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Showing posts from January, 2016

Stand in His Holy Place

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Scripture:

Psa. 24:3        Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD?
        And who shall stand in his holy place?
4     Those who have clean hands and pure hearts,
        who do not lift up their souls to what is false,
        and do not swear deceitfully.
5     They will receive blessing from the LORD,
        and vindication from the God of their salvation.
6     Such is the company of those who seek him,
        who seek the face of the God of Jacob. Selah

Observation:

God’s loving invitation for his people continually reaches out us in a desire for us to join him, standing in his holy place. His intention is that we would all be his holy people, ascend the hill and fellowship with him.

His holy hill leads us to the very holy of holies of God, but only those who are righteous may stand in his presence. This is not because of some kind of punishment, but because of the purity of God’s holy love which destroys all impurities. He wants us to be in his presence, united with him. This is the …

What Are You Willing to Abandon?

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Scripture:

Hebrews 10:35 Do not, therefore, abandon that confidence of yours; it brings a great reward.  36 For you need endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.

37     For yet “in a very little while,
        the one who is coming will come and will not delay;
38     but my righteous one will live by faith.
        My soul takes no pleasure in anyone who shrinks back.”

39 But we are not among those who shrink back and so are lost, but among those who have faith and so are saved.

Observation:

The faith that we have received through Christ is precious. This is not just something which should be easily tossed away or abandoned, but it is something to which we cling our entire lives. We are not to become victims of the world’s temptations which will destroy our path to heaven but we are to continue on in faith.

Those who have led others to a place of faith hold dearly to the deep conviction and prayer that none will be lost. The author of Hebrew…

Of Human Power and Godly Hope

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Scripture:

Psa. 118:8 It is better to take refuge in the LORD
        than to put confidence in mortals.
9     It is better to take refuge in the LORD
        than to put confidence in princes.

Observation:

The Psalmist understood the struggles of life and the desire for strength and security. This was not something that the things of the world could offer and hope was only to be found in the LORD. People and whatever power they may be able to exert would eventually be exhausted and the “mortality” of man revealed. Princes represented the political leaders of the day who would tickle the ears of their followers but would eventually let them down. When it comes to really relying, depending on or trusting in this life, we must turn to the LORD.

Application:

We are being exposed to political leaders who are promising us just about everything under the sun. The global economy is struggling for some kind of equilibrium and the geopolitical landscape is shaken with uncertainty. No matter what a p…

Inheritance

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Scripture:


Psa. 119:57        The LORD is my portion;
        I promise to keep your words.
58     I implore your favor with all my heart;
        be gracious to me according to your promise.
59     When I think of your ways,
        I turn my feet to your decrees;
60     I hurry and do not delay
        to keep your commandments.
61     Though the cords of the wicked ensnare me,
        I do not forget your law.
62     At midnight I rise to praise you,
        because of your righteous ordinances.
63     I am a companion of all who fear you,
        of those who keep your precepts.
64     The earth, O LORD, is full of your steadfast love;
        teach me your statutes.

Observation:

The Psalmist understands the beauty of God’s word and the significance to life. The LORD becomes the portion, or inheritance. We become heirs of God’s precepts and are fed by all that this means for us. We are provided for by way of promise. We turn to God’s decrees and they lead us as we journey through life. The c…

Exasperation

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Scripture:

John 5:2   Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes.  3 In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed.  5 One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years.  6 When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?”  7 The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.”  8 Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.”  9 At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk.

Observation:

There are numerous opinions regarding the lame man who was laying beside the pool. Some think that his response was rather snarky. Jesus asks him if he wants to be made well. He has no clue who Jesus is and his response is probably laced with sarcasm. His only understanding of how to get well has to do wit…

Consider the Poor

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Scripture:

Psalm 41:1     Happy are those who consider the poor;
        the LORD delivers them in the day of trouble.

Observation:

David finds himself in a time and place of trouble. He has been sick, struggling with emotional and physical health, and in need of support from God and those around him. David has been generous to those who have been in need and he is affirming that the Lord does indeed help those who have helped others.

In many ways this Psalm sounds like a prelude to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount where we are reminded to show mercy because our God is merciful. The entire construct of considering or caring for the poor revolves around the nature of God. Our God is a holy God, and just as God is holy, so we are to be holy. The nature of God is merciful, and we are to show mercy as he is merciful. We are to consider the poor, for God considers the poor.

Jesus, by entering into humanity, became poor for us so that we might obtain his mercy. This generosity is reflected in all that…

Those Who Seem Influential

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Scripture:

Galatians 2:6  And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me. (ESV)

Observation:

Paul had been in Jerusalem for a church meeting. It was in this place that there were discussions regarding Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles. There were those who opposed him. They were legalistic and they were of the circumcision party. To become a Christian, in their eyes, meant more of a conversion to Judaism. They were in strong opposition to the ministry of Paul and this was a problem.

Paul points out that they were influential in their own eyes and believed that what they had to offer the church was of more value than his ministry. They wanted Paul to recognize their influence and authority. They had positions which they believed gave them power. Paul would recognize no authority, except that which was approved by God.

Application:

Our world is filled with people who are se…

Look Up!

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Scripture:

John 4:35 Do you not say, ‘Four months more, then comes the harvest’? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting.  36 The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together.  37 For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’  38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”

Observation:

Jesus had been talking with the woman at the well and now she had gone off into town to tell people what she had learned from him. The disciples had been out looking for food and when they returned they had this conversation with Jesus. Obviously they were all working together in his ministry but they had no idea about the encounter which had just taken place with the Samaritan woman. In just a few moments people would be streaming from the town and out to the well to hear Jesus tell the story in his own wo…

The Nature of Worship

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Scripture:

John 4:23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him.

Observation:

Jesus is conversing with the Samaritan woman. There were sharp disagreements between the Jews and the Samaritans and this included the place of worship. Jesus’ words are both prophetic and evangelistic. Because of his action in the world there is already and will be a new way to worship God. No longer will it be necessary to go to Jerusalem to worship in the temple made by human hands because “true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth.” The good news for her was that the nature of worship was much more important than the place of worship. This woman — a Samaritan who had been married multiple times and did not have a good reputation — would have access to the throne room of God because the nature of worship would be radically changed for those who lived in the Spirit.

Applicati…

Divine Necessity

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Scripture:

John 3:30 He must increase, but I must decrease.”

Observation:


There is a divine necessity indicated in the word “must.” These words of John the Baptist are spoken out of his own understanding of his relationship to Jesus. At this point his ministry and followers began to decrease because the followers of Jesus were increasing. He understood this and knew his own role in the bigger picture.

John’s disciples didn’t really like what they were seeing and they felt there was a rivalry developing between the ministry of John and that of Jesus. John refused to become envious because the divine necessity was in the forefront of his mind. He understood that Jesus “must” increase.

While this was a conversation about ministry, we also see the divine necessity in our own personal spiritual lives. It’s not that the nature of Jesus changes, that he becomes more than he already is, but that the space that he occupies in our lives increases. Our personal self interest and/or selfishness decr…

The Best Gift

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Scripture:

John 3:16   “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

Observation:

This verse, so well known, can easily be taken for granted. In these few words we find expressed the deep and abiding love of God for his creation. Gifts of great value are evidence of affection and that’s why the verse begins with an expression of God’s love. God loved the world so much that he was willing to give his very best as a gift. He didn’t create something to be used as a sacrifice, but chose to give his only begotten son for us.

The foreshadowing of this event begins when Abraham is asked to give up his son Isaac. This father-son love is a bond which is difficult to explain and the love of God is beyond our comprehension. John Chrysostom writes, “We put gold necklaces on ourselves and even on our pets but neglect our Lord who goes about naked and passes from door to door. . . . He gladly goes hungry so that yo…

It’s Time To Grow Up

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Scripture:

Ephesians 4:15 But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,  16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.

Observation:


Paul was encouraging those who had come to know Christ in Ephesus to grow in their faith. He needed to speak the truth to them, both by his words and his actions. Just as a living human being must continue to grow to remain alive, so a living spiritual being must grow. If we stop feeding ourselves physically, we will die and the same is true spiritually. Every follower of Jesus Christ must continue on their spiritual journey and grow.

This growth doesn’t occur in a vacuum but within the context of a community of faith. As we grow up into Christ we are also “joined and knit together” with others in the community of faith. It is when Christ is leading the “joining…

What’s the Word Today?

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Scripture:

13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” so that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

Observation:

God’s children are on this journey together and as such are to be an encouragement to one another. When a brother or a sister seems to be wandering off it should break our heart. Our passions and desires should be for the whole community of faith and therefore we are to speak words which keep us focused in the direction of Christ on a daily basis.

If we do not support and encourage one another we may find it easy and convenient to move into a life of sin. This may not be overt sin to begin with, but it can be an attitude of mind which may lead to being deceived. This deception can eventually harden ones heart and may cause permanent damage both to the individual and the community as a whole. That’s why we are not to be afraid to speak up and embolden one another daily with a word of encouragement.

Application:

I’m afraid that we do…

He Is Not Ashamed

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Scripture:

Hebrews 2:11 For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. For this reason Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters,  12 saying,
    “I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters,
        in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.”
13 And again,
    “I will put my trust in him.”
And again,
    “Here am I and the children whom God has given me.”

Observation:

Holiness or sanctification is God’s plan for his people. His desire is that all will be like him and reflect his holy love to the world. We are sanctified through participation with Jesus Christ. As a result both we and Jesus have the same Father and Jesus is not ashamed of this fact! Jesus came to this earth so that we come become his brothers and sisters. He is willing to claim us and let the whole world know that we are his!

Application:

I’m guessing that we have all been around that friend or family member that likes to do things that we all find a bit embarrassin…

The Blame Game

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Scripture:

Genesis 3:12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

Observation:

The man and the woman were living a peaceful life in paradise when suddenly the serpent came and tempted them. They succumbed to the temptation and ate the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. As a result their relationship with God, their creator, was changed. No longer were they comfortable spending time in God’s presence but they went and hid themselves. God knew that something was wrong.

As God reached out to them he discovered what had happened and the blame game began. The man blamed both the woman and God for eating the fruit. God gave the man the woman so obviously his sin was God’s fault. If only God hadn’t have created that woman! It was also the woman’s fault for she handed him the fruit. 

God gave the…

Grace Upon Grace

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Scripture:

John 1:16 From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 

Observation:

Jesus, the Word became flesh. It is in this season of year that we continue to thank God and celebrate the gift of Jesus. As a result we have received the incredible gift of grace that has been bestowed upon humanity. The ways in which God has continually reached out to humanity reach us as wave upon wave of his grace. It is at the moment in which we need his gracious response to our need that his grace is received. This grace is new day by day and moment by moment for it becomes specific to our very need.  This grace upon grace comes upon us like the waves of the ocean, time and time again, the superabundance of God’s love for his people.

Application:

Grace is not something that was talked about much in my tradition. Instead there was more of a focus upon our own personal engagement in living a lifestyle of holiness. The result was that, at times, we felt almost as if grace ended when we were sa…

Undeterred

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Scripture:

Luke 9:51   When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.  52 And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him;  53 but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem.  54 When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?”  55 But he turned and rebuked them.  56 Then they went on to another village.

Observation:

Jesus was making his way to Jerusalem and eventually to his death and resurrection. The Samaritans were not unkind to pilgrims traveling through to Jerusalem, but they chose not to show hospitality to Jesus. His reputation had gone before him and they knew of the miracles he had performed. They wanted him to put on a “show” for them, but this was not to be his purpose. He was rejected by these people because he would not perform for them.

Jesus knew his mission and…

What Kind of Bread Do You Want?

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Scripture:

John 6:48 I am the bread of life.  49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.  50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die.  51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

Observation:

Jesus had fed the 5000 and there had been twelve baskets full of left-overs. It was an amazing event and yet, somehow, the people wanted to compare what he had done with Moses. Moses gave the people food every single day that they wandered in the wilderness. This miracle that they had experienced — was it something that Jesus could do for them on a daily basis?

They didn’t understand the significance of Jesus’ presence and how his very life was the bread of life. The thing that the people were clamoring for, manna, was only temporary. It fed the people while they walked in the wilderness, but all of those pe…

A Servant Leader

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Scripture:

Matt. 12:15    When Jesus became aware of this, he departed. Many crowds followed him, and he cured all of them,  16 and he ordered them not to make him known.  17 This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah:
18     “Here is my servant, whom I have chosen,
        my beloved, with whom my soul is well pleased.
    I will put my Spirit upon him,
        and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.
19     He will not wrangle or cry aloud,
        nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets.
20     He will not break a bruised reed
        or quench a smoldering wick
    until he brings justice to victory.
21         And in his name the Gentiles will hope.”

Observation:

Jesus had been engaged in preaching and healing, but everywhere he went those who conspired against him followed along, trying to cause trouble. These were those bent on his destruction. He intentionally withdrew from them and from the public eye in a desire to curb the publicity. Jesus was a …

Stand Firm

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Scripture:

Eph. 6:10   Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power.  11 Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.  12 For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.  13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.

Observation:

This passage on the armor of God comes at the end of Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians and is a conclusion or a culmination of the entire message. From the very beginning of Ephesians he has been challenging these believers to be united with God in Christ. Christ is already victorious and our desire is to know the power of his resurrection. The battle has already been won, therefore as God’s children we are now called to “stand f…

A Memorial Forever

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Scripture:

Josh. 4:1   When the entire nation had finished crossing over the Jordan, the LORD said to Joshua:  2 “Select twelve men from the people, one from each tribe,  3 and command them, ‘Take twelve stones from here out of the middle of the Jordan, from the place where the priests’ feet stood, carry them over with you, and lay them down in the place where you camp tonight.’”  4 Then Joshua summoned the twelve men from the Israelites, whom he had appointed, one from each tribe.  5 Joshua said to them, “Pass on before the ark of the LORD your God into the middle of the Jordan, and each of you take up a stone on his shoulder, one for each of the tribes of the Israelites,  6 so that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’  7 then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off in front of the ark of the covenant of the LORD. When it crossed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these …

A Test of Your Faith

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Scripture:

John 6:5 When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?”  6 He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do.

Observation:


The feeding of the five-thousand is found in all four of the Gospels. Obviously it was an incident that had a profound effect on the disciples themselves. It was to be a test of their faith and in this scripture the author spells it out...that Jesus did this to test Philip.

Philip is the logical one who is constantly thinking things through. He would be the one to ask because he was from the nearby town and would have known what kinds of resources were in the area. He quickly begins to compute all the possible answers to Jesus’ question. He wants to find the answer but he knows that, even if he could find people who would sell him food, he would need cash and then looking over the crowd he realized it would take a whole year’s worth of wages to pay f…

A River of Providence

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Scripture:

Psa. 46:4        There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
        the holy habitation of the Most High.
5     God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved;
        God will help it when the morning dawns.
6     The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter;
        he utters his voice, the earth melts.
7     The LORD of hosts is with us;
        the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah

Observation:

The Psalmist knew what it was like to live in a time of turmoil and yet looked to God for all that he needed. The providence of God would spread throughout his city, reaching all of those in need. Just as a great river with its tributaries can provide the necessary water for life so can God’s river provide for those whom he inhabits.

God’s people are to be his dwelling place, God is to be in the midst of the city. When God remains at the center of the life of his children, then they will not be moved by the things of this world. Day by day, every dawn, at the…