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Showing posts from March, 2014

What’s It Like Working for the Lord?

Scripture:

1Cor. 15:58 ¶ Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Observation:

Paul was faithfully serving the Lord, day in and day out.  He had just finished sharing with the Corinthian church about the resurrection.  He was firm in his faith in Jesus Christ and in the resurrection of the dead.  He knew that Christ had been resurrected and that we too, as God’s followers, would also be raised again from the dead.  That is why he could be steadfast and immovable!  The foundation of faith on which his life was built was firm.  Nothing would shake him from his understanding of the life-giving gospel found in Christ! 

Paul was moved with passion for those who were lost; for those who would not experience the resurrection.  Yes, God’s prevenient grace is reaching out to the entire world but there will come a day of judgement.  There will be a resurrection and Paul wanted to make sure…

Spiritual Blindness

Scripture:

John 9:39-41
Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.

Observation:


The man who was speaking to Jesus had been born blind.  In life there may be accidents or diseases that cause blindness but someone who has never seen, this is something completely different.  Jesus had healed this man and suddenly he could see.  The miracle of this is huge for modern science would tell us that his brain, unaccustomed to seeing would not even have known how to interpret the things he was seeing and yet he seemed able to make sense of it all, trying to explain to the religious leaders what had happened to him. 

The religious authorities were so hung up on how they interpreted the law of Moses they they could…

Sharing and Waiting

Scripture:

1Cor. 11:33 ¶ So then, my brothers and sisters, when you come together to eat, wait for one another.
1Cor. 11:34 If you are hungry, eat at home, so that when you come together, it will not be for your condemnation. About the other things I will give instructions when I come.

Observation:

The Lord’s Supper had turned into a common feast for the church at Corinth.  It was something of a pot-luck dinner and people were celebrating and eating this meal together.  The problem was that they would start early, while many of the laborers were still at work.  By the time they could arrive there was nothing left.  Some people were eating their fill and drinking while others were left hungry.  This was not the intent of the Lord’s Supper.  Instead, the Lord’s supper was to be a time when they intentionally gathered together, waiting on and preferring one another.  It was to be a time of inclusion, not exclusion.  It was to be done simply — just the Lord’s supper, and nothing more added …

When Your Ministry Is Questioned

Scripture:

1Cor. 9:1 ¶ Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord?
1Cor. 9:2 If I am not an apostle to others, at least I am to you; for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.

Observation:

Paul had gotten word from Chloe’s people that there were problems in the church in Corinth.  The people were arguing and complaining about many things, including Paul’s leadership.  They complained that he hadn’t really seen Christ, nor had he been under Jesus’ day to day discipleship so he couldn’t have had authority to teach them.  And surely, had he been an Apostle he would have taken advantage of the opportunities set before him, including the possibility of receiving financial support for his ministry and/or having had a wife travel with him.  At least, this is what they had seen from the other apostles.  So, if he didn’t act exactly like some of the others, surely he couldn’t have been for real and now his ministry was under scrut…

Why Are They Still Here?

Scripture:

Josh. 15:63 ¶ But the people of Judah could not drive out the Jebusites, the inhabitants of Jerusalem; so the Jebusites live with the people of Judah in Jerusalem to this day.

Observation:


God had promised the Israelites that they would be victorious over the people who lived in the promised land.  If the people of God were obedient and followed what God instructed them to do they would be victorious.  This begs the question — why couldn’t the people of Judah drive out the Jebusites?  And obviously, the Jebusites remained and infiltrated the people of God, diluting their faith.  They shouldn’t have been there — and yet they were!  Something had gone wrong.

Application:


There are times in our own lives that God gives us instructions.  These instructions may include getting as far away from the “enemy” as possible.  And yet, suddenly we find ourselves being influenced by those around us, encouraging us to be involved in activities that are not beneficial to us.  We have to ask ou…

My Strength Is From the Lord

Scripture:

Josh. 14:10 And now, as you see, the LORD has kept me alive, as he said, these forty-five years since the time that the LORD spoke this word to Moses, while Israel was journeying through the wilderness; and here I am today, eighty-five years old.
Josh. 14:11 I am still as strong today as I was on the day that Moses sent me; my strength now is as my strength was then, for war, and for going and coming.

Observation:

Caleb had been one of the faithful few among the Israelites.  He and Joshua had been the spies who had returned convinced that the Lord could help them gain victory over the Canaanites.  Unfortunately the people had not agreed and he had wandered in the wilderness, together with them, for forty years.  Now, he was a man of eighty-five and throughout all of this time he had remained faithful.  The result was that the Lord had given him strength to fulfill the promise to him and his family.  Now he was to go out and conquer the land that had been provided for him.

Appl…

Defective Relationships

Scripture:

1Cor. 6:7 ¶ In fact, to have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded?
1Cor. 6:8 But you yourselves wrong and defraud—and believers at that.

Observation:

God’s intent was that the Christian community would reflect the love of Christ.  As people grew spiritually they were to become a greater reflection of the love of Christ to the world.  Paul calls these laws suits a defeat, or a defect.  Why?  Because it meant that they were not living as the victorious followers of Christ that they could have been.  By giving into legal action against one another they were failing as followers of Christ.  The question ultimately boils down to what is more important?  Obviously for Paul to be like Christ was the most important thing in life.  Jesus came into human flesh so that we could be like him.  We are to follow after him and allow the Holy Spirit to work in and through us to transform us into his likeness.  Tha…

Renewal for a Multi-cultural and Multi-generational Community

Scripture:

Josh. 8:35 There was not a word of all that Moses commanded that Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel, and the women, and the little ones, and the aliens who resided among them.

Observation:

Joshua was now the leader of the Israelites and had led them to a victory over Ai.  However, the community was in need of an on-going reminder of their covenant relationship with God.  This was not just a relationship between the leadership and God, but a relationship of the entire community and God.  Joshua gathered the entire assembly together and read every word of Moses’ commands to them.  No one was excluded from this reading.  The women were responsible for the children who were in the home and therefore the women and the children needed to hear these commands directly.  The aliens were also considered a part of this community as long as they lived by the laws of God. 

Inclusivity was an important feature in God’s community and every member was to know the importanc…

Where’s The Power?

Scripture:

1Cor. 4:20 For the kingdom of God depends not on talk but on power.

Observation:

There was a growing arrogance in the church.  Places of position and levels of education were creating a type of hierarchy that was resulting in division.  Paul was concerned about the behavior and he was convinced that an ability to speak with eloquence was not an indicator of one’s spiritual growth.  Instead one needed to look on the power that was revealed in the life of the individual.  Those who were in the kingdom of God were not there because they could speak well.  It was recognized that they were in the kingdom by the fact that their lives were a reflection of Jesus Christ and his power.

Application:

Social media, the television and the internet have all changed the face of Christianity.  As much as we wouldn’t want to admit it we are influenced by the consumer characteristics of our world.  What is it that sells?  Nice looking people with products that make us feel good, packaged in appeal…

Do Not Boast About Human Leaders

Scripture:

1Cor. 3:21 So let no one boast about human leaders. For all things are yours,
1Cor. 3:22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all belong to you,
1Cor. 3:23 and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.

Observation:

A number of different preachers and teachers had made their way through Corinth.  Different members of the church felt that they had bragging rights over the follower of Christ who had discipled them.  Some were proud that Paul had been their teacher.  Others may have been baptized by Apollos and Peter had also been influential in the ministry there.  The problem was the disunity among the believers as they argued over who was more important.  Paul was telling them that boasting about human leadership was a waste of time.  Rather, everything here on earth comes under the rule of Christ.  We all — including our human leaders — belong to Christ, “and Christ belongs to God.”

Application:

Unfortunately we ha…

A Demonstration of the Spirit

Scripture:

1Cor. 2:4 My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power,
1Cor. 2:5 so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.

Observation:

Paul had a great education and he knew how to prepare messages for the people to hear.  This Scripture does not intend to serve as an excuse for avoiding preparation for preaching, but it is a suggestion that even the greatest of preachers is to be dependent upon the demonstration of the Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is to infuse our work so that the presence of God is revealed in the spoken word and not the eloquence or the preparation of the speaker.

Application:

All followers of Jesus Christ should realize that there is a need for the demonstration of the Spirit within their lives and work.  If we believe in the priesthood of all believers, then we believe that all are called to a lifestyle that would reveal the work of God in and through them.  This m…

Restoration in a Spirit of Gentleness

Scripture:

Gal. 6:1 ¶ My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted.

Observation:

Followers of Jesus Christ may discover themselves falling into a transgression, or a fault.  There are occasions when this happens and the Apostle was well aware that this could be the case and therefore he established a method by which to restore such an individual.  However, those engaged in the restoration are admonished here that they are to be cloaked in a spirit of meekness.  Why?  Because when we become engaged in the reproach of others, we may discover that we are tempted, and this may occur on many levels.  We may be tempted to think that we are above transgressions or faults, or we may be tempted to use our power to hurt or damage the other individual.  Restoration should always occur in with a spirit of gentleness. 

Application:

It is sometimes difficult to k…

Paying a Decent Wage

Scripture:

Deut. 25:4 ¶ You shall not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.

1Cor. 9:8 ¶ Do I say this on human authority? Does not the law also say the same?
1Cor. 9:9 For it is written in the law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned?
1Cor. 9:10 Or does he not speak entirely for our sake? It was indeed written for our sake, for whoever plows should plow in hope and whoever threshes should thresh in hope of a share in the crop.
1Cor. 9:11 If we have sown spiritual good among you, is it too much if we reap your material benefits?

Observation:


Moses’ law stipulated that the Israelites were to take good care of their animals.  If one fell into a ditch, they were to retrieve it.  This was not only in regard to their own animals, but they were to care for the animals of others’ as well. 

The oxen were yoked together to work on the threshing floor.  As they walked around the millstone, the stone would grind t…

Finders Keepers, Losers Weepers?

Scripture:

Deut. 22:1 ¶ You shall not watch your neighbor’s ox or sheep straying away and ignore them; you shall take them back to their owner.
Deut. 22:2 If the owner does not reside near you or you do not know who the owner is, you shall bring it to your own house, and it shall remain with you until the owner claims it; then you shall return it.
Deut. 22:3 You shall do the same with a neighbor’s donkey; you shall do the same with a neighbor’s garment; and you shall do the same with anything else that your neighbor loses and you find. You may not withhold your help.

Observation:

God’s people had already been instructed to love the Lord and love their neighbor.  Now, here comes an affirmation and practical example of what it means to love one’s neighbor.  As God’s holy people we are called to take responsibility for the things that we find in life.  Whereas the world would tell us “finders keepers, losers weepers,” God’s people are to have a completely different perspective.  As a membe…

God’s Child

Scripture:

Gal. 3:26 for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith.
Gal. 3:27 As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
Gal. 3:28 There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.
Gal. 3:29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.

Observation:


Faith in Jesus Christ has changed everything for God’s people and being baptized into Christ we are now children of God.  We have the privilege of being God’s holy children here on this earth because we have been adopted into the family.  Not just are we adopted but we are now grown-up mature members of the family who are now reflecting the image of the Father whom we are facing.  Why?  Because we belong to him and to no one else!

Application:

I’m not sure that we can ever fully grasp the implications of this scripture.  All of the human barriers that…

Confronting a Friend

Scripture:

Gal. 2:11 ¶ But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood self-condemned;
Gal. 2:12 for until certain people came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But after they came, he drew back and kept himself separate for fear of the circumcision faction.
Gal. 2:13 And the other Jews joined him in this hypocrisy, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.
Gal. 2:14 But when I saw that they were not acting consistently with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

Observation:

Paul was troubled by Peter’s (Cephas) behavior.  Peter had adjusted his relationship with the Gentiles to please certain Jews.  Others were watching the way in which Peter would treat the Gentiles and they followed his example, including Paul’s own Barnabas.  I can only imagine Paul’s frustration at all of this!  However, inste…

Knowledge and Authority

Scripture:

Gal. 1:11 ¶ For I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin;
Gal. 1:12 for I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.

Observation:

Paul did not know Christ when he was alive and nor was he one of the original disciples.  There always seemed to be those who questioned his preaching of the gospel because his experience was unique.  However, it was in his unique experience, his personal revelation of Christ on the road to Damascus, that provided him with his own first-hand knowledge of the gospel.  Paul had experienced the transformational work of the gospel in his own life.  The result was a desire to spread the good news about Jesus everywhere that he went.

The knowledge that he had of Christ, his own first-hand experience, was then coupled with the authority that he received.  His authority also came from Jesus’ personal revelation and on-…

Needing Strength

Scripture:

Deut. 11:8 ¶ Keep, then, this entire commandment that I am commanding you today, so that you may have strength to go in and occupy the land that you are crossing over to occupy,
Deut. 11:9 and so that you may live long in the land that the LORD swore to your ancestors to give them and to their descendants, a land flowing with milk and honey.

Observation:

God was providing the law, written on stone tablets, to the Israelites for the second time.  The first time they had worshiped the golden calf in Moses’ absence.  Now, again, he is reconfirming his covenant with his people. 

The people are tired and weary.  The journey has been tiresome and often their nerves are frayed.  The people of the promised land will seem overwhelming and dominant to them but before they even know what lies ahead God promises to give them strength.  He will give them what they need to cross over and to overcome — if they keep God’s commands.

Application:

There are times when life simply feels overwhelmi…

Go Boldly

Go Boldly

Mark 15:43
Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.

Observation:

Jesus' followers had just experienced his excruciating death by way of crucifixion.  It should have been a moment of fear and trembling for all of his followers and yet here we find Joseph of Arimathea willing to go boldly to Pilate to ask for the body of Jesus.  Willing to put aside all fear of being associated with Jesus, Joseph moves on boldly.

Application:

We are not charged to be timid about our faith in Jesus Christ, but we are encouraged to move forward boldly.  For the disciples who witnessed Jesus' death this boldness was acted out in different ways, ways in which we, too, may be challenged to respond.

Joseph boldly went before the government official to follow-through on his commitment to Christ.  There may be those of us who will be called to be bold in our f…

What Are you Singing?

Scripture:

Mark 14:26  ¶ When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

Observation:

Jesus and his disciples were celebrating the passover together; the last supper.  Jesus knew what was coming but his disciples still did not understand.  It was customary to close out the celebration of the Passover by singing the hallel Psalms, found in Psalms 115-118.  As they closed out the evening they would have finished by singing the following lines:

Psalm 118
22The stone the builders rejected
   
has become the cornerstone;

23 the Lord has done this,
   
and it is marvelous in our eyes.

24 The Lord has done it this very day;
   
let us rejoice today and be glad.
25 Lord, save us!
   
Lord, grant us success!
26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
   
From the house of the Lord we bless you.

27 The Lord is God,
   
and he has made his light shine on us.

With boughs in hand,
join in the festal procession
   
up to the horns of the altar.
28 You are my God, and I will…

For Your Own Well Being and Your Descendants

Scripture:

Deut. 4:39 So acknowledge today and take to heart that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other.
Deut. 4:40 Keep his statutes and his commandments, which I am commanding you today for your own well-being and that of your descendants after you, so that you may long remain in the land that the LORD your God is giving you for all time.

Observation:

The Israelites were being instructed by God and the instruction came with a promise.  If they would acknowledge him as God — and God alone, then they would experience his well-being as well as their descendants.  But this was the area in which they struggled.  They were constantly enticed by the gods of the other nations and would easily turn their backs on the one - true God. 

Application:

Far too often I don’t think that we realize the consequences of our own actions on the generations who will follow us.  We believe that our choices are our choices and we can do whatever we want.  However, if, for …

Commended By the Wit of the Argument

Scripture:

Mark 12:13 ¶ Then they sent to him some Pharisees and some Herodians to trap him in what he said.
Mark 12:14 And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality, but teach the way of God in accordance with truth. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?
Mark 12:15 Should we pay them, or should we not?” But knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why are you putting me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me see it.”
Mark 12:16 And they brought one. Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” They answered, “The emperor’s.”
Mark 12:17 Jesus said to them, “Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were utterly amazed at him.

Observation:

The Pharisees and the Herodians were conniving together to try and trap Jesus.  He knew exactly what they were up to and his answer stunned them; “and they we…

Strategic Planning

Scripture:

Mark 11:11 ¶ Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.

Observation:

Jesus had just entered Jerusalem as the people surrounded him and sang, “Hosanna.”  Before he left the city that day he went to scope out the landscape of things.  He took the time to examine what was happening at the temple and in the city.  Then, he left the city and went to Bethany and more than likely to a night of prayer.  We learn in other locations of scripture that he goes out to pray at night, as was his practice.  Jesus regularly retired to spend time in the presence of his Father.  It is not until he has evaluated and spent time in prayer that he can return the following day ready for the action which lies ahead.

Application:


Evaluation - Prayer - Action

This is the way in which Jesus responded to the situation which he encountered in Jerusalem and these three steps are not bad sugges…

Raising the Bar on Marriage

Scripture:

Mark 10:2-9
Some Pharisees came, and to test him they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her.” But Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female. ’ ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. ’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

Observation:


God's people had struggled in their marriages just like the rest of the world.  Because even God's holy people could not work out their problems Moses allowed people to write certificates of divorce.  The result was that women could be discarded for a multitude of reasons, and generally, it was the result of not being valued as an indi…

If Jesus is Able?

Scripture:

Mark 9:23 Jesus said to him, “If you are able!—All things can be done for the one who believes.”

Observation:

The father of the demon possessed boy comes before Jesus.  His son has been afflicted for much of his life and often is hurt by throwing himself into the fire.  Obviously this man wants his son to be healed.  Finally he says, “if you are able to do anything, have pity on us and help us.”

Quickly Jesus turns the statement around.  The implication of the word “if” is to actually question the power and ability of Jesus.  This is not about what Jesus can or cannot do, but this is about the faith of the father.  Does the father believe in Jesus?  Does the father believe that Jesus has the power to heal his son?  Therein lies the true question.

Later the disciples ask Jesus why they were unable to heal this boy.  Jesus responds that this kind can only come out by prayer, and now I wonder — whose prayer?  Could it be that Jesus wasn’t talking about the disciples’ prayer life, …

The Cruciform Life

Scripture:

Mark 8:34 ¶ He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.

Observation:

Jesus was calling his followers to a whole new way of life, one that demanded self-sacrifice and discipline.  The people of Jesus’ day knew all about Roman crucifixion and that one was required to carry their own cross to their execution.  This was symbolic of their submission to the power of Rome.  For someone to become a follower of Christ meant total and complete submission to the way of Jesus Christ.  John Wesley said that to take up the cross was to “Embrace the will of God, however painful, daily, hourly, continually. Thus only can he follow me in holiness to glory.”

Application:

The cruciform life is one in which we are led into holiness.  This is exactly what Jesus wanted his followers to understand, that he had come to provide for them a way to glory.  This way to glory was one in which t…