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Showing posts from August, 2015

The Lukewarm Church

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Scripture:
Rev. 3:14   “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the origin of God’s creation:
Rev. 3:15   “I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot.  16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth.  17 For you say, ‘I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.’ You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.  18 Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire so that you may be rich; and white robes to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen; and salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.  19 I reprove and discipline those whom I love. Be earnest, therefore, and repent.  20 Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me.  21 To the one who conquers I will give…

The Open Door

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Scripture:
Rev. 3:7    “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:
                          These are the words of the holy one, the true one,
                               who has the key of David,
                                     who opens and no one will shut,
                                        who shuts and no one opens:

Rev. 3:8   “I know your works. Look, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.  9 I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but are lying—I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you.  10 Because you have kept my word of patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.  11 I am coming soon; hold fast to what you have, so that no one may seize your crown.  12…

It’s Time To Wake Up

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Scripture:
Rev. 3:1   “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars:

 “I know your works; you have a name of being alive, but you are dead.  2 Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is on the point of death, for I have not found your works perfect in the sight of my God.  3 Remember then what you received and heard; obey it, and repent. If you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you.  4 Yet you have still a few persons in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes; they will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy.  5 If you conquer, you will be clothed like them in white robes, and I will not blot your name out of the book of life; I will confess your name before my Father and before his angels.  6 Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.

Observation:


The church in Sardis had been vibrant and alive bu…

Loving is Doing

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Scripture:
Revelation 2:4 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.  5 Remember then from what you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.

Observation:

The church in Ephesus had been a prime example of the kingdom of God at work in the world. Paul’s missionary work had resulted in a large and thriving ministry in this previously pagan city. Now, there was praise for the Christians of Ephesus but there was also rebuke. They were good people and they were trying to keep the organization together and functioning but this may have been taking too much of their time.

This church is remembered for having “abandoned the love you had at first.” In Ephesus the church had had forgotten her first love.

Of course we think first and foremost that their love and passion for Jesus had cooled. This does seem to happen with those who come to Christ. There seems to…

Morning by Morning

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Scripture:
Psalm 143:8     Let me hear of your steadfast love in the morning,    for in you I put my trust.    Teach me the way I should go,    for to you I lift up my soul.

Observation:

David knew what it was like to suffer through long, dark nights. More than likely he was hiding out from his own son, Absalom and with a father’s broken heart was crying out to God. He was desperate to hear some good news in the morning, possibly awaiting a messenger who could give him an update on the situation. But David was really in a no-win situation with his beloved son, and any earthly news would more than likely be bad news. Therefore David was clinging to the good news he experienced afresh every morning.

God’s steadfast love, always present, fresh every morning was that which would sustain him. When the news from the world was nothing but bad, the good news of the kingdom awaited him every dawn. The anticipation was not for the absence of trouble, but of the presence of God. David’s very heart …

Troubles in the Church

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Scripture:
3John 9   I have written something to the church; but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority.  10 So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing in spreading false charges against us. And not content with those charges, he refuses to welcome the friends, and even prevents those who want to do so and expels them from the church.

Observation:


The Elder had sent another letter to this church but Diotrephes didn’t think anyone needed to know about it, so it was not read. He didn’t recognize the authority of others, but put himself in the place of leader, making decisions about people and whether they could be a part of the church or not. He was single-handedly destroying the reputation of the church and corrupting others along the way.

Application:

Hilary of Arles writing long ago suggests that there may be a limit to our patience. We are to “bear the abuse of those who insult us” but there are times when “we have to protest it beca…

Walk In Love

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Scripture:
2John 5:5 But now, dear lady, I ask you, not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but one we have had from the beginning, let us love one another.  6 And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment just as you have heard it from the beginning—you must walk in it.

Observation:


The story is not a new one. Christ-followers are to be marked by their love for one another.   This is a gentle reminder about what’s important in life. God’s people are to love one another and then, as if there needed to be a definition John explains himself. Love is when we walk “according to his commandments.” Love is active — it walks!

Application:

Resting in the love of God is how we begin that walk in love. I can’t walk in God’s love if I don’t learn to rest and relax in his love for me. Only when I slow down long enough to experience his love can I walk in and take his love with me in my life.

Next, I am challenged to love fellow Christ-followers. The…

Taking the Place of God in Your Life

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Scripture:
1John 5:21   Little children, keep yourselves from idols.

Observation:


John’s entire epistle is a reminder about the one, true God and understanding this in light of Jesus. With great affection he tells his followers, his little children, to keep themselves from idols. He wants them to bear in mind that worship belongs to God alone and that they are to guard themselves “against everything which occupies the place due to God.” (Vincent) Nothing false is to take the place of God in the lives of Jesus’ followers.

Application:

The truth has been made clear to us. We know who Jesus is — and now we are to decide what we will do with that information.

John Wesley encourages us to take this understanding and live a life in which we sink deeply into the love of Christ. We are to desire nothing more than him, nothing more than knowing and living in service to God. Evil is to be avoided as all focus is placed on God in our lives.

It’s a very simple little line. We are God’s dearly loved li…

For Some the Word of God is Foolish

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Scripture:

1 John 4:6 We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us, and whoever is not from God does not listen to us. From this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

Observation:

John and many other followers of Christ had become united with him. Being united with Christ meant that they identified with him and with God. They had become God’s people and were living in him, lives transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Through years of sharing the word John had learned this particular truth. Not everyone was going to listen to what he had to say. Some people would think that his preaching was sheer foolishness. The response of those around him led him to discern a spirit of truth and spirit of error. Jesus, the incarnate word has always challenged us to change our behaviors. We are not supposed to be just like the world and so the call is to live like Christ, in ways which are counter-cultural, and this is the spirit of truth.

Application:


Being a follower of Jesus …

Wrestling With My Brothers

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Scripture:

Psa. 118:29        O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
        for his steadfast love endures forever.

Observation:

This is the doxology of the 118th Psalm. The Psalm is one in which we are reminded of the mercy of the LORD. We are to continually give thanks to the LORD. His nature is good and his ongoing love or mercy is extended to us for all of time. Along with the Psalmist this ought to make us rejoice day in and day out. God is good!

Application:

I have three big brothers and I’ve often been asked whether I was spoiled by them. I respond that they did not see fit to spoil me, but rather, to teach me to fight! They enjoyed wrestling and what I used to think was, picking on me. One of my brothers would take my hands and make me slap my own face — thinking this was quite funny. When wrestling (and of course I would be losing) — they would tell me to “ask for mercy.” I’ll be quite honest — I really didn’t know what they were talking about. What was mercy? But eventual…

The Reality of Jesus

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Scripture:

1John 1:1   We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—  2 this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us—  3 we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.  4 We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

Observation:

John was an eye-witness to the life of Jesus Christ. He had survived longer than any other disciple and had watched as the good news of Jesus had spread. The story of Jesus was not some distant message that he had heard, but rather he had experienced living life with Jesus first-hand. He understood that the good news of Jesus was to be transformative in the lives of all those who encountered him, …

But What About Them?

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Scripture:

21 When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about him?”  22 Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow me!”  23 So the rumor spread in the community that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?”

Observation:

The conversation of restoration between Jesus and Peter was drawing to a conclusion. Jesus had spoken prophetic words over Peter’s life but suddenly Peter, in stereotypic Peter fashion blurts out, “Lord, what bout him?” There are a number of interpretations of this conversation between Jesus and Peter. The reality is that John was close-by at the time of this conversation. He was the one who had been reclining at the table when Peter had so vehemently stated that he would never deny Christ. From the very beginning John, another fisherman had been part of that close inner circle of Jesus.

Lest we becom…

The Epilogue

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Scripture:

John 20:30   Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book.  31 But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

Observation:

The gospel had been written and John concluded with this epilogue. Here is the takeaway from this book and it is a connection between faith and life. This book was written to prove that Jesus was the Messiah, and this to lead us into a transformational faith, which provides us with eternal life through the name of Jesus. We are challenged to read and believe!

Application:

I always find epilogues interesting to read. They bring you up to date on the story which you have just read. In this case, the up to date information is confirmation that this gospel record can lead us into a transformed life. The epilogue is possible because by the time this gospel is written down there would be enough testimon…

Love One Another

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Scripture:

9 As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.  10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.  11 I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.

John 15:12   “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.  14 You are my friends if you do what I command you.  15 I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.  16 You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name.  17 I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.

Observation:

Over an…

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

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Scripture:

John 14:15   “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

Observation:

Jesus was talking to his disciples and explaining to them that he would be leaving and going to the Father. The Advocate — or the Holy Spirit would be sent to them. Their lives in Christ would be evidenced by their actions, not just their words. The love of God is revealed in Jesus’ love for the Father and that he would send the Holy Spirit to his disciples. The disciples would be empowered to follow the commandments because the love of God would indwell through the Holy Spirit.

Application:

When you love someone, you act like it! My husband has been showing me the most incredible acts of love lately through all that he has done for me. We are in the midst of moving into a house on the campus of the Seminary. We have been living in a small one-bedroom apartment on campus for a year and a half. The window of opportunity to move happened when I had no free time. I’ve been tied up in meetings for the last c…

Refusing Medical Treatment

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Scripture:

Jer. 8:22     Is there no balm in Gilead?
Is there no physician there?
Why then has the health of my poor people
not been restored?

Observation:


The Israelites were in a terrible state spiritually. They had refused to follow God and his leadings in their lives. Instead they did everything that they wanted and went the way of the world. The result was their destruction and loss of everything that was dear to them.

In his grief Jeremiah expresses his frustration. The people are sick and dying from the sin which has so entangled their lives but there is a cure! Jeremiah knows that the doctor and the healing balm exists to cure their disease. But they are not healed, nor is their health restored, for they refuse all treatment.

Application:

When you or I don’t feel well, we generally go to the doctor. If one of our children might be ill, we try and take care of things right away. We realize the need for prompt and accurate treatment so that there will not be any lingering and/or on-go…

Subject to the Slavery of Human Opinion

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Scripture:

42 Nevertheless many, even of the authorities, believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they did not confess it, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue;  43 for they loved human glory more than the glory that comes from God.

Observation:

People were believing in Jesus Christ but there was immense pressure coming from the authorities. Following Jesus meant the loss of privileges. Pharisees were excommunicated from the synagogue if they dared to proclaim Jesus. Obviously there were those who were trying to follow him in secret, but only in secret, for they feared human opinion. They were far too worried about what others might think and the ramifications for their lives. The result was that they sought the acceptance of others more than the salvation which came from Christ. Chrysostom tells us, “So then, they were not really rulers at all but slaves subject to the utmost slavery [of human opinion]. “

Application:

Christians have always been faced with the chall…

Wise Use of Time

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Scripture:

9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world.  10 But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.”

Observation:

Jesus and the disciples had heard that Lazarus was gravely ill and there was a conversation among the group regarding their upcoming travels. After a couple of days Jesus suggested that they head back to Judea and the disciples reminded him that people there wanted to stone him. Jesus responded with this conversation about daylight and walking during the day. Somehow this response seems to be a bit disconnected, and yet it is not.

Jesus is the light and he knows that he will only be walking on this earth for a brief period of time. Just as the people of Jesus’ time knew that they had to accomplish their work during the hours of natural daylight, so he knew that he had to accomplish his work during his light. Until the end came, he would go about…

Pure Speech

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Scripture:

Zeph. 3:9        At that time I will change the speech of the peoples
        to a pure speech,
    that all of them may call on the name of the LORD
        and serve him with one accord.
10     From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia
        my suppliants, my scattered ones,
        shall bring my offering.

Observation:

The peoples’ speech was a problem that was revealed at Babel. They had been sent abroad and scattered as a result of their behavior. The prophecy here speaks of a new day in which everything will change. What happened at Babel will be transformed at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit is poured out and the people called to pure speech, a speech which is understandable to all people. The result will be God’s prevenient grace reaching out to all of humanity with a call to unity within the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. Unified worship of God will be the sign of this action.

Application:

If our lives and worship were to be examined would they reveal the unity which is p…

Hate

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Scripture:

John 7:7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify against it that its works are evil.

Observation:

Jesus’ disciples were coming up with a game-plan for him. They wanted him to come to Jerusalem and make a big splash. It wasn’t what Jesus had in mind. He knew what his responsibility was in the world — to be faithful to his Father. The world did not like what he had to say. He wasn’t trying to become a public figure, but he needed to speak the truth. For this, the world hated him. He could not condone the behavior of those in the world and their anger and resentment of him was very real. He knew where all of this would lead and that was, to his death.

Application:


Jesus’ comments to the disciples here are interesting. The world doesn’t hate them because they may still just have a bit of an attraction to what goes on in the world. The world is unhappy with Jesus because people don’t like anyone telling them that what they are doing may not be right.

In the 5th …

Respect for the Younger Generation

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Scripture:

2Chr. 34:1   Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign; he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem.  2 He did what was right in the sight of the LORD, and walked in the ways of his ancestor David; he did not turn aside to the right or to the left.  3 For in the eighth year of his reign, while he was still a boy, he began to seek the God of his ancestor David, and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of the high places, the sacred poles, and the carved and the cast images.

Observation:

Think about this young boy becoming king. He was only eight and ruled until he was thirty-nine. In all his years he worked hard to transform the country. He didn’t wait all that long, beginning by seeking God at the age of sixteen, and planning major transformational projects when he was just twenty. This young leader was able to help bring about the spiritual reformation of his country.

Application:

As every generation ages they have trouble handing over leadership to t…

What Do You Really Know?

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Scripture:

John 5:39   “You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf.  40 Yet you refuse to come to me to have life. 

Observation:

The religious leaders knew the Torah for they had studied it in-depth for years. The problem was that they had become satisfied with knowing the scriptures but refused to know the one to whom they pointed. They had incredible amounts of head knowledge, but it had not led to heart understanding. The scriptures were the written word, but before them stood the word incarnate and they refused to believe.

Application:

There are plenty of brilliant people in this world who have all kinds of head knowledge. I have met those who have studied the scriptures and theology in depth and yet they do not know Christ. There is a difference between knowing about Christianity and knowing Christ. We may have the ability to articulate our particular position on a controversial topic but what does that me…

What Feeds You?

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Scripture:

John 4:31   Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.”  32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.”  33 So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?”  34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work.

Observation:

Jesus had just been speaking with the Samaritan woman at the well. His disciples had gone off to find food and were returning with a snack. They were encouraging him to eat, quite sure that he would be hungry. However, after his encounter with the woman at the well, he was no longer hungry. He was filled with the food of accomplishing the Father’s will. Jesus’ life and ministry revealed that he was hungry for the salvation of the men and women whom he encountered.

Application:

In our call to Christlikness we are also called to Christ's passions. What fed Christ should also feed us. We are to be hungry to take the good news to t…

Hope and Refuge

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Scripture:

Psa. 62:5        For God alone my soul waits in silence,
        for my hope is from him.
6     He alone is my rock and my salvation,
        my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
7     On God rests my deliverance and my honor;
        my mighty rock, my refuge is in God.

Observation:

David knew where his hope would come from. God was his refuge and he could put his trust in him. When everyone around him seemed to be against him, he could trust in God. He awaited God in silence, for he needed to hear that still sweet voice leading him to deliverance. David was a powerful warrior, but he knew where his strength really came from and he would trust in God.

Application:

Everyone needs a place to find hope and refuge. We may be tempted to seek out places of safety created by human hands. David had already learned that he needed to depend upon God, and so do we. I believe the secret of this entire passage is found in verse five where he lets us know that he waits in silence for God. This p…