdom of God. This is the new era that Jesus Christ is ushering in, God's kingdom here on this earth. Israel has been unfaithful and is being replaced by the new kingdom which Jesus has brought with him. This kingdom is not like earthly kingdoms but rather is like yeast. It is sprinkled here and there and then begins to do its work. It works from the inside on the things of this earth and transforms them. The yeast is not visible in the bread, and yet it affects the entire quality and nature of the bread and it raises up. So too, the kingdom of God is transformational as it works on the very substances which exist here on this earth.
Application Many years ago there was a re…

What are you doing with what you have?

Scripture And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time?
(Luke 12:42 NASB)
“Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes.
(Luke 12:43 NASB)
“And that slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes,
(Luke 12:47 NASB)
but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.
(Luke 12:48 NASB)
Observation We expect to hear harsh criticism from Jesus for those who live a sinful life, and yet, it seems that some of his greatest concern is for those who would call themselves followers of God. Jesus is looking for good and faithful stewards; those who will take responsibility in his kingdom. We are…

Unity in the Body

Scripture But He knew their thoughts and said to them, “Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and a house divided against itself falls.
(Luke 11:17 NASB)
But He said, “On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”
(Luke 11:28 NASB)
Observation Jesus had the power to cast out demons and this disturbed the religious leaders of the day. They decided that the power that he had gained must have come from Satan himself. Jesus pointed out to them the ridiculous nature of that claim. Why would Satan work against himself? It doesn't even make sense because even if that's done as a pretense it becomes self-destructive. However, in all of this was a lesson because on the other hand, the religious leaders were being critical of one who was being obedient in the kingdom of God. Why would you be critical of someone who is working to build the kingdom? When the kingdom of God is divided, Jesus was warning them, it would fai…

Where's your Well?

Scripture But when Isaac’s servants dug in the valley and found there a well of flowing water,
(Genesis 26:19 NASB)
the herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with the herdsmen of Isaac, saying, “The water is ours!” So he named the well Esek, because they contended with him.
(Genesis 26:20 NASB)
Then they dug another well, and they quarreled over it too, so he named it Sitnah.
(Genesis 26:21 NASB)
He moved away from there and dug another well, and they did not quarrel over it; so he named it Rehoboth, for he said, “At last the LORD has made room for us, and we will be fruitful in the land.”
(Genesis 26:22 NASB)
So he built an altar there and called upon the name of the LORD, and pitched his tent there; and there Isaac’s servants dug a well.
(Genesis 26:25 NASB)
Observation Over and over again we find the need for water. Water is needed for life, for sustenance. In the days of Isaac and his family the need for water was so great that one had to plan their survival around th…

Is anything too difficult for the Lord?

Scripture “Is anything too difficult for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, at this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”
(Genesis 18:14 NASB)
They struck the men who were at the doorway of the house with blindness, both small and great, so that they wearied themselves trying to find the doorway.
(Genesis 19:11 NASB)
Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, and said, “Up, get out of this place, for the LORD will destroy the city.” But he appeared to his sons-in-law to be jesting.
(Genesis 19:14 NASB)
Observation In these Genesis passages we find, again and again, God's attempt to draw his beloved humanity towards him. He fulfills his promise to Abraham and Sarah. He tries desperately to save Lot, which proves to be a challenging case. There were times in the former Soviet Union that we used to say that trying to help people was something like a reverse mugging. Please, beat me up and steal from me so …

Prayer and Power

Scripture It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God.
(Luke 6:12 NASB)
And when day came, He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them, whom He also named as apostles:
(Luke 6:13 NASB)
And all the people were trying to touch Him, for power was coming from Him and healing them all.
(Luke 6:19 NASB)
Observation Jesus, himself, often took time to get away and pray. Here we see that he went alone and spent the whole night in prayer. It was after this time alone with God that he came down and began to call the twelve disciples. Was there a connection between the time he spent with God and the calling of the twelve? Of course there was. He had spent time with the Father and he led him to the ones that were to be his disciples. Not only did the Father lead him to those who were to be his disciples, but he also filled him with power. That power permeated from his being and as Jesus walked do…

The appearance of Melchizedek

Scripture Then after his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley).
(Genesis 14:17 NASB)
And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God Most High.
(Genesis 14:18 NASB)
He blessed him and said, “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth;
(Genesis 14:19 NASB)
And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.” He gave him a tenth of all.
(Genesis 14:20 NASB)
Observation The arrival of Melchizedek is a foreshadowing of the coming Messiah. Really, the story has barely begun but the appearance of this king already begins a trajectory which will culminate in the life of Christ here on earth. Melchizedek is not a part of Abram's family. He is a priest and later all of the priests would come from the line of Levi. The line of Levi hasn't even begun and so…

What a Nimrod!

Scripture Now Cush became the father of Nimrod; he became a mighty one on the earth.
(Genesis 10:8 NASB)
He was a mighty hunter before the LORD; therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the LORD.”
(Genesis 10:9 NASB)
Observation For years I have heard the word "Nimrod" used as a derogatory term such as, "He is such a Nimrod!" A political commentator used the term on television the other day. However, here in the book of Genesis we find the original Nimrod. Nimrod is one of the great-grandchildren of Noah. He is mighty and becomes a great hunter before the Lord. The only things that are said about this man are good. How is it that we take things that are good, and we make them into something bad?
Application We humans are good at wanting to believe the worst in others. Here's a very case in point where history has literally been overturned by the negative use of someone's name. It makes me think about the destru…

Make Ready the Way

Scripture as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, “THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, ‘MAKE READY THE WAY OF THE LORD, MAKE HIS PATHS STRAIGHT.
(Luke 3:4 NASB)
Observation The prophet Isaiah had said that there would be one who would cry out in the wilderness. John the Baptist was that man. The message was to make ready the way for the one who was coming. How was that to happen? His paths were to be made straight, the valleys were to be filled in, the high places to be leveled out and the crooked places straight. It was a commentary on the actual physical preparation of a community for the arrival of the King. The road needed to be completely repaired before the King would come. You didn't want the King to be traveling on a bad road that had lots of curves and ups and downs to it. Instead you did everything that you could to make the road as nice as possible. It was as straight as possible, and the low spots were filled …

A Mother's Ponderings

Scripture But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.
(Luke 2:19 NASB)
And His father and mother were amazed at the things which were being said about Him.
(Luke 2:33 NASB)
And He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and He continued in subjection to them; and His mother treasured all these things in her heart.
(Luke 2:51 NASB)
Observation Mary had been told what kind of baby she would be carrying but the reality of that was far beyond her wildest imagination. Day by day she cared for this little boy and many a day he was an ordinary boy and yet there were moments when he was extraordinary. Mary seems to soak it all in. She doesn't try to explain it away, but rather, by faith she thinks, she ponders, she is amazed and she treasurers in her heart the things she sees and hears.
Application There are times in our walk when we should also simply ponder. Too often we want the answers right now. It would take years for Mary to see t…