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Watching and Waiting along with a Little Hogmanay

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Scripture

17     The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.”
    And let everyone who hears say, “Come.”
    And let everyone who is thirsty come.
    Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.

Observation


The bride, the Church is the gathering of those who have fallen in love with Jesus Christ and are filled with the Holy Spirit. These Spirit-filled believers are ever moved to pray for those who would “Come.” Yes, it is a prayer for the second coming of Jesus Christ, for we await in great anticipation his coming, but his coming is already revealed when he enters the lives of individuals and they experience his transforming power even now!

The Spirit, along with the individual hearers of the prophecy unite together in the invitation to “Come.” Just as the woman at the well was invited to drink of the water that would eternally satisfy her thirst, so all are invited to join the bride. This is the final call of the word of God, an open invitation to have your needs met by the Creator.…

Prophetic Words. Kingdom Words.

Scripture

Rev. 18:21Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying,
    “With such violence Babylon the great city
        will be thrown down,
        and will be found no more;

Observation

Living life under the on-going oppression of Rome had become more than the people of God could bear. Rome, the great Babylon, was crushing the Christians as the people went about about their daily lives, round and round in circles being ground down as they rode the millstone of secular society. John has Rome in mind and his prophetic words point to the overthrown of the earthly kingdom of Rome, which is eventually replaced by the Roman Catholic Church. These are prophetic words…kingdom words, for the worldly kingdom is to be overthrown by the heavenly kingdom.

But before we get too far, just a few centuries later the words again become prophetic. Interestingly as you read later commentaries you discover that no longer is the Rome of Nero seen as the Great Ba…

Participating in the Virtues of God

Scripture

11 And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God,  12 singing,
    “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom
    and thanksgiving and honor
    and power and might
    be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

Observation

We experience an interlude in the breaking of the seals, one which serves as a bit of encouragement to the followers of Jesus Christ. Suddenly we have a picture of the heavenly realms in which we discover the Church universal where those who have been martyred are standing around the throne, along with all the elders and the angels.  It is a vision of everyone worshipping God.

The "Amen!" is declared — the “so be it” of the event. God will provide eternal protection for those who are united with him.

This leads us to the seven-fold praise of the virtues of God, signifying the never-ending praise of God and a revelation of his nature.

Blessing.

Glory.

Love Lost

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Scripture

Rev. 2:1   “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands:
Rev. 2:2   “I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance. I know that you cannot tolerate evildoers; you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them to be false.  3 I also know that you are enduring patiently and bearing up for the sake of my name, and that you have not grown weary.  4 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.  5 Remember then from what you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.

Observation

The city of Ephesus was an amazing place with the temple of Artemis and all that she had to offer. This was a place famous for providing refuge for fugitives, but the situation was abused and the region around the tem…

Love Revealed

Scripture

1John 3:1 See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.  2 Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.  3 And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.

Observation

The birth of a little child made the adoption of others possible. God the Father in his overwhelming love for all of humanity continually reaches out, trying to draw us back into his loving arms. Children who have wandered off, far away from him have sold their birthright, and yet, he does not want to abandon them. God stretches out in our direction with love which pours from his very being, offering to one and all adoption into the family. The past can be forgiven, the sold birthright repurchased and the inheritance restored. His love…

Declaring Your King!

Scripture

John  19:15 They cried out, “Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!” Pilate asked them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but the emperor.”

Observation

Pilate gave the Jewish leaders every opportunity to declare Jesus as their King. Here he was, their Messiah and yet the rejection of him is complete and total. The absurdity of this verse and their declaration “We have no king but the emperor” is astounding. The chief priests are confessing a loyalty to Caesar which was greater than Pilate’s. He is absolutely astonished and in this statement they are not only rejecting Jesus as their Messiah, they are rejecting their God. They have declared that Caesar IS their God and in a sense are selling their birthright. They are giving away their blessing to the Christians who will come after them.

Application

It’s easy for us to look at those religious leaders who have gone before and pass judgment but at the same time not look at ourselves criti…

It’s too easy to give up

Scripture

John 18:25   Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They asked him, “You are not also one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.”  26 One of the slaves of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?”  27 Again Peter denied it, and at that moment the cock crowed.

Observation

Peter had been with Jesus for years, but human weakness is great. When Jesus is not present, or when Peter distances himself from him, it’s far too easy to give up. Peter doesn’t even seem to realize what is happening as he is drawn into the events of the night and suddenly he discovers that he is far from Jesus. The cock crows and he becomes aware of what he has done.

Application

To think that Peter stepped away from Jesus in just one night is rather mind-boggling. How could this man who just a few hours earlier had been in the garden with Jesus in prayer now deny him. Is it that easy to give up?

I feel…

For Which Good Works Will We Stone Him?

Scripture

John     10:30 The Father and I are one.”
John 10:31   The Jews took up stones again to stone him.  32 Jesus replied, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these are you going to stone me?”

Observation

Jesus declares that he and the Father are one and this sets up a reaction from the Jewish leaders. In this statement he is saying that he is, in fact, God. This unity of the human and divine nature found in Jesus Christ was completely foreign to the officials. While they had observed his good works they could only attribute them to the good nature of a human. They could not see his divine nature. Jesus’ response to them is interesting when he reveals that his good works are from the Father. In other words, the things that he’s been doing have not been his doing alone, but because of his unity with the Father.

Because they could not see the source of Jesus’ good works they wanted to stone him, not for what he had done, but for his words. They missed the wh…

What Are They Saying Now?

Scripture

John  7:12 And there was considerable complaining about him among the crowds. While some were saying, “He is a good man,” others were saying, “No, he is deceiving the crowd.”  13 Yet no one would speak openly about him for fear of the Jews.

Observation

Jesus’ brothers had encouraged him to come to the Festival but he told them that it wasn’t the right time yet. He wasn’t going to go and do a lot of public works. Later on he simply went to the events, slipping in without people noticing. However, he was able to overhear their conversations about him. People were saying all kinds of things, wondering where he was and contemplating his character. On one hand there were those who felt that he was good while others saw him as being deceptive.

The religious authorities were jealous of him and somehow could not accept his nature as good. Instead they leaned toward the idea that his words were deceptive or seductive. His words were influencing people and they hadn’t give him the autho…

Biblically Literate. Spiritually Desolate.

Scripture

John 5:39   “You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf.

Observation

The Jewish leaders were profoundly capable of reading the Scriptures and they carried them around in their hands so that people would know how educated and literate they were. They were able to quote long texts from memory and they believed that their knowledge of the word of God would lead them to eternal life. The sad truth is that they became consumed by the Scriptures themselves believing they would be their source of eternal life, instead allowing the word to lead them to the real source of life.

They were extremely bright individuals who knew the Word, but did not recognize the fulfillment of prophecy, the one who stood right before them. They were literate but spiritually desolate. They undervalued Christ because they overvalued themselves, rejecting him because they thought they were too smart for him.

John Wesley encourages…

Prejudice in the Kingdom

Scripture

John 4:27   Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you speaking with her?”

Observation

We are jumping into the scene of the woman at the well. Here she is a Samaritan woman and Jesus has been spending time talking to her. All of this was improper. Jews didn’t talk to Samaritans! The disciples were quite appalled at the action of Jesus and their own prejudice informed them. While some commentators suggest that the disciples’ response (or lack there of) was out of respect and awe, there are others who would like us to consider that that they didn’t say anything because they were embarrassed by Jesus’ behavior. How in the world could he sit and talk with someone of another race or group of people that they looked down on — and besides that, the person was a woman. Their prejudice was showing.

Jewish rabbis were to avoid women because they were considered a distraction from the study of…

Where The Holy Journey Leads

Scripture

2Pet. 3:11   Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness,

Observation

Recognizing the temporal nature of this life the readers are exhorted to focus on that which is important — “leading lives of holiness and godliness.” Reading before and after this text we realize that focusing too much on the creation account or the return of Christ is not the intention of the life of a believer. Instead we are to be united in holy relationship with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, participating in godliness resulting in a life of holiness. Wesley encourages us to become persons engaged in “holy conversation — with men. And godliness — Toward your Creator.”

This scripture leads us to a type of challenge — questioning whether we might be prepared for the amazing scenes that God has prepared for us, should they actually burst in on us in this lifetime. There is something more for which we are livin…

Feeling Intimidated

Scripture

1 Peter 3:14b Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated,  15 but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord.

Isaiah 8:12 Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what it fears, or be in dread.  13 But the LORD of hosts, him you shall regard as holy; let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.

Observation

The Gentile world had issues and concerns — anxiety inducing incidents which could strike fear into the lives of the believers. The believers were living lives contrary to the world and this came as a word of encouragement. In the mist of difficulties and persecutions there was a call to hang on- to persevere. The scripture in 1 Peter is a reflection of the one found in Isaiah and it is again a call to live above the fear and dread that can be found in the world.

The focus for the believer is not to be intimidated by all that they may be experiencing in the world, but instead, to focus on holiness. When the journey of the believ…

For All Those Aspiring Teachers Out There

Scripture

James 3:1   Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.

Observation

Being a teacher in the Jewish system was a prized role. It was one that brought with it the admiration of those around and as the fledgling new Christianity began to grow there were those who sought out this position of honor. People wanted to become teachers. The problem is that a number of them weren’t willing to take the time to be sufficiently educated to be the teachers they needed to be. For example, Apollos was traveling around as a teacher and yet he only knew the teaching of John the Baptist. He was smart enough, however, that when he discovered he was lacking, he was willing to sit under the teaching of Priscilla and Aquilla.

James was concerned about the quality of the teaching. The tongue is a very powerful tool and can be used to lead people in the direction of Christ, or astray. That’s why James was encour…

Time To Get Into Shape

Scripture

Heb. 12:12   Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees,  13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.

Observation

There are to be difficult times in the life of a believer and these can either make us weaker or stronger. After going through a particularly troubling time it may be easy to feel defeated and frustrated. Our hands are drooping — we simply can no longer lift them up in praise and worship of the Lord, or as Moses — they can no longer be lifted up for the battle. It’s all just been too hard. The hard knocks have also made our knees weak or feeble and somehow we wonder whether we can continue on with the race.

For the follower of Christ there will be difficulties and we have a choice to make in terms of response. Will we allow ourselves to continue to be defeated and for us to become weaker, or will we get into shape? We are encouraged to fight the tendency to allow our arms…

I would like to provoke you today!

Scripture

 Hebrews 10:24 And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds,  25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Observation


The writer to the Hebrews understands that there is a connection between meeting together and living out the Christian life. One commentator states that the scripture “implies that people who deliberately and persistently abandon the fellowship of Christian believers are in danger of abandoning the Lord himself.” (New Bible Commentary) Our holy God is Trinitarian — Father, Son and Holy Spirit and as such is a community of holy love. From God spring love and good deeds for they are God’s nature.

As God’s people we are to be reflections of this holy love and it is only found in relationship. God is a relationship. We are called to be in a relationship and this happens when we gather together and the love we have for one another grows until we ar…

Are You Experiencing Drought?

Scripture

Hebrews 6:7 Ground that drinks up the rain falling on it repeatedly, and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God.

Observation


Spiritual instruction was the rain that fell on the Hebrews. They themselves were the ground, but they needed to wrestle with what type of ground they would be! Jesus had spoken in parables about the different types of ground and this theme is continued here.

Spiritual instruction was available but would the people soak it in? If they did and if it was used to provide for moist soil that would produce a crop, then they would be blessed by the Lord.

Application


Today’s news has images of rain falling on California. For months we have been seeing pictures of the drought — with reservoirs shrinking and ground becoming more and more dry and hardened. This rain seems like a blessing — an answer to prayer, and yet, there are places where they say that it is a real problem. Because of the length of the drough…

Trust But Verify

Scripture

Philem. 22   One thing more—prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping through your prayers to be restored to you.

Observation


Paul has been writing to Philemon about the run-away slave Onesimus. He is coming back home to Philemon and Paul is asking that he be accepted back into the household for this household has become one of faith. They are now a local church and are becoming well known as those who are refreshing the “hearts of the saints.” The concern for Paul is whether that grace which is refreshing the saints will reach out and restore the one who had run away.

In this final part of his letter Paul brings up the preparation of a guest room. It helps us to understand that Paul is hopeful that his imprisonment will be temporary but there also exists a possibility that this guest room allows for him to “visit” and check up on the ministry at Philemon’s home. This is just a little bit of added pressure to Philemon to restore Onesimus because if Paul comes to visit and Ph…

Those Who Choose to Undermine

Scripture
2 Timothy 4:14-15 Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will pay him back for his deeds. You also must beware of him, for he strongly opposed our message.
Observation
No one is immune from those who will harm you. Alexander seems to have intentionally undermined the ministry by what he had done. The sad part is that at one point and time he had been a part of the church but had then taken it upon himself to attack the doctrine and created a great deal of trouble. Considering his occupation he was probably not very well educated and so we can imagine the great gusto with which he may have attacked the church, thinking he knew what he was talking about, but in fact becoming terribly destructive.
Sadly many people were hurt and probably walked away from their faith in God as a result. The concern here in terms of harm was not the personal struggle or damage to one's own reputation but the fact that people were being led astray. 
The message is clear. We are…

Respecting Kingdom Citizens

Scripture

1Tim. 5:1   Do not speak harshly to an older man, but speak to him as to a father, to younger men as brothers,  2 to older women as mothers, to younger women as sisters—with absolute purity.

Observation

It seems that there were issues of multi-generational worship within the church of Ephesus. Usually instructions or comments are given because some type of incident has occurred and more than likely it had to do with an older person, or a person within a position of responsibility needing to be rebuked. No one is saying that just because someone is older and more experienced that they will never do anything wrong. The question is how the issue will be handled.

The encouragement here is to imagine that all of those within the church or kingdom are family members. The general principle at work here is that we are always to imagine all of those with whom we are serving as members of the same family. It doesn’t matter who they are, what gender, nationality or race they may be, we ar…

Women Will Be Saved Through Childbearing

Scripture

1 Timothy 2:15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing, provided they continue in faith and love and holiness, with modesty.

Observation

This is one of those troubling passages of Scripture that we have to confront from time to time. Quite honestly the authors of numerous commentaries have differing opinions on what is being said here. Some write that this is regarding spiritual child-bearing, that those who are “in Christ” will help to bring birth to those who are being born again but those are the kind comments. Many others have been less generous.

We do know that this letter is being written in regard to the situation in Ephesus. This is a city that is ripe with goddess worship and the entire section leading up to this has to do with propriety in worship. It’s quite possible that in a city that has an over-emphasis on a goddess has also been bringing this idea into the church. Over and over again in the New Testament we understand that societal divisions have been destroy…

It’s Time To Grow Up!

Scripture

Col. 1:9   For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,  10 so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God.  11 May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light.  13 He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son,  14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Observation

Again, Paul is praying for his spiritual children and his prayer becomes a gentle hint as to their need for continued growth. They are already participating in the kingdom of Christ and yet they ha…

The Deep Need for Interconnectedness

Scripture

Phil. 1:3   I thank my God every time I remember you,  4 constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you,  5 because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now.  6 I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.  7 It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart, for all of you share in God’s grace with me, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.  8 For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus.  9 And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight 10 to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless,  11 having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.

Observation

Here, again, we find the Apostle P…