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Showing posts from March, 2017

Sweet as Honey

Scripture

Ezek. 3:1   He said to me, O mortal, eat what is offered to you; eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel. 2 So I opened my mouth, and he gave me the scroll to eat. 3 He said to me, Mortal, eat this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it. Then I ate it; and in my mouth it was as sweet as honey.

Observation

This interesting passage has one wondering about the intent of the message. Could it be that the prophet is offered the word of God? Take this — the Scriptures and appropriate God’s truth. Once it becomes a part of who the prophet is — then he can go and speak to the house of Israel. He must personally devour the word before he is able to use it for the Kingdom’s sake. Once he understands this he voraciously devours the word until he is filled. In devouring the word he discovers that it is not only satisfying, but sweet as honey, as a beautiful dessert at the end of a delicious meal.

Application

Jesus’ time of fasting took him to the wilderness where…

Praise the Lord, Indeed!

Scripture

Psa. 146:1        Praise the Lord!
    Praise the Lord, O my soul!
2     I will praise the Lord as long as I live;
        I will sing praises to my God all my life long.

Psa. 146:3        Do not put your trust in princes,
        in mortals, in whom there is no help.
4     When their breath departs, they return to the earth;
        on that very day their plans perish.

Psa. 146:5        Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
        whose hope is in the Lord their God,
6     who made heaven and earth,
        the sea, and all that is in them;
    who keeps faith forever;
7         who executes justice for the oppressed;
        who gives food to the hungry.

Observation

We are invited into a lifestyle and attitude of praise and thanksgiving. We are to praise the Lord as long as we are alive, and then well into eternity. Praising the Lord will become the very nature of our attitude day in and day out — why not begin practicing now!

We praise God, for the Lord is trustworthy. Our God i…

Intercession

Scripture

Col. 1:9   For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God. 11 May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. 13 He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Observation

This is Paul’s prayer of intercession for the Colossian believers. He recognizes the great needs in their lives and continually lifts them up in prayer. The major needs include knowledge of God’s will. …

The Great Reversal

Scripture

Isaiah 59:15b The Lord saw it, and it displeased him
        that there was no justice.
16     He saw that there was no one,
        and was appalled that there was no one to intervene;
    so his own arm brought him victory,
        and his righteousness upheld him.
17     He put on righteousness like a breastplate,
        and a helmet of salvation on his head;
    he put on garments of vengeance for clothing,
        and wrapped himself in fury as in a mantle.

Observation

The people of God had wandered so far from the truth that there was no one left to reflect God’s image in the world. God’s holiness demands justice, and there was none to be found. No one remained who was willing to be an intercessor. There was no sacrificing on behalf of another and God found this appalling. How could God’s people have moved so far away from their Creator? But God refused to be defeated by the very one who had been created by God’s outpouring of holy love.

Our own remedies will never be sufficient …

Reflecting Light

Scripture

Ephesians 5:8 For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light— 9 for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. 10 Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to mention what such people do secretly; 13 but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, 14 for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,
    “Sleeper, awake!
        Rise from the dead,
    and Christ will shine on you.”

Observation

Jesus is the light and if we are in a relationship with Christ, we will reflect his light. The brightness of the light doesn’t leave shadows where particular activities can be hidden. When bright light enters the darkness the things that are hidden are exposed.

The section ends with what is believed to have been an early baptismal hymn — a declaration for those who were now following Christ and …

A Nine-Month Wait

Scripture

Luke 1:26   In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be …

Life-long Provision

Scripture

Psa. 23:0   A Psalm of David.
1     The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
2         He makes me lie down in green pastures;
    he leads me beside still waters;
3         he restores my soul.
    He leads me in right paths
        for his name’s sake.

Psa. 23:4        Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
        I fear no evil;
    for you are with me;
        your rod and your staff—
        they comfort me.

Psa. 23:5        You prepare a table before me
        in the presence of my enemies;
    you anoint my head with oil;
        my cup overflows.
6     Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
        all the days of my life,
    and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
        my whole life long.

Observation

The good Shepherd in this Psalm is a foreshadowing of Jesus Christ. Daily we are invited into deeper intimacy with our Lord who reminds us that all provision has already been made for our lives. As a result, we shall not want for those things which we absolutely need. J…

Dealing with Frustration

Scripture

Eph. 4:25   So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. 26 Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and do not make room for the devil.

Observation

Paul makes this comment right after discussing holiness. There is an expectation that God’s holy people will be those who learn how to deal with frustrations in life. The reality is that there will always be circumstances and relationships that may be deemed a bit difficult. In the midst of those struggles we are not to spread any falsehoods about anyone. In other words — don’t gossip. Sometimes it’s all just a matter of perspective. One person may see a situation one way and someone else another. There is no need to demonize anyone, but there is a need to speak openly and honestly with one another. If we are to work and function as the body of Christ we must recognize that we are related to one another. If we are making another mem…

Our Wilderness Journey

Scripture

1Cor. 10:1   I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them, and they were struck down in the wilderness.

Observation

Paul is reminding the Corinthians about the Israelites’ wilderness journey. It was on this journey that God provided for them everything that they needed, and yet they grumbled and complained. They wanted food and God gave them manna, providing food for them for forty years. They were thirsty and they received water from the rock. They were rescued from their Egyptian oppressors by passing through the sea. Moses was their spiritual father, present with them day in and day out to lead them to the spiri…

Grace and Peace

Scripture

Rom. 5:1   Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.

Observation

God is continually reaching out to humanity through grace. God’s grace pours out as a river, like channels of love enveloping all those who may have gone astray. Through faith we respond to the holy love that meets us in grace. The result is justification by faith as the repentant return home to the Father. Finally, there is an outpouring of God’s peace which reaches to the depths of our being, and allows us to comfortably sharing in the hope of the glory of God. God’s grace reaching out to us brings us into fellowship with the Prince of Peace.

Application

The combination of  “Grace and Peace” is not uncommon. There are people who sign of their correspondence with “Grace and Peace.” We have had a magazine called “Grace and Peace.” And t…

When Overabundance Spoils

Scripture

Ex. 16:27   On the seventh day some of the people went out to gather, and they found none. 28 The Lord said to Moses, “How long will you refuse to keep my commandments and instructions? 29 See! The Lord has given you the sabbath, therefore on the sixth day he gives you food for two days; each of you stay where you are; do not leave your place on the seventh day.” 30 So the people rested on the seventh day.

Observation

The people had been instructed in the daily gathering of manna. They were to collect just enough for everyone, every day, but they had also been told that on the 6th day they were to gather twice as much. When they took too much manna on an ordinary day, against the commands of God, it spoiled! When they followed God’s commands the manna provided for their physical needs and it remained sweet and fresh.

On the seventh day some of the people went out to collect more manna for they refused to submit to the leadership of Moses, and they didn’t have faith to believe t…

Overcome With Gratitude

Scripture

Eph. 2:11   So then, remember that at one time you Gentiles by birth, called “the uncircumcision” by those who are called “the circumcision”—a physical circumcision made in the flesh by human hands— 12 remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. 15 He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, 16 and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. 17 So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who…

A Servant of the Gospel

Scripture

Col. 1:21   And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him— 23 provided that you continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven. I, Paul, became a servant of this gospel.

Observation

The testimony of the Colossians lives is important to Paul. The action of Christ has made possible the reconciliation of the Colossians and their ability to live faithfully. That completed, the Colossians must be willful participants in living out their lives in steadfast faith. Their foundation is strong, but now they are also to endure to the very end, allowing no space for a shifting of their faith. Christian hope has given them new life and it is Christian hope which will sustain them. According to John Wesl…

A New Heart

Scripture

Ezekiel 36:26 A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 I will put my spirit within you, and make you follow my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances.

Observation

The peoples’ hearts had become like stone. They were rigid and inflexible when it came to their relationship with God. Nothing came out of a passion for the Lord, but rather out of strict and possibly, reluctant obedience. The prophecy was about a future time in which all of that would change. A heart-transplant, so to speak, would occur. A new heart and a new spirit would change everything. The motivations and the desires of the heart would be for the things of God, because the spirit of God will have brought new life.  The result would be a fresh new heart capable of falling in love with a holy God.

Application


It’s time for all of us to fall in love with Jesus. Our spiritual life isn’t suppose…

On the Holy Mountain

Scripture

Isaiah 65:25     The wolf and the lamb shall feed together,
        the lion shall eat straw like the ox;
        but the serpent—its food shall be dust!
    They shall not hurt or destroy
        on all my holy mountain,    
            says the Lord.

Observation


Holiness transforms the vilest of enemies into peaceable friends. On the holy mountain of God the remarkable begins to occur as the wolf and the lamb eat together and the carnivorous lion simply eats straw. The enemy — the serpent — is defeated and eats dust. No longer is there any harm done among the former enemies for the holy mountain transforms all.

Application

The invitation is to join the Lord on the holy mountain where complete transformation leads us into the holy life. It’s the place where my former neighbor in Moscow, the one who had persecuted Christians, can be transformed and become a believer himself. It’s the place where those with petty differences can put them aside and be united in genuine friendship beca…

Grace and Faith

Scripture

Rom. 4:16   For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us, 7 as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”)—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.

Observation

Paul is explaining that Abraham pleased God first and foremost through faith. He didn’t know anything about the law that would come later. God reached out to him in grace, and Abraham responded. The same is true for us, that God reaches out in prevenient grace to all. This was the promise to Abraham that stretched out through the ages and draws us toward God today. Prevenient grace is constantly at work and we respond in faith. It is grace that draws us into the life of holy fellowship with God.

Application

When we begin …

Humble Faith and Diversity

Scripture

Luke 7:1   After Jesus had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. 2 A centurion there had a slave whom he valued highly, and who was ill and close to death. 3 When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to him, asking him to come and heal his slave. 4 When they came to Jesus, they appealed to him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy of having you do this for him, 5 for he loves our people, and it is he who built our synagogue for us.” 6 And Jesus went with them, but when he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to say to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; 7 therefore I did not presume to come to you. But only speak the word, and let my servant be healed. 8 For I also am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it.” 9 When Jesus heard…

Let’s Get Personal

Scripture

2Tim. 1:3   I am grateful to God—whom I worship with a clear conscience, as my ancestors did—when I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. 4 Recalling your tears, I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy. 5 I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you.

Observation

Here in the closing of this epistle we find this thanksgiving. First of all we are pointed to the importance of prayer and the way in which it becomes a part of one’s lifestyle, being devoted day and night to prayer. Next we discover deep devotion for one another, a relationship that touches the heart and brings tears to the eye. And finally there is gratitude for the investment of a mother and grandmother in the life of a young man. What we see is oersonal sacrifice and the intentional passing on of the faith which happened in the home. All of these personal factors have contributed to the minist…

Wanting it All

Scripture

Genesis 4:13 Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear! 14 Today you have driven me away from the soil, and I shall be hidden from your face; I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and anyone who meets me may kill me.”

Observation

Cain had killed his brother Abel and God had now declared the punishment. He would have to leave the place where he had been and the land would no longer respond in the way that it had. Instead of showing repentance for what he had done, Cain is dismayed over his punishment. He doesn’t ask for forgiveness, but for leniency. The punishment was to leave God’s presence and to have God’s face hidden from him. Cain had been enjoying all the benefits of having God’s face shine upon him. He was enjoying the holy love relationship found in the Trinity, and the perfection of the garden which provided for all of his needs. Cain wanted it all. He wanted to have his own way with his brother, but he still wanted the benefits of …

Don’t be Mulish

Scripture

Psa. 32:8        I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go;
        I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
9     Do not be like a horse or a mule, without understanding,
        whose temper must be curbed with bit and bridle,
        else it will not stay near you.

Observation

It is in the intimacy of prayer that we learn to hear the voice of God and understand the directions which we may receive. There are constantly stumbling blocks along life’s journey and we must learn to navigate the terrain. It is God who sees it all and can provide us with up to date guidance to get us from where we are to where we are going. We must learn to recognize the voice of the Lord and then we can walk freely. When we fail to listen we become like the horse or the mule who must be bridled and prodded along and around the roadblocks. The mule doesn’t plan for anything but simply goes and must be led moment by moment.

We are invited into a place of special understanding through fellow…

Famished

Scripture

Matt. 4:1    Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. 3 The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But he answered, “It is written,
    ‘One does not live by bread alone,
        but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Observation

Jesus spent forty days and nights in the wilderness fasting. When he was finished with his fast he was “famished.” It was in this condition that the tempter came and tested him at the point of his perceived weakness. While his flesh was weak from fasting, Jesus knew that there was more to life than simply physical food. For the enduring race of life one needs to be fed with the word of God. It was in his famished state that Jesus was devouring the word which sustained him through the most difficult times in his life.

Application

This is the first Sunday of L…

Time to Change

Scripture

Matt. 18:1   At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 He called a child, whom he put among them, 3 and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

Observation

The disciples had spent far too much time arguing about their positions in Jesus’ new kingdom. They still couldn’t comprehend what this kingdom might be like for their lens was that of the world. Their ambitions were getting the best of them when Jesus used a child as an object lesson. The problem was that their attitudes were childish, but that wasn’t what Jesus wanted. They were to become childlike and that is something quite different. T

This change was to be one in which the disciples themselves would participate, intentionally and in humility asking t…

We Really Do Need Each Other!

Scripture

Romans 1:11 For I am longing to see you so that I may share with you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— 12 or rather so that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.

Observation

The Apostle Paul is expressing his desire to visit Rome. His visit and purpose is very intentional. He is not simply planning a vacation to Rome to see the great sights, nor is it even just to have fellowship with fellow believers. If Paul is going to come to Rome, then there is a spiritual purpose in mind. This includes bringing a spiritual gift to strengthen the believers, but this is also seen in mutual encouragement. Paul doesn’t just come to bless the folks in Rome, but he recognizes his own need for spiritual encouragement which he will receive from them.

Paul needed the Romans as much as they needed him. He never places himself in a position of superiority, but humbles himself to become the learner, placing himself on equal position with the believers in Rome…

Inside Out Cleansing

Scripture

Psa. 51:6        You desire truth in the inward being;
        therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
7     Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
        wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8     Let me hear joy and gladness;
        let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.
9     Hide your face from my sins,
        and blot out all my iniquities.

Psa. 51:10        Create in me a clean heart, O God,
        and put a new and right spirit within me.
11     Do not cast me away from your presence,
        and do not take your holy spirit from me.
12     Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
        and sustain in me a willing spirit.

Observation

David had sinned and was devastated by his own behavior. Something within him had driven him to such self-centered behaviors that he was willing to manipulate circumstances to his own benefit. Now, a man was dead and this other man’s wife was pregnant with King David’s child. Overcome with guilt and conviction D…

Why Fast?

Scripture

Is. 58:6        Is not this the fast that I choose:
        to loose the bonds of injustice,
        to undo the thongs of the yoke,
    to let the oppressed go free,
        and to break every yoke?
7     Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
        and bring the homeless poor into your house;
    when you see the naked, to cover them,
        and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
8     Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
        and your healing shall spring up quickly;
    your vindicator shall go before you,
        the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
9     Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
        you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.

Observation


God was speaking through the prophet Isaiah about fasting. First God spoke to the heart motivation of the one fasting. When the goal of fasting is to gain attention from others then something is wrong. This is misdirected energy which must be refocused on God’s intended purpose…