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Showing posts from November, 2015

Grace Enabled Fellowship

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Scripture:

2 Peter 1:3 His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.4 Thus he has given us, through these things, his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of lust, and may become participants of the divine nature.

Observation:

The mystery of discipleship is God’s grace and empowerment. God’s incomprehensible love for humanity is experienced in the sending of his son. Jesus’ very life becomes one of grace in which the corruption of humanity is again made holy by his divine presence. As a result, grace is extended to all of humanity and God’s divine power provides all that is necessary for life and godliness.

There is hope that humanity can live a godly life because of the presence of Jesus Christ and it is through his life, death and resurrection that we are provided with the opportunity for grace enabled fell…

Doubtful Discipleship

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Doubtful Discipleship
Scripture: Matthew 28:16
But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated.17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful.18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.19Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,20teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Observation:
The commission from Jesus Christ is a set of instructions for his disciples. They are to continue his ministry by going out and making more disciples but only because the authority which has been given to Jesus. These disciples are to go and make more disciples and baptize them. Finally he reminds them that he will always be with them. While this all sounds really good, we read that the eleven gathered to worship him and receive these in…

Trust

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Scripture:

1     Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion,
        which cannot be moved, but abides forever.
2     As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
        so the LORD surrounds his people,
        from this time on and forevermore.

Observation:

Trust is found in our individual lives and in that of the believing community. When we live together in this community and trust in the Lord we will find ourselves surrounded by the mountains of God’s power and strength. The result is security for God’s people as they place their trust in him.

Application:

“Trust but verify.” It was a phrase made famous by Ronald Reagan during the Cold War. In reality, it meant we didn’t trust unless we verified that what was said was true.

This is not the kind of trust that we are to have in God. It is not a trust — if only God will do something in particular. God asks us to trust in him even when we don’t necessarily understand everything that is going on. His thoughts truly are higher than ours and th…

Fulfilling the Purpose for Which It Had Been Built

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Scripture:

Matt. 21:12    Then Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who were selling and buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves.  13 He said to them, “It is written,
    ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’;
        but you are making it a den of robbers.”

Observation:

The Temple was to be a house of prayer and the business that had sprung up around it revealed a corruption on the part of God’s people. When Jesus arrived he witnessed first-hand the commercialism and nationalism which had so permeated the place that God’s temple was no longer able to fulfill the purpose for which it had been built. It was not a house of prayer but it was a distortion brought about by the unfaithfulness of God’s people over time. They were so accustomed to what it had become that they didn’t know what was wrong. Jesus, on the other hand, was stunned for he knew exactly what the Temple was to have been and his desire was fo…

Intentional Ministry

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Scripture:

Matt. 15:29   After Jesus had left that place, he passed along the Sea of Galilee, and he went up the mountain, where he sat down.  30 Great crowds came to him, bringing with them the lame, the maimed, the blind, the mute, and many others. They put them at his feet, and he cured them,  31 so that the crowd was amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the maimed whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel.

Matt. 15:32   Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat; and I do not want to send them away hungry, for they might faint on the way.”  33 The disciples said to him, “Where are we to get enough bread in the desert to feed so great a crowd?”  34 Jesus asked them, “How many loaves have you?” They said, “Seven, and a few small fish.”  35 Then ordering the crowd to sit down on the ground,  36 he took the seven loaves and the fis…

Sheep

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Scripture:

Matt. 12:9   He left that place and entered their synagogue;  10 a man was there with a withered hand, and they asked him, “Is it lawful to cure on the sabbath?” so that they might accuse him.  11 He said to them, “Suppose one of you has only one sheep and it falls into a pit on the sabbath; will you not lay hold of it and lift it out?  12 How much more valuable is a human being than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the sabbath.”  13 Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and it was restored, as sound as the other.  14 But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.

Observation:


The Pharisees were holding to the letter of the law, but in the meantime they were killing the very spirit which it intended. They waited, trying to catch Jesus doing something wrong. Then they pointed out to him a man with a withered hand. They were intentionally taunting Jesus and trying to catch him doing something theybelieved was bre…

Why Are You Judging?

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Scripture:

Matt. 7:1   “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged.  2 For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.  3 Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?  4 Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye?  5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.

Observation:

This is a great warning from Jesus because we must recognize that any criticism that we are willing to give makes us vulnerable to the very same criticism. The things that we notice in others may be our very weaknesses and we are judgmental because somehow we think it makes us feel better about ourselves.

Jesus brings home the point when he makes us realize that we need to examine our own behaviors before we can criticize anyone else. Our actions speak louder than…

The Wrong Prayer?

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Scripture:

2Cor. 12:9 but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.  10 Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong. 

Observation:

Paul had just finished sharing about his thorn in the flesh. He had prayed three times that it would be removed. Was Paul praying the wrong prayer or was this all for a higher purpose? Paul’s thorn was not removed and as a result he heard the voice of God telling him that his grace would be sufficient and that his power would be made perfect in Paul’s weakness. Paul’s weakness provided space for Christ to dwell in him.

The higher purpose was Paul’s own spiritual growth. It was in the place of weakness that Paul realized that Christ would be revealed. The struggles made him strong in Christ. The prayer wasn’…

A Generous Spirit

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Scripture:

2Cor. 8:1    We want you to know, brothers and sisters, about the grace of God that has been granted to the churches of Macedonia;  2 for during a severe ordeal of affliction, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.  3 For, as I can testify, they voluntarily gave according to their means, and even beyond their means,  4 begging us earnestly for the privilege of sharing in this ministry to the saints—  5 and this, not merely as we expected; they gave themselves first to the Lord and, by the will of God, to us,  6 so that we might urge Titus that, as he had already made a beginning, so he should also complete this generous undertaking among you.  7 Now as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you—so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking.

Observation:


Paul was using the churches of Macedonia as an illustration for the people of Corinth. N…

Synergism

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Scripture:

2Cor. 6:1    As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain.  2 For he says, “At an acceptable time I have listened to you,
and on a day of salvation I have helped you.”
See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!

Observation:

Paul understood his partnership together with the Lord. In the previous chapter he had mentioned his role as an ambassador. The actual word used here to understand “work together” has at its root the word “synergy.” Paul seems to understand that we are to partner together in the work of the Lord and the result is a type of synergism, a catalytic relationship that releases energy. He is preaching the good news of Jesus Christ to the people and as a result is a participant in God’s prevenient grace, reaching out to those in need of salvation.  The synergism of God’s grace, combined with Paul’s faithful preaching resulted in the salvation of many.

Application:


We are invited to be co-laborers, work…

On Whom Are You Relying?

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Scripture:

2Cor. 1:8        We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life.  9 Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.  10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us,  11 as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.

Observation:

Paul went through numerous times of difficulty in his ministry. Often these were physical threats to his own life because of his passion to faithfully serve the Lord in all circumstances. While he had experienced miracles throughout his ministry, he still had times when he was overwhelmed. However, it was in those moments of des…

Stand Firm

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Scripture:

1Cor. 15:58        Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

Observation:

The threat of physical death was not enough to shake Paul’s faith in Jesus Christ. He believed in resurrection power which removed the sting of death. This faith was foundational to his encouragement of others. Nothing which happens here on this earth should move us from our faith in the Lord. Instead we are to stand firm and continue to do the Lord’s work and this work is not in vain for it speaks to the eternal.

Application:

Every day brings with it the opportunity to shake our faith. Last evening there were horrific events in Paris, France. Watching the scenes unfold it seemed almost surreal to imagine the sheer terror which people were experiencing.

This just doesn’t seem to make sense — why would anyone want to hurt so many people?

The apostles faced the reality of …

The Greatest

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Scripture:

1Cor. 13:13        And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Observation:

This entire chapter speaks to the need for love within the lives of the Corinthians. The culmination here reminds us of the place for faith and hope, along with love. Faith, hope and love are necessary for our relationship to God but it is love alone which defines the character of God. It is this love that reaches out to humanity and envelopes us in the holy hand of God for all of eternity. As we become partakers of the divine nature, the holy love of God draws us ever onward in a deeper relationship with our holy God. This is God’s love drawing and transforming his creation and this prevails for all of eternity.

Application:

Any kind of love which is defined outside of a relationship with God is not the greatest! This eternal love about which Paul is speaking comes to us from God. Everything in life becomes temporal as compared to this love from God.

When we mak…

For the Common Good

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Scripture:

1Cor. 12:7        Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

Observation:

The reminder again and again to the church in Corinth was that they were a body, one which collectively was to reflect Christ. Therefore as the Spirit bestowed upon them spiritual gifts they needed to understand that these were for the community of believers, not for their own personal edification.

The concern within the body of Christ is to live for others. The gifts are to be used for others and therefore there is no place for complaint. Whether larger or small, the gifts, when combined provide for the edification of the entire community and they fit together for God’s purposes. We don’t have capacity as individuals for all the gifts and that’s why they must be shared. The private gift becomes the common when it is lived out in community for it belongs to all. There is caution here as well for the greater the gift, the greater the temptation to boast. The gifts mu…

The Joy of Going Home

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Scripture:

Psa. 122:1        I rejoiced with those who said to me,
        “Let us go to the house of the LORD.”
2     Our feet are standing
        in your gates, O Jerusalem.

Observation:


People would anticipate their journey to Jerusalem for months or even years. Depending on where they lived, they would journey for days to get there. The final climb to Jerusalem took energy and they sang the Psalms of ascent along the way. This Psalm, however, was written for that moment when you passed through the gate and found yourself standing within the walls of Jerusalem. The climb was over, your feet were now solidly within the gates of the city, and it was time to go to the temple.

The reality was that the trip to Jerusalem was exciting, but entering the house of the Lord, that was the heart of the entire journey. They rejoiced when they understood that they had arrived and could now go to the house of the LORD. They were ready to abide in the LORD’s holy presence, to pray, meditate and bring s…

Exercising Freedom

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Scripture:

1Cor. 8:9        Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak.  10 For if anyone with a weak conscience sees you who have this knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, won’t he be emboldened to eat what has been sacrificed to idols?  11 So this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge.  12 When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.  13 Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall.

Observation:

Those who are living as Christ-followers have a responsibility for those around them who are weaker. That responsibility includes teaching and discipling others and also living as an example before them. It’s not just the words that we speak that lead people toward (or away from ) Christ, but specifically the actions of our daily lives.

Paul’s conviction was so great t…

Foolish, Weak and Lowly

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Scripture:

1Cor. 1:26        Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.  27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.  28 He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are,  29 so that no one may boast before him.  30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.  31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”

Observation:

These words to the church in Corinth are a great reminder to those who may be proud of who they are or what they have become. Paul reminds them that no one is to boast in anything — except Christ. It is Christ who is at work in those who are his children. He chose to use those who we…

Self-Control and Lust

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Scripture:

Gal. 5:22   By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness,  23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. (NRSV)

Job 31:1     “I made a covenant with my eyes
        not to look lustfully at a girl.  (NIV)


Observation:

The work of the Spirit in the life of the believer brings about a real change. The fruit of the Spirit is evidence that this person’s life has been transformed. This witness includes self-control or self-discipline.

In another portion of today’s reading we discover the words of Job written long before the Epistle to the Galatians, however, he is arguing about his own faithfulness and it includes a foreshadowing of the fruit of the Spirit. Specifically, he is defending himself because of his self-control, and as he lists behaviors he includes the fact that he has exercised control over his eyes that they would not look “lustfully at a girl.”

When combined these scriptures bring us to a…

Feeling Far From Home

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Scripture:

Psa. 120:5        Woe is me, that I am an alien in Meshech,
        that I must live among the tents of Kedar.
6     Too long have I had my dwelling
        among those who hate peace.
7     I am for peace;
        but when I speak,
        they are for war.

Observation:

The city of Meshech was in the far north of Israel and Kedar was in the Syro-Arabian Desert to the southeast. They were both known for being wild and barbaric and obviously he wasn’t physically in those places, but he was metaphorically. However, no matter how far away from home he was, and no matter how hostile the surrounds, he continued to be “for” peace. Every effort was made to live in peace and share the peace that he knew, even when feeling far from home.

Application:

Just like the Psalmist there are times when we feel far from home, even when we may be at home. Life can take on a hostile edge and suddenly we feel as if we are far from the comforts of home that make us feel at peace. It’s that diagnosis, or …

Bringing Value to Christ’s Death

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Scripture:

Galatians 2:19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ;  20 and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  21 I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.

Observation:

Paul’s life in the flesh is transformed by Christ who now lives in him. He has been united with Christ, not through the law but through Christ’s death, the ultimate act of love and sacrifice. The truth is profound and sometimes hard to grasp but the result is visible by the way one lives their life in the flesh.

If this transformation is not a testimony to the power of Christ then Christ died for nothing. By being crucified with Christ, Paul’s transformed life brought value to Christ’s death. His daily life was a living testimony to the power that was unleashe…

Mocking Jesus

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Scripture:

Mark 15:16   Then the soldiers led him into the courtyard of the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters); and they called together the whole cohort.  17 And they clothed him in a purple cloak; and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on him.  18 And they began saluting him, “Hail, King of the Jews!”  19 They struck his head with a reed, spat upon him, and knelt down in homage to him.  20 After mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him. 

Observation:

This small section of scripture abounds with irony. While the soldiers thought they were mocking him by giving him the purple cloak and the crown of thorns, they did not realize that soon the crowning moment of Christ’s life would become a reality. They did not recognize that he was the true King and that his life and death were ushering in a new kingdom about which they knew and understood nothing.

The irony continued as they spa…

Stumbling in Our Weakness

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Scripture:

Mark 14:38 Keep awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Observation:

Jesus had invited Peter, James and John to go with him to Gethsemane. They were to wait and pray while he went to talk to the Father. Jesus was agitated because he knew what was coming. When he returned he found the disciples asleep. He was not just concerned about his own well-being but that of the disciples as well. He urged them to keep awake and be in prayer. Jesus recognized that they would need the strength that comes from God to endure the difficulties ahead. If they pressed on in the power and strength from on high it would not seem a trial to them.

The problem with the disciples was that they were stumbling on in their weakness. Their spirit certainly wanted to participate with Christ but the flesh was weak. Our hearts and minds may want to be engaged in God’s work, but we live in these human bodies which can bring us down. Th…

A Glimpse of Holiness

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Scripture:

Mark 9:2   Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them,  3 and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them.  4 And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus.  5 Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”  6 He did not know what to say, for they were terrified.  7 Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!”  8 Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.

Observation:

This is an interesting event in the life of Christ. At his baptism we hear the voice of the Father, and then again at this moment we hear the Father affirming the role of his Son. Jesus brings Peter, James and John with him to experience t…