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Showing posts from July, 2015

When Our Hospitality Runs Out

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Scripture:

John 2:1   On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.  2 Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.  3 When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.”  4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.”  5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”  6 Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.  7 Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim.  8 He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it.  9 When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after…

Living in Beulah Land

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Scripture:

Isaiah 62:4
No longer will they call you Deserted,
    or name your land Desolate.
But you will be called Hephzibah,
    and your land Beulah;
for the Lord will take delight in you,
    and your land will be married.

Observation:

The prophet could see a day in which the Israelites would be completely restored.  What would that restoration be like?  Her land would no longer be deserted, nor would it be filled with ruins.  Instead, the land would again be filled with God's people -- the people being called "Hephzibah" -- I delight in you.  This was the name of King Hezekiah's wife, and the two of them represented a period of faithfulness in loving and serving the Lord.  God would again delight in his own people!  The land itself would be restored and would be known as "Beulah" -- which means married, and it would be consecrated to God -- married to him.  This is the picture of restoration for all the people of God.

Application:


Today happens to be our 32nd we…

When’s the Last Time you Fasted?

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Scripture

Is. 58:6        Is not this the fast that I choose:
        to loose the bonds of injustice,
        to undo the thongs of the yoke,
    to let the oppressed go free,
        and to break every yoke?
7     Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
        and bring the homeless poor into your house;
    when you see the naked, to cover them,
        and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
8     Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
        and your healing shall spring up quickly;
    your vindicator shall go before you,
        the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
9     Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer;
        you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.

Observation

This call to fasting in Isaiah is rather unique. It is not just a personal fast from food, but instead moves into a fast that touches others. This is a foretaste of Jesus’ approach to the law. Love of God must flow into love of others. Therefore fasting cannot simply be abou…

Water on a Hot Summer’s Day

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Scripture

Is. 55:1        Ho, everyone who thirsts,
        come to the waters;
    and you that have no money,
        come, buy and eat!
    Come, buy wine and milk
        without money and without price.
2     Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
        and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
    Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good,
        and delight yourselves in rich food.
3     Incline your ear, and come to me;
        listen, so that you may live.
    I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
        my steadfast, sure love for David.

Observation


The needy are hungry and thirsty and they have no way in which to satisfy their cravings. God calls out to the needy and by his grace offers a genuine welcome to come and rest in him. He will provide the water and the food without any cost. If only we will incline our ear to him, listening to his voice and leading — he will provide, for his love is extended to his children, whom he loves.

Application

It’s …

Sharing the Good News

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Scripture

Is. 52:7        How beautiful upon the mountains
        are the feet of the messenger who announces peace,
    who brings good news,
        who announces salvation,
        who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”

Observation

The people were awaiting the good news, hoping that salvation was coming. Runners would arrive carrying news — they were the mailmen! Looking to the mountains and awaiting the arrival of the news carrier there is praise for the one who will bring the message. This is the one who is running as fast as possible across the mountain heights to bring the news that God is victorious! Salvation has come — “Your God reigns.”

Application

Can you imagine what it must have been like to be the one who was carrying the good news that their army had been victorious and the people would be saved! Running with all that you have you would race toward home, knowing that the people would be anxious to hear what you have to say. The people would choose the best runners to be the one…

Hurling and Meddling

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Scripture

1Pet. 5:6   Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.

Observation

The charge to the Christ-follower is to live a life of humility. Only in recognizing that we are humble servants of God will we be able to put our trust in him. When we think and/or believe that we have great power and capability to do things on our own we will fail.

Once we are able to live in humility before our holy God, then we are able to put our complete and total trust in him. It is in this condition that we recognize our need for God and this is when we learn to become dependent upon him. No matter the pressure nor responsibility in life we are to cast all our anxiety on him.

The idea of casting is really one of “hurling.” We are to throw, or hurl our anxiety on the Lord. The very here is the same one as those who cast their robes before the colt on which Christ rode. It is the very idea of thro…

Hospitality Extended

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Scripture

1 Peter 4: 9 Be hospitable to one another without complaining. 10 Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.

Observation

This language of hospitality and service comes up again and again when referring to followers of Jesus Christ. There is something about the way in which we treat one another as Christ-followers that reveals the love of God to the world. The gifts which we have each received are not for our own personal consumption, but for the benefit of all. They are to be shared so that the community of faith may be built up.

Application

It seems that the traditional ways in which to extend hospitality have changed in the last few years. It seems quite rare to be invited into someone’s home these days. I remember the old traditional “Sunday Dinner.” That doesn’t happen all that often — and nor does just sitting around a table and having lengthy conversation. Instead we are caught up in our smart phones and …

Getting Ahead of God

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Scripture

Isaiah 40:31     but those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength,
        they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
    they shall run and not be weary,
        they shall walk and not faint.

Observation

Probably the most important word in this scripture is “wait.” It is in the waiting that we learn to rest and trust in God. He will do what he will do in his timing.

The idea of renewing comes from the concept of changing or exchanging. It’s like taking off your clothing and putting on something completely new. We will take off our own strength and literally put on God’s strength. This is what happens when we wait on him. The result is then expressed in three different ways that reveal the the supernatural power of God. Waiting on God results in his supernatural intervention in our lives.

Application


I find myself wanting to get ahead of God. I want to tell him how to make things happen — and when. The problem is that when we get ahead of God we make mistakes. Abraham …

Straining to Love

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Scripture

1Pet. 1:22    Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart.

Observation

Followers of Jesus Christ are to live in obedience to the truth. This requires a life lived in the grace of God, along with self-discipline as a disciple of Jesus Christ. Love of God and love of neighbor flows from our relationship with God, but it also takes effort. Not everyone is easy to love and therefore the language of this author is that we are to “love one another deeply,” and this can be translated as straining to love. We must be intentional about reaching out and loving one another. This is to come from our heart, and some manuscripts say “a pure heart.” The challenge of living as God’s holy people is to reach out to one another with the love of God. There are no exceptions listed — simply that we are to be obedient, reaching out, straining, in love.

Application

There are people within the community…

Prayer and Confession

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Scripture

James 5:16 Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.

Observation

We are to live together in a community of faith, one which prays for and supports one another. This is the admonition that we discover in James. Because we are a part of this community of faith we are to grow together spiritually. For this to happen we must be willing to confess our sins to, and pray for one another. This is the way in which we can be healed, not only from physical ailments, but also from the emotional. If we are unwilling to confess what is happening in our lives, we will not be able to experience God’s forgiveness. It is this participation in the community which allows for accountability and healing.

Application

We don’t like to talk much about confession. In the holiness tradition we have been infected with the idea of perfection to the point that we feel confession just might be a sign …

Worrying About Tomorrow

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Scripture

James 4:13   Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a town and spend a year there, doing business and making money.”  14 Yet you do not even know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.  15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that.”  16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil.  17 Anyone, then, who knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, commits sin.

Observation

Strategic planning happens on many levels. We plan out how things should happen and yet we fail to realize that God is really in charge. Everything could change tomorrow. All of our plans could be derailed. But life shouldn’t be about the plans, life should be about the Lord. We are his and are to be living in and following his leading and guidance. He leads us into doing what is right and if we fail to do as he leads, we sin.

Application

I was w…

Relax in God

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Scripture

10     “Be still, and know that I am God!
        I am exalted among the nations,
        I am exalted in the earth.”
11     The LORD of hosts is with us;
        the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah

Observation

When it feels as if the enemy is attacking God’s people, it’s time to remember who is really in charge. Stop! Take time to relax in God. The stillness cleanses our mind of clutter, because when we are carried away with busyness, we can’t focus on God. But when we do, we remember that he is great among all the nations and in the earth. Our LORD is here among us.

Application

It’s Sunday and a great day to slow down. It’s always been God’s plan for his people to settle into his power and presence. God wants to care for his people, but so often it is we that do not allow him to do so. We get too caught up with the things that are happening around us and they become distractions from what God wants to do in and through us.

This is a great day to slow down and simply rest in him.…

The Danger of Complacency

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Scripture

Is. 32:9        Rise up, you women who are at ease, hear my voice;
        you complacent daughters, listen to my speech.
10     In little more than a year
        you will shudder, you complacent ones;
    for the vintage will fail,
        the fruit harvest will not come.
11     Tremble, you women who are at ease,
        shudder, you complacent ones;
    strip, and make yourselves bare,
        and put sackcloth on your loins.
12     Beat your breasts for the pleasant fields,
        for the fruitful vine,
13     for the soil of my people
        growing up in thorns and briers;
    yes, for all the joyous houses
        in the jubilant city.
14     For the palace will be forsaken,
        the populous city deserted;
    the hill and the watchtower
        will become dens forever,
    the joy of wild asses,
        a pasture for flocks;
15     until a spirit from on high is poured out on us,
        and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field,
        and the fruitful field is deemed a for…

Holy Grumblers Accept Instruction

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Scripture

Is. 29:22        Therefore thus says the LORD, who redeemed Abraham, concerning the house of Jacob:
    No longer shall Jacob be ashamed,
        no longer shall his face grow pale.
23     For when he sees his children,
        the work of my hands, in his midst,
        they will sanctify my name;
    they will sanctify the Holy One of Jacob,
        and will stand in awe of the God of Israel.
24     And those who err in spirit will come to understanding,
        and those who grumble will accept instruction.

Observation

The prophetic words of Isaiah speak to a future where God will be reflected in the children of Jacob. He will look on his children and he will see that they are the work of God, reflecting his image to the world. As a result God’s name will be sanctified and the world will stand in awe of Jacob’s God.

The life of the sanctified is one in which the Spirit will rule. When the Spirit leads, there is an understanding of correction. Those who need correction may grumble, …

Mutual Love

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Scripture

Heb. 13:1    Let mutual love continue.

Observation

The recipients of the letter to the Hebrews were already engaged in a Christian life which revealed God’s love. This is simply an encouragement that what they’ve already been doing should continue. Mutual love is to be a very normal reflection of the holy life. We are to serve God by serving others and when this happens, preserve what you have! Guard this mutual love and protect it for the precious gift that it is!

Application


The point is that followers of Jesus Christ are to love one another — even when they don’t always like what the other does!

This should be revealed in the life of the local church.

In a Christian marriage.

In a pastor - congregation relationship.

In a working environment.

In a worship service.

In a parent-child relationship.

In a neighbor - neighbor relationship.

In a leadership role.

This mutual love is a precious gift of God that the enemy would do everything possible to destroy. Guard this love. Put up every…

Enduring Trials

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Scripture

Heb. 12:7 Endure trials for the sake of discipline. God is treating you as children; for what child is there whom a parent does not discipline?  8 If you do not have that discipline in which all children share, then you are illegitimate and not his children.  9 Moreover, we had human parents to discipline us, and we respected them. Should we not be even more willing to be subject to the Father of spirits and live?  10 For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share his holiness.  11 Now, discipline always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Observation

Trials will come about in life and will probably make us feel incredibly uncomfortable. God disciplines his children because he wants us to be holy. If this were not the case he would allow us to keep on making the same mistakes again and again.

Restless in Exile

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Scripture

Heb. 11:13   All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth,  14 for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.  15 If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return.  16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them.

Observation

The great faith chapter tells us the stories of those who have gone before us and have lived in faithful obedience to God. Interestingly one of the characteristics of those who have gone before was a sense of restlessness. The more they followed God, the more they realized they weren't at home here on this earth. Rather, they desired a new and different land. The earth was simply a place of exile for they wanted t…

Step out of the Shadow

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Scripture

Heb. 10:1    Since the law has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered year after year, make perfect those who approach.

Observation

The law was simply a foreshadowing of the Messiah. When Christ came we experienced the advent of a new covenant. The law could not be made perfect or bring to completion that which God had intended. This is only accomplished through the work of Jesus Christ and he declares, “It is finished!”

Chrysostom reminds us that the shadow is much like the outline on a painting. It points us in the right direction, and yet there is much greater beauty when the bright colors are added. It’s only at that time that it truly becomes an image.

Application

Without a deeply personal relationship with Christ we will only be living in the shadow. We are invited to step out of the shadow and into a beautiful, colorful and vibrant relationship with Christ. It …

Heaven Itself!

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24 For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made by human hands, a mere copy of the true one, but he entered into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. 

Observation

Heaven itself — the very throne room of God is where Jesus resides. He is there now, appearing on our behalf. The sanctuary and earthly worship are to be a copy of what happens in heaven. Because of what Christ has done our worship is no longer simply a copy of what may be happening in heaven, but we are ushered into God’s presence as a result of Christ’s work. There exists then, a connection between heaven and earth, between the sanctuary made by men and heaven itself, made possible by Christ.

Application

The life of holiness includes participation by way of fellowship with the divine nature. We are invited to fellowship with the Triune God and this leads us to a heavenly worship. Christ is in the heavenly sanctuary and our worship here on earth should be a reflection of the divine worship …

True Worship and the Real Sanctuary

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Scripture

Hebrews 8:5 They offer worship in a sanctuary that is a sketch and shadow of the heavenly one;

Observation


This portion of Hebrews is pointing out the radical difference between the old and new covenant. The priests in the time of Moses were worshiping in the tabernacle, which was simply a “sketch and shadow” of what was to come. This was a very simple and small representation of the heavenly sanctuary. When Jesus came, as the new High Priest, everything changed and he now serves as the true tabernacle. Therefore true worship is of Christ and he is the real sanctuary. This new reality changes everything in the lives of these Hebrew believers.

Application


If we are not careful our modern worship could also be a very poor sketch and shadow of God’s intention. True worship is focused on Christ alone. He is the real sanctuary.

What does that mean for us on a practical level? The Holy Spirit ushers us into the very presence of Christ who intercedes on our behalf. This means that true…

Experiencing Forgiveness

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Scripture

Mic. 7:18        Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity
        and passing over the transgression
        of the remnant of your possession?
    He does not retain his anger forever,
        because he delights in showing clemency.
19     He will again have compassion upon us;
        he will tread our iniquities under foot.
    You will cast all our sins
        into the depths of the sea.
20     You will show faithfulness to Jacob
        and unswerving loyalty to Abraham,
    as you have sworn to our ancestors
        from the days of old.

Observation

God’s love is revealed in these descriptions. He is constantly reaching out to his children, desiring to drawn them back into a healthy relationship with him. As a result, even when he has been hurt, he will forgive them for their transgressions.  In his compassion he will stomp on our sins and remove them far us. His justice will prevail and he will remain faithful to the covenants made with Jacob and Abraham. Through this forgiven…

An Anchor of Hope

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Scripture

Hebrews 6:19 We have this hope, a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters the inner shrine behind the curtain,  20 where Jesus, a forerunner on our behalf, has entered, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.

Observation

The writer to the Hebrews is challenging the believers to grow in their faith, and in doing so to cling to the incredible hope found in Jesus, the Messiah. Jesus is a “high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” He comes to us from outside the natural order and leads us into life in the kingdom. He has done this and already we are able to live in the kingdom and anchor our hope in Jesus.

Application


We need to anchor our hope in Jesus Christ. Hope in Christ will not allow us to be carried back and forth by the storms. There are plenty of storms that bring with them agitating winds, but when the anchor is in Christ, the boat does not sink.

The Church has weathered many a storm and yet has not su…

A Call to Praise

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Scripture

Psa. 100:0   A Psalm of thanksgiving.
1     Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth.
2         Worship the LORD with gladness;
        come into his presence with singing.

Psa. 100:3        Know that the LORD is God.
        It is he that made us, and we are his;
        we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Psa. 100:4        Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
        and his courts with praise.
        Give thanks to him, bless his name.

Psa. 100:5        For the LORD is good;
        his steadfast love endures forever,
        and his faithfulness to all generations.

Observation

God’s people are called to praise him. We are to make a “joyful noise” to our Lord as we enter into his presence. This is the imagery of entering a throne room, giving God the honor he is due. In praise we recognize that the “LORD is God,” our father. He is our creator and we are his children.

The gates of the kingdom are opened for his children and so we enter with great praise. Not only do we…

Are You Getting Enough Rest?

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Scripture

Hebrews 4:8 For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not speak later about another day.  9 So then, a sabbath rest still remains for the people of God;  10 for those who enter God’s rest also cease from their labors as God did from his.  11 Let us therefore make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one may fall through such disobedience as theirs.

Observation

The ultimate sabbath rest is to be with the Lord for all of eternity. Joshua ordered the people to experience a sabbath rest. This rest from human labor here on earth was to be a foretaste of eternal rest. The promise of an eternal sabbath awaits the people of God who serve him in obedience. In the meantime, practicing and living sabbath can lead us into eternal rest.

Application

I’ve been doing a bit of study and reading lately about the need for rest — real, true, physical rest. Studies are showing that people are not getting enough rest. We don’t slow down long enough to sleep as many hours as our body need…

Where is your love?

Scripture

Hosea 6:6     For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice,
        the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.

Observation

God isn’t judging us by our sacrifices but by our steadfast love for him. Historically this word “love" has also been translated “mercy,” indicating the depth of this loving action which is to pour forth from the life of one who is a child of God.

God does not want sacrifices — he want us!

Jesus quoted this verse when preaching. God has constantly been drawing us into a deeply loving relationship with him in which we know him on a very intimate level. This is what he desires rather than all the “things” that we can “do” for him! 

Application

We may feel called to “do” numerous things for God. Sometimes we feel that we have to defend him. We may feel that we have to be working hard at the church 24/7. We may think that we have to do volunteer work so that God will be happy with us. All of these may be extremely good things in which to engage,…

How Not To Act in Exile

How Not To Act In Exile

Scripture:

Psa. 137:2     On the willows there
        we hung up our harps.
Psa. 137:3     For there our captors
        asked us for songs,
    and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying,
        “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”

Observation:

The children of Israel were living in exile and as they journeyed their captors asked them to sing their songs of Zion. There was no joy in their hearts and they had no desire to perform for those who had taken them into captivity. In public protest they took their harps and hung them on the willow trees. The harps were not hidden away under bushes but hung up for all to see. The had lost their songs. Their joy was gone. But sadly, as they refused to sing for their captors, so they refused to sing to God.

Application:

Just yesterday my friend, Kathy Mowry mentioned this scripture as she spoke about the church in exile. I had written a blog post on this this last fall but now I wanted to go back and think about these v…

Encouragement for the Hard-Pressed

Scripture

Jude 24   Now to him who is able to keep you from falling, and to make you stand without blemish in the presence of his glory with rejoicing,  25 to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Observation

Living as a faithful follower of Jesus Christ has never just been “easy.” In the first century Christ-followers were viewed as radical people. This closing benediction is a reminder and an encouragement for those who are living hard-pressed in ways which are counter-cultural. It is a triumphant response that reminds us that God is still on the throne and empowers us through the Holy Spirit to stand firm in our faith.

Application


This encouragement is for today, for we all come to those moments when we feel hard-pressed. The sources of the pressure may vary greatly but when we stand with God, he empowers us. This happens as we turn our faces toward him, praising and worshiping God on…

Avoid Stupid Controversies

Scripture

Titus 3:9 But avoid stupid controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.

Observation

Reflecting Christ is the priority of life and anything that becomes a distraction to that goal is simply that — a distraction. Becoming engaged in debates without considering the outcome is futile. The Lord doesn’t not ask us to labor in vain, but instead to focus our energies on his kingdom work. Chrysostom referred to these stupid controversies as “sowing upon a rock.” In other words, it will ultimately accomplish nothing so why waste your time. Instead, work in soil which will produce; spend your time and energy in places where it will make a difference.

Application

Evidently not too much has changed since the first century. This may discourage us, or maybe it can be an encouragement to us because the admonition to the Christ-follower remains the same. There will always be controversies, quarrels about the law, and disagreements …