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Showing posts from July, 2016

A Generous Spirit

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Scripture

2Cor. 9:6    The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.  7 Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.  8 And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work.  9 As it is written,
    “He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor;
        his righteousness endures forever.”
10 He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.  11 You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God through us;  12 for the rendering of this ministry not only supplies the needs of the saints but also overflows with many thanksgivings to God.  13 Through the testing of this ministry you glorif…

Trust

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Psa. 76:4        Glorious are you, more majestic
        than the everlasting mountains.

Observation

The mountains always provided a certain sense of security for the Israelites and yet also a senses of reverent fear and awe. They served as a natural barrier to protect the people from enemies. At the same time they were home to animals of prey who were to be feared. The mountains were majestic and proved to be more powerful than anything that a human could create, even within their imagination.

The Psalmist, looking over the mountains is overcome with the glorious majesty of God. While the mountains may be awesome — God is even greater. Only a tiny reflection of God’s glory is seen in the majestic mountains. The one in whom we are to trust is greater than everything our eye can behold.

Application

I have awakened this morning to a beautiful view of mountains and yet, this Psalm reminds us that the one who created those mountains is so much greater. It’s normal to want to put our…

Called to Royalty

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Judg. 5:3        “Hear, O kings; give ear, O princes;
        to the LORD I will sing,
        I will make melody to the LORD, the God of Israel.

Observation


As Deborah sings her song of praise before the Lord we hear the challenge to God’s children. Origen gives us unique insight into this passage:

“Hear, O kings. She names them ‘kings’ who are called together to hear the word of God. You should rejoice, people of God, at this emblem of your nobility. It is not as just any people that you are called to hear the word of God, but as a king, for to you it was said, ‘You are a royal, priestly race, a people for God’s possession.’ (I Peter 2:9)  Because you are kings, therefore, Christ our Lord is rightly called the ‘King of kings and the Lord of lords.’(1 Tim 6:15; Rev 19:16.) However, as you revel in this title of your nobility, you should also learn what each one of you must do to be a king. Let me outline it for you briefly. You are made a king if Christ reigns in you, for he is c…

Dependable Decision Making

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Acts 1:21 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us,  22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these must become a witness with us to his resurrection.”  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

This story is sometimes seen controversially in regard to making decisions. Was Matthias really God’s choice to take the place of Judas, or was it the Apostle Paul? There are arguments on both sides. However, they were following what they understood to be good practice at the time. They were…

Smoked with Slander and Parched with Persecution

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Psalm 119:83     For I have become like a wineskin in the smoke,
        yet I have not forgotten your statutes.


Observation

The Psalmist’s own life is used as a template for response to all that is encountered. In the nomadic life wineskins were filled for travel. Once they were emptied they were hung to dry near the open fire. There, after much use they became blackened and wrinkled, bearing the marks of life.

The man of God had been blackened and wrinkled by falsehood, “smoked with slander,” and “his mind parched with persecution.”(Surgeon) The possibility of being overcome by fear was great and yet he had learned that his life must be seasoned by prayer. In the midst of the suffering he continually went back to God and the Psalm becomes an example for prayer. The wrinkled and smoke covered exterior belies the soft and pliable heart which beats beneath the chest. Prayer is not to be the casualty of suffering but the remedy that leads us to the place of hope and life.

Applica…

Creating Dissension

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Rom. 16:17   I urge you, brothers and sisters, to keep an eye on those who cause dissensions and offenses, in opposition to the teaching that you have learned; avoid them.  18 For such people do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the simple-minded.  19 For while your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, I want you to be wise in what is good and guileless in what is evil.

Observation


Chrystostom tells us “Division is the subversion of the church. Turning things upside down like this is the devil’s weapon.” (Homilies on Romans 32) This was exactly Paul’s concern for the church in Rome and he wanted them to be aware that there would be those intentionally seeking to create dissension within the life of the church. These are the ones who are constantly bringing things up which may be contrary to sound doctrine and yet, it sounds close enough that there are those who are willing to listen.

More Than Meets the Eye — Phoebe

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Rom. 16:1   I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church at Cenchreae,  2 so that you may welcome her in the Lord as is fitting for the saints, and help her in whatever she may require from you, for she has been a benefactor of many and of myself as well.

Observation


Paul commends to the readers a woman by the name of Phoebe. In personally carrying this letter to Rome Renan tells us, “Phoebe carried under the folds of her robe the whole future of Christian Theology.” (Vincent Word Studies) In commending Phoebe to the Romans Paul presents her titles so that they could understand who this woman was who brought them these important words. She is a deacon at Cenchreae, serving the church there. The word “deacon” carries with it great significance for it is not the feminine form of the word used in Greek, but the same term that Paul would use for himself when referring to his ministry. Origen, a theologian in the third century writes, “This passage teaches that there …

Making the Most of Your Circumstances

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Acts 28:30   He lived there two whole years at his own expense and welcomed all who came to him,  31 proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.

Observation


These two verses bring to a close what we officially know about the life of the Apostle Paul. There is much speculation as to what happened after this writing — whether he was released for a period of time and traveled to Spain — or whether he was soon executed by the Roman authorities. We don’t know, but we know that from beginning to end the book of Acts is one of proclamation. The good news about Jesus Christ is preached by his apostles. They are empowered by the Holy Spirit and sent out to proclaim the kingdom of God. They preach and they teach and when filled with the Holy Spirit they are able to do this “with all boldness and without hindrance.” This was the experience of Paul and so many others.

Paul makes the most of his circumstances. He was unde…

Open for Examination

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Psalm 139:23     Search me, O God, and know my heart;
        test me and know my thoughts.
24     See if there is any wicked way in me,
        and lead me in the way everlasting.

Observation

David opens himself up to examination from God. He is willing to place himself before God and requests that every nook and cranny of his being is searched. Not only does he ask God to examine his actions, but also his motivations. He is opening himself up to scrutiny before God most high and hides nothing. If there is any wickedness that remains in him, he wants God to point it out so that it can be removed and he can follow in the eternal pathways God has placed before him.

Application

I’m guessing we all have thoughts that pop into our minds that we’d like to keep secret. There may be moments of anger, jealousy, and frustration. We may allow our thoughts or minds to linger in unhealthy spaces but we work really hard to keep all of this hidden from the people around us.

Having the light of e…

Enjoy the Company

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Romans 15:24 when I go to Spain. For I do hope to see you on my journey and to be sent on by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a little while.

Observation


Paul was very focused on his ministry and he followed his calling into many new places. He was a missionary and was frequently on the move from one location to another. In this letter to the Romans he mentions that he plans to go to Spain to do ministry but on the way, he would stop in Rome. His purpose there would be twofold; to be sent on by them and also to enjoy their company.

Application

I am struck by this line, “once I have enjoyed your company for a little while,” for it makes me evaluate my own life. I am one of those who is in a hurry and frequently on the go from one thing to the next but there is also a great need to stop and enjoy the company. We need friends and partners in our lives and we need to learn how to slow down enough to simply enjoy being together.

The temptation of electronic devices seems to …

Authenticity

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Psa. 50:7        “Hear, O my people, and I will speak,
        O Israel, I will testify against you.
        I am God, your God.
8     Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you;
        your burnt offerings are continually before me.
9     I will not accept a bull from your house,
        or goats from your folds.
10     For every wild animal of the forest is mine,
        the cattle on a thousand hills.
11     I know all the birds of the air,
        and all that moves in the field is mine.

Psa. 50:12        “If I were hungry, I would not tell you,
        for the world and all that is in it is mine.
13     Do I eat the flesh of bulls,
        or drink the blood of goats?
14     Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving,
        and pay your vows to the Most High.
15     Call on me in the day of trouble;
        I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”

Observation


The people of God were following the letter of the law when it came to sacrifices. They were going through the formality o…

Building Blocks and Stumbling Blocks

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Rom. 14:13   Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another.

Observation

Paul was writing to the Roman church about the fact that some of them were stumbling blocks to others who were trying to grow in their faith. Jews and gentiles were worshipping together and they had differing perspectives on what was okay to eat and what was not. Strong opinions existed in two very different camps, both sides believing that they were in the right. When one group didn’t do things just like the other they passed judgement and condemnation. This division within the church was visible to the world and was damaging to their testimony. Instead of spiritual growth and vitality the church was becoming a breeding ground for criticism.  Paul was deeply disturbed by this behavior for it ruined the witness of the church and stifled opportunities for growth.

Application

It seems that Paul is saying that our r…

Taking Stock

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Psa. 48:12        Walk about Zion, go all around it,
        count its towers,
13     consider well its ramparts;
        go through its citadels,
    that you may tell the next generation
14         that this is God,
    our God forever and ever.
        He will be our guide forever.

Observation

The people of Jerusalem had been through a difficult time, besieged by one of their enemies. Now, that they had to take the time to inspect the city and determine whether there had been any damage. However, as they inspected for physical damage, as they took stock of their assets, the Psalm turns from an emphasis on the physical structures of the city and focuses on God. Their relationship with God and ability to pass along their faith to the next generation is of greater value than the physical structure of the city. Taking stock meant that they recognized the place of their eternal relationship and protection with God in comparison with the temporal structures of the city.

Application

Every…

False Hope

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Psa. 30:6        As for me, I said in my prosperity,
        “I shall never be moved.”
7     By your favor, O LORD,
        you had established me as a strong mountain;
    you hid your face;
        I was dismayed.

Observation

David found himself in a new position of political and financial prosperity. No longer did he have enemies chasing after him but life had settled down and he had everything that he could have humanly thought one could want. The temptation was to feel overly secure, that his confidence might turn into conceit. But there is no greater temptation in life as to suddenly be lulled by tranquility. Just because one has plenty of resources today does not mean that it will last. It was Divine favor which brought David his prosperity and yet in this Psalm he reveals that which brings him fear.

David’s joy had always been dependent upon the presence of the Lord but he had allowed his success to seduce his heart. He believed that he was a strong mountain, so strong that…

Wrestling with the Word

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Rom. 12:14   Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.  15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.  16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are.  17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.  18 If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.  19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”  20 No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.”  21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. 

Observation

The words from Paul to the Romans were clear. The Roman Christians were living in an environment that was completely hostile to them. They would face the very real possibility of…

Love and Honor

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Scripture
Rom. 12:10 love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.

Observation

Paul is calling God’s children to exhibit love in all that they do. They are to love their fellow sisters and brothers in Christ and be intentional about showing honor to one another. We may think that he is only referring to Christians showing mutual affection to one another but this is not the case. Jesus came to save sinners and love them. If that is the case then he loved us when we were yet sinners and we are to follow his example. Therefore we extend love and that is seen in the ways in which we honor others. Love and honor are connected and reveal the love of Christ in action.

Application


During a time in which it seems people are becoming more divided the word of God constantly calls us back to unity. We see disunity around the globe as people find all kinds of ideological reasons to dishonor one another. The divisions are coming right into our own communities and neighbor…

A Passing Guest

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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 Psalmist feels like an alien here on earth and desires to be with the LORD. The struggle is so great at times that the tears stream down his face. Life, soon coming to an end,
 causes time for reflection. Gazing upon the face of our LORD we recognize how unworthy we are in the presence of his holiness. And so we cry our tears and in moments where things seem out of focus, we realize that we are just a passing guest, an alien, and what we truly desire is to simply go home.

Application


Being reminded that we are simply passing guests or aliens here on earth is often helpful. Sorrow and pain will come our way. The endless news cycle can be simply mind-boggling. Trying to make sense o…

Making Provision for the Long Haul

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Matthew 25:11 Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’  12 But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’  13 Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.  

Observation

The story of the ten bridesmaids or virgins is familiar to us. They were to wait with their lamps lit for the arrival of the bridegroom. They all became drowsy and fell asleep as they awaited him, but when he did come at midnight they woke up. Unfortunately only five of them had thought ahead and brought enough oil to keep their lamps lit. Those without enough oil tried getting some from the others but that wasn’t possible so they ran to get more but when they returned it was too late. They hadn’t taken the call to be prepared seriously and so, at the end they were left out.

Application

There were ten young people who were a part of a Bible Study and were greatly inspired by the word of God. Excited about serving the Lord in this world they all took of…

The Place of Servant Leadership

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Psa. 110:0   Of David. A Psalm.
1     The LORD says to my lord,
        “Sit at my right hand
    until I make your enemies your footstool.”

Psa. 110:2        The LORD sends out from Zion
        your mighty scepter.
        Rule in the midst of your foes.
3     Your people will offer themselves willingly
        on the day you lead your forces
        on the holy mountains.
    From the womb of the morning,
        like dew, your youth will come to you.
4     The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind,
        “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”

Observation

There is almost universal agreement that this Psalm is written in reference to the coming Messiah. The resurrected Lord will sit at the right hand of the Father and rule as people offer themselves as free-will offerings. This King, whom we know as Jesus, will not rule as an earthly ruler, but will be a priest in the order of Melchizedek. He does not come from any earthly lineage but has appeared to …

Our Refuge

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Psa. 16:0   A Miktam of David.
1     Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
2     I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord;
        I have no good apart from you.”

Observation

When everything seems to be closing in, the Psalmist seeks refuge in the only place where it can truly be found — in God. The Hebrew word used here for God is El — and the same word that Jesus Christ used for God when crying out to him from the cross. It’s a cry for the Almighty God, and Omnipotent helper of his people to respond.  But this safety and security can only be found when we seek for it in God. In our times of suffering God, our refuge, conveys to us the promise of our eternal hope which is in him.

The Psalmist confirms his trust in the LORD. We have the promise of our Lord, Jesus Christ and he is the good. There is no good apart from the one who is good. We lean into the future which we have with God and in return we do not need to fear the present. God as our refuge remains our bodyguard, pro…

The Gift of Floating Iron

Scripture

2Kings 6:1   Now the company of prophets said to Elisha, “As you see, the place where we live under your charge is too small for us.  2 Let us go to the Jordan, and let us collect logs there, one for each of us, and build a place there for us to live.” He answered, “Do so.”  3 Then one of them said, “Please come with your servants.” And he answered, “I will.”  4 So he went with them. When they came to the Jordan, they cut down trees.  5 But as one was felling a log, his ax head fell into the water; he cried out, “Alas, master! It was borrowed.”  6 Then the man of God said, “Where did it fall?” When he showed him the place, he cut off a stick, and threw it in there, and made the iron float.  7 He said, “Pick it up.” So he reached out his hand and took it.

Observation

Elisha was not alone but was a member of a company of prophets. The fellowship had grown considerably and they needed a larger place to live. One of the company wanted to help out in the process but was poor. He ha…

Retaining knowledge

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My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being My priest. Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.
(Hosea 4:6 NASB)
For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it.
(Hebrews 2:1 NASB)

Observation

There seem to be cycles in history, periods of time which appear to repeat themselves. There are times when knowledge and education are highly valued, and then there seem to be times when that knowledge comes under attack and we retreat into the more experiential. However, if we linger too long in the experiential, we become like the children of Israel. There was no longer any knowledge of God to pass on to the next generation. They had rejected their religious education and therefore knowledge of God and His word. No longer were there those who could serve as priests because they had forgotten God's law. By no lo…

Amazing Love

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Scripture:

Romans 8:35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  36 As it is written,
    “For your sake we are being killed all day long;
        we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,  39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Observation:


In the new order of things Christ’s love reigns supreme. Through the incarnation God revealed the depths of his love to all of humanity and that love was seen in action through the life, death and resurrection of our Lord. Christ suffered in the flesh to remove all barriers to God’s holy love. The result is that all that we experience in this life cannot…

Awestruck

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Scripture:

Acts 19:7 When this became known to all residents of Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks, everyone was awestruck; and the name of the Lord Jesus was praised.  18 Also many of those who became believers confessed and disclosed their practices.  19 A number of those who practiced magic collected their books and burned them publicly; when the value of these books was calculated, it was found to come to fifty thousand silver coins.  20 So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed.

Observation:

God’s power was at work in Ephesus in such a way that things would never be the same again. All of the people were awestruck over what was happening. The miracles of God were far greater than anything that they had experienced before. Their magicians were nothing in comparison to the work of God among them. As a result, the name of Jesus was being praised throughout the community.

Because of God’s work among the people many began to confess the name of Jesus and to turn away from questiona…