Posts

Showing posts from October, 2015

What Are You Waiting For?

Image
Scripture:

Mark 8:11   The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, asking him for a sign from heaven, to test him.  12 And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to this generation.”  13 And he left them, and getting into the boat again, he went across to the other side.

Observation:

Jesus had just fed the 4000 and there were seven baskets full of food leftover. This was amazing and the people who had listened to his preaching were astounded at what he was able to accomplish. His love and compassion was being revealed in his daily activity resulting in transformed lives.

The religious leaders weren’t all that happy with what he was doing. This was not the kind of Messiah they were seeking. Instead they expected someone who would act like Moses and they were probably looking for signs similar to the plagues of Egypt. Jesus was a disappointment to them because he only healed the sick and fed thousands!…

The Damaging Power of Words

Image
Scripture:

Job 19:1    Then Job answered:
2     “How long will you torment me,
        and break me in pieces with words?
3     These ten times you have cast reproach upon me;
        are you not ashamed to wrong me?

Observation:

Job’s “friends” had continued their verbal attack on him. Somehow, thinking that they were helping, they searched over and again for the underlying reason for his suffering. Their attitude became as harmful to him as his physical suffering. He was broken in pieces by their words.

Application:

Think of everything that Job had suffered — the loss of family, worldly goods and his health! This was all overwhelming and the pain that he was suffering on a daily basis was incredible and yet, it was these words from his “friends” which were pushing him over the edge.

We use words rather casually and often without thought of the consequences. These days we have multiple opportunities to share our words. In a moment of frustration we post something on Facebook. We tweet wit…

Ministry in the Crisis

Image
Scripture:
Acts 28:7   Now in the neighborhood of that place were lands belonging to the leading man of the island, named Publius, who received us and entertained us hospitably for three days.  8 It so happened that the father of Publius lay sick in bed with fever and dysentery. Paul visited him and cured him by praying and putting his hands on him.  9 After this happened, the rest of the people on the island who had diseases also came and were cured.  10 They bestowed many honors on us, and when we were about to sail, they put on board all the provisions we needed.

Observation:


Paul was a prisoner on a ship that was to take him to Rome. Along the way they encountered a terrible storm and eventually the ship broke apart and all those on board safely made their way, some swimming and others floating on pieces of the ship to the island of Malta. There on the beach the people of the island reached out and helped those who were in desperate need.

Paul got to know Publius, the leader of the r…

What Frightened Felix

Image
Scripture:

Acts 24:24   Some days later when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and heard him speak concerning faith in Christ Jesus.  25 And as he discussed justice, self-control, and the coming judgment, Felix became frightened and said, “Go away for the present; when I have an opportunity, I will send for you.”  26 At the same time he hoped that money would be given him by Paul, and for that reason he used to send for him very often and converse with him.

Observation:


Paul ended up being held in Caesarea for two years because Felix did not want to take action.  Somehow he felt caught in the middle with Paul who was challenging him personally and the Jews who were challenging him professionally.

Felix was frightened by Paul’s message, one about justice, self-control and the coming judgment. This is an interesting collection of topics on which Paul preached. Over and over again in the word we are confronted with the concept of justice. Justice is import…

Sometimes You Have to Just Stop Talking

Image
Scripture:

Job 16:1    Then Job answered:
2     “I have heard many such things;
        miserable comforters are you all.
3     Have windy words no limit?
        Or what provokes you that you keep on talking?

Observation:

Job’s “friends” had been giving him all kinds of advice. These were his the “cup is half empty” friends. This is not what he needed to hear and he was expressing his frustration. They had gone on talking for far too long!

Application:


There will be times in life when we find ourselves in the position of Job’s friends. Someone will be in need of our comfort and support. Let’s take a cue here on how to respond to someone who is struggling and in need. Sometimes you have to just stop talking!

Job didn’t need their constant barrage of thoughts and excuses for what was happening to him. He was simply in misery. There are times when we need the companionship of a good friend who is willing to stop talking, stop trying to explain everything, stop trying to see the bad that you ha…

The Disruptive Nature of the Gospel

Image
Scripture:

Acts 19:23   About that time no little disturbance broke out concerning the Way.  24 A man named Demetrius, a silversmith who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the artisans.  25 These he gathered together, with the workers of the same trade, and said, “Men, you know that we get our wealth from this business.  26 You also see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost the whole of Asia this Paul has persuaded and drawn away a considerable number of people by saying that gods made with hands are not gods.  27 And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be scorned, and she will be deprived of her majesty that brought all Asia and the world to worship her.”
Acts 19:28   When they heard this, they were enraged and shouted, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”  29 The city was filled with the confusion; and people rushed together to the theater, dragging wit…

Thoughtful Reflection

Image
Scripture:

Acts 17:10   That very night the believers sent Paul and Silas off to Beroea; and when they arrived, they went to the Jewish synagogue.  11 These Jews were more receptive than those in Thessalonica, for they welcomed the message very eagerly and examined the scriptures every day to see whether these things were so.  12 Many of them therefore believed, including not a few Greek women and men of high standing.

Observation:


The Jews in Thessalonica became jealous of Paul and Silas’ ministry. In their frustration they went to find them, could not and so went after Jason, the man who was hosting them. He was dragged into jail and harassed because of his support of these missionaries. That night the believers in Thessalonica sent Paul and Silas off and they went to Beroea.

While the Jews in Thessalonica responded with emotion — jealousy and anger, the ones in Beroea took time to listen and thoughtfully reflect on what they were being taught. They knew the scriptures and so they exami…

Singing in Jail

Image
Scripture:

Acts 16:25   About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.  26 Suddenly there was an earthquake, so violent that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened.  27 When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, since he supposed that the prisoners had escaped.  28 But Paul shouted in a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.”  29 The jailer called for lights, and rushing in, he fell down trembling before Paul and Silas.  30 Then he brought them outside and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”  31 They answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”  32 They spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house.  33 At the same hour of the night he took them and washed their wounds; then he and his entir…

Abound in the Lord’s Work

Image
Scripture:

1 Corinthians 15:51

Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55  “O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Observation:

What we experience here — what we see, feel and know in the material is not al…

Prayerful Expectations

Image
Scripture:

Acts 12:5 While Peter was kept in prison, the church prayed fervently to God for him.

Acts 12:12   As soon as he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many had gathered and were praying.  13 When he knocked at the outer gate, a maid named Rhoda came to answer.  14 On recognizing Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed that, instead of opening the gate, she ran in and announced that Peter was standing at the gate.  15 They said to her, “You are out of your mind!” But she insisted that it was so. They said, “It is his angel.”  16 Meanwhile Peter continued knocking; and when they opened the gate, they saw him and were amazed. 

Observation:

Peter had been arrested because of his work and ministry. The church folks did exactly what they ought to do — they went to prayer. One evening as the group was holding a prayer meeting an angel came to Peter in prison and set him free. He then made his way to the prayer meeting.

The likel…

Trusting

Image
Scripture:

Psa. 108:0   A Song. A Psalm of David.
1     My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast;
        I will sing and make melody.
        Awake, my soul!
2     Awake, O harp and lyre!
        I will awake the dawn.
3     I will give thanks to you, O LORD, among the peoples,
        and I will sing praises to you among the nations.
4     For your steadfast love is higher than the heavens,
        and your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.

Psa. 108:5        Be exalted, O God, above the heavens,
        and let your glory be over all the earth.
6     Give victory with your right hand, and answer me,
        so that those whom you love may be rescued.

Observation:

David was constantly confronted with difficulties. He spent a lot of his time fighting with enemies and living life on the run and yet, he trusted in God. He prayed to the Lord, spending time in worship, writing songs and experiencing a love that reached as high as the heavens. He believed that God would be exalted in all…

Somewhere In the Middle

Image
Scripture:

30 So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?”  31 He replied, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him.

Observation:

There was a place somewhere in the middle of this relationship where God was able to do his work. The eunuch had been traveling in the comfort which was provided because of his position. Along the way he was reading aloud, which was the way in which you read in those days. Somehow he had a portion of the book of Isaiah which was his reading material for the journey.

At the same time Philip was on the same road. He didn’t have all the nice comforts the eunuch had but would have looked quite poor in comparison. He would not have been worthy to even speak to the eunuch but something stirred him. He heard the words of the prophet Isaiah describing the Messiah.

Disregarding the social barriers Philip spoke to the eunuch and asked him whether…

Gnashing Teeth

Image
Scripture:

Acts 7:54   When they heard these things, they became enraged and ground their teeth at Stephen.

Observation:

Stephen shared his testimony which included quite a sermon. However, the people present did not want to hear the truth. Not only did they not want to hear it but it made them angry!

More than likely Stephen hadn’t really finished his message but they couldn’t take it anymore. They became enraged because his words had touched their hearts. This was too personal and now they began to gnash their teeth. They were furious and literally became like a pack of hungry and snarling wolves, grinding their teeth.  The sermon was over, and Stephen knew his life was over as well.

Application:

There are times when the truth of the gospel will not only frustrate people, but will make them angry. And not just a little angry, but possibly furious.

Stephen was martyred because he lived out is faith in every aspect of his life. God is calling up a people who are willing to be sacrificed i…

Blind Animals

Image
Scripture:

Malachi 1:7 By offering polluted food on my altar. And you say, “How have we polluted it?” By thinking that the LORD’S table may be despised.  8 When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not wrong? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not wrong? Try presenting that to your governor; will he be pleased with you or show you favor? says the LORD of hosts.

Malachi 1:10 Oh, that someone among you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not kindle fire on my altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, says the LORD of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hands.

Observation:

The priests had deluded themselves into believing that they could offer shoddy sacrifices and worship to God. Probably in an effort to save money (or spend it on other things) they brought God the second-hand offerings. There were blind animals, along with those who were lame and sick.

What was brought before God would never have been acceptable to a government offi…

Planted

Image
Scripture:

Psa. 1:1        Happy are those
        who do not follow the advice of the wicked,
    or take the path that sinners tread,
        or sit in the seat of scoffers;
2     but their delight is in the law of the LORD,
        and on his law they meditate day and night.
3     They are like trees
        planted by streams of water,
    which yield their fruit in its season,
        and their leaves do not wither.
    In all that they do, they prosper.

Observation:

We are welcomed into this first Psalm which sets the tone for all the others. At the core it is an invitation into a settled, or planted, relationship with the LORD. Advice comes from the LORD, not from others. They are planted, nourished and cared for by living water. Prosperity is not from a worldly perspective, but from God’s perspective and there is the ultimate and eternal blessing.

Plant yourself in the presence of the LORD, delight in his law and be nourished by him alone — this leads to a prosperity about which the worl…

Confession

Image
Scripture:

Nehemiah 10:39b We will not neglect the house of our God.

Observation:

God’s people were rebuilding Jerusalem and after the public reading of the law they realized how far they had wandered from the truth. They had not lived as God’s people and their infidelity had caused them and God much pain. When they realized what they had done they recognized it was time to repent and confess of their sins.

The confession came in the form of profession and commitment to action. They recognized all that they had done wrong and were not just asking for forgiveness, but committing to a new lifestyle that would embody their faith. This embodiment could only come from a heart which was cleansed from its previous impurities. In their confession they committed to practices which would reveal their true commitment to God.

The final statement reveals where they had been deficient. Ultimately they had neglected both God and his house. The confession and declaration after all of the details is that…

The Heart Knower

Image
Scripture:

Acts 1:23 So they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias.  24 Then they prayed and said, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which one of these two you have chosen 25 to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.”  26 And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles.

Observation:

The disciples felt that they needed to replace Judas. Peter led the charge, quoted scripture and then they followed the method the religious leaders had for so long. They cast lots.

It seems odd that they would use such a procedure but it was what they knew. The Holy Spirit had not yet come upon them, and we realize that Pentecost becomes the defining moment. All things change and the power and presence of the Holy Spirit transforms even decision making.

But that hasn’t happened yet, and there is something striking about Peter’s prayer. He prays…

Thankful for Friends

Image
Scripture:

Nehemiah 4:12 When the Jews who lived near them came, they said to us ten times, “From all the places where they live they will come up against us.”

Observation:

Nehemiah and the people of Jerusalem were trying to rebuild the walls. Detractors from every side were determined to sabotage their work. While the plans of the enemies included the psychological work of demoralizing the workers, at the same time, there were friends. Jews in the surrounding cities and maybe even to Samaria had their eyes and ears open, scouting out the plans of the detractors. Over and again they came to Nehemiah and told him what they had learned. This information was incredibly useful and allowed for them to set up a defense so that the work of building the wall could continue. It was the faithfulness of the friends living in the hinterlands and their determined efforts to bring news to Jerusalem over and over again, which gave Nehemiah a strategy for protection and successful completion of the wall…

Peace in Unity

Image
Scripture:

Psa. 133:0   A Song of Ascents.
1     How very good and pleasant it is
        when kindred live together in unity!
2     It is like the precious oil on the head,
        running down upon the beard,
    on the beard of Aaron,
        running down over the collar of his robes.
3     It is like the dew of Hermon,
        which falls on the mountains of Zion.
    For there the LORD ordained his blessing,
        life forevermore.

Observation:

The unity found in the Trinity is to be reflected in God’s people. Often we talk about the individual nature of our spiritual lives and growth with the resultant reflection of Christ in our lives. But corporately, as God’s people, we are to grow ever closer to our Lord, ever being perfected, and in this case, we are to reflect the unity found in God. When this corporate reflection is noted, then it spreads in a way that brings the healing balm of anointing oil to God’s people and beyond.

Unity among God’s people becomes an eschatological vision, a…

Stunned into Silence

Image
Scripture:

Ezra 9:1   After these things had been done, the officials approached me and said, “The people of Israel, the priests, and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands with their abominations, from the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites.  2 For they have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and for their sons. Thus the holy seed has mixed itself with the peoples of the lands, and in this faithlessness the officials and leaders have led the way.”  3 When I heard this, I tore my garment and my mantle, and pulled hair from my head and beard, and sat appalled.  4 Then all who trembled at the words of the God of Israel, because of the faithlessness of the returned exiles, gathered around me while I sat appalled until the evening sacrifice.

Observation:


Ezra had tried to call the people back to faithfulness but they would not listen. When word of their infi…

Kings and Presidents

Image
Today's post is a guest blog by Tim Gaines who, together with his wife Shawn Songer Gaines, has authored Kings and Presidents: Politics and the Kingdom of God.

I happen to really like thinking and talking about God, especially when it comes to the beauty and hope of what God does to allow us to reflect God’s image.  It’s a wondrous thing to consider that we humans can actually bear the image of the divine.  And it’s a bit difficult to imagine how this can actually take place when you look at particular aspects of society.  Politics is often one of those places.

Can the way we approach political life have anything to do with reflecting God’s image?  If so, how, and what might that look like? 

Here are a few ideas in terms of how political life could be shaped and reshaped by a theology that allows for God’s image to be reflected in humanity:

1) We have to get the order right.
    Many of the issues we often face when it comes to politics and theology have to do with the order in w…

In The Lord’s Care

Image
Scripture:

Psa. 5:0   To the leader: for the flutes. A Psalm of David.
1     Give ear to my words, O LORD;
        give heed to my sighing.
2     Listen to the sound of my cry,
        my King and my God,
        for to you I pray.
3     O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice;
        in the morning I plead my case to you, and watch.

Observation:

The Psalmist had learned to put his trust in the Lord. He spoke words before the LORD, sharing the good and the bad of his life. Sometimes it may have been spoken words, sometimes sighs, and sometimes there were tears. It didn’t matter what the situation, David had learned to bring it all before the Lord because he had great confidence that the Lord heard him, watched over him, and cared for him.

Application:

As I write this morning my little granddaughter is laying next to me. She’s been awake for about an hour. When she first awakens she makes little noises letting us know that she is no longer sleeping  and is hungry. Her mom knows exactly what h…

Thinking About Giving Up?

Image
Scripture:

Luke 18:1   Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart.  2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people.  3 In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’  4 For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone,  5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’”  6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says.  7 And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them?  8 I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

Observation:

This parable of a persistent widow provides us with a glimpse into God’s desire for his people. God is not the unjust judge. Th…

The Final Great Hallelujah

Image
Scripture:

Psa. 150:1        Praise the LORD!
    Praise God in his sanctuary;
        praise him in his mighty firmament!
2     Praise him for his mighty deeds;
        praise him according to his surpassing greatness!

Psa. 150:3        Praise him with trumpet sound;
        praise him with lute and harp!
4     Praise him with tambourine and dance;
        praise him with strings and pipe!
5     Praise him with clanging cymbals;
        praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
6     Let everything that breathes praise the LORD!
    Praise the LORD!

Observation:

This final Psalm is the climax of all the Psalms and a fitting doxology. In the end we are left with nothing but praise for our LORD!

We are invited into the sanctuary, or into the very place of God’s holiness where we are overwhelmed with his holy presence.

We praise God for all that he has done and the instruments are invited into this great hallelujah. The trumpets which are normally used for ceremonial purposes, gaining the attention …

Don’t Mess With What God Has In Mind

Image
Scripture:

Ezra 6:11 Furthermore I decree that if anyone alters this edict, a beam shall be pulled out of the house of the perpetrator, who then shall be impaled on it. The house shall be made a dunghill.  12 May the God who has established his name there overthrow any king or people that shall put forth a hand to alter this, or to destroy this house of God in Jerusalem. I, Darius, make a decree; let it be done with all diligence.”

Observation:

The plan was to rebuild God’s house. The edict was coming from Darius and it was a reaffirmation of what had been decreed by Cyrus. While there were political powers who had become stumbling blocks in the process of rebuilding, the overruling hand of God still prevailed. Darius was now enacting a plan which would ensure the completion of the work.

This edict was not to be changed or altered in any way, shape, or form. However, there were folks who would have liked to have made adjustments. The Samaritans were fanatical and when that’s the case, t…