Archive for the ‘Bible’ Category

Time with Jesus

January 28, 2016

“When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschoooled ordinary men, they were astonished and took note that these men had been with Jesus.” Acts 4:13

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This is a compelling statement. It challenges me to think about how much time have I spent with Jesus, and does it make a noticeable difference in my life. It makes me think about all the different situations that in which the disciples walked with Jesus. The time spent listening to his preaching, seeing people healed, seeing people respond to the call of Jesus. Then there is the thought of what happens when you offer a cup of water to someone , feed the hungry, visit those in prison, heal the sick (Matt 10:37-42). Where do I spend my time? In the end, would we rather be known by our education or by the time we spent with Jesus?

The King is coming

January 22, 2016

The King is ready to bless those who accept Him and to kill those oppose Him. (Luke 19-20)

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The crowds were ready to be rescued by the Messiah. At the beginning of His ministry, Jesus tried to keep His identity quiet; He kept the demons from openly telling the people who He was and He ordered some of those who were healed to keep it quiet. However, in the days leading up to His entry into Jerusalem, Jesus by word and deed, became more open about who He was. He was openly setting the stage for a confrontation with the religious authorities that would eventually lead to his crucifixion. When He did finally enter Jerusalem, He was clearly placing his authority in the open, forcing people to make a decision about Him.

His set His authority by action in the way that he entered into Jerusalem on a donkey accepting the praise of the people and in the way He handled the money-changers in the temple courts. He set His authority by parables in the way that He set up expectations about how people use the resources He provided. He set His authority in the way He challenged the leaders to think about John’s baptism, taxes and marriage. He set up expectations about how He would give rewards to those who sought to love and serve Him and how he would give punishments to those who did not.

Are we preparing for the day that the king comes to us?

The Unworthy

January 21, 2016

Seek the Lord with all your heart, avoid sin and self-righteousness and be ready for the Day of the Lord (Luke 17-18)

thank-you-heartWe cannot go to the Lord based on our own righteousness, but we can go to Him because of the righteousness He has covered us with. He desires to attract those who are know they need Him: the children, the poor, the humble, those with a small faith, those who have a thankful heart. Such people may confidently and persistently go to Him, but He has warnings for the self-righteous or those who hinder others who go to Him. In either case, we should all take heed: There will be a day of judgement for those who have not repented, and those of us who have received blessings from Him need to guard our hearts, we need to keep in mind that in the end we are just unworthy servants.

Making sense of the Riddle

January 20, 2016

 It’s not the shadows in the daylight that frighten us (Luke 8 ) 

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When we look at the world now, there are some things that we all now can only see dimly (1 Cor 13:12; Lit. in a riddle). When God has chosen to reveal things to us, we have better understanding of the spiritual activity that is happening around us; however, when things are hidden from us, that spiritual activity can be frightening. As Jesus was preparing to head to Jerusalem to encounter the powers that be and to encounter his great suffering, he was allowing his identity and his power to become more visible. People reacted differently to that display of power depending how much light they were seeing.

On one side, Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables so that “though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.” On the other side, Jesus spent time explaining the parables to the disciples  because they had been given the “knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God.” Though even in this case,  the disciples did not comprehend everything that Jesus said because things were still hidden from them (Luke 10:21; 18:34).  In this short passage in chapter 8, there are a few different responses to the power of Jesus:

  • When the disciples witnessed Jesus calming the storm they asked, “Who is this?”
  • When Jesus cast the demons from the man in the Gerasenes, the people in the town became fearful at what they saw.
  • When Jairus’ daughter was brought back to life, Jairus and his wife were astonished
  • When a women touched the edge of the cloak, her faith healed her

When we see the power of Jesus, what is our response?

The lost and the cost

January 18, 2016

The idea of becoming a disciple may seem attractive but being a disciple may seem difficult (Luke 14-16)

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How many ways can it be said that Jesus urgently wants to draw in those who are not yet part of his flock? Those who are already gathered are OK, but Jesus expresses a great concern for those who are not yet gathered – the lost – whether it’s expressed as the lost sheep, the lost coin or the lost son. Many resources will be used to reach the lost, and there is great joy when a person who was ‘lost’ is found.

However, underneath the cost that Jesus is willing to expend in reaching in the lost is the expectation of the cost that Jesus expects His disciples to bear: Putting the interests of Jesus above all, the interests of others before your own interests, and the interests of the needy ahead of the interests of your friends. All this because in receiving Jesus’ invitation to follow Him, we should expect to be involved in the work He is doing.

The cost of discipleship is framed by two things: On the one hand, it is clear that just because you seem to be part of the crowd doesn’t mean you are a disciple. On the other hand, the cost of discipleship should not be too burdensome (Matt 11: 28-30)

Signs of the Kingdom

January 17, 2016

For those who have eyes ready to see the spiritual truth, the power of the kingdom is at work within and around us (Luke 10,11)

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Those whose hearts are not prepared and do not have the Holy Spirit within them, cannot perceive how God is at work in the world around them. Even though the evidence abounds around them, they are spiritually blind. Even if they ask for a sign of the evidence of God, the truth is that no evidence will be sufficient because they have not believed even the evidence of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

For those whose hearts are prepared, they can see the evidence of God’s power in many ways. Just within this passage we can see that the sick are healed, demons are cast out, people are demonstrating true love to God and their neighbors, people are responding to the teaching of Jesus and are eager to listen to Him, the disciple’s prayers begin with the relationship they have with the heavenly Father who desires to give them good things.

What do we see when we look around us?

The Final Authority

January 15, 2016

Do we lean on the rule of the law or the spirit of the law (Luke 6:1-11)

Many people saw that Jesus taught as one having authority. His healing ministry was done in part to prove his authority. This was a challenge to the Pharisees who regarded the laws written in scripture along with the traditions developed by the Pharisees as the final authority. Although their initial intentions may have been good, the result for many of them is that the focus was more on the rules themselves than of the God they were trying to please by keeping them.

Healing on the Sabbath became a problem because of what their traditions specified as work – work was not supposed to be done on the Sabbath in order that the day could be focused on God. For those Pharisees, there was a two-fold problem: focusing on the definition of work rather than the meaning of the Sabbath and the challenge of authority. Is the law itself the final authority or is Jesus the final authority?

Those two problems are not just the problems for the Pharisees, but for us as we make decisions through the day. We live in a world with many rules – and there are usually good reasons for those rules. But we need to confront our attitudes sometimes. If our bent is to be rule followers, are we going to focus on keeping the rules for the rule’s sake or are we going to focus on the meanings and intentions of the rules? If our bent is to not be rule followers, what are we holding as  our final authority, ourselves or Jesus?

The law is good; in fact, Jesus came to fulfill the law which was given to Moses. But the intent of the law is to restore and maintain our relation with the God who gave us the law. In that regard, the law is not the end but the means.

Turning the Stone to Bread

January 14, 2016

Trying to fill our lives with the stones around us. (Luke 4:1-4)

We don’t know how it is possible that the Creator of the universe, the one who is so holy that we unholy ones cannot approach him without perishing, can take on the form of a man that allows us to approach him. Nor how can we understand that this man, with the power of the universe at his disposal, could empty himself of power and choose to experience hunger. Surely this was how God presented Himself such that Satan could have chosen to rebel against Him, and this was how God presented Himself to Adam and Eve so that they could think that they could rebel against Him, and now this is how Satan could think that he could approach Jesus and tempt Him.

And this is how God comes to us, emptied out so that it is possible for us to approach Him, but we can get deceived when we approach the emptied out God and become tempted to think that we can be satisfied with some stone presented by Satan. We can become seduced into thinking that some other thing is this world will be able to satisfy us: thinking things like I would be satisfied if I just had one thing or I would be satisfied if I just had more of that one thing.

What stone are we looking at now?

The Sword, the Ax, and the Winnowing Fork

January 14, 2016

The Messiah brings salvation and judgement (Luke 2-3)

When Simeon meets Joseph and Mary in the temple courtyard, he blessed them but also warned Mary (Joseph and Mary may have wondered why the warning was directed to her) that, in the midst of Jesus causing the hearts of people to be revealed, a sword would pierce her own soul. Later on as John begins his ministry, he warns the people about the coming wrath and about the ax that will cut down every unfruitful tree. John also warns about the Messiah that will use the winnowing fork to separate the wheat from the chaff and that the chaff will be burnt up with unquenchable fire.

The same Messiah that would come to proclaim peace and good news would also confront the evil in this world. In order to bring peace the evil must be dealt with. For those who desire to turn from sin there is a path of restoration, but for everyone else there will be judgment. The angels may have proclaimed good news – but that would only be for those on whom God’s favor rests. For everyone else the news meant there would be consequences and a confrontation for their rebellion – they will be cut down and sifted by the one who knows their hearts.

I cannot fathom the pain of those who would bear the weight of their own judgement, because of what we know of the cost born by the Messiah who would bear the pain that we deserve. What could Mary’s frame of mind have been when she witnessed the suffering of her son and her soul was pierced by the sword that reveals all our hearts? Is it possible that any of us can grieve enough for suffering Jesus endured for us? Is it possible that any of us could be thankful enough for the salvation he offers in spite of ourselves?

Expecting God to show up

January 12, 2016

Are we ready, expecting God to show up in our lives? (Luke 1:5-25)

Zechariah was declared to be a righteous man – blameless. He was only doing what he was assigned to be doing when his life was interrupted by the supernatural. He was only doing a task which he had done many times before – going into the temple to light the incense. It was just a simple task.

But we look back and think, But this is the temple, the place where God shows up. And this is the altar that stands directly in front of the Holy of Holies. And this is the incense that represents the prayers of the people to that Holy God. What should have Zechariah’s attitude have been, what was his frame of mind?

We don’t know exactly what was on Zechariah’s mind but we do know a couple of things. Zechariah was old and probably many of years beyond the patient persistence of asking God for a child. It was also many years since God had raised a prophet to speak to the nation of Israel. How many years would we have been able to keep on persistently praying and expecting that God would hear our prayers?

God had long been silent and even the righteous Zechariah seemed to be beyond the point of expecting God to show up. However, God did show up to not only answer the long abandoned prayers of Zechariah but to do much more. Zechariah did not seem to be prepared for God to show up, but God was going to use Zechariah anyway to carry out the plans he established from long ago to send us the voice of one calling: In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord. Zechariah was only expecting the same things he saw every other day. And its true that nothing happened on the all the other days preceding this one.

He was certainly not expecting that God would not only answer the long abandoned prayer, but give a far greater blessing. We don’t have The Temple any more, but we have temples where God resides in each of us. And each of us has the privilege of bringing not only our prayers but the prayers of the people to God which rise like the fragrant smoke from incense. Are we going to be like Zechariah and forget that we are in that holy place? And if God should be silent for a while are we going to succumb and lose hope or are we going to hold onto hope and expect God to show up, whether to just be with us or to comfort us or maybe to answer our prayers but in His time and not our time, and then maybe in ways we don’t expect?

God is not confined to The Temple or the temples that are our bodies. In fact, there is nowhere we can go where God has not already been. God has gone before us so that anywhere we go is holy ground. What should we expect, that every day will be the same or the handiwork of the God who goes before us?


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