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Showing posts from October, 2012

Was it worth it?

Scripture “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?
(Mark 8:36 NASB)
“For what will a man give in exchange for his soul?
(Mark 8:37 NASB)
“For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”
(Mark 8:38 NASB)
Observation These words of Jesus come right after he tells them that they must deny themselves, take up their cross and follow him. However, if one doesn't do that, one does just the opposite. The opposite is to fight for your personal rights and your personal things. Yes, if you do this you might gain all kinds of power and wealth in this world, but is it worth it? Are you willing to exchange eternity for the things of this world?
Application
When we stop and think about the things that the world has to offer, we have to as ourselves, "was it worth it?" Jesus was askin…

What Do We Learn from Jesus' Activity?

Scripture Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side to Bethsaida, while He Himself was sending the crowd away.
(Mark 6:45 NASB)
After bidding them farewell, He left for the mountain to pray.
(Mark 6:46 NASB)
When it was evening, the boat was in the middle of the sea, and He was alone on the land.
(Mark 6:47 NASB)
Seeing them straining at the oars, for the wind was against them, at about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea; and He intended to pass by them.
(Mark 6:48 NASB)
But when they saw Him walking on the sea, they supposed that it was a ghost, and cried out;
(Mark 6:49 NASB)
for they all saw Him and were terrified. But immediately He spoke with them and said to them, “Take courage; it is I, do not be afraid.”
(Mark 6:50 NASB)
Then He got into the boat with them, and the wind stopped; and they were utterly astonished,
(Mark 6:51 NASB)
for they had not gained any insight from the inc…

Thorns

Scripture “And others are the ones on whom seed was sown among the thorns; these are the ones who have heard the word,
(Mark 4:18 NASB)
but the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.
(Mark 4:19 NASB)
Observation
Thorns are rather prickly things and are a nuisance when trying to work in the garden. Thorns appear on several occasions in the Bible. Jesus wears a crown of thorns on his head when he is being led to his crucifixion. Paul refers to his "thorn in the flesh," and here Jesus' parable speaks of seeds that are sown among thorns. The only time I've heard of thorns being a good thing is when they've been used as a defensive barrier, but even in this instance they are strategically placed to inflict pain. In this case the thorns are having a direct effect on the seeds. The seeds are not growing. Jesus goes on to give a definition of t…

No obstacles

Scripture When we entered Rome, Paul was allowed to stay by himself, with the soldier who was guarding him.
(Acts 28:16 NASB)
After three days Paul called together those who were the leading men of the Jews, and when they came together, he began saying to them, “Brethren, though I had done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans.
(Acts 28:17 NASB)
When they had set a day for Paul, they came to him at his lodging in large numbers; and he was explaining to them by solemnly testifying about the kingdom of God and trying to persuade them concerning Jesus, from both the Law of Moses and from the Prophets, from morning until evening.
(Acts 28:23 NASB)
And he stayed two full years in his own rented quarters and was welcoming all who came to him,
(Acts 28:30 NASB)
preaching the kingdom of God and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness, unhindered.
(Acts 28:31…

Respond Now!

Scripture:

Acts 24:25 And as he discussed justice, self-control, and the coming judgment, Felix became frightened and said, “Go away for the present; when I have an opportunity, I will send for you.”


Observation:


Paul had been taken to Caesarea where he was to stand trial.  The governor of the area was Felix, a rather corrupt man.  He made his money by taking bribes from those within his power.  Bribes were not the only thing that he had taken, he had also taken another man's wife.  Drusilla had been married to another man, a king from another region.  She had married him at a young age but by 16 had engaged in a relationship with Felix.  She was a Jewish woman who would have been raised in accordance with the laws of Moses and an expectation of righteous and upright living.  Now, she is around twenty years of age, divorced and married to her second husband, Felix.  It is this couple that invites Paul to argue the faith before them.  More than likely they were hoping to be entertai…

More than a Damascus Road Experience

Scripture But on the night immediately following, the Lord stood at his side and said, “Take courage; for as you have solemnly witnessed to My cause at Jerusalem, so you must witness at Rome also.”
(Acts 23:11 NASB)
Observation
Throughout this chapter in Acts we have insight into Paul's different encounters with Jesus Christ. Yes, he first meets him on the road to Damascus, but that is not the only time. Several times Jesus continues to come to Paul, leading him and giving him direction in life. In this final encounter we see that Jesus comes right to him in prison and speaks to him. Paul has no doubt about what he is to do, for Jesus has given him instructions as to what lies ahead.
Application
I think that many of us seek a Damascus Road type of experience. We want Jesus to blind us with a light and speak to us audibly. However, for many of us there will not be an experience like Paul's, and too often we focus on Paul's one encounter with Jesus. In …

Do Not Shrink

Scripture “And now, behold, I know that all of you, among whom I went about preaching the kingdom, will no longer see my face.
(Acts 20:25 NASB)
“Therefore, I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men.
(Acts 20:26 NASB)
“For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God.
(Acts 20:27 NASB)
Observation
Paul was saying his farewell to the people of Ephesus. He had come to love these people who had become his congregation. They were now followers of Jesus Christ because of his zeal and desire for them to know about the kingdom. So intent was he that he was able to say that he was innocent of the blood of all men. In other words, he had been so faithful in preaching the word to everyone that he was not guilty for those who did not respond. He had provided them with an opportunity because he didn't shrink from declaring the whole purpose of God.
Application What was the whole purpose of God? It goes back to Paul's …

Seasons of Ministry

Scripture And the Lord said to Paul in the night by a vision, “Do not be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent;
(Acts 18:9 NASB)
for I am with you, and no man will attack you in order to harm you, for I have many people in this city.”
(Acts 18:10 NASB)
And he settled there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.
(Acts 18:11 NASB)
Observation
Paul had many ups and downs in his life and ministry. When he arrived in Corinth he worked for a period of time as a tent-maker, supporting himself so that he could share the news about Jesus. After a while his companions arrived and they were able to support him so that he could work full-time preaching. This is what he did and yet, he was constantly under attack. The Lord came to him and spoke to him telling him that no longer did he need to be on his guard. He could now freely go on speaking. He didn't need to be silent because he was not going to be harmed. He obeyed and trust…

Leadership Principles from the Word

Scripture “An idiot will become intelligent When the foal of a wild donkey is born a man.
(Job 11:12 NASB)
So when they were sent away, they went down to Antioch; and having gathered the congregation together, they delivered the letter.
(Acts 15:30 NASB)
When they had read it, they rejoiced because of its encouragement.
(Acts 15:31 NASB)
Judas and Silas, also being prophets themselves, encouraged and strengthened the brethren with a lengthy message.
(Acts 15:32 NASB)
After they had spent time there, they were sent away from the brethren in peace to those who had sent them out.
(Acts 15:33 NASB)
Observation
As I read the different texts this morning different principles jumped out at me. First of all, the verse in Job is actually quite funny and I don't think I've ever paid any attention to it before. Job's friend is trying to give him advice and discover that his friend has quite a strong opinion about idiots! In other words, there are certain people o…

Stop making crooked the straight paths

Scripture:

Acts 13:9 But Saul, also known as Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him
Acts 13:10 and said, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord?


Observation:


Paul encountered a man who was a false prophet and also a magician.  He was influential with the leaders of the area, able to share with them what seemed to be great words of advice, as well as do magic acts which gave the appearance of great power.  However, when Paul met with this man, he could see right through him.  He could see that this man was simply trying to improve his personal image, gain power and use it for his personal benefit.  Also, while pursuing his own personal good, he was very willing to lead others astray.  God has provided straight pathways for us, but self-interest turns those paths into winding roads which lead to destruction.

Application:

As followers of Christ we must pray for a…

A Day to Give God the Glory!

Scripture And immediately an angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and died.
(Acts 12:23 NASB)
Observation
This simple little verse tells us the end of Herod's life. He wanted to believe that he was more powerful than God and he wanted to take the credit for the things he had accomplished. God had enough, and Herod dies an ugly death.
Application
Today is a special day in my life and I want to give God the glory! In just a couple of hours I will head to the famous Whitworth Hall at the University of Manchester where I have the privilege of participating in the graduation ceremonies, officially receiving my Ph.D. The journey here has been very long and arduous, and to be quite honest, I don't have the personal skill or ability to have completed this degree. However, I do believe that "with God all things are possible!"

It has been a six year journey that has brought me to this day. Actually, …

Not a God of Partiality

Scripture:

Acts 10:34 ¶ Then Peter began to speak to them: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality,
Acts 10:35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.

Observation:


Peter answered the call of God and moved out of his comfort zone to a people whom he had always considered unclean.  This experience was for him personally, but also corporately for the Jewish Christians who began to realize that the good news was for all the world.  Peter's message here expresses the fact that God does not show partiality.  God doesn't favor certain people over others.  This was a huge statement because it meant that God did not favor the Jews over the rest of the world.  The new covenant changed everything and now the door was open to the infilling of the Holy Spirit to all of those who would open their hearts and lives to God, allowing him to transform them into the people of God.

Application:


This statement by Peter is so very significant, the i…

Do you know Saul?

Scripture But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison.
(Acts 8:3 NASB)
Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest,
(Acts 9:1 NASB)
and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.
(Acts 9:2 NASB)
and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.”
(Acts 9:20 NASB)
Observation
Saul was a very capable and successful man who worked hard at everything he did. During the period of time when he was persecuting the new believers, he did it with everything he had. He breathed "threats and murder" against the disciples. He believed they were wrong and he was going to destroy them! He was very well connected politically and he had authority from the High Priest! He e…

Keeping Right On!

Scripture So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name.
(Acts 5:41 NASB)
And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.
(Acts 5:42 NASB)
Observation
The apostles were singularly focused. They knew what they were to be doing every single day and that was to tell others about Jesus. They wanted to be faithful to Jesus and so they gave everything they could to him every single day. Their positive feedback came in the form of punishment. When they were punished for spreading the word about him they rejoiced for it simply reinforced that they were doing what Jesus had called them to do.
Application
Sometimes it can be easy for me to become discouraged. Being back in Russia for a few days has reminded me about just how difficult life can be here. Simple tasks in the US become a major project and the emotional an…

Where does our walk take us?

Scripture How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
(Psalms 1:1 NASB)
But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night.
(Psalms 1:2 NASB)
He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.
(Psalms 1:3 NASB)
Observation
The Psalmist reminds us that God has prepared paths for us, if we simply choose to take those paths. There will always be those around us who will encourage us to go in a different direction. The wicked will be giving us counsel -- only we probably won't think that they are wicked. Instead we will believe that they are trying to give us wise, earthly advice. It will probably sound rather reasonable and logical to us, but if it is not God-directed, then what is it? Of course we think of those who are si…

Taking Time to Understand the Word

Scripture They read from the book, from the law of God, translating to give the sense so that they understood the reading.
(Nehemiah 8:8 NASB)
Observation
The walls of Jerusalem have been rebuilt and it is time for the people to celebrate and to recommit their lives in service to God. Ezra is called upon to bring out the holy book and to read from it the law of God. Interestingly, while it is written in Hebrew, the people are struggling to understand what it says and it needs to be translated for them. Why is that? Some of them had been living in Babylon and may have spoken that local language for most of their lives. What should have been their native language was now a foreign tongue, one with which they struggled. Also, through the years different words had taken on new meanings and so simply reading from the book they were unable to understand its meaning. It took a holy man of God to place the words from the book into context.
Application
I grew up in Germ…

Do not be Discouraged

Scripture So I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?”
(Nehemiah 6:3 NASB)
Then I sent a message to him saying, “Such things as you are saying have not been done, but you are inventing them in your own mind.”
(Nehemiah 6:8 NASB)
For all of them were trying to frighten us, thinking, “They will become discouraged with the work and it will not be done.” But now, O God, strengthen my hands.
(Nehemiah 6:9 NASB)
Moreover, they were speaking about his good deeds in my presence and reported my words to him. Then Tobiah sent letters to frighten me.
(Nehemiah 6:19 NASB)
Observation
Nehemiah was doing the job that God had called him to do and he was showing his leadership among the people, however, there were those on the outside who were doing everything they could to discourage him. Nehemiah had tried to be a noble and upright man. He hadn't even used the money sent…

Why were they there?

Scripture:

Neh. 3:12 Next to him Shallum son of Hallohesh, ruler of half the district of Jerusalem, made repairs, he and his daughters.
Luke 23:28 But Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.
Luke 23:29 For the days are surely coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.’
Luke 23:30 Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us’; and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’
Luke 23:31 For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

Observation:

In both of today's readings we find women present in rather improbably situations.  In the story from Nehemiah we find a ruler of Jerusalem who, along with his daughters is making repairs to the walls of the city.  Why were they there?  Some commentators suggest that they were not really physically present, rebuilding the walls, but simply were wealthy women who c…

Where does leadership begin?

Scripture When I heard these words, I sat down and wept and mourned for days; and I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven.
(Nehemiah 1:4 NASB)
“O Lord, I beseech You, may Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant and the prayer of Your servants who delight to revere Your name, and make Your servant successful today and grant him compassion before this man.”
(Nehemiah 1:11 NASB)
Observation
The book of Nehemiah has great lessons for leadership and Nehemiah himself becomes an example of the type of leadership that God desires. Right here in the opening chapter of the book we find Nehemiah hearing news of the situation in Jerusalem. He is overwhelmed with the condition of his homeland. A burden is placed on his heart and he cannot get away from the sense that God is asking him to respond to the situation. He literally goes into a state of depression as he grieves over what has happened in his homeland. For days he mourns and weeps, but not only …

Holiness Unto the Lord

Scripture And the LORD will be king over all the earth; in that day the LORD will be the only one, and His name the only one.
(Zechariah 14:9 NASB)
In that day there will be inscribed on the bells of the horses, “HOLY TO THE LORD.” And the cooking pots in the LORD’S house will be like the bowls before the altar.
(Zechariah 14:20 NASB)
Every cooking pot in Jerusalem and in Judah will be holy to the LORD of hosts; and all who sacrifice will come and take of them and boil in them. And there will no longer be a Canaanite in the house of the LORD of hosts in that day.
(Zechariah 14:21 NASB) Observation
This passage of scripture is the place where we find the old King James Version using the phrase "Holiness Unto the Lord." This is what was to be written or inscribed on the bells of the horses. What was the significance of this event? Zechariah is prophesying about a major change which will occur in the days ahead. In the past only the High Priests were the ones who…

Difficult Decisions

Scripture It happened that when He went into the house of one of the leaders of the Pharisees on the Sabbath to eat bread, they were watching Him closely.
(Luke 14:1 NASB)
And there in front of Him was a man suffering from dropsy.
(Luke 14:2 NASB)
And Jesus answered and spoke to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?”
(Luke 14:3 NASB)
But they kept silent. And He took hold of him and healed him, and sent him away.
(Luke 14:4 NASB)
And He said to them, “Which one of you will have a son or an ox fall into a well, and will not immediately pull him out on a Sabbath day?”
(Luke 14:5 NASB)
And they could make no reply to this.
(Luke 14:6 NASB)
Observation The Pharisees saw the world in black and white. They had memorized all the rules and regulations and believed that they were the protectors of those rules. They had no ability to think outside the box of those rules and when Jesus made them think that the moral law might be c…