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Be Careful What You Wish For

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Scripture:
Acts 21:30-32 Then all the city was aroused, and the people rushed together. They seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple, and immediately the doors were shut. While they were trying to kill him, word came to the tribune of the cohort that all Jerusalem was in an uproar. Immediately he took soldiers and centurions and ran down to them. When they saw the tribune and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul.


Observation:
Paul had gone to Jerusalem to worship but rumors abounded that he was spending a lot of time with Gentiles. He had even brought a gentleman from Ephesus with him and the Jewish officials were certain that he would have tried to sneak this man into the temple. While this was not the case, people jumped to conclusions and the entire city got riled up about Paul’s presence. 
Paul was simply trying to do the right thing and worship God. Yes, he had been ministering to Gentiles, but at this moment he wasn’t pushing any particular agenda. The people, however, wante…

More than a Gender Reveal

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Scripture:
Luke 1:72Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors, and has remembered his holy covenant, 73the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham, to grant us 74 that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies, might serve him without fear, 75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
Observation:
John the Baptist has just been born and his father has affirmed his name. Suddenly, Zacharias regains his voice and begins to speak prophetically. Not only speaking of his son, he speaks of the soon to be born Messiah and reveals his mission. This is the fulfillment of God’s promise to his people.
This is the dawning of the gospel, a revelation about the very hopeful transformation of humanity. The goal is to be able to serve the Lord without fear, in holiness and righteousness. This would be affirmed later by the apostles:
Titus 2:11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passion…

Why Not Act in Secret?

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Scripture:
John 7:1   After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He did not wish to go about in Judea because the Jews were looking for an opportunity to kill him. 2 Now the Jewish festival of Booths was near. 3 So his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea so that your disciples also may see the works you are doing; 4 for no one who wants to be widely known acts in secret. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” 5 (For not even his brothers believed in him.) 6 Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. 7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify against it that its works are evil. 8 Go to the festival yourselves. I am not going to this festival, for my time has not yet fully come.” 9 After saying this, he remained in Galilee.
Observation:
Jesus’ disciples wanted him to go to Jerusalem and show off his power. The things they had observed throughout the Galilee were amazing and they knew that he could “wow” the cro…

We Don’t Like to Wait

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Scripture:
James 5:7-11
Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors! As an example of suffering and patience, beloved, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Indeed we call blessed those who showed endurance. You have heard of the endurance of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.
Observation:
The beloved believers may have felt oppressed by the wealthy and powerful but they were being encouraged to be patient. They were never promised a life of ease, or of quick fixes, but they were to take heart in the long view of things. Waiting was to be a normal part of the life of the beloved.…

Being Authentic

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Scripture:
2Cor. 10:7   Look at what is before your eyes. If you are confident that you belong to Christ, remind yourself of this, that just as you belong to Christ, so also do we. 8 Now, even if I boast a little too much of our authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for tearing you down, I will not be ashamed of it. 9 I do not want to seem as though I am trying to frighten you with my letters. 10 For they say, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.” 11 Let such people understand that what we say by letter when absent, we will also do when present.
Observation:
Paul’s letters were written as tools of discipleship for the church in Corinth. This was a church that had issues and so Paul, with authority and power that came from his relationship with Christ, was willing to confront and deal with difficult issues. There is a warning here, that no one ought to think that they have exclusive rights to Christ. Paul …

Have You Forgotten Something?

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Scripture:
1Cor. 4:8   Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! Quite apart from us you have become kings! Indeed, I wish that you had become kings, so that we might be kings with you! 9 For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, as though sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels and to mortals. 10 We are fools for the sake of Christ, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. 11 To the present hour we are hungry and thirsty, we are poorly clothed and beaten and homeless, 12 and we grow weary from the work of our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; 13 when slandered, we speak kindly. We have become like the rubbish of the world, the dregs of all things, to this very day.
1Cor. 4:14   I am not writing this to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. 15 For though you might have ten thousand guardians in…

There Is Something About Obedience

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Scripture:
1Chr. 10:13   So Saul died for his unfaithfulness; he was unfaithful to the LORD in that he did not keep the command of the LORD; moreover, he had consulted a medium, seeking guidance, 14 and did not seek guidance from the LORD. Therefore the LORD put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse.
Observation:
Saul died a sad death after being wounded in battle. The man who had started his reign with such vision and excitement ended up losing it all. He had the opportunity to begin a new dynasty, a kingdom in which his family would rule. All that he had to do was be obedient to the God who had chosen Saul to be king. Sadly, he chose to go his own way, making his own decisions and continually being disobedient.
He refused to follow God’s commands and continually thought that he knew better, sometimes even trying to tell God that he had come up with an improvement on God’s plan. This disappointed God and instead of trying to rectify his wrongs, Saul continued t…

Why Have a Plan?

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Scripture:
2Cor. 9:1  Now it is not necessary for me to write you about the ministry to the saints, 2 for I know your eagerness, which is the subject of my boasting about you to the people of Macedonia, saying that Achaia has been ready since last year; and your zeal has stirred up most of them. 3 But I am sending the brothers in order that our boasting about you may not prove to have been empty in this case, so that you may be ready, as I said you would be; 4 otherwise, if some Macedonians come with me and find that you are not ready, we would be humiliated—to say nothing of you—in this undertaking. 5 So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you, and arrange in advance for this bountiful gift that you have promised, so that it may be ready as a voluntary gift and not as an extortion.
Observation:
Paul is constantly discipling those new in the faith. In this case he is helping to cultivate a spirit of generosity in the hearts of the Corinthians. He encourages the…

It’s About Your Attitude

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Scripture:
2 Corinthians 8:22 And with them we are sending our brother whom we have often tested and found eager in many matters, but who is now more eager than ever because of his great confidence in you.
Observation:
Paul is commending three individuals whom he will be sending back to the church in Corinth. There’s plenty of speculation about who this individual might be, but that may not be the point. What we do notice is that Paul is commending the brother for his attitude. He’s been tested in many ways, but he continues to be eager. Paul sees earnestness or eagerness as being very important for the follower of Christ. This attitude seems to weigh in more heavily for him than other skills and abilities. This desire for Christ and the gospel reflects the individuals’ attitude, and this speaks volumes.
Time and again Paul struggled with false teachers; those who were using Christianity as a tool to make money. It seems that a number of them were very clever communicators and were exce…

Listening to the Wrong Voices

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Scripture:
Luke 4:31   He went down to Capernaum, a city in Galilee, and was teaching them on the sabbath. 32 They were astounded at his teaching, because he spoke with authority. 33 In the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, 34 “Let us alone! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” 35 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” When the demon had thrown him down before them, he came out of him without having done him any harm. 36 They were all amazed and kept saying to one another, “What kind of utterance is this? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and out they come!” 37 And a report about him began to reach every place in the region.
Observation:
The passage begins with Jesus teaching by great authority. Next he encounters a man who has an unclean demon who begins to cry out, seemingly to announ…

Encourage A Friend

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Scripture:
2Cor. 7:5   For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted in every way—disputes without and fears within. 6 But God, who consoles the downcast, consoled us by the arrival of Titus, 7 and not only by his coming, but also by the consolation with which he was consoled about you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more.
Observation:
Paul had sent a rather stinging letter to the church in Corinth and was feeling badly about it. At the same time he was traveling in Macedonia and feeling a lot of tension. There were those among the believers who were struggling as well as persecutions from those who were not believers. It’s at this moment that Titus appears and brings relief to a difficult time.
Titus’ arrival ushers in change for both Paul and Titus. Their friendship is revealed and cemented in what follows. Titus had been greatly encouraged by the response of the church in Corinth and so he…

Covering for Yourself

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Scripture:
1Sam. 19:11   Saul sent messengers to David’s house to keep watch over him, planning to kill him in the morning. David’s wife Michal told him, “If you do not save your life tonight, tomorrow you will be killed.” 12 So Michal let David down through the window; he fled away and escaped. 13 Michal took an idol and laid it on the bed; she put a net of goats’ hair on its head, and covered it with the clothes. 14 When Saul sent messengers to take David, she said, “He is sick.” 15 Then Saul sent the messengers to see David for themselves. He said, “Bring him up to me in the bed, that I may kill him.” 16 When the messengers came in, the idol was in the bed, with the covering of goats’ hair on its head. 17 Saul said to Michal, “Why have you deceived me like this, and let my enemy go, so that he has escaped?” Michal answered Saul, “He said to me, ‘Let me go; why should I kill you?’”
Observation:
There are a lot of shady characters in this story. I’m not convinced that David is living o…

Jealousy is not Pretty

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Scripture:
1 Samuel 18:6-9
When the men were returning home after David had killed the Philistine, the women came out from all the towns of Israel to meet King Saul with singing and dancing, with joyful songs and with timbrels and lyres. 7 As they danced, they sang: “Saul has slain his thousands,     and David his tens of thousands.” 8 Saul was very angry; this refrain displeased him greatly. “They have credited David with tens of thousands,” he thought, “but me with only thousands. What more can he get but the kingdom?” 9 And from that time on Saul kept a close eye on David.
Observation:
Saul should have been grateful for David’s leadership and support. He was making Saul and his armies stronger than ever. Instead of valuing David’s work, he considered him an enemy and a threat. Jealousy began to consume Saul and from that time onward, he began to try and manipulate his relationship with David.


Application:
There were choices that Saul could have made that would have made him a stronger and b…

Doing Good is Not Obedience

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Scripture:
1 Samuel 15:13-15 When Samuel came to Saul, Saul said to him, “May you be blessed by the Lord; I have carried out the command of the Lord.” But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears, and the lowing of cattle that I hear?” Saul said, “They have brought them from the Amalekites; for the people spared the best of the sheep and the cattle, to sacrifice to the Lord your God; but the rest we have utterly destroyed.”
Observation:
Saul had been told to destroy everything that belonged to the Amalekites, but he thought he knew better than God. Looking at the beautiful sheep and cattle, they couldn’t bear to do what God had instructed. Instead, under the guise of making a sacrifice to God, they brought the best sheep and cattle with them. 
Look carefully at what Saul says, “to sacrifice to the Lord your God.” He makes this about Samuel’s God, and not his. We have seen how he has been moving from God’s presence and distancing himself from accountability before God. N…