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Showing posts from November, 2016

Which Face Do You See?

Scripture

Luke 20:21 So they asked him, “Teacher, we know that you are right in what you say and teach, and you show deference to no one, but teach the way of God in accordance with truth. 22 Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?”  23 But he perceived their craftiness and said to them,  24 “Show me a denarius. Whose head and whose title does it bear?” They said, “The emperor’s.”  25 He said to them, “Then give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”  26 And they were not able in the presence of the people to trap him by what he said; and being amazed by his answer, they became silent.

Observation

There were those who wanted to trap Jesus and so they tried to pose a question that they thought would put him in a bind. They began with a question which seemed to affirm their understanding of who he was. They recognized that he didn’t show partiality toward people of high position. The word that is used here is that he showe…

Brokenness

Scripture

Luke 20:18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.”

Observation

As Jesus completes the parable of the wicked tenets he reminds them of the cornerstone. This is the stone that the builders rejected but now he brings in some new meaning and understanding. For those who submit to Jesus, for those who will fall upon him, they will be broken by him. This is a breaking in a good sense. They will be broken of self-centeredness and all that it produces in their lives. Shattered will be the selfish motivations which drive life.

For those who reject the cornerstone of Jesus Christ, and do not submit, the weight of his Messiahship will eventually fall upon them.  It’s not just about rejection but also about those who actively engage against the Messiah. Those who hate him and persecute his followers will be ground to powder. The imagery speaks powerfully; ground to powder and blown away by the wind as if they had never existed…

From Scarlet to White as Snow

Scripture

Is. 1:18        Come now, let us argue it out,
        says the LORD:
    though your sins are like scarlet,
        they shall be like snow;
    though they are red like crimson,
        they shall become like wool.

Observation

The prophet is defining reality for the Israelites. They are in great need of salvation and yet, they may have come to believe that they could save themselves. God is making it abundantly clear that there is nothing that they can do to save themselves but the gift of salvation comes from God.

Do the people want to argue about the need for salvation? God is ready and willing to have a discussion and “argue it out,” or “reason together.” Then the LORD clarifies the condition of the people. Their sins are as red as the blood-stained garment of a murderer. In their human understanding those stains are permanent, but not for God. God can take the permanently stained garments and do what no human can do. The scarlet stain of sin can be made white as snow, or as p…

Attentive

Scripture

Matthew 25:13 Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

Observation


Jesus tells the parable of the ten virgins who are awaiting the arrival of the bridegroom. Five have extra oil and five do not. As their wait stretches out longer than anticipated the lamps begin to go out and the five with no extra oil have to leave to get more. They are not present when the bridegroom arrives and they miss out.

The church is the bride of Christ, challenged to be well prepared and to keep awake. A state of attentiveness is necessary, even in a time when one grows weary.

Application

Today we celebrate the first Sunday of advent where we anticipate the arrival of our Savior. This is not just the anticipation of the celebration of the birth of Christ — but the anticipation of the return of Christ. Christ will return again and while we may find ourselves in those long days of waiting, we must remain attentive.

When we were younger we would do crazy things like drive for long…

Holiness Unto the Lord

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Scripture

Zech. 14:16   Then all who survive of the nations that have come against Jerusalem shall go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the festival of booths.  17 If any of the families of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, there will be no rain upon them.  18 And if the family of Egypt do not go up and present themselves, then on them shall come the plague that the LORD inflicts on the nations that do not go up to keep the festival of booths.  19 Such shall be the punishment of Egypt and the punishment of all the nations that do not go up to keep the festival of booths.

Zech. 14:20   On that day there shall be inscribed on the bells of the horses, “Holy to the LORD.” And the cooking pots in the house of the LORD shall be as holy as the bowls in front of the altar;  21 and every cooking pot in Jerusalem and Judah shall be sacred to the LORD of hosts, so that all who sacrifice may come and use them to boil th…

Real Peace

Scripture

Luke 19:38 saying,
    “Blessed is the king
        who comes in the name of the Lord!
    Peace in heaven,
        and glory in the highest heaven!”

Observation

In today’s gospel reading we find Jesus entering into Jerusalem riding on a colt. The people begin to cheer and shout, blessing Jesus and declaring peace and glory. The words are reminiscent of those heard by the shepherds watching over their flocks the night that Jesus is born. Here in joy and excitement the people want to embrace Jesus as their Messiah. Their hopes are set on him being a national leader who will wrestle political control and restore their nation. What they don’t understand is that Jesus is establishing a new kingdom and their own words are ushering in an era beyond their comprehension. It has nothing to do with political or national power, but everything to do with the joining of heaven and earth in the incarnation of Christ. When heaven and earth touch real peace is the result. This was the mission of …

Use It or Lose It

Scripture

Luke 19:26
I tell you, to all those who have, more will be given; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.

Observation

The parable of the ten minas, or pounds, reminds us that we need to give God thanks for that which we have been given. Not only are we to give thanks, but we are to use which we have been given to the best of our ability and for the benefit of the kingdom. It is the realization that all we have has been given to us by God for the sake of the kingdom. We are to use it for God...or lose it.

Application


It's easy to get caught up into thinking or believing that we are responsible for the creation of our own talents and abilities. As we become successful it's easy to forget that we have been created by God and our skills come from the Father. The abilities we have are not for our own personal benefit, but for the sake of the kingdom.

Let's give thanks to our Creator for all that we have. The good in life is a gift from God…

Seeking Out and Saving

Scripture

Luke 19:1   He entered Jericho and was passing through it.  2 A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich.  3 He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature.  4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way.  5 When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.”  6 So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him.  7 All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.”  8 Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.”  9 Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham.  10 For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.…

Prayer for Those Who Suffer

Scripture

Psa. 122:6        Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
        “May they prosper who love you.
7     Peace be within your walls,
        and security within your towers.”
8     For the sake of my relatives and friends
        I will say, “Peace be within you.”
9     For the sake of the house of the LORD our God,
        I will seek your good.

Observation

The Psalmist was writing and praying for his family and friends who were suffering in Jerusalem. He was interceding on their behalf and became very specific in his prayers. The city whose name meant “peace” was anything but peaceful. There was great need for peace and a sense of security. Their very lives were in danger and therefore he was willing to sacrifice his time as an intercessor on behalf of those he knew. 

As God’s children we are inextricably connected to one another and therefore we pray for those who suffer, for the sake of the house of the LORD our God. We seek the good and sacrifice for our sisters and brothers.

Applicat…

The Hope In You

The Hope in You

Scripture

1 Peter 3:13-15

Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good? But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you;

Observation

The Christ-follower is being transformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ and this results in a change of behaviors. The desire is to do good in all things. Sometimes this becomes misunderstood by those around. We are admonished to continue doing good and do not succumb to the fear which may be felt because of peer pressure. Continuing to grow in grace and holiness, our lives are to become more and more filled with the presence of Christ. This becomes the motivating factor for all that we do in life and makes it easy to explain our actions.

Application

At the core of our being and the major motivatin…

Trusting Yourself

Scripture

Luke 18:9   He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt:  10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.  12 I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’  13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’  14 I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Observation


Jesus realizes that there are those in the crowd who are quite proud of their spiritual lives. The Pharisee has been following all the rules and has been tithing. These are all good things but not whe…

Giving Our Very Best

Scripture

Mal. 3:8   Will anyone rob God? Yet you are robbing me! But you say, “How are we robbing you?” In your tithes and offerings!  9 You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me—the whole nation of you!  10 Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house, and thus put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts; see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing.  11 I will rebuke the locust for you, so that it will not destroy the produce of your soil; and your vine in the field shall not be barren, says the LORD of hosts.  12 Then all nations will count you happy, for you will be a land of delight, says the LORD of hosts.

Observation

I”m not sure that the people would have thought that they were robbing God. More than likely they felt that their resources were stretched beyond their capacity and so they calculated what they thought they could give to God. The problem was that God had a plan, and tha…

True Worship

Scripture

Malachi 1:11 For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name is great among the nations, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure offering; for my name is great among the nations, says the LORD of hosts.

Observation


The people of God had returned from exile and found themselves floundering in their faith. The temple had been rebuilt but their hearts were growing cold. Instead of bringing their very best to sacrifice before God they were bringing their leftovers. The prophet was chiding the people because he knew that they would have brought their best before the secular king, and yet they brought their worst to God.

In the midst of his prophetic words we read this verse which provides a vision of the future. When the chosen people of God refuse to worship, then God’s name will spread and become great among the nations. The Gentiles will come to worship God — the very people that the Jews looked down upon would take up their place in the kingdom.

In th…

Faithful Obedience

Faithful obedience

Scripture

Luke 17:1-4

Jesus said to his disciples, “Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to anyone by whom they come! It would be better for you if a millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea than for you to cause one of these little ones to stumble. Be on your guard! If another disciple sins, you must rebuke the offender, and if there is repentance, you must forgive. And if the same person sins against you seven times a day, and turns back to you seven times and says, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive.”

Luke 17:10
So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!’ ”

Observation

Jesus is speaking about one disciple sinning against another. This would have been really painful for this small group of people and yet, they were to care for one another so that no one could become a stumbling block. Holding one another accountable was a responsi…

A Clear Vision

Scripture

Habakkuk 2:2     Then the LORD answered me and said:
    Write the vision;
        make it plain on tablets,
        so that a runner may read it.
3     For there is still a vision for the appointed time;
        it speaks of the end, and does not lie.
    If it seems to tarry, wait for it;
        it will surely come, it will not delay.
4     Look at the proud!
        Their spirit is not right in them,
        but the righteous live by their faith.
5     Moreover, wealth is treacherous;
        the arrogant do not endure.
    They open their throats wide as Sheol;
        like Death they never have enough.
    They gather all nations for themselves,
        and collect all peoples as their own.

Observation

Habakkuk has brought his complaint before God and now he receives a response. The LORD answers him and tells him to write down the vision. It is to be written on a tablet and hung in a place of where it will receive the attention of the people. It’s probably somewhere …

Missing the Point

Scripture

Matt. 23:16   “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the sanctuary is bound by nothing, but whoever swears by the gold of the sanctuary is bound by the oath.’  17 You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the sanctuary that has made the gold sacred?  18 And you say, ‘Whoever swears by the altar is bound by nothing, but whoever swears by the gift that is on the altar is bound by the oath.’  19 How blind you are! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred?  20 So whoever swears by the altar, swears by it and by everything on it;  21 and whoever swears by the sanctuary, swears by it and by the one who dwells in it;  22 and whoever swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by the one who is seated upon it.

Observation


Jesus is quite angry with the Pharisees and the scribes who seem to be missing the point. They are hypocrites who have misunderstood that which is holy. The holy one, Jesus, was standing right in front of t…

Confounded

Scripture

Luke 15:1   Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him.  2 And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

Observation

Jesus frustrated the religious officials by the way in which he ministered. He didn’t do things the way that they would have expected but neither did they listen to or heed his words. The tax collectors and sinners were outcasts of society and the Pharisees and scribes would not have wanted to be near them. Jesus tried to take his message of hope to the Pharisees and scribes but upon rejecting him, he went to those who would listen. It was the unexpected people of society who came near and paid attention to what Jesus had to say. Jesus didn’t do anything to gain personal approval or power within society. He didn’t belong to the powers of this world and so he continued to confound the people as he clothed himself in humility and poverty to save all of humanity.

Applicat…

Inconvenient Timing

Scripture

Luke 14:15   One of the dinner guests, on hearing this, said to him, “Blessed is anyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!”  16 Then Jesus said to him, “Someone gave a great dinner and invited many.  17 At the time for the dinner he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come; for everything is ready now.’  18 But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of land, and I must go out and see it; please accept my regrets.’  19 Another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please accept my regrets.’  20 Another said, ‘I have just been married, and therefore I cannot come.’  21 So the slave returned and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and said to his slave, ‘Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’  22 And the slave said, ‘Sir, what you ordered has been done, and there is …

Lavish Generosity

Scripture

Matt. 20:1   “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.  2 After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard.  3 When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace;  4 and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went.  5 When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same.  6 And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’  7 They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’  8 When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’  9 When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage…

Humble Service is Required

Humble Service is Required

Scripture

Luke 14:7-14

When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable. “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, ‘Give this person your place,’ and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted."

Observation

Jesus and his disciples practiced hospitality. He was constantly concerned with the needs of others, healing the sick and feeding the poor and needy. The ones who thought they were deeply religious often ignored …

The Eschatological Hope of the Kingdom and the Chicago Cubs

Scripture

Luke 13:18   He said therefore, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what should I compare it?  19 It is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in the garden; it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.”
Luke 13:20   And again he said, “To what should I compare the kingdom of God?  21 It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”

Observation

The imagery of these two parables spoke to the context of the day. The kingdom of God had already come and yet, it appeared to be very small. Faith was required to understand what might happen with the mustard seed. That small seed could be planted and become a great tree. Just so, faith in the kingdom would eventually lead one to see the great growth of God’s kingdom here on earth and in the age to come.

The disciples had already heard about the yeast of the Pharisees and its destructive powers because it would permeate the entire…

Bent Over

Scripture

Luke 13:10   Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath.  11 And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight.  12 When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.”  13 When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God.  14 But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.”  15 But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water?  16 And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?”  17 When he said this, …

Expectations

Scripture

Luke 13:6   Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none.  7 So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’  8 He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it.  9 If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”

Observation

This parable may have referred to Israel, for they were provided with three years of Jesus’ ministry in which to repent. The owner was frustrated with the lack of fruit that was produced but the Gardner plead their case. While a fig tree should bear fruit in its third year, the Gardner wanted to give it more care and allow it time to respond. God was giving Israel a little more time to respond but if they didn’t, their fate would be in their own hands. The “fig tree” was undeserv…