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Showing posts from June, 2013

How Do You Measure Up?

Scripture:

Amos 7:7  ¶ This is what he showed me: the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb line, with a plumb line in his hand.
Amos 7:8 And the LORD said to me, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A plumb line.” Then the Lord said,
    “See, I am setting a plumb line
        in the midst of my people Israel;
        I will never again pass them by;
Amos 7:9     the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate,
        and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste,
        and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.”

Observation:

The Israelites were the wall that God had built.  They were to be the strong and powerful wall that would protect his sanctuary but they continually chose to follow other gods.  God was loving and patient and continually awaited their humility and return to him, but somehow they simply would not repent.  Now the time was coming when they would have to face judgment.  The plumb line would be used.  This was a device used to measur…

No One Ever Said It's Going to be Easy

Scripture:

2Tim. 4:1 ¶ In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I solemnly urge you:
2Tim. 4:2 proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching.
2Tim. 4:5 As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully.

Observation:


The call to ministry was never expected to be an easy one;  instead it was one that had to be carried with all the grace and strength that only Jesus Christ could provide.  The message of Jesus needed to be, and continues to need to be, spread throughout the world.  Sometimes that will be easy and people will respond, but at other times it will be extremely difficult and people will not be willing to listen.  That doesn't mean that we give up.  Instead we are to work to convince others, to rebuke when necessary, but to enc…

My Help Comes From the Lord

Scripture:

Psa. 121:0 ¶ A Song of Ascents.
Psa. 121:1     I lift up my eyes to the hills—
        from where will my help come?
Psa. 121:2     My help comes from the LORD,
        who made heaven and earth.

Psa. 121:3      ¶ He will not let your foot be moved;
        he who keeps you will not slumber.
Psa. 121:4     He who keeps Israel
        will neither slumber nor sleep.

Psa. 121:5      ¶ The LORD is your keeper;
        the LORD is your shade at your right hand.
Psa. 121:6     The sun shall not strike you by day,
        nor the moon by night.

Psa. 121:7      ¶ The LORD will keep you from all evil;
        he will keep your life.
Psa. 121:8     The LORD will keep
        your going out and your coming in
        from this time on and forevermore.

Observation:

The pagans had placed idols across the tops of the hills and it was in those places that they worshiped their gods.  The Psalmist knew that this was not where his help was to come from, but instead his help was to come from the one and on…

Holy Spirit and Human Need

Scripture:

Joel 3:1 ¶ For then, in those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem,
Joel 3:2 I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat, and I will enter into judgment with them there, on account of my people and my heritage Israel, because they have scattered them among the nations. They have divided my land,
Joel 3:3 and cast lots for my people, and traded boys for prostitutes, and sold girls for wine, and drunk it down.

Observation:

These verses come right near the end of Joel's prophecy regarding the last days and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.  Then we get a glimpse of the last days here on this earth and what that looks like for the people of the earth will have disregarded the leading of the Lord and will have moved into depravity.  The nations will be divided and God's holy people will be divided.  They will not be serving him in the way in which he desired.  God's holy people will have been boug…

Daily Training

Scripture:

1Tim. 4:6 ¶ If you put these instructions before the brothers and sisters, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound teaching that you have followed.
1Tim. 4:7 Have nothing to do with profane myths and old wives’ tales. Train yourself in godliness,
1Tim. 4:8 for, while physical training is of some value, godliness is valuable in every way, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.

Observation:

Here we find great instruction for our personal daily walk with Jesus Christ, if we truly desire to be a good servant.  We are to be nourished on a regular basis.  How long can we go without physical food?  Not for too long and therefore we should not go too long without spiritual food.  Just as the physical body needs to be regularly fed, so our spiritual lives must also be fed.  But there is also spiritual discipline involved.  Just as we must eat right, we must also exercise to keep our physical bodies fit. …

Are you sharing the good news?

Scripture:

2Kings 7:8 When these leprous men had come to the edge of the camp, they went into a tent, ate and drank, carried off silver, gold, and clothing, and went and hid them. Then they came back, entered another tent, carried off things from it, and went and hid them.
2Kings 7:9 ¶ Then they said to one another, “What we are doing is wrong. This is a day of good news; if we are silent and wait until the morning light, we will be found guilty; therefore let us go and tell the king’s household.”

Observation:

Elisha had promised that the siege was going to be lifted but it was hard for anyone to believe.  The people within the walls of the city were starving to death but there were two men with leprosy who had been forced to live outside the walls of the city.  Finally they realized that death was near so why not scope out the enemy camp and see if they might be able to get a morsel of food.  They were not allowed inside the city for they were unclean so they really had no hope.  They …

Saving Children From Slavery

Scripture:

2Kings 4:1 ¶ Now the wife of a member of the company of prophets cried to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead; and you know that your servant feared the LORD, but a creditor has come to take my two children as slaves.”
2Kings 4:2 Elisha said to her, “What shall I do for you? Tell me, what do you have in the house?” She answered, “Your servant has nothing in the house, except a jar of oil.”
2Kings 4:3 He said, “Go outside, borrow vessels from all your neighbors, empty vessels and not just a few.
2Kings 4:4 Then go in, and shut the door behind you and your children, and start pouring into all these vessels; when each is full, set it aside.”
2Kings 4:5 So she left him and shut the door behind her and her children; they kept bringing vessels to her, and she kept pouring.
2Kings 4:6 When the vessels were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another vessel.” But he said to her, “There are no more.” Then the oil stopped flowing.
2Kings 4:7 She came and told the man of God, and…

What Do You Want?

Scripture:

2Kings 2:9 ¶ When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.” Elisha said, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.”

Observation:

Elisha had accepted the calling of God to be a prophet like Elijah but now Elijah would be leaving him.  Elisha could have asked for just about anything, including power and position but that's not what was important to him.  He wanted to be a great prophet of God, serving God just like his "father" Elijah.  He didn't ask for something for himself, but instead asked for a double share of the spirit -- something that would glorify God. 

Application:

As a child I always loved those shows where the Genie would offer someone three wishes.  You were left in suspense wondering what it was that they would wish for!  I thought it would make sense to wish for a thousand more wishes :)  But there was often a moral to the story -- shouldn't you be wishing for something…

Devoted To Prayer

Scripture:

Col. 4:2 ¶ Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with thanksgiving.
Col. 4:3 At the same time pray for us as well that God will open to us a door for the word, that we may declare the mystery of Christ, for which I am in prison,
Col. 4:4 so that I may reveal it clearly, as I should.

Observation:

In these final words of instructions to the church in Colossae we discover what is really important for a Christ follower.  They are to be devoted to a life of prayer but not a prayer life that dulls the senses, but instead a prayer life that makes one alert.  Prayer is to be filled with thanksgiving and prayer for others, and while praying for others we must pray for doors to be opened to spreading the word and that the message may be clearly understood.

Application:


Do we really understand what prayer is all about?  So often our prayer lists are filled with concerns for those who are sick.  It's not wrong to pray for those who are sick but if that becomes the extent of …

God of the Hills and the Valleys

Scripture:

1Kings 20:28 A man of God approached and said to the king of Israel, “Thus says the LORD: Because the Arameans have said, ‘The LORD is a god of the hills but he is not a god of the valleys,’ therefore I will give all this great multitude into your hand, and you shall know that I am the LORD.”

Observation:

The Arameans mistakenly thought that God was like their gods who were placed up on the hills, therefore they thought he could only fight battles for the Israelites on the hills.  Instead, God promised his people victory because he is the God of the hills, but also the God of the valleys!

Application:

How often are we also mistaken that God is only in the hill-top experiences of life?  It seems that when we are on the mountain top we experience the joy of the Lord in powerful ways.  Those are good and great days but we all know that the valleys will come as well.  The valleys will come in different ways for each one of us.  Today I know that there are friends who are spending t…

Would You Leave it All to Follow the Lord?

Scripture:

1Kings 19:19 ¶ So he set out from there, and found Elisha son of Shaphat, who was plowing. There were twelve yoke of oxen ahead of him, and he was with the twelfth. Elijah passed by him and threw his mantle over him.
1Kings 19:20 He left the oxen, ran after Elijah, and said, “Let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you.” Then Elijah said to him, “Go back again; for what have I done to you?”
1Kings 19:21 He returned from following him, took the yoke of oxen, and slaughtered them; using the equipment from the oxen, he boiled their flesh, and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out and followed Elijah, and became his servant.

Observation:


Elijah had been told by God who his successor would be and so he went out to find Elisha.  He didn't find Elisha in some prophet school, or even doing what we might consider "prophet" work.  He was a man out working in his fields.  Interestingly if he had 12 yoke of oxen, then Elisha was a wealthy …

What Is Working in You?

Scripture:

Colossians 1:28
He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ.
29 To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.


Observation:

We are constantly presented with the concept of synergism in the Christian life.  There is an expectation on the part of God that his people will actively participate in God's work in the world.  This work is to go and make disciples of all nations.  Paul was concerned about this work and ministry every day of his life.  Not only was he helping to bring new people to Christ, but he was leading them to a life of full maturity in Christ.  While engaged in this work Paul did put forth effort, but this was combined with Christ's energy.  When the two combine we discover this synergism and Christ's energy explodes and becomes something dynamic in the life of the Apostle.  The proclamation and admonition are not just Paul…

What Happens When Good People Disagree?

Scripture:

Phil. 4:2 ¶ I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord.
Phil. 4:3 Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.


Observation:

These two little verses shed a little light on the church situation in Philippi, which was located in Macedonia.  The church in Philippi may have been a bit unique in regard to the strong female influence.  The laws of Macedonia vs. the laws of Greece were quite different in regard to women.  Women were allowed to have positions of leadership in Macedonia, whereas they weren't in Greece.  The first person to become a believer in Philippi was Lydia and she hosted the church in her home.  There are many differing theories on who Euodia and Syntyche were but most agree that they were both women and more than likely leaders within the church in Philippi.  It is e…

Pressing On

Scripture:

Phil. 3:12 ¶ Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.
Phil. 3:13 Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,
Phil. 3:14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.

Observation:

Paul, the one who has been living faithfully in Christ for many years now recognizes that there is still always more ahead in the Christian walk.  There is never time to simply sit down and think that we have arrived, instead there is the constant realization that there is more.  The goal is to be united with Christ through the resurrection, therefore, as long as we live in the flesh, we must continue to press on.  Jesus was the ultimate example, he pressed on through death becoming victorious through his resurrection.  Jesus has broken through all the…

Leadership Paradigms

Leadership Paradigms
Scripture:
2Chronicles 10:16 When all Israel saw that the king refused to listen to them, they answered the king:
“What share do we have in David,     what part in Jesse’s son? To your tents, Israel!     Look after your own house, David!” So all the Israelites went home. 17 But as for the Israelites who were living in the towns of Judah, Rehoboam still ruled over them.
18 King Rehoboam sent out Adoniram,[a] who was in charge of forced labor, but the Israelites stoned him to death. King Rehoboam, however, managed to get into his chariot and escape to Jerusalem. 19 So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day.
Phil. 2:3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
Observation:
What an incredible contrast between Rehoboam and Jesus.  Both of them were from the line of David.  Rehoboam was only two gen…

Exalting Christ in Your Body

Scripture:

Phil. 1:20 It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be put to shame in any way, but that by my speaking with all boldness, Christ will be exalted now as always in my body, whether by life or by death.
Phil. 1:21 For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain.


Observation:

Paul is writing from his own personal experience and now he is reflecting on his life and work.  He knows that he is facing the prospect of death, but in it all he wants Christ to be exalted.  The goal is to be like Christ, and that means living like Christ in the flesh.  So, to live is to be like Christ, to die is to be with Christ.  For Paul, either is a win!

Application:

Paul never lets us to get away with thinking that our Christian life is something that is in the distance.  Instead, Paul wants us to live and exalt Christ in our bodies.  This is really quite contrary to what the world is saying to us these days and it makes it difficult to live the Christian life within the kingdom, because it i…

True Strength Comes from the Lord

Scripture:

Eph. 6:10 ¶ Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power.
Eph. 6:11 Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
Eph. 6:12 For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
Eph. 6:13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.

Observation:

Yesterday the wisdom of Solomon reminded us that simple human strength, the use of brute force is often foolish.  Wisdom comes in knowing where and how to sharpen the tools to be used effectively.  At the same time it is important to note the true source of strength.  It is not human strength or power which will help us to succeed in this world, but instead it is the power which we find in the Lord.  This sec…

Stronger is Not Necessarily Better

Scripture:

Eccl. 10:10     If the iron is blunt, and one does not whet the edge,
        then more strength must be exerted;
        but wisdom helps one to succeed. (NRSV)

Ecc. 10:10     If the ax is dull
        and its edge unsharpened,
    more strength is needed,
            but skill will bring success. (NIV)

Observation:

Reading through these nuggets of wisdom in Ecclesiastes you have some "duh" moments!  Of course if you're using a dull axe you have to exert more effort.  It takes a very strong person to try and chop wood with a dull axe.  Not only do you need a strong person, but it could be quite dangerous.  Think of the back and eye injuries which could ensue.  But the job doesn't have to be that difficult.  The wise person will take the time to sharpen the blade and then the process will go much more smoothly.  No longer is brute force necessary, but the skilled worker of most any size will be able to accomplish the task.

Application:

When I was a child my mom would…

Words as a Means of Grace

Scripture:

Eph. 4:29 Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.

Observation:

This entire chapter is about living the holy life, one that has left the old life behind.  Included in this new life is one in which the tongue is controlled.  This is a spiritual discipline for the tongue can be used as a tool for good or for evil and it is one of those instruments which we often simply "let fly."  The Ephesians (and we too) are admonished to not let any "evil talk come out of your mouths."  The root of the word "evil" here is "corrupt."  This should take us back to the fallen state of humanity when the true humanity which God created was corrupted by sin.  When sin has the power and influence over your life (and your tongue) then your language is corrupt and evil.  This is the exact opposite of what God's intention is for all of humanity so…

The Lord is My Strength

Scripture:

Psa. 18:1     I love you, O LORD, my strength.
Psa. 18:2     The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer,
        my God, my rock in whom I take refuge,
        my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

Observation:

The declaration of love found here is foundational to the relationship which we are to have with the Lord.  Love of the Lord is first and foremost and when that relationship is in the right order, then the Lord is our strength.  However, this word here means so much more than when we simply think of strength, but rather it means the source or the fountain.  The Lord is strength but he is also the source of all that we need, this is an unending fountain of strength which can supply all our needs.  The second verse takes us into a description of the the strength which is found in the Lord.  These are mostly military metaphors which would speak to David, but as we move about our daily lives we need the eternal strength and protection provided by Go…

What Are We Created For?

Scripture:

Eph. 2:10 For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.

Observation:

In this letter to the Ephesians we find this short sentence that explains so much about who we are.  We are God's creation!  There is no doubt from whom we come -- we come from God and from God alone.  We were created in Christ Jesus -- through Jesus' creative abilities we have been made and we were made with a purpose.  We were created to be God's holy people.  This was God's intent in his creation and we, as his people are to reflect Jesus Christ, doing good works in the world.  This is interestingly placed right after the writer has made it clear that we are not saved by works.  The place of good works is simply in the life of the Christ-follower who has been transformed and now does good works because their original condition or state has been restored.  Because we are saved, we now do good works because we are …

The Only Wise God

Scripture:

Rom. 16:27 to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever! Amen.

Observation:

This Doxology at the end of the epistle to the Romans reminds us that there is only one wise God and that he is revealed to us through Jesus Christ.  The wisdom of God is incarnate in the very person of Jesus Christ and his life is a revelation of God and God's interaction with the world for all of us.  Jesus is interceding for us and therefore our prayers through him bring praise and glory to God.  All the glory should be for God forever and ever.

Application:

The phrase "only wise God" really struck me for I'm afraid that there are a lot of people following a number of foolish gods.  Wisdom implies two facets;  on the one hand there is discernment or perception.  The one who is wise takes the time to see and to understand what is truly happening and then determines a response, and the response is appropriate for the situation.  This is truly wisdom.  As we…

Hope, Joy and Peace

Scripture:

Rom. 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Observation:

Paul expresses his desires and concerns for the people of God over and over throughout this epistle.  The Romans (and we) are to be God's holy people.  All along the way we get a little glimpse of what that means.  We are to partake in the very nature of God and here we see that God is the God of hope and it is in the hope of God that we discover peace and joy.  This peace and joy comes to the people by way of the Holy Spirit who fills us with God's hope.  When we have hope in God, then the Holy Spirit enters every crevice of who we are and there is an abiding sense of peace and joy in every aspect of our lives. 

Application:


When we first went to Russia in 1992 the situation seemed pretty hopeless.  Economically and politically everything had fallen apart --and continued to fall apart.  Lawlessness ruled for a number…