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Showing posts from January, 2015

Qualification for Priesthood: An Outward Sign

Scripture

Ex. 28:6   They shall make the ephod of gold, of blue, purple, and crimson yarns, and of fine twisted linen, skillfully worked.  7 It shall have two shoulder-pieces attached to its two edges, so that it may be joined together.  8 The decorated band on it shall be of the same workmanship and materials, of gold, of blue, purple, and crimson yarns, and of fine twisted linen.  9 You shall take two onyx stones, and engrave on them the names of the sons of Israel,  10 six of their names on the one stone, and the names of the remaining six on the other stone, in the order of their birth.  11 As a gem-cutter engraves signets, so you shall engrave the two stones with the names of the sons of Israel; you shall mount them in settings of gold filigree.  12 You shall set the two stones on the shoulder-pieces of the ephod, as stones of remembrance for the sons of Israel; and Aaron shall bear their names before the LORD on his two shoulders for remembrance.  13 You shall make settings of go…

A Powerful Combination

Scripture

 Acts 6:10 But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke.

Observation

Stephen had been called to testify before the synagogue of the Freedmen. They wanted to argue with him but they became frustrated with his response. He was far too eloquent for them and the combination was a one, two punch. His knowledge of the Scriptures overwhelmed them because he was skilled in Jewish wisdom. He was well acquainted with the sacred writings and opinions of scholars who had gone before. This was a man who had given sacrificially of his time and energy to become well educated and thus be able to articulate his faith.

At the same time Stephen had been filled with the Holy Spirit. This empowering of the Spirit made a radical difference in his life and he was filled with a boldness that came from God. Not only was he bold, but the Spirit working in and through his life resulted in signs and wonders being performed in his midst. Not only could Stephen argue the case f…

When God’s People Share

Scripture

 33 With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.

Observation

This verse stands out in the middle of a section which speaks about the sharing which was taking place in the new church which had been birthed in Jerusalem. Great grace was being showered upon each individual within the community as they shared their worldly goods and no one had any need. The faith community was living and growing and ministering together. The result was great power which flowed through the apostles as they gave their testimony. Daily they shared the good news of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and his ability to transform lives and the church grew rapidly. The lifestyle of the new believers was all consuming and as they shared and cared for one another power and grace resulted.

Application

We wonder why we don’t see New Testament type results in the church today. There are so many aspects of the New Testament church whic…

Sabbath

Scripture

Ex. 20:8   Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy.  9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work.  10 But the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns.  11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.

Observation

From the top of Mount Sinai God provides the ten commandments for his people.  This is a sign of  God’s covenantal relationship with his people. Observation of the Sabbath was a visible witness of the commitment of the people to their God. If the Sabbath was not observed it showed disrespect for the God of the Israelites. Christ inaugurated a new covenant by way of his life, death and resurrection and the actual day of the week, Saturday, was replaced by the day of his resurrection, the Lord’s d…

Witnessing Miracles

Scripture

Ex. 14:30   Thus the LORD saved Israel that day from the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore.  31 Israel saw the great work that the LORD did against the Egyptians. So the people feared the LORD and believed in the LORD and in his servant Moses.

Observation

The Israelites witnessed one miracle after another. The plagues had consumed Egypt and the Israelites watched as one thing after another brought destruction upon the Egyptians. Now, this final and decisive act is brought upon the Egyptian army before their very eyes. This time it’s the total destruction of the symbols of Egyptian power which are brought down. God is the decisive winner and he is leading his people to freedom. Finally we read that the “people feared the LORD and believed.” They had witnessed incredible miracles.

Application

The sad truth about the Israelites was that they seemed to soon forget this miracle. Before long they were grumbling and wondering whether God could take care o…

Stargazing

Scripture

Acts 1:10 While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them.  11 They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

Observation

Jesus had just told his followers that they would be his witnesses around the world. They had been commissioned to go and make a difference but now, suddenly, Jesus was taken up into heaven from right there in their midst. They were absolutely stunned, and so we find them staring up into heaven. They are stargazing, looking for something…and there may have been something improper about their response. Just imagine what they were thinking:

1) He didn’t restore the kingdom to Israel.

2) If we keep looking we’ll be able to see him.

3) We need him back here with us.

John Stott writes: "There was something fundamentally anomalous about their gazing up into the sky when …

Random Thoughts: Joanna and Augustine

Scripture

Luke 24:10 Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles.

Observation


My mind is filled with random thoughts this morning as I read again through the resurrection story. There are those moments when it dawns on you that you’ve never paid attention to all the names mentioned somewhere. Mostly when we think about the resurrection of Jesus Christ we think about Mary Magdalene’s presence at the tomb. She’s the one who’s made it into all the Easter musicals and lives on in our memories. Today my eyes fell on the name of Joanna. Nobody sings about Joanna. Her name is never really mentioned and yet, here she is captured in the gospel written by Luke and she goes with Mary to the tomb, only to discover that it is empty.

This Joanna should not be new to us. She has been serving Jesus for a long time. She is the wife of Chuza who manages the household of Herod Antipas who lives in Galilee. We first hear of her in …

The Search for Good Water

Scripture

Ex. 7:14   Then the LORD said to Moses, “Pharaoh’s heart is hardened; he refuses to let the people go.  15 Go to Pharaoh in the morning, as he is going out to the water; stand by at the river bank to meet him, and take in your hand the staff that was turned into a snake.  16 Say to him, ‘The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, sent me to you to say, “Let my people go, so that they may worship me in the wilderness.” But until now you have not listened.’  17 Thus says the LORD, “By this you shall know that I am the LORD.” See, with the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water that is in the Nile, and it shall be turned to blood.

Observation

The water of the Nile was vitally important to the life of the Egyptians, just as water is important to all life. We need both physical and spiritual water and contamination of either will be life threatening. The Egyptians had shed innocent Hebrew blood when they had determined to kill the small children. That river had been stained with t…

A Generous Church

Scripture

Luke 21:1   He looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury;  2 he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins.  3 He said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them;  4 for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.”

Observation

The treasury was really the bank for the poor. It was the place where people donated so that the poor and needy, the orphans and widows could be cared for by the religious community. This wasn’t just the offering plate being passed at church, but it was the place from which this woman would have received her help and yet, instead of asking for help, she gave with a heart of generosity. She represents the Church, called to help the poor. With generous hearts, out of our her own poverty the Church is called to give all that she has to minister to the needy.

Application

What would happen if the Church gave “all that she had to l…

A Picture of Wickedness

Scripture

Prayer for Deliverance from Enemies
1 Why, O Lord, do you stand far off?
    Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?
2 In arrogance the wicked persecute the poor—
    let them be caught in the schemes they have devised.
3 For the wicked boast of the desires of their heart,
    those greedy for gain curse and renounce the Lord.
4 In the pride of their countenance the wicked say, “God will not seek it out”;
    all their thoughts are, “There is no God.”
5 Their ways prosper at all times;
    your judgments are on high, out of their sight;
    as for their foes, they scoff at them.
6 They think in their heart, “We shall not be moved;
    throughout all generations we shall not meet adversity.”
7 Their mouths are filled with cursing and deceit and oppression;
    under their tongues are mischief and iniquity.
8 They sit in ambush in the villages;
    in hiding places they murder the innocent.
Their eyes stealthily watch for the helpless;
9     they lurk in secret like a lion in …

As An Infant

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Scripture

Luke 18:15   People were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them; and when the disciples saw it, they sternly ordered them not to do it.  16 But Jesus called for them and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.  17 Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”

Observation

Luke is the only gospel writer that refers to the children as infants and it is in this place that we must find ourselves. I think it may be easier to try and put ourselves in the place of children because they are already at a level of independence. Infants on the other hand, are completely and totally dependent upon their parents. Luke’s emphasis here is on the need for complete and total dependence upon God when one is living and serving in the kingdom.

Application


I remember with great joy the day that we brought our first-born, Christy, home from the ho…

Feeling Blessed

Scripture

Psa. 5:11        But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
        let them ever sing for joy.
    Spread your protection over them,
        so that those who love your name may exult in you.
12     For you bless the righteous, O LORD;
        you cover them with favor as with a shield.

Observation

The Psalmist seems to understand the deep need to be connected to God. The idea of participating in God becomes a part of this Psalm. As we take refuge in God, we are united with him. God’s protection spreads over those who are deeply in love with him and they exude with that overwhelming sense of passion for the Lord, exulting in him. The protection comes from those who are crowned as children of the kingdom. The crown itself becomes a shield of protection as the vision of the eternal supersedes the present.

David boasts in his love for God, which is of far greater importance than love for the things of this world — riches, power, or luxury. Jerome reminds us that this love and honor …

Make Sure You Look Good

Scripture

Luke 16:15 So he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of others; but God knows your hearts; for what is prized by human beings is an abomination in the sight of God.

Observation

The Pharisees were overly concerned with what people around them thought about them. It’s why they were hung up on all the rules and trying to look just right. They were also hung up on the fact that they loved their money. All of this resulted in them working hard for just the “right look” so that people would think of them as being spiritual. The problem was that this had nothing to do with what was going on in their hearts.

Application

It may seem easy to condemn the Pharisees but the reality is that throughout Christianity there have been Christians who have also fallen into this trap. Whenever people come to a place of prosperity there is the temptation to follow the ways of the world or money to look good for others and to have a decreased sensitivity to the voice of Go…

Living Into the Inheritance

Scripture

Luke 15:31 Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.

Observation

The older son was frustrated with the party that the father was throwing for his returned brother. He saw this as such a waste and felt that his father was doing more for the other brother than he would for him. The sad truth was that he couldn’t see what he really had. Once the younger brother had taken his portion of the inheritance with him, everything that was left was the inheritance of this older brother. As far as the eye could see, it would all belong to him! Every day he lived and worked among the riches of his father’s household, enjoying everything that it had to offer and yet, he failed to appreciate its value. He was the heir to all that remained and as such, he had a right to use it. He could have thrown a party any time that he wanted with the fatted calf, he had simply not chosen to do so. Instead he was living within the limits of the boundaries of h…

Preserving the Order of the World

Scripture

Luke 14:34   “Salt is good; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored?  35 It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; they throw it away. Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”

Observation

The role of salt has been vital throughout history as it has been used as a preservative for food. It has kept and sustained humankind over prolonged periods. Not only has it been a preservative but it has seasoned food, making it more savory. When it loses its saltiness it has no use. It is believed that salt may have been used for weed killing and also for slowing down the fermentation of dung. In other words it had a use, even beyond what we would see today and yet, without its saltiness it couldn’t even be used those purposes. It was useless and had to be thrown away.

Christians are supposed to be salt,  filled with words of salvation for the world. Origen proposed the idea that the “people of God are truly the salt of the earth. They preserve the or…

Reconciliation

Scripture

Gen. 33:1   Now Jacob looked up and saw Esau coming, and four hundred men with him. So he divided the children among Leah and Rachel and the two maids.  2 He put the maids with their children in front, then Leah with her children, and Rachel and Joseph last of all.  3 He himself went on ahead of them, bowing himself to the ground seven times, until he came near his brother.
Gen. 33:4   But Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.

Observation


The last time these brothers met things were extremely rocky in their relationship. Jacob had stolen the blessing from his brother Esau and there was much anger between the two. Now, knowing that they would meet again, Jacob prepares for the visit. He wants to be reconciled to Esau but before that can happen he spends the night wrestling with God. This wrestling is a foreshadowing of God’s work of reconciliation among his people that continues throughout history.

After submitting himself to…

Is the Alarm Set?

Scripture

Luke 12:39   “But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into.  40 You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”

Observation

Luke was speaking to followers of Christ of all ages, both physically and spiritually. Everyone was to be vigilant in spiritual preparedness. Using the metaphor of a thief coming to a home, so the Christian was to protect their spiritual dwelling. This teaching was especially significant for those in leadership, for the servants who were left in charge of the Master’s household. The overseers had responsibility for the house being in order, for being ready. Unfortunately unfaithful stewards neglect their duties and look for ways to find short-cuts. Augustine says they are “worthy of utter wretchedness.”

Basil the Great reminds us that watchfulness defines the Christ-follower. “What is the mark of a Christian? It is to watch daily and hourly…

Intentional Witness

Scripture

Luke 11:37   While he was speaking, a Pharisee invited him to dine with him; so he went in and took his place at the table.  38 The Pharisee was amazed to see that he did not first wash before dinner.  39 Then the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.  40 You fools! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also?  41 So give for alms those things that are within; and see, everything will be clean for you.

Observation

The Pharisee was not inviting Jesus to dinner because he was honored by his presence, but because he wanted Jesus to be the entertainment. He was using Jesus, but Jesus was completely aware of what was happening. Jesus was also quite aware that he did not wash before dinner, for this was a part of his intentional plan to witness to the Pharisee. Jesus had a point to make regarding the behavior of the Pharisee who was so focused on the external that he was ignor…

Distractions of the Temporal

Scripture

Luke 10:41 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things;  42 there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

Observation

It is fascinating how history views Mary and Martha and what happened when Jesus came to visit. More contemporary commentators are quite critical of Martha and her “preoccupation” with hospitality. Interestingly the early Church Fathers are not critical of Martha, nor do they believe Jesus was being critical of her. Instead, they see the ministry of hospitality in which she was engaged as being vitally important. Augustine says that “with deep concern, she prepared what the Holy of Holies and his saints would eat and drink in her house.” But Jesus is also trying to make a point, just as he did with the woman at the well. She had to come and draw water on a daily basis and yet, he had water so that she would never thirst again — the water of eternal life.…

A Deeper Understanding of Prayer

Scripture

Luke 9:28   Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray.  29 And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white.  30 Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him.  31 They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.  32 Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him.  33 Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said.  34 While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud.  35 Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”  36 When the voi…

Jesus Is In the Boat Again

Scripture

Luke 8:22   One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.” So they put out,  23 and while they were sailing he fell asleep. A windstorm swept down on the lake, and the boat was filling with water, and they were in danger.  24 They went to him and woke him up, shouting, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And he woke up and rebuked the wind and the raging waves; they ceased, and there was a calm.  25 He said to them, “Where is your faith?” They were afraid and amazed, and said to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him?”

Observation

Here we find Jesus in the boat with the disciples again. Time has passed from that first encounter when Jesus climbed in the boat and told Simon where to fish. It was then that Jesus called the fishermen to become fishers of men. This had to do with their calling and vocation, but this test has to do with their personal saf…

When We No Longer Think We Need Forgiveness

Scripture

Luke 7:47 Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.”

Observation

The woman, who was probably a prostitute, had made her way to the banquet table. Here Jesus was reclining, enjoying a meal following the gathering at the synagogue. She came to him and anointed his feet with the perfume in her alabaster jar. She bathed his feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. Simon, the Pharisee and master of the household was appalled. Why would this woman react in this way, and surely, if Jesus were a prophet he would have known what kind of a woman she was and would have stopped her before things had gone this far!

Love follows forgiveness. The woman felt a great need for forgiveness from Jesus. Her humble act came from the desire to reach out and touch him, and to be forgiven by him. In that very moment, the great need of forgiveness was replaced by love. It is only th…

When Fruit Goes Bad

Scripture

Luke 6:43   “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit;  44 for each tree is known by its own fruit. Figs are not gathered from thorns, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush.  45 The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, and the evil person out of evil treasure produces evil; for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks.

Observation

Jesus was providing instructions for those around him, helping them understand the growth necessary for their spiritual lives. Growth would not come on its own, but growth would come from the place in which they were grounded. No matter how hard one tried to bear good fruit, it wouldn’t happen if not from a good tree.

The Greek word used here for “bad” is also translated “corrupt.” The Early Church Fathers would often talk about lost humanity as being corrupted humanity. God had created humans in his image and likeness but then sin entered into the world, creating a st…

When Jesus is in the Boat

Scripture

Luke 5:1   Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God,  2 he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets.  3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.  4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.”  5 Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.”  6 When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break.  7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink.  8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, L…

Our Eyes Fixed on Him

Scripture

Luke 4:18     “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
        because he has anointed me
            to bring good news to the poor.
    He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
        and recovery of sight to the blind,
            to let the oppressed go free,
Luke 4:19     to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Luke 4:20   And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.

Observation

Jesus had arrived home in Nazareth and, as would be his normal custom, attended the synagogue. He was participating in the scripture reading and he opened the scroll and read the prophetic words of Isaiah. After he had read them, he let the people know that these words were now being fulfilled in their very midst.

The Spirit of the Lord had come upon Jesus Christ when he was baptized and he was anointed by his Father to bring good news to the poor. The poor included all of those who were spiritually poor — those wh…

A Holy Example

Scripture

Luke 2:49 He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

Observation


Jesus had gone with his parents to Jerusalem to participate in the religious festival. It is here that we get a glimpse of the sanctified twelve year old, already providing for humanity a vision of life in the kingdom. Jesus is preparing a holy highway for those who will follow after him and giving us various snapshots of the holy life. His entire life becomes a holy example for us to follow.

What Jesus provides for us is total transformation as children adopted into his family. We are to take on the family resemblance and this brings us back to Jesus as a twelve year old.

From an early age Jesus was aware of the intimate relationship between himself and God as his heavenly Father. He realized that this relationship was of utmost importance and was to be the priority of his life. While this was the case, he did obey his parents and it is in this that we…

Could You Write An Account?

Scripture

Luke 1:1   Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us,  2 just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word,  3 I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus,  4 so that you may know the truth concerning the things about which you have been instructed.

Observation


Luke works very hard to give us an intention Gospel account. This introduction is written in beautiful literary Greek utilizing the same format that would be found in the writings of historians and educated writers of Luke’s era. Christianity was bursting onto the scene, not just as the religion of a small sect of uneducated individuals from Galilee, but onto the world stage. It was time for a carefully crafted account that could help spread the good news about Jesus Christ.

This is not just a simple, nor…