Posts

Showing posts from March, 2015

Leadership in Love

Scripture
1 Corinthians 16:13 Keep alert, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong. 14 Let all that you do be done in love.

15 Now, brothers and sisters,[b] you know that members of the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints; 16 I urge you to put yourselves at the service of such people, and of everyone who works and toils with them. 17 I rejoice at the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have made up for your absence; 18 for they refreshed my spirit as well as yours. So give recognition to such persons.
19 The churches of Asia send greetings. Aquila and Prisca, together with the church in their house, greet you warmly in the Lord. 20 All the brothers and sisters[c] send greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss.

21 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. 22 Let anyone be accursed who has no love for the Lord. Our Lord, come![d] 23 The grace of the Lord Jesus be …

Quench Your Discouragement!

Scripture

Psa. 42:11        Why are you cast down, O my soul,
        and why are you disquieted within me?
    Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
        my help and my God.

Observation

There were plenty of times that the Psalmist could have been discouraged. Life was difficult and much time was spent facing enemies. It seems that there should have been plenty of reason to complain — so why not?

Because God is our hope!

The early church fathers wrote much about this one small verse. They saw discouragement as a form of temptation, one which would snuff out the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer. Jerome wrote, “You must never let suggestions of evil grow on you or a babel of disorder win strength in your breast. Kill the enemy while he is small, and, that you may not have a crop of tares, nip the evil in the bud.” ( LETTER 22.6) The temptation is to feed the negative thoughts and when that happens, they grow and discouragement wins the day. I love the vision of a "…

For the Love of an Olive Tree!

Scripture

Psa. 52:8        But I am like a green olive tree
        in the house of God.
    I trust in the steadfast love of God
        forever and ever.
9     I will thank you forever,
        because of what you have done.
    In the presence of the faithful
        I will proclaim your name, for it is good.

Observation

The Psalm is one of comparison; those who are faithful and those who are not. David is faithful and like a green olive tree; young and full of life! Surgeon says, “But I, hunted and persecuted though I am, am like a green olive tree. I am not plucked up or destroyed, but am like a flourishing olive, which out of the rock draws oil, and amid the drought still lives and grows.”

David has seen spiritual drought and the onslaught of enemies and yet, he still lives and grows. The secret to that growth comes in the second half of the verse, “I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever.” David trusts, but God’s love is steadfast, enduring throughout all of eternity.

God’…

Love!

Scripture

1 Corinthians 13:8 Love never ends.

Observation

The great chapter on love is one that moves us and that we enjoy reading again and again. The reality is that it reveals to us the very nature of God — holy love. In these three words, found in verse eight, we catch a glimpse of the quality of that love. It goes on forever.

God reaches out forever in holy love, drawing all of his creation to himself.

God’s love for those who have turned their backs on him never ends.

Love never gives up and always keeps on trying.

Holy love is optimistic and believes that all may be transformed as his holy children.

God’s nature cannot be changed — he is love, and that never ends.

Application

What we tend to call love is incredibly shallow compared to God’s nature. We think that we love our house, or our new car, but what kind of an emotion is that compared to God who continually gives of himself to us so that we might be children of God. The things of this world are simply trinkets in light of what God…

Let’s Be Serious!

Scripture

Joshua 24:16 Then the people answered, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods; 17 for it is the Lord our God who brought us and our ancestors up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight. He protected us along all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed; 18 and the Lord drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. Therefore we also will serve the Lord, for he is our God.”

23 He said, “Then put away the foreign gods that are among you, and incline your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel.” 24 The people said to Joshua, “The Lord our God we will serve, and him we will obey.” 25 So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and made statutes and ordinances for them at Shechem. 26 Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God; and he took a large stone, and set it up there under the oak in the sanctuary of the Lord. 27 Jo…

Experiencing the Work of God

Scripture

Josh. 24:31   Israel served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua and had known all the work that the LORD did for Israel.

Observation


This is the end of Joshua’s life and the result is a great turning point in the life of the Israelites. As long as those who had experienced God’s work in freeing the Israelites from the Egyptians and had experienced his protection and leading through the wilderness and into the promised land were alive, the nation publicly worshipped God. There may have been some individual worship of pagan gods but as a people, they were directed toward God.

When Joshua and his contemporaries passed away it seemed that the collective memory of society passed as well. God knew that the people would forget and he had established ways in which to keep the memory alive by annual festivals and events — which slowly they stopped celebrating. The blessedness of the founding generation gave way to the wretchedness of the …

The Shields of the Earth Belong to God

Scripture

Psalm 47:9     The princes of the peoples gather
        as the people of the God of Abraham.
    For the shields of the earth belong to God;
        he is highly exalted.

Observation


This Psalm celebrates God’s uniting activity in the world. There is only one God, one King, and one people and this will be revealed throughout history. In many ways the Psalm is prophetic, looking forward to a time when Christ will come and in him, the peoples of the earth will be united.

The shields of the earth represent the different nations and secular authorities. Looking prophetically into the future the Psalmist sees a time when every nation of this earth will submit to the authority of God through Christ. The influence of the gospel will be extensive reaching to those from every walk of life. Not only the poor will come to know Christ, but those who are wealthy and in positions of authority.

The promises to Moses will be fulfilled and God continues his work in the world today, leading to the…

Running the Spiritual Race

Scripture:

1Cor. 9:24 ¶ Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it.
1Cor. 9:25 Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable one.
1Cor. 9:26 So I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating the air;
1Cor. 9:27 but I punish my body and enslave it, so that after proclaiming to others I myself should not be disqualified.

Observation:


I wrote about this a couple of years ago but the scripture grips me again. Paul was talking to the Corinthians about the need for spiritual discipline in their lives.  He spent quite a bit of time around the athletes of the day for there was a major sports arena between Athens and Corinth.  Paul, as a tent maker would have been kept busy at such events making tents or repairing the tents of different participants.  Can't you just envision the brightly colored tents surrounding the stadiu…

Contentment in Life

Scripture

1Cor. 7:17   However that may be, let each of you lead the life that the Lord has assigned, to which God called you. This is my rule in all the churches.

Observation


Even a follower of Jesus Christ can struggle from time to time about the place in which they find themselves. This was happening in Corinth and there was a certain amount of pressure to climb the social ladder. Too often the focus of life became acceptance by the world and promotion rather than reflecting Christ. Paul wanted the Corinthians to be content with where they found themselves in life rather than striving for the world’s approval.

One of the biggest challenges in the social strata was being a Jew. Circumcision meant that there was a visible sign that one did not belong to society — even for a Jew who became a believer. There was an instant social divide — even in the church, depending on your personal history.

The gymnasium was a major focus of Greek social life and the men wanted to be able to participa…

The Temple of the Holy Spirit

Scripture

1Cor. 6:12   “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are beneficial. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything.  13 “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food,” and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is meant not for fornication but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.  14 And God raised the Lord and will also raise us by his power.  15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Should I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never!  16 Do you not know that whoever is united to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For it is said, “The two shall be one flesh.”  17 But anyone united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.  18 Shun fornication! Every sin that a person commits is outside the body; but the fornicator sins against the body itself.  19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and t…

Chasing the Wrong Enemy

Scripture

17 There was not a man left in Ai or Bethel who did not go out after Israel; they left the city open, and pursued Israel. 

Observation


The people of Ai had already defeated an overly self-confident group of Israelites in battle. This time however, the Israelites took the time to discern God’s leading and strategy for his people. The result was a small group of Israelites who came out in front of the city, while another group waited in ambush behind. The men of Ai went out to fight the Israelites who were in front of the city, thinking the same small band had come again to try and attack them. When the men of Ai approached, this group ran back into the wilderness and every man in Ai chased them. No man was left in the city, nor was there anyone left on their temple mount — Bethel — to protect their place of worship. They chased this group of detractors far from home.

In the meantime the entire city of Ai and their temple were left unprotected. Joshua lifted his sword and the gr…

Where’s the Power?

Scripture

1 Cor. 19 But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power.  20 For the kingdom of God depends not on talk but on power.  21 What would you prefer? Am I to come to you with a stick, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?

Observation


A loving leader, hoping to visit his disciples again was pointing out what was of greatest importance. Living a Spirit-filled, God-graced, Christian life meant that lives would be transformed. Being a part of the community of faith had to be more than just a bunch of talk. Some had the gift of gab and were using it to their own benefit.

Eloquence of speech could be used to gather the crowds and there were a number of speakers who had become quite popular. Unfortunately, for all of their personal giftedness and skills, there was no power present in their ministry — no kingdom power. There is a difference between the power of personal persuasion or speech, and the movement of G…

Quiet Patience

Scripture

Psa. 37:7        Be still before the LORD, and wait patiently for him;
        do not fret over those who prosper in their way,
        over those who carry out evil devices.

Observation

There is an admonition in this Psalm of David that speaks to our busy and frenzied lives. Slow down, be still, and wait with quiet patience for him.

Over and over again we have tried to articulate what we are being told in this passage. We are to rest and submit to the will of the LORD while we wait for his help.

We are to be still and with longing wait for the LORD.

We are to be silent and without complaint as we submissively rest in the Lord. This truly is quiet patience!

Application

Christy is our oldest daughter and when she was little she sometimes had a hard time taking a nap. She simply enjoyed being awake far too much and would rather talk or have us read a book to her than to miss out on something and go to sleep. To try and stay awake she would keep on moving and wiggling and the more she di…

Knowing Nothing but Christ

Scripture

1Cor. 2:1    When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom.  2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.  3 And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling.  4 My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power,  5 so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.

Observation


Could there be anyone more eloquent or intellectual than Paul? He could have argued theology with Greek leaders better than anyone and yet, he intentionally made the focus of his testimony Jesus Christ, and him crucified. The argument really didn’t need to be fancy, it simply needed to point in the direction of the incarnate God, revealed to us in the person of Jesus Christ. His death and resurrection were the pivotal moments for all of time and eternity and Paul knew this truth. Anyt…

In Need of Fresh Mercies

Scripture

Psalm 40:17     As for me, I am poor and needy,
        but the Lord takes thought for me.
    You are my help and my deliverer;
        do not delay, O my God.

Observation

David was keenly aware of his daily need for God. While he may have had strength for yesterday, he was in great need for fresh mercies and renewal. He recognized his poverty and need, which made him ever dependent upon God.

Jesus would later preach, “Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3) Poverty and need are daily reminders to place our eyes on God who renews us day after day as our provider. It is this sense of dependency, regularly revisited, that allows us to draw upon the kingdom of heaven. Fresh mercies come like manna from heaven to the one who is depending on God.

Application

The prayer is for today — that today God will deliver and not delay. An every-day, every-moment dependence upon the Lord is the life that David lives. Matthew Henry sums up David’s…

I Boast of Christ

Scripture

Gal. 6:14 May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

Observation

The cross of Jesus Christ is not something that most people would want to boast about. Think about it — this was an instrument of execution. Something like boasting in an electric chair or a firing squad. Surely this was a crazy thing to do, but Paul knew that it was pivotal to his life and the life of all believers. However, it was not attractive nor appealing to the world around them.

The Galatians were drawn to life in the flesh. It’s why there had been an entire argument over circumcision. This was life in the flesh — or trying to satisfy the material world. Christians were wanting to be accepted and look like the rest of the Jewish world. This was respectable religion and why not be able to compare oneself with the things of the world? Look like the world. Act like the world. Boast about your accomplishments and be …

No Law Against These Things

Scripture

Gal. 5:22   By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness,  23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.

Observation

For those who are filled with and living by the Spirit there is a natural life which reveals the very nature of Christ in everyday behaviors. Reflecting Christ becomes natural and is revealed in love, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, etc. There is no need to dictate these behaviors or list them by some kind of law. They become the norm for a Spirit-filled Christ follower.

At the same time, when one is living in this way there is no need to fear. No law will be broken for there is no law against these behaviors. This is the desire for God for all of humanity — to live a life that is reflective of the Image.

Application

I know that many of us lived through a very legalistic period of Christianity. So much of what we did or didn’t do had something to do with what was perceived to be…

Intentional Care for the Community

Scripture

Deut. 22:1   You shall not watch your neighbor’s ox or sheep straying away and ignore them; you shall take them back to their owner.  2 If the owner does not reside near you or you do not know who the owner is, you shall bring it to your own house, and it shall remain with you until the owner claims it; then you shall return it.  3 You shall do the same with a neighbor’s donkey; you shall do the same with a neighbor’s garment; and you shall do the same with anything else that your neighbor loses and you find. You may not withhold your help.

Observation

In these few simple statements we find an illustration for a community of faith that practices loving their neighbor. Initiative is to be exercised among the members as they reach out to care for one another. When one observes someone’s sheep straying — it is not to be ignored but brought back to the owner. The well-being of the donkey is everyone’s responsibility. Your neighbor’s daily needs are your responsibility! It is not y…

Things That God Hates

Scripture

Deut. 16:21   You shall not plant any tree as a sacred pole beside the altar that you make for the LORD your God;  22 nor shall you set up a stone pillar—things that the LORD your God hates.

Observation

God hates it when other gods are placed before him and this was a constant and on-going struggle for the Israelites. He had to spell it out for them — stop doing the things that the pagan world around you likes to do!

In trying to “fit in” with their neighbors they thought they might adopt some of their practices, mixed in with what the LORD was commanding them. The neighbors would plant a tree around or near the sacred altar to worship Ashera. These were the Ashera poles or trees. Sometimes an entire grove of trees would be planted around the altar, and this might be for the altar to be hidden and also so that impure sexual acts might be done in the presence of the altar as a form of worship.

Not only was worship of Ashera prohibited, so was the worship of Baal. Often in Baal …

Scoundrels Leading The Town Astray

Scripture

Deut. 13:12   If you hear it said about one of the towns that the LORD your God is giving you to live in,  13 that scoundrels from among you have gone out and led the inhabitants of the town astray, saying, “Let us go and worship other gods,” whom you have not known,  14 then you shall inquire and make a thorough investigation.

Observation

The power of influence is strong and God is raising his awareness and concern about the behavior of the Israelites. An individual can be led astray, but not only an individual, entire towns can be led astray by those who do not follow God’s commands. This is the crowd being infected by the influence of “scoundrels. ” These “scoundrels” are people who have yoked themselves with evil; who are vile, lawless, and without any reverence or fear of God. The  concern is over the reach of their negative influence and when this is recognized it is to be stopped immediately!

Application

I think that most would recognize the incredible power of negativity …

Rain or Irrigation: Blessing or Curse

Scripture

Deut. 11:10 For the land that you are about to enter to occupy is not like the land of Egypt, from which you have come, where you sow your seed and irrigate by foot like a vegetable garden.  11 But the land that you are crossing over to occupy is a land of hills and valleys, watered by rain from the sky,  12 a land that the LORD your God looks after. The eyes of the LORD your God are always on it, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year.

Observation


Looking over into the promised land God reveals to them a major difference when compared to Egypt. The land of Egypt was fertile, but it required huge amounts of human labor. There was little rainfall and so the only way to have enough water for the crops was through a complex irrigation system. Channels needed to be dug and maintained so that water could flow to the fields. Everything was dependent upon maintaining and trying to control the Nile and it took the backbreaking work of thousands of workers to make it hap…

The Awful Things Done to Jesus

Scripture

Mark 14:65 Some began to spit on him, to blindfold him, and to strike him, saying to him, “Prophesy!” The guards also took him over and beat him.

Observation

The religious leaders had Jesus in their custody and were disgusted with him and his responses to their questions. The high priest tore his clothing in response to Jesus’ words which he received as blasphemy. The plan was to have Jesus put to death for his words but having to wait until morning for his sentencing the religious leaders began to mock him.

The behavior displayed should have been horribly out of character for religious leaders. Can you imagine that they began to spit on him? Then, in a terrible show of human depravity they tried to turn their king, their Messiah into some sort of circus act. Blindfolding him they began to hit, slap and punch him with their hands, taunting him to identify who it was that had hit him. This was their idea of “Prophesy” — a type of show.

Their behavior reveals what they really th…

So Much for So Little

Scripture

Mark 14:10   Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them.  11 When they heard it, they were greatly pleased, and promised to give him money. So he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.

Observation

We see the greed of Judas in little glimpses of his life. These two small verses are sandwiched between two other incidents. The one that precedes it is the story of the woman with the alabaster jar and the one that follows is the last supper. Judas is incensed that the woman would pour out something so valuable on the feet of Jesus Christ. He complains that the money could have been given to help the poor, but that wasn’t really his concern. His love of money may have led him to becoming the group’s treasurer, not out of a desire of generosity but of control. When the woman opens the alabaster jar, he is suddenly out of control and she is going to “waste” something of great value on Jesus. His love had blinded hi…

And Now the Rephaim!

Scripture

11 (Now only King Og of Bashan was left of the remnant of the Rephaim. In fact his bed, an iron bed, can still be seen in Rabbah of the Ammonites. By the common cubit it is nine cubits long and four cubits wide.)

Observation


Once again the size of an individual is noted. The Rephaim were known as giants who had originally occupied Palestine. Reference is made to his “iron bed,” which we are not sure whether is truly a bed on which he slept, or his coffin. Whichever it is, the very mention of this item gives us a clue about the might of this individual. If it was an iron bed, this would have been significant for only the very wealthy could have afforded something this extravagant. Most people slept on mats on the floor but an iron bed would have prevented issues with bugs, been expensive, and difficult to move!

The size of the bed or coffin itself speaks to the size of Og. Translated it was 13.5 feet tall and 4 feet wide, or 4.1 meters long by 1.8 meters wide. If this was anywhe…

The Offspring of the Anakim!

Scripture

28 Where are we headed? Our kindred have made our hearts melt by reporting, ‘The people are stronger and taller than we; the cities are large and fortified up to heaven! We actually saw there the offspring of the Anakim!’”

Observation


The spies had been sent out to look over the promised land. Much of the report was positive. It was a beautiful land “flowing with milk and honey.” But while there was much positive, there were those who could only see the negative!

Big and tall people seemed to be frightening to the Israelites, as well as the thought of fortified cities. It is an ancient saying that a city is walled up to the heavens! These people, the Israelites, had no weapons and they could see no way in which they could destroy a walled city.

The offspring of the Anakim were frightening to them. These people have appeared from time to time in the Scriptures and they were a race of people who were tall! Goliath is thought to have descended from these people. The emphasis is in…

Lord, Have Mercy

Scripture

Mark 10:48 Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Observation

The blind man cried out to Jesus — he wanted to be healed! While the man was physically blind, he had spiritual insight into who it was that was before him. This Jesus was the Son of David, he was the son of the King! The blind man was not worthy to be in the King’s presence, but he cried out for mercy that he might be completely and entirely made whole.

Application

There is a sense in which we are drawn into familiarity with God, a closeness with him that breaks down the walls of formality. But there is also a place in which we are humbled in his very presence.

The awesomeness of God is beyond our comprehension.  The blind man got it. His inability to see physically may have helped him to be more sensitive spiritually. Unfortunately our ability to see may create spiritual blindness for us. Until we are able to recognize the greatness of our God we may…

Peeking Behind the Curtain

Scripture

Mark 9:2   Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them,  3 and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them.  4 And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus.  5 Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”  6 He did not know what to say, for they were terrified.  7 Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!”  8 Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.

Observation

This incident, known as the Transfiguration. is a moment where God bears witness to his son. The curtain is held back just a little for us to see what is happening behind the scenes. Jesus’ Divinity is exposed for those present where they ca…

Going Camping

Scripture

Num. 29:12   On the fifteenth day of the seventh month you shall have a holy convocation; you shall not work at your occupations. You shall celebrate a festival to the LORD seven days.

Observation

The people of God were instructed to celebrate his intervention in their lives. These festivals were to be lived out, or acted out among the people. All work was to stop and the focus was to be upon God’s provision in their lives. In this case, the Festival of Booths or Feast of Tabernacles, as this event was named, was to last for seven days.

Our precious Messiah celebrated these festivals as he grew up. They were a part of his life and activity with the family, helping to shape his humanity. Work was to cease and God was to be celebrated for seven days.

Application

It’s been a long time since I’ve gone camping. When I was a little girl our family would go camping on vacation. I’m quite certain that it was probably the only way in which we could have afforded to go on vacation because…