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Showing posts from October, 2013

What Will it Take for You to “Get It?”

Scripture:

Mark 8:14 ¶ Now the disciples had forgotten to bring any bread; and they had only one loaf with them in the boat.
Mark 8:15 And he cautioned them, saying, “Watch out—beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.”
Mark 8:16 They said to one another, “It is because we have no bread.”
Mark 8:17 And becoming aware of it, Jesus said to them, “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened?
Mark 8:18 Do you have eyes, and fail to see? Do you have ears, and fail to hear? And do you not remember?
Mark 8:19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?” They said to him, “Twelve.”
Mark 8:20 “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?” And they said to him, “Seven.”
Mark 8:21 Then he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?”

Observation:

Another story about bread.  Can’t you just imagine the frustra…

The Solution is Right In Front of You

Scripture:

Mark 6:49 But when they saw him walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost and cried out;
Mark 6:50 for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”
Mark 6:51 Then he got into the boat with them and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded,
Mark 6:52 for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.

Observation:

The key phrase to the scripture today is “they did not understand about the loaves.”  Somehow the disciples were unable to connect the dots between Jesus’ feeding of the 5000 and his ability to calm storms, or walk on water.  The scripture goes on to say, “but their hearts were hardened.”  Wesley says “they were not reprobates.”  In other words, they weren’t sinners.  These were the followers of Jesus Christ who had been with him day in and day out and were watching what he was doing and experiencing his miracles, and yet, they didn’t get it!  They didn…

Peace in the Storm

Scripture:

Mark 4:39 He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm.

Observation:

The storm had started up soon after they set out to sea and yet through it all Jesus had rested and was still.  How could he sleep through such bad weather.  Finally, when he did wake up, while the disciples were terrified, he simply rebuked the wind and declared “peace” over the storm.  The storm didn’t just die down, “the wind ceased.”  It was all over, Jesus had spoken and now “there was a dead calm.”

Application:

A year ago the United States was dealing with Hurricane Sandy and the devastating effects that were felt across the east coast.  A year later northern Europe is dealing with the aftermath of hurricane force winds which hit just yesterday.  Horrible storms causing millions of dollars worth of damage, bringing the loss of life and the transformation of coastal cities in just a few hours’ time.  I know that there were those i…

The Good in the Bad

Scripture:

Job 19:25     For I know that my Redeemer lives,
        and that at the last he will stand upon the earth;
Job 19:26     and after my skin has been thus destroyed,
        then in my flesh I shall see God,
Job 19:27     whom I shall see on my side,
        and my eyes shall behold, and not another.
        My heart faints within me!

Observation:

Job tries to make sense of his circumstances but they seem to be beyond his comprehension.  At the same time he continues to trust in God.  He is trying to see the good in the bad and in that moment his voice becomes prophetic.  His salvation may not come during this lifetime.  His Redeemer — his vindicator — does live and eventually at the end of time he will be the one who is victorious.  Job, with no knowledge of Jesus or the Messiah speaks of a Redeemer who will step into time and be all-victorious.  Somehow Job breathes words that draw us into a future where there will be the resurrection of the dead and a kins-man Redeemer who will…

Making the Most of your Circumstances

Scripture:

Acts 28:30 ¶ He lived there two whole years at his own expense and welcomed all who came to him,
Acts 28:31 proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.

Observation:


Paul finally arrived in Rome and immediately set up house.  Yes, he was under house arrest but he didn’t let that be a hindrance to what he believed God wanted him to accomplish.  Even while under arrest he ministered to others and spread the gospel.  He was intentional about everything that he did.  He invited leaders to his home and when they came he shared with them the hope that he had in Jesus Christ.  He continued preaching and teaching from his house for two years “with all boldness and without hindrance.”  And he did all of this at his own expense.

Application:

What excuses do we have today for not doing the work of the Lord?  Somehow we have preconceived notions of what it would take in terms of material resources to do God’s work.  Paul, …

Quickly or Not

Scripture:

Acts 26:28 Agrippa said to Paul, “Are you so quickly persuading me to become a Christian?”
Acts 26:29 Paul replied, “Whether quickly or not, I pray to God that not only you but also all who are listening to me today might become such as I am—except for these chains.”

Observation:

Every opportunity in life was used by Paul to share what he had learned about his Savior, Jesus Christ!  Here he was before Agrippa arguing his case and Paul became impassioned with the story of Jesus’ work in his own personal life.  King Agrippa is obviously moved by Paul’s testimony but is only willing to listen to a certain extent.  He stops Paul and asks him rather incredulously, “Are you so quickly persuading me to become a Christian?”  Obviously Paul was or he would not have asked the question. 

Paul expresses the heart of the Lord when he says “quickly or not.”  In 2 Peter 3:9 we read, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, no…

Keep Up Your Courage

Scripture:

Acts 23:11 ¶ That night the Lord stood near him and said, “Keep up your courage! For just as you have testified for me in Jerusalem, so you must bear witness also in Rome.”

Observation:

Paul was on a trajectory that would ultimately lead to his death yet, in the midst of it all, the Lord came near to him and told him to keep up his courage.  For Paul there needed to be an understanding that all of this was a part of God’s plan and leading.  This was the course laid out ahead of Paul.  He had testified for Jesus in Jerusalem, but he had to also get to Rome.  How would he get there?  As a “guest” of the Roman government. 

Application:

The circumstances in which Paul found himself were not pleasant and there may be times in life when we find ourselves at a place where life has become extremely difficult.  We may receive a diagnosis that throws us for a loop.  We may have found a wrinkle in the course we thought was laid out before us.  We may have barriers to a relationship that …

Do you know your purpose in life?

Scripture:

Acts 20:24 But I do not count my life of any value to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the good news of God’s grace.

Observation:

Paul was being obedient to God and was on a journey which was different from any other on which he had embarked.  This was a journey that would lead him to the end — to the telos — to the completion of his journey and ministry here on earth.  No longer would he be traveling around as a missionary, but he he knew that the journey would bring his life to an end.  It might begin in Jerusalem, take him to Caesarea and eventually to Rome — it might take time, but it was a different journey.  Knowing this time things were different, Paul was saying farewell to some very dear friends.  He wanted them to know who he was working for — and why he would continue on his journey.  Paul wants to finish and fulfill his ministry in a way that would be pleasing to God.  He didn’t work for any…

Are You Trusting God?

Scripture:

Job 13:1      ¶ “Look, my eye has seen all this,
        my ear has heard and understood it.
Job 13:2     What you know, I also know;
        I am not inferior to you.
Job 13:3     But I would speak to the Almighty,
        and I desire to argue my case with God.
Job 13:4     As for you, you whitewash with lies;
        all of you are worthless physicians.

Observation:

Job's friends had been giving him all kinds of advice but now, he was tired of hearing what they had to say.  He knew all the human answers to his problems as much as his friends did, and in that moment he realized that his comfort did not come from what humans knowledge, but in what God knows.  Job needed to trust in God and he recognized that speaking directly to God about his problems was the best way to go.  Why discuss the issues with people around us -- why not trust in God!  His friends?  They tried to cover up the truth with lies and there was no healing in their responses.  Only God is the true healer,…

Are you wiser than God?

Scripture:

Job 12:1  ¶ Then Job answered:
Job 12:2     “No doubt you are the people,
        and wisdom will die with you.
Job 12:3     But I have understanding as well as you;
        I am not inferior to you.
        Who does not know such things as these?
Job 12:4     I am a laughingstock to my friends;
        I, who called upon God and he answered me,
        a just and blameless man, I am a laughingstock.

Observation:

I'm sure that we would all answer the question, "Are you wiser than God?" with a resounding "No!" And yet, could it be that our lives sometimes reflect a different kind of attitude?  Job's friends had been trying to give him all kinds of advice and now he responds.  His opening comment is simply dripping with sarcasm.  "No doubt you are the people and wisdom will die with you."  In other words -- you are such amazing people and you have the gift of all the wisdom of the world -- and you actually believe that you have all this wisdom a…

Look, be amazed you scoffers, and perish.

Scripture:

Acts 13:40 Beware, therefore, that what the prophets said does not happen to you:
Acts 13:41     ‘Look, you scoffers!
        Be amazed and perish,
    for in your days I am doing a work,
        a work that you will never believe, even if someone tells you.’”

Observation:

Paul and Barnabas were responding to the crowd, which included the religious leaders of the day.  They had heard the news about Jesus Christ -- they should have known and seen that he truly was the Messiah, and yet, they were blind.  This quote comes from Hab. 1:5 -- where the people of Israel are warned about their lack of repentance.  Because they are stubborn, they are going to be overrun by the Chaldeans.  The religious leaders listening to Paul and Barnabas would have instantly understood what it was they were saying through this scripture.  The quote is from the Septuagint, and not from the Hebrew and therefore is a little different from the original.  The NIV translates Hab. 1:5 as:

“Look at the nations …

He Will Never Turn His Back on You

Scripture:

Job 7:19     Will you not look away from me for a while,
        let me alone until I swallow my spittle?

Observation:

Job responds to his friends and speaks out in the midst of his frustration.  Why does God have to keep looking at him?  Can't God seek that he is miserable?  If only God would turn his back for just a moment -- then God would not see the sins in Job's life.  That phrase, "until I swallow my spittle" is a saying to this day in the Middle East -- meaning just a moment of time; enough time to stop talking and swallow the spit in my mouth.  Or, give me a moment to parch my thirst with a drink and swallow the spit.  But God won't -- he won't turn away, not even for a second.  Not only does God continue to see everything, but God's face continues to shine on Job.

Application:

I remember a number of times as a young mom that I would wake up during the night because it felt that there were eyes on me. Looking into the darkness I'd see t…

The Place of Praise

Scripture:

Psa. 108:1     My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast;
        I will sing and make melody.
        Awake, my soul!
Psa. 108:2     Awake, O harp and lyre!
        I will awake the dawn.
Psa. 108:3     I will give thanks to you, O LORD, among the peoples,
        and I will sing praises to you among the nations.
Psa. 108:4     For your steadfast love is higher than the heavens,
        and your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.

Observation:

The Psalmist is often going through difficult days, and yet, we find wonderful lines of praise to God.  It is in his praise to God that he finds the rock and anchor for his life.  His heart is steadfast in praise to God, for God is the one who is steadfast.  The Psalmist awakens and gives praise to God.  I think the music of praise must have been pretty loud because he says he's going to "awaken the dawn!" 

Praise is lifted up to the Father, but praise is also shared among the people.  It is in the midst of others tha…

The Persecution of Jesus

Scripture:

Acts 9:3 Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him.
Acts 9:4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
Acts 9:5 He asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.

Acts 9:13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem;
Acts 9:14 and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.”

Observation:

Paul had received permission to persecute the Christians.  He traveled with the intention of hurting those who were calling on the name of Jesus and yet when Jesus confronts him on the road to Damascus, he challenges him with the question, "Why do you persecute me?"  Jesus made it abundantly clear that Paul was directly persecuting Jesus when he attacked his followers.  While Paul didn't look beyond the fact that he was pers…

A Tale of Two Men

Scripture:

Job 1:20 ¶ Then Job arose, tore his robe, shaved his head, and fell on the ground and worshiped.
Job 1:21 He said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there; the LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”
Job 1:22 ¶ In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong-doing.

Acts 7:54 ¶ When they heard these things, they became enraged and ground their teeth at Stephen.
Acts 7:55 But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.
Acts 7:56 “Look,” he said, “I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”
Acts 7:57 But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him.
Acts 7:58 Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.
Acts 7:59 While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my…

Don't Try to Cheat God!

Scripture:

Malachi 3:6-12  “I the Lord do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them.

Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty.

“But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’

 “Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me.

“But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’

“In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,” says the Lord Almighty. “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the Lord Almighty.

Act…

Be Faithful to the Spouse of Your Youth

Scripture:

Malachi 2:15-16:  So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful to the wife of your youth. “The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” says the Lord Almighty.  So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful.

Observation:

The Israelites had made divorce far too easy.  Excuse after excuse was given for divorcing one's wife and the written document for divorce was extremely easy to obtain.  If a man saw a woman more attractive than his wife, he could send his wife away for she was no longer pleasing to him.  If a man felt that his wife had become run down from her domestic duties, he could divorce her and begin with a new wife that would still be fresh.  The rabbis actually helped to write up these options for divorce for the men and therefore the marriage covenant had been frequently and easily broken. 

Now, God is speaking to the people through the prophet Malachi.  God knew that the fidelity betw…

Would you be willing to live in the city?

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Scripture:

Neh. 11:1 ¶ Now the leaders of the people lived in Jerusalem; and the rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of ten to live in the holy city Jerusalem, while nine-tenths remained in the other towns.
Neh. 11:2 And the people blessed all those who willingly offered to live in Jerusalem.

Observation:


The walls of Jerusalem had been rebuilt on the old foundations.  The city was large but mostly unpopulated and now an invitation was made for citizens to come and fill the city.  Not enough people responded to the challenge to come to the city.  It was much more pleasant to live outside the walls of the city;  a person had more freedom.  If one were to live in Jerusalem there would be a higher expectation of living the spiritual life -- the place of worship was there within the walls.  The trade routes didn't go through the city of Jerusalem and it made it much more difficult to make a good living.  The houses within Jerusalem had been destroyed, rundown or neglected.  Wh…

We will not neglect the house of our God.

Scripture:

Neh. 10:38 And the priest, the descendant of Aaron, shall be with the Levites when the Levites receive the tithes; and the Levites shall bring up a tithe of the tithes to the house of our God, to the chambers of the storehouse.
Neh. 10:39 For the people of Israel and the sons of Levi shall bring the contribution of grain, wine, and oil to the storerooms where the vessels of the sanctuary are, and where the priests that minister, and the gatekeepers and the singers are. We will not neglect the house of our God.

Observation:

The exiles were pledging their support to God's work in the rebuilt Jerusalem.  This time around there would be no king to financially support the work of the temple, or those serving in the temple.  Now, the people would have to determine that they would not neglect the house of their God.  The entire passage lets us see how they planned to bring in a tithe -- the first fruit of their labors to be used in the kingdom.  The Levites who were spread about…

The Importance of Remembrance

Scripture:

Neh. 8:14 And they found it written in the law, which the LORD had commanded by Moses, that the people of Israel should live in booths during the festival of the seventh month,
Neh. 8:15 and that they should publish and proclaim in all their towns and in Jerusalem as follows, “Go out to the hills and bring branches of olive, wild olive, myrtle, palm, and other leafy trees to make booths, as it is written.”
Neh. 8:16 So the people went out and brought them, and made booths for themselves, each on the roofs of their houses, and in their courts and in the courts of the house of God, and in the square at the Water Gate and in the square at the Gate of Ephraim.
Neh. 8:17 And all the assembly of those who had returned from the captivity made booths and lived in them; for from the days of Jeshua son of Nun to that day the people of Israel had not done so. And there was very great rejoicing.
Neh. 8:18 And day by day, from the first day to the last day, he read from the book of the l…

Are You Getting It?

Scripture:

Luke 24:45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures,

Observation:

Jesus had shared with the disciples from the scriptures throughout his entire ministry.  They should have been able to see and to clearly understand, and yet they did not.  They had seen that the scriptures pointed toward the coming of the Messiah and they believed and yet, somehow they were unable to connect those scriptures with Jesus.  On the road to Emmaus the followers were able to discuss scripture with Jesus, but it wasn't until he broke bread with them that they suddenly saw and understood that it was him!  In this moment when Christ appears to his disciples the dots begin to connect.  This is their "aha" moment when it all begins to make sense.  Their minds have been opened and now they are "getting it." 

Application:

I think of all the times in my own life when I just haven't "gotten it."  This may be in relation to understanding the scriptures, or i…

If The Wood is Green...

Scripture:

Luke 23:31 For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

Observation:

This is the comment made in the face of the death sentence Jesus was about to receive.  Jesus is the green wood - he is the tree of life -- and green wood is hard to burn for it is filled with water and life, but kill him they would.  Jesus' judgement was being pronounced upon the religious leaders and Jerusalem itself.  They had become dry wood, the kind that we use for kindling.   If they will burn and destroy the green wood, just imagine what happens when a spark is put to their dry wood!  The city would soon be destroyed and the religious leaders themselves deposed.  Beware when the dry wood plots destruction of the green. 

Application:

Think of the suffering that Jesus faced at the hands of the religious leaders who were really dead spiritually.  Jesus was the one who was alive and yet they thought they could take him on.  Jesus, even though he was alive spiritually, …

What Do You Grieve?

Scripture:

Neh. 2:10 When Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, heard of it, it grieved them exceedingly that there was come a man to seek the welfare of the children of Israel.

Observation:

Nehemiah was overcome with grief for his people.  When he heard the reports coming from Jerusalem, that the gates were burned and the walls destroyed, he was overcome with compassion for his own.  His grief was visible to the king and he was sent home to bring about the repairs of the city.  When he saw the city and made inspection with his own eyes he again grieved.  He wanted to care for the welfare of his people.  On the other hand there were those who were greedily looking forward to the complete demise of the Israelites.  Sanballat and Tobiah were grieved that someone would "seek the welfare of the children of Israel."  It was their own greed and self-centeredness that would not allow them to have any form of compassion for the Israelites and now they grieved w…

How Are You Starting Out Your Day?

Scripture:

Luke 21:37 ¶ Every day he was teaching in the temple, and at night he would go out and spend the night on the Mount of Olives, as it was called.
Luke 21:38 And all the people would get up early in the morning to listen to him in the temple.

Observation:

This is that same week in which Jesus had made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  What did he do during the weekdays leading up to the fateful weekend of his death?  He continued the self-discipline which he had always held.  He never gave up preaching the good news of the kingdom of God.  He would spend his days in the temple teaching.  Realizing he needed rest he would leave in the evenings and head back over to the Mount of Olives -- probably going to Bethany to rest for the night and have personal time in prayer with the Father.  After being refreshed himself, he would arise early and make his way back to the temple where he would begin again to teach.  Those who really wanted to learn from him would also rise early and …