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Showing posts from February, 2014

Why Love Is the Greatest

Scripture:

1Cor. 13:8 ¶ Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end.
1Cor. 13:9 For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part;
1Cor. 13:10 but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end.
1Cor. 13:11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.
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.
1Cor. 13:13 And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

Observation:

The great love chapter has always had great appeal.  I hear it read at weddings and other events and I wonder whether we really understand what Paul is talking about?  The depths of this love are beyond our comprehension for Paul is talking about the very nature …

Refusing to Listen

Scripture:

Mark 6:11 If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.”

Observation:

Jesus had instructed his disciples to go out into the cities and to preach the good news.  Some places would be more receptive than others.  The responsibility of the disciples was not to make the people receptive, but to be faithful messengers. 

Historically the Jews had shaken the dust off of their feet as they had left Gentile villages.  They were, in a sense, shaking the “uncleanliness” from their feet as they left these towns.  Therefore this was a common habit among those who saw themselves as being highly religious.  The disciples were traveling to Jewish villages and they were being prepared for those religious people who would refuse to hear.  The testimony against those who would not welcome them was not just a rejection of the disciples, but a rejection of Jesus himself.  The result was that these …

Begging Jesus to Leave!

Scripture:

Mark 5:17 Then they began to beg Jesus to leave their neighborhood.

Observation:

Jesus had just healed the man who had been demon possessed and it was a very impressive miracle.  The man was filled with numerous demons who declared their own name as “Legion” for they were many.  They begged to be sent into the pigs and Jesus responded to their request.  Overcome by the demons the pigs ran into the sea and were drown.

The people of the area were more angry than they were impressed.  Jesus might have brought healing to one man but the result messed with their business practices.  They were going to lose money because of what he had done.  They were much more interested in their financial enterprises than they were in their own spiritual lives or those of their community. 

They begged Jesus to leave their neighborhood.  Better to make money than to be set free spiritually!  And it wasn’t just a few who were begging him to leave.  Luke tells us that the entire community prayed tha…

Overstating the Case

Scripture:

Mark 4:35
That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” (NIV)

Observation:

The disciples had been hanging out with Jesus day in and day out.  They had listened to his preaching and been witnesses to his healing power.  Now, as they were tired from the day of ministry they got out on a boat and were cros…

Conspiring With the Enemy

Scripture:

Mark 3:6 The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.

Observation:


The Pharisees were so angry that Jesus had healed on the Sabbath that they went right out and sinned on the Sabbath!  The Herodians were a political party who were opposed to Roman Rule; rather nationalistic and in favor of the family of Herod.  The Pharisees were willing to conspire with their enemies because they hated Jesus.  Just as they were trying to catch him breaking the law they stomped all over the law by their own actions!

Application:


When we allow hate and dislike to rule in our hearts and lives we will go to extreme lengths to get our way.  That’s what the Pharisees were willing to do. 

Sadly, even God’s people have given into the temptation to use all means necessary to attack those who make them feel uncomfortable.  Jesus was pushing them out of the comfort zone of their religiosity.  They didn’t want to hear about this relational stuff, the…

A Sabbath Rest

Scripture:

Mark 2:27 Then he said to them, “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath;
Mark 2:28 so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.”

Observation:

God planned a sabbath for all of humanity; not just for the Jews.  The sabbath is not to be a burden to humanity but instead is to be a day of genuine rest and restoration for the people of God. 

Application:

The Jewish leaders had gotten hung up in the details of the Sabbath.  They had made it complicated and about the restrictions that needed to be followed.  It was as if they were worshipping the sabbath and honoring the day for the sake of the day.  Jesus knew that they had it all wrong. 

Every human needs a sabbath.  This is not a day to be overwhelmed with a set of rules placed upon us by others but it is to be a day of genuine rest and restoration.  Unfortunately we don’t always do well at understanding Sabbath in this way and we push ourselves to do far too much.  And eventually we don’t even unde…

Seeking the face of the LORD

Scripture:

Psa. 27:8     “Come,” my heart says, “seek his face!”
        Your face, LORD, do I seek.
Psa. 27:9         Do not hide your face from me.

Observation:

The Psalmist recognizes the need for God in life.  Created to be a reflection of God, one can only reflect what one sees.  Therefore the Psalmist is seeking the face of God.  When we look into the very face of God, then the face of God is reflected in us for all the world to see.  It is in this face to face and nose to nose relationship that our lives are set aright. 

Application:

We get up and what is the first thing we do in the morning?  I believe the Psalmist is teaching us the need to seek the face of God! 

If I am to be a reflection of the LORD in the world then I must be in a deeply personal relationship with him.  My alignment with him must be kept right. 

The Psalmist cries out, “Do not hide your face from me.”  The reality is that God doesn’t hide his face from us.  He remains the constant in the relationship, constantl…

Where is the Light Shining?

Scripture:

Num. 8:1 ¶ The LORD spoke to Moses, saying:
Num. 8:2 Speak to Aaron and say to him: When you set up the lamps, the seven lamps shall give light in front of the lampstand.
Num. 8:3 Aaron did so; he set up its lamps to give light in front of the lampstand, as the LORD had commanded Moses.

Observation:

The tabernacle was very dark with no windows.  The priests were instructed in the placement of the lamps.  The lampstand was to be lit from the fire of the altar and the remaining lamps to be lit from the lampstand.  They were to be arranged in such a way that they provided light leading up to the altar.

Application:

The fire of the altar represents the source of all light — God himself!  Jesus came to earth to be that light for us and we are to receive our light directly from him.  Only by being in relationship with him can we receive the light of God. 

We are to take that light out into the world and help to light more lights.  In this way the light of Christ is taken beyond the s…

Support From an Unexpected Source

Scripture:

Acts 27:1 ¶ When it was decided that we were to sail for Italy, they transferred Paul and some other prisoners to a centurion of the Augustan Cohort, named Julius.

Observation:


Paul had appealed to Caesar and so there was no option but to send him to Rome.  The time had now come and Paul was being placed on a ship.  While he traveled he was to be under the authority of a centurion by the name of Julius.  As we discover throughout this journey Paul and Julius become friends and the centurion intercedes, saving Paul’s life. Not only does he save Paul’s life but he becomes dependent upon Paul’s leading and direction.  The man who had authority over Paul as a prisoner becomes the unexpected source of help and support during this difficult phase of Paul’s journey.

Application:

We often have preconceived notions and expectations of people.  Especially when we encounter people in positions of authority we are quick to stereo-type them and what we perceive will be their behaviors.  How…

This Wasn’t Done in a Corner

Scripture:

Acts 26:25 But Paul said, “I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking the sober truth.
Acts 26:26 Indeed the king knows about these things, and to him I speak freely; for I am certain that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this was not done in a corner.

Observation:

Paul was speaking before Agrippa and Festus, sharing his testimony.  It is at this time that he shares his Damascus road experience and the transformation that he encountered as a follower of Jesus Christ.  The hope that he had found in Christ was exuding from him.  Festus thinks that Paul is crazy but then Paul reminds the rulers that they have been witnessing all these things about which he is speaking.  The followers of Christ are not living out their faith in secret, but instead are actively engaged in ministry, reflecting Christ to the world.  Paul knows that the leaders have been watching and seeing that this is genuine.  It “was not done in a corner!”

Application:

What ma…

Nursing a Grudge

Scripture:

Acts 24:27 ¶ After two years had passed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus; and since he wanted to grant the Jews a favor, Felix left Paul in prison.
Acts 25:1 ¶ Three days after Festus had arrived in the province, he went up from Caesarea to Jerusalem
Acts 25:2 where the chief priests and the leaders of the Jews gave him a report against Paul. They appealed to him
Acts 25:3 and requested, as a favor to them against Paul, to have him transferred to Jerusalem. They were, in fact, planning an ambush to kill him along the way.
Acts 25:4 Festus replied that Paul was being kept at Caesarea, and that he himself intended to go there shortly.
Acts 25:5 “So,” he said, “let those of you who have the authority come down with me, and if there is anything wrong about the man, let them accuse him.”

Observation:


Two years had now passed and Paul had been held in Caesarea.  Felix had been the one in charge but now Festus had taken over.  Only three days into his job he headed up to Jerusal…

Rather Well Informed

Scripture:

Acts 24:22 ¶ But Felix, who was rather well informed about the Way, adjourned the hearing with the comment, “When Lysias the tribune comes down, I will decide your case.”
Acts 24:23 Then he ordered the centurion to keep him in custody, but to let him have some liberty and not to prevent any of his friends from taking care of his needs.

Observation:

Paul had been brought before Felix and the accusers had told him about all of Paul’s bad behaviors; that he had been an agitator and a ring-leader of the Nazarenes.  What Tertullus, the lawyer, was not prepared for was that Felix was already “rather well informed about the Way.”  There were those in the region of Caesarea who had become Christians including Philip and Cornelius.  The accusations against Paul somehow did not measure up to the peaceful and loving followers of Christ that he had encountered.  This made him question the reliability of those testifying against Paul and therefore he deferred taking any action.  Instead he…

The Faithful Few

Scripture:

Acts 23:20 He answered, “The Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul down to the council tomorrow, as though they were going to inquire more thoroughly into his case.
Acts 23:21 But do not be persuaded by them, for more than forty of their men are lying in ambush for him. They have bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink until they kill him. They are ready now and are waiting for your consent.”
Acts 23:22 So the tribune dismissed the young man, ordering him, “Tell no one that you have informed me of this.”

Observation:


While the city of Jerusalem is in an uproar a handful of faithful believers refuse to be drawn into the fray.  They remain strong in their support of Jesus and Paul.  Becoming aware of the plot against Paul, his nephew who is now a member of “The Way” goes out on a limb to report what he has heard to the officials guarding his uncle.  The result is that Paul is saved from the awaiting ambush and he is eventually able to go to Rome to share the go…

What are you learning in prayer?

Scripture:

Psa. 25:4      ¶ Make me to know your ways, O LORD;
        teach me your paths.
Psa. 25:5     Lead me in your truth, and teach me,
        for you are the God of my salvation;
        for you I wait all day long.

Observation:

Here we have just a little bit of insight into the prayer life of the Psalmist.  His desire is to know the LORD, and in doing so to be able to follow the LORD’s paths throughout life.  The LORD’s truth is THE truth that is needed for life, that teaches us in the ways to go.  The Psalmist wants to follow the God who brings salvation — and this relationship is worth it.  For this we are willing to wait all day long!

Application:

What am I learning in prayer?  Too often we think that prayer is the time when we bring our needs before the Father, however there is so much more!  Prayer is the time in which we allow God to teach us, to mold us and to make us into his holy people.  Prayer is more about us listening and learning from the LORD, than it is about us aski…

Get Rid of Him

Scripture:

Acts 21
27 When the seven days were nearly over, some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul at the temple. They stirred up the whole crowd and seized him, 28 shouting, “Fellow Israelites, help us! This is the man who teaches everyone everywhere against our people and our law and this place. And besides, he has brought Greeks into the temple and defiled this holy place.” 29 (They had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with Paul and assumed that Paul had brought him into the temple.)

30 The whole city was aroused, and the people came running from all directions. Seizing Paul, they dragged him from the temple, and immediately the gates were shut. 31 While they were trying to kill him, news reached the commander of the Roman troops that the whole city of Jerusalem was in an uproar. 32 He at once took some officers and soldiers and ran down to the crowd. When the rioters saw the commander and his soldiers, they stopped beating Paul.

33 The commander came up and arr…

Giving

Scripture:

Acts 20:34 You know for yourselves that I worked with my own hands to support myself and my companions.
Acts 20:35 In all this I have given you an example that by such work we must support the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, for he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

Observation:

Paul had never wanted to be a burden on anyone and so as he went about his ministry he tried to find ways of supporting himself.  He was a brilliant and highly educated man but was very willing to work with his hands.  He had learned the trade of tent-making and therefore often found himself among others of the same trade working side-by-side, earning an income, while sharing the good news about Jesus.  It was in his work situations that he found great opportunity and we know that specifically he led Priscilla and Aquila, fellow tent-makers to the Lord. 

Application:

Everything Paul did in life was about ministry.  He wanted to make sure that he was serving Jesu…

Deprived of Majesty

Scripture:

Acts 19:27 And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be scorned, and she will be deprived of her majesty that brought all Asia and the world to worship her.”

Observation:

The goddess of Ephesus was Artemis and her temple was considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.  People came from all over the world to see the temple and to worship her.  Now, the Apostle Paul was preaching that people should not worship gods made with human hands, but they were to worship Jesus — the living God.  The artists who made money by selling Artemis trinkets were furious because Paul was disrupting their business.  The silversmith Demetrius was leading an uprising against Paul.  He was probably mostly concerned with his own profits, but he argued that Paul’s work was causing the majesty of Artemis to be called into question. 

Application:

The problem with Demetrius’ argument is that the tru…

Sacrificing to the Goat-Demons

Scripture:

Lev. 17:6 The priest shall dash the blood against the altar of the LORD at the entrance of the tent of meeting, and turn the fat into smoke as a pleasing odor to the LORD,
Lev. 17:7 so that they may no longer offer their sacrifices for goat-demons, to whom they prostitute themselves. This shall be a statute forever to them throughout their generations.

Observation:


The Israelites had been rescued from the Egyptians by God.  They had watched the Egyptian army be swallowed up by the sea.  They had seen Moses go up into the mountain to spend time alone with God and they had already gotten into trouble for worshipping the golden calf.  You would think that they had let go of the past and were willing to be faithful to the God who had rescued them and was providing food for them on a daily basis.  And yet, here in the midst of the instructions given to God’s people he has to tell them how to worship him instead of sacrificing to the goat-demons with whom they had “gone a whoring.”…

The Wisdom of Paul’s Apologetic

Scripture:

Acts 17:23 For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.
Acts 17:24 The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands,
Acts 17:25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things.
Acts 17:26 From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live,
Acts 17:27 so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us.
Acts 17:28 For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said,
    ‘For we too are his offspring.’
Acts 17:29 Since we are G…

Divine Direction

Scripture:

Acts 16:9 During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”

Observation:

Paul is on his missionary journey and the doors keep closing.  He’s been ministering in Asia and seeking God’s leading for his on-going ministry.  There were a number of times in his life that God spoke to Paul by way of a vision and this was no different.  Sometimes closed doors are a way of God leading, and that culminated in the vision of the man from Macedonia.  This would be a major step for Christianity as it would bring the gospel to Europe.  The call was not one from Imperial leadership, but a call of desperation, the call of a people who needed help!  It was the divine direction that Paul needed and so he crossed over into a new continent and in doing so ushered in a new era in Christianity.

Application:

There are critical moments in life when we seek God’s divine direction.  Paul was a man of prayer who had becom…

Unsettling Rumors

Scripture:

Acts 15:24 Since we have heard that certain persons who have gone out from us, though with no instructions from us, have said things to disturb you and have unsettled your minds,

Observation:

Jewish Christians around the city of Antioch were taking it upon themselves to tell the new Gentile believers that they would need to be circumcised or they would not be saved.  None of this instruction came from the Apostles, but it was simply the opinion of a few people.  However, by sharing their thoughts — and doing it with “authority” they had disturbed a whole lot of people.  What would it mean to be a Gentile and a follower of Christ?  Rumors were spreading throughout this Christian community and it was causing quite a stir. 

The Apostles had to get together and hold a council meeting in Jerusalem.  From there they had to issue a decision, in writing, to be sent to Antioch.  What you read above is a portion of the letter that was sent, apologizing for the unsettling rumors.  Hopef…

Withholding Evidence

Scripture:

Lev. 5:1 ¶ When any of you sin in that you have heard a public adjuration to testify and—though able to testify as one who has seen or learned of the matter—does not speak up, you are subject to punishment.

Observation:

The laws and rules were being established for God’s people.  Those who had witnessed a crime were required to testify to the crime.  If they refused to testify they were considered guilty and were subject to punishment.

Application:


Have you ever witnessed something that made you nervous and you would prefer to turn a blind eye to the situation.  I’m afraid that this may happen more often than we would like, and there have been times that it has happened within the Church.

Sadly the abuses of the Roman Catholic Church have come to light in the last number of years.  For years there were those who withheld evidence because they were concerned about the ramifications.  Who wants to report the misbehavior of a priest?  However, by not reporting the misbehavior of th…

The End of Corruption

Scripture:

Acts 13:34 As to his raising him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, he has spoken in this way,
    ‘I will give you the holy promises made to David.’
Acts 13:35 Therefore he has also said in another psalm,
    ‘You will not let your Holy One experience corruption.’
Acts 13:36 For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, died, was laid beside his ancestors, and experienced corruption;
Acts 13:37 but he whom God raised up experienced no corruption.

Observation:

Paul was testifying to the work of Jesus Christ and he wanted them all to understand the unique nature of his death and resurrection.  Jesus’ death was like none that had ever been experienced before.  Lazarus may have been raised from the dead but he was in the tomb for days and his body had begun to deteriorate.  His flesh had seen corruption.  Jesus’ body did not experience corruption for his victory was complete and the corruption of humanity which was begun with the sinning of …

Death by Pride

Scripture:

Acts 12:1 ¶ About that time King Herod laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the church.
Acts 12:2 He had James, the brother of John, killed with the sword.
Acts 12:3 After he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. (This was during the festival of Unleavened Bread.)

Acts 12:20 ¶ Now Herod was angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon. So they came to him in a body; and after winning over Blastus, the king’s chamberlain, they asked for a reconciliation, because their country depended on the king’s country for food.
Acts 12:21 On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat on the platform, and delivered a public address to them.
Acts 12:22 The people kept shouting, “The voice of a god, and not of a mortal!”
Acts 12:23 And immediately, because he had not given the glory to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.

Observation:

Herod was a man filled with great pride.  He believed in himself and …

What is Acceptable?

What is Acceptable?

Scripture:

Psalms 19:14
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable to you,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Observation:

There is a connection between the heart and the mouth.  Our words and our behaviors are to be acceptable to The Lord, the one who is the foundation of all things and gives us life.

Application:

Do we ever stop and think about the price that God has paid for us? How is it that he is our rock and our redeemer? The idea of redemption comes to us because God has paid a price for our salvation.  Sin was holding us in its grips and to be set free required Jesus' action to pay the price and redeem us.  Because of his work we are the redeemed, we are set free from the bondage of sin.

Once we experience that freedom we must build our lives upon a firm foundation, and that is, on the Lord.  Jesus' very life creates for us a pathway to follow that will lead us through life.  This is the firm foundation.  His path is not o…

We Are Witnesses

Scripture:

Acts 10:39 We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree;
Acts 10:40 but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear,
Acts 10:41 not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.
Acts 10:42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead.
Acts 10:43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Observation:

Peter was sharing his testimony with the family of Cornelius.  He laid out very simply what it was that he had seen and experienced with Jesus.  This was his testimony and the people of Cornelius’ house were ready to hear this truth, accept it and be baptized.

Application:

I have had many a conversation with a Christian who has said that they don’t know how to share the…

Take Off Your Ornaments

Scripture:

Ex. 33:4 ¶ When the people heard these harsh words, they mourned, and no one put on ornaments.
Ex. 33:5 For the LORD had said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘You are a stiff-necked people; if for a single moment I should go up among you, I would consume you. So now take off your ornaments, and I will decide what to do to you.’”
Ex. 33:6 Therefore the Israelites stripped themselves of their ornaments, from Mount Horeb onward.

Observation:

The people had sinned before God by making and worshiping the golden calf!  They had taken their golden jewelry — the earrings and other items they had gotten from the Egyptians and used them to create an idol.  Now, in an act of humility and repentance they were to take off all of their jewelry and ornaments.  It was a time of mourning over their sin and it included intentional action on the part of the Israelites. 

Application:


We don’t do all that well with humility and repentance!  It seems that we live in a time when we try to carry on…

What’s that I Smell?

Scripture:

Ex. 30:22 ¶ The LORD spoke to Moses:
Ex. 30:23 Take the finest spices: of liquid myrrh five hundred shekels, and of sweet-smelling cinnamon half as much, that is, two hundred fifty, and two hundred fifty of aromatic cane,
Ex. 30:24 and five hundred of cassia—measured by the sanctuary shekel—and a hin of olive oil;
Ex. 30:25 and you shall make of these a sacred anointing oil blended as by the perfumer; it shall be a holy anointing oil.
Ex. 30:26 With it you shall anoint the tent of meeting and the ark of the covenant,
Ex. 30:27 and the table and all its utensils, and the lampstand and its utensils, and the altar of incense,
Ex. 30:28 and the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils, and the basin with its stand;
Ex. 30:29 you shall consecrate them, so that they may be most holy; whatever touches them will become holy.
Ex. 30:30 You shall anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, in order that they may serve me as priests.
Ex. 30:31 You shall say to the Israelites, …