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Showing posts from June, 2014

Worship and Praise

Scripture:

Psa. 104:31      ¶ May the glory of the LORD endure forever;
        may the LORD rejoice in his works—
Psa. 104:32     who looks on the earth and it trembles,
        who touches the mountains and they smoke.
Psa. 104:33     I will sing to the LORD as long as I live;
        I will sing praise to my God while I have being.
Psa. 104:34     May my meditation be pleasing to him,
        for I rejoice in the LORD.

Observation:


Looking around at the beauty of creation we are moved to worship and to praise our God.  How can we look upon the beauty of the mountains, the foliage, the flowers, the berries, the sun setting over the ocean and yet, not praise the Creator?  When we stop in silence and look with childlike glee upon the beauty that surrounds us there is nothing more to be done but praise our God!

The Psalmist was overcome with worship before God.  Daily he looked upon all that God had done and meditated, thanking and praising the LORD.  The focus of his praise and worship was a…

Undivided Passion

Scripture:

Psa. 86:11     Teach me your way, O LORD,
        that I may walk in your truth;
        give me an undivided heart to revere your name.
Psa. 86:12     I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,
        and I will glorify your name forever.
Psa. 86:13     For great is your steadfast love toward me;
        you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.

Observation:

The Psalmist is praying to the Lord and in his prayer, we can find ourselves.  The way of the LORD is the path on which we are to journey.  It is a journey that leads us into truth and ultimately this leads us into a personal relationship with God, one in which our hearts are no longer divided over the things of this world.  Instead, we love God and serve him with our whole hearts. 

The result is that our undivided passion is in love, worship and service to God.  Great is God’s love toward us for he has lifted us up and brought us into the beauty of our relationship with him, saving us from the dept…

The Harm in Words

Scripture:
2Tim. 4:14 Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will pay him back for his deeds.  2Tim. 4:15 You also must beware of him, for he strongly opposed our message. 
Observation:
What was it that the coppersmith did?  It seems that he opposed the message that was brought and he did it with such vigor that great harm was done to the preacher.  Now the younger Timothy is being warned that he, too, should beware of this individual, for it seems he has not changed and he will continue to oppose the message.  
It is not the place of Timothy to “pay him back for his deeds,” but rather, this is the responsibility of the Lord.  Timothy is simply to be aware of what is happening and be wise in responding to the harm being done by Alexander’s words.
Application:
I was in a meeting this week of leaders who serve in numerous institutions.  The presenter was talking to us about the importance of reputation and the way in which reputation can be easily damaged these days.  With th…

Is close good enough?

Scripture:
2Ch 25:2
He did what was right in the sight of the Lord, yet not with a true heart.

Observation:
The new king had studied the laws of God and he knew the right things to do.  He began to enact the practices that he had been taught and yet there was something wrong.  God was longing for a King like David, a man after his own heart.  Not this king, for Amaziah did not have a true heart.  He could follow the letter of the law, but he had no passion for God.

Application:
Too often Christians get hung up on following the letter of the law and somehow miss out on the personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  Hours can be spent examining little details of facts and condemning others who may not see things from exactly the same perspective and all the while they may not have a true heart. 

A true heart seeks The Lord with all of their being.  The law is not a list of rules but it is a passion which comes from the heart that is set on The Lord. 

For Amaziah just getting close to following…

Time for Reflection

Scripture:

2Tim. 2:7 Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in all things.

Observation:

The instructions given to Timothy are to be strong in the grace in Christ Jesus.  The focus of life is to be on service to the Lord and understanding this and putting it into perspective takes time.  Timothy is to be reflective, thinking over what he has been taught so that his understanding will increase.

Application:

While Timothy may have been taught many things and had great instruction there was still the need to set aside time for reflection, or for thinking things over.  Slowing down and taking time to reflect is necessary in our spiritual lives.  We can fill our minds with all kinds of things that we have read and studied and yet, if we don’t take the time to reflect, will it truly not mean anything to us.

I think the greatest enemy to our spiritual lives these days is time.  Are we able to take time for reflection and thinking things over?  If we don’t, we are liable to…

A Circle of Protection

Scripture:

2Kings 11:4 ¶ But in the seventh year Jehoiada summoned the captains of the Carites and of the guards and had them come to him in the house of the LORD. He made a covenant with them and put them under oath in the house of the LORD; then he showed them the king’s son.
2Kings 11:5 He commanded them, “This is what you are to do: one-third of you, those who go off duty on the sabbath and guard the king’s house
2Kings 11:6 (another third being at the gate Sur and a third at the gate behind the guards), shall guard the palace;
2Kings 11:7 and your two divisions that come on duty in force on the sabbath and guard the house of the LORD
2Kings 11:8 shall surround the king, each with weapons in hand; and whoever approaches the ranks is to be killed. Be with the king in his comings and goings.”
2Kings 11:9 ¶ The captains did according to all that the priest Jehoiada commanded; each brought his men who were to go off duty on the sabbath, with those who were to come on duty on the sabbath,…

Call to Service

Scripture:

1Tim. 5:22 Do not ordain anyone hastily, and do not participate in the sins of others; keep yourself pure.

Observation:

There are different opinions regarding this verse.  Some believe that it is referring to the laying on of hands for healing, while the majority believe that it refers to the practice of ordination.  There are some who are called out by God to specific service as leaders.  Those who are called out for this responsibility of leadership or service as an overseer are ordained into this ministry.  The elders present lay their hands on this individual as a part of the ordination process.

Here we are warned not to lay hands on anyone too hastily.  The responsibility as a minister or leader is not one to be taken lightly.  Instead, this is a very serious and sacred responsibility and therefore one who senses this call must go through a period of preparation before they are ordained.  The caution here seems to be stated toward the individual who would do the ordaining…

Life and Doctrine

Scripture:

1Tim. 4:16 Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; continue in these things, for in doing this you will save both yourself and your hearers. (NRSV)
16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. (NIV)

Observation:

In these words to Timothy we hear words which speak to us as well.  His ministry was to be a testimony of his faith.  There was to be no distinction between what he preached and taught and the way in which he lived his life.  His life and doctrine were to be one and the same. 

This wasn’t necessarily to be a simply task.  There was a perseverance in the task which would require effort.  Every day was to be a day of living out his faith and in doing so he himself would be saved.  At the same time those who heard his preaching and messages would also be saved, both by his words and his life.

Application:

For the preacher of the Gospel there can be no distinction between the words w…

Grieving with Your People

Scripture:

2Kings 6:24 ¶ Some time later King Ben-hadad of Aram mustered his entire army; he marched against Samaria and laid siege to it.
2Kings 6:25 As the siege continued, famine in Samaria became so great that a donkey’s head was sold for eighty shekels of silver, and one-fourth of a kab of dove’s dung for five shekels of silver.
2Kings 6:26 Now as the king of Israel was walking on the city wall, a woman cried out to him, “Help, my lord king!”
2Kings 6:27 He said, “No! Let the LORD help you. How can I help you? From the threshing floor or from the wine press?”
2Kings 6:28 But then the king asked her, “What is your complaint?” She answered, “This woman said to me, ‘Give up your son; we will eat him today, and we will eat my son tomorrow.’
2Kings 6:29 So we cooked my son and ate him. The next day I said to her, ‘Give up your son and we will eat him.’ But she has hidden her son.”
2Kings 6:30 When the king heard the words of the woman he tore his clothes—now since he was walking on the…

Faith in the God Who Is Able

Scripture:

2Kings 4:42 ¶ A man came from Baal-shalishah, bringing food from the first fruits to the man of God: twenty loaves of barley and fresh ears of grain in his sack. Elisha said, “Give it to the people and let them eat.”
2Kings 4:43 But his servant said, “How can I set this before a hundred people?” So he repeated, “Give it to the people and let them eat, for thus says the LORD, ‘They shall eat and have some left.’”
2Kings 4:44 He set it before them, they ate, and had some left, according to the word of the LORD.

Observation:

Elisha had been spending days living among, communing with, and teaching the young prophets.  They were soaking in everything that they could learn from this man of God. 

This is a foreshadowing of what would happen during the time of Christ when the people would come and sit at his feet, desiring to learn everything they could from the rabbi Jesus.  But now they are at the feet of Elisha and they are getting hungry.

The people of the community brought their …

Does Your Presence Make an Eternal Difference?

Scripture:

2Kings 2:19 ¶ Now the people of the city said to Elisha, “The location of this city is good, as my lord sees; but the water is bad, and the land is unfruitful.”
2Kings 2:20 He said, “Bring me a new bowl, and put salt in it.” So they brought it to him.
2Kings 2:21 Then he went to the spring of water and threw the salt into it, and said, “Thus says the LORD, I have made this water wholesome; from now on neither death nor miscarriage shall come from it.”
2Kings 2:22 So the water has been wholesome to this day, according to the word that Elisha spoke.

Observation:

The bad water had the result of affecting the entire community.  There was no way that the land could be watered and therefore much-needed food could not be raised.  The prophet came to visit the city and his visit made an eternal difference.  Symbolically salt was brought to pour into the spring of water.  We all know that one bowl of salt would not have made an eternal difference in this spring, and yet, it was a sign…

Gracious Speech

Scripture:

Col. 4:6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone.

Observation:

Christian conduct was and always has been considered an important feature of the life of a believer.  Living for Christ involves a personal transformation which should be evidenced in the life of the believer.  This includes a taming of the tongue.  Here Paul is encouraging the believers to be careful about what comes out of their mouths.  Their speech should “always be gracious.” 

Think about this in light of the grace of God extended to you and to me.  We are sinners who are saved by grace.  God’s prevenient grace has continually been reaching out to those who do not know him — even those who intentionally attack him — he will not stop reaching out and loving them.  This is God’s grace which we have not earned or deserved and yet, he extends that grace to us.  How much more so should we, his children extend this type of grace by way of our spee…

Christ is Our Life

Scripture:

Col. 3:1 ¶ So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.
Col. 3:2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth,
Col. 3:3 for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
Col. 3:4 When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.

Observation:

When we are born again we receive a new life, one in which we are raised with Christ.  There is a transformation which occurs within our very being and no longer are we focused on the things of this world, but we become focused on the things that are of importance to Christ.  We are united with Christ and therefore his passions are our passions, his desires, our desires.  We begin to see the world around us from Christ’s perspective and in this way our minds become consumed with him. 

How powerful it is to imagine that we have been “hidden with Christ in God.”  We are drawn up into…

Wisdom and Knowledge

Scripture:

Col. 2:2 I want their hearts to be encouraged and united in love, so that they may have all the riches of assured understanding and have the knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ himself,
Col. 2:3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

Observation:

Humanity has always been on a search for wisdom and knowledge, but for the Christian there is one place where this wisdom and knowledge can be found, and that is, in Christ.  God’s mystery is bound up in his endless love for the humanity which he created.  This holy love became incarnate and was revealed to us in the person of Jesus Christ.  In Jesus are “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”  Therefore it is when we find ourselves “in Christ” that we discover all wisdom and knowledge for it does not come from anything external, but only in relationship to Christ.

Application:

Trying to gain wisdom and knowledge outside of Christ is ultimately futile.  Are there a lot of “smart” people in the world …

The Connection Between Joy and Peace

Scripture:

Phil. 4:4 ¶ Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.
Phil. 4:5 Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.
Phil. 4:6 Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
Phil. 4:7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Observation:

This admonition to rejoice and focus on the good comes through again in this letter to the believers in Philippi.  We’ve already been told to rejoice and now Paul brings up the subject again and repeats it for emphasis.  At this point he goes on to point out the connection to rejoicing and the very nature or attitude of the rejoicing believer.  There is a resultant gentleness in the life of the believer who rejoices because their very temperament allows them to draw near into the presence of the Lord.  In this presence we learn to bring our needs before the Father,…

Help for All

Scripture:

2Chr. 14:11 Asa cried to the LORD his God, “O LORD, there is no difference for you between helping the mighty and the weak. Help us, O LORD our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this multitude. O LORD, you are our God; let no mortal prevail against you.”

Observation:

Asa was about to lead the people of Judah into battle.  Zerah the Ethiopian had come out to attack him with a million men and three hundred chariots.  The odds were stacked against Asa and his army, who had just under six hundred thousand men made up of individuals from the tribes of Judah and Benjamin.  They had no chariots.

As Asa faced the enemy, who wished to destroy them, he cried out to the LORD.  In the world’s estimation, Asa and his men were weak.  Why would God want to support the weaker of the two teams?  Asa knew that the God he served did not play by the world’s rules.  Instead, he knew that he, the weaker, could call upon the LORD to help him.  His prayer helps us see tha…

Focus on the Good!

Scripture:

Phil. 3:1 ¶ Finally, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord.

Observation:

Here is a word of admonition for the believers in the city of Philippi, one that is to stay with them on a daily basis.  All of God’s children are to rejoice in the Lord!

Application:

Every day it seems as if we get more “news” that is more doom and gloom!  It’s so easy to become focused on the negatives of life and forget that there are good things happening.  Even followers of Jesus Christ can become consumed with seeing only the negative and not the positive around them.  I believe this admonition from Paul was a serious one because he knew the importance of rejoicing in the Lord, even in the midst of difficulties.

Too often I’m afraid that even God’s children spend a lot of time and energy looking at the negatives. Yes, there is a lot in this world that is difficult and yet, there is also much that is good.  The Lord is working and is engaged in our lives.  Sometimes it simply takes being intentio…

Mentorship: True Children of Faith

Scripture:

1Tim. 1:2 ¶ To Timothy, my loyal child in the faith:

Observation:

The greeting here to Timothy identifies him as a loyal child in the faith, or a true child of faith.  Timothy is not a biological son, but is, instead the result of a relationship founded on a love for God.  He has been raised up spiritually and now is able to take on roles and responsibilities of leadership.

Application:

I frequently hear people discuss the topic of mentoring.  Young people are looking for those who will mentor them, and new believers are seeking out those who are more mature in their faith to lead them along this Christian journey.  There is a great desire to have this spiritual connectivity that results in a nurturing and growth that leads to greater maturity. 

We are hungry these days to grow spiritually and to learn more about what it means to walk with the Lord in today’s world.  The world is changing at light speed and the things on which we had been able to depend may no longer even exist…

Spice-Laden Mountains

Scripture:

Song 8:14      ¶ Make haste, my beloved,
        and be like a gazelle
    or a young stag
        upon the mountains of spices!

Observation:
This is the final verse of the Song of Songs.  It seems to end rather abruptly and yet there is passion and poignancy in this last comment.  This entire book, the Song of Songs sits at the very heart of the word of God and is a reminder that the call of God’s people is into an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.  Jesus had not yet come when the book was written and so it becomes prophetic, foreshadowing the arrival of the beloved, the one with whom we would fall in love. The longing and the desire contained within the pages of the Song are a reminder to us of the deep love that Jesus has for us and the depth of response he is awaiting from us.  True holiness is to become absorbed in the holy love exuding from the beloved.

But here the book ends rather abruptly.  The beloved is suddenly gone and we are awaiting his return.  Where is he?…

Remember Camp Songs?

Scripture:

Song 2:4     He brought me to the banqueting house,
        and his intention toward me was love. (NRSV)

Let him lead me to the banquet hall,
    and let his banner over me be love. (NIV)

Observation:

The beauty of human of love is revealed to us in Song of Solomon.  God has created this intimacy which is to exist between a man and a woman.  At the same time this human intimacy reveals to us God’s desire for us to begin to comprehend his unfathomable love, waiting to be poured out on us. The story in Song of Solomon is one in which we find God’s love reaching out to all of humanity.

It is God, who through his prevenient grace, is constantly reaching out to all of humanity, drawing us toward him.  He is the one who invites us into his banqueting table and this is the table found within the church for here, within the body of Christ, the bride, we find him.  The banqueting house or banqueting table is where the bread and the wine were served and so we are led to that place, to…

Living in Love

Scripture:

Eph. 5:1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children,
Eph. 5:2 and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Observation:

One sentence — packed full of the holiness message. 

It all begins with Christ and his very nature which is holy love.  His holy love drove him to give himself up for all of us.  He wanted us to become brothers and sisters and this would only be possible by sacrificing his life for all of us.  By giving up his life, he made it possible for us to live a new life, born again into his family.  Living in his family we take on the very nature of Christ — holy love.  Therefore we live in love — in Jesus’ holy love and we desire to be just like him.  That’s why we imitate him, because we are in him and want to be like him. 

Christ’s holiness drove him to die on the cross for us.  We are invited to become partakers of the divine nature, to live in his holiness and this is living in love.

Appli…

Longing for the Good Old Days

Scripture:

Eccl. 7:10     Do not say, “Why were the former days better than these?”
        For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.

Observation:

Wisdom literature often gives us things to chew on.  Obviously longing for the “good old days” has been around for a long time, looking back and thinking that the past was better than the present.  Somehow this is not considered wise and it may be that this question is asked from emotion rather than careful examination.  The “good old days” weren’t always that good and maybe it’s time to take a hard look at the present.

Application:

Today is Pentecost Sunday and as we remember the coming of the Holy Spirit into the presence of the church on that historical day, we may have a tendency to look back with great longing.  Wouldn’t it have been incredible to have been present on that day so long ago?  What was it that happened?  The people there witnessed an outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit that transformed the world.  The little band of Jesus’ foll…

All Generations

Scripture:

Eph. 3:20 ¶ Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine,
Eph. 3:21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Observation:

Paul’s prayer in the middle of his letter to the church in Ephesus is a blessing to us all.  Not only does he speak to those who were living in and around Ephesus, but he speaks to us today as well.  He recognized that there was a power that would come to us through the working of the Holy Spirit that could accomplish much more than we could ever imagine.  Human limitations would be broken through the infilling and overpowering work of the Holy Spirit and in this way it is God who would be glorified and praised. 

At the same time the prayer was for the presence of God (his glory) to be revealed in the church, which is the body of Christ.  The role of the church in the revelation of Christ’s presence here on earth is vitally importa…

A New Building of Worship

Scripture:

Eph. 2:19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God,
Eph. 2:20 built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.
Eph. 2:21 In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord;
Eph. 2:22 in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.

Observation:

The new temple is an interesting place, the beauty found in the diversity of the stones themselves, for they are living stones, made up of those who are “members of the household of God.”  Within this household are found people of all races, but they have now been united as citizens of the kingdom. 

This new temple is to be more beautiful than anything made by human hands.  Jesus is the cornerstone and the foundation around him is made up of the “apostles and prophets.”  These are those who have gone before and paid the price spiritual…

Just Enough

Scripture:

Prov. 30:7      ¶ Two things I ask of you;
        do not deny them to me before I die:
Prov. 30:8     Remove far from me falsehood and lying;
        give me neither poverty nor riches;
        feed me with the food that I need,
Prov. 30:9     or I shall be full, and deny you,
        and say, “Who is the LORD?”
    or I shall be poor, and steal,
        and profane the name of my God.

Observation:

The writer of the proverb understood that having too much or too little could be a strain on someone’s life.  The prayer was for a balance in life.  First of all, to be a person of integrity, not lying or cheating in any way.  Second, the prayer is for “neither poverty nor riches,” but a request for daily bread — just what is needed. 

The writer understood the consequences of too much, and not enough.  Too much meant that the individual would not need to trust in God.  Not enough left the person open to temptation and rejection of God.  It seems that just enough was the sweet spot of tru…

Almost Forgotten

Scripture:

Rom. 16:12 Greet those workers in the Lord, Tryphaena and Tryphosa. Greet the beloved Persis, who has worked hard in the Lord.

Observation:

In Paul’s final chapter of greetings to the Romans we find many individuals listed.  As we read over the names we can begin to wonder who these people may have been and what had they done.  Most commentators don’t provide us with many clues and just mention that, in the case of this verse, they are women who were faithful in serving God.  Adam Clarke, writing in the 18th century writes:

Two holy women, who it seems were assistants to the apostle in his work, probably by exhorting, visiting the sick, &c. Persis was another woman, who it seems excelled the preceding; for, of her it is said, she laboured much in the Lord. We learn from this, that Christian women, as well as men, laboured in the ministry of the word. In those times of simplicity all persons, whether men or women, who had received the knowledge of the truth, believed it to…

It’s Worth A Read!

Scripture:

Rom. 15:4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.

Observation:

Paul was reminding his readers that spending time in the Scriptures was important!  Reading and learning from the past informs the present and the future.  The past serves as a road-map for the future when we realize that what has been written has been left to us for instruction. 

It is in reading the word that the Word is revealed to us and this is how we receive encouragement and hope.  We are blessed by the Word of God which is living and breathing and actively engaged in changing our lives.  The result is hope in the midst of discouragement.  It’s worth a read!

Application:

The Bible is something that most of us tend to take for granted.  It’s something that we’ve had around us for all of our lives and so we fail to realize how blessed we are to be able to put our hands on the word on a daily …

Why are we Criticizing One Another?

Why Are We Criticizing One Another?

Scripture:

Rom. 14:1 ¶ Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions.
Rom. 14:2 Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables.
Rom. 14:3 Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them.
Rom. 14:4 Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand.

Observation:

A serious issue was arising among believers in Jesus Christ.  Some of the members of the community of faith felt that they had Christian liberty.  They felt that they were strong enough in their relationship with the Lord that things like food and certain holy days did not affect their ability to worship God.  However, those who had come from the Jewish faith, or those who were new in their Christian faith, still struggled…

It Takes Hard Work!

Scripture:

Prov. 20:4     The lazy person does not plow in season;
        harvest comes, and there is nothing to be found.

Observation:

To be a farmer one must work hard.  A farmer friend of mine, Ken Morehead posted this on his Facebook this week:  “Finished planting today. If I had planted a straight line from here, never turning around, I would have ended up 550 miles away. That's roughly the distance from here to Kansas City or Billings MT. At 5.5 mph.” (May 20, 2014) -- He lives in North Dakota!

Ken spent the time needed to plow and plant in season.  Come harvest he will have to drive those 550 miles all over again and the fruit of his labor will be that much will be found. 

Sadly, if lazy person does get around to plowing or planting it probably won't be at the right time.  I’m afraid that they probably complain and blame their lack of harvest on other details — such as the weather, or others interfering with their lives.  However, when it is harvest season, they will find …