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Showing posts from May, 2016

At the End of It All

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Scripture:

Eccl. 2:9   So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem; also my wisdom remained with me.  10 Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them; I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil.  11 Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had spent in doing it, and again, all was vanity and a chasing after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.
Eccl. 2:12    So I turned to consider wisdom and madness and folly; for what can the one do who comes after the king? Only what has already been done.  13 Then I saw that wisdom excels folly as light excels darkness.

14     The wise have eyes in their head,
        but fools walk in darkness.

 Yet I perceived that the same fate befalls all of them.  15 Then I said to myself, “What happens to the fool will happen to me also; why then have I been so very wise?” And I said to myself that this also is vanity. 

Obs…

Persistence in Prayer

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Scripture:

Luke 11:5   And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread;  6 for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’  7 And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’  8 I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.

Luke 11:9   “So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.  10 For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.  11 Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish?  12 Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion?  13 If…

Avoiding the Chatter

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Scripture:

1Tim. 6:20   Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the profane chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge;  21 by professing it some have missed the mark as regards the faith.
 Grace be with you.

Observation:

Paul had invested heavily in Timothy and was proud of the work that he was doing. He encouraged him to remain faithful to the teaching he had received. There would always be those around who would want to lead him in a different direction; those who enjoyed spending lengthy time in debate, but that time in chatter just might begin a trajectory that could lead in the wrong direction. It may have been the beginning of Gnosticism that was creeping into the Christian world, this emphasis on “knowledge” but Timothy was to have none of it.  What had been handed to Timothy was sacred and he was entrusted to be a good steward. In doing so, he was to avoid all the distractions that would keep him from the task at hand.

Application:

I think people …

Sowing Mustard Seeds

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Scripture:

Matt. 13:31   He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field;  32 it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”

Observation:

For Jesus, trying to help the people understand the heavenly kingdom was not easy. They were consumed with the idea of a political kingdom and a Messiah who would lead them into a new era. Instead, Jesus continued preaching about the kingdom of heaven which was very difficult for them to comprehend. He would speak to the people in parables, telling them stories that just might help them comprehend what he meant. The kingdom of heaven was not large, nor was it visible in ways the people may have imagined or thought they wanted, and yet, it was to be transformative. Jesus had come to sow seeds of faith the size of mustard seeds. Yes, they were small and …

Dwelling and Delighting

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Scripture:

Psa. 37:3        Trust in the LORD, and do good;
        so you will live in the land, and enjoy security.
4     Take delight in the LORD,
        and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Observation:


Again the Psalmist reminds us of the priorities of life. When we are consumed by our difficulties we are encouraged to trust in the LORD. In the midst of trusting we are to continue to do good and not to succumb to pressure. We are to dwell in the land which many ancient commentators believe refers to abiding or dwelling the Lord. David was a man who lived much of his life in exile and yet, he found a place to call home, and that was the heart of the LORD. He learned to dwell in the presence of God on high and here he enjoyed security. If you can imagine his life on the run there was not an earthly home which provided him with security but dwelling in God’s presence was a daily reminder that he was secure in the arms of God.

Resting and dwelling in God’s presence resulted in…

Waiting With Confident Hope

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Scripture:

Psa. 38:15        But it is for you, O LORD, that I wait;
        it is you, O LORD my God, who will answer.
16     For I pray, “Only do not let them rejoice over me,
        those who boast against me when my foot slips.”

Observation:


David had experience waiting on the LORD. His life was filled with many ups and downs and I’m sure he wondered, at times, when God was going to show up! However, he had also learned that he could trust in the LORD. God was faithful, from beginning to end. He chose to wait on the LORD. David also knew that there would be times when he might slip up and that there would be people waiting to gloat over him when he slipped. This he too brought before the LORD as he waited with confident hope in the one who had never let him down.

Application:


Sometimes it can seem difficult to continue to trust in the LORD. We want to take matters into our own hands. Somehow David had learned the lesson that it wasn’t worth it to try and take control of things on his ow…

Ut migraturus habita

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Scripture:

Psa. 39:12        “Hear my prayer, O LORD,
        and give ear to my cry;
        do not hold your peace at my tears.
    For I am your passing guest,
        an alien, like all my forebears.
13     Turn your gaze away from me, that I may smile again,
        before I depart and am no more.”

Observation:

The Latin phrase  “ut migraturus habita” is translated, live as if you were about to move. David knew this kind of life from personal experience. He cries out to God to hear his prayer for he is constantly living as if he were about to move. He has been an alien in the land and yet continually went to the LORD for refuge. Now, he begins to ponder his final journey. The LORD has loved his “aliens” — those who have sojourned in the land. God will provide protection for those who continue the journey, even to the very end of life.

Application:

The Christian walk is a journey, one in which we are in continual motion, moving toward the final goal. We are to live every single day, as if …

The Refugee Finds a Home

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Scripture:

Psa. 15:0   A Psalm of David.
1     O LORD, who may abide in your tent?
        Who may dwell on your holy hill?

Psa. 15:2        Those who walk blamelessly, and do what is right,
        and speak the truth from their heart;
3     who do not slander with their tongue,
        and do no evil to their friends,
        nor take up a reproach against their neighbors;
4     in whose eyes the wicked are despised,
        but who honor those who fear the LORD;
    who stand by their oath even to their hurt;
5     who do not lend money at interest,
        and do not take a bribe against the innocent.

Observation:


David had experienced displacement in his life. He had spent plenty of time wandering and wondering whether he would ever be able to settle in at a place he could call home. Through this experience he discovered what it meant to sojourn and to find a place of abiding. No matter where he was geographically, he was able to abide within the tent of the LORD.

This Psalm becomes an invi…

A Trinitarian Vision and Invitation

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Scripture:

John 1:29   The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!  30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’  31 I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.”  32 And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him.  33 I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’  34 And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.”

Observation:

In this opening sequence of John’s gospel the full and complex nature of Christ is revealed. Jesus’ earthly cousin, John the Baptist was following his calling, baptizing with water and preparing the way for the one who would come after him. John is privileged t…

The Right Role Models

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Scripture:

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

3John 11   Beloved, do not imitate what is evil but imitate what is good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God.  12 Everyone has testified favorably about Demetrius, and so has the truth itself. We also testify for him, and you know that our testimony is true.

Observation:

Diotrephes and Demetrius — both men who were serving in the church and yet, one was a living example of what it meant to follow Christ and the other was not. We don’t know the exact circumstances or the basis of Diotrephes’ actions but he was holding fast to the power which he had somehow assumed. He took a…

Time to Rest

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Scripture:

Matt. 11:25   At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants;  26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.  27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
Matt. 11:28   “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Observation:

Living into the mission of Jesus takes faith because it doesn’t always make sense in the eyes of the wealthy and powerful. Instead, we are to live in faith — as little children.

Jesus’ relationship with his Father is unique. The Son lives out the Father’s miss…

The Divine Origin of Love

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Scripture:

1John 4:7   Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  8 Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.  9 God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him.  10 In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.  11 Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another.  12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.

Observation:

Love is not something that a human simply orchestrates in their own life, but it is of divine origin. The very nature of God is holy love and this is a gift provided for all of humanity. This love does not depend on what we do, but on who God is.  Jesus brings the very nature of God into the body of a human, providing a pathway for our participation with God. This act …

Living a life of Love

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Scripture:

Eph. 5:1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children,  2 and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Observation:

The Apostle Paul wanted the believers of Ephesus to continue to grow in their faith. He knew that a life without discipleship would result in stagnation; a life which certainly would not be reflective of Christ in this world. To be a disciple meant to follow Christ — to imitate him and to live like him. Christ’s nature of holy love exuded from every action recorded for us in the word. Therefore to imitate Christ meant to live a life of love and just as Jesus gave himself up for us, our imitation of Christ should result in our lives being a “fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” That’s what it means to live a life of love.

Application:

Back in the day we spent a lot of time talking about Sunday School! In my tradition this was one of the great founding features of our church. Not until the 1970…

The Futility of Our Mind

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Scripture:

Eph. 4:17   Now this I affirm and insist on in the Lord: you must no longer live as the Gentiles live, in the futility of their minds. 

Observation:

Many of the converts in Ephesus were Gentiles and yet, there must have been a tug on them that would draw them back toward their previous way of life. The result was a displacement of Christ in the central place in their lives. In this case their minds were not being used for contemplation of spiritual matters, but instead, a dependence upon human conscience surrendered to the flesh. The result is that our human minds, not submitted toward a holy God, lead us to a place of alienation where the good news can no longer be grasped. Our trust and dependence is upon ourselves as our own minds lead us into a place of futility, separated from the relationship with God who makes us truly human.

Application:

The finite nature of our minds will lead us to a dead-end in our thinking. This, in turn, becomes an act of futility for some of the i…

Preaching Christ

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Scripture:

Eph. 3:7   Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God’s grace that was given me by the working of his power.  8 Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ,

Observation:


Paul was living into his calling. He recognized that God had saved him from a journey aimed at the destruction of those who were following Christ. This remained a humbling factor throughout his entire life. But while he had soundly rejected Christ, once he met him face to face on the road to Damascus, Paul was transformed. He embraced his calling to preach the good news of Christ everywhere he went, and specifically to the Gentiles. This was radical for Paul — a Jew among the Jews — with an incredible pedigree. He became not only a missionary, but a theologian-teacher. He left all behind when in obedience he preached Christ to the Gentiles, those whom the Jews had thought were out of the…

What Kind of Water?

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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:

Often in the Scriptures we find various descriptions of water. Right from the beginning of creation we read about the waters which seemed a bit wild. Over and over we read about the storms of life, or the tempestuous seas. Rough waters often symbolize the world in which we live; wild, and out of control. There are times when we feel that we may be consumed by these rough waters, wondering if we will drown.

Now the Psalmist introduces us to a different kind of water. This is life-giving water in the form of the Holy Spirit which makes "glad the city of Go…

Making Today Count

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Scripture:

Psalm 90:12     So teach us to count our days
        that we may gain a wise heart.

Observation:


Sometimes we live as if we had all the time in the world. The reality is that our time here on earth is limited and those who are wise will recognize the need to carefully navigate the ways of life. Make the most of the opportunities that have been afforded to us and walk in the truth of God. Sometimes it's awfully hard to make up for lost time.

Application:

There have been times in my life when I have been tempted to worry away the days. I'm really good at being a worst-case scenario planner! I like to think through the worst-case scenarios and be prepared for all of them. This not necessarily a good way to live and it can consume so much time that you forget to actually live out the day which you have been given.

The writer of the Psalms is reminding us to trust in God -- to unite with God in his mission in the world! In doing so we realize that every single day is a gift f…

But God

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Scripture:

Ephesians 2:4 But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us 5 even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 

Observation:

God's incredible grace and mercy is revealed in this passage for it comes in response to what we have done. We were dead through our trespasses and sins -- but God! We refused to live according to the leading of the Spirit -- but God. We lived according to the passions of the flesh -- but God. We were all born into sin -- but God.

Application:

This is the good news -- but God "rich in mercy," loved all of us anyway. The good Father never, ever gives up on his children and awaits them with his arms stretched wide open welcoming them home by grace. No one is ever worthy of this salvation for all are sinners and an infinite number of good works would never make any of us worthy. But God -- loved us anyway, and thanks be to God he sent his son to die for…

The Family

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Scripture:

Heb. 2:10    It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings.  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:

Photius reminds us that Jesus is God by nature and our brother by grace. (Fragments on the Epistle to the Hebrews 2.11)  When we begin to ponder the incredible impact of Christ's incarnation it becomes a bit overwhelming. His love for us compelled Christ to become what we are so that we might become like him. We are invited into family life, to take on the very holy nature of God and C…

Not The Same Results

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Scripture:

Matthew 13:23 But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

Observation:

The parable of the sower gives us a glimpse of the different kinds of responses that can result from sowing seeds. There are those who will simply continue to live in the carnality of their own life and desires. There are others who will be distracted by their wealth and the things of this world. There will also be those who truly hear the word and are transformed. As they follow Christ out into the world they will reach out ministering in his name. The results for each of God's faithful followers will not be the same. All of the yields are greater than the normal human harvest and therefore they are dependent upon God. As long as one hears, understands and is faithful, the size of the harvest remains in the hand of God.

Application:

There were plenty …

Truth and Holiness

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Scripture:

Psa. 93:5        Your decrees are very sure;
        holiness befits your house,
        O LORD, forevermore.

Observation:

In the midst of the raging waters of this world God’s truth remains the same. The world will change her mind and things will be in and out of season, but God’s holiness doesn’t change with the styles of the world. God’s holiness is just that — God’s holiness! The very nature and character of God and when God dwells in the house, then God’s nature fills the place. Your temple, both personal and corporate, is to be a place of God’s dwelling. When God is in the house it becomes a holy house, cleansed from sin and reflects the beauty of God’s holiness. “It is the holiness of God’s house that secures it against the many waters and their noise.” (Henry) God’s truth set the Psalmist free as he lived into the very nature of the God with whom he fellowshipped.

Application:

The promise of this passage is transformation into the image of God and living in his holiness f…