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Showing posts from January, 2017

Faith as a Cure for Fretting

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

Observation


Examining the landscape of humanity it’s easy to get discouraged. It seems especially true that the wicked are flourishing and living the good life, and yet this Psalm juxtaposes faith against that view.  But it’s hard for us to find that place of peace while living in a world that is so full of change. The Psalmist suggests that it’s time to trust in the Lord, and this is evidenced by engaging in the good. There is something active required of those who will have faith and trust in the Lord. This is not a passive, but an active relationship.

Engaging in the good for the Israelites meant that they would be able to live safely and securely in the promised land. Their participation in the good works of the Lord would become a type of synergistic activity that would provide the op…

The Hope of Liberation

Scripture

Philem. 22   One thing more—prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping through your prayers to be restored to you.

Observation

Paul is writing this letter in prison and is hoping that he will be set free. With faith that he will be freed, he asks that a guest room be prepared for him at the home of Philemon. There are two important aspects of this request and they include prayer, and action. The hope of liberation is not just on Paul’s part, but it is also something into which he asks the family of faith to participate. They, too, are to pray and in faith, prepare a guest room for Paul.

This hope of liberation is not only for Paul, but also for Onesimus. More than likely Paul is hoping to come to Colosse and personally see how the reception has been for Onesimus. It is through prayer and hospitality that God is able to bring about freedom for both a prisoner and a slave.

Application

We are all prisoners of some sort in our lives. Maybe we have become prisoners of our fears, mi…

You Know What Is Required

Scripture

Micah 6:8 He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
        and what does the Lord require of you
    but to do justice, and to love kindness,
        and to walk humbly with your God?

Observation

The king had become ignorant of what would please God. He had determined to appease God by offering sacrifices but this is not what God wants. It had all be made clear in the covenant and therefore the king’s ignorance is inexcusable. God wants a holy people who reflect the character and nature which would be revealed in Jesus Christ, that is, obedient and spiritual people who will do justice.

John Wesley says, “He—God hath already told you in his word, with what you ought to come before him. To do justly—To render to every one their due, superiors, equals, inferiors, to be equal to all, and oppress none, in body, goods or name;…To love mercy—To be kind, merciful and compassionate to all, not using severity towards any. Walk humbly with thy God—Keep up a constant fellowship with God, by h…

A Command of Love

Scripture

John 13:34 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.

Observation

This new commandment is given to the disciples in the midst of the last supper. Jesus has demonstrated his love for his disciples at the beginning of the evening by washing their feet. This becomes a new commandment because the love is initiated on the part of Jesus Christ. It is the fulfillment of the old command to love the Lord and your neighbor. Jesus reached out in love to his disciples, humbling himself before them so that they could experience his love in action. As this love flow from Jesus, so it flows into his disciples, those who have been adopted into the family of God. From that incredible love flows a love for one another. It is a mutual love which is demonstrated in service to one another and to the world. The command is to love, and that loves comes from the wellspring of holy love found by fellowshipping with God.

Applicati…

Holy People Hold their Tongue

Scripture

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

Psa. 15:2        Those who walk blamelessly, and do what is right,
        and speak the truth from their heart;
3     who do not slander with their tongue,
        and do no evil to their friends,
        nor take up a reproach against their neighbors;

Observation

The desire of David is to dwell in the holy space of God’s presence. Jesus’ life provided the pathway for all of us to join him on the holy hill, to be transformed by God’s holy presence. We are constantly drawn up the hill so that we can abide in fellowship with our holy God. Being in God’s holy presence becomes transformational because the Lord’s holiness begins to work on the impurities which may be found in our lives. Transformed hearts lead to transformed living. No longer can we speak “untruths,” but must speak the truth as it comes from our heart. A heart which is touched by the holy love of God.

Once this h…

What Is Your Heart Telling You?

Scripture

Psalm 27:8     “Come,” my heart says, “seek his face!”
        Your face, Lord, do I seek.

Observation


In the midst of David's Psalm we discover an on-going and continuous relationship with God. We are instructed to seek the face of God, but at the same time God’s face is not hidden from us. When we catch a glimpse of the face of God, by divine intervention the yearning in our heart grows. Our desire becomes more and more for the face of the one who is constantly facing in my direction, drawing me ever closer to God’s holy presence. Therefore, we believe it is a command, but at the same time it is God’s divine work in our lives. The more we seek God, the more that our hearts are stirred by the longing to be in God’s presence.

Along the way we discover that we are falling in love. We become lovers of God who earnestly desire the beauty that is found in Christ. This song and prayer of David’s begins to resonate within our heart as we discover the deep love that God has for us.…

To Will and to Work

Scripture

Phil. 2:12   Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Observation

Paul was anxious for the believers in Philippi to continue in their spiritual growth. He loved these people dearly and wished that he could be with them in person. He had a great concern that these people would not continue to grow spiritually. He wanted them to keep moving closer and closer to Jesus and to do this without fear. Jesus had provided everything they needed for salvation, but they needed to live into that salvation. It’s just like grabbing the hand of the one who is reaching out to rescue you from the edge of the cliff. You have to grab the hand that is ready to save you and then give yourself to the rescue process, instead of fighting!

God is at work in those who have been s…

An Awkward Exchange

Scripture

Judg. 6:11   Now the angel of the Lord came and sat under the oak at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, as his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the wine press, to hide it from the Midianites. 12 The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, “The Lord is with you, you mighty warrior.” 13 Gideon answered him, “But sir, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our ancestors recounted to us, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has cast us off, and given us into the hand of Midian.” 14 Then the Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours and deliver Israel from the hand of Midian; I hereby commission you.”

Observation

Gideon was hiding in the winepress beating out his wheat because he didn’t want the Midianites to see him. The people of God were again living in dangerous days with the threat of violence constantly at their doorstep. This was because of…

Weighed Down

Scripture

Isaiah 9:4     For the yoke of their burden,
        and the bar across their shoulders,
        the rod of their oppressor,
        you have broken as on the day of Midian.

Observation

This beautiful passage from the prophet Isaiah is known as the Messianic passage. The words lead us into a gracious understanding of the coming Messiah. Salvation will stretch beyond the shores of the Jordan and the people who have been walking in darkness will get to see the great light. The Messiah will come to set God’s people free. It is these words that remind the people of the oppression that they have suffered. The burdens of carrying a yoke, being prodded on their shoulders and beaten by the rod all bring about imagery of oxen. They have been an oppressed nation, and it has felt like the burden carried by the ox who is plowing the field. It is the vision of life in Egypt when they lived as slaves.

The Messiah will come and free God’s people from oppression. The heavy yoke will be lifted and…

Who Needs a Doctor?

Scripture

Luke 5:29   Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in his house; and there was a large crowd of tax collectors and others sitting at the table with them. 30 The Pharisees and their scribes were complaining to his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” 31 Jesus answered, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; 32 I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance.”

Observation

Levi is called by Jesus to be a disciple. He is a tax-collector, and they are viewed by many as the scum of society. They were considered religiously ‘unclean’ by the Pharisees because they worked for the Romans and quite literally stole from their fellow Jews by corrupt tax practices. Along with tax collectors, the “others” of the scum included prostitutes and criminals, and probably a few other unsavory characters sprinkled in to add a little spice. Just by associating with these people Jesus was allowing his reputation…

The Unifying Principle

Scripture

Gal. 2:10 They asked only one thing, that we remember the poor, which was actually what I was eager to do.

Observation

Paul was called to minister to the Gentiles and likely there were those who may have accused him of forgetting his own countrymen. The Jews back in Jerusalem were struggling. There had been a famine and many were starving. Those who had accepted Jesus as the Messiah had an additional burden of being disowned by their families. The result was a fledgling church spread throughout the Mediterranean, made up of many diverse people, struggling for unity. Paul was making his case for ministering to the Gentiles while Peter, James and John were preaching to the Jews. They had previously gathered in Jerusalem to discuss what might be required of Gentiles who were becoming Christians. Did they also have to take upon themselves the Jewish practice of circumcision? The decision was made that they did not and Paul would continue ministering to those who were not Jewish. Th…

Is God Glorified?

Scripture

Gal. 1:18   Then after three years I did go up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days; 19 but I did not see any other apostle except James the Lord’s brother. 20 In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie! 21 Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia, 22 and I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea that are in Christ; 23 they only heard it said, “The one who formerly was persecuting us is now proclaiming the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they glorified God because of me.

Observation


There were those whose questioned Paul’s authority to preach the gospel. The people of Galatia were specifically concerned about his preaching to the gentiles and whether he had been far too influenced by the Apostles in Jerusalem. Was he more interested in converting them to Judaism? Here he begins to explain to them his travels and the way in which he had been taught and directed in his spiritual walk. He tells the story of his previ…

The Obedient Heart

Scripture

Psa. 40:6        Sacrifice and offering you do not desire,
        but you have given me an open ear.
    Burnt offering and sin offering
        you have not required.
7     Then I said, “Here I am;
        in the scroll of the book it is written of me.
8     I delight to do your will, O my God;
        your law is within my heart.”

Observation

David’s psalm comes from the depths of his obedient heart and his greater understanding of God. The more that he gets to know the heart of God, the more that he understands what God desires from him. This is what God wants from David, but as David’s fellowship with God continues he is already understanding the heart of the coming Messiah.

The God of love does not desire rituals, but an openness to an intimate relationship with the Holy Trinity. The term “open ear” can be translated in many ways. An open ear may be about the willingness to listen and to really get to know God. It may also refer to the piercing of the ear. Some have suggested th…

Sacrifice

Scripture

Is. 53:4        Surely he has borne our infirmities
        and carried our diseases;
    yet we accounted him stricken,
        struck down by God, and afflicted.

Observation

The prophet spoke words that would be fulfilled in the life of the Messiah. The words are poignant, gripping us at the place of misunderstanding. The Messiah would bear the corruption of humanity in his flesh, so that he could bring healing. Sadly, we would not understand his sacrifice, but would look upon his diseases with disdain. Little would we understand that the ugliness we saw in his flesh was our ugliness which he chose willingly to suffer so that we could be healed. We are the cause and he must bear the wounds to bring about the healing effect. God’s ways are higher than our ways and the sacrifice made by the Messiah is beyond our complete understanding.

Application


The people had the wrong understanding of the one carrying the infirmities and diseases. As they looked on him they were sure that God w…

“Aha, Aha!”

Scripture

Psalm 40:15     Let those be appalled because of their shame
        who say to me, “Aha, Aha!”

Psa. 40:16        But may all who seek you
        rejoice and be glad in you;
    may those who love your salvation
        say continually, “Great is the Lord!”

Observation

David continues to teach us how to pray. He is a man lives by the spirit, following the leading of the LORD. He finds himself in a situation where others mock and shame him. They look at what he’s done and point it out saying, “Aha, Aha!” Look at what this man is doing and how ridiculous it looks in the eyes of the world. He is brought to public discredit because of his faithfulness to God. The result is confusion and disgrace. David shows us that we are to pray against those who would publicly disgrace God’s followers.

He moves on from praying against the oppressors to praying for those who will seek the LORD. Those who seek God will find God and discover the honor in knowing the LORD is far greater than the disgrac…

A Healthy Curiosity

Scripture

John 1:35   The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39 He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon.

Observation

John the Baptist was out with two of his disciples when he saw Jesus walk by. His comment about Jesus made his two disciples curious so, they began to follow Jesus. Can you imagine how they must have felt when Jesus turned around and confronted them? Here we find the very first words of Jesus as recorded by John. Jesus is responding to the curiosity of the two men and so he enquires of them, “What are you looking for?”…

Even When We Think We Know Better

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, Lord, fo…

A Five Star Review🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Scripture

Psa. 40:9        I have told the glad news of deliverance
        in the great congregation;
    see, I have not restrained my lips,
        as you know, O Lord.
10     I have not hidden your saving help within my heart,
        I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation;
    I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness
        from the great congregation.

Observation

David suffered throughout much of his life, being chased by foreign and even very close enemies. Many were out to destroy him and yet, he was God’s chosen man for leadership. He often records the struggles that he faced both emotionally and physically, but he refused to be singularly focused on his troubles. David needed to express the gratitude that he felt in his heart for all that God had done for him. This had to be a public testimony, where he would give God all the credit for his victories. For David, his spiritual life was more than something that happened in the interior of his life,…

The Peg Gives Way

Scripture

Is. 22:20   On that day I will call my servant Eliakim son of Hilkiah,  21 and will clothe him with your robe and bind your sash on him. I will commit your authority to his hand, and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah.  22 I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and no one shall shut; he shall shut, and no one shall open.  23 I will fasten him like a peg in a secure place, and he will become a throne of honor to his ancestral house.  24 And they will hang on him the whole weight of his ancestral house, the offspring and issue, every small vessel, from the cups to all the flagons.  25 On that day, says the LORD of hosts, the peg that was fastened in a secure place will give way; it will be cut down and fall, and the load that was on it will perish, for the LORD has spoken.

Observation


The corruption among the leadership in Israel was notorious. One leader was losing their position and being replaced …

Finding Our Way Home

Scripture

Isaiah 51:11     So the ransomed of the LORD shall return,
        and come to Zion with singing;
    everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
        they shall obtain joy and gladness,
        and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

Observation

The prophet is speaking words to a people who are anticipating a return from exile. The people of God will be ransomed, a payment made by the capture of two other nations. When that happens the exiles will return home, singing and rejoicing. Jerusalem is their home and finally they will be able to climb the hill again to Zion and their joy will sustain them to the end of their lives. All the years of sorrow and sadness which they have experienced in exile will disappear.

Not only is the prophet speaking to those who were suffering in physical exile, but to those who struggle in a spiritual exile. Jesus, the Messiah would come, and he would pay the ransom to set God’s people free. Those who are ransomed will then return home — to their sp…

The Place of Discipline

Scripture

Psalm 89:30     If his children forsake my law
        and do not walk according to my ordinances,
31     if they violate my statutes
        and do not keep my commandments,
32     then I will punish their transgression with the rod
        and their iniquity with scourges;
33     but I will not remove from him my steadfast love,
        or be false to my faithfulness.

Observation


The cry of the Psalmist was for a continuation of the Davidic line. The people of God were, far too often, found to be unfaithful. The hope was in the eternal love of the Father. Drawing upon the metaphor of parenthood and the need for discipline, the Psalmist conjures up a vision of a parent who refuses to give up on their child. This Psalm brings up a great If-Then statement. If they forsake the law; If they violate God’s statues — Then they will be punished with the rod. The language here is again parental. God, the Father doesn’t say that the children will be destroyed, but that they will receive th…

When Deborah Died

Scripture

Gen. 35:5   As they journeyed, a terror from God fell upon the cities all around them, so that no one pursued them.  6 Jacob came to Luz (that is, Bethel), which is in the land of Canaan, he and all the people who were with him,  7 and there he built an altar and called the place El-bethel, because it was there that God had revealed himself to him when he fled from his brother.  8 And Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, died, and she was buried under an oak below Bethel. So it was called Allon-bacuth.

Observation

This is the only time that the name of Rebekah’s nurse, Deborah is mentioned. She was the woman who had served along-side Jacob’s mother and had probably nursed him as a small child. More than just a servant in the household, this woman was dearly loved and probably embraced as a mother or grandmother. Her influence over Jacob and his family must have been great because her passing caused great pain for them all. Rebekah’s death isn’t mentioned, but here, this servant Deborah’s…

Glory Thunders Over Mighty Waters

Scripture

Psa. 29   A Psalm of David. Ascribe to the LORD, O heavenly beings,
        ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.
Ascribe to the LORD the glory of his name;
        worship the LORD in holy splendor.
The voice of the LORD is over the waters;
        the God of glory thunders,
        the LORD, over mighty waters.
The voice of the LORD is powerful;
        the voice of the LORD is full of majesty.
The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars;
        the LORD breaks the cedars of Lebanon.
He makes Lebanon skip like a calf,
        and Sirion like a young wild ox.
The voice of the LORD flashes forth flames of fire.
The voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness;
        the LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
The voice of the LORD causes the oaks to whirl,
        and strips the forest bare;
        and in his temple all say, “Glory!”
The LORD sits enthroned over the flood;
        the LORD sits enthroned as king forever.
May the LORD give strength to his people!
        May the LORD bless his…

Do You Believe in Ebenezer?

Scripture

1Sam. 7:12   Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Jeshanah, and named it Ebenezer; for he said, “Thus far the LORD has helped us.”

Observation


Samuel was the leader of the Israelites and this story becomes very significant because it lays down a truth regarding a cornerstone — an Ebenezer — which is essential for the Israelites to be the people of God. Samuel had called the people together to celebrate the return of the ark of the covenant. They had lost the ark because they had been unfaithful to God. Throughout the history of the Israelites God has used foreign enemies to get their attention when they had refused to worship God alone. In this case, it was the Philistines. Only after Samuel called the people to repentance and faithfulness was the ark returned. The scene unfolds as masses of people come together to worship God. The neighboring Philistines mistake the gathering for an army and determine to attack them. What results is divine intervention on…

Bearing Gifts

Scripture

Matt. 2:1    In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem,  2 asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.”  3 When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him;  4 and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.

Observation

Angels didn’t visit the Gentiles from the East to proclaim the arrival of the Messiah, but God did send a sign in the heavens to draw them toward the Son. This was a sign of the kingdom of God, a symbol that things were about to change and the arrival of the wise men brought that vision to life. No wonder Herod and all of Jerusalem were disturbed by their arrival. The Jews were not ready to embrace their Messiah and now things were stirred up by the arrival Gentiles who were ready to accept and worship …