Showing posts from July, 2017

Loving Care for the House of God

Scripture John 2:17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
This is the account of Jesus who, when entering Jerusalem discovers the market that has evolved around the entry to the temple. He is distraught at the condition of his Father’s house and lashes out at those desecrating its hallowed halls. Only later do the disciples truly understand what they have witnessed and they recall the Old Testament passage found in Psalm 69:9, “It is zeal for your house that has consumed me; the insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.”
Referring to Jesus’ response, Augustine put is this way, “He then is eaten up with zeal for God’s house who desires to correct all that he sees wrong there. And if he cannot correct it, he endures and mourns. . . . Let the zeal for God’s house consume every Christian wherever he or she is a member. . . . In your house you busy yourself in trying to prevent things going wrong. In the house of God, where…

Marriage and Delight

Is. 62:4     You shall no more be termed Forsaken,         and your land shall no more be termed Desolate;     but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her,         and your land Married;     for the LORD delights in you,         and your land shall be married.  Is. 62:5     For as a young man marries a young woman,         so shall your builder marry you,     and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,         so shall your God rejoice over you. (NRSV)
No longer will they call you Deserted,     or name your land Desolate. But you will be called Hephzibah,     and your land Beulah; for the Lord will take delight in you,     and your land will be married. (NIV)
This prophecy regarding the transformation of Zion should be a blessing to us all. As the children of Israel had wandered about in exile they were about to discover what it meant to return home.  No longer were they going to feel as if they were forsaken or deserted.  Their homeland was to be transformed, no longer deso…

Supporting Others

Scripture 2Pet. 3:14   Therefore, beloved, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish; 15 and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation. So also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 speaking of this as he does in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures. 17 You therefore, beloved, since you are forewarned, beware that you are not carried away with the error of the lawless and lose your own stability. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.
This epistle of Peter is coming to a close. It is filled with encouragement for those who are following Christ in the midst of difficult days. The discipleship of believers was of utmost importance for this is what Jesus had …

Don’t Be Afraid of Extending Yourself

Scripture Isaiah 54:2Enlarge the site of your tent, and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out; do not hold back; lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes.
Following the great chapter on the suffering servant we come to this 54th chapter of Isaiah. Many presume that this is a commentary on the church which will come as a result of the work of the suffering servant. Because of Christ’s death, resurrection and ascension, the church was birthed. All throughout history we must remember that this is Christ’s church, and not ours. It is Jesus who says, “I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18) — not, go and and build a church for me! If that is the case, then these are words of instructions for those who are participating in kingdom work through the church.
The tent of the church is to be just that — a flexible and portable way in which to reach the world. There is an expectation that the tent will be enlarged, inviting more and more to come into the shelter which…

Finding Yourself in Babylon

Scripture I Peter 5:13 Your sister church in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you greetings; and so does my son Mark.
In the closing comments of this letter we find this reference to Babylon. Just the mention of the name Babylon conjures up many images for God’s people for it is the place in which they found themselves in exile. They were prisoners in a foreign land because they had been unfaithful to God, worshipping far too many idols. Now, this reference in 1 Peter to Babylon is quite interesting. Most scholars believe that this is a code name for Rome. More than likely this letter was written at the height of Nero’s reign and persecution of Christians, around AD 60. Paul would soon be martyred. The evil of the city which surrounded these followers of Jesus Christ could be compared to no other than Babylon.
Peter, Mark, Silvanus, Paul, and others found themselves in Rome. They had been drawn to this capital city where they found an overabundance of idola…

Recovery and Holiness

Scripture Is. 41:19I will put in the wilderness the cedar, the acacia, the myrtle, and the olive; I will set in the desert the cypress, the plane and the pine together, 20so that all may see and know, all may consider and understand, that the hand of the Lord has done this, the Holy One of Israel has created it.
The words ofIsaiah were an encouragement for those who were suffering in exile. They were praying and dreaming about the day in which they would return home. Now, there comes a promise of recovery for God’s people. On their return there will be water in the desert, but also shelter where there would normally be none. The trees mentioned are those which grow tall and offer lovely shade from the heat of the day. It would have been uncommon to find them in the desert but this was God’s promise of care and provision for those who would be recovering from their time in exile. All of the needs of God’s people would be supplied.
The promise also foreshadowed a time when God’s peop…

On Whom Do You Rely?

Scripture Is. 36:4   The Rabshakeh said to them, “Say to Hezekiah: Thus says the great king, the king of Assyria: On what do you base this confidence of yours? 5 Do you think that mere words are strategy and power for war? On whom do you now rely, that you have rebelled against me?
The Rabshakeh was an assistant to the King of Assyria, more than likely his cupbearer. He appeared before King Hezekiah with great pride and viewed Hezekiah’s defiance as arrogance. The Rabshakeh viewed himself, and his nation, quite highly and found Hezekiah’s confidence in Yahweh odd. The leaders of the nations often made political alliances so that they could survive, paying tribute to one king or another. Suddenly the people of Judah were without any protector, but God alone.
Taunting Hezekiah, the Rabshakeh couldn’t imagine a dependence upon a god who was not visible. Somehow Hezekiah seemed very confident, but to the Assyrians it seemed absolutely foolish. Words which had been spoken in pray…

What Have I Failed to Do Today?

Scripture James 4:17 Anyone, then, who knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, commits sin.
The author is writing to the followers of Jesus Christ who were actively engaged in the life of the “ecclesia.” This was the gathering of those who were called out and seeking to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. Many of these were well-to-do individuals who had resources and were looking after their business practices, planning where they would go next and expand their enterprises. The problem was that they failed to see the needs surrounding them on a daily basis and instead, were concerned with building their wealth. The judgement here is straightforward. They were not sinning by the things they were doing, but by what they were not doing.
John Wesley expressed that condemnation was increased for those who committed sins of omission. When one is being led by the Spirit and the soul is impressed upon to act but does not, it becomes sin. This was not only because the a…

Making the City Glad

Scripture Psa. 46:4   There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High.
The city of Jerusalem has no river running though it, while most major cities of the world find themselves connected to water. I live in Kansas City where we have the Missouri River. Just down the road in St. Louis they have the mighty Mississippi. How in the world were the people of Jerusalem to think about a river running through the city of God?  Obviously if there were a river, the inhabits would rejoice and be glad.
This was an understanding of what life would be like in the city when God's presence was real. The city would be filled with God’s presence and providence which would rush in covering everything in its path. Everyone would be invited to jump into the river, swimming in the provision of God. The city would be filled with gladness because they were not simply preserved from difficulty but lovingly cared for, by the streams of the Holy Spirit…

Unshakable Kingdom

Scripture Heb. 11:28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe; 29 for indeed our God is a consuming fire.
The things of this world are only temporary and can be shaken in many ways. Governments, economies, natural resources, and physical structures can all shift beneath our feet, but we are invited into participation in the heavenly kingdom. That’s why we give thanks to God on high and participate in the unshakable kingdom, filled with overwhelming awe and reverence for the power of God. Our powerful God is a holy, loving, consuming fire who can take our simple lives and transform them as we live in the unshakable kingdom.
We are shaken by earthly kingdoms on a daily basis. All we have to do is to read the the news headlines and discover that things in this world are not all that stable. Worldly kingdoms are shaken by complex factors which influence g…

Seeing From a Distance

Scripture Heb. 11:13   All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, 14 for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them.
The great chapter on faith brings inspiration, for there are those who have gone before who become mentors for all who will come later. The faithful died without seeing the end, or the completion of God’s plan. They saw from a distance and yet, they were inspired. They didn’t have to experience it all in the here and now, for they could live in faith. Recognizing that they belonged to God’s kingdom, they articulated that…

Time to Provoke

Scripture Hebrews 10:24 And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
The need for spiritual growth and maturity is placed before the believers. They are a community of faith and they share responsibility for one another. Given permission to provoke, the community is to be one which reflects the love and good deeds of Jesus Christ. This ability to “provoke” will only happen if they continue meeting together on a regular basis. 
Some have made excuses that they are too busy and so they have given up the habit of meeting together regularly. The danger is being lulled into complacency without regular provoking from their sisters and brothers in the faith. With regular fellowship one will be provoked, but it will feel like encouragement on the part of fellow believers.
When the world looks in on Christianity…

Cows and Bears

Scripture Isaiah 11:7The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together;
The vision of a paradise where the Prince of Peace will reign is penned by the prophet. The description is given in terms that would shock the people. It was not uncommon to have bears attack livestock and it was the responsibility of the shepherd to carefully guard the flock. In this vision of a new reality where the Prince of Peace reigns with all power and authority a strange picture begins to appear. This vision makes no sense because everyone knows that cows and bears do not graze together. The bears graze on the cows and the young are especially vulnerable.
This vision of a new reality is a foreshadowing of the kingdom of God. When the Prince of Peace comes, he will usher in a new era, one in which the “already” of the kingdom of God will be visible here on earth and ultimately lead to a world in which the “cow and the bear” will graze together. The vision of the new reality was …

The Compassionate Love of God

Scripture Mic. 7:18   Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of your possession? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in showing clemency. 19He will again have compassion upon us; he will tread our iniquities under foot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.
While the people had been terribly rebellious, there was always the promise of forgiveness. If only the people would repent and turn from their evil ways, God would have mercy on them. The prophet Micah extols the gracious and loving nature of God who is willing to forgive , even after the terrible disobedience of God’s people.
God is exceedingly disappointed in the behavior of the people, but still shows great compassion and a desire to forgive. The prophet reminds them that their iniquities (which have been vile) will be tread under the foot of God. This is good news! And finally, their sins are cast into the depths of the sea, or as som…

Stop Preaching About That!

Scripture Mic. 2:6   “Do not preach”—thus they preach— “one should not preach of such things; disgrace will not overtake us.”
God’s people were living in disobedience and the prophets were struggling with their message. When they preached God’s truth the people rebelled. They didn’t want to hear those words. The official religious leaders didn’t want to stir up the people and so they preached to the prophets, telling them to be quiet because their words were troubling the people. Then, they went on to preach the things that would tickle the ears of the people.
Preaching God’s truth may sometimes trouble the hearts and souls of listeners. The purpose of preaching is not to entertain or to make the people in the pew happy. One of the early General Superintendents of the Church of the Nazarene passionately preached on holiness and the crowd threw dead mice at him!
When preaching begins to make us angry and uncomfortable, it may just be touching a nerve it needs to touch!…

Examining Our Diet

Scripture Heb. 5:11   About this we have much to say that is hard to explain, since you have become dull in understanding. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic elements of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food; 13 for everyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is unskilled in the word of righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, for those whose faculties have been trained by practice to distinguish good from evil.
The author to the Hebrews is concerned that these followers of Christ may not be growing spiritually. Because they have failed to continue in their spiritual development they have become difficult to teach. Their understanding has become dull, without any kind of brightness or shine in desire to become like Christ.
The chiding continues, for not only were they to have grown spiritually, but they were to have been fed well enough that they would be able to disciple others. Th…