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Showing posts from April, 2015

Hung Up On Taxes

Scripture

Matt. 17:24   When they reached Capernaum, the collectors of the temple tax came to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the temple tax?”  25 He said, “Yes, he does.” And when he came home, Jesus spoke of it first, asking, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tribute? From their children or from others?”  26 When Peter said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the children are free.  27 However, so that we do not give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook; take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a coin; take that and give it to them for you and me.”

Observation

Historically the Jews had paid a temple tax which had been established by Moses. This was for redemption of the soul and the body. Jesus must have already gained a reputation for being unconventional because it’s assumed he’s not paid, or isn’t intending to pay the annual temple tax. Interestingly the officials don’t come direc…

Honest Prayers

Scripture

Psalm 139:23     Search me, O God, and know my heart;
        test me and know my thoughts.
24     See if there is any wicked way in me,
        and lead me in the way everlasting.

Observation


David prays a very honest prayer before God. He seriously desires to know and understand his own motivations and therefore asks for God to search out his heart. If he had not desired to know these things about himself, he would not have asked!

David also understood that God could not be fooled. God can see through all of our personal disguises and knows who we truly are. That’s why he was honest before God.

Finally, he wanted to discover, with God’s help, the areas in which he needed Divine correction. He was willing to change the things in his life which may need correction.

Application

Would I be willing to pray such an honest prayer?

Having our motivations checked out by God is serious business. Let’s be honest, it’s easy to just keep on going, day in and day out, trying to look good on the…

What Do You Mean By What You Say?

Scripture

Matt. 15: 17 Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer?  18 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles.  19 For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander.  20 These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile.”

Observation

The religious leaders were concerned about Jesus’ disciples breaking certain traditions, including that of hand-washing before they ate. It was a ritual that cared for the external body but Jesus was more concerned about the internal. Washing hands might take care of the physical but it did nothing to cleanse the leaders of what was going on in their hearts and minds.

Standing to the side and being critical of those who didn’t do everything “right” was easy. The religious leaders' mouths were filled with condemnation and arguments — but they did still wash their hands. Jesus kn…

Compassion Fatigue?

Scripture

Matt. 14: 13 Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick.

Observation

The masses of crowds continued to follow Jesus and he was tired and worn out. He simply wanted to get some rest and yet, the needs just never went away. He would have to excuse himself from time to time to go off by himself and rest and spend time in prayer. No sooner would he find that space, then people would follow him.

His disciples were probably tempted to send the people away, but not Jesus. Jesus “had compassion for them” and continued reaching out and ministering to them. As overwhelming as it all seemed, he never gave up and he continued to utilize the disciples to minister to the peoples’ needs. The disciples became living and active participants in the compassionate and miracle wor…

The Tiny Kingdom — Under Attack

Scripture

Matt. 13:31   He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field;  32 it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”

Observation

Jesus wanted his followers to understand about the kingdom of heaven. It was difficult for them because they wanted to see an earthly kingdom. Power within earthly kingdoms was measured by the number of followers, size of armies and stockpiles of weapons. Jesus wanted them to understand about his kingdom which may be as small as a mustard seed, and yet it would be powerful. Under pressure and persecution it would persevere and grow. This smallest of seeds would become a large tree. Therefore they were not to worry about the attack that might come, or the fact that the kingdom may look small and tiny, for it would continue to grow under God’s power and be…

Nineveh, The Church, and the Religious Folks

Scripture

Matthew 12:40 For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so for three days and three nights the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth.  41 The people of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the proclamation of Jonah, and see, something greater than Jonah is here!  42 The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to listen to the wisdom of Solomon, and see, something greater than Solomon is here!

Observation

As Jesus speaks of his impending death on the cross those listening fail to understand. The sign of Jonah will be theirs. Jesus will be consumed by the darkness of this world for three days but will then rise again.

The people of Nineveh heard the good news and repented. There would those who would hear the good news about Jesus and would repent as well. These would not be the reli…

The Vocation of Prayer

Scripture

Psa. 141:0   A Psalm of David.
1     I call upon you, O LORD; come quickly to me;
        give ear to my voice when I call to you.
2     Let my prayer be counted as incense before you,
        and the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice.

Psa. 141:3        Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD;
        keep watch over the door of my lips.

Observation
David found himself in a very difficult place. Psalm 140 is filled with his angst over those who would accuse and speak evil of him. Now, in Psalm 141 he pours out his heart to God. He realizes the place of prayer in the midst of difficulties — and maybe not just the place or prayer, but the vocation of prayer. He recognized that prayer had to become a part of his very being and calling.

Too much was happening in his life that was beyond his control and his temptation was to respond with his own words. Instead we discover in verse three that his prayer includes a request that the LORD would “keep watch over the door of my lips.”…

Acts of Mercy

Scripture

Matt. 9:13 Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”

Observation

The religious leaders weren’t necessarily pleased with Jesus’ activities. They were extremely critical about the company which he kept. He challenged them by quoting from the prophet Hosea, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” Sacrifice was the central feature of their worship and this was why they struggled with Jesus. The central feature of his life was hanging out with and ministering to sinners, and this was exactly what Jesus wanted them to understand. Acts of mercy among those who need to know God reveals the greatest act of mercy — leading people to repentance.

Application


Using the excuse of being religious, the leaders made sure that they were engaged in the formal trappings of worship. What they missed out on was ministering to the needy.

We can become consumed with sacrifice which may look like the deeply religious person. We go to …

What Sort of Man Is This?

Scripture

Matthew 8: 27 They were amazed, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?”

Observation

It’s one of those stories we’ve heard or read since childhood. Jesus has been busy preaching and healing people and finally he gets in the boat with his disciples as they begin to cross the sea. Jesus is so exhausted that he falls asleep and continues sleeping so soundly that he does not wake up when a terrible storm stirs up around the boat. The disciples are terrified and they wake him up saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” Jesus had performed miracles for others, surely he would do something to save all of them.

Jesus gets up and rebukes the wind and there is dead calm. It doesn’t just slow down a little, it all stops! At this moment the disciples are stunned. They cried out to Jesus -- but what did they expect? Maybe just a slight calming of the storm but complete control over the weather — that was beyond their imagination. In their amazement the…

The Golden Rule

Scripture

 Matthew 7:12 “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.

Observation

The Sermon which Jesus preached on the Mount was profound and reaches to the very fiber of everyday life. Jesus was calling for a radical change in behavior which was to be found in a personal relationship with God.  This last chapter of the sermon covers a variety of topics including judging others, profaning the holy, asking —seeking—knocking, the golden rule, the narrow gate, bearing fruit, self-deception and being doers rather than hearers. It all points to moving from talk to action.

The religious leaders were masters of talk. Jesus wanted them to realize that their actions spoke much louder than their words and that’s why in the middle of this whole chapter is sandwiched the “golden rule.” At the heart of it all, think about how you would want to be treated! Then, behave in that way toward others. Then Jesus has the audacity to say, “for this is the…

Don’t Worry

Scripture

 Matt. 6:25   “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  26 Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?  27 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?  28 And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin,  29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.  30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?  31 Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’  32 For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed yo…

Praising the Lord

Scripture

 Psalm 34:1 I will bless the Lord at all times;
    his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
2 My soul makes its boast in the Lord;
    let the humble hear and be glad.
3 O magnify the Lord with me,
    and let us exalt his name together.


Observation

David had times in life when things were not going right. His biggest enemy was his father-in-law who was terribly jealous of him. To avoid the turmoil of that relationship on a daily basis he left, leaving behind his dearest friend, Jonathan. It was a very difficult and painful, and yet, he continued to praise the Lord.

He blessed and praised God, because his focus was on the Lord and not on himself. Yes, things were difficult, but he sang songs of praise to God in the midst of his difficult moments.

Application

When the focus of our lives is on all the earthbound issues we are facing we will lose balance. Turning our attention on the Lord, praising and worshiping him will bring the needed peace in the midst of the storm.

David …

Your True Inheritance

Scripture

 Matthew 3:8 Bear fruit worthy of repentance.

Observation

People were coming out in droves, excited by the preaching of this wild man, John the Baptist. Even religious leaders were making their way to the countryside, enticed by his charisma. John, however, knew that they were still very self-absorbed. Their faith was far too wrapped up in traditions and in their own personal lineage. The inheritance which they received was of huge importance and for them was really their salvation.

John was challenging them to something new — something deeper. Now their repentance had to mean something — they were to be different! Their lives were to bear the fruit of one who had truly repented. No matter what their inheritance or heritage may have been, that would not be good enough. Society may have thought it was worth something, but it was not worth anything in the eyes of God.

Repentance meant a new life that was evangelical by nature, sharing the good news with others, and thus bearing f…

The battle is the Lord’s

Scripture

I Samuel 17:47 and that all this assembly may know that the LORD does not save by sword and spear; for the battle is the LORD’S and he will give you into our hand.”

Observation

A young boy, David, was about to do battle with Goliath. Everyone around him wanted him to do battle using the typical weapons created by humans. He tried on the King’s armor and it nearly suffocated him! Now, he was ready to face the giant with the talents that God had given him, and that he was willing to submit to the LORD.

By submitting himself entirely to God the battle became God’s. It wasn’t a human fight of power and strength, but it was a quiet battle of God at work. When God worked the results were different than any had imagined. The one little boy with one rock empowered by God calmed the storm.

Theodore of Cyr says that “we need only the Lord’s goodness to stay the storm.” (Letter 16) The goodness of the LORD is what saved David. It is the goodness of the LORD who brings about victory — and…

A Name or being Named

Scripture

21 She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”  22 All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23     “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
        and they shall name him Emmanuel,”
which means, “God is with us.”

Observation

The angel came and spoke a few simple words to Joseph, but they were profound. The son which Mary would bear should be named Jesus. This is the name that people would call him and the one that would be recognized through the centuries.

However, his actions would speak louder than a name given him and people would name him — Emmanual, for by his actions they would recognize, “God is with us.”

Application

Actions speak louder than words.

That’s something our moms told us growing up. But it’s the truth. The ways in which we act on a daily basis reveal who we really are.

Jesus’ actions revealed that God was among his people. His name became superseded by what…

Examine Yourselves

Scripture

2Cor. 13:5   Examine yourselves to see whether you are living in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless, indeed, you fail to meet the test!

Observation

We are encouraged to manage our physical health and have regular check-ups. The same is true for our spiritual lives. We must take time out and examine ourselves from a spiritual perspective. We are to test ourselves and this relates to Christ living in us. Does Christ actually live in us, or is Christ being reflecting in our actions/reactions/comments? Unless Christ is reflected in the ways in which we do things, then we fail to meet the test.

Application

The Jesus test. That’s a hard one at times because there are times when we don’t want to act and/or react in the same way that Christ would have responded! The emotions of the moment can sweep us away and suddenly we end up in a place that we had not intended. I think Paul understood that and that’s why we find this verse.

Stop —…

Building Others Up

Scripture

2Cor. 12:19   Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves before you? We are speaking in Christ before God. Everything we do, beloved, is for the sake of building you up.

Observation

Paul’s concern was not for himself, but for these whom he had led to Christ. There were others who had come around and were very charismatic and persuasive with their speech. They were influencing the people and by their very “super apostle” status, drawing people away from Christ. Sometimes Paul came across as being a bit hard on the Corinthians as he wanted them to be a discerning people. He wanted them to know without a doubt that his concern was not about building himself up or defending himself before them. Instead, everything that he was doing was for their good. He wanted to make sure that they were built up.

He feared that if they listened to the voices of these others there would be great dissension among the people of God. He goes on to describe what he might fi…

Carrying A Heavy Burden

Scripture

2Cor. 11:28 And, besides other things, I am under daily pressure because of my anxiety for all the churches.

Observation

Paul had dedicated himself to the birthing of numerous churches. Now, the weight of “parenting” those churches weighed heavily on him. He had a sense of “anxiety” on a daily basis for those fledgling congregations. Not only would they have been young, small and struggling, but they would also have been under pressure from government authorities. The persecutions would begin and his “beloved children” constantly under pressure. Until the very end Paul did not give up his responsibility and lovingly guided and prayed for them on a daily basis.

Application


We all carry burdens in our lives. We may have birthed children, churches, relationships, or organizations. Paul understood both physical and emotional pressure. He had suffered both of them.

His incredible love for the churches under his care came with an emotional burden. It was one that drove him to the pla…

Comparing Yourself to Others

Scripture

2Cor. 10:12   We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who commend themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another, and compare themselves with one another, they do not show good sense.

Observation


The temptation in Paul’s day, and in ours, is to compare ourselves with others. Paul had his short-comings and there seemed to be those who were quite ready to point those out to him. He learned to see himself in light of God’s calling in his life.

Comparing yourself to another Paul said, does “not show good sense.” Trying hard to look good in the eyes of others and commending yourself, should not be necessary. We are to be servants of God and we are to boast in one thing alone — God! This is his business and we are simply his servants.

Application


I think that one of the ploys of the enemy is to distract us from the work that God has placed before us. All too soon we begin to think that what we’re doing is about us, and not about him! Every one of…

My Ebenezer

Scripture

1 Samuel 7:12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Jeshanah, and named it Ebenezer; for he said, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”

Observation


The word Ebenezer means “stone of help,” and Samuel wanted the people to remember that it was the hand of God that helped them against the Philistines. This was a new day in the life of the Israelites and was ushering in a period of Samuel’s leadership in which they would not be overrun by the enemy. He was acknowledging that it was God who was their helper.

Jerome reminds us of the Christ, the cornerstone. Christ, our helper, and the stone whom we have rejected. Augustine speaks of Mizpah meaning “aim” and that we must “passover the old Mizpah to the new, that is, from the aim which looked for material bliss—a false bliss, in a material kingdom — to the aim which looks for spiritual bliss, the really true bliss, in the kingdom of heaven.” (City of God)

The Ebenezer was a marker and reminder of what God had done in t…

The Ministry of Remembrance

Scripture

Psalm 77:11 I will call to mind the deeds of the Lord;
    I will remember your wonders of old.
12 I will meditate on all your work,
    and muse on your mighty deeds.

Observation

This is a Psalm of prayer where God’s people cry out to him. In the midst of difficulty and trouble we cry out to God. There is a pattern to the prayer which begins by calling upon God. Then it goes into an affirmation of God’s work in the individual’s personal life and moves on to a remembrance of God’s powerful deeds. Eventually the Psalmist lists details related to the Exodus from Egypt.

Application

There are times when we get in a funk and we struggle with what we are facing. This Psalm serves as a reminder about the ministry of remembrance. When in the midst of trouble, it may be helpful to remember the things that God has done for us in the past. Think on them, pray over them and thank God for all he has done.

It’s too easy to get tunnel vision and only see what lies directly in front of us. It may…

The Expectation of Holiness

Scripture

2Cor. 7:1   Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and of spirit, making holiness perfect in the fear of God.

Observation


Paul was concerned about the ways in which the Corinthians were living their daily lives. There was much pagan worship which occurred in that city and the influence among the believers was very great. God, however, promised that the Holy Spirit would provide for transformation in the lives of those who followed Christ. This transformation was not just in the Spirit, or in the Spiritual life but was to be witnessed in the body or the “fleshly” life as well. Holiness is not just about a spiritual condition, it is about wholeness and the daily life of an individual completely devoted to becoming God’s holy child.

Application

The expectation is for God’s holy people to be transformed in the fleshliness of our daily lives as we are empowered by the Spirit. There should never be a separation or distinction bet…

Unexpected Blessings

Scripture

12 and, through the children that the LORD will give you by this young woman, may your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah.”

Observation


The story of Ruth is very familiar. Boaz is willing to become her kinsman redeemer, and take her as his wife. Following the details of the legal transaction the witnesses pronounce a blessing upon him and this includes the prayer for his family to be like the house of Perez. This may be an unusual prayer when we think about the story of Tamar and how Perez came into this world. She had to take the initiative and deceive her father-in-law, Judah, to fulfill the responsibility of kinsman redeemer. While her deception seems odd, she is praised, for the people of Bethlehem are descendants of Judah and many could trace their family roots back directly to Perez.

Tamar was not remembered for being deceitful, but for being faithful. God had blessed the child, Perez, and now these were his people. The prayer was for God’s blessi…

Silent Saturday

Scripture

2Cor. 4:16   So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.  17 For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure,  18 because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.

Observation


The day between Good Friday and Easter is that Silent Saturday, and while Paul was not writing about this specific context, he understood what it meant to lose heart. There are moments in life where things can simply become overwhelming and we can become discouraged. Our outer nature, our physical bodies are in a process of wasting away. Little by little they no longer function the way they did in the past. Joints begin to ache and the mind just doesn’t work as quickly as it did. Vision may fade and hearing become more dull. But this doesn’t need to be a Silent Saturday, for while the outer …

The Greater Glory

Scripture

2 Cor. 3:9 For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, much more does the ministry of justification abound in glory! 10 Indeed, what once had glory has lost its glory because of the greater glory; 11 for if what was set aside came through glory, much more has the permanent come in glory!

Observation

When Christ died on the cross a new era was ushered in for all of humanity. The old glory gave way to the greater glory; the Law would give way to the Spirit.

Ambrosiaster explains, “The difference between the face of Moses and the glory of Christ is the difference between the picture and the person it portrays.” (Commentary on Paul’s Epistles) The old glory was seen reflected in the face of Moses, but that, with time, faded. The greater glory now pointed directly toward Christ. He is, indeed, the greater glory.

Application

On this Good Friday we remember what Christ did for us on the cross. It was through his sacrifice that the ministry of condemnation was replaced with t…

Designs of the Enemy

Scripture

2 Cor. 2:10 Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. What I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ.  11 And we do this so that we may not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.

Observation


There is one who has sinned and been less than faithful to God. In his earlier letter Paul had addressed this situation and told the church to take action. That action had been taken and now this one is showing signs of remorse and repentance. The church community doesn’t seem to know how to respond and Paul is giving them direction. The man is to be forgiven and invited back into the fellowship.

The designs of the enemy are to create division within the body of believers. A united fellowship, serving God together is something for the enemy to fear! There is strength in this united community — but if the community can be divided — that is the enemy’s design. Wesley commented, “for the loss of one soul is a common lo…

What Will You Give To God?

Scripture

Psalm 50:14     Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving,
        and pay your vows to the Most High.
15     Call on me in the day of trouble;
        I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”

Observation

The Psalmist has discovered two vital aspects in our relationship with God. Loving God involves thanksgiving and praise to God. First and foremost God must be worshipped in a place of priority. Our lives are to be filled with words and deeds of Thanksgiving to God on high. The ways in which we live, day in and day out, are to be holy unto God, that we ourselves are living sacrifices or worship to Him.

When our lives becomes worship, then we are able to call upon him when we are in trouble. We call upon the Lord and he delivers! But deliverance is done for the glorification and edification of God.

Application


What will we give to God today? We can give him nothing short of everything! Our lives are to be living sacrifices of thanksgiving before him.

Living sacrifices are eviden…