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Suffering From Fear

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Scripture:

Psa. 27:0   Of David.
1     The LORD is my light and my salvation;
        whom shall I fear?
    The LORD is the stronghold of my life;
        of whom shall I be afraid?

Observation:

David had plenty to fear, spending much of his time either fighting or staying away from enemies. Even those who professed to be his family and friends could push him to the very brink. As a young man he learned to face his fears with God’s help. He shepherded his flocks and protected them from wild animals. The giant Goliath was no match for this young man who was filled with courage from the Lord. However, now, a bit later and more experienced he could have felt like all of life was crashing in on him. He needed to be reminded again that he did not need to fear.

This is the only place in the Old Testament where the LORD is referred to as light. For David, God is the source of life and strength. He had become a great warrior because God had fought with him and given him all of his vitality and cour…

The Sacrifice of the Mighty

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Scripture:

2Sam. 23:13   Towards the beginning of harvest three of the thirty chiefs went down to join David at the cave of Adullam, while a band of Philistines was encamped in the valley of Rephaim.  14 David was then in the stronghold; and the garrison of the Philistines was then at Bethlehem.  15 David said longingly, “O that someone would give me water to drink from the well of Bethlehem that is by the gate!”  16 Then the three warriors broke through the camp of the Philistines, drew water from the well of Bethlehem that was by the gate, and brought it to David. But he would not drink of it; he poured it out to the LORD,  17 for he said, “The LORD forbid that I should do this. Can I drink the blood of the men who went at the risk of their lives?” Therefore he would not drink it. The three warriors did these things.

Observation:

David was a mighty man but he was not alone. He had partners in the work that he did and here we read the story of the three mighty men. They were devoted to…

Capable Through Christ

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Scripture:

Colossians 1:11 May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light.

Observation:

The hope provided for God’s children is brought to us by the birth of his son. That tiny baby, Jesus, made it possible for us to be adopted into God’s family. With that adoption come rights as children, as true members, not just with a title but with the power and strength. Therefore, not only do we receive position, but also empowerment. This is empowerment for the long-haul. As we are united with him it is in eternal service to the kingdom that we live out our lives.

There is no promise of an easy life but there is strength provided to endure, all the while with a joyful spirit. We remain joyful, not because we enjoy what’s happening, but because we are united with our Heavenly Father. …

His Holy House

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Scripture:

Psa. 93:5        Your decrees are very sure;
        holiness befits your house,
        O LORD, forevermore.

Observation:

The dwelling place of God is in his temple. In the Old Testament this was the physical temple but the promise of Christmas was that as adopted children, we would become the temple. Just as the earthly temple was to be holy, so God’s children are to be holy. The temple was holy because God, in his holiness, was present. God, who by nature is holy, has made his dwelling place among his people. Therefore, because of Christ,  we live as God’s holy people, forevermore!

Application:

Holiness befits the house of the LORD. We may think that this sounds good in regard to the holy temple of long ago but we may not be willing to embrace what that may mean for all of us. It’s Christmas and we are excited to celebrate the birth of our Lord. However, moving from celebration to participation is the goal. We are to participate in the life of our holy God, and as such we becom…

His Great Lovers are His Great Preachers

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Scripture:

1John 4:7   Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  8 Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.  9 God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him.  10 In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.  11 Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another.  12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.

Observation:

The revelation of God’s nature came in the incarnation of his son, Jesus Christ. The birth of the Savior exposed God’s love in a way in which humanity had never before understood love. That the Creator would empty himself and become a vulnerable human in an effort to reach out to his creation is almost incomprehensible. His desire is for us to know him and in knowing h…

In the Fullness of Time

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Scripture:

Galatians 4:4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,  5 in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children.  6 And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”  7 So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.

Observation:

This is a crucial turning point in history and it had all been a part of God’s plan. The fullness of time was a moment when everything would change. Just as a young person comes of age and may claim their rightful inheritance, so Christ would enter the world and claim that which belonged to God.

The connection here is between understanding the incarnation of Christ and what that means for the salvation of humankind. The two inseparable because Christ comes to claim his inheritance - his people! By living life in the flesh he makes it possible for all of us to be…

The Great Reversal

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Scripture:

Luke 1:46     And Mary said,
    “My soul magnifies the Lord,
47         and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48     for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
        Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49     for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
        and holy is his name.
50     His mercy is for those who fear him
        from generation to generation.
51     He has shown strength with his arm;
        he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
52     He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
        and lifted up the lowly;
53     he has filled the hungry with good things,
        and sent the rich away empty.
54     He has helped his servant Israel,
        in remembrance of his mercy,
55     according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
        to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

Observation:

The young pregnant Mary has met up with her cousin Elizabeth and in a moment salvation hi…

Faithful Characters

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Scripture:

Luke 1:5   In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.  6 Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord.  7 But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on in years.

Observation:


In this account by Luke we are introduced to Zechariah and Elizabeth. They are to play a special role in the coming of the Messiah, for their son was to be the prophetic voice that would call people to attention and preparation. Zechariah and Elizabeth were not ordinary characters in their day, but they were specifically chosen because of their heritage, and their faithfulness. They were both from a priestly ancestry. Priests were required to marry virgins of Israelite birth, but a priest did not always marry a woman from a priestly family. To marry the daugh…

The Pilgrim Finds A Home

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Scripture:

Psa. 84:10        For a day in your courts is better
        than a thousand elsewhere.
    I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
        than live in the tents of wickedness.
11     For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
        he bestows favor and honor.
    No good thing does the LORD withhold
        from those who walk uprightly.
12     O LORD of hosts,
        happy is everyone who trusts in you.

Observation:

As the pilgrim makes their journey they discover their home is in the courts of the Lord. No matter how long and arduous the journey, finding the way home brings with it an overwhelming sense of peace, and just one day in the house of God makes it all worthwhile.

Along the way God has provided the sun and the shield. He has been the pillar of fire and the cloud which have led the way and they have faithfully brought the pilgrim to the presence of the Lord. While the journey may be difficult the one who trusts in God is filled with his joy.

Application:

Pilgr…

Loving Your Enemy for the Sake of God

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Scripture:

Matt. 25:29 For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.

Observation:

This verse comes at the culmination of the parable on the talents. The one who had the most took those talents and was able to make incredible use of them, bringing back twice the amount in return. On the other end of the spectrum was the individual who was afraid of what might be asked of him and so he just buried his talent in the ground, protecting it but not using it for the Master’s purposes.

In the season of Advent this parable suggests that we are to be engaged in active waiting. This active waiting means that we look at the opportunities which are afforded us and the ways in which we may engage. We are to make the most of the creative opportunities we encounter and not hold back, but use the gifts of God adventurously. If we do not use the gifts that God has given us, we will forfeit them.

The…

Lamps Burning with the Reflection of His Glory

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Scripture:

Matt. 25:1   “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom.  2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise.  3 When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them;  4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps.  5 As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept.  6 But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’  7 Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps.  8 The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’  9 But the wise replied, ‘No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’  10 And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut.  11 Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’  12 But he replied, …

Resting in the Branch

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Scripture:

Zech. 3:6   Then the angel of the LORD assured Joshua, saying 7 “Thus says the LORD of hosts: If you will walk in my ways and keep my requirements, then you shall rule my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you the right of access among those who are standing here.  8 Now listen, Joshua, high priest, you and your colleagues who sit before you! For they are an omen of things to come: I am going to bring my servant the Branch.  9 For on the stone that I have set before Joshua, on a single stone with seven facets, I will engrave its inscription, says the LORD of hosts, and I will remove the guilt of this land in a single day.  10 On that day, says the LORD of hosts, you shall invite each other to come under your vine and fig tree.”

Observation:


The words of the prophet Zechariah brought hope to the beleaguered people of Jerusalem. They had returned from exile in Babylon and were weary, wondering about all that the future might have in store. The promise of a Bran…

Faithful Stewards

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Scripture:

43 But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into.  44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.

Observation:


Jesus confesses that he doesn’t know the day nor does he know the hour of the coming of the Son of Man, and if he doesn’t know, why would we think that we ought to? Speculation about the time of the return of Christ can become all consuming and Jesus knew that this could be how his people would respond. He wanted his followers to be faithful stewards, those who would not be engaged in speculation. 

We have been left in charge and our responsibility is in caring for the Master's house each and every single day. There is to be no deferred maintenance because it will be under continual care. That’s what good stewards do, they monitor and care for the master’s house day in and day out. If the m…

It May Be Smaller — But It’s Better

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Scripture:

 Haggai 2:9 The latter splendor of this house shall be greater than the former, says the LORD of hosts; and in this place I will give prosperity, says the LORD of hosts.

Observation:

The foundations were being laid for the new temple. Those who had seen the previous temple were saddened for this one would be smaller than the one built by Solomon. Sadly the original temple had been destroyed and now that they were returning home from exile it was time to build a place of worship. The promise that God brought them at the moment of their despair was that the splendor of this new, and smaller house, would be greater than the one built by Solomon. That was hard for the people to believe because they knew that they didn’t personally have the resources to make this a gorgeous temple.

This new temple would be far greater than the old because the Messiah would eventually visit this very place. The long awaited one would sit along the colonnades and teach those who would be willing to …

Lament

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Scripture:

Matt. 23:37   “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!  38 See, your house is left to you, desolate.  39 For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

Observation:

Jesus is lamenting over the beloved city of Jerusalem for she is destroying herself by her own sins. His cry is one of great affection for he dearly loves his children and this city which they call their home. Sadly, as a result of their infidelity he knows that the city will be lost. It is in the new Jerusalem, the new kingdom where his children will recognize that he is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. In the meantime, his heart is broken for his people and he laments what they have become for they have lost the hand of protection from God.

Application:

Lest we…

What Is the Motivation?

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Scripture:

Matthew 23:25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.

Observation:

Jesus was very clear about how he viewed the scribes and the Pharisees. They were far too concerned with their outward appearance and the way in which they were treated by others. Sadly they didn’t see that what was on the inside really affected what was on the outside.

Jesus didn’t just say that they had a few impurities on the inside, he hinted that they were FULL of greed and self-indulgence. They were filled to overflowing with their own selfishness and this was revealed on the outside, no matter how hard they tried to look clean! What they failed to understand was that the outside would be clean, if the inside were clean.  External purity is not true holiness because true holiness can on…

Facebook Official

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Scripture:

Matt. 23:1   Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples,  2 “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat;  3 therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach.

Observation:

The problem with the religious officials was that their faith was only skin deep. Everything that they did was for others to see. They wanted the praise of people but they weren’t very interested in being genuine before God. They were skilled at good sermon preparation and presentation and therefore they could be critical of others, but their sermons never made it to their own hearts. They did not practice what they preached and so their lives were simply a facade, a fake exterior, trying to look good and impress the world around them.

Application:


The temptation of this day is to provide the world with a view of our lives on social media that is not real. There’s a bit of a joke that a relationship between a couple of peo…

Questioning

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Scripture:

Matt. 22:41    Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question:  42 “What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.”  43 He said to them, “How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying,
44     ‘The Lord said to my Lord,
    “Sit at my right hand,
        until I put your enemies under your feet”’?

45 If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?”  46 No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.

Observation:

The religious leaders were trying to figure out who this man was. If he was the Messiah he certainly didn’t fit the image that they had in mind. His words were far too controversial for they stung. A Messiah wasn’t suppose to come and make them feel uncomfortable, he was to become a political leader of their people. The concept that Jesus was espousing was difficult for them to grasp because not only was the Messiah to co…

My Friend the Refugee

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I can’t really remember where I was going that day, but I recall the bus was very crowded. Eventually I found a seat and the woman next to me was trying to ask me something. Her Russian wasn’t very good and mine wasn’t that much better. She wanted to make sure she knew when to get off and it would be in a few stops. The attempt at communication continued as she seemed a bit scared and confused by everything. I knew how she felt for so often there were times when Russia felt a bit frightening. I carried my documents with me at all times and from time to time was detained by the police for document checks, whether walking, or driving in the car. Luckily I was able to blend in with much of the population but not this woman on the bus. Her skin was just a little darker and her clothing gave her away — she was a foreigner. She wasn’t just any foreigner either, she was a refugee from Afghanistan, trying to get documentation to be able to move on. She, her husband and her children were only …

All Cleaned Up!

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Scripture:

Mal. 3:1   See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.  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;  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.  4 Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as in the days of old and as in former years.

Observation:

The prophecy spoke of a time when the Lord, the anticipated Messiah, would come to his temple. God’s intent is that his people be holy as he is holy. Sinfulness has sullied the garments of the priests and those to whom they would minister. The fuller’s soap would be used to make white clothing their…

Looking for Earthly Solutions

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Scripture:

Psalm 20:7    Some take pride in chariots, and some in horses,
but our pride is in the name of the Lord our God.
8    They will collapse and fall,
but we shall rise and stand upright.
Isaiah 31:1Alas 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 temptation to trust in the things of this world is nothing new. The people of God were warned through Moses not to desire the things of Egypt. They had learned about worldly strength through the might of the Egyptian army. Horses and chariots were symbols of power and victory. However, they were to remember that God had sent the chariots and horses to the bottom of the Red Sea.

The God whom we are to serve is more powerful than the things of this world. The horses and chariots signified military strength and a dependence upon human forces to make a d…

Anticipating the Great Banquet

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Scripture:

Matt. 22:1   Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying:  2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son.  3 He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come.  4 Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’  5 But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business,  6 while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them.  7 The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.  8 Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy.  9 Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’  10 Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both …

The Perfect Way

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Scripture:

Psalm 18:30     This God—his way is perfect;
        the promise of the LORD proves true;
        he is a shield for all who take refuge in him.

Observation:

The Psalmist acknowledges the ways of God and that God’s way is perfect. This is the way of holiness for it is God’s plan that his people follow the pathway that leads them into reflecting his holiness in all things. For those on the journey, God becomes the shield, the grace that continually draws us upward as we trust and take refuge in him. God’s people live in a responsive spirit to his gentle nudges as he keeps us on the perfect way.

Application:

It’s easy to misunderstand the ways of God and imagine that God has designed a “perfect” path for each of us. The problem with this kind of thinking is that we may always be trying to look for the path and we may have a tendency to punish ourselves when we think that we have failed to stay exactly on the path which God has created for us. That is not the Psalmists understa…

A remnant

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Scripture:

Amos 3:12 Thus says the Lord: “As the shepherd rescues from the mouth of the lion two legs, or a piece of an ear, so shall the people of Israel who dwell in Samaria be rescued, with the corner of a couch and part of a bed.

Observation:


The shepherd was responsible for all of the sheep. If any were lost, the shepherd would have to pay the owner for that loss. Therefore, when a lion attacked one of the sheep, the shepherd would try to retrieve the left-over parts to prove to the owner that there had been an attack and that the shepherd would not have to pay for the loss. That’s why a shepherd would rescue a couple legs or the piece of an ear. Just a little bit — but unfortunately, not the whole animal.

God’s people had moved to places of relative safety and some were dwelling in Samaria and beyond. They may have settled into lives of oriental luxury which may have been the reference to the couch and the bed.

God’s people may have been trying to save themselves by cozying up with …