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Showing posts from July, 2013

Let the Redeemed of the Lord Tell Their Story

Scripture:

Psalm 107
1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    his love endures forever.
2 Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story—
    those he redeemed from the hand of the foe,
3 those he gathered from the lands,
    from east and west, from north and south.

Observation:

Throughout the centuries the people of God suffered because of their infidelity.  They were sent to other nations, into exile, because they failed to worship the one true God.  But when God's people again began to seek his face, the situation changed.  God simply wanted them to be in a loving relationship with him, and God was jealous for their love.  As they began to re-experience God's goodness and love they had to proclaim it day in and day out.  The people of God rejoiced and gave thanks to him for who he was.

This Psalm leads us through a great exercise in prayer.  First of all, may we take the time to give thanks to the Lord for who he is -- his very nature is good and filled with holy love that …

I'm Longing for Beulah Land

Scripture:

Isaiah 62:4
No longer will they call you Deserted,
    or name your land Desolate.
But you will be called Hephzibah,
    and your land Beulah;
for the Lord will take delight in you,
    and your land will be married.

Observation:

The prophet could see a day in which the Israelites would be completely restored.  What would that restoration be like?  Her land would no longer be deserted, nor would it be filled with ruins.  Instead, the land would again be filled with God's people -- the people being called "Hephzibah" -- I delight in you.  This was the name of King Hezekiah's wife, and the two of them represented a period of faithfulness in loving and serving the Lord.  God would again delight in his own people!  The land itself would be restored and would be known as "Beulah" -- which means married.  The land itself would be consecrated to God -- married to him.  This is the picture of restoration for all the people of God.

Application:

Today happens to be o…

Narrow Views of Grace

Scripture:

Is. 55:1      ¶ Ho, everyone who thirsts,
        come to the waters;
    and you that have no money,
        come, buy and eat!
    Come, buy wine and milk
        without money and without price.

Is. 55:6      ¶ Seek the LORD while he may be found,
        call upon him while he is near;

Is. 55:8     For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
        nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD.
Is. 55:9     For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
        so are my ways higher than your ways
        and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Observation:

There is nothing in life that satisfies us like the beauty of walking in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  Once we have tasted the richness of an experience with him we want to go back to that well over and over again.  That's the beauty of thirsting!  When we are thirsty spiritually we can go back to the one who provides water that sustains us in a way that we could never imagine -- and when we are spiritually hungry he provide…

A Mighty Chorus of Holiness

Scripture:

2Pet. 1:4 Thus he has given us, through these things, his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of lust, and may become participants of the divine nature.
2Pet. 1:5 For this very reason, you must make every effort to support your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge,
2Pet. 1:6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness,
2Pet. 1:7 and godliness with mutual affection, and mutual affection with love.
2Pet. 1:8 For if these things are yours and are increasing among you, they keep you from being ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Observation:

This section of Scripture is an invitation into the holy life -- the calling for each and every single follower of Jesus Christ.  God's desire for all of his children is that they become "participants of the divine nature."  This is laid out for us in …

Sober Discipline

Scripture:

1Pet. 5:7 Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.
1Pet. 5:8 Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour.
1Pet. 5:9 Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering.
1Pet. 5:10 And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you.
1Pet. 5:11 To him be the power forever and ever. Amen. (NRSV)

1 Peter 5:8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a l…

What Feeds Your Desires?

What Feeds Your Desires?
Scripture:
1 Peter 4:1-2  Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same intention (for whoever has suffered in the flesh has finished with sin), so as to live for the rest of your earthly life no longer by human desires but by the will of God.
Observation: These early Christians were facing horrible persecution and martyrdom.  The physical suffering under Nero was almost unimaginable as he treated Christians with complete and total contempt, at times covering them with tar and burning them as lanterns in his gardens.  
Jesus had suffered in the flesh and therefore all Christians should be prepared for the same.  The author is not saying that by suffering in the flesh you put sin to death, but that those who have put on Christ and have gone on to suffer have done so because they have put sin to death.  It is a result of living for Christ, with the mind turned toward him and all desires for him.  When this happens "the thi…

Standing Firm in the Midst of Persecution

Scripture:

1Pet. 3:15 but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you;
1Pet. 3:16 yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame.


Observation:

Peter was writing to believers who were facing horrible persecution under the leadership of Nero.  It is hard for us to even imagine what that must have looked like on a daily basis and yet in the midst of it all, he was trying to encourage those who had become followers of Jesus Christ.  He begins here by encouraging them to "sanctify Christ as Lord."  This language is important as we realize that the Emperor would have required people to engage in Emperor worship and therefore to declare that "Caesar is Lord."  These followers of Christ had to have holy hearts, hearts that were sanctified to be ab…

Have You Tasted The Word?

Scripture:

1Pet. 2:1  ¶ Rid yourselves, therefore, of all malice, and all guile, insincerity, envy, and all slander.
1Pet. 2:2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation—
1Pet. 2:3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.

Observation:

The connection here is directly to 1Pet. 1:22,  "Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth."  The one who has been "born again" is to actively participate in their new life.  This new section begins by speaking of actions which are to be taken.  There are certain behaviors which are unacceptable to the follower of Jesus Christ.  We are to rid ourselves of those for they have been our spiritual food and they are leading us to destruction.  Instead, we are to long for the good stuff -- the good food.  This food is "pure, spiritual milk" that will help us to grow in our faith.  This is what we receive when we feed on the word of God.  Verse…

Raising the Bar

Scripture:

1Pet. 1:22  ¶ Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart.

Observation:


There was an expectation that followers of Jesus Christ would continue to grow in their faith and that they would live in obedience to him.  Barnes noted, "The apostles were never afraid of referring to human agency as having an important part in saving the soul."  In other words, you didn't just wait around for God to save you, but you became an active participant in the life of faith, and by living in obedience moved on to higher heights of your spiritual life.  The result of moving into a deeper relationship through obedience is participating in the very nature of Christ and thereby discovering his love.  This is why the law can be summed up in love of God and love of neighbor.  Paul said that we were to be imitators of Christ.  Christ lived a life of obedience to the Father and if he liv…

Strength and Courage

Scripture:

2Chr. 32:7 “Be strong and of good courage. Do not be afraid or dismayed before the king of Assyria and all the horde that is with him; for there is one greater with us than with him.
2Chr. 32:8 With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the LORD our God, to help us and to fight our battles.” The people were encouraged by the words of King Hezekiah of Judah.

Observation:


King Hezekiah called the people of Judah back to a faithful relationship with God.  They had stopped worshiping the foreign gods and Hezekiah had the places of worship destroyed.  Now, as a result of their actions the enemy was approaching and as that day came they prepared for what awaited them.  Hezekiah sent his men outside the city walls where they filled up and contaminated all of the springs of water.  They knew that even a large army could not survive for long without water!  At the same time they established a system for water to be brought into the city so that the inhabitants would not suffer.  The …

More Than One Interpretation

Scripture:

James 4:5 Or do you suppose that it is for nothing that the scripture says, “God yearns jealously for the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? (NRSV)

James 4:5 Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? (NIV)

James 4:5 (1) Or that the spirit he caused to dwell in us envies intensely; (2) or that the Spirit he caused to dwell in us longs jealously. (NIV notes)


Observation:

On first glance I was inspired by this Scripture today for I took it to believe that God has placed his Holy Spirit within us and he deeply desires that this Spirit would be connected to him -- and thus draw us closer to him.  However, as I began to read and study more about this verse I discovered that its translation is fraught with discussion.  Barnes' Notes say, "Few passages of the New Testament have given expositors more perplexity than this." If you look above there are four different options listed for possible und…

Reflecting the Image Includes the Tongue!

Scripture:

James 3:9 With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God.
James 3:10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so.
James 3:11 Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and brackish water?
James 3:12 Can a fig tree, my brothers and sisters, yield olives, or a grapevine figs? No more can salt water yield fresh.

Observation:

James was a practical guy giving advice for those who were walking with Christ.  He spoke about the need for living out the Christian life in terms of faith and works, but now he moves on to discuss the role of the tongue.  Not only are works indicative of a life of faith, but so are the words that we speak.  With our tongues we are to be engaged in praise of the Lord and Father!  By the way, this is a curious combination of words, "Lord and Father," because generally in the Bible we read "God and Father."  In other wor…

What Do Your Actions Say About Your Faith?

Image
Scripture:

James 2:18 ¶ But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith.
James 2:19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder.
James 2:20 Do you want to be shown, you senseless person, that faith apart from works is barren?
James 2:21 Was not our ancestor Abraham justified by works when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?
James 2:22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was brought to completion by the works.
James 2:23 Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God.
James 2:24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.

Observation:


Here is a Scripture passage that somehow seems to be at odds with the Apostle Paul.  How in the world could James say in verse 24 that we are "justified by works and not by fa…

Which Law Are You Reading?

Scripture:

James 1:22 ¶ But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves.
James 1:23 For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror;
James 1:24 for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like.
James 1:25 But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act—they will be blessed in their doing.

Observation:

James, the half-brother of Jesus is writing to the Jewish-Christian community that has dispersed as a result of the persecutions.  They are now spread throughout much of the known world and have had opportunity to soak in the law and word of God.  Unfortunately, that's most of what they've been doing --  soaking.  Maybe this was a temptation from their days of soaking in the Jewish laws, and yet now, as Christians, there is a call to radical engagement with the world.  Going to worship and f…

A Prayer of Benediction

Scripture:

Heb. 13:20 ¶ Now may the God of peace, who brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant,
Heb. 13:21 make you complete in everything good so that you may do his will, working among us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Observation:

Wrapped up in this one prayer you find a great early creedal statement.  Our God is a God of peace!  This is a descriptor of his loving nature, one that results in peace.  He is the God of resurrection power, who has won the victory over death.  Jesus is the great shepherd, the one who will nurture and care for all of his sheep and has given his blood for those sheep.  Jesus is the one who completes us, and it is his good which completes us.  It is the goal of Jesus Christ who brings us to the finish line where we find him!  And the result is that we can do his will because Christ is the goal, but Christ is also in…

Looking to Jesus

Scripture:

Heb. 12:1  ¶ Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us,
Heb. 12:2 looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.

Observation:


The racing metaphor continues as the disciple of Jesus picks up his/her lap of the race of faith.  However, as that lap is run, the disciple realizes that the finish line is not something which exists here on this earth, but instead the goal of the entire race is Jesus Christ.  The word "looking" in Greek means to turn from looking at anything else and now look only to Jesus.  Why?  Because he is the "pioneer" -- but that word means so much more.  He is the author of our faith, he is the captain, he is the te…

What Is Faith

Scripture:

Heb. 11:1 ¶ Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Observation:

Here begins the great faith chapter in the Scripture.  Two key words are found here "assurance" and "conviction."  The word translated assurance is the Greek word "substance" which really leads us to an understanding of something that is foundational and upon which everything else can be built.  Faith is the foundational substance of our lives and it leads to the conviction, the "demonstration" or the "evidence" of things which cannot be seen.  Then the chapter takes us into a progression of faith, that of the journey of humanity from creation until the very day and time of the author, and the revelation of God through the faith of all of those participating in the journey.  Finally the chapter concludes and the next begins with a continuing invitation to the readers to also enter the race, pick up the baton, and continu…

Perfection and Sanctification

Scripture:

Hebrews 10:14 For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. (NIV)

Heb. 10:14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. (NRSV)


Observation:

Christ's sacrifice meant a radical redemption of humanity which would allow for the restoration of the image of God in humankind.  This was the perfection, or the completion of humanity -- this restoration.  Now, humanity could fulfill the purpose for which they had been created -- they could be a reflection of their holy God.  In living out the reflection, their faces turned toward their holy God, humanity would be sanctified daily by the on-going and continuous holy presence of God. 

Application:

Perfection and sanctification are two words that may, at times throw us for a loop and yet, we find them both in this one single verse of Scripture.  Many people hate that word "perfection" because it carries with it so many negative connotations.  The idea of be…

The Better Sacrifice

Scripture:

Heb. 9:23 ¶ Thus it was necessary for the sketches of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves need better sacrifices than these.
Heb. 9:24 For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made by human hands, a mere copy of the true one, but he entered into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.
Heb. 9:25 Nor was it to offer himself again and again, as the high priest enters the Holy Place year after year with blood that is not his own;
Heb. 9:26 for then he would have had to suffer again and again since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the age to remove sin by the sacrifice of himself.
Heb. 9:27 And just as it is appointed for mortals to die once, and after that the judgment,
Heb. 9:28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

Observation:


Th…