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Showing posts from April, 2019

Not As They Appear

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Scripture:
The Philistine came on and drew near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. (1 Sam. 17:41 NRSV)
Observation:
We come to the high point of the story of David and Goliath. They stand, facing one another, prepared to do battle. Goliath is participating in the usual theatrics, calling out jeers and taunting the young shepherd who stands before him. Dressed in the finest armor of the day, it’s believed that Goliath had relationships with foreign countries, as the description of his gear would indicate. Not only was he a skilled warrior, but he was armed with mass weaponry and defenses. 
Part of Goliath’s defensive armor was his shield-bearer. This man provided an extra layer of defense as he provided a barrier between Goliath and the one he would fight. This would leave Goliath free to use his arms in battle. 
This is the vision of the enemy who stood before the simple shepherd. David appeared to have no weaponry, nor defensive armor. He had no shield-bearer and instead, ca…

Conquering Our Own Passions

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Scripture:
1 Samuel 17:28-30
His eldest brother Eliab heard him talking to the men; and Eliab’s anger was kindled against David. He said, “Why have you come down? With whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your presumption and the evil of your heart; for you have come down just to see the battle.” David said, “What have I done now? It was only a question.” He turned away from him toward another and spoke in the same way; and the people answered him again as before.
Observation:
David is sent by his father to take provisions to his brothers who have joined the army to fight against the Philistines. Upon reaching the front he observes the actions of Goliath and the way that he is taunting God’s people. David begins to ask questions and this annoys his oldest brother, Eliab. Seeing his little brother as a bother, he peppers him with questions, while at the same time demeaning him. Who was David, but the little brother who watches a “few sheep in the wilderness.” 
What’s…

“Why do you look for the living among the dead?”

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Scripture:
Luke 24:5 The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.
Observation:
This is the great story of Resurrection Sunday. The women have gone to the garden tomb and discovered that Jesus is not there. The two men in “dazzling” clothes speak with the women and the begin their affirmation of Jesus’ life with a question. It’s that question that tells the women that Jesus is alive. He is living, and therefore, you will not find him here in a grave, among the dead. Then, just to add clarity they respond by telling the women the good news that “He is not here, but has risen.” It’s this news that changes everything, both that day, and today. 
Application:
This season of life is filled with a multitude of emotions as I experience the full cycle of life. Just a couple of months ago we said “good-bye” to my dear mother. She had lived a good, long, and full life. Yesterday I h…

Let Us Celebrate the Festival

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Scripture:
1Cor. 5:6   Your boasting is not a good thing. Do you not know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? 7 Clean out the old yeast so that you may be a new batch, as you really are unleavened. For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed. 8 Therefore, let us celebrate the festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
Observation:
Paul is addressing a very serious issue in the church at Corinth. There was a member of the faith community who was engaging in immoral acts that were beyond that of the pagans. However, the man may have been wealthy or powerful and therefore, his actions were simply brushed under the rug and ignored. The people were proud to have this man as a part of their community, and this was leading to arrogance among those who were a part of the church.
Suddenly, Paul shifts to another image: that of the Paschal lamb. Just as the Israelites had prepared for the passover b…

What If…

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Scripture:
Matt. 27:62   The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate 63 and said, “Sir, we remember what that impostor said while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ 64 Therefore command the tomb to be made secure until the third day; otherwise his disciples may go and steal him away, and tell the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead,’ and the last deception would be worse than the first.” 65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can.” 66 So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.
Observation:
Matthew is the only gospel writer who includes this story about the guards. He does this because he was well aware that there was a false report that was being circulated about Jesus’ resurrection. This is a piece of the story that we need to know.
It’s believed that Judas is the one who probably warned the guards to look out for …

Fervent Prayer

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Scripture:
Psa. 70:0   To the leader. Of David, for the memorial offering. 1Be pleased, O God, to deliver me. O LORD, make haste to help me! 2Let those be put to shame and confusion who seek my life. Let those be turned back and brought to dishonor who desire to hurt me. 3Let those who say, “Aha, Aha!” turn back because of their shame.
Psa. 70:4   Let all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you. Let those who love your salvation say evermore, “God is great!” 5But I am poor and needy; hasten to me, O God! You are my help and my deliverer; O LORD, do not delay!
Observation:
This Psalm of David repeats some lines and themes from previous Psalms. However, this one is short, and to the point. Here, there is a sense of urgency where we find it placed between two lengthy laments. Each lament concludes with words of praise, which may serve as a reminder that when the solution to a problem is not at hand, we must wait on the Lord.
At the same time, while we are waiting, we may discover that it’s hard to disting…

This is Not Shame

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Scripture:
The Lord GOD helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame; (Is. 50:7 NRSV)
Observation:
The words from Isaiah are often thought to be prophetic words about the coming Messiah, but these words are also a promise to all of God’s people. We are called to participate in Christ and therefore we can hold onto the promise that it is the Lord God who helps us in our times of trouble. What may appear to be disgrace in the eyes of others, just may be grace-filled loved in the eyes of God. Therefore, this is not shame, or I am not shamed by my circumstances, but instead, I am transformed in the midst of those circumstance into one who reflects the glory of God. 
Application:
We continue the Lenten journey through this Holy Week. This week will lead us to the cross where we find Christ dying for all the world. Jesus understood his circumstances, and that no matter how others treated him, he would not be pu…

Security and Restoration

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Scripture:
Psalm 31:16Let your face shine upon your servant; save me in your steadfast love.
Observation:
The Psalmist has been going through great difficulty, but discovers that his security is not in being saved from trouble, but that God is with him in his time of trouble. It is in the face of God shining upon him that the Psalmist understands that he is saved and restored. God has not turned his back on him, but instead, constantly shines his face in his direction. This is God watching him in a way that is protective and restorative. In the midst of great struggle, God is security and restoration. 
Application:
It appears that the Psalmists immediate inclination in the midst of his struggles was to turn toward God. That’s a great reminder for us, because I know that it’s often easy to look at our difficulties and allow them to become overwhelming. Rather than seeking the face of God, we look to our circumstances and can feel as if we are being swallowed up by great darkness. 
I believe t…

Perspectives on Leadership

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Scripture:
Judges 9:14-15 So all the trees said to the bramble, ‘You come and reign over us.’ And the bramble said to the trees, ‘If in good faith you are anointing me king over you, then come and take refuge in my shade; but if not, let fire come out of the bramble and devour the cedars of Lebanon.’
Observation:
This passage of scripture may be the earliest fable in written history. Fables were often used when the people would no longer listen to truth, but were clouded by their own thoughts of grandeur. Instead of being able to have honest conversations, there were wise individuals who would have to resort to story-telling to get the attention of the people. There, the listeners would discover themselves, and, possibly, realize the folly of their ways. Fables use nature, or animals to tell a story, while parables use people, but they are both devices that are used, especially when people won’t listen. Jesus knew this well.
This fable uses the story of trees to give us perspectives on…

I Have No One Like Him

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Scripture:
Phil. 2:19   I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I may be cheered by news of you. 20 I have no one like him who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. 21 All of them are seeking their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. 22 But Timothy’s worth you know, how like a son with a father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. 23 I hope therefore to send him as soon as I see how things go with me; 24 and I trust in the Lord that I will also come soon.
Observation:
It’s amazing that amongst those who had served with Paul, at the moment of this writing, there were not many options to send to Philippi. It’s Timothy who can be trusted because he has “proven character” and a genuine interest in the people. He has not been seeking his own safety, pleasure or profit while in ministry. Instead, as John Wesley says, he is “willing naked to follow a naked Master.” There is no one like Timothy, and therefore Paul is sending him to the Philippian …

Practical Holiness: You Are But Aliens and Tenants

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Scripture:
Leviticus 25:23 The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine; with me you are but aliens and tenants. 24 Throughout the land that you hold, you shall provide for the redemption of the land.
Observation:
This passage comes in the midst of a section on the practical applications of holiness. Already God has addressed holiness in the lives of the priests and in family relationships. Now, there are economic factors which are to be discussed. God gives instruction for sabbath and jubilee which have implications for the economy of the community. Much of this is seen in the Israelite’s relationship with the land. God has established a “clan” system for the land. Each family or “clan” is to have their own land. This is in direct contrast with the monarchs of the day who held the land and therefore, their own people as servants. The Israelites, in contrast, were free.
God always made provision for the aliens who sojourned along with the Israelites. As a matter of fa…