Posts

Showing posts from July, 2019

The Story Begins

Image
Scripture:
 The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. (Mark 1:1 NRSV)
Observation:
This simple sentence which opens the gospel of Mark packs a powerful punch. This is the beginning of a story, and an invitation to become participants in the good news. The gospel story ends with the disciples being sent out to share this good news. 
Application:
The idea of “good tidings” is not uncommon in the first century as this language is used by the Emperor when heralding a new and significant event. For Mark, this entire gospel begins the story of a new era, one which will be defined Christologically. Jesus, the man, is the Christ, or the Messiah. This is the One about whom the prophets had spoken long ago. From the very opening sentence we have this affirmation of Jesus’ identity as the Messiah. However, the final words are then the climax of the affirmation, because, not only is Jesus the Messiah, the anointed one on whom they have waited, but he is the very Son of God. This i…

An Encouragement for those who love God

Image
Scripture:
 Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the truth concerning the things about which you have been instructed. (Luke 1:1–4 NRSV)
Observation:
The gospel narrative begins with an explanation of purpose. Many have tried to put in writing the story of Jesus but in some ways, their work has fallen short. It’s the name Theophilus that grabs our attention. His name means “one who loves God” — with a type of friendship love. It’s deeply personal and reflects an on-going relationship between an individual and God. This gospel then, is an invitation to all who love God to sit and listen. You are to be encouraged as being both excellent and very strong, f…

Understanding: Totally Engaged in the Life of Christ

Image
Scripture:
Luke 8:9  Then his disciples asked him what this parable meant. 10 He said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God; but to others I speak in parables, so that ‘looking they may not perceive, and listening they may not understand.’
Observation:
Jesus had just told the parable of the sower and the disciples were now asking for an explanation. Before he would explain it to them he had some teaching to do with them. Jesus spoke in parables because only those who were willing to be totally engaged in the life of Christ would understand. Otherwise, the stories of Jesus just went in one ear and out the other. Most people would never understand what it was that he was saying to them. When one is totally engaged in the life of Christ, then the eye of the mind is opened, and all of the senses become heightened, learning to take in the teaching of Christ that leads us beyond our human intellect.
Application:
There is much in the word of God the we fail to under…

Let Justice Roll

Image
Scripture:
Amos 5:21   I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. 22Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals I will not look upon. 23Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. 24But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream.
Observation:
God’s emotional response to the empty worship of the Israelites can be heard in these words from Amos. The double emphasis of hate and despise opens the commentary. These are God’s people who are participating in all the “events” that are to surround their worship of God but they have become rituals that have nothing to do with God and everything to do with themselves. God is not fooled.
God knows that the selection of music and the style of worship has become inwardly focused. This is what the people want and like and so God no longer …

When the Voices are Silenced

Image
Scripture:
Amos 5:13 Therefore the prudent will keep silent in such a time; for it is an evil time.
Observation:
In the middle of these prophetic words we find a sentence that sounds much like a proverb. There is a point and time where the evil of the society becomes so great that there is nothing for the wise person to do, but to keep silent. The only way that justice can be obtained is through bribes and this person has no money (or leverage), therefore, in the face of such evil, it is best to keep silent. 
It’s also believed that the hatred and heavy mob referred to are creating an environment in which such terror reigns that people no longer have the freedom to speak out. They are actually forced to a place of silence. And so the wise, saving their energy for the right time, are silent. 
The laws of the land are entirely upset, there is no place in which to speak. In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians he puts it this way, “Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, mak…

God’s Abiding Love is to be Revealed in Us

Image
Scripture:
1John 3:11   For this is the message you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. 12 We must not be like Cain who was from the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. 13 Do not be astonished, brothers and sisters, that the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed from death to life because we love one another. Whoever does not love abides in death. 15 All who hate a brother or sister are murderers, and you know that murderers do not have eternal life abiding in them. 16 We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. 17 How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?
Observation:
God’s holy love is to permeate the lives of those who follow Jesus Christ, for this is the message of God from the very beginning of time. Cane stands as an …

Participation in Christ includes Rescue

Image
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

Image
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

Image
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

Image
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

Image
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…