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Showing posts from September, 2016

Withdrawing for Prayer

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Scripture

Luke 5:16 But he would withdraw to deserted places and pray.

Observation

Jesus not only taught us words to pray, but his life gave us a pattern for prayer. Jesus often would withdraw to a deserted place to pray. This was not the only occurrence that we read about in the New Testament. What’s interesting about the use of withdraw here is that it implies that it happened frequently, and that Jesus found prayer so important that he made himself intentionally inaccessible. To be able to spend the time that Jesus needed in prayer, he had to stop the preaching, teaching and healing and get completely away from the people to spend time alone with the Father.

Application

Sometimes I think we set up a dichotomy and begin to argue over which is more important in our spiritual lives. Is it getting to know Christ? Or is it participating in Christ’s mission in the world? The reality is that we need both and it is in getting to know Christ that we can then join with Christ in participating i…

Trusting Jesus

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Scripture

Luke 5:1   Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God,  2 he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets.  3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.  4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.”  5 Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.”  6 When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break.  7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink.  8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, L…

The Best Thing Ever

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Scripture

Matt. 13:44   “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

Observation


Jesus gives several parables in a row regarding the kingdom of heaven. It was not unusual for people to bury their money somewhere on their land for safekeeping. Within the last 12 months there have been three major discoveries of caches of ancient Roman coins. These were treasures of 3000-4000 coins from the Roman era. That’s why this parable spoke to the people of Jesus’ day because they understood that throughout history people had hidden their treasures in fields. If you knew that a field contained 3000 ancient Roman coins, you would sell everything that you owned just to buy that field.

The kingdom of heaven is so much more than a treasure of Roman coins. Just as someone is not sad to give up their measly personal belongings to purchase a field with Roman coins, so giving up what we have now…

Not a Little Comforted

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Scripture

Acts 20:7   On the first day of the week, when we met to break bread, Paul was holding a discussion with them; since he intended to leave the next day, he continued speaking until midnight.  8 There were many lamps in the room upstairs where we were meeting.  9 A young man named Eutychus, who was sitting in the window, began to sink off into a deep sleep while Paul talked still longer. Overcome by sleep, he fell to the ground three floors below and was picked up dead.  10 But Paul went down, and bending over him took him in his arms, and said, “Do not be alarmed, for his life is in him.”  11 Then Paul went upstairs, and after he had broken bread and eaten, he continued to converse with them until dawn; then he left.  12 Meanwhile they had taken the boy away alive and were not a little comforted.

Observation

The power of the understatement occurs at the end of this scene in the ministry of Paul. After Eutychus falls down from a third story window and dies, Paul runs to his side…

Spontaneous Evangelism

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Scripture

Esth. 8:15   Then Mordecai went out from the presence of the king, wearing royal robes of blue and white, with a great golden crown and a mantle of fine linen and purple, while the city of Susa shouted and rejoiced.  16 For the Jews there was light and gladness, joy and honor.  17 In every province and in every city, wherever the king’s command and his edict came, there was gladness and joy among the Jews, a festival and a holiday. Furthermore, many of the peoples of the country professed to be Jews, because the fear of the Jews had fallen upon them.

Observation

Haman had planned for the destruction of the Jews who were still living in the land. Those who had not returned home after the exile had become members of their adopted society. Lest we think that they completed assimilated within those communities, this story of Esther is a great reminder that they were counter-cultural and remained Jewish. Haman’s plan backfired and instead of destroying the Jews within the land, peo…

The Problem of Envy

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Luke 4:20   And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.  21 Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”  22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?”  23 He said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Doctor, cure yourself!’ And you will say, ‘Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.’”  24 And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown.  25 But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land;  26 yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon.  27 There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none…

Power to Overcome

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Luke 4:1    Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness,  2 where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished.  3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.”  4 Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’”

Observation

Jesus’ own life becomes a blueprint for living. At his baptism he is filled with the Holy Spirit and empowered for the life of ministry and service which the Father had intended for him. Now, filled with the Spirit he spends forty days in the wilderness, and for forty days is tempted by the devil. Just as the first Adam fell by eating, Jesus becomes an overcomer by not eating. The first Adam was deceived by the devil and gave in to the temptation to eat the forbidden fruit. The devil turns to Jesus, the second Adam and again begins to deceive wit…

Let's Get It Right

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Scripture

Acts 18:24-28

Ministry of Apollos
Now there came to Ephesus a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria. He was an eloquent man, well-versed in the scriptures. He had been instructed in the Way of the Lord; and he spoke with burning enthusiasm and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue; but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained the Way of God to him more accurately. And when he wished to cross over to Achaia, the believers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. On his arrival he greatly helped those who through grace had become believers, for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the scriptures that the Messiah is Jesus.

Observation

Apollos was a very bright young man and had been extremely well educated. However, he didn't know enough about Jesus. Priscilla and Aquilla approached him and provided some gentle correction …

An Expectation of Change

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Scripture

Luke 3:10   And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?”  11 In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.”  12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?”  13 He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.”  14 Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.”

Observation

John the Baptist was preaching to the crowds that had gathered. They were listening with great expectation as he called them out as children who did not resemble their father Moses. Calling the people to repentance they asked him what they should do.  Children of God, those who followed in the footsteps of Moses, were to reflect the nature and character of the chosen family. A follower of God was to live a life transformed.

John seemed …

When It Simply Becomes About Power

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Esth. 1:13   Then the king consulted the sages who knew the laws (for this was the king’s procedure toward all who were versed in law and custom,  14 and those next to him were Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memucan, the seven officials of Persia and Media, who had access to the king, and sat first in the kingdom):  15 “According to the law, what is to be done to Queen Vashti because she has not performed the command of King Ahasuerus conveyed by the eunuchs?”  16 Then Memucan said in the presence of the king and the officials, “Not only has Queen Vashti done wrong to the king, but also to all the officials and all the peoples who are in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus.  17 For this deed of the queen will be made known to all women, causing them to look with contempt on their husbands, since they will say, ‘King Ahasuerus commanded Queen Vashti to be brought before him, and she did not come.’  18 This very day the noble ladies of Persia and Medi…

It’s Not Just About You

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Acts 16:25   About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.  26 Suddenly there was an earthquake, so violent that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened.  27 When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, since he supposed that the prisoners had escaped.  28 But Paul shouted in a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.”  29 The jailer called for lights, and rushing in, he fell down trembling before Paul and Silas.  30 Then he brought them outside and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”  31 They answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”  32 They spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house.  33 At the same hour of the night he took them and washed their wounds; then he and his entire …

Dying for Life

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John 12:20   Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks.  21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”  22 Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.  23 Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.  24 Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.  25 Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.  26 Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.

Observation

Lazarus had been raised from the dead and the curious crowds were seeking to know more about this incident. Jesus seemed to have been the man responsible and so even Greeks tried to get close to him. Finding the disciples with Greek soun…

The Foolishness of Containment

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Scripture

John 12:9   When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead.  10 So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well,  11 since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.

Observation

The Jewish leaders were frustrated with the traction that Jesus had gotten among the people. Somehow they believed that they would need to contain the reports of his activity. The story of Lazarus was beyond belief, and this was a problem. Too many people were coming to Christ as a result and something needed to be done.

Trying to contain the story of Lazarus’ resurrection, they plotted to kill him. Can you imagine the absurdity of trying to kill someone whom Jesus has already raised? It would seem, had Jesus raised him once from the dead, he could raise him again! Trying to contain the truth of what had happened with Lazarus simply made t…

Blaming God

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Job 40:8     Will you even put me in the wrong?
        Will you condemn me that you may be justified?

Observation

God is engaged in a very probing conversation with Job around the subject of vindication. If Job is to vindicate who he is or what he has done, is he willing to so that at the expense of the character of God? By trying to vindicate, Job is taking on God’s responsibility, that of judgment. The problem is that it calls into question the very nature of God. If Job is vindicated, what does that mean about God’s righteousness? Is God righteous, or in this action does Job take upon himself the mantle of righteousness? These are serious questions asked by God when the humans begin to assign blame.

Application

Blaming God in the midst of difficulties is a pretty common human response. God had great respect for Job and in this conversation we see an exercise into critical thinking. Sometimes we are unwilling to take the time to consider the ramifications of our thoughts or a…

A Little Perspective

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Job 38:4        “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
        Tell me, if you have understanding.
5     Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
        Or who stretched the line upon it?
6     On what were its bases sunk,
        or who laid its cornerstone
7     when the morning stars sang together
        and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?

Observation

After all the advice of his friends and Job’s comments, God responds. There is no attempt on God’s part to belittle Job or his intelligence, but God tries to give Job some perspective. God is inviting Job into a larger understanding or perspective of the world in which Job finds himself. It is also a perspective on the awesome power of God.

Application

Sometimes those days of frustration arrive like wave upon wave on the shore of the sea. Somehow you just wish they would stop for a short period of time, and yet they don’t, or maybe they can’t. It’s easy to get so focused on what lies right before …

Can Holiness Be Beautiful?

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Scripture

Psalm 96:9     Worship the LORD in holy splendor;
        tremble before him, all the earth.

Observation

The people of God are singing a new song for God has done something new in their midst and they are breaking out in worship. The Psalm brings you in to the place of worship before God. Verse nine speaks to the way in which we are to worship the LORD, and that is “in holy splendor.” The trouble is that the translators can’t agree on what this exactly means. Some would say that it refers to the people worshiping the LORD, whose holiness is beautiful. Many of the older English translations use the word beautiful rather than splendor. At the same time some translators believe that this refers to the priests themselves who are to be adorned in the splendor, or beauty of holiness so that they can worship the LORD.

Either the LORD is beautiful in holiness or the worshippers are beautifully adorned in holiness before the LORD.

Application

This phrase about holiness leaves us wondering …

When You Feel Like Giving Up

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Scripture

John 11:16 Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

Observation


Thomas was always known for having a rather dark view of things. He is a bit discouraged by Jesus’ desire to go to Bethany to visit Mary and Martha. Lazarus is already dead and he only sees death as a possible future for Jesus. He imagines the Jewish leaders lying in wait, ready to kill Jesus. At this point he assumes that if they go with Jesus, they will all face death as well. He has no idea that Jesus will be bringing death to life, and so he moves forward in despair. Instead of the hope and life that will be revealed through Jesus he feels like giving up and resigns himself to death.

Application

It’s easy to be critical of Thomas. His nickname became “doubting” Thomas, so it seems that his character is being revealed on a regular basis. He has a hard time imagining anything good coming out of his circumstances.

The circumstances of life come crus…

The Revelation in Good Works

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John 10:31   The Jews took up stones again to stone him.  32 Jesus replied, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these are you going to stone me?”  33 The Jews answered, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you, but for blasphemy, because you, though only a human being, are making yourself God.”  34 Jesus answered, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, you are gods’?  35 If those to whom the word of God came were called ‘gods’—and the scripture cannot be annulled—  36 can you say that the one whom the Father has sanctified and sent into the world is blaspheming because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’?  37 If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me.  38 But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”  39 Then they tried to arrest him again, but he escaped from their hands.

Observation


The incarnation was a ve…

Continual Growth

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Scripture

Psa. 52:8        But I am like a green olive tree
        in the house of God.
    I trust in the steadfast love of God
        forever and ever.
9     I will thank you forever,
        because of what you have done.
    In the presence of the faithful
        I will proclaim your name, for it is good.

Observation

The call of God’s children is to become like a green olive tree within the Father’s house. These trees are a unique sight in the dry desert heat of the middle-east. They are green all year round and continually growing. They send off shoots which become new trees, spreading their fruits. God’s children are to be fed by continually trusting in God. The steadfast love of God feeds the heart and the soul and with great gratitude we live in that ever-nourishing relationship. Because of this, God’s children proclaim the name of the Lord, for what they have experienced is good!

Application


Continual growth can only come from on-going abiding in the presence of God. We bec…

Seeing and Not-Seeing

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Scripture

John 9:40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?”  41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains. 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.

Observation

The Pharisees were angry with Jesus for having healed on the Sabbath and had even gone to the extent of harassing the poor man who had been healed. In this follow-up conversation with Jesus they begin to understand that he is now talking about their spiritual state. Surely he wouldn’t suggest that the Pharisees were blind spiritually! These were very well educated men who knew their Scriptures.

In pronouncing their pride at knowing the Scriptures the Pharisees are also pronouncing their own condemnation. They are not blind because they have been well-versed in the words of the prophets. Therefore they should have seen that Jesus was…

A Turning Point

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Acts 13:4   So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia; and from there they sailed to Cyprus.  5 When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. And they had John also to assist them.  6 When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they met a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet, named Bar-Jesus.  7 He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, an intelligent man, who summoned Barnabas and Saul and wanted to hear the word of God.  8 But the magician Elymas (for that is the translation of his name) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul away from the faith.  9 But Saul, also known as Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him 10 and said, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord?  11 And now listen—the hand of the Lord is against you, and you will be blind for a …