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Showing posts from November, 2013

Feeling Blessed

Scripture:

Rom. 4:7     “Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven,
        and whose sins are covered;
Rom. 4:8     blessed is the one against whom the Lord will not reckon sin.”

Observation:

This passage begins with Paul talking about our great father Abraham and, while he was a good man, this was not enough to save him.  Instead it was his faith and trust in God that led him through life. 

Next we find David - a man after God’s own heart.  And yet, it wasn’t about David’s works, for we know there were times when he failed in his fidelity before God.  Instead it was the grace of God that allowed David to have this deeply personal relationship with Yahweh.

At this point I think Paul gets “blessed” as he quotes from David:

Psa. 32:1     Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven,
        whose sin is covered.
Psa. 32:2     Happy are those to whom the LORD imputes no iniquity,
        and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

Application:

This is a week in which many people, typically,…

Prayer for Entire Sanctification

Scripture:

1Th. 5:23 ¶ May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
1Th. 5:24 The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.

Observation:

Paul again prays for the people in Thessalonica and affirms what Jesus’ goal is for his people — that they be entirely sanctified, or be made holy.  Yes, that’s why Jesus lived and died — so that we could be made holy. 

The nature of God is again revealed in this prayer, our God is a God of peace.  It is this God of holy, loving, peace that draws humanity toward him so that we, too, might be made entirely or completely holy.  Paul expounds on that a little — “may your spirit and soul and body” — may every single part of you be made holy and continue in holiness until Jesus comes again. 

Of course this is not your own personal work, but the work of the God peace — the one who is calling you into this life of holiness.  The God of pe…

Prayer for Abounding Love

Scripture:

1Th. 3:11 ¶ Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you.
1Th. 3:12 And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you.
1Th. 3:13 And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

Observation:

Over and over again Paul’s own personal life is an example to all of us.  Much of his time is devoted to prayer and when he articulates his prayers we are left with a beautiful template of that which motivates him in private conversation with God.  Notice that he prays to God the Father and the Lord Jesus.  Paul, without using Trinitarian language, reveals to us what he has experienced in God.  Our prayers ought always be directed to God through Jesus Christ who intercedes for you and for me.  Through this intercession the Holy Spirit leads and directs us.

This opening in prayer, the pathwa…

The LORD’s promises

Scripture:

Psa. 125:1     Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion,
        which cannot be moved, but abides forever.
Psa. 125:2     As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
        so the LORD surrounds his people,
        from this time on and forevermore.

Observation:

There are those in life who will trust in the LORD and those who will not.  For those who trust in the LORD there is a promise.  Think about the safety of Mount Zion — and just as the mountain cannot be moved but remains forever, so does the LORD.  Not only does he remain forever but he also surrounds us in the safety of his loving care and embrace.  This is his promise for his people!

Application:


There are many things in life in which we may be tempted to put our trust.

The athlete puts their trust in their physical abilities.
The scientists puts their trust in their knowledge.
The actor puts their trust in their talent.

But there will come a time when our own personal skills and abilities will begin to fade.  So will the…

A Cooling Breeze Blowing

Scripture:

Matt. 24:12 And because of the increase of lawlessness, the love of many will grow cold.

Observation:

Jesus had been preaching and speaking hard truths to those listening.  Now he began to have a prophetic voice, speaking into the future of the church.  The days would come when there would be an increase of lawlessness.  He was not talking about people outside of the faith, but of those inside the faith.  These are those who have professed to be children of God, they are the ones who will become lawless, turning their backs on the knowledge they had already gained regarding their relationship with God.  The relationship may have been the crux of the matter, for a lack of love and lawlessness seemed to go hand in hand. 

Older language for “grow cold” was “wax cold.”  What it really implied was that a cooling breeze blew over something that had been extremely hot, cooling it down little by little until eventually it was room temperature.  Remember what Jesus had told the exp…

Say Yes To the Dress

Scripture:

Matt. 22:11 ¶ “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe,
Matt. 22:12 and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless.
Matt. 22:13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
Matt. 22:14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”

Observation:

Over and over again Jesus continued to teach about the kingdom of heaven and too often those listening didn’t want to get it.  From the opening pages of the word until the final chapter we are invited to a wedding.  Whether it’s God’s intention for relationship found in the first marriage of Adam and Eve, or if it’s the marriage supper of the lamb, there is an on-going invitation to be at the wedding, and this invitation is for everyone. 

This invitation for everyone was a little difficult for the religious leaders to a…

Despising the Little One

Scripture:

Matt. 18:10 ¶ “Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones; for, I tell you, in heaven their angels continually see the face of my Father in heaven.

Observation:

Who were the little ones?  They may have been the new followers of Jesus Christ — those who didn't know much about Jesus.  Or they may have been the marginalized of society, the ones who were not seated at the table with the powerful.  They were the little children, the women, the slaves, the poor and the sick.  Somehow they didn’t meet up to the standards of those who would appear to be “acceptable” in the eyes of the world and they were kept out of sight, and out of mind.  But in Jesus’ kingdom these were his people and he loved them all. 

Those in the crowd would have all understood what Jesus was saying about the angel for it was believed that each person and each nation had their own angel.  This was their “guardian” angel who served as the protector of that individual or that nation.  Therefo…

Haunted By Guilt

Scripture:

Matt. 14:1 ¶ At that time Herod the ruler heard reports about Jesus;
Matt. 14:2 and he said to his servants, “This is John the Baptist; he has been raised from the dead, and for this reason these powers are at work in him.”

Observation:

Herod was supposed to have been a Sadducee, the ones who didn’t believe in the resurrection of the dead.  So, why is Herod concerned about John the Baptist being raised from the dead?  Jesus and his disciples had already been ministering for nearly two years, surely Herod had heard about him, but seemingly he did not.  Now, the news of Jesus’ miracles reaches him and he declares something that should not have been congruent with his beliefs.  Obviously he was unable to shake the guilt that he had for beheading John.  Now, he was haunted by the guilt of his decisions.

Application:

Have you ever done something wrong and you simply could not shake the memory?  I certainly remember times like that as a child — guilt would grip me for sometimes disob…

Something Old, Something New

Scripture:

Matt. 13:52 And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”

Observation:


The kingdom of heaven was an entirely new concept for those listening in to the teaching of Jesus Christ.  He shared parable after parable with those who were following him, just to hear more of his teaching.  Of course there were those who had been trained in the Law and the Prophets who were there and listening in.  Often Jesus’ parables spoke directly to them and this little sentence had a direct implication to them.  The scribes had been trained in what we would understand as the Old Testament law.  They knew the Torah and they knew the words very well.  They had been living by these declarations now for centuries — they were God’s people. 

Jesus was saying that there were scribes who were understanding what Jesus was saying about the kingdom of heaven.  God’s …

Wise and Innocent

Scripture:

Matt. 10:16 ¶ “See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.
Matt. 10:17 Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues;
Matt. 10:18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles.
Matt. 10:19 When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time;
Matt. 10:20 for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

Observation:

Jesus is sending out his Apostles to spread the good news.  His words were not only for that day but were also prophetic regarding the future ministry of those whom he had called. 

Jesus knew that they would be confronted by the wolves of the world.  The wolves would be lying in wait to devour these follower of Jesus Christ and therefore their survival was dependent upo…

Good Salt, Bad Salt

Scripture:

Matt. 5:13 ¶ “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.

Observation:


Here we are listening in on Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount.”  His description of those who are his followers is telling.  We are the salt of the earth.  As such we are to be good salt — the kind that is used to season food.  Good salt makes most everything better.  But bad salt, after it’s gone bad can’t be made good again.  Bad salt was used in the Temple on days in which the floors became too slick from the rain to provide traction so that you wouldn’t fall.  Therefore good salt is sprinkled around and makes all things tasty while the bad salt is simply walked upon and eventually washed away by the rain.

Application:

I was watching a news report the other day about an incident that happened a number of years ago in Louisiana.  An oil company was drilling for oil that was beneath …

What is your posture?

Scripture:

Matt. 4:16     the people who sat in darkness
        have seen a great light,
    and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death
        light has dawned.”

Observation:


Jesus’ life was the fulfillment of the words of the prophet Isaiah.  This text in Matthew is a quotation from Isaiah but with a significant change:

 Is. 9:2     The people who walked in darkness
        have seen a great light;
    those who lived in a land of deep darkness—
        on them light has shined.

In Isaiah the people are walking in darkness and they are living in the land, but by the time Matthew brings us this word, the people are sitting in darkness and sitting in the region. No longer have they sought the face of God, but instead they have chosen to sit and to wallow in their ignorance. 

Application:

What a huge difference between sitting and walking.  Walking certainly brings about the imagery of those who are seeking God and actively engaged in the process.  The ones who are sitting?  They …

Where Do You Find Help?

Scripture:

Psa. 124:6      ¶ Blessed be the LORD,
        who has not given us
        as prey to their teeth.
Psa. 124:7     We have escaped like a bird
        from the snare of the fowlers;
    the snare is broken,
        and we have escaped.
Psa. 124:8      ¶ Our help is in the name of the LORD,
        who made heaven and earth.


Observation:

This Psalm may have been written by Mordecai after the tumultuous time in which Haman had devised a plan to rid the land of all Jews.  God used his servant Esther to bring about the salvation of his people.  It was God who had a plan to save his people, if only those who were listening would be faithful and obedient. 

The enemy had planned to capture the Jews and Haman wanted to hang Mordecai from the gallows.  Isn’t it amazing that in the midst of this period of time the King would have someone read to him from his books and discover that Mordecai had never been honored for his faithfulness?  Is it just a coincidence that the bird escapes from the sn…

How Does My Life Measure Up to What God Wants?

Scripture:

2Cor. 10:13 We, however, will not boast beyond limits, but will keep within the field that God has assigned to us, to reach out even as far as you.
2Cor. 10:14 For we were not overstepping our limits when we reached you; we were the first to come all the way to you with the good news of Christ.
2Cor. 10:15 We do not boast beyond limits, that is, in the labors of others; but our hope is that, as your faith increases, our sphere of action among you may be greatly enlarged,
2Cor. 10:16 so that we may proclaim the good news in lands beyond you, without boasting of work already done in someone else’s sphere of action.
2Cor. 10:17 “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Observation:


Paul was very careful when it came to boasting about his work or success.  He understood that each person was simply accountable to God for the work they were called to do.  He also knew that he was to be responsible before God for his places of ministry and therefore he did not try to take credit …

What’s that Light? #Batsignal

Scripture:

2Cor. 4:6 For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Observation:


God is the creator of all light.  In the beginning of the creation story God says, “let there be light.”  And it is this God of all creation who is in a personal relationship with you and with me.  The creator of all light shines the light of knowledge into our hearts. It is the light of God’s understand that when shone into our lives reveals Truth; and Jesus is the Truth!  Therefore the light will always lead us to the One who reveals the glory of God, and that is Jesus Christ, the incarnate One.  Jesus, God in human flesh, is the one from whom the light emanates day in and day out — and this light is the glory of God.  It is only in turning toward Christ, only in being in personal relationship with him, when we seek his face that the light of the glory of God shines down upon us.…

What’s That Smell?

Scripture:

2Cor. 2:15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing;
2Cor. 2:16 to the one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?

Observation:

When the Roman conquerors returned home after having been at war they would be greeted with a great parade.  These parades included the burning of incense; the aroma of victory which would arise up and out of the city.  For the citizens of the Empire this scent was a smell of comfort and of peace, a reminder of the victory!  At the same time the soldiers would be returning home with the spoils of war, including the conquered enemy.  As they approached the city the smells would waft up into the air, but for the captured prisoners the scent did not mean victory, but the very same smell meant death, for they would be killed just outside the walls of the city, never to enter inside the gates.

This is the imagery that Paul…

Have you ever wondered about that “open door?”

Scripture:

1Cor. 16:8 But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost,
1Cor. 16:9 for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.

Observation:

Growing up often my parents would talk about walking through that “open door.”  For them this was often a sign from God that it was the direction in which we were to go.  Paul uses this very language when speaking about his own life, travels and ministry.  He is writing to the church in Corinth, and he would like to get back to them, to visit them again, but he is in Ephesus.  He believes that he should stay in Ephesus until the day of Pentecost.  Why should he stay?  Because a door has been opened to him.

The language of door that Paul uses here lets us know that it is a very large and broad opening resulting in effective work.  The Greek word for effective has at its root the word for energy.  It is an “energized” work and that must have been quite exciting.  However, at the very same time that there is a huge ope…

What’s Your Mirror Like?

Scripture:

1Cor. 13:12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.

Observation:

Paul understood the limitations of our spiritual journey while here in the flesh.  Our desire is to look upon the Image of God face to face — and nose to nose!  Unfortunately, as Moses learned, to see God face to face meant that you would die.  Therefore we are limited while in the flesh and can only see Jesus in a mirror, dimly.  The mirrors in the time of Paul were made of polished metal, probably bronze.  Therefore they were not as clear as our mirrors that we have these days.  The image is not distorted, but the image is somewhat dim.  This is the way in which we are able to see our Lord now — and therefore we can only known “in part.”  But there will be a day when we will see him face to face and our knowledge of him will be total and complete. 

Application:

I’d like us to consider another directio…

“Parts is parts”— really?

Scripture:

1Cor. 12:22 On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,
1Cor. 12:23 and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect;
1Cor. 12:24 whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member,
1Cor. 12:25 that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another.

Observation:

Paul is writing to the church in Corinth, this congregation that seemed to have on-going difficulties and dissension.  The people in this community of faith had come from all walks of life.  Some of them were rich, others were poor, some were men, some were women, some had respectable jobs, others had been temple prostitutes, and yet they were all now a part of the same church — the body of Christ.

This community was like nothing the world had …

It’s Not About Me

Scripture:

1Cor. 10:23 ¶ “All things are lawful,” but not all things are beneficial. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up.
1Cor. 10:24 Do not seek your own advantage, but that of the other.

Observation:


For a community of people who had a been raised with the Jewish law, the freedoms found in following Christ were a bit astounding.  Now, in this new community of faith you had those from a strict religious background and pagans who had never worshiped the living God.  The first council meeting in Jerusalem had laid down some basic restrictions for these believers but they were simple and gave a great amount of freedom.  They were struggling in their freedom to find the right boundaries for there were those who were comfortable celebrating the pagan holidays of the past and eating meat that had been offered to idols.  This did not bother them spiritually and yet there were those within the community of faith who were greatly disturbed by these behaviors. 

Paul had to r…

Don’t Jump to Conclusions

Scripture:

1Cor. 4:5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive commendation from God.

Observation:

Christians were judging other Christians and questioning their motives.  Paul said that this was to stop because it was becoming destructive to the work and ministry of the church.  It was not the place of the Corinthians to judge the motives or things hidden in the hearts of their brothers and sisters in Christ.  Instead, they were to work to live at peace with one another, trying to bear with one another and allow God to be the judge.  At the appointed time praise would come for the things done or not done — but that praise would come from God. 

Application:

Let’s be honest, there have been times that we’ve wondered why someone has behaved a particular way, or we’ve questioned their motivations.  However, if we don’t truly know…

What’s in your head?

Scripture:

1Cor. 2:14  ¶ Those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
1Cor. 2:15 Those who are spiritual discern all things, and they are themselves subject to no one else’s scrutiny.
1Cor. 2:16     “For who has known the mind of the Lord
        so as to instruct him?”
But we have the mind of Christ.

Observation:


There were natural men/women, those not living in the Spirit, who believed that they had great wisdom.  The problem was that no matter the depth of their knowledge and wisdom, without the Spirit they lacked discernment. 

In verse 16 we find this quote from Isaiah:

Is. 40:13     Who has directed the spirit of the LORD,
        or as his counselor has instructed him?

This is a a realization that those who are not walking in the Spirit actually have the audacity to believe that they can instruct God!  But no matter the power nor the intellect of the…