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Showing posts from October, 2014

Dogs and Children’s Crumbs

Scripture:

Mark 7:26 Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter.
Mark 7:27 He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”
Mark 7:28 But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”
Mark 7:29 Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.”
Mark 7:30 So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

Observation:

A woman stepped out on faith to address Jesus. Not only was she a woman, but she was not a Jew, and as such would have been completely out of place having a conversation with a Jewish rabbi. This reveals the depth of her faith. She had heard about this man and the miracles that were being accomplished and she was desperate to find help for her daughter. So great was her faith that she didn’t bring her daughter with her, but simply believed that she …

Through Faith for Faith

Scripture:

Rom. 1:17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, “The one who is righteous will live by faith.”

Observation:

This entire concept of living by faith was new to those who had been under the law. As far as Paul is concerned prevenient grace is at work as the righteousness of God is revealed to Jew and Gentile alike.  Therefore we see prevenient grace opening the eyes of humankind to the righteousness of God. As we respond to God’s grace in our lives through faith we see the righteousness of God and are prompted to respond. One cannot be in the presence of the righteousness of God for long without sensing a need to respond through faith and it is in this step of faith that we are brought to faith. Therefore it is only by responding to what has been revealed to us by faith that we may experience faith for salvation and in this is transformation, for the one who has now experienced the righteousness of God through faith will live t…

Traveling Companions

Scripture:

Acts 27:1 ¶ When it was decided that we were to sail for Italy, they transferred Paul and some other prisoners to a centurion of the Augustan Cohort, named Julius.
Acts 27:2 Embarking on a ship of Adramyttium that was about to set sail to the ports along the coast of Asia, we put to sea, accompanied by Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica.

Observation:


Paul had appealed to Caesar and was now being sent to Rome. He is placed on the ship with a kind and supportive centurion, along with Aristarchus and presumably Luke who continues to write as if he were present. Luke and Aristarchus have been faithfully present with Paul in many circumstances of his ministry. Aristarchus is one of the gentlemen that the people if Ephesus tackle and take into the theater during the riot in Ephesus. He and Luke have been with Paul during the good and the bad and have now determined to travel with him to what will become the very end of Paul’s life.

Application:


The fellowship of the believer…

Rumors and Response

Scripture:

Acts 21:17 ¶ When we arrived in Jerusalem, the brothers welcomed us warmly.
Acts 21:18 The next day Paul went with us to visit James; and all the elders were present.
Acts 21:19 After greeting them, he related one by one the things that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry.
Acts 21:20 When they heard it, they praised God. Then they said to him, “You see, brother, how many thousands of believers there are among the Jews, and they are all zealous for the law.
Acts 21:21 They have been told about you that you teach all the Jews living among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, and that you tell them not to circumcise their children or observe the customs.
Acts 21:22 What then is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come.
Acts 21:23 So do what we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow.
Acts 21:24 Join these men, go through the rite of purification with them, and pay for the shaving of their heads. Thus all will know that there is nothing in what t…

Preaching, Teaching and Healing: A Model for Ministry

Scripture:

Acts 19:8 ¶ He entered the synagogue and for three months spoke out boldly, and argued persuasively about the kingdom of God.
Acts 19:9 When some stubbornly refused to believe and spoke evil of the Way before the congregation, he left them, taking the disciples with him, and argued daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus.
Acts 19:10 This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia, both Jews and Greeks, heard the word of the Lord.
Acts 19:11 ¶ God did extraordinary miracles through Paul,
Acts 19:12 so that when the handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were brought to the sick, their diseases left them, and the evil spirits came out of them.

Observation:

Paul was beginning his ministry in Ephesus and as usual, he started out by preaching in the synagogue. However, after three months the religious folks were no longer willing to listen to Paul. They were even sabotaging his ministry by speaking poorly of him. Because of this difficulty he moved from pr…

Turning the World Upside Down

Scripture:

Acts 17:1 ¶ After Paul and Silas had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews.
Acts 17:2 And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three sabbath days argued with them from the scriptures,
Acts 17:3 explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Messiah to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This is the Messiah, Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you.”
Acts 17:4 Some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women.
Acts 17:5 But the Jews became jealous, and with the help of some ruffians in the marketplaces they formed a mob and set the city in an uproar. While they were searching for Paul and Silas to bring them out to the assembly, they attacked Jason’s house.
Acts 17:6 When they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some believers before the city authorities, shouting, “These people who have been turning the w…

Very Much Annoyed

Scripture:

Acts 16:16 ¶ One day, as we were going to the place of prayer, we met a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners a great deal of money by fortune-telling.
Acts 16:17 While she followed Paul and us, she would cry out, “These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation.”
Acts 16:18 She kept doing this for many days. But Paul, very much annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I order you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour.

Observation:

This is an interesting incident where Paul was regularly being confronted by a slave girl who was being used by her owners. Different translations have given us a variety of perspectives on his feelings toward this situation. The King James Version says that he was “grieved.” This conveys a feeling of sympathy, empathy and pain regarding the condition of the girl. She was being exploited by those who owned her and the injustice of the situation gr…

Joy in the Midst of Defeat

Scripture:

Acts 13:44  ¶ The next sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord.
Acts 13:45 But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy; and blaspheming, they contradicted what was spoken by Paul.
Acts 13:46 Then both Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken first to you. Since you reject it and judge yourselves to be unworthy of eternal life, we are now turning to the Gentiles.
Acts 13:47 For so the Lord has commanded us, saying,
    ‘I have set you to be a light for the Gentiles,
        so that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’”
Acts 13:48 ¶ When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and praised the word of the Lord; and as many as had been destined for eternal life became believers.
Acts 13:49 Thus the word of the Lord spread throughout the region.
Acts 13:50 But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, and stirred up pers…

God’s Provision

Scripture:

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

Observation:

Christians would have been living in the region of Tyre and Sidon and would have been suffering the consequence of a strained relationship with Herod. He was certainly no friend to the Christians having already murdered James and put Peter in prison. This man’s continued leadership could, quite possibly, mean terrible persecution for Jesus’ followers.

Evidently there…

Sending Relief

Scripture:

Acts 11:27 ¶ At that time prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch.
Acts 11:28 One of them named Agabus stood up and predicted by the Spirit that there would be a severe famine over all the world; and this took place during the reign of Claudius.
Acts 11:29 The disciples determined that according to their ability, each would send relief to the believers living in Judea;
Acts 11:30 this they did, sending it to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.

Observation:

Prophets were leaving Jerusalem because of persecution and they arrived in Antioch. These prophets were speaking to the church words about the future so that the church could be prepared. It is known that a terrible famine did affect the area in the time mentioned. Much as the vision came and Joseph was able to help Egypt prepare for the famine, so God’s people were responding to the upcoming need. Instead of stockpiling supplies for themselves these Christians sent relief, probably in the form of offerings, to the people…

Intentional Leadership Development

Scripture:

Acts 9:27 But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus.

Observation:


Barnabas had obviously spent time with Paul and was convinced that he had experienced the saving work of Jesus Christ in his life. He was willing to disciple Paul and when seeing the potential in this man, brought him to the inner circle of leadership in Jerusalem. He made the necessary introductions and vouched for Paul. Later he traveled with Paul on his missionary journey until they had a dispute at which time they went their separate directions, but by then Paul was ready to be on his own and his missionary efforts changed the world.

Application:

Barnabas gives us a great picture of what it means to be engaged in intentional leadership development. Too often people feel threatened by developing leaders, fearing they will lose their own positio…

Increase and Complaint

Scripture:

Acts 6:1 ¶ Now during those days, when the disciples were increasing in number, the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food.

Observation:

Things were going well in the new church. People were coming to Christ on a daily basis and yet, this resulted in growing pains. While some were rejoicing at what was happening, others were complaining. The growth revealed a lack of organization and an inability to keep up with the ministries in an orderly fashion. People complained.

Application:

We get so excited when God works and people are becoming disciples and yet, soon there comes a moment when people start complaining. Honestly, the complaints can feel a little like being punched in the stomach. Why do people have to complain when God is moving? Maybe it’s just human nature, or maybe there’s a lesson for us to learn.

God moved and stretched the little band of disciples beyond their comfort zones and into real…

Tide vs. Fuller’s Soap

Scripture:

Mal. 3:2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? ¶ For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap;
Mal. 3:3 he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the LORD in righteousness.

Observation:

A prophetic voice about the coming Messiah. The highway of holiness would be the new way ushered in by the coming Messiah and for those who would journey on the path he would provide for purification. The fire of the refiner is used to remove impurities. Fuller’s soap was used to clean and bleach new wool so that it could be made in to fresh garments. The priesthood of Levi would be made clean and pure so that they could serve in faithfulness and righteousness before God.

Application:

In the New Testament we are invited to the great wedding feast and are to wear our new garments. New garments are clean and fresh — made from bleac…

The Failure of the Priesthood

Scripture:

Neh. 13:4 ¶ Now before this, the priest Eliashib, who was appointed over the chambers of the house of our God, and who was related to Tobiah,
Neh. 13:5 prepared for Tobiah a large room where they had previously put the grain offering, the frankincense, the vessels, and the tithes of grain, wine, and oil, which were given by commandment to the Levites, singers, and gatekeepers, and the contributions for the priests.
Neh. 13:6 While this was taking place I was not in Jerusalem, for in the thirty-second year of King Artaxerxes of Babylon I went to the king. After some time I asked leave of the king
Neh. 13:7 and returned to Jerusalem. I then discovered the wrong that Eliashib had done on behalf of Tobiah, preparing a room for him in the courts of the house of God.
Neh. 13:8 And I was very angry, and I threw all the household furniture of Tobiah out of the room.
Neh. 13:9 Then I gave orders and they cleansed the chambers, and I brought back the vessels of the house of God, with t…

Delightful!

Scripture:

Psa. 1:1      ¶ Happy are those
        who do not follow the advice of the wicked,
    or take the path that sinners tread,
        or sit in the seat of scoffers;
Psa. 1:2     but their delight is in the law of the LORD,
        and on his law they meditate day and night.
Psa. 1:3     They are like trees
        planted by streams of water,
    which yield their fruit in its season,
        and their leaves do not wither.
    In all that they do, they prosper.

Observation:

Many people will want to give advice to us along this journey of life. They will try to encourage us to go in one way or another. The Psalmist has had this same experience and is keenly aware of the destructive nature of some advice that we receive. Instead we are happy and delighted in the law of the LORD. The law of the LORD may be contrary to the advice given to us by others and it may radically counter-cultural, but it is into this space of dwelling where we are invited.

What is delightful is meditating on the…

Stubborn Pride

Scripture:

Neh. 9:16 ¶ “But they and our ancestors acted presumptuously and stiffened their necks and did not obey your commandments;
Neh. 9:17 they refused to obey, and were not mindful of the wonders that you performed among them; but they stiffened their necks and determined to return to their slavery in Egypt. But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and you did not forsake them.

Observation:


Nehemiah is reviewing the journey of God’s people out of slavery as a reminder of the faithfulness of God. One phrase jumps out at me, “and determined to return to their slavery in Egypt.” He interpreted the actions of the people in the wilderness as a deliberate attempt to be sent back to Egypt. Their stubbornness and pride would not allow them to appreciate the new-found freedom they had in God. Instead they looked for ways to sabotage what God was doing for them. While God was leading them into something much better they could …

The Joy of the LORD is Your Strength

Scripture:

Neh. 8:9 ¶ And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept when they heard the words of the law.
Neh. 8:10 Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions of them to those for whom nothing is prepared, for this day is holy to our LORD; and do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”
Neh. 8:11 So the Levites stilled all the people, saying, “Be quiet, for this day is holy; do not be grieved.”
Neh. 8:12 And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them.

Observation:

The people were overwhelmed at the reading of the Law and they began to weep. They realized how unfaithful they had been but this was not to be a time for weeping. Instead they wer…

Distractions!

Scripture:

Neh. 6:1 ¶ Now when it was reported to Sanballat and Tobiah and to Geshem the Arab and to the rest of our enemies that I had built the wall and that there was no gap left in it (though up to that time I had not set up the doors in the gates),
Neh. 6:2 Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, “Come and let us meet together in one of the villages in the plain of Ono.” But they intended to do me harm.
Neh. 6:3 So I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it to come down to you?”
Neh. 6:4 They sent to me four times in this way, and I answered them in the same manner.
Neh. 6:5 In the same way Sanballat for the fifth time sent his servant to me with an open letter in his hand.
Neh. 6:6 In it was written, “It is reported among the nations—and Geshem also says it—that you and the Jews intend to rebel; that is why you are building the wall; and according to this report you wish to become their king.
Neh.…

Co-Laboring

Scripture:

Neh. 3:1 ¶ Then the high priest Eliashib set to work with his fellow priests and rebuilt the Sheep Gate. They consecrated it and set up its doors; they consecrated it as far as the Tower of the Hundred and as far as the Tower of Hananel.
Neh. 3:2 And the men of Jericho built next to him. And next to them Zaccur son of Imri built.
Neh. 3:3 ¶ The sons of Hassenaah built the Fish Gate; they laid its beams and set up its doors, its bolts, and its bars.
Neh. 3:4 Next to them Meremoth son of Uriah son of Hakkoz made repairs. Next to them Meshullam son of Berechiah son of Meshezabel made repairs. Next to them Zadok son of Baana made repairs.
Neh. 3:5 Next to them the Tekoites made repairs; but their nobles would not put their shoulders to the work of their Lord.
Neh. 3:6 ¶ Joiada son of Paseah and Meshullam son of Besodeiah repaired the Old Gate; they laid its beams and set up its doors, its bolts, and its bars.
Neh. 3:7 Next to them repairs were made by Melatiah the Gibeonite and …

Living in Unity

Scripture:

Psa. 133:1     How very good and pleasant it is
        when kindred live together in unity!
Psa. 133:2     It is like the precious oil on the head,
        running down upon the beard,
    on the beard of Aaron,
        running down over the collar of his robes.
Psa. 133:3     It is like the dew of Hermon,
        which falls on the mountains of Zion.
    For there the LORD ordained his blessing,
        life forevermore.

Observation:

David knew what it was like for God’s people to be at odds with one another. He had spent much of his life running from Saul, and this had caused great pain, to the very depths of his soul. He and Jonathan, Saul’s son, were best friends and yet their relationship was strained as they were pitted against one another because of Saul’s paranoia. David’s desire was for peace in personal relationships and this became his prayer.

The holy anointing oil of the priests was considered exceedingly precious in Israel. This oil was mixed with spices and was pleasa…

The Draw of Good Preaching

Scripture:

Luke 21:37 ¶ Every day he was teaching in the temple, and at night he would go out and spend the night on the Mount of Olives, as it was called.
Luke 21:38 And all the people would get up early in the morning to listen to him in the temple.

Observation:


This was Jesus’ final week in Jerusalem and in these couple of sentences we see his personal routine. He spent his days preaching and teaching in the temple. At night he would go back over to the Mount of Olives and rest and pray. Then, early the next morning he would make his way to the temple again, ready to teach the people. His morning lectures were a draw to those in the city who would get up early and come “to listen to him in the temple.”

Application:

Evidently it was unusual for the people to get up early to hear someone preach in the temple. Jesus wasn’t just a charismatic speaker, he was bringing them good, solid food which would be transformational in their lives. His preaching here in the temple is also referred to …

Send Us Ministers

Scripture:

Ezra 8:15 ¶ I gathered them by the river that runs to Ahava, and there we camped three days. As I reviewed the people and the priests, I found there none of the descendants of Levi.
Ezra 8:16 Then I sent for Eliezer, Ariel, Shemaiah, Elnathan, Jarib, Elnathan, Nathan, Zechariah, and Meshullam, who were leaders, and for Joiarib and Elnathan, who were wise,
Ezra 8:17 and sent them to Iddo, the leader at the place called Casiphia, telling them what to say to Iddo and his colleagues the temple servants at Casiphia, namely, to send us ministers for the house of our God.
Ezra 8:18 Since the gracious hand of our God was upon us, they brought us a man of discretion, of the descendants of Mahli son of Levi son of Israel, namely Sherebiah, with his sons and kin, eighteen;
Ezra 8:19 also Hashabiah and with him Jeshaiah of the descendants of Merari, with his kin and their sons, twenty;
Ezra 8:20 besides two hundred twenty of the temple servants, whom David and his officials had set apar…

Doing The Right Thing

Scripture:

Esth. 4:16 “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will also fast as you do. After that I will go to the king, though it is against the law; and if I perish, I perish.”

Observation:

The Jewish people were being threatened by Haman and his attempt to purge them from the country. Queen Esther was willing to stand up for her people so that they might be saved. She saw the injustice of Haman’s actions and believed that something had to be done to save her people. She called for a fast and although the language is not there, you would hear in her words a desire for prayer and fasting, lifting up the situation for God and his intercession.

At the same time Esther knew that action was required on her part and she would have to try to have an audience with the king. She knew the consequences of stepping into the king’s presence. Esther was, after all, the replacement of a Queen …

Left Behind

Scripture:

Luke 17:32 Remember Lot’s wife.
Luke 17:33 Those who try to make their life secure will lose it, but those who lose their life will keep it.

Observation:

In just a short and simple little verse we are reminded to remember Lot’s wife. She was offered freedom and yet she was reluctant. We remember that she looked back and could it be that she remembered what it was that she had left behind. I’m wondering if it was more than just a simple look back, but was it actually a turning and running back to the city because she felt that what she had left behind was more important than where she was going? Placed within the context of this Scripture it appears that she may have been wanting to get something she had left behind that would help to make her feel more secure about her life. Her dependency was not on the Lord, but on the things that she had accumulated in the world. She turned back because of what she had left behind and lost her life, becoming a monument as a reminder that w…

A Good Manager?

Scripture:

Luke 16:10 ¶ “Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much.
Luke 16:11 If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches?
Luke 16:12 And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own?
Luke 16:13 No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”

Observation:

This passage comes on the heels of the story of the dishonest manager who cuts the debts of all his master’s debtors. He is described as being dishonest and yet shrewd. This negative example is used to set up this section. The Pharisees were lovers of money and on a spiritual level, Jesus did not view them as good stewards of the Master’s kingdom. So, while they thought highly of themselves, Jesus was bringing them anoth…

Praying for Rain

Scripture:

Zech. 10:1      ¶ Ask rain from the LORD
        in the season of the spring rain,
    from the LORD who makes the storm clouds,
        who gives showers of rain to you,
        the vegetation in the field to everyone.

Observation:


The people were instructed to ask God to pour out his rain upon the land, just when it was needed. Spring rain was significant in that it helped to ripen the crop just before it was to be harvested. This rainfall would determine the quality of the harvest for the people of God. Metaphorically it also speaks of the end times when we are to also pray for rain for God’s harvest. It is the Lord who pours our his grace to grow the vegetation. We are to pray for the rain. God brings the rain and through his action we are blessed with the harvest.

Application:

I must confess that I stopped at this Scripture today because I had been eye-balling the weather forecast. I was kind-of joking with the Lord about the fact that we don’t need anymore rain in Kansas City…