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Showing posts from August, 2014

The Whitewash of Peace

Scripture:

Ezek. 13:10 Because, in truth, because they have misled my people, saying, “Peace,” when there is no peace; and because, when the people build a wall, these prophets smear whitewash on it.
Ezek. 13:11 Say to those who smear whitewash on it that it shall fall. There will be a deluge of rain, great hailstones will fall, and a stormy wind will break out.
Ezek. 13:12 When the wall falls, will it not be said to you, “Where is the whitewash you smeared on it?”

Observation:

The Israelites were facing destruction and yet there were prophets giving them false hope. Instead of calling the people to repentance and helping them face their sins, they whitewashed over all the things the people had done. The people were given a false sense of peace, telling them that no harm would come to them. They were told that their sins were not all that bad and therefore there would not be any consequences.

The result of this kind of talk was like someone who built up a wall in a hurry, not taking the …

Just a Little Disobedience

Scripture:

Ezek. 8:17 Then he said to me, “Have you seen this, O mortal? Is it not bad enough that the house of Judah commits the abominations done here? Must they fill the land with violence, and provoke my anger still further? See, they are putting the branch to their nose! (NRSV)

17 He said to me, “Have you seen this, son of man? Is it a trivial matter for the people of Judah to do the detestable things they are doing here? Must they also fill the land with violence and continually arouse my anger? Look at them putting the branch to their nose!” (NIV)

Observation:

Ezekiel is being shown the disobedience of the Israelites. From the NIV translation we see the comment that the people may have seen this as a “trivial” matter. Somehow they are not concerned and have convinced themselves that this is just a little disobedience. Their little disobedience is seen as an abomination in the eyes of God.

This disobedience is directly related to the worship of other gods. They have adopted the prac…

Invitation to the Table

Scripture:

Rev. 3:19 I reprove and discipline those whom I love. Be earnest, therefore, and repent.
Rev. 3:20 Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me.
Rev. 3:21 To the one who conquers I will give a place with me on my throne, just as I myself conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.
Rev. 3:22 Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.”

Observation:

The people of Laodicea were wealthy and had become self-sufficient and in this way were neither cold, nor hot spiritually. They were just lukewarm and this was a pitiful place in which to exist. One can imagine that they were good at looking like spiritual people from all outward appearances. They were adorning themselves in ways that would make them look spiritual and using their own local treatments for healing.

The tone of this scripture is one of rebuke, but a rebuke borne out of love. While…

Falling In Love

Scripture:

Rev. 2:4 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.
Rev. 2:5 Remember then from what you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.

Observation:

The church in Ephesus was a good church that worked hard at serving the Lord. The problem was that they were working so hard that they were ignoring their relationship with the Lord. The admonition was to go back to the original relationship and to “do the works you did at first.” I think this is something like falling in love all over again!

Application:

When I think about falling in love I think about meeting my husband, Chuck. Now that I work in the same building where I met him it’s fun to reminisce. I like to tell students right where I met him. I can still see that place where we had our very first conversation and it still makes my heart flutter.

The Scripture reminds the church at Ephesus to …

Are You Happy?

Scripture:

Psa. 144:9      ¶ I will sing a new song to you, O God;
        upon a ten-stringed harp I will play to you,
Psa. 144:10     the one who gives victory to kings,
        who rescues his servant David.
Psa. 144:11     Rescue me from the cruel sword,
        and deliver me from the hand of aliens,
    whose mouths speak lies,
        and whose right hands are false.

Psa. 144:12      ¶ May our sons in their youth
        be like plants full grown,
    our daughters like corner pillars,
        cut for the building of a palace.
Psa. 144:13     May our barns be filled,
        with produce of every kind;
    may our sheep increase by thousands,
        by tens of thousands in our fields,
Psa. 144:14         and may our cattle be heavy with young.
    May there be no breach in the walls, no exile,
        and no cry of distress in our streets.

Psa. 144:15      ¶ Happy are the people to whom such blessings fall;
        happy are the people whose God is the LORD.

Observation:

David’s psalm takes us t…

What’s Your Greatest Joy?

Scripture:

3John 4 I have no greater joy than this, to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

Observation:

John’s greatest joy was to hear of the faithfulness of his spiritual children. Even when life brought many challenges and difficulties, he knew what was the most important thing in life. He had been raising spiritual children for most of his life and they were what brought him joy.

Application:

This was my mother-in-law’s life verse. She became the mother of five amazing children and the mission and calling of her life was to raise them to be followers of Jesus Christ. This was evident in the intentionality with which she raised them to love the Lord. There truly was no greater joy for Thelma Sunberg than to see her children walking in truth. I think that’s why this scripture will always be special to me for, even though she’s passed on, her joy continues for the investment of her intentionality is eternal.

I think about how Thelma brought about her greatest joy. She spoke to…

Walking In the Command of Love

Scripture:

2John 5 But now, dear lady, I ask you, not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but one we have had from the beginning, let us love one another.
2John 6 And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment just as you have heard it from the beginning—you must walk in it.

Observation:

John has already prayed for grace, mercy and peace to be upon this lady and those to whom she is ministering. He doesn’t waste any time getting right to the nitty-gritty of things, and that is, to tell her what is the very most important in life. There are many things that can distract but at the end of the day we are to “love one another.” This is the greatest command which we have received from God and it is in this command of love that we must walk.

Application:

Just this morning I was watching a TED talk with Rita Pierson called, “Every Kid Needs a Champion.” At the end of the day it sounds a bit like this letter from John. She literally commands scho…

Partakers in the Victory

Scripture:

1John 5:5 Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

Observation:

Jesus’ life has proved to be victorious over the world. He has conquered it all in his life, death and resurrection. This is all possible because he is the Divine God-Man. He truly is God, and he truly is fully human. This is one of those mysteries about which humanity struggled for many years but accepts it as a mystery. Jesus truly was human and lived as God incarnate here on this earth. 

Therefore it’s more than just believing that he was a good man, but we are challenged to accept and to believe that “Jesus is the Son of God.” All of humanity and divinity can be found in him. It is this unique combination of the two natures dwelling within the one man that was able to conquer the world and we are invited to become partakers of the victory by believing in him.

Application:

What is your stumbling block to heaven? Could it be the things that this world has to offer?…

As He Is, So Are We

Scripture:

1 John 4:16b ¶ God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.
1John 4:17 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world.  (NRSV)

17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. (NIV)

Observation:

John brings deep truths to us in simple words. “God is love.” We bring God’s nature down to what seems to be a very simplistic idea, that God is love. However, the idea may seem simple, but it is not simplistic. God is love in the fact that the very nature of God is holy love. Everything about God oozes with holy love and this nature is revealed through the mutual indwelling and love in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are invited to abide in fellowship with God, and hence to be constrained by love. God in us and we in God, held there by the holy love that draws us ever closer to …

How Do We Love?

Scripture:

1John 3:18 ¶ Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.

Observation:

As spiritual children on a journey with our Lord and Savior, we are constantly drawing closer to him. In doing so we are transformed by his love. The result is that as we are filled with his love and it oozes out onto the world around us resulting in others experiencing his love. This is not something that is experienced by words or great speeches or preaching, but it is something that is seen in living out truth and taking action. This is love.

Application:

Loved is revealed in truth and action. That seems simple enough, but is it really?

Walking in truth means being willing to be transparent about your life. Is there any type of behavior that we would like to keep hidden from others? Then we are not walking or living in truth! Even those who would consider themselves “faithful” followers of Jesus Christ are tempted to hide certain behaviors from others. We may be embarrasse…

Living Our Lives In Him

Scripture:

1John 2:28 ¶ And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he is revealed we may have confidence and not be put to shame before him at his coming.

Observation:


As disciples we are challenged to grow up spiritually. We begin as little children and we come with childlike faith but there is so much more in store for us as we grow in him and this is the challenge, to “abide in him.” This is the very act of living our lives every single day in the Lord. The result of living in him is that when we meet him face to face there will be no fear, for we have been united with him in the journey.

Application:

John has been informing us about the importance of discipleship in the lives of those who are following Christ. The relationship with the Lord must be one of constant and on-going growth.  The whole idea of disciple-making is an active and continual on-going activity without end. This is what God wants from us, his followers, who are not just following, but also learning for at…

What Have You Seen?

Scripture:

1John 1:1 ¶ We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—

Observation:

The opening line of this letter is one in which we are invited to read the testimony of the author. The author is declaring the things he has seen, heard and touched. This Jesus whom he is proclaiming is not dead, but instead is the living word, the life-giving word and a man whom he knew personally. There was nothing to be made up about the Savior, for he had experienced more with Jesus than he could even recount and Jesus’ teaching had brought truth that revealed the mysteries from the beginning of time. John had seen it all!

Application:

This Scripture really is a challenge for all of God’s children for we wonder whether we could possibly have a testimony like this. What would it mean for us to declare all that we have experienced with the Lord.

I find it fascinating that Jo…

A Model for Prayer

Scripture:

Psa. 105:1      ¶ O give thanks to the LORD, call on his name,
        make known his deeds among the peoples.
Psa. 105:2     Sing to him, sing praises to him;
        tell of all his wonderful works.
Psa. 105:3     Glory in his holy name;
        let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.
Psa. 105:4     Seek the LORD and his strength;
        seek his presence continually.

Observation:

The Psalmist had a deeply intimate relationship with the LORD. He knew what it meant to spend time in the LORD’s presence and to seek his face. In this Psalm he provides us with a model from what he has learned in his personal relationship to the LORD.

He begins his prayer by giving thanks to the LORD. It’s time for God’s people to give him thanks for all that he has done and to call on his name. There is a suggestion of intimacy here that one would call upon the name of the LORD — because by knowing the name of the LORD, one has become close to God. We are invited into this friendship wit…

The Prince of Peace

Scripture:

John 20:19 ¶ When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”
John 20:20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
John 20:21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

John 20:26 ¶ A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”

Observation:

Jesus came to this earth as the “Prince of Peace.” On the night he was born those who announced his birth declared, “peace on earth.” Now, at the closing chapter of his life, recorded for us in the Gospel of John, the resurrected Jesus visits his disciples to bring them final words. Again they are words of peace. Three times in these few verses…

Submission to Human Power

Scripture:

John 19:10 Pilate therefore said to him, “Do you refuse to speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?”
John 19:11 Jesus answered him, “You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.”
John 19:12 From then on Pilate tried to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are no friend of the emperor. Everyone who claims to be a king sets himself against the emperor.”

Observation:

Pilate had tested the winds and become well aware of what it was that the Jewish religious leaders and the people wanted from him. He had convinced himself that he was in control and that he had power over the situation. He reported this to Jesus. What Jesus was saying to him was that he really did not have any power and whether or not Jesus would speak in his own defense had little to do with the outcome of the upcoming events. The reality …

What Is Truth?

Scripture:

John 18:36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.”
John 18:37 Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”
John 18:38 Pilate asked him, “What is truth?”

Observation:


Jesus was bold when it came to talking about the kingdom of God and when he is captured and turned over to the government authorities he does not try to hide his purpose. His life is one that that testifies to the truth and that points people away from the kingdoms of this world and to the “kingdom of our Lord and of our Christ.” The deception is really the world that we see around us on a daily basis because it blinds us to the truth of the kingdom of God. Jesus was try…

God’s Love Revealed

Scripture:

John 17:25 ¶ “Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me.
John 17:26 I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

Observation:

Jesus is praying for his followers and in this prayer we can hear and sense his deep love for them all. God’s very nature is holy love and it is in these passages that this is again revealed. Jesus has been sent by the Father and by his incarnation he has revealed the nature of God to the disciples. They are able to see God in the flesh in Christ and this means an embodiment of holy love. God’s love is revealed in Christ.

The Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit make up a community of holy love, one into which you and I are invited. The invitation is extended for us to fellowship with our holy and loving God. In this way the love which exists in God, and revealed in Christ Jesus is extended to you and…

Peace

Scripture:

John 16:33 I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!”

Observation:

This chapter opens with Jesus telling his followers that there will be those who will kill them and believe that this is worship to God. The chapter concludes with this promise of persecution or trouble. He knew what his disciples would be facing in the days ahead. All of Jesus’ disciples would face persecution and John would live long enough to be an eye witness to much of what would occur.

Being a follower of Jesus Christ was not to be something easy but it was to be a lifestyle of following in the footsteps of our crucified Lord. Jesus’ death on the cross brought about the victory over sin and death and therefore provides us with peace. The world truly has been conquered in Jesus Christ and for this we are eternally grateful.  Today we pray for peace — his peace — in the midst of a world filled with trouble and…

I Have Called You Friends

Scripture:

John 15:15 I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.

Observation:


The love of Christ is deeper than anything that we can imagine. As he prepared for his departure from his beloved disciples he tried to explain to them the depths of his relationship with them. He had journeyed with them for three years and throughout this time they were being discipled, getting to know him better and better. They had started out by simply following him and trying to serve him and serve with him. However, as time went on the relationship was changing and developing.

At first they had no comprehension of what it was that he was doing. They were simply following but along the way there was something significant that happened. They began to understand his heart and his mission. His desires became their desires and his mission was thei…

Are you Troubled?

Scripture:

John 14:1 ¶ “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.

Observation:

We get in on little snippets of conversation between Jesus and his disciples. These are intimate conversations regarding the current state of affairs and the future which they would be facing. Jesus knew that there would be circumstances in which their hearts would be troubled. There would be times when they would worry and struggle over what lay ahead and yet, he told them not to allow their hearts to go there. Instead, they were to believe in God. God, the Father of Jesus. Therefore there was faith involved, a faith in Jesus as their personal friend, but also as the one who would bring them into fellowship with God. Putting all of this into perspective, there was no need for their hearts to be troubled, even in the midst of difficulties. In light of eternity, hearts can be at peace.

Application:

There are days when it certainly feels like trouble surrounds us, or maybe even is co…

We go to church, we go to church, we go to church!

Scripture:

Jer. 7:1 ¶ The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD:
Jer. 7:2 Stand in the gate of the LORD’S house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the LORD, all you people of Judah, you that enter these gates to worship the LORD.
Jer. 7:3 Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Amend your ways and your doings, and let me dwell with you in this place.
Jer. 7:4 Do not trust in these deceptive words: “This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD.”

Observation:

The Israelites were facing destruction at the hands of the Chaldeans. Somehow they thought that if they ran to the temple they would be saved. While they had not worshipped the LORD, nor cared for his temple, now, in the midst of a crisis they thought that their presence in the temple would bring about their salvation.

Jeremiah knew that this was a deceptive thought of safety. Their words would ring hollow and he seems to mock them by three times saying, “This is the …

Sons of Fresh Oil

Scripture:

Zech. 4:14 Then he said, “These are the two anointed ones who stand by the Lord of the whole earth.”

Observation:

Zechariah’s vision is one of restoration for the people of God. Amidst this vision is a view of two men, “two anointed ones” probably representing Zerubbabel and Joshua. Quite literally this means “sons of fresh oil” and the two men are the high priest and the governor, descendants of Aaron and David. Both of these offices, those of Priest and King were the only Old Testament offices for whom officials were anointed. Now the two men represent the future, where they are to be anointed with grace for the people of God. It also represents the future when there will be a union between God and man, an anointing that will bring about the salvation of all people in Christ. But in Zechariah’s day, there were those who needed to stand anointed in God’s grace as intercessors for the people.

Application:

The oil of God’s anointing is poured out today in the power of the Holy S…

Frozen by Fear

Scripture:

Zeph. 3:16     On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:
    Do not fear, O Zion;
        do not let your hands grow weak.

Observation:


The prophetic voice was announcing the return of God’s people to Jerusalem. They were to experience the peace that comes when God is in control. Unfortunately they had suffered greatly under their enemies, leaving them in a constant state of fear and this fear had become paralyzing. No longer were they able to lift their hands to the work that God had prepared for them. Fear was the overwhelming factor in their lives, leading them to a place of utter despair.

Application:


There seems to be a direct correlation here between fear and an inability to use our hands for work. When fear captures our hearts and lives we are unable to lift a finger to do the work which we are called to do. The opposite is also true, when we live without fear, when we are in a state of peace, we are able to use our hands and be engaged in the labor and the work which lie…

Destiny and Fortune

Scripture:

Is. 65:10     Sharon shall become a pasture for flocks,
        and the Valley of Achor a place for herds to lie down,
        for my people who have sought me.
Is. 65:11     But you who forsake the LORD,
        who forget my holy mountain,
    who set a table for Fortune
        and fill cups of mixed wine for Destiny;

Observation:

God has always been reaching out to his people and providing a place for them where they can pasture and rest. This is God’s provision for those who seek after him. Unfortunately there are many of God’s people who have chosen to go their own way.  They do not want to know or be in relationship with their Creator. Life takes them to such places that they simply forget who he is, or where he is. Instead they look to the foreign gods. 

Fortune and Destiny are the names of the gods from the neighboring countries. The people of God had been showing hospitality to the god named Fortune, and poured wine and celebrated before the god named Destiny.  All of th…

Power and Love

Scripture:

Psa. 62:11      ¶ Once God has spoken;
        twice have I heard this:
    that power belongs to God,
Psa. 62:12         and steadfast love belongs to you, O Lord.
    For you repay to all
        according to their work.

Observation:

God has been and continues to speak to his people, revealing his nature to them. This is the grace of God reaching out to all mankind, calling them into a transformational relationship with him. God has spoken and his power and love have been revealed.

The futility of human power can be seen juxtaposed against the combined power and love of God. Human power can be coercive or manipulative while God’s power comes from his nature of holy love.  This speaks to the motivation of our heart and therefore the motivations of our works. This is why God says that he will repay us according to our work, for our work must come from a heart filled with love for God. In this way the power and love of God are revealed in the life of his followers.

Application:

Most …

The Things of Heaven

Scripture:

John 3:9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?”
John 3:10 Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?
John 3:11 ¶ “Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony.
John 3:12 If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?
John 3:13 No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.
John 3:14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up,
John 3:15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
John 3:16 ¶ “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

Observation:
Nicodemus was a good man who had spent much of his life studying the law.  He knew the scriptures from childhood and was a leader withi…