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Showing posts from August, 2016

Luke’s Irony

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Acts 12:20   Now Herod was angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon. So they came to him in a body; and after winning over Blastus, the king’s chamberlain, they asked for a reconciliation, because their country depended on the king’s country for food.  21 On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat on the platform, and delivered a public address to them.  22 The people kept shouting, “The voice of a god, and not of a mortal!”  23 And immediately, because he had not given the glory to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died. 

Observation

After reconciling with the people of Tyre and Sidon, Herod prepared to speak to the people. We are told that his royal robes were made of silver thread and that he glistened in the sun. He stood before the people and spewed forth beautiful rhetoric.  Between the clothing and his words the people were quite impressed. So much so, that they cried out that he must have been a god. It is in t…

Willing to Listen

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John 8:43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot accept my word.

Observation

Jesus was continuing to teach in the Temple and the Jewish leaders had a hard time with what he was saying. Jesus knew that they were struggling but they did not want to admit that he just might be right. In their stubbornness and pride they refused to truly listen to what Jesus had to say. Their hearing needed to be healed by the great Physician who could open them to understanding, if only they were willing to listen. However, they knew if they were to listen, they would need to receive his words and obey.

Calvin paraphrases Jesus’ words like this, “What is the reason why my speech appears to you barbarous and unknown, so that I gain nothing by speaking to you, and so that you do not even deign to open your ears to receive what I say?”  (Calvin’s Commentaries) The question was an important one to pose for the religious leaders were proud of their intellectual practices. They …

Prepare for Action

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Acts 11:27   At that time prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch.  28 One of them named Agabus stood up and predicted by the Spirit that there would be a severe famine over all the world; and this took place during the reign of Claudius.  29 The disciples determined that according to their ability, each would send relief to the believers living in Judea;  30 this they did, sending it to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.

Observation


Sometimes the role of the prophet is misunderstood because there is an expectation that this is one who will predict the future. The voice of the prophet is not so much about prediction, as it is calling a people to action. In this case Agabus is preparing the fledgling church for the challenges ahead. It appears that a famine will probably reach the entire Roman Empire, and therefore the Christians must prepare to take action. The mother church in Jerusalem would suffer greatly and now those who had benefited from the mother church spiritually …

Stumbling in the Darkness

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John 8:12   Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”  13 Then the Pharisees said to him, “You are testifying on your own behalf; your testimony is not valid.”  14 Jesus answered, “Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid because I know where I have come from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going.  15 You judge by human standards; I judge no one.  16 Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is valid; for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me.  17 In your law it is written that the testimony of two witnesses is valid.  18 I testify on my own behalf, and the Father who sent me testifies on my behalf.”  19 Then they said to him, “Where is your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.”  20 He spoke these words while he was teaching in …

Water on a Hot Summer Day

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John 7:37   On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me,  38 and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’”  39 Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

Observation


People were making preparations for their travels home from the festival and this would have included enough water for the journey. Jesus’ cry to those who were thirsty would have resonated. People would have flocked to the idea of Jesus providing enough water for them. However, he was inviting them into a new future in which their parched souls would be eternally watered by the presence of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit would then overflow and water not only their lives, but of those surrounding, bringing new and eternal life.

Application


Re…

A Life of Devotion

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Acts 10:1   In Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of the Italian Cohort, as it was called.  2 He was a devout man who feared God with all his household; he gave alms generously to the people and prayed constantly to God.  3 One afternoon at about three o’clock he had a vision in which he clearly saw an angel of God coming in and saying to him, “Cornelius.”  4 He stared at him in terror and said, “What is it, Lord?” He answered, “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God.  5 Now send men to Joppa for a certain Simon who is called Peter;  6 he is lodging with Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the seaside.”  7 When the angel who spoke to him had left, he called two of his slaves and a devout soldier from the ranks of those who served him,  8 and after telling them everything, he sent them to Joppa.

Observation

Cornelius was a good and devout man who did not know about Jesus. He earnestly sought the face of God and was a leader who manag…

Participation

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Acts 9:36   Now in Joppa there was a disciple whose name was Tabitha, which in Greek is Dorcas. She was devoted to good works and acts of charity.  37 At that time she became ill and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in a room upstairs.  38 Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, who heard that Peter was there, sent two men to him with the request, “Please come to us without delay.”  39 So Peter got up and went with them; and when he arrived, they took him to the room upstairs. All the widows stood beside him, weeping and showing tunics and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was with them.  40 Peter put all of them outside, and then he knelt down and prayed. He turned to the body and said, “Tabitha, get up.” Then she opened her eyes, and seeing Peter, she sat up.  41 He gave her his hand and helped her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he showed her to be alive.  42 This became known throughout Joppa, and many believed in the Lord.  43 Meanwhil…

An Invitation to Partake

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John 6:52   The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”  53 So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.  54 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day;  55 for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.  56 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.  57 Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me.  58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.”  59 He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum.

Observation

The Jews were continually confused by Jesus. What was he suggesting in this language? The idea of partaking his blood and flesh would have so…

THE Name

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Psa. 113:2        Blessed be the name of the LORD
        from this time on and forevermore.
3     From the rising of the sun to its setting
        the name of the LORD is to be praised.
4     The LORD is high above all nations,
        and his glory above the heavens.

Observation

The name of God, the LORD had been revealed to Moses at the burning bush. The LORD, the great “I am that I am” is God’s name forever and title for all generations (Ex. 3:15). The name reveals us to us the very nature of God and a commitment to life. There is an endlessness that is expressed in the name of the LORD and praise responds at its revelation. All of creation joins in praising the LORD whose name is worthy of all praise.

Application

Every now and then I have to get up really early to catch a flight. If I leave the house between four and five in the morning I experience something that I usually miss and that is the awakening of the birds. There is such an incredible cacophony of praise which can …

Just One More Miracle

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John 6:31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 

Observation

Jesus had just fed the 5000 and then traveled to the other side of the sea. The people were looking for him because of the miracle and they wanted to experience more. Suddenly greed was taking hold and they wanted what Jesus had to offer, but they didn’t want Jesus! Chrysostom tells us:

There is nothing worse, nothing more shameful, than gluttony, which clouds the judgment and reduces the soul to satisfying appetites. . . . For instance, nothing can be more unreasonable than their asking for another miracle, as if none had been given already. And they do not even leave the choice of the miracle to our Lord but would oblige him to give them just that sign that was given to their ancestors: “Our fathers ate manna in the desert.” . . . There were many miracles performed in Egypt, at the Red Sea and in the desert, and yet they remembered this one the be…

For the Love of Power

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Acts 8:18 Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money,  19 saying, “Give me also this power so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”  20 But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain God’s gift with money!  21 You have no part or share in this, for your heart is not right before God.  22 Repent therefore of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you.  23 For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and the chains of wickedness.”  24 Simon answered, “Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may happen to me.”

Observation

Simon saw the way in which the disciples were transformed when filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. Instead of understanding the infilling of the Holy Spirit as a way for the good news of Jesus Christ to be spread throughout …

Near As Our Shadow

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Psa. 121:5        The LORD is your keeper;
        the LORD is your shade at your right hand.
6     The sun shall not strike you by day,
        nor the moon by night.

Observation

The Lord is thy keeper. Here the preserving One, who had been spoken of by pronouns in the two previous verses, is distinctly named—Jehovah is thy keeper. What a mint of meaning lies here: the sentence is a mass of bullion, and when coined and stamped with the king’s name it will bear all our expenses between our birthplace on earth and our rest in heaven. Here is a glorious person—Jehovah, assuming a gracious office and fulfilling it in person,—Jehovah is thy keeper, in behalf of a favoured individual—thy, and a firm assurance of revelation that it is even so at this hour—Jehovah is thy keeper. Can we appropriate the divine declaration? If so, we may journey onward to Jerusalem and know no fear; yea, we may journey through the valley of the shadow of death and fear no evil. The Lord is thy shade upon t…

Delusional

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Judg. 17:1   There was a man in the hill country of Ephraim whose name was Micah.  2 He said to his mother, “The eleven hundred pieces of silver that were taken from you, about which you uttered a curse, and even spoke it in my hearing,—that silver is in my possession; I took it; but now I will return it to you.” And his mother said, “May my son be blessed by the LORD!”  3 Then he returned the eleven hundred pieces of silver to his mother; and his mother said, “I consecrate the silver to the LORD from my hand for my son, to make an idol of cast metal.”  4 So when he returned the money to his mother, his mother took two hundred pieces of silver, and gave it to the silversmith, who made it into an idol of cast metal; and it was in the house of Micah.  5 This man Micah had a shrine, and he made an ephod and teraphim, and installed one of his sons, who became his priest.  6 In those days there was no king in Israel; all the people did what was right in their own eyes.
Judg. 17:7 …

And Finally

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2Cor. 13:11   Finally, brothers and sisters, farewell. Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.  12 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you.
2Cor. 13:13   The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.

Observation

Paul brings this epistle to a close with a prayer and an admonition. There is to be unity in the church and his appeal has been for the community of faith to be intentional about reconciliation. Things are to be put in order as believers reach out to one another in holy love, taking the time to come to agreement. Jesus Christ came as the prince of peace and so as God’s children continue to grow and reflect Christ, his peace will be revealed and the peace and love of God will surround those who are called Christian.

Judas greeted Jesus with a kiss of betrayal but those who are reflecting Christ will…

Among the Nations

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

Observation

Singing songs of praise includes spreading the good news of God among the surrounding nations. Never was the joy of this relationship meant to be kept to ourselves but to be shared with all those we may encounter. God’s steadfast love and faithfulness reaches beyond all human barriers or boundaries drawing all people through immeasurable grace.

Application

This morning I had the privilege of worshiping in English and in Spanish. Both experiences were wonderful as we spent time in genuine worship of our Lord. However, we worshipped …

Planting Olive Trees

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Psa. 102:18        Let this be recorded for a generation to come,
        so that a people yet unborn may praise the LORD:

Observation

This prayer of intercession has been penned and in the center we discover a plea for the faith story to be recorded for a generation not yet born. The faith of this generation is to be carried into the next and the next. What happens to the author of the Psalm has the potential of everlasting impact when the eternal is in view. The concern reaches far beyond this day, or even next month because one looks beyond their own immediate needs. Just as the people of the middle-east taught us that they don’t plant olive trees for themselves, but for the next generation, so God’s followers are to record God’s faithfulness for those to come.

Application

I’m not sure that we think too much about olive tree planting and living these days. We live in an instant world and often we want immediate satisfaction. We don’t think about doing things that may have no i…

Conflict in the Church

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Acts 6:1   Now during those days, when the disciples were increasing in number, the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food.  2 And the twelve called together the whole community of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should neglect the word of God in order to wait on tables.  3 Therefore, friends, select from among yourselves seven men of good standing, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this task,  4 while we, for our part, will devote ourselves to prayer and to serving the word.”  5 What they said pleased the whole community, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, together with Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch.  6 They had these men stand before the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.

Observation

The church was growing rapidly and the Apostles were facing challenges they had…

You Can’t Stop It!

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Acts 5:38 So in the present case, I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone; because if this plan or this undertaking is of human origin, it will fail;  39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them—in that case you may even be found fighting against God!”

Observation

The Apostles were preaching daily the good news of Jesus. This was stirring up the citizens of Jerusalem and it caused great consternation among the religious leaders. They had the apostles arrested and placed in prison, but God sent an angel to set them free. The religious leaders were again upset by discovering that these men were back outside preaching so they were brought to the council where the high priest questioned them. Peter’s response affirmed the call that the apostles had received from God and that they had to be obedient to that call and not to human authorities. This, of course, made the leaders mad but, after dismissing the apostles, Gamaliel made his speech.

Interes…

Loving the Light

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John 3:19 And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.  20 For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed.  21 But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”

Observation

Jesus is the light of the world and the brightness of his own life shines into the dark corners of the world. The world is exceedingly uncomfortable with the light that Jesus shines because it reveals all that is being done in the dark and secret corners. People want to have things hidden so that no one will ever find out what they have really done. This is why the light of Jesus is so blinding and people run to find the darkness.

Those who are openly reflecting Christ have nothing to hide. The light of Christ shines through everything that they do and there is great transparency in thei…

A Dead Calm

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Mark 4:39 He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm.

Observation

As Jesus and the disciples were in the boat traveling to the other side of the sea a terrible storm arose. While the disciples were terrified, Jesus remained fast asleep. Eventually they woke him up and asked him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” His response is today’s text. Obviously he cared for his disciples but they still didn’t realize who it was that was with them. This is the revelation of Jesus Christ, that he is the Creator and that he has power and authority over that which he has created.

His words translated mean to silence or muzzle the waters. The response of the sea is like that of an exhausted child who finally stops fighting their parent, relaxes in their arms and drops off to sleep. The heaving of the waters cease and complete rest, “a dead calm” comes upon the entire scene. It is a peace and stillne…

There’s Not Much Worse Than Hypocrisy

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Acts 5:1   But a man named Ananias, with the consent of his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property;  2 with his wife’s knowledge, he kept back some of the proceeds, and brought only a part and laid it at the apostles’ feet.  3 “Ananias,” Peter asked, “why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back part of the proceeds of the land?  4 While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, were not the proceeds at your disposal? How is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You did not lie to us but to God!”  5 Now when Ananias heard these words, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard of it.  6 The young men came and wrapped up his body, then carried him out and buried him.
Acts 5:7   After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened.  8 Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you and your husband sold the land for such and such a price.” And she said, “Yes, that…

What Do You See?

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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!

Observation


John the Baptist declares what he sees in the man Jesus. He may have made the connection to the historic words of prophesy in Isaiah 53 and recognized that this was no ordinary man. God revealed to the Baptist that this was the Messiah. In these words John declared more than that which meets the eye. This man would become the sacrifice for all of humanity and would provide a pathway for the sin of the world to be removed. The hearers may not have understood because they couldn’t see beyond the seemingly normal exterior of the man who stood before them. Only through God’s power could John see who Jesus really was.

Application

Just like John, God provides us with the ability to see Christ. But it was John who had to declare who it was that he really saw because those around couldn’t see Jesus for who he really was. In the case of John the…