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Showing posts from August, 2012

A Chorus of Praise

A Chorus of Praise

It was Sunday and we were ready to head out to worship.  As we bounced down the road in the bus which had been procured for us, we could hear the singing in the distance.  As we got closer we could see that the singers gathered out near the road dressed in colorful garb, singing and dancing their praise to God.  As we stepped out of the bus they were there greeting us, reaching for us and sharing with us a generous smile.

This is a congregation which has struggled throughout the fifteen years of its existence, however, it took a crisis for things to change.  This region of Kenya is now in its fourth year of drought bringing with it hunger.  The church responded with a feeding program working collaboratively within the community and reaching beyond the boundaries of the local church.  The result is that this church has been able to help many needy and also lead people who are spiritually hungry to Christ.  It was a moving experience to watch the people come and brin…

Exiles

Scripture “Behold, I am bringing them from the north country, And I will gather them from the remote parts of the earth, Among them the blind and the lame, The woman with child and she who is in labor with child, together; A great company, they will return here.
(Jeremiah 31:8 NASB)
“With weeping they will come, And by supplication I will lead them; I will make them walk by streams of waters, On a straight path in which they will not stumble; For I am a father to Israel, And Ephraim is My firstborn.”
(Jeremiah 31:9 NASB)
Thus says the LORD, “A voice is heard in Ramah, Lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; She refuses to be comforted for her children, Because they are no more.”
(Jeremiah 31:15 NASB)
“There is hope for your future,” declares the LORD, “And your children will return to their own territory.
(Jeremiah 31:17 NASB)
And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.
(1 John 4:21 NASB)

Abiding:the necessity, the result, the possibility

Scripture
No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him.
(1 John 3:6 NASB)
No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.
(1 John 3:9 NASB)
The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.
(1 John 3:24 NASB)
Observation The concept of abiding appears throughout this chapter and becomes key to understanding the writer's concept of living without sin. This concept has been hard for Christians to accept because we are humans who live in a fallen world. How could God expect us to live without sin? The answer comes in this chapter and in the fact that "we," on our own cannot live without sin. We are reminded that the "seed" of God abides in those who are born again -- and that means that when we are born again, God himself abides in us and God cannot sin. It i…

Where is your refuge?

Scripture It is better to take refuge in the LORD Than to trust in man.
(Psalms 118:8 NASB)
You are my God, and I give thanks to You; You are my God, I extol You.
(Psalms 118:28 NASB)
Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
(Psalms 118:29 NASB)
Observation
The Psalmist knew what it meant to trust in humans. Battles were fought day in and day out and alliances were made on a regular basis, trusting in the strength of humans to make a difference. But at the end of the day humans let us down, and the Psalmist knew this. He knew that the only place to put his trust was in the Lord. As a result he had experienced God's faithfulness and through that, the very nature of God.
Application
It is so easy to slip from trusting God for all things, to suddenly trusting in man. It seems to happen in a moment, when we don't even expect it to happen and we find ourselves in a place where we really may not have wanted to go. We st…

Walking the Walk

Scripture If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth;
(1 John 1:6 NASB)
but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.
(1 John 1:7 NASB)
Observation
John was sure that there could be no distinction between declaring our faith in Jesus Christ and the way in which we live our lives. This process of walking referred to something continuous and on-going. It wasn't a morning walk or stroll from time to time, it was the on-going act of walking throughout one's life. Therefore if one said that they had fellowship with Christ, and yet did not walk with him on a daily basis -- they were simply lying. There is no way to have on-going fellowship with Jesus Christ if we are not in a continuous on-going relationship with him. Interestingly it goes on to say that if we walk in the Light -- which mea…

There's always more

Scripture And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written.
(John 21:25 NASB)
Observation
John closes his gospel with the story of the interaction between Jesus and Peter as Jesus reinstates him and gives him an assignment, which is to care for the flock. At the end of that scene we understand that it is John who is eavesdropping and so he is able to share this intimate moment between Jesus and Peter. Soon after this event John brings his gospel to a close, but not really. He reminds us that this is not all that there is not know about Jesus Christ -- it is simply the tip of the iceberg. If he were to write about everything there simply would not be time nor space.
Application I was wondering what would happen if I were to write the story of my relationship with my husband. We've been married 29 years now and it's been a great…

Gender Based Violence

Just a few years ago the term "Gender Based Violence" would not have meant very much to me, but since picking up the book, "Half the Sky" a couple of years ago those three words have come to haunt me.  Why is that?  Because each day thousands of women in this world are having to live as victims of some type of abuse, simply because they are women.  Sadly it is often religion that holds women hostage and at times, even condones abuse. 

Those of us who are from the Wesleyan/Arminian theological heritage are blessed with a religious heritage which has empowered women for more than 150 years.  The gospel of Jesus Christ provides for spiritual transformation that results in the equality of men and women.  It's why the Apostle Paul can say that "There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus (NRSV)."  It is within this tradition that God has been raising up femal…

We have no king but Caesar!

Scripture So they cried out, “Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.”
(John 19:15 NASB)
Observation
As the day of Jesus' crucifixion wears on we continue to see the "true colors" of the religious leaders. For the sake of their own power and authority they are willing to sell out not only Jesus, but God their father himself. Pilate has declared that Jesus is their King and they are willing to outright reject him, but not only him, but God as well. Instead of affirming that God is their leader and King, they affirm the secular leader of the day shouting out "We have no king but Caesar." At that moment they have denounced not only Jesus, but their loyalty to God. And why? All for the sake of power.
 Application
A few days previous these religious leaders had a conversation in which they had said it was best for one man to die for the s…

The Pretense of Righteousness

Scripture Then they led Jesus from Caiaphas into the Praetorium, and it was early; and they themselves did not enter into the Praetorium so that they would not be defiled, but might eat the Passover.
(John 18:28 NASB)
Observation
It's the night that Jesus is betrayed and there is betrayal at many levels and by many individuals, not just Judas. It is the religious leaders who have orchestrated the entire event and they are attempting to maintain an aura of righteousness in the midst of a very unrighteous act. They are purposely circumventing their own laws because their ultimate goal is that Jesus will be killed. Their laws don't allow for that so they have to utilize the Roman system to their personal gain and advantage. This includes having Jesus brought before Pilate, and Jesus waiting in the Praetorium for that time. To have gone into the Praetorium would have meant that these self-righteous men would have defiled themselves. In the midst of all of thi…

How well do you know him?

Scripture “O righteous Father, although the world has not known You, yet I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me;
(John 17:25 NASB)
and I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.”
(John 17:26 NASB)
Observation
The gospel of John gives us this glimpse of the intimacy which exists between Jesus and the Father as he seems to eavesdrop on Jesus' prayer. The prayer is a beautiful one in which the language weaves together a picture of mutual in-dwelling both between Jesus and the Father, and for those who are united with Christ. It speaks to the alienation from the earth because those who are truly in Christ won't "get" it. The world doesn't know or understand those people. The disciples had undergone a transformation in being with Christ. Christ had revealed God to them for Jesus was the very human image of God on earth and from him oozed love…

The Lord IS our Trust

Scripture “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD And whose trust is the LORD.
(Jeremiah 17:7 NASB)
“For he will be like a tree planted by the water, That extends its roots by a stream And will not fear when the heat comes; But its leaves will be green, And it will not be anxious in a year of drought Nor cease to yield fruit.
(Jeremiah 17:8 NASB)
Observation
This statement struck me this morning because we often think or talk about trusting "in" the Lord, while at the same time we don't really think about the fact that the Lord IS our trust. There are two different levels of faith here. One is believing and trusting in God to take care of things while the other is at a deeper level where we don't just trust in God for certain circumstances but we allow God to be the foundation for everything in our lives. He IS our trust. When that happens we discover what Jeremiah is talking about in the following verse. When God is our trust then we are sus…

We are not orphans!

Scripture “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.
(John 14:18 NASB)
“After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also.
(John 14:19 NASB)
“In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.
(John 14:20 NASB)
Observation
Sometimes it seems that we feel rather alone here on this earth -- especially as followers of Jesus Christ. It seems that the world is becoming increasingly hostile to Jesus followers. However, when Jesus spoke these words the situation was much worse. They were a mere handful of people living in a world that wanted to completely destroy them and Jesus is telling them that he is going away.

However, he wanted to make a promise to them, that even if he weren't with them physically -- they would not be alone. Not only would they not be alone but they would not be left disconnected but instead, they would be connected to him and the Father. The o…

The New Command

Scripture “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
(John 13:34 NASB)
“By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
(John 13:35 NASB)
Observation
Here we find the closing moments of dinner on that fateful night before Jesus is arrested. As Jesus speaks to his disciples he wants them to know that he has a final command for them, which is a new command. It is a command which reveals the very core of God's nature, which is love! In the past everything had hinged on the law, but Jesus says that the new command is love. The command wasn't just about loving Jesus, because that tends to be easier than loving the people who are around us so, the challenge was that they were to love one another. This was the beginning of understanding the type of community which God was hoping to form on the earth. The church would become the very bride of Christ…

People Disappoint

Scripture Now he said this, not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box, he used to pilfer what was put into it.
(John 12:6 NASB)
Observation
Jesus and his disciples were at the home of their very dear friends, Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Mary was overcome with her love of Jesus, and with obedience to God, and therefore she anointed Jesus' feet with very costly perfume. Judas was indignant at the act. How could she do this; how could she waste something so expensive! He responds by saying she should have sold it and given the money to the poor. What he really meant was that she could give the money to him to manage "for the poor." Sadly, although Judas had been following Christ, listening to his teaching and watching his miracles, he had not really changed. Here was a man who was close enough to touch Jesus on a daily basis, and yet, in his heart he was still corrupt. He was the treasurer fo…

Man's Plans: God's Plans

Scripture
So when He heard that he was sick, He then stayed two days longer in the place where He was.
(John 11:6 NASB)
Then after this He said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.”
(John 11:7 NASB)
The disciples said to Him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone You, and are You going there again?”
(John 11:8 NASB)
Therefore Thomas, who is called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, so that we may die with Him.”
(John 11:16 NASB)
But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all,
(John 11:49 NASB)
nor do you take into account that it is expedient for you that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation not perish.”
(John 11:50 NASB) Observation
This story of Lazarus is one which I have read and heard many times throughout my life. I've always been fascinated by the fact that Jesus knew that Lazarus was dying and yet he waited until he was dead to come and see the family. In …

Figures of Speech

Scripture This figure of speech Jesus spoke to them, but they did not understand what those things were which He had been saying to them.
(John 10:6 NASB)
Observation
Jesus used parables and figures of speech to try and help the people understand who he really was and what was happening in the world around them. The truth was that the religious leaders of the day knew what he was talking about, but they didn't want to understand what he was saying because if they did, they would have to acknowledge that he was pointing fingers at them. That made them extremely uncomfortable and instead of accepting what he had to say, they became angry with him, blaming him for his choice of speech.
Application Today there are times that the message from the Lord comes to us through a figure of speech. Sometimes the Lord speaks through a story, or a situation, or someone's testimony and yet our response may be similar to that of the religious leaders of his day. If we reall…

Aunt Shirley

Scripture And His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?”
(John 9:2 NASB)
Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.
(John 9:3 NASB)
Therefore some of the Pharisees were saying, “This man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath.” But others were saying, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And there was a division among them.
(John 9:16 NASB)
And he said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped Him.
(John 9:38 NASB)
Observation
Jesus confronted a man who had been born blind. The people of his day were certain that the blindness was a form of punishment from God. Surely the man himself, or his parents had done something deserving of this man's blindness. Jesus came to bring good news to those who had been born with afflictions. The afflictions were not a result of their sin, or anyone else&#…

A Liar by Nature

Scripture “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
(John 8:44 NASB)
“But because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me.
(John 8:45 NASB)
Observation
We often talk about the nature of God, which is love. God, in the Holy Trinity is a relationship in which pure and holy love can be found as the Father loves the Son, and the Son loves the Father, and the Father loves the Spirit, who loves the Father, and loves the Son, who loves the Spirit, etc. It is an amazing relationship into which each and every one of us is invited. One would then think that the opposite of love -- or hate -- would define the devil, but that is not the case. Instead, Jesus says that in the devil, there is no truth. He is the master of deceit and lies. …

Water in the midst of drought

Scripture Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink.
(John 7:37 NASB)
“He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’”
(John 7:38 NASB)
But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
(John 7:39 NASB)
Observation
Jesus was preaching among many who were religious people, but were spiritually dry. They were going through the motions and following all the rules, but they had no life in them spiritually. Of course, this preaching made the religious leaders angry. How could he dare stand in front of the people and say what he did? He was revealing to them that he was the Messiah, and that it was through him that they could find living water which would quench their spiritual thirst for all of eternity.
Application …

Growing Spiritually

Scripture For in the eighth year of his reign while he was still a youth, he began to seek the God of his father David; and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of the high places, the Asherim, the carved images and the molten images.
(2 Chronicles 34:3 NASB)
Now in the eighteenth year of his reign, when he had purged the land and the house, he sent Shaphan the son of Azaliah, and Maaseiah an official of the city, and Joah the son of Joahaz the recorder, to repair the house of the LORD his God.
(2 Chronicles 34:8 NASB)
When they were bringing out the money which had been brought into the house of the LORD, Hilkiah the priest found the book of the law of the LORDgiven by Moses.
(2 Chronicles 34:14 NASB)
When the king heard the words of the law, he tore his clothes.
(2 Chronicles 34:19 NASB)
“Go, inquire of the LORD for me and for those who are left in Israel and in Judah, concerning the words of the book which has been found; for great is the wra…

The Glory

Scripture “I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, you will receive him.
(John 5:43 NASB)
“How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?
(John 5:44 NASB)
Observation
Jesus reveals much about himself and his nature and close relationship with his Father in this chapter. There is nothing that Jesus does apart from the Father -- he is connected in a very real sense to the God of all creation and yet, the people of the day continued to reject him. Jesus was representing God and the people didn't want to hear what he had to say. Others showed up representing themselves and their personal charisma, and the people clamored with excitement. They loved the praise which they received from one another and they considered this "the glory." They were willing to put up with a false type of glory because they didn't want to seek w…

Signs and Wonders

Scripture So Jesus said to him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe.”
(John 4:48 NASB)
Jesus said to him, “Go; your son lives.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started off.
(John 4:50 NASB)
This is again a second sign that Jesus performed when He had come out of Judea into Galilee.
(John 4:54 NASB)
Observation
Jesus had all the power of heaven and earth at his disposal. He could have put on great "magic" shows and yet this was not his mode of action. Instead Jesus came and lived a rather ordinary life until he began his public ministry. Even as he began that ministry he was cautious about his use of power. He didn't want people to be attracted to the power, but to knowing God in truth. I think we can hear the frustration in Jesus' voice when he says, "Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe." It is after this moment that Jesus goes ahead and heals the …