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Showing posts from March, 2019

Rolled Away

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Scripture:
When the circumcising of all the nation was done, they remained in their places in the camp until they were healed. The LORD said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away from you the disgrace of Egypt.” And so that place is called Gilgal to this day. (Josh. 5:8–9 NRSV)
Observation:
The people of Israel had crossed over the Jordan and were not in the land of Canaan. It was time for God’s people to cut all ties with Egypt, and to be entirely consecrated to God. The symbol of this consecration was to be circumcision. Evidently this had not been practiced while they were in the wilderness, in some ways marking the fact that they had adapted themselves to Egypt. Now, there was to be a wholehearted separation from Egypt and a complete and total uniting to God. 
It took some time to heal after the procedure, but this was a significant moment in the life of the Israelites. In that time and place, God rolled away the disgrace that they had carried with them from Egypt and they were made ent…

Love, Evangelism, and Self-Control

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Scripture:
For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them. (2 Cor. 5:13–15 NRSV)
Observation:
This is a continuation of Paul’s conversation with the Corinthians about his apostolic role, which he identifies two-fold. First, his job is to be an evangelistic preacher, and this is for God. Second, he exercises self-control, to the benefit of others. Overall, his motivation is his love for Christ. Because he knows that Christ died for him, and for all, he recognizes that all that he does, must be for Christ. That’s why he has no problem evangelizing, and exercising self-control, because it all springs from his love for the one who gave everything for him. 
Application:
I’m not sure that many of us could join Paul in …

Bright Hope

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Scripture:
For while we are still in this tent, we groan under our burden, because we wish not to be unclothed but to be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. (2 Cor. 5:4–5 NRSV)
Observation:
Paul is physically tired from his work and ministry. His body is aching and he literally groans in pain. However, this groaning is not just the result of his current physical pains, but also an anticipation of what is to come. Much like a woman in labor, there is pain, and yet there is bright hope about what will come at the end of the journey. 
Very carefully, Paul is laying out a picture that is not in-line with the gnostic ideas of the Greeks. This is not about some future disembodied existence, but it is looking forward to life in his resurrected body. This resurrected body will be cured from all of the corruption that it has experienced here on earth and will be clothed, o…

Knowledge of Sin

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Scripture:
For “no human being will be justified in his sight” by deeds prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin. (Rom. 3:20 NRSV)
Observation:
Paul continues to tell the church in Rome that humanity, whether Jew or Gentile, will not be saved by works. This includes the righteous works of those who follow the law of God. Justification before God does not come from the law, but rather, the law exists so that all might have knowledge of sin. In other words, without God’s law, we don’t know what is right and wrong, and therefore we don’t recognize sin. Previously Paul had stressed that this moral law of God had been written on the hearts of all of humanity, both Jew and Gentile, and therefore no one is excused for their sins, and all will be held accountable. 
Application:
In a world where everything has become relative, its becoming increasingly difficult for people to agree on any kind of a definition of sin. The reality is that everyone seems to have their own p…

A Rule of Life

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Scripture:
When Gentiles, who do not possess the law, do instinctively what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are a law to themselves. They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, to which their own conscience also bears witness; and their conflicting thoughts will accuse or perhaps excuse them (Rom. 2:14–15 NRSV)
Observation:
In the midst of Paul’s writing he adds a parenthesis that includes these two verses. He wants the readers to understand that while the Jews may have strict laws, he agrees with the Greek tradition that all human beings seem to possess an innate moral sense of what is right or wrong. Just because the Jews possess the law of Moses doesn’t mean that they have some kind of a decisive advantage over the Gentiles when it comes to knowing about and doing the will of God. There are universal moral absolutes which reveal that all people have imprinted upon them God’s moral will. 
Paul is refuting the way in which the Jews have been condem…

Treasuring Up Wrath

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Scripture:
Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things. (Rom. 2:1 NRSV)
Observation:
Paul is connecting his conversation in the first chapter by speaking about a Jewish leader. This was a very religious person who was in a position of passing judgement on others, and as a result, must be extremely careful. Sometimes judgement was passed along with prejudice toward the Gentiles, or others who may not have been a part of the judge’s inner circle. Excusing their own behaviors, they condemned others for their sins. However, the warning is to be heeded, for God is going to judge everyone by their real and genuine character. 
The problem with the religious judge was that he had a hard heart and was not willing to see his own short-comings. They were the ones who were “treasuring up wrath,” just waiting to pour it out on others. 
The section ends with the follow…

God’s Perspective

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Scripture:
Isaiah 55:8-9 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Observation:
The prophet is declaring his dependence upon our holy God. Humanity is to recognize their place when it comes to the very power of God. The ways in which we think and process what we are experiencing is far different from the way in which the LORD sees it. As we consider the distance between earth and the starry host of the universe, we look on and humble ourselves before the God whose thoughts are beyond our own understanding. 
Application:
Far too often in life there are circumstances which are beyond our understanding. We wish we knew and we try and tell God how things ought to be. Thankfully, God doesn’t always listen to us, and instead, continues to do what is best for us. 
Recently we had an interesting experience as we traveled by boat to an island …

Pursuing the One Who Pursues Me

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Scripture:
Phil. 3:12   Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.
Observation:
Paul has been using a metaphor from running to speak of his spiritual life. His goal is to reach perfection, or completion in Christ. He recognizes that this is a life-long journey, one in which he is eternally drawn into participation with the Triune God. Since God is eternal, we continue to stretch out with the Lord throughout all of eternity. Therefore, we pursue the goal, and the goal is to know Christ entirely. Sometimes, however, we miss the final statement, and that is not just about Paul’s pursuit of Christ, but Christ’s pursuit of Paul. This is not about human effort alone, but about prevenient grace and the relentless pursuit of God toward humankind. Christ makes us his own, therefore we make him our own. The entire motivation stems from the initiating activity of our holy and loving God.
Applica…

Avoiding the Hubbub

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Scripture:
Luke 21:34   “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly, 35 like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. 36 Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”
Luke 21:37   Every day he was teaching in the temple, and at night he would go out and spend the night on the Mount of Olives, as it was called. 38 And all the people would get up early in the morning to listen to him in the temple.
Observation:
These verses come at the conclusion of Christ’s words regarding the final days. Interestingly, he tells his followers how to behave, and then models what that might look like. The first admonition is to be on guard, while recognizing that God does know the final outcome. The Christ-follower has the responsibility of being alert, and that mean…

The Work of Prayer

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Scripture:
Psa. 17:15   As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake I shall be satisfied, beholding your likeness.
Observation:
The Psalmist has been wrestling in prayer. It has physically consumed his body and it’s culmination seems to be an exhausted sleep. However, after finishing the work of prayer, he is able to lie down and sleep. He has come to know that the grace of God comes again and again. There isn’t just one time of prayer, but there will be continual seasons of prayer.However when when one season ends, there will be another and we are able to see that God comes over and again. Together with the Psalmist we can trust that we will be able to behold the face of our Savior. All of our tomorrows, no matter how difficult, are in God’s hands and when the dawn breaks, we will see the Lord, face to face, and know that this new day belongs to God.
Application:
I’m an achiever and I like to tick things off of my to-do list. The temptation is to embrace prayer in …

We Don’t Just Invite Jesus into our Heart, He invites us into His

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Scripture:
1John 2:3   Now by this we may be sure that we know him, if we obey his commandments. 4 Whoever says, “I have come to know him,” but does not obey his commandments, is a liar, and in such a person the truth does not exist; 5 but whoever obeys his word, truly in this person the love of God has reached perfection. By this we may be sure that we are in him: 6 whoever says, “I abide in him,” ought to walk just as he walked.
Observation:
This section of scripture is often titled as “obedience.” While that may be the result, what’s more important is to look at the relationship that bears out this obedience. This entire passage is more about knowing Christ than anything else. If we are “in Christ” then there will be a resultant effect on our lives. It is the coming of Christ which becomes a challenge to the entire way in which we live our lives. Through his life he demonstrates what it means to reflect the image of God in this world. Christ then invites us to participate in the hear…

What Time is It?

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Scripture:
Eccl. 3:1  For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: 2a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; 3a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; 4a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; 5a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; 6a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; 7a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; 8a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.
Observation:
The great writer of wisdom is defining reality for his readers. We are a people who are bounded by time and space and within these bounds there are seasons and activities which are a part of our reality. There can be no Genesis without Exodus, no death without birth, and no harvest withou…