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Participation in Christ includes Rescue

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Scripture:
Psa. 82:0   A Psalm of Asaph. 1God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment: 2“How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Selah 3Give justice to the weak and the orphan; maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute. 4Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
Observation:
The Psalms of Asaph take on a different tone than those of David. Living in a time when Solomon has been laid to rest and powerful forces are at work tearing the kingdom apart, Asaph plays his prophetic role by speaking to the community through song.
In ancient days judges would rule their courtrooms on a daily basis, making decisions without fear of those in authority. However, there were times when the king would make an appearance, bringing a watchful eye to the court. At that moment the king was in the court and would the tenor would immediately change for there would be no possibility of bribery or fools pl…

Trying to Hide our Earthly Passions

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Scripture:
He said to him, “Go in peace.”  But when Naaman had gone from him a short distance, Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, thought, “My master has let that Aramean Naaman off too lightly by not accepting from him what he offered. As the LORD lives, I will run after him and get something out of him.” So Gehazi went after Naaman. When Naaman saw someone running after him, he jumped down from the chariot to meet him and said, “Is everything all right?” He replied, “Yes, but my master has sent me to say, ‘Two members of a company of prophets have just come to me from the hill country of Ephraim; please give them a talent of silver and two changes of clothing.’” Naaman said, “Please accept two talents.” He urged him, and tied up two talents of silver in two bags, with two changes of clothing, and gave them to two of his servants, who carried them in front of Gehazi. When he came to the citadel, he took the bags from them, and stored them inside; he dismissed the men, and t…

Instruction in the Work of Christ’s Mission

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Scripture:
Luke 9:1   Then Jesus called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, 2 and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. 3 He said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money—not even an extra tunic. 4 Whatever house you enter, stay there, and leave from there. 5 Wherever they do not welcome you, as you are leaving that town shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” 6 They departed and went through the villages, bringing the good news and curing diseases everywhere.
Observation:
Jesus is a great model of a teacher and leader. God’s purpose is to bring salvation to humanity. For this purpose, Jesus wants to prepare and empower the twelve for current and future service. They have no idea that Jesus will leave them to continue this ministry in his absence. Jesus is always preparing for the future and so he calls them together and shares his power with them and…

Generosity and Hospitality: Why Women are the Model

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Scripture:
2Kings 4:8  One day Elisha was passing through Shunem, where a wealthy woman lived, who urged him to have a meal. So whenever he passed that way, he would stop there for a meal. 9She said to her husband, “Look, I am sure that this man who regularly passes our way is a holy man of God. 10Let us make a small roof chamber with walls, and put there for him a bed, a table, a chair, and a lamp, so that he can stay there whenever he comes to us.”
Observation:
How easy it is to overlook this woman, the Shunammite, whom we are told was a “wealthy woman,” or as other translations say, “a great woman,” a woman fearing sin,” or a “woman eminent for piety before God.” What’s interesting is that we are not told that her husband is wealthy, and this can lead us to all kinds of consideration. She may have inherited her own wealth. At the same time, her husband may have had a great estate and she may have been the one who diligently managed the household, being trusted with the family’s resour…

New Living in New Creation

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Scripture:
Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Eph. 5:15–20 NRSV)
Observation:
This entire chapter begins with an encouragement from Paul for the Ephesians to become imitators of Christ. In this context he discusses the influences of the culture upon life in the new Christian community. The life of the Christ-follower (imitator) is to be different from that which is found in the world. 
Application:
If God’s people are new creation, then there is new living. Careful attentiveness must be given to the ways in which the culture is allowed to i…

Sometimes You Just Need to Go Home

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Scripture:
Psa. 127:0   A Song of Ascents. Of Solomon. 1Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD guards the city, the guard keeps watch in vain. 2It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives sleep to his beloved.
Observation:
This, one of the Psalms of ascents, becomes a reminder that God’s people are supposed to rest in the LORD. The word house may mean a building, or it could mean a family or household. Whichever it is, this seems to suggest that we are to learn to leave the worry to God and life a restful life. This does not mean that one doesn’t work, but it does mean that we are not be restless. Vs 1-2 seem to suggest ‘Leave it all to God; let go and let God,’ and enjoy a restful life. In the Bible, the opposite of rest is not work but restlessness. We are not to live anxious lives, but to do God’s work, and then find peace and restful sleep.
Application:
Today happens to be my birthday, a…

What Have I Done to You?

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Scripture:
1 Kings 19:20 He left the oxen, ran after Elijah, and said, “Let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you.” Then Elijah said to him, “Go back again; for what have I done to you?”
Observation:
God had told Elijah to anoint leaders for the nation. While this final person, Elisha, was not anointed like the kings were, he was anointed by the act of Elijah throwing his mantle over his shoulders. It was a stunning moment in the life of a young man who appears to have been a wealthy farmer. He had twelve oxen yoked together which was a reflection of his success. As soon as Elijah through his mantle over him, Elisha knew that he had been called by God. The mantle itself represented a holy anointing for the work that would stretch out before Elisha.
In that moment Elijah realized the magnitude of the call on the life of Elisha crying out, “what have I done to you?” Elijah had his moments of despair as a prophet and he realized that he would be calling Elisha to a v…

The Pain of Miscarriage

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Scripture:
Galatians 4:19 My little children, for whom I am again in the pain of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, 20 I wish I were present with you now and could change my tone, for I am perplexed about you.
Observation:
Paul’s deep love for his spiritual children in Galatia becomes evident in this passage. With very pastoral tones his heart grieves that these children have not pursued their very basic need, and that is for Christ to be formed in them. All else becomes a distraction to the desire that they become Christlike disciples. His heart aches at the loss of his children, those that had already been conceived but failed to thrive. Chrysostom refers to the loss of these children as spiritual miscarriages, and those for whom Paul is again, willing to travail in labor. Paul is perplexed by the Galatians’ attitude and is at a loss for words to understand what they have done; the result is a broken heart.
Application:
Many churches have cute catchphrases and mission statement…

Serving the Master Well

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Scripture:
And he said, “O LORD, God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today and show steadfast love to my master Abraham. I am standing here by the spring of water, and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water. Let the girl to whom I shall say, ‘Please offer your jar that I may drink,’ and who shall say, ‘Drink, and I will water your camels’—let her be the one whom you have appointed for your servant Isaac. By this I shall know that you have shown steadfast love to my master.” (Gen. 24:12–14 NRSV)
Observation:
This is the story of the servant, sent by his master Abraham, to find a wife for Abraham’s son. In this passage the servant invokes the “master” on numerous occasions. There is no question whom he is serving. His entire mission is done on behalf of his master and the focus is on doing this work well. 
The servant is incredibly wise as he lifts up this prayer to the the LORD, God of his master. The servant has come to know and understand the heart of …

Feeling Tossed About

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Scripture:
We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. (Eph. 4:14 NRSV)
Observation:
Most of the time when we read this text we assume that Paul is speaking to the believers in and around Ephesus and exhorting them to hold firm. Interestingly, Jerome, in the early centuries of Christianity suggests that Paul may be, in humility, speaking of his own faith: admitting that from time to time, he may be feeling tossed to and fro. This is a confession of his own awareness that he could be tempted by those who try to scheme and pull him away from the faith. 
Paul never seemed to expect anything from anyone else that he wouldn’t do himself. Therefore, this confession of his own weakness is then an example to others who are also being tossed about. He needed to remain firmly anchored, and if he did, so much more did his readers. 
Application:
There are days when secular humanism comes cras…

Prisoner in the Lord

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Scripture:
Eph. 4:1  I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.
Observation:
This passage is an appeal to unity but before Paul goes into that detail, he wants to remind his readers that he is in chains in Rome. Following Christ is not necessarily an easy task and he wants those who will read his letter to know that they can, just as he has, rise above their circumstances. This includes ones personal and moral infirmities. Sometimes we are imprisoned by our own lives and Paul has intentionally given himself over to become a prisoner of Christ. 
Paul then begs or…