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Showing posts from November, 2012

Foolish Wise Men (and women)

Scripture Professing to be wise, they became fools,
(Romans 1:22 NASB)
and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.
(Romans 1:23 NASB)
Observation
Faith in God is counter-cultural and Paul knew it. Even the wise men of his day, those who had studied in the great academies of the known world struggled with having faith in God. Why? Because they wanted to believe in something that they could see and touch. The result was that though they professed to be wise, they were really fools for they could not look beyond the surface level and find God in the mix. God, in his incredibly creative ability is revealed in all of creation. Instead of seeing the beauty and complexity of God in all things, they chose to worship the things they could see. This folly resulted in them worshiping the statue of a human. If that wasn't enough they also worshiped statues of…

Rejoice, Pray and be Thankful

Scripture Rejoice always;
(1 Thessalonians 5:16 NASB)
pray without ceasing;
(1 Thessalonians 5:17 NASB)
in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
(1 Thessalonians 5:18 NASB)
Observation
Speaking to the believers in Thessalonica Paul had instructions for their daily spiritual lives. They were to make an effort to love one another and for their entire lives to be bathed in the love of Christ. How as this to happen? They were to "rejoice always; pray without ceasing; [and] in everything give thanks." These three were key to the kind of spiritual life that was to define the Thessalonians, and us as well.
Application
There are days when I simply don't want to rejoice and I want an excuse to be a grump! If I want an excuse, I can generally find one. However, on the other side of the spectrum, If I choose to rejoice, I generally can find an excuse to be joyful and rejoice as well. Therefore, there is a choice involved w…

As gentle as a nursing mother

Scripture But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children.
(1 Thessalonians 2:7 NASB)
Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us.
(1 Thessalonians 2:8 NASB)
Observation
It's interesting that the Apostle Paul uses this metaphor of a nursing mother for himself as he considers how he and the others who were traveling with him had cared for the people in the church of Thessalonica. Paul traveled during much of his ministry experience spending chunks of time in one place and then in another. Paul's spiritual leadership should be an example to all of us for his focus was not simply on teaching in an unattached setting with his students, instead he became deeply and personally involved in the lives of those whom God had placed into his care.
Application
One of the greatest experiences in life was be…

"What shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?"

Scripture Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Crucify Him!”
(Matthew 27:22 NASB)
Observation
Pilate had examined this man Jesus and he could find nothing wrong with him. The people shouted out even louder that they wanted him crucified. Pilate was frustrated by their response but his question to them is quite specific. He realized that this man whose name was Jesus, was also the Christ, and so in his question to them he literally asks them what do you want me to do with the one who is called your Messiah?
Application
I believe that this question reaches down through time and confronts us today as well. What are we going to do with Jesus -- the Messiah? This is the One who was promised to all of mankind -- the One who came and lived and died to take away the sin of the world. What are we going to do with the one who sets us free?

Today we may say that we don't crucify him, but maybe we do something w…

What's Important to Jesus?

Scripture Matt. 25:40 And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ (NRSV)
Observation
The Pharisees were hung up on wanting to do really "important" stuff for Jesus. So much so that they had lengthy conversations about how to wear their clothing and how to pray and when to pray and how to walk. They were proud of themselves for being so spiritual, and yet, none of their spirituality involved a relationship with the poor and the needy. It was all about their own personal "spirituality" and how that looked from the outside. Jesus let them know that he really didn't care about those things. The things that they had poured themselves into, the things that they thought were so important, Jesus saw as having no value. Why? Because God's people were to be his ambassadors on the earth and this God of holy love desires for everyone to know him, …

Are we envious?

Scripture ‘Take what is yours and go, but I wish to give to this last man the same as to you.
(Matthew 20:14 NASB)
‘Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?’
(Matthew 20:15 NASB)
“So the last shall be first, and the first last.”
(Matthew 20:16 NASB)
Observation
So often the religious leaders were the ones who were gathered around Jesus. Maybe they were genuinely curious, or possibly they were simply trying to catch him in some kind of contradiction. They certainly didn't have his best interest in mind, but instead were seeking to make themselves feel better. Jesus begins to talk about the ones who are laborers in the kingdom. At this point I'm sure they began to nod in agreement for certainly they were the ones who had been working from day one. They were the most qualified to be doing the work. They were the most educated. They had the best resumes. They had dressed for the part and t…

Can I be childlike?

Scripture:

Matt. 18:1 ¶ At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
Matt. 18:2 He called a child, whom he put among them,
Matt. 18:3 and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Matt. 18:4 Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Matt. 18:5 Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. 

Observation:

The disciples had an on-going dispute among themselves and those who had been faithful in following Christ were wondering what they were going to get in return.  They saw this as an earthly kingdom and surely each one of them would be assigned a job in Jesus' leadership team.  Who was going to have the best jobs?  Had Jesus been thinking about whom he could have sitting in the positions of greatest authority, on his right and his left?  All of this was probably a frustration to Jesus and I'm sure he wondered …

Still more don't get it.

Scripture And the disciples came to the other side of the sea, but they had forgotten to bring any bread.
(Matthew 16:5 NASB)
And Jesus said to them, “Watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”
(Matthew 16:6 NASB)
They began to discuss this among themselves, saying, “He said that because we did not bring any bread.”
(Matthew 16:7 NASB)
But Jesus, aware of this, said, “You men of little faith, why do you discuss among yourselves that you have no bread?
(Matthew 16:8 NASB)
“Do you not yet understand or remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets full you picked up?
(Matthew 16:9 NASB)
“Or the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many large baskets full you picked up?
(Matthew 16:10 NASB)
“How is it that you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread? But beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”
(Matthew 16:11 NASB)
Then they understood that He did not say to beware of the leaven of…

They didn't get it!

Scripture:

Matt. 12:1 ¶ At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the sabbath; his disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat.
Matt. 12:2 When the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the sabbath.”
Matt. 12:3 He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry?
Matt. 12:4 He entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him or his companions to eat, but only for the priests.
Matt. 12:5 Or have you not read in the law that on the sabbath the priests in the temple break the sabbath and yet are guiltless?
Matt. 12:6 I tell you, something greater than the temple is here.
Matt. 12:7 But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.
Matt. 12:8 For the Son of Man is lord of the sabbath.”

Observation:

In yesterday's reading Jesus was trying to teach…

Do you get it yet?

Scripture “But go and learn what this means: ‘I DESIRECOMPASSION, AND NOT SACRIFICE,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
(Matthew 9:13 NASB)
Observation
Jesus is speaking to the religious rulers who believe that they have their act together spiritually. They have been doing everything that they can to follow the letter of the law, but in their hearts they are harsh and stubborn people. They have been studying the scriptures their entire lives and can quote long passages of scripture. That is why Jesus responds the way that he does. He tells them to go and learn what a particular passage means and then he quotes from Hosea 6:6. These people would have studied the scriptures growing up and they should have already known this verse which says that God values compassion, steadfast love, or mercy more than sacrifices. That is, Jesus is much more concerned about the state of their heart, rather than a strict enforcement of the law. The love of God …

What Kind of Fruit?

Scripture “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.
(Matthew 7:15 NASB)
“You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?
(Matthew 7:16 NASB)
“So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.
(Matthew 7:17 NASB)
“A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit.
(Matthew 7:18 NASB)
“Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
(Matthew 7:19 NASB)
“So then, you will know them by their fruits.
(Matthew 7:20 NASB)
Observation
In Jesus' day there were those who claimed to be prophets and who enjoyed a life of religious preaching. Sadly, their motivations were completely wrong and selfish. Jesus said to look at the fruit that they bore and this would reveal what kind of prophet that they were. Only good trees can bear good fruit. If there is no good fruit then t…

Who is being baptized?

Scripture But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
(Matthew 3:7 NASB)
“Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance;
(Matthew 3:8 NASB)
and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father’; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham.
(Matthew 3:9 NASB)
“The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
(Matthew 3:10 NASB)
Observation
I was struck in my reading today that it was the Pharisees and Sadducees who were coming out to see John the Baptist and to be baptized by him. These were the religious leaders of the day and yet they were coming and being baptized by John. Why would they do that? Was God truly speaking to them and were they repentant in their hearts, or was something else …

Parents save up for your children

Scripture Here for this third time I am ready to come to you, and I will not be a burden to you; for I do not seek what is yours, but you; for children are not responsible to save up for their parents, but parents for their children.
(2 Corinthians 12:14 NASB)
I will most gladly spend and be expended for your souls. If I love you more, am I to be loved less?
(2 Corinthians 12:15 NASB)
Observation
Paul was talking here in a spiritual and physical sense. He was going to come and visit his spiritual children in Corinth for the third time and he wanted to make sure that they understood that he was not coming to be a burden on them. Why? Because he was their spiritual father and as such, it was his responsibility to care for them, and not for them to care for him. He was ready to give out all that he had for them because of his deep love for those children.
Application
As human parents we know what it's like to want to do everything we possibly can for our children. …

Perfecting Holiness

Scripture Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
(2 Corinthians 7:1 NASB)
Observation Paul is talking to people who are already followers of Jesus Christ but he is challenging them in their Christian walk. There is more to this relationship than simply accepted Jesus as their Lord. Instead, there has to be a lifetime of transformation into which every believer is called. We have the great promises of God and that he will do all that he has promised, but we must also hold up our end of the bargain. We must realize that the goal is holiness, or becoming like Christ. If that is our goal, then we ought to pattern and/or fashion our lives after the goal. If my goal is to become like Christ, I need to work at it as well. Jesus did not lead a life of defilement, so why should we? Why should we continue to do things in the flesh that Jesus would never have d…

Reconciliation

Scripture Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.
(2 Corinthians 5:17 NASB)
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)
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
(2 Corinthians 5:20 NASB)
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
(2 Corinthians 5:21 NASB)
Observation
Jesus is the master reconciler. The gulf between God and humanity had grown wide as a result of sin and no matter how hard humanity might try they simply could not make thei…

Job's Reward

Scripture The LORD restored the fortunes of Job when he prayed for his friends, and the LORD increased all that Job had twofold.
(Job 42:10 NASB)
Then all his brothers and all his sisters and all who had known him before came to him, and they ate bread with him in his house; and they consoled him and comforted him for all the adversities that the LORD had brought on him. And each one gave him one piece of money, and each a ring of gold.
(Job 42:11 NASB)
The LORD blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; and he had 14,000 sheep and 6,000 camels and 1,000 yoke of oxen and 1,000 female donkeys.
(Job 42:12 NASB)
He had seven sons and three daughters.
(Job 42:13 NASB)
He named the first Jemimah, and the second Keziah, and the third Keren-happuch.
(Job 42:14 NASB)
In all the land no women were found so fair as Job’s daughters; and their father gave them inheritance among their brothers.
(Job 42:15 NASB)
After this, Job lived 140 years, and saw his sons and his…

"If" Christ is preached?

Scripture Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?
(1 Corinthians 15:12 NASB)
If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.
(1 Corinthians 15:19 NASB)
Observation
The absolute power of God is revealed in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. His resurrection, the first of its kind for a human body, was to pave the way for the hope of the resurrection for all of humanity. In Christ we are all changed and we can know resurrection power. Christ and his work in incarnated human flesh is the central message of the Bible. Jesus came and set things right for corrupted humanity and it all ends in the resurrected Christ. Here is the power of God, the victory over sin and death and an eternal victory, showing us that we will all be resurrected just like him. The Muslims would like to believe that Jesus was a good man who lived a good life but there…

Love: The Greatest Gift!

Scripture Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away.
(1 Corinthians 13:8 NASB)
For we know in part and we prophesy in part;
(1 Corinthians 13:9 NASB)
but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.
(1 Corinthians 13:10 NASB)
When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.
(1 Corinthians 13:11 NASB)
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.
(1 Corinthians 13:12 NASB)
But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.
(1 Corinthians 13:13 NASB)
Observation
Paul is affirming the most important thing which should exist in the life of a believer and that is love. He mentions some of the gifts he had talked about in the…

The Greater Gifts

Scripture Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.
(1 Corinthians 12:27 NASB)
And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues.
(1 Corinthians 12:28 NASB)
All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they?
(1 Corinthians 12:29 NASB)
All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they?
(1 Corinthians 12:30 NASB)
But earnestly desire the greater gifts.
(1 Corinthians 12:31 NASB)
Observation The church in Corinth was going through a time of great difficulty for there were those who were displaying spiritual gifts that were creating division in the church. It was the more flamboyant gifts that were getting the attention of the people. Suddenly there were those through whom God wa…

What will you do for the gospel?

Scripture For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more.
(1 Corinthians 9:19 NASB)
I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.
(1 Corinthians 9:23 NASB)
Observation Paul was consumed with loving service to the Lord. This was his passion, day in and day out. The result was that he was constantly looking for those who did not know Jesus Christ. He was willing to change his plans, he was willing to be flexible, he was willing to lay down his own rights so that he might be able to bring someone to the Lord. There was nothing selfish about his actions. Instead, his goal was to be a partaker of the gospel, which meant that ultimately he wanted to participate in Christ. Christ was in him, but he was also in-Christ and this co-mingling with the Gospel so penetrated his very being that Paul couldn't help but be like Christ. Christ's passion for the lost consumed him and…

Arrogance?

Scripture Now concerning things sacrificed to idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies.
(1 Corinthians 8:1 NASB)
If anyone supposes that he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know;
(1 Corinthians 8:2 NASB)
but if anyone loves God, he is known by Him.
(1 Corinthians 8:3 NASB)
Observation
Paul throws in a simple phrase here about knowledge. In this case it is related to knowing about food that has been sacrificed to idols. If they knew it had been offered to idols, they felt that they should not eat it. Somehow this did not seem to be God-honoring. The problem is that the meat that had been offered to idols was then sold as sort of "second hand." Obviously it was much cheaper than "first hand" meat that had not been used as a sacrifice. The rich people were able to purchase the "first hand" meat, but the poor people could not. The people with the "knowledge" in th…