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Showing posts from February, 2017

Demanding What They Craved

Scripture

Psa. 78:17        Yet they sinned still more against him,
        rebelling against the Most High in the desert.
18     They tested God in their heart
        by demanding the food they craved.

Observation

This is a Psalm about the faithfulness of God, and yet it also reveals when the people refused to follow in obedience. The Israelites were testing God’s faithfulness while they wandered in the wilderness. They had seen God part the waters but now, they were tired of their travels and and they didn’t believe that God had the power to provide them with necessary food and water. They chose to stop believing until God would again prove to be faithful.

Their desire for proof of God’s power came out of a lust for things that they craved. This wasn’t what they needed, but what they wanted. God had a way of providing for their every need, but now they wanted what they craved, and were demanding it from God.

Application


The Israelites were willing to put God to the test by demanding what …

Tactfully Ignored

Scripture

Matt. 17:1   Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. 2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. 3 Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4 Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 5 While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. 7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” 8 And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.

Observation

This is the amazing scene of the transfiguration of Jesus Christ. Right before the eyes of Pet…

False Assumptions About Power

Scripture

Psa. 2:1        Why do the nations conspire,
        and the peoples plot in vain?
2     The kings of the earth set themselves,
        and the rulers take counsel together,
        against the Lord and his anointed, saying,
3     “Let us burst their bonds asunder,
        and cast their cords from us.”

Observation

This Messianic Psalm has been quoted numerous times in the New Testament. It really expresses a misunderstanding about power and kingdom which is transformed by the coming of the Messiah. The people simply do not understand the power of God’s kingdom. Therefore the nations and the people try to plot ways in which they can take on the kingdom of God. The rulers and authorities of this world establish themselves in places and ways in which they believe they have control. Eventually they come to believe that they are more powerful than God and in their egocentrism they refuse to follow God’s laws. They choose to break away from God’s precepts and they throw the cords of God’s…

Intentional Suffering

Scripture

Hebrews 11:24 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called a son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to share ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He considered abuse suffered for the Christ to be greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to the reward.

Observation

Here Moses is presented as an example of faith. So much of his life is a reflection of faith in God, but also a foreshadowing of the coming Messiah. Moses gave up the crown which he could have had in Egypt in order to identify with God’s people. This was his choice to identify with his own people. This meant that he chose to be treated poorly by the world — even the world that had previously been his home. He intentionally left that home to because he understood the long-term nature of things. The Egyptian kingdom was fleeting when it came to the eternal kingdom of God.

It’s interesting the way the language changes in this…

The Center of Our Love

Scripture

Luke 18:22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “There is still one thing lacking. Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” 23 But when he heard this, he became sad; for he was very rich.

Observation

The ruler had been so careful about following the letter of God’s law. He believed that it revealed his love for God, but he didn’t realize that true love of God was revealed in his love for others. In reality he was consumed with a self-centered love that focused on himself and his personal wealth. Beyond that he wanted the approval of those around him that he was a religious man. Jesus got to the heart of the man’s motivation when he touched on what was most important to him. To be a disciple would have cost him much more than he was willing to pay for it would have cost him his place at the center of his own life.

Application

We may not be aware of what we might find at the center of our affections…

Prompt Obedience

Scripture

Psalm 119:59 When I think of your ways,
        I turn my feet to your decrees;
60     I hurry and do not delay
        to keep your commandments.

Observation

The Psalmist’s prayer reveals spiritual growth. Prompt obedience was not always a way of life but now a new obedience was developing in the heart and life of the one who spent time in the presence of God. No longer is time spent in the sinful pleasures of this world, but the desire to follow God is immediate. Hearing and learning from God’s heart means a desire to hurry up and following the Lord’s leading in all things.

Application

We don’t always want to respond to God’s leading in a prompt way. Mulling things over and taking time to try and decide whether God’s leading is a good thing — is never a good thing. The Psalmist would never have known how to promptly obey had he not spent time in the presence of God. When we do not act promptly, it may be that we unsure if we are hearing the voice of God. Responding promptly…

Holiness and Perfection

Scripture

Leviticus 19:1-10 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying:
Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy. When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the alien: I am the LORD your God.

Matthew 5:42-48 Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you. "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax c…

Double Tithe Restitution

Scripture

Lev. 6:1   The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 2 When any of you sin and commit a trespass against the Lord by deceiving a neighbor in a matter of a deposit or a pledge, or by robbery, or if you have defrauded a neighbor, 3 or have found something lost and lied about it—if you swear falsely regarding any of the various things that one may do and sin thereby— 4 when you have sinned and realize your guilt, and would restore what you took by robbery or by fraud or the deposit that was committed to you, or the lost thing that you found, 5 or anything else about which you have sworn falsely, you shall repay the principal amount and shall add one-fifth to it. You shall pay it to its owner when you realize your guilt. 6 And you shall bring to the priest, as your guilt offering to the Lord, a ram without blemish from the flock, or its equivalent, for a guilt offering. 7 The priest shall make atonement on your behalf before the Lord, and you shall be forgiven for any of the things that o…

Moral Imperatives

Scripture

Ex. 22:21   You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. 22 You shall not abuse any widow or orphan. 23 If you do abuse them, when they cry out to me, I will surely heed their cry; 24 my wrath will burn, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children orphans.
Ex. 22:25   If you lend money to my people, to the poor among you, you shall not deal with them as a creditor; you shall not exact interest from them. 26 If you take your neighbor’s cloak in pawn, you shall restore it before the sun goes down; 27 for it may be your neighbor’s only clothing to use as cover; in what else shall that person sleep? And if your neighbor cries out to me, I will listen, for I am compassionate.

Observation

When God speaks these words to the Israelites they are moral imperatives, given in the form of the Ten Commandments. The behaviors here are not something that would be enforced by a human court of law, but they…

Well-Directed Love

Scripture

Psalm 119:16     I will delight in your statutes;
        I will not forget your word.

Observation

The ABC’s of Psalm 119 take us through a beautiful journey. The “B” section focus on the absorbed heart and closes with this verse. The heart that is focused with well-directed love will discover emotions and memory are now properly aligned to the purposes of God. Augustine in “City of God” tells us, “The right will is, therefore, well-directed love, and the wrong will is ill-directed love. Love, then, yearning to have what is loved, is desire; and having and enjoying it, is joy; fleeing what is opposed to it, it is fear; and feeling what is opposed to it, when it has befallen it, it is sadness.” (14.7)

When our hearts are directed toward God, there is an overflow love. This results in good works but the source comes from the well-directed love that delights in God’s laws and remembers the word.

Application

Spending time in the word is absolutely vital to our walk with Jesus Christ.…

Impartiality or Discrimination

Scripture

James 2:1   My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? 2 For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, 3 and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Have a seat here, please,” while to the one who is poor you say, “Stand there,” or, “Sit at my feet,” 4 have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court? 7 Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you?

Observation


James begins this section by declaring that those who reflect Jesus Christ would not show favo…

Perseverance in Faith

Scripture

James 1:2   My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; 4 and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.

Observation

James was speaking to the early Christian believers who were suddenly facing persecution because of their faith. The severe persecutions had not yet begun, but they were experiencing a new type of low-key persecution for they were being rejected socially and had become victims of economic boycott. Once they declared that they were Christians they had become victims of discrimination because of their faith. While this was discouraging, James wanted to encourage them to consider it pure joy that they were facing trials. Their faith was to be seen by those in the world. If they were being persecuted, their lives were an effective witness.

Therefore we are to rejoice in the testing of our faith beca…

Factionalism

Scripture

1Cor. 3:1   And so, brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now you are still not ready, 3 for you are still of the flesh. For as long as there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations? 4 For when one says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apollos,” are you not merely human?

Observation

The condition of the Corinthians was determined by their spiritual diet. Instead of continually growing spiritually and moving on to a more adult diet, they had remained infants. Intentionally so! The result was a worldliness that came from thinking about ministry and the Christian life from a secular perspective. The people were following after preachers as if they were a popular cult. They were dividing up into different factions and arguing with on…

Insisting on Tradition

Scripture

Matt. 15:1    Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, 2 “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands before they eat.” 3 He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God said, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever speaks evil of father or mother must surely die.’ 5 But you say that whoever tells father or mother, ‘Whatever support you might have had from me is given to God,’ then that person need not honor the father. 6 So, for the sake of your tradition, you make void the word of God. 7 You hypocrites! Isaiah prophesied rightly about you when he said:
8     ‘This people honors me with their lips,
        but their hearts are far from me;
9     in vain do they worship me,
        teaching human precepts as doctrines.’”

Observation

The Pharisees and scribes in Jerusalem were those with the most religious authority. They were concerned because J…

Take a Break

Scripture

Lev. 26:34   Then the land shall enjoy its sabbath years as long as it lies desolate, while you are in the land of your enemies; then the land shall rest, and enjoy its sabbath years. 35 As long as it lies desolate, it shall have the rest it did not have on your sabbaths when you were living on it.

Observation

God revealed that there would be consequences for disobedience. The people of God were to observe a Sabbath rest. They were to give the land a year of Sabbath rest and yet, in their covetousness, to get everything that they could out of the soil, they refused to follow God’s law.

If they did not allow the Sabbath rest to come upon the land, then the people themselves would be handed over to their enemies and the land would have its rest. So important was the need for rest that if God’s people would not do it voluntarily, God would have to manage it by action.

Application


Sabbath rest is important for all of us. Earlier this week I wrote about the ant and making sure we wor…

When Faced With Temptation

Scripture

James 1:12   Blessed is anyone who endures temptation. Such a one has stood the test and will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. 13 No one, when tempted, should say, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one. 14 But one is tempted by one’s own desire, being lured and enticed by it; 15 then, when that desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and that sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death. 16 Do not be deceived, my beloved.

Observation


It seems odd that this section would begin like a beatitude. The one who endures the temptation or trial is the one who is blessed. The word used here is the same for “test,” “trial,” and “tempt.” It is the same language of the Israelites in the wilderness when they succumbed to the temptation and worshipped the golden calf. The test came from within themselves for they continually longed for the way of life that they had experienced in Egypt.…

Oh to be Ant-like

Scripture

Prov. 6:6        Go to the ant, you lazybones;
        consider its ways, and be wise.
7     Without having any chief
        or officer or ruler,
8     it prepares its food in summer,
        and gathers its sustenance in harvest.
9     How long will you lie there, O lazybones?
        When will you rise from your sleep?
10     A little sleep, a little slumber,
        a little folding of the hands to rest,
11     and poverty will come upon you like a robber,
        and want, like an armed warrior.

Observation

The ant is so tiny, and yet it will achieve things far beyond it’s own strength. We are to consider the work of the ant and learn what it means to work in God’s kingdom.

The ant has an incredible harvest, one that is the result of the ant’s labors. Just imagine the little ant that sneaks into the kitchen and walks off with the crumb of food. We don’t stop the ant because we are fascinated that such a little creature could carry something so large. In awe and wonder we simply let t…

How Did We Get Here?

Scripture

2Kings 23:4   The king commanded the high priest Hilkiah, the priests of the second order, and the guardians of the threshold, to bring out of the temple of the Lord all the vessels made for Baal, for Asherah, and for all the host of heaven; he burned them outside Jerusalem in the fields of the Kidron, and carried their ashes to Bethel.

Observation

King Josiah was discovering the law of God which had become completely hidden. As the horrible truth of the peoples’ infidelity became apparent he realized that he had to take action. This included cleaning out the temple — the house of God. There in the temple they discovered all the apparatus of idol-worship. Worship of God, in God’s house, had been replaced by worship of Baal, Asherah, and the moon, sun, and stars. The vessels necessary for this worship had been brought into the temple and displaced the things of God.

Josiah took decisive action and had all the vessels of idol worship removed from the temple, brought to the Kidro…

So Much More to Learn

Scripture

Psalm 119:108     Accept my offerings of praise, O Lord,
        and teach me your ordinances.

Observation

The Psalmist understands the importance of studying the Scriptures so that they light the pathway for life. In the midst of learning the Scriptures we are overwhelmed with a desire to praise the Lord. Our praises become an offering before our Lord. Not only are our praises an offering, but also following God’s ordinances. It is in the Scriptures that we learn the ordinances that will teach us the way in which to live. Our prayer is for the on-going teaching that needs to occur in our own lives. There is always so much more to learn.

Application

As a child I used to look forward to the end of the school year. Yes! Summer time and I didn’t have to learn anymore. I wouldn’t need to read books but I could just play and have fun. Then, as the years went on I used to imagine what it would be like to finish High School. That would be simply glorious and I wouldn’t have to learn all…

High Expectations

Scripture

Matthew 5:20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Observation

Jesus is preaching his Sermon on the Mount and has just shared the Beatitudes.  He lets the people know that he did not come to destroy the law, but to fulfill the law. The Pharisees and the scribes were people who were consumed with following the very letter of the law. The problem was that it didn’t come from their hearts and Jesus was anticipating a new era. He was ushering in a new kingdom in which the hearts of the people would turn toward God. The expectations were high for those who would take up their cross and follow Jesus for their righteousness would exceed that of the religious leaders.

Application

Today’s Old Testament passage is a reminder of the kind of righteousness that the Lord expects. The people of God were not living the way in which had been anticipated and these words were spoken against them:

Isaiah 58:6-…

You Can’t Hide What You’re Up To

Scripture

Is. 29:15        Ha! You who hide a plan too deep for the Lord,
        whose deeds are in the dark,
        and who say, “Who sees us? Who knows us?”

Observation


The people of Jerusalem thought that they could hide their political plans from God. In doing so they were showing contempt for the Creator, and they were doing it with great bravado. Not only did they think that God wouldn’t find out but they thought that other people wouldn’t either. Therefore they continued with their secret alliances and political intrigue. Any confrontation regarding their actions was met with the suppression of truth. It was as if they repeated their own lie often enough and loud enough, even they would believe it!

It is strange to imagine that we can hide anything from God, for not only does God know what we are up to, but God even knows our personal thoughts.

Application

It seems as if we humans have always thought the we could hide the truth from one another, and quite specifically from God. We …

Pure Wisdom

Scripture

James 3:17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.

Observation


The tongue is a problem for all of humanity. James wrote about this a long time ago. Today he’d probably say that using the fingers to write things is also a problem. Within this context he is telling us what happens when our focus becomes the wisdom of God and not the wisdom of this world. There is a major difference. God’s wisdom is pure; untarnished by the opinions of the world. This wisdom constantly seeks to fulfill the mission of God and to bring peace. This wisdom is gentle as it takes time to listen to the thoughts and opinions of others and is willing to yield when common ground can be found. Compassion overflows from this type of wisdom, pouring out good on those who are in need and is willing to associate with eve…

It’s Hard to Wait

Scripture

Psa. 37:7        Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him;
        do not fret over those who prosper in their way,
        over those who carry out evil devices.

Observation

God’s timetable is not always the same as ours. The Psalmist encourages us to learn to be still and wait for God. Not only are we to wait, but we are to do so patiently. The temptation during that time of waiting is to fret and look at what is happening in the lives of others. It’s hard to wait when you look over at someone else’s life and it looks as if everything is going smoothly. But that is not to disturb us. We are to keep our eyes on Jesus and wait.

Application

It is in the stillness of waiting that we are able to get to know the heart of God. In that quiet space, when the distractions of this world are suddenly silent, we are able to hear and understand much more fully the gentle musings and longings of the heart of God. Only when we learn to hear and to experience those nudgings from the …