Posts

Showing posts from September, 2015

The Charade of Caring

Image
Scripture:

Luke 13:31   At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.”

Observation:


At first glance it would appear that there were Pharisees who had a genuine concern for the well-being of Jesus. This would seem rather unusual for most of the time we read about their contempt for Jesus and his ministry. Why this sudden show of concern and what was their motivation?

Things are not always what they appear to be on the surface. Most commentaries suggest that these Pharisees were not genuinely concerned about Jesus’ safety, but instead were motivated by their own sense of greed or jealousy. On the pretense of concern for Jesus, they were actually looking for a way to get rid of him. Some suggest they may actually have been working with Herod to set a trap for Jesus. Others write that they were simply using the fear of Herod to keep Jesus from ministering in Jerusalem.

More than likely the warning to Jesus came from the hearts of tho…

No Fear

Image
Scripture:

Luke 12:32   “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.  33 Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.  34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Observation:

The Lord’s little flock did not need to be afraid. Although they were small and the surrounding enemies seemed far greater, they could trust in the Father. The little flock was to dwell in the kingdom, living as kingdom citizens. Therefore there was no need to concern oneself with the temporal things of this world that could weigh one down. A lifestyle of simplicity would free one up to minister and give to the poor. Purses with eternal treasure don’t wear out and no one can steal from that wallet! That’s why there’s no fear. It’s God’s security system, and when we don’t have to worry about our stuff, then our heart can be fo…

The Morning After the Lunar Eclipse

Image
Scripture:

Luke 11:33   “No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar, but on the lampstand so that those who enter may see the light.  34 Your eye is the lamp of your body. If your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light; but if it is not healthy, your body is full of darkness.  35 Therefore consider whether the light in you is not darkness.  36 If then your whole body is full of light, with no part of it in darkness, it will be as full of light as when a lamp gives you light with its rays.”

Observation:


Jesus had been alone with the disciples where they had asked him to teach them to pray. After that scene we move to a more public scene where Jesus is teaching the people who are wanting a sign. He tells them the only sign they will receive will be that of Jonah. Jesus is the sign, the Messiah who will spend three days in the darkness of death, but will be raised again. He is the light of the world, if only the people will give space for his light to shine.

Really the quest…

A Signet Ring

Image
Scripture:

Haggai 2:23 On that day, says the LORD of hosts, I will take you, O Zerubbabel my servant, son of Shealtiel, says the LORD, and make you like a signet ring; for I have chosen you, says the LORD of hosts.

Observation:


The signet ring was of great value and importance to the king. The ring was generally made of gold and possible encrusted with precious stones. It represented the legal authority of the owner and was pressed into wax to seal official documents, marking the authenticity of the work.

For Zerubbabel to become like the signet ring for the LORD was a covenant promise for both Zerubbabel and God’s people. The mark of God’s kingdom was peace and now, God’s people were to be a people of his peace. They were to carry the power and the authority of the kingdom within their very beings and they were to be the symbol of the authority of God on earth. This was a foreshadowing of the arrival of Christ who would make this prophetic word a possibility for all, for God has chosen…

Resting in the Lord

Image
Scripture:

Psalm 127
A song of ascents. Of Solomon.
1 Unless the Lord builds the house,
    the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
    the guards stand watch in vain.
2 In vain you rise early
    and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
    for he grants sleep to[a] those he loves.

Observation:


Imagine how this Psalm spoke to the Hebrews as they were trying to rebuild Jerusalem. They faced setback after setback, as their enemies tried to stop them from their work. They tried on their own and it just wasn’t coming together -- but God had a plan.

The need to trust in the Lord was very basic to their survival and success. The Lord would be the one who would provide a way for the city to be rebuilt. They didn’t have the resources on their own either for building, or for security. Their enemies were ready to pounce at a moment’s notice! Staying up late and getting up early wouldn’t solve their problem -- they could never do enough on their own. By trusting in t…

A Foot in Two Kingdoms

Image
Scripture:

Luke 8:1   Soon afterwards he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him,  2 as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out,  3 and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources.

Observation:

Men and women comprised the inner-circle of Christ-followers. Here we see that the twelve were with him as well as some of the women, identified as Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Susanna. It is the woman Joanna who finds herself in a very curious position. Her husband is the steward of Herod Antipas, the very man who had Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist, beheaded. She would have been a woman of means financially, but also her husband’s position and status could result in great tension in her life.

It is assumed that Luke’s “insider” knowledge of the house of…

When There Is Harmony

Image
Scripture:

Psa. 85:10        Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet;
        righteousness and peace will kiss each other.
11     Faithfulness will spring up from the ground,
        and righteousness will look down from the sky.
12     The LORD will give what is good,
        and our land will yield its increase.
13     Righteousness will go before him,
        and will make a path for his steps.

Observation:

God’s promises are far reaching, bringing about peace and harmony among his people and the earth which he so beautifully created. It is the life of faithful love expressed toward our holy God that brings together righteousness and peace. The two unite in the heart of the believer, living and reflecting the righteousness of God which results in a great sense of peace.

The harmony of earth resonates to the heavens above and the result is seen in the fruitfulness of the earth. The yield of the earth is God’s truth and as his people walk in that truth the land becomes increasingly produc…

The Golden Rule

Image
Scripture:

Luke 6:27   “But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,  28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.  29 If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt.  30 Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again.  31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.

Observation:

The first portion of Jesus’ message had been about loving God, or the challenge of a personal relationship with God. Now, he moves into this second section in which he challenges God’s people to love others. The difficulty is that it’s not just about loving other people who are around us who may like us, but loving those who don’t like us.

Loving others is not just a state of mind, it must include action. Jesus makes practical suggestions for a response and wraps it up with the reminder to “do to others as you would have them …

The Intercessory Work of Prayer

Image
Scripture:

Daniel 9: 4 I prayed to the LORD my God and made confession, saying,
 “Ah, Lord, great and awesome God, keeping covenant and steadfast love with those who love you and keep your commandments,  5 we have sinned and done wrong, acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and ordinances.  6 We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our ancestors, and to all the people of the land.

Observation:

The people of God had broken their covenant relationship by way of their disobedience and the result was seventy years in exile. Daniel, a man of great faith, found himself reflecting upon all that had transpired and his heart broken by the infidelity of his own people. With great humility he turned to prayer and interceded on behalf of his people.

Daniel repented for the peoples’ failure to live in covenant relationship with God. He took upon himself their guilt, as if he himself had been unfaithful. …

A Rhythm for Life

Image
Scripture:

Luke 4:14   Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country.  15 He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.
Luke 4:16    When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom.

Observation:

Jesus had just completed his time of fasting out in the wilderness where he had been tempted by Satan. He returned home to the region of the Galilee, “filled with the power of the Spirit.” We read about the ways in which he entered into a rhythm of ministry in which he taught and worshipped in the synagogue on a regular basis.

Application:

If it’s good enough for Jesus, it seems that it ought to be enough for us! Jesus entered into a rhythm for his life and ministry, ones which provide a pattern for his followers.

* Jesus spent time in prayer and fasting. This time in the wilderness was not the only time that Jesu…

The Life of Anna

Image
Scripture:

Luke 2:36   There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage,  37 then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day.  38 At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.

Observation:

Jesus’ parents had brought him to the temple to be circumcised. It is there that two people are encountered, Simeon and Anna. The first is a man who speaks a word of blessing over the child. Next they encounter a woman, Anna whom we are told is also a prophet. Her words are not recorded but there is something of her description which becomes prophetic for those who will be touched by Christ.

Her encounter with with this baby, the Messiah, was life-changing for she had met the one who would redeem Israel. But there are other…

Barrenness and Virginity

Image
Scripture:

Luke 1:8   Once when he was serving as priest before God and his section was on duty,  9 he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and offer incense.  10 Now at the time of the incense offering, the whole assembly of the people was praying outside.  11 Then there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense.  12 When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him.  13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John.  14 You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth,  15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit.  16 He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God.  17 With the spirit and power of Elijah he will…

There Will Be Consequences

Image
Scripture:

Ezekiel 44:10 But the Levites who went far from me, going astray from me after their idols when Israel went astray, shall bear their punishment.  11 They shall be ministers in my sanctuary, having oversight at the gates of the temple, and serving in the temple; they shall slaughter the burnt offering and the sacrifice for the people, and they shall attend on them and serve them.  12 Because they ministered to them before their idols and made the house of Israel stumble into iniquity, therefore I have sworn concerning them, says the Lord GOD, that they shall bear their punishment.  13 They shall not come near to me, to serve me as priest, nor come near any of my sacred offerings, the things that are most sacred; but they shall bear their shame, and the consequences of the abominations that they have committed.  14 Yet I will appoint them to keep charge of the temple, to do all its chores, all that is to be done in it.
Ezek. 44:15   But the levitical priests, the descendants o…

This — and so much more!

Image
Scripture:

Rev. 21:1  ¶ Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.
Rev. 21:2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
Rev. 21:3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
    “See, the home of God is among mortals.
    He will dwell with them as their God;
    they will be his peoples,
    and God himself will be with them;
Rev. 21:4     he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
    Death will be no more;
    mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
    for the first things have passed away.”

Observation:


We are coming to the climax of the story of God.  There will be a new heaven and a new earth.  All that has been talked about — all that has been revealed. It will be like this, and yet it will be so much more.

On this new earth there will no longer be any sea -- whether physically or metaphorically speaking. God will pr…

A Display of Holiness

Image
Scripture:

Ezek. 36:23 I will sanctify my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them; and the nations shall know that I am the LORD, says the Lord GOD, when through you I display my holiness before their eyes.

Observation:

The people of God were to be holy representatives of God. Sadly their infidelity had resulted in not only their own demise, but the smearing of God’s reputation in the world. They were to have been the light and hope for humanity but instead of drawing people to God, they became attracted to the world. God’s own reputation was sullied by their behavior but God had a promise of a new hope and future. He would send the Holy Spirit who would sanctify his people so that his holiness could be displayed throughout the world.

Application:

For far too long in my tradition we tried to be God’s holy people by following a list of rules. Legalism nearly ate our lunch because somehow we came to believe that holiness was about us an…

Leadership and Responsibility

Image
Scripture:

Ezek. 34:1   The word of the LORD came to me:  2 Mortal, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel: prophesy, and say to them—to the shepherds: Thus says the Lord GOD: Ah, you shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep?  3 You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fatlings; but you do not feed the sheep.  4 You have not strengthened the weak, you have not healed the sick, you have not bound up the injured, you have not brought back the strayed, you have not sought the lost, but with force and harshness you have ruled them.  5 So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd; and scattered, they became food for all the wild animals.  6 My sheep were scattered, they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill; my sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with no one to search or seek for them.

Observation:


Whether secular rulers or church leaders, one carries on their should…

The Need for Educated Leadership

Image
Scripture:

Daniel 1:17 To these four young men God gave knowledge and skill in every aspect of literature and wisdom; Daniel also had insight into all visions and dreams.

Observation:

Daniel and his three friends had been sent off into exile, but they didn’t let that keep them down. They were God’s children and they were ready to serve him, no matter where they found themselves. Selected for leadership training, they took their responsibility very seriously. Extremely self-disciplined they were careful with their physical bodies as well as their minds. Taking advantage of the great learning which they found there in Babylon, they applied themselves to an excellent education. Yes, they knew about God and the Torah but now, to be the leaders that God wanted them to be they needed to avail themselves of a great depth of learning. They studied way beyond their original sphere of knowledge and became skilled in literature and wisdom.

It was Daniel to whom God had given a supernatural abil…

Trusting

Image
Scripture:

Lam. 3:22        The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases,
        his mercies never come to an end;
23     they are new every morning;
        great is your faithfulness.
24     “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,
        “therefore I will hope in him.”

Observation:


While there is great turmoil surrounding the life of the poet there is also a deep trust in God. The very holy nature of the LORD, his steadfast love and mercies are extended to his people day in and day out. This never changes.

Morning by morning we can reach out to LORD and experience his faithfulness in all things. We hope in him whose love reaches through the ages, ministering to his children and reviving them with a daily dose of hope.

Application:

Trust in the midst of uncertainty can be difficult. The people of God were leading uncertain lives, not knowing where the future might lead and yet, there was this sense that God could be trusted. That God’s holy love would reach out and minister to them in thei…

Who Is Splitting the Rock?

Image
Scripture:

Obadiah 3     Your proud heart has deceived you,
        you that live in the clefts of the rock,
        whose dwelling is in the heights.
    You say in your heart,
        “Who will bring me down to the ground?”
4     Though you soar aloft like the eagle,
        though your nest is set among the stars,
        from there I will bring you down,     says the LORD.

Observation:

The people of Edom had become arrogant because they were successful in the eyes of the world. They had wealth, homes, and fame. As a result they no longer thought they were vulnerable to any kind of attack from enemies, or even God.

Their safety seemed to have been in the clefts of the rock. More than likely these were physical rocks that they thought provided them with a sense of security and defense from their enemies. However, when we read the scriptures the rock usually represents the strength and safety found in God. Instead their hearts had turned to rock or to stone. This was as a result of trusting i…

But It’s Not That Bad

Image
Scripture:

Jeremiah 44:19 And the women said, “Indeed we will go on making offerings to the queen of heaven and pouring out libations to her; do you think that we made cakes for her, marked with her image, and poured out libations to her without our husbands’ being involved?”

Observation:


Jeremiah’s prophetic words were troubling to the people because they were not prepared to change their behavior. Instead of heeding his advice, they became defiant and made excuses. Their defense lay in the fact that things hadn’t gotten that bad while they were worshipping other gods. At the same time God had been patient, giving them warning and opportunity to return to him, but his patience was now wearing thin.

Family members became complicit in their defiance toward God. The women in the household brazenly worshipped other gods and their husbands tacitly approved. The result was that entire families would suffer the consequences of this sin which was contaminated the very hearts of God’s people. I…

Living in the Tension of the Already and Not Yet

Image
Scripture:
Rev. 11:15     Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying,
    “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord
        and of his Messiah,
    and he will reign forever and ever.”

Observation:

As the seventh angel blows his trumpet more and more of the glory and power of God is experienced. It is in the midst of calamity that a glimpse of heaven is seen and the battle on the cosmic scale is revealed. While all around us the situation may seem dire, God is winning the day and the earthly forces or kingdom is giving way to the kingdom of our Lord. He has begun his reign and it will continue into all of eternity.

Application:

This is the very space in which we find ourselves today. We are surrounded by the evils of this world and at times it feels as if they are pressing in upon us in ways which are suffocating. This week the world has been overwhelmed by the crisis of the refugees coming out of Syria. Today’s gospel reading is …

You will Become like What You Worship

Image
Scripture:
Rev. 9:20   The rest of humankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands or give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk.  21 And they did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their fornication or their thefts.

Observation:

The natural and human disasters which the earth faced in the prophetic words of Revelation were to bring about the salvation of the people. What would it take to have people turn toward God? No matter what was experienced there were those who would not repent and continue to worship the things of the world.

We will reflect that which we worship and therefore we become like that which we worship. When life is consumed with the worship of people who “live like the devil” and material goods that the world considers of value, then this will be reflected in a lifestyle of murder, sorcery and sexual immorality. We become like that whi…

Silence in Heaven

Image
Scripture:
Rev. 8:1   When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.

Observation:

In heaven there was an on-going 24/7 prayer meeting. The sounds of praise and worship were all around but now, suddenly there was complete silence. A holy hush washed over heaven and as heaven was silent, the distant prayers and cries were heard coming from the persecuted saints on earth. Who would help them? Who would join in their prayers for deliverance from suffering? The profound silence in heaven created space for the cries of oppression. It was a silence of expectation for things were about to change!

Application:

There are moments when we experience the holy hush of God’s presence. We become overwhelmed in worship and are in awe of what it is that we have experienced. There are no words to be spoken, no “amens” to be shouted — there is just silence. And in the moment of that holy silence the very faintest of sounds can be heard. Those voices rising up from …

Living in the Midst of Chaos

Image
Scripture:
Rev. 7:1    After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth so that no wind could blow on earth or sea or against any tree.  2 I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, having the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to damage earth and sea,  3 saying, “Do not damage the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have marked the servants of our God with a seal on their foreheads.”

Observation:


Suddenly there seems to be a respite from the calamities of the opening of the seals. The wind of the Spirit is no longer blowing, people are not listening and/or responding to the work of God in the world and the stillness is in and of itself destructive. But in the midst of it all God’s remnant remains — those who have been faithful. This is a pause in the midst of the chaos, a moment of gentle reminder that God’s people remain eternally in his c…