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Showing posts from May, 2015

What Are the Poor Saying?

Scripture

Prov. 21:13 If you close your ear to the cry of the poor,
    you will cry out and not be heard.

Observation

The poor have always been among us and they are crying out. Jesus reminded us that he was present in the one who needed to be clothed, fed and visited while in prison. Wisdom reminds us that we are to listen to what the poor are saying. We are to hear their cries for help and we are to respond for the day will arise when we need help. If we do not respond and hear what the poor are saying, no one will listen when we too are in need of assistance.

Application

Walking through the streets of a large city it’s amazing all that the eye can see. It’s much different from getting in the car and simply driving from place to place, a bit insulated from the needs of those around you. While walking in the city one begins to see the needs of the poor on a different level. There are the homeless living out in the city square, crying out for help and justice. There are those who are beggi…

Choosing to be a Loner

Scripture

Prov. 18:1        An unfriendly man pursues selfish ends;
        he defies all sound judgment. (NIV)

1     The one who lives alone is self-indulgent,
        showing contempt for all who have sound judgment.  (NRSV)

Observation

It’s interesting how these two translations try to express the same truth. The NIV refers to the person being “unfriendly” and the NRSV as the “one who lives alone.”  Ultimately both translations point to the fact that the person is selfish, either pursuing “selfish ends” or is “self-indulgent.” This means that the person has chosen to live in this particular way, without participating in the life of the community.

We were created to be in community. That’s why wisdom says that this individual “defies all sound judgment.” or  shows contempt “for all who have sound judgment.” In other words, those who live together within a community are the ones who show sound judgment. Choosing to be a loner is unwise.

Application

Choosing to be a loner is unwise from a spi…

The Sport of Being a Fool

Scripture

23     Doing wrong is like sport to a fool,
        but wise conduct is pleasure to a person of understanding.

Observation

It’s easy to get caught up in foolish behavior. Sometimes that foolish act can be followed by a rush of adrenaline and so the next foolish act is intentionally planned. It becomes a game and the fool derives pleasure from deceitful and sinful behavior. The addiction is physical and so foolishness becomes a sport played to provide the thrill.

On the other hand the person of wisdom receives pleasure by their restraint both in the present and the future. The wise person doesn’t have to deal with the negative consequences of foolish behavior. Wise conduct comes from an understanding of the big picture and doesn’t live in the thrill of the moment.

Application

Many of us have encountered the friend or loved one who has become caught in the sport of foolishness. When continued the game leads to destruction.

Saved by the grace of God we are led to a life of wis…

What's Worth Conquering?

Scripture:

Romans 8:37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Observation:

Paul had just listed a number of items through which Christ-followers might pass. They included tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril and sword. None of these sound pleasant in any way, shape or form. Andy yet, Paul encouraged the believers to understand that all of these were worth conquering.

The goal of the believer is to know Christ and his love. This love is worth the conquering. If we are unwilling to endure hardships we will not know the love of Christ. At the same time, none of the hardships of life are large enough to separate us from Christ's love. No matter what the wor…

The Need to Lean

Scripture

Prov. 3:5        Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
        and do not rely on your own insight.
6     In all your ways acknowledge him,
        and he will make straight your paths.

Observation

Wisdom reminds us of the need to lean. We become weary and need to lean in some direction and the temptation is to lean upon our own wisdom, learning, knowledge and insight. This is the wrong way to lean.

We are to be dependent on the LORD and trusting and leaning are both words that represent that physical experience of support which we are to experience in our relationship to God. Trust in the LORD. Lean on the LORD.

In acknowledging our need for him, he will direct us in the pathways of life.

Application

These two verses are ones that many Christians have memorized and heard throughout their lives. At the same time I’m afraid that we may not truly live by these words.

The imagery of leaning is powerful. When I lean on someone or something, I also trust and/or believe that they will…

Go On Sinning

Scripture

Rom. 6:1   What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound?  2 By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it?

Observation

For Paul the idea of sinning and living in Christ were two incompatible concepts. Once someone is baptized and united with Christ they are living in the newness and grace of that life. It automatically raises the question of sin. Origen tell us, “it is clear that someone who has died to sin cannot remain a sinner.” That’s because the kingdom loyalties have shifted.

“To sin is to live to sin, and not to sin is to live to God. Therefore, when the grace of God through Christ and through faith came upon us, we began by the spiritual rebirth of baptism to live to God, and we died to sin, which is the devil. This is what dying to sin means: to be set free from sin and to become a servant of God. Therefore, having died to sin, let us not go back to our earlier evils, lest by living once again to sin and dying to God w…

Trying to Make Bad Behavior Look Good

Scripture

2Chr. 8:11   Solomon brought Pharaoh’s daughter from the city of David to the house that he had built for her, for he said, “My wife shall not live in the house of King David of Israel, for the places to which the ark of the LORD has come are holy.”

Observation

Solomon had a problem with women. He married far too many wives and married outside of Israel. This sin is especially difficult to accept for he marries Pharoah’s daughter. This means that he developed ties back to Egypt, the very place from which God had freed his people. This man of wisdom — Solomon — proved to be very foolish when it came to his own personal relationships.

At the same time he realized that there was something improper about this relationship. He saw that the places where God resided were holy and there was something “unholy” about an Egyptian woman in the midst of God’s dwelling. Trying to make himself look better he built a separate house for her to keep her away from God’s holy presence.

Applicatio…

Immigration and Evangelism

Scripture

2Chr. 6:32   “Likewise when foreigners, who are not of your people Israel, come from a distant land because of your great name, and your mighty hand, and your outstretched arm, when they come and pray toward this house,  33 may you hear from heaven your dwelling place, and do whatever the foreigners ask of you, in order that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your people Israel, and that they may know that your name has been invoked on this house that I have built.

Observation

Here in the midst of Solomon’s prayer of dedication for the temple he prays for a number of circumstances to be used to the glory of God. He prays for the foreigners who will come to Israel because they have heard about the great name of God. They have heard about the ways in which God is working in and through his people and as a result, people are drawn to the nation. God is not just blessing the people of Israel for their sakes, but for the sake of a lost world.

When t…

God’s Holiness

Scripture

Psa. 99:1        The LORD is king; let the peoples tremble!
        He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake!
2     The LORD is great in Zion;
        he is exalted over all the peoples.
3     Let them praise your great and awesome name.
        Holy is he!
4     Mighty King, lover of justice,
        you have established equity;
    you have executed justice
        and righteousness in Jacob.
5     Extol the LORD our God;
        worship at his footstool.
        Holy is he!

Observation

The holiness of God is something about which to sing! Our LORD is great and holy. The nature of holiness is revealed in God’s love for justice, equity and righteousness which is to be found among his holy people. Therefore we come before the LORD our God and we worship him — for he is holy!

Application


God’s holy nature is to be reflected in his people. We are to be the likeness of God for the world. If he is reflected in us then we will respond to the needs of the world around us in the…

A New Song

Scripture

Psa. 98:0   A Psalm.
1     O sing to the LORD a new song,
        for he has done marvelous things.
    His right hand and his holy arm
        have gotten him victory.
2     The LORD has made known his victory;
        he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations.
3     He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness
        to the house of Israel.
    All the ends of the earth have seen
        the victory of our God.

Observation

When a new chapter unfolded in the life of God’s people they wrote a new song. This Psalm is a foreshadowing of God’s mighty victory through the Messiah. This indeed is a new song and a completely new chapter for all of God’s people. God is praised for what he has done, is doing and will do into the future. He has revealed his ultimate victory and this is worthy of a new song!

Application

It’s so easy to become focused upon the difficulties that we fail to see God’s hand at work in the world. God’s activity begs for a new song to be writt…

I Am Not Ashamed

Scripture

Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

Observation

Paul was certainly not ashamed of the faith that he had in the gospel. Imagine the distance he had come from persecuting the believers to openly admitting his faith and proclaiming it everywhere that he could. He may have been ashamed of what he had done previously but was certainly not ashamed of the new life that he had in Christ.

He had learned to follow Christ and realized the power of God, resurrection power, which was available for all of humankind. Jews and Greeks alike were provided with salvation through the good news of Jesus Christ. Paul wanted everyone to know!

Application

The world isn’t overly fond of Christians these days. I wear my NTS pin nearly everywhere I go and there, proudly displayed in the center is a cross. It is a reminder of the Christ-centeredness of our understanding of holiness. I am not a…

We Need Peace

Scripture

2Th. 3:16   Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in all ways. The Lord be with all of you.

Observation

Paul’s benediction for the Thessalonians was that peace would overwhelm them. He identified the Lord as “the Lord of peace himself.” God’s nature of holy love reaches out and fills his people, resulting in peace.

The prayer for peace was for “all times and in all ways.” This permeation of peace was also in his message of sanctifying the people “through and through.” The connection between God’s holy love and peace is clear and distinct and it is Paul’s desire for God’s people.

This is only possible when the Lord is with God’s people and so this becomes the final word of Paul’s prayer. His desire is that the Lord be with God’s people in all ways and all times! The result is peace, both personal and corporate.

Application

Peace can seem elusive. Just read the daily headlines and we are overcome with the negative and evil that is in the world. There is too …

Praying for What We Really Need

Scripture

2Chr. 1:7   That night God appeared to Solomon, and said to him, “Ask what I should give you.”  8 Solomon said to God, “You have shown great and steadfast love to my father David, and have made me succeed him as king.  9 O LORD God, let your promise to my father David now be fulfilled, for you have made me king over a people as numerous as the dust of the earth.  10 Give me now wisdom and knowledge to go out and come in before this people, for who can rule this great people of yours?”  11 God answered Solomon, “Because this was in your heart, and you have not asked for possessions, wealth, honor, or the life of those who hate you, and have not even asked for long life, but have asked for wisdom and knowledge for yourself that you may rule my people over whom I have made you king,  12 wisdom and knowledge are granted to you. I will also give you riches, possessions, and honor, such as none of the kings had who were before you, and none after you shall have the like.”  13 So So…

Why Are You Going to Church Today?

Scripture

Psa. 95:1        O come, let us sing to the LORD;
        let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
2     Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
        let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!

Observation

The invitation is for all to enter into the place of worship before the LORD. The songs and joyful noise are for the LORD’s sake. We are privileged to enter into his presence and should bring with us thanksgiving. The songs we sing are for him. The joyful noise in worship is for him!

Application

This is Sunday and today Christians around the world will go to church. Why are we going? I think if I asked that question of a number of church goers I would receive a variety of answers.

I like the music.

I enjoy hearing the preacher.

I like seeing my family and friends.

I enjoy the fellowship.

I’m learning in my Sunday School class.

I’ve always gone and so it’s just a part of my routine. I’d really be missing out if I didn’t attend.


None of these are b…

Entirely Sanctified

Scripture

I Thess. 5:23 May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound[f] and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.


Observation

This benediction is prayed for the Thessalonians and it expresses the goal of the Christian life. Paul prays that they would be entirely sanctified. He desires that they would be holy people through and through, a complete and total reflection of Jesus Christ in the world. This is possible through the grace of God who draws our spirit, soul and body ever closer to the original Image — Christ.

When Christ returns he will know us because we will resemble him! He is calling us to this life and drawing us nearer — and he will be faithful to continue to be entirely reflected in us!

Application

Have you ever looked at yourself in a full-length mirror? The further we are from the mirror, the smaller our reflection in that mirror. The closer we a…

Practical Advice for Holy Living

Scripture

I Thess. 4:11 to aspire to live quietly, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we directed you,  12 so that you may behave properly toward outsiders and be dependent on no one.

Observation


The Thessalonians were excited about the return of Jesus Christ. In fact, some within the community had quit their jobs because of their excitement and thought it no longer necessary to work. This was creating a burden for the remainder of the community because they had to provide for the needs of those who had chose to be idle!

This practical advice was meant to encourage them to be responsible individuals, even when awaiting Jesus’ return. They were to be respected because they were hard workers, living quietly and minding their own affairs. In other words, they were not to be stirring up trouble within the community.

Their own lifestyle was one which was to be a testimony to the outside world. The holiness of Jesus Christ reflected in them was to be visible in their ho…

Love Is the Spring of True Holiness

Scripture

I Thess. 3:12 And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you.  13 And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints. 

Observation


Paul was overflowing with love for the Thessalonian believers. He understood this as coming from God, for he had been filled with the Holy Spirit and therefore with God’s nature. This nature is holy love and it literally bubbled out of him, and reached out to the world around him.

This was Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonians. He wanted them to know this love from God which he had experienced, therefore he prayed that the Lord would make their love increase. Then he connects this idea of abounding love with holiness in the very next sentence. Somehow abounding with love and being strengthened in holiness are related, for God’s holy love is the spring of true holiness.

Application

T…

When My Actions Hurt Others

Scripture

1Chr. 21:28   At that time, when David saw that the LORD had answered him at the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite, he made his sacrifices there.  29 For the tabernacle of the LORD, which Moses had made in the wilderness, and the altar of burnt offering were at that time in the high place at Gibeon;  30 but David could not go before it to inquire of God, for he was afraid of the sword of the angel of the LORD.

Observation


David had disobeyed God by ordering a census of the people. The consequences of David’s decision reached far beyond David himself and to all of his people. The angel stood over Jerusalem, sword drawn as all the people would have to suffer as a result of David’s unwise decision. Recognizing his failure he began to plead before God, asking forgiveness for his actions, and the salvation of his people. It would have been customary to go to Gibeon to make a sacrifice before God, but David felt he needed to stay at the threshing floor of Ornan, and not leave th…

Stop Trying To Do It All Yourself

Scripture

2Sam. 21:15   The Philistines went to war again with Israel, and David went down together with his servants. They fought against the Philistines, and David grew weary.  16 Ishbi-benob, one of the descendants of the giants, whose spear weighed three hundred shekels of bronze, and who was fitted out with new weapons, said he would kill David.  17 But Abishai son of Zeruiah came to his aid, and attacked the Philistine and killed him. Then David’s men swore to him, “You shall not go out with us to battle any longer, so that you do not quench the lamp of Israel.”

Observation

David was one of the greatest warriors the world had ever seen and he had been the one who had killed the giant Goliath.  This was his area of expertise — he knew how to fight and to kill giants. Suddenly, another giant, Ishbi-benob, was nearing, intent on killing David. But this time David was tired and weary. He had been leading for a number of years and was unable to do it all on his own.

Abishai, one of Dav…

Gentle As A Nursing Mother

Image
Scripture But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children.
(1 Thessalonians 2:7 NASB)
Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us.
(1 Thessalonians 2:8 NASB)
Observation
It's interesting that the Apostle Paul uses this metaphor of a nursing mother for himself as he considers how he and the others who were traveling with him had cared for the people in the church of Thessalonica. Paul traveled during much of his ministry experience spending chunks of time in one place and then in another. Paul's spiritual leadership should be an example to all of us for his focus was not simply on teaching in an unattached setting with his students, instead he became deeply and personally involved in the lives of those whom God had placed into his care.
Application
One of the greatest experiences in life was be…

The Lord — in His Saints

Scripture

34 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world;  35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,  36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’

Observation

The kingdom is everywhere for we find the Lord in the thirsty and the hungry. He is there in the stranger. He is the one needing clothing and the one who is sick. He is the one in prison who so desperately needs a visitor. And in these dark corners of our world we find the kingdom, for there we find him.

Does our Lord hunger and thirst? Is he who himself made everything in heaven and on earth, who feeds angels in heaven and every nation and race on earth, who needs nothing of an earthly character, as he is unfailing in his own nature, is this one naked? It is …

Repentance and Renewal #ProjectPositive

Scripture

Psa. 51:10        Create in me a clean heart, O God,
        and put a new and right spirit within me.
11     Do not cast me away from your presence,
        and do not take your holy spirit from me.
12     Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
        and sustain in me a willing spirit.

Observation


The awful moment of truth had set in and David realized the depth of his sin. He had committed adultery with Bathsheba and then connived to have her husband killed. It doesn’t get much worse than that! In this dreadful moment he realized the depths of his sin and his need for repentance and renewal.

David did confess and repent of his sin and asked God to place within him a clean heart and a new spirit. He recognized that his motivations were compromised by a selfish spirit, one which had to be replaced by God’s spirit. He also realized the need for a deep relationship with God on an on-going basis, a face to face — in God’s presence — kind of a relationship. It is this face to face …

Project Positive!

Scripture

Psa. 20:0   To the leader. A Psalm of David.
1     The LORD answer you in the day of trouble!
        The name of the God of Jacob protect you!
2     May he send you help from the sanctuary,
        and give you support from Zion.
3     May he remember all your offerings,
        and regard with favor your burnt sacrifices. Selah

Psa. 20:4        May he grant you your heart’s desire,
        and fulfill all your plans.
5     May we shout for joy over your victory,
        and in the name of our God set up our banners.
    May the LORD fulfill all your petitions.

Psa. 20:6        Now I know that the LORD will help his anointed;
        he will answer him from his holy heaven
        with mighty victories by his right hand.
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.

Psa. 20:9        Give victory to the king, O LORD;
        answer us when we ca…

Fruit Production

Scripture

Matthew 21:43 Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom.

Observation


Speaking directly to the religious leaders Jesus let them know that if they were not producing spiritual fruit, they would lose the kingdom. We know the rest of the story and the gospel became a message of salvation for all — Jews and gentiles alike!

There was an expectation that God’s people would be an evangelistic people! The gift was not for them alone to hoard. What God had provided was to have been shared with the world around them so that others might know the one, true, living God.

Production of fruit was the sign of a healthy and growing relationship with God. No matter how hard the religious leaders tried to look good on the outside, Jesus could see right through them and tell that they were not producing the fruits of the kingdom.

Application


If Jesus were here today, what would he say to us? Are we producing the…

Really Getting It

Scripture

Matthew 20:34 Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes. Immediately they regained their sight and followed him. 

Observation

Jesus had healed so many different people and their responses were not always the same. Probably most went home to share with their families and loved ones what had happened to them. They may have been physically healed and yet failed to realize how much more they had received from Christ.
A handful probably became true Christ-followers, but not many, and that’s what makes this story unique. These people didn’t run home, they really got it — they understood the significance of what Christ had done for them. They immediately followed him.

Application

The question for us today is whether we really get it? Christ has done so much for us and we get to witness his activity in and through our lives on a daily basis — and yet, do we really get it?

The temptation is to go on with life and not to follow him in a radical way. He is ready and willing to heal u…

Tempted To Fight Like the World

Scripture

Matt. 19:30 But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first. 

Observation

The way things function in the kingdom is simply not the way of the world. Jesus spent a lot of time teaching his disciples these truths. He had just been teaching them about the struggle that wealthy people would have in entering the kingdom of God. The disciples wanted to know where they fit into the picture and Jesus talked to them about the last being first and the first last.

In the kingdom of God things don’t function the same way that they do in the world. Winning by the worlds standards — getting the most money or the most powerful position — may not make anyone “first” in the kingdom, but instead, it may result in being last!

Application

Jesus was constantly revealing the kingdom to his followers. Little glimpses of the kingdom of heaven allowed them to understand the direction in which Jesus was leading them and the way in which God planned to transform the world. God doesn’t work…