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Showing posts from July, 2014

What’s Your Story?

Scripture:

Psa. 107:1 ¶     O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
        for his steadfast love endures forever.
Psa. 107:2     Let the redeemed of the LORD say so,
        those he redeemed from trouble
Psa. 107:3     and gathered in from the lands,
        from the east and from the west,
        from the north and from the south.

Observation:

Over and again we discover the Psalmist being overcome with praise and thanksgiving to God.  Remembering the attributes of God, he praises the LORD for his nature and his love which endures forever. This is the underlying theme and the foundation onto which we may all hold.  God is good — and his love endures forever.

Once this is established it’s time to tell the story. Let those whom the Lord has redeemed tell their story! He has saved his people and brought them out from trouble. He has gathered them from the places where they were alone and at the hands of the enemy. With trouble surrounding us, God has become our refuge and our res…

Awaiting Hephzibah and Beulah

Scripture:

Is. 62:4     You shall no more be termed Forsaken,
        and your land shall no more be termed Desolate;
    but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her,
        and your land Married;
    for the LORD delights in you,
        and your land shall be married.
Is. 62:5     For as a young man marries a young woman,
        so shall your builder marry you,
    and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,
        so shall your God rejoice over you. (NRSV)

No longer will they call you Deserted,
    or name your land Desolate.
But you will be called Hephzibah,
    and your land Beulah;
for the Lord will take delight in you,
    and your land will be married. (NIV)

Observation:

This prophecy regarding the transformation of Zion should be a blessing to us all. As the children of Israel had wandered about in exile they were about to discover what it meant to return home.  No longer were they going to feel as if they were forsaken or deserted.  Their homeland was to be transformed, no longer deso…

Bless the Lord!

Scripture:

Psa. 103:1     Bless the LORD, O my soul,
        and all that is within me,
        bless his holy name.
Psa. 103:2     Bless the LORD, O my soul,
        and do not forget all his benefits—
Psa. 103:3     who forgives all your iniquity,
        who heals all your diseases,
Psa. 103:4     who redeems your life from the Pit,
        who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
Psa. 103:5     who satisfies you with good as long as you live
        so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Observation:

There are times when when praise comes bubbling out of the Psalmist.  He wants to bless the Lord for all the good things that he has done — and all that is within him is bursting with praise.

Application:

This praise for the Lord is in the form of blessing.  Notice he is singing a blessing to the Lord.  May the Lord be the one who is blessed and may all that is within him bless the Lord!

Did you know that “saying the blessing” before eating used to be a prayer of blessing to the Lor…

Who Has Protested?

Scripture:

Isaiah 53:8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
    Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
    for the transgression of my people he was punished.

Observation:

We interpret Isaiah 53 in light of our understanding of a prophetic word about the coming Messiah.  The graphic depiction of his life and death are quite astounding.  The word “oppression” may also mean “arrest,” allowing us to visualize the night he was arrested and judgment was made in regard to him.  This is the way that it happened that night in the garden.  Jesus was there to pray when the one betraying him appeared with the officials who had planned his demise.  Just a few days earlier he had arrived in the city of Jerusalem to great pomp and yet now on this fateful night and the upcoming day, who would protest?  Who would speak up in defense of this man, the one they had come to believe was their Messiah?

The silence was just as deafening as the cheers had been…

Growing as Christ-followers

Scripture:

2Pet. 1:5 For this very reason, you must make every effort to support your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge,
2Pet. 1:6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness,
2Pet. 1:7 and godliness with mutual affection, and mutual affection with love.
2Pet. 1:8 For if these things are yours and are increasing among you, they keep you from being ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2Pet. 1:9 For anyone who lacks these things is nearsighted and blind, and is forgetful of the cleansing of past sins.

Observation:

The Christian life can never be static.  There must be on-going and continual spiritual growth in the life of a Christ-follower.  There is faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, endurance, godliness, mutual affection and love.  All these are to increase among us as we grow in our faith.  The result is a Christ-follower who is effective and bears fruit for the kingdom, growing in…

The Consuming Power of Anxiety

Scripture:

1Pet. 5:7 Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.

Observation:

While admonishing the followers of Jesus Christ to stand firm in their faith, Peter reminds them to cast all their anxiety on the Lord.  They lived in an anxious time, one in which these Christ-followers were experiencing persecution for their faith.  Anxiety would exist on many levels, from personal safety to provision for the family.  Christianity was and is, counter-cultural and one possible result of living a counter-cultural life is anxiety.  It’s easy to begin worrying about how all of this will play out in the world.  Peter puts an end to worry and anxiety by placing the focus on Christ.  Christ, the one who has been from the very beginning, the one who was engaged in creation, “cares for you.” This puts anxiety into balance.  The consuming power of anxiety is to be replaced by the consuming love of Christ. 

Application:

Life is filled with challenges that can easily cause fear and anxiety.  S…

Move on!

Scripture:

Is. 43:18     Do not remember the former things,
        or consider the things of old.
Is. 43:19     I am about to do a new thing;
        now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
    I will make a way in the wilderness
        and rivers in the desert.

Observation:

God is speaking to his people who are being held in captivity.  They are going to be set free, released from the power of those who are oppressing them.  Of course the people recall the freedom brought about by their release from Egypt.  This was to have been remembered year after year as they celebrated the passover.  But now, God was wanting to do something new for his people.  The freedom that they would experience in release from this exile would be even greater than what had been experienced when they were led out of Egypt.  Something new was springing forth that would lead to a deliverance for God’s people, one which would be transformational in the lives of each and every person.  Therefore it was time to…

The Hope in You

Scripture:

1Pet. 3:13 ¶ Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good?
1Pet. 3:14 But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated,
1Pet. 3:15 but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you;
1Pet. 3:16 yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame.

Observation:

God’s people are to do good.  Does this mean everything always turns out the way that we want, or in a way that seems good to us?  No, but we are to press on anyhow and even when there may be suffering as a result, we are blessed. 

The world fears many things, many of which may appear to be harmful but they should not be intimidating to the Lord’s people. Instead the Lord’s people are to look to him.  In our hearts w…

Craving the Best

Scripture:

1Pet. 2:1  ¶ Rid yourselves, therefore, of all malice, and all guile, insincerity, envy, and all slander.
1Pet. 2:2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation—
1Pet. 2:3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.

Observation:

The spiritual journey of life should take us through a cleansing and transformation.  We should intentionally ask God to help us with our spiritual growth, shedding bad attitudes and behaviors and becoming more and more like him.  We may begin the journey as infants who need to be nursed along but eventually we should grow to the place where we crave more, and that is the pure spiritual milk provided by the Lord.  The more we taste what the Lord provides for us the more we crave him.  Our desire is to want more and more of him, the very best for our lives.

Application:

It’s summertime and it’s hot!  What’s the best thing on a hot summer day but great ice-cream.  You can find it everywhere from t…

Genuine Love

Scripture:

1Pet. 1:22  ¶ Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart.

Observation:

What was the expectation of a follower of Jesus Christ?  They were to be individuals who lived in obedience to the truth, to Jesus Christ himself.  In doing so their lives would be purified because Jesus himself is pure.  Walking and living life on the Jesus way results in a transformed life, one in which the very nature of Jesus Christ is revealed in the one who is reflecting him.  Jesus’ holy love becomes all consuming and this results in a deep love for the Lord and for others.  This is not a worldly kind of love, but a genuine love because it is the very nature found in the Triune God.

Application:

Unfortunately participating in the loving nature of Jesus Christ is not what Christianity has necessarily focused upon in the past.  This nature of Jesus Christ is to so fill his followers that we exude him. …

Pray, Praise, Anoint and Confess

Scripture:

James 5:13 ¶ Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise.
James 5:14 Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord.
James 5:15 The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven.
James 5:16 Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.

Observation:

We find in this Scripture a pattern for our spiritual growth and development.  First of all, there will be suffering among those who are followers of Jesus Christ.  If we are to be like him, then we will also suffer as he suffered.  How did Jesus respond to suffering?  He prayed!  He spent time talking with the Father and we are to do the same.  In the midst of the difficulties that life sends our way w…

Heaps of Tithe

Scripture:

2Chr. 31:6 The people of Israel and Judah who lived in the cities of Judah also brought in the tithe of cattle and sheep, and the tithe of the dedicated things that had been consecrated to the LORD their God, and laid them in heaps.
2Chr. 31:7 In the third month they began to pile up the heaps, and finished them in the seventh month.
2Chr. 31:8 When Hezekiah and the officials came and saw the heaps, they blessed the LORD and his people Israel.
2Chr. 31:9 Hezekiah questioned the priests and the Levites about the heaps.
2Chr. 31:10 The chief priest Azariah, who was of the house of Zadok, answered him, “Since they began to bring the contributions into the house of the LORD, we have had enough to eat and have plenty to spare; for the LORD has blessed his people, so that we have this great supply left over.”

Observation:

Hezekiah was king over Israel and as the law was read he enacted decrees that would bring the people back into alignment in their relationship with God.  They had…

Our Help In Trouble

Scripture:

Psa. 46:0 ¶ To the leader. Of the Korahites. According to Alamoth. A Song.
Psa. 46:1     God is our refuge and strength,
        a very present help in trouble.
Psa. 46:2     Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
        though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
Psa. 46:3     though its waters roar and foam,
        though the mountains tremble with its tumult. Selah

Psa. 46:4      ¶ There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
        the holy habitation of the Most High.
Psa. 46:5     God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved;
        God will help it when the morning dawns.
Psa. 46:6     The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter;
        he utters his voice, the earth melts.
Psa. 46:7     The LORD of hosts is with us;
        the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah

Psa. 46:8      ¶ Come, behold the works of the LORD;
        see what desolations he has brought on the earth.
Psa. 46:9     He makes wars cease to the end …

Traveling on the Holy Way

Scripture:

Is. 35:8      ¶ A highway shall be there,
        and it shall be called the Holy Way;
    the unclean shall not travel on it,
        but it shall be for God’s people;
        no traveler, not even fools, shall go astray.
Is. 35:9     No lion shall be there,
        nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it;
    they shall not be found there,
        but the redeemed shall walk there.
Is. 35:10     And the ransomed of the LORD shall return,
        and come to Zion with singing;
    everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
        they shall obtain joy and gladness,
        and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

Observation:

Isaiah presents a vision for the future, one in which a new pathway will exist for all of humanity, a highway known as “the Holy Way.”  We recognize that Jesus came and provided that pathway by his incarnation.  Assuming human flesh Jesus sanctifies humanity creating the way of holiness and making it possible for all of humanity to be made holy.  Only those who …

Expecting Help from Egypt and Horses

Scripture:

Is. 31:1      ¶ Alas for those who go down to Egypt for help
        and who rely on horses,
    who trust in chariots because they are many
        and in horsemen because they are very strong,
    but do not look to the Holy One of Israel
        or consult the LORD!

Observation:

The Israelites were in desperate need of help and the One who had helped them time and again stood ready to intervene.  Unfortunately they would not look in the direction of the LORD.  The LORD had brought them out of Egypt and defeated the entire Egyptian army by swallowing them up in the sea and yet that became such a distant memory that they would again turn their glance in the direction of Egypt for help.  The very place that had brought them oppression and enslaved them was the place where they wanted to go.  They were looking at human strength and force and the Egyptians had the horses and the chariots that they thought they needed to fight the battle. 

From a human perspective of strategic planni…

Remember Your Leaders

Scripture:

Heb. 13:7 ¶ Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God to you; consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.

Observation:

We are admonished to pray for those who are in leadership.  These are the ones who have brought to us the word of God.  Without them way may not even know the way to salvation. 

The lives of our leaders also speak volumes to us and we are to look at the way in which they live, dedicated in service to the Lord.  We are to “imitate their faith.”

Application:

Being in a position of leadership has never been an easy thing.  Once someone steps into that position there will always be those who are unhappy with some of the things that they do.  There is simply no way for everyone to be happy with everything and so we have a tendency to be critical.  We live in a culture that seems to cultivate this idea of being critical of leadership.  The same was probably true in the early church and so we find these comments that I believe are …

A Consuming Fire

Scripture:

Heb. 12:28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe;
Heb. 12:29 for indeed our God is a consuming fire.

Observation:

The new kingdom which has been inaugurated with the rule of Jesus Christ is already victorious.  This kingdom, the kingdom of heaven is unshakable.  We are invited to not only “give thanks” but to live a life of thanksgiving, of continuous and on-going gratitude to God for what he has done.  This gratitude is shown through our worship of him. 

This worship is an acceptable worship to God (not to us) and includes a lifestyle of “reverence and awe” before God.  Why?  Because “God is a consuming fire.”  This is a quote from Deut. 4:24, “For the LORD your God is a devouring fire, a jealous God.” A gentle reminder that the God of the Old Testament is also the God of the New Testament.  His nature has not changed.  John Wesley says, “For our God is a co…

Without Faith it is Impossible!

Scripture:

Heb. 11:1 ¶ Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
Heb. 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would approach him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

Observation:


The great chapter on faith begins by laying out a definition for us, a definition that helps us understand that trusting in God brings with it an assurance in our hearts regarding the things hoped for and a conviction about things which we cannot see.  Faith is trusting in God and putting all of our hope and trust in him, even when we cannot see him.

While we often talk about what is possible for God to accomplish in our lives, rarely do we hear mention of what is impossible.  There is such a close correlation between faith and what is possible!  If we believe in God, it is possible to please him.  At the same time, if we do not believe, nor put our trust in God, we will not be able to please him. We must believe t…

Which Banner is Over You?

Scripture:

Isaiah 11:12 He will raise a banner for the nations
    and gather the exiles of Israel;
he will assemble the scattered people of Judah
    from the four quarters of the earth.

Isaiah 13:2  Raise a banner on a bare hilltop,
    shout to them;
beckon to them
    to enter the gates of the nobles. (NIV)

Observation:

Leaders and nations have their symbols which are recognizable.  The people are able to look up, see the banners, and realize who it is that is over them and protecting them. Isaiah was providing a prophetic voice for the people of Israel.  The banner of the Lord would be visible, more powerful than any banner of any nation or leader on this earth.  For the exiles this is exciting news for God is planning to appear and gather his people to him.  The banner will not be hidden but very visible so that all of God’s people will know where they can turn and gather beneath his flag. 

God’s people will gather and they will be reinstated as his children, as nobles within th…

By the Hand or In the Heart

Scripture:

Heb. 8:8     God finds fault with them when he says:
    “The days are surely coming, says the Lord,
        when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel
        and with the house of Judah;
Heb. 8:9     not like the covenant that I made with their ancestors,
        on the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt;
    for they did not continue in my covenant,
        and so I had no concern for them, says the Lord.
Heb. 8:10     This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
        after those days, says the Lord:
    I will put my laws in their minds,
        and write them on their hearts,
    and I will be their God,
        and they shall be my people.
Heb. 8:11     And they shall not teach one another
        or say to each other, ‘Know the Lord,’
    for they shall all know me,
        from the least of them to the greatest.
Heb. 8:12     For I will be merciful toward their iniquities,
        and I will remember their …

Requirements from God

Scripture:

Mic. 6:8     He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
        and what does the LORD require of you
    but to do justice, and to love kindness,
        and to walk humbly with your God?

Observation:

The prophet spoke out to the people of God, to a people who had forsaken the God who had loved and saved them.  In God’s covenant relationship with the people of Israel he had charged them with requirements for living the holy life and yet they constantly moved away from that relationship and bound themselves to pagan idols.  The Shema had been forgotten — the people were no longer listening and they had been walking a path and living a life that was leading to destruction.  These requirements from God were all relational requirements. 

Doing justice was and is a way of looking at the people around you and relating to them in a way that God would relate to them. 

Loving kindness is a way in which we relate to the love of God.  When we give ourselves over completely to God then his na…

Lazy and Sluggish

Scripture:

Heb. 6:11 And we want each one of you to show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope to the very end,
Heb. 6:12 so that you may not become sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. (NRSV)

11 We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. 12 We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised. (NIV)

Observation:


When speaking about spiritual growth the writer to the Hebrews encouraged the people to show discipline.  Spiritual discipline is required to persevere in the faith.  We are to imitate those who have gone before us, looking on the lives of those who have persevered to the end recognize the way in which faith and patience have completed their work.  There is no place for laziness or sluggishness in the life of the follower of Christ.

Application:

Being diligent in living the C…

You Must Grow Spiritually

Scripture:

Heb. 5:12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic elements of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food;
Heb. 5:13 for everyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is unskilled in the word of righteousness.
Heb. 5:14 But solid food is for the mature, for those whose faculties have been trained by practice to distinguish good from evil.

Observation:

There must be continual growth in the Christian life or we will be unable to withstand the onslaught of the world.  There are basic elements of faith which must be learned and these are the mother’s milk of our faith.  However, just as an infant grows and cannot be continually fed by milk, so a follower of Jesus Christ must grow.  An infant is unable to take on the complex nature of the world around them and instead they simply nurse, completely dependent upon their mother. When we are born again we are to grow up into righteousness, or the very nature of God.  F…

Holding Fast to Your Confession

Scripture:

Heb. 4:14 ¶ Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession.
Heb. 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin.
Heb. 4:16 Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Observation:


The topic of perseverance in faith has been around since the very beginning of Christianity.  The temptations of the world were constantly surrounding the followers of Christ but they were admonished to hold fast to their confession.  The rationale for this is found in the incarnation of Christ.  God, in human form, has come to earth and has lived this life and has been tempted and tested in every way and yet he was able to live without sin.  Jesus is now at the right hand of the Father and serves as our High P…

How’s Your Walk With the Lord Today?

Scripture:

Heb. 3:12 Take care, brothers and sisters, that none of you may have an evil, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.
Heb. 3:13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” so that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
Heb. 3:14 For we have become partners of Christ, if only we hold our first confidence firm to the end.

Observation:

The temptation to turn away from our walk with the Lord has always been present.  The world has continually tugged at the hearts and lives of those who have committed themselves to serving the Lord.  Knowing that there were those who had unbelieving hearts, the author of Hebrews exhorted brothers and sisters in Christ to be accountable to one another.  Today and every day we are to encourage one another in our walk with the Lord.  The accountability to others within the community of faith was important, for it is in this walk with the Lord we have become partners of one another and partners t…

Creation’s Revelation

Scripture:

Heb. 1:8 But of the Son he says,
    “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,
        and the righteous scepter is the scepter of your kingdom.
Heb. 1:9     You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
    therefore God, your God, has anointed you
        with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”
Heb. 1:10 And,
    “In the beginning, Lord, you founded the earth,
        and the heavens are the work of your hands;

Observation:

Hebrews begins by declaring that Jesus is the final word of God.  He is the living prophetic voice that God sends to humanity.  From the beginning moment of creation God has been revealing himself to us.  Jesus was present in creation when the earth was founded.  It is in the beauty of creation that the fingerprint of Jesus can be found.  However, Christ’s incarnation becomes the culmination, and ultimate revelation of creation. 

Application:

When we begin reading in the book of Genesis we come across the opening scenes in God’s message of revela…