Insights For Living!

by Pastor Ken Gray

February 10, 2017

Isaiah 49:1-13 “I Belong to Jesus!”

Do we fully comprehend who we are as God’s people? We are of great value to our Lord! Why? “…’You are My Servant, Israel, In Whom I will show my glory.’” (3b) Our value comes from Whose we are and Whose purpose we serve. God formed us for His great purpose of being His light to this world and for this we enjoy His favor. We are God’s instruments. “Shout for joy, O heavens! And rejoice, O earth! Break forth into joyful shouting, O mountains! For the LORD has comforted His people/And will have compassion on His afflicted.” (13)

Luke 6:1-11 “Beware of False Religion!”

Often times religious people turn God’s word into restrictions serving themselves. When the disciples were hungry, these people attacked them for failure to obey the Sabbath. On another occasion, they watched to see if Jesus would heal on the Sabbath so they had a reason to accuse Him. Religious people are not concerned about needs or the afflictions of men, but only in preserving their “wineskin.” Does our activities disarm a genuine expression of faith to meet peoples’ needs and motivate us to action in faith?

February 9, 2017

Isaiah 48:12-22 “God Never Forgets Us!”

When our enemies assert themselves, we can be assured God has them within His power. What is the key to our faith? “Assemble, all of you, and listen! Who among them has declared these things? The Lord loves him;…” (14a-c) God has declared all these things before they happened and they are for our benefit. We need to draw near and LISTEN! We need to pay careful attention to His word, separate from Babylon [false religion], declare God’s praises and remember all He has done for us in our journey. God loves us and the successes of our enemies are temporary!

Luke 5:27-39 “The Problem with Old Wine”

Jesus appealed to the “worst” of society especially as viewed by religious people. Yet these “sinners” quickly abandoned all to follow Him. Jesus said, “…’It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.’” (31b-32). The church is often more concerned with their religious observances and activities than for the lost. Have we become content with old wine? Maybe we need a change of wineskins for new wine. Most people are content with what God has done and do not concern themselves with a fresh move of God for the lost. May God grant us the wisdom and grace for new “wineskins” to carry out His mission to this lost world.

February 8, 2017

Isaiah 48:1-11 “To God Be the Glory!”

The people of God maintained a form of religion but did not attribute fulfilled prophesy to God’s activity. In fact, they credited themselves and their idols for their successes. God delayed His wrath for His own sake and restrained them. He tested them with affliction. “For My own sake, for My own sake, I will act; For how can My name be profaned? And My glory I will not give to another.” (11) We should not applaud our accomplishments, but praise our God Whose grace has enabled us. To God alone be the glory!

Luke 5:14-26 “Get Away from the Crowds”

An important truth here is Jesus did not seek the promotion of His ministry, in fact he often sought isolation for the purpose of prayer. His goal was to live in a dependent relationship with His Father so He would FINISH WELL and not finish big. Gathering crowds was never Jesus’ priority, but getting away from the crowds to be alone with His Father was His life long pattern. May God grant us the wisdom to follow our Lord’s example.

February 7, 2017

Isaiah 47 “Beware of Babylon!”

Babylon is a picture of false religion. God will deal with her severely and expose her shame. God permitted her a measure of success over His people due to their sin, but she goes to far and is arrogant. All she relies on will fail her. She hides her sin and thinks she is smart. “You felt secure in your wickedness and said, ‘No one sees me,’ Your wisdom and your knowledge they have deluded you;…” (10a,b) A primary characteristic of false religion is, “…Each has wandered in his own way…” (15c). For those who seek their own way or do their own thing, there is no salvation. Oh the wisdom of humility and dependence on God!

Luke 5:12-13 “Jesus Heals Unworthy People”

A leper approached Jesus in humility acknowledging His ability to heal him, but questioning His willingness to do so. Many believe God is able to heal, but are hindered by their unworthiness. Jesus spoke to this by declaring His willingness to heal. Jesus heals “unworthy” people, otherwise NO ONE would be healed!

February 6, 2017

Isaiah 46 “Glory in God, Not in the Works of Men!”

Here the folly of idols is exposed. Relying on anything other than God is futile and foolish. We are to remember who God is as revealed in history and recorded in His word. He is in control of all things. Righteousness is found in God alone and His salvation is available in Zion [the church]. In spite of our stubborn-minded nature, God is faithful to His word and He will accomplish His salvation and reveal His glory to His people.

Luke 5:1-11 “Jesus Transforms Sinners!”

As crowds were pressing around Jesus, He secured Simon’s boat from which to teach. When finished, Jesus told Simon to put out into the deep water and let down nets for a catch. Simon’s experience caused him to object, but he obeyed. So great was the catch the boats began to sink. This miracle caused Simon to fall at Jesus’ feet and confess His sinful nature. Jesus’ response was to relieve them from their fear and promise to transform them. We must remember our sinfulness, when confessed to Christ, is not an impediment to the work of Christ in our lives and through our lives.

February 3, 2017

Isaiah 45:14-25 “In God Alone”

“For thus says the LORD, who created the heavens…” (14a) We often seek counsel from a variety of sources. Yet our Creator is the only God. Numerous times in this passage God declares Himself as the only one to whom we should turn. “Turn to Me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth; For I am God, and there is no other.” (22) God is our only source of salvation, righteousness and strength. All of the Lord’s children “…will be justified, and will glory. (25b).

Luke 4:31-44 “Kingdom Focused”

Jesus’ ministry began with a variety of miracles. The resulting popularity became an obstacle to Jesus completing His mission of preaching God’s kingdom. He often sought out places to be alone so He could continue in His Father’s assignment. Popularity, promotion and recognition were not His destiny, but the proclamation of God’s restored kingdom. May we also stay focused on promoting God’s Kingdom and not ourselves.

February 2, 2017

Isaiah 45:1-13 “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands”

God anointed Cyrus to accomplish His purposes on behalf of His people. It may seem that secular forces and authorities are outside of God’s control. The reality is He orders their successes to fulfill His plans for the benefit of His church. Another reason God anoints secular authorities, is so He can reveal who He is to the entire world. God uses light and darkness to mold his people and it is as frustrating to argue with our creator as it is for a pot to argue with the potter. Heaven’s Armies are superior to all forces in heaven and earth and we can rest in our God’s sovereignty and loving purposes.

Luke 4:16-30 “Beware of Deceptive Expectations!”

Jesus’ ministry was initially greeted with joyful enthusiasm as He read from Isaiah. Everyone spoke well of Him but were confused because He had no special place as Joseph’s son. Jesus then went on to speak of their unbelief and rejection that stifle His power. By the end of His message they turned on Him even trying to kill Him. Jesus did not meet their religious expectations and, therefore, they sought to silence His voice. He anticipated this and persisted in completing the mission God gave Him. May God grant us the wisdom and grace not to reject what He is doing because it does not meet our expectations.

February 1, 2017

Isaiah 44:21-28 “Certainty of Our Destiny”

“Remember these things, O Jacob, And Israel, for you are My servant; I have formed you, you are My servant, O Israel, you will not be forgotten by Me.” (21) What are the “these things” God calls us to remember through this prophet? We are God’s servant, the product of God’s work and the aim of God’s care. He has forgiven us and we belong to Him. How do we do this? Through expressive praise and worship that keeps all matters in perspective. He is our creator, redeemer and above all our obstacles and foes. The future of the church is certain in God’s hands. Let us rejoice because of who God is, what He has done and what He has promised.

Luke 4:1-15 “From Spiritual Fullness to Power”

After being filled with the Spirit, Jesus entered the wilderness where He faced temptations from the devil. He did not use His new power to provide for Himself, promote Himself or protect Himself. He used it to obey and be in compliance to the written Word of God. He went into the desert filled with the Spirit, but came out “…in the POWER [emphasis mine] of the Spirit;…” (14). May God give us the wisdom to follow Christ’s example so we can move from fullness to power to serve others.

January 30, 2017

Isaiah 44:1-8 “Now I Belong to Jesus”

“But now listen, O Jacob, My Servant, And Israel whom I have chosen:” (1) Key to our moving forward in God is ‘listening’ to God. He has created us, chosen us and redeemed us. If we listen to Him, all will be well. Regardless of our present condition or circumstances, God addresses it by His Spirit. As we receive of His Word and Spirit, we have life and that more abundantly. Not only this, but we have the security and peace of knowing we BELONG to Him Who is over all. We need not fear, for our destiny rests securely in His hands.

Luke 3:1-20 “Repentance & Spiritual Fullness”

God bypassed all political and spiritual leaders and raised up John to prepare the way for His Son. John’s message focused on repentance. He warned the people not to rely on religious heritage, but to make their repentance real [with fruit]. We are given three examples, each preceded by the question, “…’Then what shall we do?’” (10-14). Interestingly, all examples had to do with financial integrity: Abundance is for generosity, collections with integrity, and power to be exercised carefully. All were to turn to Christ for the far more important wealth of baptism in the Holy Spirit. Financial integrity precedes spiritual fullness!

January 27, 2017

Isaiah 43:25-28 “Remember Who God Is!”

“I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, And I will not remember your sins.” (25) The shortcomings in Israel’s worship offerings to God are a reflection of their failure to remember who God is and His mercy toward them. There is no good, or history of good, in us and if we turn from God there is no hope for us. We have a choice: We can either reflect on God, His works and His words and bring appropriate worship offerings or we can do our own thing in ignorance suffering the consequences. If we are focused on God, then we will worship in Spirit and Truth.

Luke 2:41-52 “Parent’s Role in Children’s Destiny”

The visit of Jesus and His parents to the feast of the Passover reveals the dedication of His parents in worshiping God. At twelve, Jesus became so engaged in a spiritual passion to learn and grow, He was disconnected from His parents. They could not find him among family or friends, but returned to the temple where He sat in the middle of teachers listening and asking questions. When we, as parents, are faithful to worship God, we nurture healthy spiritual appetites in our children. This is more important than all the worldly education and support we can give them in this life. The faithfulness of Parent’s to worship God is key to their children’s destiny.

January 26, 2017

Isaiah 43:22-24 “Appropriate Offerings?”

After all the wonderful things God did for His people, they did not responded in kind. They failed to seek God because they didn’t want to ‘bother Him.’ They did not bring the designated offerings or honor Him in their worship. Instead of bringing their best, they burdened God with their sins and wearied Him with breaking His word. We might be quick to judge the Israelites, but do we do the same? Are we bringing to God offerings reflective of who He is, what He has done, and what He has said? May our worship offerings reflect all these realities and be according to His designation [Word].

Note the incredible parallel between today’s Old and New Testament devotions. As someone once said, “Coincidence is the handy work of God.”

Luke 2:21-40 “Worship According to God’s Word”

Mary and Joseph were not prominent, wealthy or highly educated. However, they were extremely careful to do all things according to His will as revealed in His Word. Note, “…they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord,…” (22b-23a). Their offering was that of the poorest segment of Jewish community, but was given in the timing and manner designated by God’s directives in Scripture. When people say, “I worship my own way,” they do so in ignorance of the Bible and in the arrogance of appointing themselves as God. We should note that God entrusted the raising of His Son to parents who worshiped according to His word.

January 25, 2017

Isaiah 43:14-21 “To God Be the Glory!”

Here God speaks as “…your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel,…” (14a) and moves against Babylon for our benefit. As our Creator, God is our King and exercises authority against every enemy and obstacle for our full recovery. We should not to be distracted by the failures of the past and should not waste time pondering them (18). God will provide “water” or drink in our journey back to a place of worship and intimacy and the result of His provision is a revival of whose we are and our purpose: “The people whom I formed for Myself/Will declare My praise.” (21). When we truly embrace who God is to us and who we are to Him, God will be glorified through us!

Luke 2:1-20 “God Is in Control of Our Discomfort”

A governmental decree was issued impacting the birth place of God’s Son. Joseph and Mary went to Bethlehem to register for the census. Yet, what seemed to be an inconvenient and uncomfortable place, was a sovereign act of God to fulfill His word. Though it was not comfortable [barn], it was the place where Mary received supernatural encouragement from shepherds regarding her child and who He was. “But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.” (19) She could have reflected on the discomfort of this place, but rather focused on the encouragement received. God is in control of all our discomfort and His purposes will prevail. Let’s stay focused on God’s purpose and not be distracted by our discomforts.

January 24, 2017

Isaiah 43:1-13 “We Are God’s Work & Witness”

God has both created and redeemed us. We have no cause to fear. Why? “But now, thus says the LORD, your Creator, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel, ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are MINE!’” (1) We are out of reach from all that attempts to destroy us for we belong to God. We are “precious” in His sight and we are honored and loved by Him. It is not where we come from, but it is the work of God in us that equips us to by His witnesses. We are blind and deaf, but God choses and forms us because of who He is. No one is like our God and no one can take us out of His hand!

Luke 1:57-80 “Prepared for Public Ministry”

Those around Elizabeth wanted to name her baby Zacharias after his dad, but she insisted it should be John. They asked Zacharias what he wanted to call him, so he wrote [unable to speak] “…’His name is John.’…” (63b). Immediately his mouth was opened and he began to praise God, was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke a prophetic word. This word exalted the coming Christ and then defined John’s role as a prophet to prepare the people for His coming. John was raised in the fear of God and lived a life separated from worldly influence until the day of his public appearance. It is not surprising that God delayed His influence in public while strengthening his spirit in private. Successful public ministry necessitates private preparation lest we be wrongly influenced by success.

January 23, 2017

Isaiah 42:14-25 “Confession for Healing”

God is incredibly patient with His people. However, if we persist in our own ways, He comes to a point where His anger is expressed against us. We can do nothing without Christ and need to confess our deafness and blindness to God. Why? “Hear, you deaf! And look, you blind, that you may see.” (18) Unless we confess these before God, He cannot open our ears and eyes. False confession of our spiritual condition keeps us in bondage to sin. “…”If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.” (John 9:41)

Luke 1:39-56 “True Praise Flows from Total Humility”

When Mary received this word of her conception, she hurried to Elizabeth who was pregnant with John. This older woman spoke of the superior blessing upon the younger woman. Her baby leaped with joy and she was filled with the Spirit. Yet Mary did not exalt herself, but exalted the Lord. The praise flowing from her lips reflects a rejoicing in God’s greatness and humility of her own state. She stayed with Elizabeth three months before returning home. She likely learned much from her older relative to aid her in her unique journey. True praise flows from total humility.

January 20, 2017

Isaiah 42:1-13 “Quiet Message, Loud Praise”

The power of God’s servant is not in his volume, but in God’s Spirit and message. Though he faces resistance and opposition, he is not disheartened because he serves the Creator of the heavens and the earth. Like their Messiah, they are a light to this world exposing the slavery of darkness. God’s servants are bearers of light opening the eyes of the blind and bringing freedom. What God wants to do through us is to reveal His greatness and not our own! He will not share His glory with another. We, therefore, are to lift up our voices in loud praise giving glory to our God as He prevails over all His enemies.

Luke 1:26-38 “For Nothing Is Impossible with God.”

God’s choice of Mary and Joseph to parent His son is fascinating. They were not people in political position, religious leaders, educated elite or economic success. They were people who heard His voice and obeyed His word. The greatness of Mary’s son, would be attributed to who was His Father. He would begin an era where, “…nothing will be impossible with God.” (37). His conception was supernatural, His life and ministry would be characterized by the supernatural, and His followers were to continue in the supernatural. May God be glorified in us as we walk in the favor of His presence [Spirit] and continue to live supernaturally.

January 19, 2017

Isaiah 41:17-29 “God Is Our Only Hope!”

“The afflicted and needy are seeking water, but there is none, And their tongue is parched with thirst; I, the LORD, will answer them Myself, As the God of Israel I will not forsake them.” (17) God takes care of those who know their true condition; that we is entirely lacking. For those who rely on anything other than God, they should expect no help from God and their idols are worthless. We have a tendency to turn everywhere but to God, yet only He can provide what we need. “That they may see and recognize, And consider and gain insight as well, That the hand of the LORD has done this, And the Holy One of Israel has created it.” (20)

Luke 1:5-25 “Seeing the Promise”

Zacharias and Elizabeth were both righteous in God’s sight but they were old and had no children. While serving before God in the temple the Lord appeared to him and said, “…’Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your PETITION [emphasis mine] has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son,…’” (13). Though he prayed for a son, he expressed doubts because of their age. Consequently, he was silenced until John was born. How often do we pray for things we do not believe God can or will do? Our response to God’s promises should be gratitude and praise and not reasoned arguments. May God give us the grace to focus on His promises and not on the obstacles to them.

January 18, 2017

Isaiah 41:1-16 “Where Can We Go?”

All enemies of Israel are nothing before our God. They turn to their idols, but the church is God’s servant, God’s chosen and God’s friend. We come from differing places, but we are His choice people. “Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (10) We are not concerned with any who oppose us. “For I am the LORD your God, who upholds your right hand, Who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’” (13) In fact, we are God’s instrument and He is our glory. We need not go anywhere else or to anyone else! Where can we go but to the Lord?

Luke 1:1-4 “We Count on God’s Word”

This account of the gospel written by Luke, he carefully assemble in a consecutive manner to help his friend Theophilus know the exact truth. Each gospel has its unique perspective and purpose and the Gospel of Luke is designed to help his non-Jewish friend to understand the truth redemptive to his soul. Luke’s perspective was built upon oral and written history handed down through eyewitness accounts. In other words, it is reliable and warrants our utmost attention. May God open our minds and hearts to hear, with great reverence, His word for our own good.

January 17, 2017

Isaiah 40:27-31 “Wait on the LORD!”

Frustration of feeling unfairly treated reflects a wrong focus and failure to remember God’s word. Then we often blame God for not showing up. If we keep our focus on what God has said, we are able to navigate through all life’s challenges and trials. “Yet those who wait for the LORD/Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.” (31) Keeping our focus on Who God is and what He says, enables faith in the face of life’s greatest contradictions to God’s promises. Remember, what we see is not what will be, but what God says endures forever!

Mark 16:14-20 “Demonstrating God’s Kingdom”

Often I hear it said that Jesus gave us a mission, but not a strategy for implementation. Could it be pride causes us to overlook the obvious? In these final words of Christ on earth, He not only gives an assignment, He promises supernatural power as a key to its success. At His ascension, Jesus assumed a place power and then we read, “And they went out and preached everywhere, while the LORD worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs that followed.” (20) We are not only called to declare the gospel of the kingdom, but to demonstrate it through the power of the Holy Spirit.

January 16, 2017

Isaiah 40:12-26 “Comfort in Troubling Times”

A series of questions reveal the folly of looking for comfort anywhere but God! His wisdom is over all nations for they are a mere drop in the bucket or a speck of dust that does not impact a scale. All fretting of men reflects ignorance both of God’s power and character. While creation reveals God’s greatness, it does not compare to Him and is inadequate to define Him. The most powerful of men, He can blow away in an instant. “Lift up your eyes on high/And see who has created these stars,…” (26a) We are comforted when we are focused on God, His Word and what He has done for us. May God help His church to see Him and then we will walk in His comfort in the midst of troubling times.

Mark 16:1-13 “Jesus Always Shows Up”

The devotion of Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome brought them to the tomb as soon as the Sabbath was over. While the death of Jesus caused grief to all, these three would not allow grief to interfere with serving Him. When they arrived a young man in white appeared to them declaring he was no longer there. “But go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him, just as He told you.’” (7) We must not allow sorrow and disappointments to cloud our memory of what Jesus said! He always shows up where He says He will, but might be waiting for us to honor His word. So much more can be said about this.

January 12, 2017

Isaiah 39 “Are We Short Sighted?”

Hezekiah became prideful and reckless in behavior after being healed. Letters and gifts from Babylon were sent to him and he showed them all the treasures in his house. Isaiah confronted him and then prophesied to him. In future generations not only would this wealth be transferred to Babylon, but even some of his sons would be taken to serve their king. “Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, ‘The word of the LORD which you have spoken is good.’ For he thought, ‘For there will be peace and truth in my days.’” (8) We need to be concerned about the impact of our choices on future generations and not merely with our present comfort!

Mark 15:22-41 “How Should We Then Die”

It is interesting that Jesus remained pretty quite during the mocking of various groups at His crucifixion, but the loss of His Father’s presence caused Him to cry out: “…’MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?’” (34b). Even His cry was not understood, but the nature of His dying and death opened the eyes of the Roman soldier who said, “…’Truly this man was the Son of God!’” It is not only how we live, but how we die that reveals who we are. May God give us the grace to follow Christ’s example even in dying and death.

January 11, 2017

Isaiah 38 “What Is the Basis of Our Petitions?”

When God’s word came to Hezekiah to prepare for death, he turned his face to the wall appealing to God on the basis of his own faithfulness to the Lord (1-3). This is contrasts to past petitions to God on the basis of who He was, what He had said and what He had done. God granted him 15 more years promising to defend him from Assyria. “But Hezekiah gave no return for the benefit he received, because his heart was proud;…” (2 Chronicles 32:25a) Though he eventually humbled himself, he fathered one of the most wicked kings [Manasseh] of Judah’s history. He also made other political errors. Let’s learn from his mistakes and appeal to God on the foundation of His greatness, His nature, and His word.

Mark 15:1-21 “Often the Crowd Is Wrong”

When Jesus was brought before Pilate, he asked Him, “…’Are You the King of the Jews?’ And He answered him, ‘It is as you say.’” (2b). Surprisingly, Jesus did not defend Himself further. Pilate, sensing He was innocent, presented a known criminal [Barabbas] and gave the crowd a choice to release one of them. They asked for Barabbas and Pilate asked what to do with the king of the Jews. “They shouted back, ‘Crucify Him!’” (13) When Pilate sought to reason, they did not respond with arguments, but with increased emotion and a louder call for crucifixion. We must guard against allowing our emotions to rule over truth or following the wave of the crowd. Though they may be louder and more aggressive, it doesn’t make them right. Often the crowd is wrong.

January 10, 2017

Isaiah 37:14-38 “Take it to the Lord in Prayer!”

When Hezekiah refused the Assyrian offer and honored God’s word, the king of Assyria sent an intimidating letter. He challenged Hezekiah to examine the historical record. No one stood against them successfully and Israel would suffer the same fate. After he read the letter, “…he went up to the house of the LORD and spread it before the LORD. Hezekiah prayed to the LORD saying…” (14-15). Then Isaiah the prophet sent a message: “…Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Because you have prayed to Me about Sennacherib king of Assyria,…” (21b). God promised to save them and to restore them to fruitfulness. Too often we suffer needless worry because we try to handle things ourselves rather than taking our concerns to the Lord in prayer.

Mark 14:66-72 “Importance of Admitting Weakness”

When Jesus told Peter that he would deny Him, he denied it. While Jesus was praying, Peter was sleeping. While Jesus was being falsely accused and beaten, Peter was warming himself by the fire. When Peter was confronted as a disciple of Jesus, he cursed and denied knowing Him. When we are postured to protect our image and comfort our flesh, we are setting ourselves up for failure. Sometimes God allows failures to reveal the utter weakness of flesh and our need to rely on God, His mercy and His power. Not until we acknowledge our weakness, can God use us in His power.

January 9, 2017

Isaiah 37:1-13 “Defending Self or Appealing to God?”

Hezekiah had put things right. He restored the temple and the entire worship system. Yet, they were under attack as Rabshakeh delivered the hard intimidating words of King Sennacherib. Hezekiah’s men kept silent bringing these his words to their king. Hezekiah sent a message to the prophet Isaiah saying, “…’This day is a day of distress, rebuke and rejection for children have come to birth, and there is no strength to deliver….’” (3). Isaiah gave them a word of encouragement because this was not a mere word against them, but against God and His great Name. Hezekiah did not respond with a defense of what he had done right, but an appeal to God for mercy. May God give us the grace and wisdom to trust in His mercy and not make our own defense.

Mark 14:53-65 “A Time to Be Silent”

While viciously and falsely accused, Jesus remained silent. When the high priest demanded an answer as to if He were the Christ, He gave a succinct answer but asserted their blindness until it would be too late. His answer infuriated them as they condemned Him to death, beat Him without mercy and mocked His assertions. Yet, Jesus remained silent entrusting His destiny to His Father. His silence was an expression of great faith. This silent testimony was deafening and continues to this day. May God give us wisdom to know when to speak and when to be silent.

January 6, 2017

Isaiah 36 “Are We Reacting or Returning to God?”

After Hezekiah implemented spiritual reforms, He was opposed by Sennacherib king of Assyria. At the very location where Hezekiah’s father Ahaz rejected God’s word and allied himself with Assyria (note 7:3), he now faces this ally as an enemy. We must be careful not to reject God’s word because we can set up our children for future battles. This enemy used mockery, intimidation and a history of successes to bring Hezekiah and Judah under his rule. However, representative leaders remained silent not arguing or addressing Rabshakeh’s reasonings. Usually it is much better not to react to our opposers, but return to God in prayer.

Mark 14:43-52 “How Jesus Saw His Aggressors”

Jesus was betrayed by Judas, one of His twelve disciples. He was not betrayed in violence but with respect and affection (45). When seized, one of His disciples reacted by cutting off the ear of the high priest’s slave. Yet, Jesus’ saw this as the fulfilling of Scripture. His nonviolent reaction caused all His disciples to flee. Because Jesus carefully sought His Father’s will in Scripture and prayer, He had the wisdom and grace to embrace this as fulfillment of God’s plan and not react in anger and violence. May we also pursue God in prayer and His word so we may be tempered in our response to others aggressions lest we be like them.

January 5, 2017

Isaiah 35 “What We See Is Not What Will Be!”

“The wilderness and the desert will be glad, And the Arabah will rejoice and blossom; Like the crocus…” (1) Isaiah speaks about Israel’s future and calls them to be encouraged and strengthened. They are not to be anxious, but to trust in God. We do not trust in our innovations or creativity, but in God’s intervention and love for His people. There is no contradiction to God’s promises He is not able to remove entirely. God’s people will return with joyful celebrations and all our sorrows will be washed away. What we see is not what will be!

Mark 14:12-26 “Our Flesh Is Weak”

Jesus told His disciples of His coming demise and how they would be scattered. Peter could not accept this and swore he would die for Him. Peter [all the disciples] denied his weakness, but Jesus realized His and went to His Father in prayer taking Peter, James and John with Him. While His disciples slept, Jesus cried to the Father pleading with Him to “…remove this cup…” (36). In this way, Jesus embraced the cross and His disciples were scattered as He prophesied. If we deny our weaknesses, we will fail our tests. However, if we acknowledge them and pray, we will not fall prey to temptation. Remember, “…the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (38b).

January 4, 2017

Isaiah 34 “Let’s Not Fret!”

All nations of this world are to give heed to this declaration of God’s anger and judgment upon all the earth. All their actions against God’s people [Zion] will come to a thorough and devastating end. We need not fret about the apparent success and ease of our enemies, for God has determined their destiny a long time ago. Anxiety and fear takes captive all who are ignorant of God’s sovereignty over this world. However, we who live in reliance [trust in] upon God, will walk in peace even in the midst of apparent injustice. Let’s remember, “…’VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,’ says the LORD.” (Romans 12:19b)

Mark 14:1-11 “Worship Is Not Always Understood by Others”

The religious leaders of Jesus time were plotting to kill Him, but they feared the crowds’ reaction. Yet, God was sovereign even in their evil intent. Just before passover, while Jesus was dining at Simon’s home, a woman broke an alabaster vial of perfume worth a year’s wages over Jesus’ head. This great expression of love was not even understood by His disciples. She had anointed His body beforehand for burial. While it pleased Christ, it infuriated Judas moving him to find a way to betray Him. May God give us the wisdom and courage to persist in extravagant expressions of worship regardless of the approval or acceptance of others.

January 3, 2017

Mark 13:24-37 “Are We Distracted or Alert?”

While Jesus made it clear that tribulation and distress characterize the church era, He also made it clear He will return in power and glory for judgment and reward. No matter what is happening, we can have confidence in His promise to return though we don’t know exactly when. He tells us: “Take heed, keep on the alert; for you do not know when the appointed time will come.” (33). Let us not be distracted by our tribulations, but stay alert and ready for the promised return of our Lord.

Isaiah 33 “God Governs Our Enemies”

At times it would seem to God’s people that our enemies have an upper hand and we are doomed. However, God holds all our opposition in His hand and when their purpose is fulfilled they will be destroyed and His people will be undisturbed in their place where they waited on God in worship. God is sovereign over all and we can rest in His Word. The celebrations of our enemies are short lived, but our celebrations are forever.

January 2, 2017

Isaiah 32 “Pour Out Your Spirit on Us this Year”

In contrast to the present kings and governments, comes a new king and rulers governing in righteousness and justice. God’s judgment comes upon all that is ungodly so He can put His godly rule in us. This kind of leadership attracts those in need and produces people whose perspectives are accurate. It will replace all who have misused power to serve themselves. This self-serving government lasts only: “Until the Spirit is poured out upon us from on high,…” (15a). A Spirit filled people are a fruitful people knowing God’s peace, protection and growth. May God pour HIs Spirit out on us this year.

Mark 13:14-23 “Who’s on the Throne of Our Hearts”

Speculation abounds as to what the “Abomination of Desolation” is. Whatever our understanding, it occurs at a time of much deception, intense tribulation, and if not for God’s intervention, total devastation. False religion characterizes these days. “But take heed; behold, I have told you everything in advance.” When God is removed from the throne of our hearts and we sit where He is designed to be, this is an abomination of desolation. May we have no attachment to this world and heed the advance warnings of Christ.

December 30, 2016

Isaiah 31 “God Is a Fire Among Us”

“Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help………But they do not look to the Holy One of Israel, nor seek the LORD!” (1a,c) Egypt is a symbol of the ungodly world in which we live. God opposes all His people who turn there for help. As we assemble to worship God, He in turns rises against every enemy. When we turn from our idols, God comes to our aid against the most severe opposition and will stand up for His children. No one can oppose or overcome Him. His fiery presence is among His worshipping people!

Mark 13:1-13 “Fortification, Not Speculation!”

Jesus was leaving the temple after a sobering series of denunciations against Jews and prophesying of coming destruction. A disciple pointed out to Him the beautiful stones and structure. Yet there was no relief here, for even these symbols would be destroyed. Jesus then warned of coming deception and the need to stay on track with their mission: “The gospel must first be preached to all the nations.” (10) He spoke of great distress and betrayal and the need to endure until the end. His warnings were for fortification against future trials and not speculation of future events. May God give us the grace to stay on track with the mission of Christ.

December 29, 2016

Isaiah 30:18-33 “God Is Waiting for Us”

God’s deep longing for His people is to be gracious showing compassion, justice and blessing. Then why the suffering? It really is quite simple: “…He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry;…” (19b). God is not delaying His blessing but waiting for us to turn to Him in humble dependence. He is waiting for us to destroy everything else we rely upon [idols]. Then He promises blessing on what we sow, upon the tools of our labor and to destroy all our enemies. When we assemble in joyful celebrations to meet with Him, God will deal with every enemy. If there is a delay in revival, it may be God is waiting for us to turn to Him.

Mark 12:41-44 “First Fruits or Leftovers?”

Giving in the temple was not private, but in view of all. Jesus observed giving in the temple treasury. While alms giving was private, tithes and offerings were always a public testimony of faith in God. Jesus invited His disciples to note the poor widow’s gift in comparison to all the others. Her gift was the greatest because they gave from their surplus [leftovers] and she out of her poverty all she had. This was a costly but commendable expression of faith. Jesus still sees our giving. Are we giving our first fruits and best or giving our leftovers?

December 28, 2016

Isaiah 30:1-17 “Turn to God & Trust”

Few things stir God’s anger like when His children make plans not born out of relationship with Him. This is seen when we turn to the ungodly world for help in times of trouble. “Who proceed down to Egypt Without consulting Me,…” (2a) This reflects a lack of desire for His prophetic and written word, and is turning to useless counsel. What should we do? “For thus the LORD GOD, the Holy One of Israel, has said, ‘In repentance and rest you will be saved, In quietness and trust is your strength.” But you were not willing,’” (15a,b) May we learn from Israel’s error and to turn to God and trust in His directives.

Mark 12:28-40

A scribe asked Jesus what was the most important commandment. He said, “…’Hear, O Israel, The LORD our God is one Lord; And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind and with all your strength.’” (29-30). The second is “…’You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’…” (31). Later Jesus warned against religious leaders focused on receiving recognition, respect and political positions. This ambitious type of leader will take advantage of the neediest people for their own benefit. True leaders are evident in service reflective of a deep love for God and His people.

December 27, 2016

Isaiah 29 “Discipline Is for Our Good”

This declaration against Jerusalem [Ariel] comes when she rests in a false sense of security. God will raise up her enemies and her destruction will come suddenly and her devastation will be overwhelming. God sees all and we cannot hide from Him. “Woe to those who deeply hide their plans from the LORD, And whose deeds are done in a dark place, And they say, ‘Who sees us?’ or ‘Who knows us?’” (15) Yet, from this discipline comes a restoration of sight, joy and true knowledge. God will do a work in His children so they will turn and sanctify His great Name and walk in truth. An undisciplined child brings shame to his parents. Let us give careful attention to our God’s loving hand of discipline.

Mark 12:18-27 “Importance of Humility”

The Pharisees’ question was couched in flattery, but the Sadducees came in a supposed allegiance to Scripture. They were trying to expose what seemed to them an inconsistency in Scripture so they could cling to their lifestyle and belief system. Yet, their failure to honor its context revealed both ignorance of God’s word and of God’s power. Humility before God and His word is reflected in persistent learning and growing in truth. God’s word coupled with God’s power not only reveals truth, but transforms character to conform to Christ’s image. Do we approach God’s word in humility or in pride and presumption?

December 26, 2016

Isaiah 28:14-29 “Destruction or Stability?”

Judah is being warned about the false security of human efforts which are deception. In contrast, God says, “…’Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, A costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed. He who believes it it will not be disturbed.’” (16) The human fleshly realm is unsatisfactory and leads to destruction. However, this destruction has its limits and its purpose in God’s hands. We listen carefully to what God is teaching through every difficult season so we trust not in deceptive human reasoning, but in the unshakable cornerstone of Christ. Let us turn our ear to God’s Son and trust in Him without reservation or fear.

Mark 12:13-17 “Are We Protecting Our Predispositions?”

Jesus was approached with questions designed not for learning, but to trap Him. First, they flattered Him and then they asked whether they should pay the unpopular pole tax to Caesar. He confronted their insincerity, “…’Why are you testing Me?’” (16b) and then asked a question putting His questioners in the awkward place they intended for Him. This set them back, but they persisted in ignorance. Some people are not interested in learning, but merely protecting their predispositions and lifestyles. May we have the wisdom not to seek to defend our positions, but to continuously learn from God’s word.

December 23, 2016

Isaiah 28:1-13 “Walking in Drunkenness?”

While drunkenness was a real problem in Samaria [Ephraim’s proud crown], there is also the intoxication of pride and self-reliance. When a person is drunk, they walk without sensitivity to reality. They become vulnerable to dangers and will not listen to the counsel of God’s word. There is no drunkenness worse than that which comes through the ignoring of God’s prophetic Word. Those who do not give careful attention to His Word will inevitably face devastation. Yet, if we listen and obey His Word, we will walk sober to the reality revealed in it. May we have the wisdom to value God’s Word.

Mark 12:1-12 “God Owns the Vineyard”

Jesus’ conflict with the Pharisees, Sadducees and Scribes intensified as He spoke a prophetic parable against them. God had planted a vineyard, provided for its protection and rented it out to vine-growers. The problem was the vine-growers forgot they were not owners [but renters] and rejected the messengers [prophets] sent to them. This rejection of God’s messengers would lead to destruction. We do not own our lives, but it is comes from God and we do well to honor Him by honoring His message [Word] and messengers.

December 22, 2016

Isaiah 27 “Restoring Roots for Fruit”

“In that day…” Two things occur: First, God deals harshly with His and our enemies. Second, He commits to His church nurture and protection for her fruitfulness. “In the days to come Jacob will take root, Israel will blossom and sprout, And they will fill the whole world with fruit.” (6) When does this happen? When God’s flawed people [Jacob] pulverize their idols and return to His holy mountain to worship the Lord. This is seen when we cease wrestling in the flesh and begin wrestling with God. Genuine worship must be restored so God can provide and protect us for fruitfulness. When we are rooted in true worship of the true God, growth and fruitfulness are inevitable.

Mark 11:27-33 “Looking Beyond Questions”

When the religious elite questioned Jesus as to the source of His authority, they were not genuine. What they really were doing was seeking to protect their positions of comfort, recognition and power. They were “politically” motivated. So Jesus asked them a question about whether John’s baptism was from heaven or men. They’re response exposed this hypocrisy and Jesus refused to answer them further. We must guard ourselves from dialoging with people who’s motives are tainted with insincere motives. Arguing with the insincere is a waste of time and a hindrance to completing our God given assignments. May God give us the wisdom to look beyond the questions.

December 21, 2016

Isaiah 26 “Our Song in Dark Days”

This song of praise ascends from those who trust in God. “Trust in the LORD forever, we have an everlasting Rock.” (4) Though enemies seem unassailable, God will bring them low and exalt all who call on, and lean upon, Him. He brings increase to His people as they cry out to Him in birth pangs. God will punish all who live in iniquity as we rest in His salvation. Dependence on God and praising Him while in oppression, is a testimony to all who observe our lives. May our song be strong regardless of what appears in this earthly realm.

Mark 11:12-26 “Removing a Power Blocker”

When Jesus was hungry, He approached a fig tree for food but found nothing, “…for it was not the season for figs.” (13c) He then said, “…’May no one ever eat fruit from you again!’…” (14) When returning from Jerusalem, Peter was startled that the tree had withered. Jesus then told his disciples that unusual power is available for all who have FAITH IN GOD. What seems impossible, even ridiculous, can be done if we believe. This is not positive thinking, but faith in God. Yet, unforgiveness is a huge impediment to this power. Unforgiveness blocks the flow of God’s mercy in our lives. Let’s keep our lives free of this disastrous blockage to God’s power.

December 20, 2016

Isaiah 25 “Stay Focused by Praise”

“O LORD, You are my God; I will exalt You, I will give thanks to Your name; For You have worked wonders, Plans formed long ago, with perfect faithfulness.” (1) Isaiah praises God in spite of the devastating impact of their enemies. Why? Because he knows who God is and what God will do on their behalf. When God is our God, our praise is not muted by negative circumstances. We know God will judge our enemies and He is a refuge for all who are helpless (note 4-5). May we stay focused on who God is, what He has done and what He has said. Remember, what we see is not what will be.

Mark 11:1-11 “Expressive Worship & Jesus Presence”

Just days before Jesus would become our passover lamb, He made what we call, “The Triumphal Entry.” Disciples facilitated His entrance with expressive praise. The religious elites did not acknowledge Him, but His disciples were radical, enthusiastic and very expressive. Jesus spent this time “…looking around at everything….” (11b). Does our praise facilitate His presence and inspection of our gatherings? Are we welcoming His presence? May our praise reflect His great and costly gift of salvation.

December 19, 2016

Isaiah 24 “God Is in Control”

The declarations of judgment here are universal and do not discriminate regardless of class, position or economic status. All who oppose God’s people are appointed to thorough devastation. However, when this occurs, God still reigns from Mount Zion [His assembled worshiping people]. “Then the moon will be abashed and the sun ashamed, For the LORD of hosts will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, And His glory will be before the elders.” (23) In times of mercy and judgment, God is still on His throne above all peoples.

Mark 10:46-52 “Jesus Heals Unworthy People”

How Bartimaeus lost his sight we are not told, but he was reduced to a beggar. When he heard Jesus was near, he cried out, “…’Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’” (47b). Though the crowd attempted to silence him, he cried out all the more. Note, his appeal to Christ was NOT based on his merit, but on who Jesus was as seen in God’s word and an appeal for mercy. We do not need to be worthy to receive healing, but believing in God’s greatness and His loving kindness. May we cry out to our Lord because of who He is in power and mercy!

December 16, 2016

Isaiah 23 “Increase for Generosity”

Tyre prospered in sea trade but now was faced with God’s fury for its use of this prosperity for luxury. Now it would be taken away in severity. After years of devastation the city would be permitted by God to resume her trade. It would now be for the the people of God. “Her gain and her harlot’s wages will be set apart to the LORD; it will not be stored up or hoarded, but her gain will become sufficient food and choice attire for those who dwell in the presence of the LORD.” (18) May we always remember God gives surplus not for our luxury or security, but for generosity.

Mark 10:32-45 “Power to Serve”

While Jesus spoke of His pending suffering and death, His disciples quibbled over their positions. Jesus’ took this opportunity to revolutionize their concept of greatness. “…but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all.” (43-44) Position was given to Christ to serve the needs of others and not enhance His place over others. God will generously gives power to those who will use it to serve others.

December 15, 2016

Isaiah 22 “The Need for Fathers & Servant Leaders”

In this “valley of vision” we see the demise of the people of God for leaning on anything or anyone other than God. Yet it is not an eradication of His people, but a replace of its leadership with a leadership who will rely upon God and be His servant. “Then it will come about in that day, That I will summon My servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah” (20) This leadership will be a “father” to God’s people and He will give them a place of authority and stability. Yes, God will judge His church for leaning on the flesh, but He will not abandon her. God will raise up fathers who will lead His church as servants.

Mark 10:23-31 “Impossible Is Possible with God!”

After the rich young ruler left in sadness, Jesus spoke to His disciples. “…’How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!’” (23a) This amazed His disciples and repeated its essential truth. They then asked who could be saved. “Looking at them, Jesus said, ‘With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.’” (27) From the birth of Christ until now God has opened the door to the impossible for His children. Regardless of obstacles, including wealth, God not only can, but loves to do the impossible.

December 14, 2016

Isaiah 21 “God Judges Our Enemies Harshly”

The horrifying destruction of Babylon is a vision that rattles Isaiah though they are Judah’s enemy. While judgment is prophesied against God’s people for their rebellion, it is always for the purpose of bringing them to repentance and mercy. Not so with those who oppose God’s people. Babylon represents false religion that takes God’s people captive and where many became content and do not return. We, therefore, must separate from it lest we are taken in the severe judgment God brings on her for all [idols] she relied upon.

Mark 10:17-22 “Demonstrating Love for God”

When the rich young ruler came to Jesus, he did so with enthusiasm and honor. He said, “…’Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (17b) His question reflected a humility paralleling those in Acts 2:37-42. Jesus listed commandments relating to human relationships summarized in loving our neighbor as ourselves. He did not mention, however, the commandments summarized in loving God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. In fact, He asked for a demonstration of this truth by letting go of his wealth to follow Jesus. This he could not do! It is one thing to embrace God’s word intellectually, but quite another to demonstrate our love for Him above all else.

December 13, 2016

Isaiah 19 – 20 “Mercy in Judgment”

Egypt was the enslaver of a people whom God delivered. Even after deliverance, in times of distress, God’s people looked to Egypt for help. Egypt symbolizes the ungodly world God delivers us from whom He will judge. All the “pillars” on which they rely will be removed. The political, natural and intellectual realms are severely judged revealing the folly of relying on them. “The LORD will strike Egypt, striking but healing; so they will return to the LORD,…” (22) The judgment of God is intended to cause people to return to Him and is, therefore, an expression of His great mercy.

Mark 10:13-16 “The Quality of Dependence”

The disciples struggled with children being brought to Jesus to be “touched” by Him. This stirred Jesus to say, “…’Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.’” (14b) What qualities do children display that we need to embrace to “receive” the kingdom of God? Some suggest it is childlike faith, but I suggest to you it is far more. First, we must “receive” God’s kingdom, it is not earned. Second, children are highly dependent on their parents. Like children, we come to God to receive His rule and rest fully in His provision, protection and guidance. May we, and our children, come to Jesus to be touched by Him.

December 12, 2016

Isaiah 18 “The Testimony of Peace”

God is not unaware of those who rise against us or who plot evil in this world. “…’I will look from My dwelling place quietly…’” (4b) In the New Testament God dwells in the body of Christ, His Church. He is not disturbed by threats or injustice, but is quietly in charge of all and rules over all for the benefit of His dwelling place. While the world may be tossed and in fear, Mount Zion, His Church, continues in peace as the place of His dwelling and rule. Our greatest testimony attracting this world is to live in peace and faith while the world is being turned upside down all around us.

Mark 10:1-12 “Importance of Keeping Our Word”

While many Jewish leaders were religious, they often missed the point of God’s word. The breaking of a marriage covenant was permitted, but it was not intended by God from the beginning. However, many were taking lightly the very issue of their word. Jesus addressed this with very seriously indicating their view was a form of hard hearted insistence on their own will which was, in fact, adultery. While their are legitimate reasons for divorce, they manipulated God’s word to legitimize their desires to walk contrary to God. May God give us the grace to see the importance of keeping our word to others and God.

December 9, 2016

Isaiah 17 “Mercy in Judgment”

Israel had relied on their neighbors [Damascus], so God judged both that city and their nation. From the first king of Israel [Jeroboam], they relied on a religion of convenience and compromise. God was patient for generations, but finally judged this man made religion. “In that day man will have regard for His Maker/And his eyes will look to the Holy One of Israel.” (7) Israel then ceased looking to her altars, idols and fleshly strengths, as the observe their cities forsaken. So also, the church must turn from relying on man made religion and return to her Maker or face great loss. Even in judgment God is seeking to extend mercy.

Mark 9:38-50 “Stumbling Blocks to Faith”

Jesus speaks to His disciples in strong language to stress the importance of not causing others who believe in Him to stumble. If there is a cause of stumbling in us, it must be dealt with swiftly and severely lest it land us in hell. We must be careful not to hang onto members of the body who undermine the faith in Christ of the young and vulnerable. We would be better off without the benefits of an aspect [limb or member] of the body, than to be plunged into hell while clinging to it. May God give us the wisdom to see the seriousness of interfering with the faith of His children.

December 7, 2016

Isaiah 15 “God Deals Harshly with Some”

Moab impeded Israel’s progress to the promise land and was the place where Israel was seduced by Balaam’s counsel to mingle in relationships. Though this had some success, God is intolerant toward those who interfere with His people’s progress. We must guard against relationships that interfere with our following God into the fulness of His promises and kingdom. Why? Because they will be judged harshly and thoroughly.

Mark 9:14-29 “Faith & Our Prayer Life”

Jesus’ disciples faced a demon possessed boy. Jesus rebuked them for their lack of faith in that they were unable to deliver him. In Jesus presence the boy went into convulsions and began foaming at the mouth. Then He set the boy free. When the disciples ask why they were unable, He said, “…’This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer.” (29) Their lack of faith was due to their lack of prayer. A healthy prayer life corrects perspective and increases faith.

December 6, 2016

Isaiah 14 “The Church, Our Refuge”

Here we see the taunt of God’s people over the king of their enemies [Babylon]. Ultimately, the king over them is the devil who seeks to oppress God’s people through created beings. When God’s favor is given to His church, their enemies are scattered and their victory irreversible. Even Philistia [the enemy within] will suffer a great defeat. “How then will one answer the messengers of the nation? That the LORD has founded Zion, And the afflicted of His people will seek refuge in it.” (32)

Mark 9:1-13 “Attentive or Inventive?”

At this time of great challenge, Jesus took three disciples and went alone to a high mountain. Here He was transfigured and His clothes were whiter than white. Peter, startled and not knowing what to say, came up with an idea to build three tabernacles: one for Jesus, Moses and Elijah who appeared and talked with Him. Except, then a cloud came and a voice from it saying, “…’This is My beloved Son listen to Him!’” (7b) God desires our attention and not our inventions. As Christ’s church we need to focus on hearing and obeying rather than strategizing and planning.

December 5, 2016

Isaiah 13 “God Deals with Our Enemies”

Babylon was one of Israel’s greatest enemies used by God to discipline His people. However, they would not escape justice and their judgment was certain. It was God’s LOVE motivating Him to use them as instruments of His discipline, but it is God’s ANGER motivating Him to bring our enemies to justice. Too many times we focus on our “injustice” missing God’s love in discipline. We need to put our enemies in God’s hands. God will not allow our enemies to escape justice but will deal with them in anger as He has dealt with us in love.

Mark 8:27-38 “We Will Rise Again!”

The crowd had lofty ideas of who Jesus was, but His disciples knew Him to be the Christ. Yet, Jesus knew they would struggle in light of HIs coming suffering as it would seem to them in conflict with who He was. “And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer…, ….be killed, and after three days rise again.” (31) Their expectations of the coming Messiah and His followers did not include this. His disciples, those who follow Him, would need to prepare for a similar journey. “…’If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” (34b) May we have the grace to embrace, and wisdom to see, the need to deny self and embrace our cross. Why? Because we will rise again!

December 2, 2016

Isaiah 12:1-6 “Our Highest Praise”

On the day of restoration God’s people are characterized by an abundance of thanksgiving, praise and dependence upon Him. Why? “Behold God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; For the LORD God is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation.” (2) Complete reliance on God yields two obvious changes in our lifestyle. First, overflowing thanksgiving and expressive praise flow freely from our hearts and lips. Second, we joyfully continue to lean fully upon God and His salvation. “Therefore you will joyously draw water/From the springs of salvation.” (3) Total dependence on God results in the highest from of praise honoring God for who He is, what He has done and what He has said.

Mark 8:1-26 “Put Spiritual Needs First!”

A large crowd, some of whom had come great distances, were with Jesus for three days without food. Yet the place where they were had no resources to purchase and the disciples had only seven loaves of bread and a few small fish. This second miracle of provision came to the people who put their spiritual needs and hunger over their physical needs and desires. Again, after feeding 4,000 people “…they picked up seven large baskets full of what was left over of the broken pieces.” (8b) Note only what was broken to be shared was multiplied resulting in a surplus. After this great miracle, religious experts demanded a sign from Jesus but He exposed their motives and moved on. These “experts” would never be content and Jesus warned of their negative influence. Jesus was not distracted but continued healing and serving others. When our spiritual hunger is great and a first priority, Jesus will meet every need (Matthew 6:33).

December 1, 2016

Isaiah 11:11-16 “God’s Mercy, Not Our Genius”

After discipline, God restores us for His display to this world. He takes jealousy and harassment from us and gives us power over our enemies. All the mocking and disgrace is removed, not by our accomplishments, but by God’s actions on our behalf [mercy]. The same way God brought us out of Egypt [bondage to an ungodly world], He restores us to His kingdom in power. It is not by our creativity or innovation, but by the compassionate actions of our God as we turn back to Him.

Mark 7:24-37 “Are We Pursuing God or Crowds?”

Getting a crowd was never an issue for Jesus, but getting away from the crowd was. A Syrophoenician woman with a demon possessed child sought Jesus out while He was seeking privacy and rest. Her faith in Christ motivated her to be persistent, and though ignored and insulted, her daughter was delivered. Jesus took a deaf man aside from the crowd and healed him. “And He gave them orders not to tell anyone; but the more He ordered them, the more widely they continued to proclaim it.” (36) While we seek to promote the church, we are very likely not walking in the power of Christ’s kingdom. Maybe we should not pursue the crowd to come to church, but pursue God to come to His church in power so she might minister His kingdom to those in need.

November 30, 2016

Isaiah 11:1-10 “Good Roots & Fruit”

“Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, And a branch from his roots will bear fruit.” (1) Because the Spirit of God rests on him, he possess wisdom, understanding, counsel, strength, knowledge and the fear of the LORD in great delight. He does not rely on any element of his flesh and so walks uprightly and faithfully. His word brings discipline and transformation removing all elements of harm. Consequently, the nations of this world will turn to the “root of Jesse.” Obviously this root of Jesse refers to the coming Messiah our Lord Jesus. Regardless of our varying backgrounds and previous harmfulness, we stand united in Christ. This is the place where God’s glory will dwell as we stay connected and live from our root in Christ.

Mark 7:1-23 “What Do We See?”

It is fascinating to see that when the religious experts showed up to see Jesus, the first thing they noticed was a violation of tradition. They totally missed the many miracles and healings, but noticed the disciples eating without the ceremonial washing of hands. This outward focus reflects a legalism missing the very heart of God’s word leaving the inner man full of uncleanness. God is after our heart and an external focus derails us from seeing the obvious: the compassion of God toward man in miracles. May we be a people after God’s heart lest we be governed by an unclean externally focused heart.

November 29, 2016

Isaiah 10:24-34 “Joy Comes in the Morning!”

The affliction of our enemies is but for a moment and they will not escape justice for their actions. We need to understand that even our enemies are subject to God’s sovereignty and serve His purposes for our benefits. Anger and frustration at people or circumstances, reflects an ignorance of God’s loving sovereignty in our lives. When God completes His work in us, our enemies will be permanently removed. “For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for a lifetime; Weeping may last for the night, But a shout of joy comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5)

Mark 6:45-56 “Adversity Brings Revelation!”

At a time of great success, Jesus sent His disciples ahead of Him in a boat so He could slip away to pray. The disciples faced “contrary winds” and strained to make progress. Do you ever feel you are straining to make progress when trying to obey Jesus? It does not mean we missed God’s will, but it does mean we are in for a greater revelation of Jesus! They had forgotten the miracle nature of Jesus and how he just fed 5,000 with a few loaves and fish. Sometimes we must face adversity for the purpose of seeing God’s great joy of doing miracles in our lives.

November 28, 2016

Isaiah 10:1-23 “Our Enemies & God’s Purposes”

When enemies arose against Judah, they were to recognize their power came from God for His purpose to bring them back to Himself. Often when railing against our enemies we may be railing against God and His loving purpose for us. We also must understand our enemies are temporary and God will deal with them for their excessive evil and false self perceptions. Their end will be swift and a remnant of God’s people will return to Him and no longer rely on themselves, their idols or their neighbors. May God give us the wisdom to trust Him in our adversities.

Mark 6:33-44 “The Power of Compassion”

Compassion moved Jesus to teach the people who passionately pursued Him and stayed with Him despite their earthly needs. He then instructed His disciples to provide for them from “what they had” and not to focus on what they lacked. After Jesus gave thanks and distributed what they had, five loaves and two fish, they picked up twelve baskets of “broken pieces” of bread and fish. May God give us the compassion to use what we have and not to focus on our lack.

November 25, 2016

Isaiah 9:8-21 “God’s Loving Hand of Discipline”

God raises up enemies to discipline His people and bring them back to Himself. Why would God allow this? “Yet the people do not turn back to the one who struck them, Nor do they seek the LORD of hosts.” (13) Two points are critical here. First, they failed to see God’s loving discipline in adversities. Second, they do not seek the LORD. Consequently, God gives them over to false leaders causing confusion. Adversity will persist until we recognize God’s loving hand in discipline and turn to seek Him with all our heart.

Mark 6:7-32 “Staying on Mission”

Jesus assembled, equipped and sent out the twelve disciples to go and preach a message of repentance while demonstrating the kingdom in miracles. This brought great success but also raised great opposition. Herod, a political leader, was threatened by this surge in Jesus’ ministry after having John the Baptist killed to preserve his own dignity and power. At this point Jesus called His disciples to pull away for a time of rest and recovery. Jesus saw the importance of getting away from the crowds to stay focused. We must allow neither success nor opposition to get us off track from the mission God has given us.

November 24, 2016

Isaiah 9:1-7 “God’s Gift to Us”

“There will be no more gloom for her who was in anguish;…” (1a) This prophetic look forward to the birth and ministry of Christ brings hope to all who suffer. Why? “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;…” (6a) Jesus is God’s gifted Presence to us. Our hope is not in improved circumstances, but in the Presence of Jesus. Whether we need guidance, power, loving care/protection or peace, our answer for all of these concerns is found in the presence and reign of Jesus. As we learn to look to this gift, “…The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.” (7b)

Mark 6:1-6 “Beware of What You Know!”

The people of Nazareth were puzzled by Jesus’ teaching, wisdom and miracles. Because they thought they knew who He was, they were unable to know who He was. It is often what we think we know that prevents us from knowing the truth. They knew His occupation, parents and siblings, so they were offended. Jesus was unable to do miracles due to their perceptions. Do our preconceived religious notions of God stand in the way of receiving who God is and all He has for us? Let’s not allow what we think we know get in the way of who God is and His great love for us.

November 23, 2016

Isaiah 8:16-22 “Do We Look to God or the Dead?”

We cannot violate God’s word without serious consequence. Regardless of our surroundings, we cling to His word waiting for His Presence! Hence, we become signs and wonders persisting in corporate worship of God and obedience to His word. While others turn to the world of the “dead,” we look to God’s living Word and Presence. There is no light anywhere else! “Then they will look to the EARTH (emphasis mine), and behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish; and they will be driven away into darkness.” (22) Happy are those who look to God and His word for direction!

Mark 5:21-43 “Deadly Delays or Greater Opportunities?”

In desperation, a synagogue leader named Jairus fell at Jesus feet begging Him to come heal his dying daughter. On the journey, a desperate woman with an illness that drained her life savings, pressed through the crowd in desperation and faith. All she wanted was to just touch Jesus clothes to be healed. Jesus stopped to minister to her and while doing so received report that Jairus daughter died. This delay look like it resulted in death, but actually led to an opportunity for a greater miracle and revelation of Christ. We need to understand what looks to us as a deadly delay, is really an opportunity for a greater miracle and understanding of our Lord.

November 22, 2016

Isaiah 8:1-15 “Fear God Alone!”

This prophetic word of judgment against Israel/Damascus will surrender their wealth to Assyria and reach into Judah but not completely. With all this many will seek to protect themselves without success and say it is a conspiracy against God’s people. However, it is the Lord who is behind it! They rejected God’s discipline through their neighbors so God deals with them severely. We are not to fear any of our enemies but we are to fear God only who works all things for our good. We need to see that God is “breaking us” so we will be repentant and responsive to His voice and will.

Mark 5:1-20 “Loss of Lifestyle or Jesus’ Presence?”

Jesus came to a demon possessed man in Garasene. No one was able to restrain him with anything, but when confronted by Jesus, he was tormented. Jesus cast the demons into a herd of swine who ran into the sea. These people had strayed from God’s word against eating swine. They were now more disturbed seeing this man in his right mind and the loss of income, then seeing him under the power of demons. So they pleaded with Jesus to leave and He did so. Jesus often disrupts our lifestyle leaving us with a choice to repent and be renewed or reject His work and send Him off. Are we willing to embrace the change God’s presence brings to our lives or will we cling to our lifestyles rejecting His presence? May God grant us the grace and wisdom to live in His presence no matter the loss to our flesh.

November 21, 2016

Isaiah 7:10-25 “What We See Is Not What Will Be!”

Ahaz received another prophetic word encouraging him not to fear the kings of Israel and Aram. God promised that before this child was weaned, these kings would be history. However, the very area Ahaz looked to for help against these kings, would become the source of God’s punishment and discipline for rejecting His word. Like Ahaz, we often fear what God does not want us to fear and fail to heed His word. May God give us the humility and faith to trust Him completely regardless of how things look to our flesh. WHAT WE SEE IS NOT WHAT WILL BE!

Mark 4:35-41 “Fear Not, Jesus Cares!”

Though crowds were big Jesus left them behind to follow His Father’s directives. As the disciples obeyed Christ’ word, they encountered a life threatening storm and appealed to Him as he slept in the stern; “…’Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?’” (38b). First, Jesus rebuked the storm, but then He rebuked the disciples for unbelief. When Jesus gives directives, we should not be fearful of anything threatening our lives or destination. His word is true and is not derailed by storms. May we have the wisdom and faith to trust and obey God’s word without fear or false accusation [“…do You not care…”]!

November 18, 2016

Isaiah 7:1-9 “FEAR Undermines LEGACY”

Jerusalem came under attack from Aram and Israel, but she stood strong. In spite of this, the presence of Aram united with Israel nearby brought great fear to Ahaz and the people. To address this fear, God sent Isaiah to encourage Ahaz indicating this threat would not be realized. We learn, from 2 Chronicles 28:16ff that Ahaz rejected this word, allied himself with another enemy (Assyria) and set up his descendants for a great loss to Assyria. Rejection of God’s word may lead to a present benefit, but will have a devastating impact in the future. We must be aware of the reality that our present relational decisions may have some benefits, but will have a long lasting negative impact on our children and grandchildren.

Mark 4:26-34 “Power in the Seed”

Jesus here explains the kingdom of God in two parables about seeds. We plant seeds and they grow into fruitful plants because of the soil. However, it is a mystery as to how it happens. Also, the smallest of seeds has great potential. This is especially seen in providing a safe and nurturing place for new life. May we do our part to plant the seed of God’s word and trust God to do His part in this process of miraculous growth.

November 17, 2016

Isaiah 6:1-13 “Overcoming Uncertainty”

“In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple.” (1) This vision came at a time of transition and uncertainty. The people were persisting in sin, there was division in Judah and uncertainty was giving birth to fear. However, Isaiah saw the Lord on a throne and in control. This vision brought an awareness of his own sinful nature. He then submitted to God’s purging and because an effective prophet. If we are to be an effective prophetic church, then we must get our eyes on the Lord who is sovereign over all and deal with our own sinfulness. May God give us the wisdom to look to Him alone!

Mark 4:1-20 “Good Seed & Good Soil”

This is not a parable of four seeds, but one kind of seed sown in four kinds of soil. The church has given much attention to doctoring the seed [God’s word] or trying to make it more palatable to the world. Yet, we are called to be faithful to sow the seed of God’s word and not trying adjust it to make it more affective. We do have a responsibility to listen carefully to His word (24), but this was an explanation to Jesus’ disciples of the varied reactions to the same word [message]. May God grant us the wisdom to be attentive to the word of God we receive, and to faithfully present God’s word and leave the results to Him.

November 16, 2016

Isaiah 5:18-30 “Deception Does Not Excuse Us”

“Woe to those…” (18,20,22) A series of woes is pronounced on those who are tied by ropes of deception to the weight of their sin. These mock coming judgment and live contrary to God’s revealed word thinking they will escape. Not only will they face God in judgment, but God will raise up their enemies in strength against them. Why? “…For they have rejected the law of the LORD of Hosts/And despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.” (c) May God give us the grace, wisdom and humility not to excuse our sin, but to hear His word and respond to His corrections.

Mark 3:13-35 “Summoned, Selected & Appointed?”

“And He went up on the mountain and summoned those who He Himself wanted, and they came to Him. And He appointed twelve,…” (13-14a). Jesus team was not elected, but summoned, selected and appointed. In another gospel, we learn that He did this after a night of prayer. He gave them authority and His ministry grew, but not without problems. He was misjudged in His miracles, falsely accused and had to clear them up by parables. Jesus identified those who did God’s will as His family. In spite of the opposition, Jesus persisted in God’s plan with those whom God gave Him as family.

November 15, 2016

Isaiah 5:8-17 “God Is Always Good”

Multiplying property and possessions leads to an unhealthy independence from God and His family. A scarcity, from God, comes to all who seek this and a drift into unhealthy lifestyles will follow. A spiritual famine and bondage to our enemies results from a lack of knowing God’s word and will. This humbling of man will be accompanied by an exalting of God in judgment. Even the suffering of God’s people is an expression of God’s kindness and concern for His people. May we hunger and thirst to be led by God and committed to His family for true prosperity.

Mark 3:1-12 “Knowing When to Move On!”

Jesus kept going to church [synagogue] in spite of an abundance of the hypocrites and corruption in her leadership. This intensified the divide between them and brought constant criticism and judgment to Jesus while He was doing good. Though Jesus was angered by their hypocrisy (vs. 5), He persisted in the Father’s will. The religious leaders and the Herodians were enemies, but their common fear and hatred of Christ brought them together to destroy Him. How did Jesus handle this? “Jesus withdrew to the sea with His disciples; and a great multitude from Galilee followed;…” (7) We need to have the wisdom to know when to withdraw from conflict and move on with God’s plan lest we be distracted by our enemy’s attempt to derail us. Sometimes, we just need to move on and let Him deal with our enemies.

November 14, 2016

Isaiah 5:1-7 “God’s Love for Us Is Righteous”

This song reveals to us that God did all He could to make His people a healthy and good people. His posture toward them is love, but they produced bad fruit. We can never blame God for our unfruitfulness or failure to walk upright. If we do not take responsibility for our sins, even God Himself cannot help us. As much as God loves us, He will not continue to enable us in our rejection of Him as our Lord. He will withdraw His favor and allow us to see the consequences of our sin. This He does in His love and mercy. May we be awakened to the loving discipline of our Heavenly Father.

Mark 2:13-25 “Letting Go of Useless Structure”

Jesus’ motives were often misunderstood and challenged by the religious status quo. When He reached out to sinners, He defended His actions as one who was seeking to bring healing to the hurting. When His disciples did not fast, He explained it was not a time for fasting but for celebration. Religious leaders of Jesus’ time sought to maintain traditions without understanding God’s purposes in them. Jesus knew God wanted to pour out His Spirit but the present wineskin [structural form] was inadequate and needed to be replaced. He did not recommend doctoring the old wineskin, but replacing it with a new one. May God give us the wisdom to know His purposes in our “forms” and a willing heart to replace them when they are no longer useful.

November 11, 2016

Isaiah 4 “Finding Peace in the Dark Place”

There is a saying, ‘It’s always darkest before the dawn.’ While scientifically this is not true, here is a valid point. As God extends judgment upon His people, this is always for their repentance and reviving. Wilderness precedes effective ministry as revealed in Scripture. As distress comes upon men for disobedience, God is ready to pour out mercy based on who He is, what He has done in Christ and what He is doing in us. His desire is for revival in the church is “…shelter to give shade from the heat by day, and refuge and protection from the storm and the rain.” (6) Let us bless the Lord when darkness crowds in upon us knowing who He is, what He has done and what He is doing in us.

Mark 2:1-12 “Removing Obstacles to Healing”

When four men brought a paralytic for healing, they could not get to Him because of the crowd. They dug a hole in the roof to lower him to Jesus, but first He dealt with the man’s spiritual need, “…’Son, your sins are forgiven.’” (5b) The friends of the paralytic were convinced of Jesus’ ability to heal him, but it is likely the man in need did not deem himself worthy because of his sin. Jesus removed this obstacle to faith by extending forgiveness. We too should realize, Jesus is able to remove our sense of unworthiness by His mercy, so we might receive His power to heal. God’s mercy triumphs over judgment.

November 10, 2016

Isaiah 3:13-26 “God Hates Injustice”

When God rises to judge His house, every strata of leadership and people are impacted. When we allow oppression of the poor, God will rise to defend them. Another issue stirring God’s anger, is when we use external beauty [gifting, talent] to manipulate others for our own advantage. In this case God, rises to expose hypocrisy and strip us of our beauty. We must NOT think God will not deal with our sins. We need to humble ourselves, ask for the light of His word to expose our flaws, and appeal to Him for His mercy in Christ.

Mark 1:29-45 “The Problem with a Crowd”

Healing and the miraculous flowed regularly in the ministry of Jesus. Life came from His words and His touch. This resulted in crowds which Jesus would often slip away from to be with His Father. “In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there.” (35) Jesus’ goal was not to build a crowd, but to obey His Father’s directives. He was constantly “moving on” to His next assignment and not focused on promoting His ministry. May we learn from Christ’s example to be attentive to our heavenly Father, stay focused on obeying Him, and not be distracted by crowds.

November 9, 2016

Isaiah 3:1-12 “We Must Value God’s Presence!”

The judgment of God does not always come in the form of lightening or sudden destruction. It is the withdrawal of His presence and support for His people. For their sin, He gives them leaders who are unsuitable and unequipped. Why? “…Because their speech and their actions are against the LORD, To rebel against His glorious presence.” (8b) Because they have no shame, their leaders guide them astray and confuse their direction. The absence of God’s presence is the worst of all judgments. Let us highly treasure God’s gracious presence.

Mark 1:14-28 “What the World Needs Now”

Jesus chose men to be disciples who were hard working flawed men. They recognized His teaching as with authority and not from mere positions of power. His demonstrated this in casting out an unclean spirit from a man attending church. His teaching and His authority gave Him credibility with the people and His reputation was spread throughout Galilee. The world around us needs the body of Christ to walk in the way and the power of Christ. They don’t need more programs, better organization, talents or marketing schemes, they need men and women of God who walk in the power of the Holy Spirit according to His word of God.

November 8, 2016

Isaiah 2:12-22 “Worship God Alone!”

The pride of man repulses God and invites judgment. “For the LORD of hosts will have a day of reckoning/Against everyone who is proud and lofty/And against everyone who is lifted up, That he may be abased.” (12) God is not opposed to trees or mountains, but these are symbols of the great accomplishments of humanity. There is coming a time when all our idolatrous efforts will be worthless and subject to God’s wrath. We are not look to gifting, talent or accomplishments of men, but turn our faith to the Creator and Redeemer of men. “Stop regarding man, whose breath of life is in his nostrils; For why should he be esteemed?” (22)

Mark 1:1-13 “Importance of Our Wilderness”

“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” (1) This good news began with a call to repentance and baptism. John spoke of a more significant person [Jesus] who would baptized them in the Holy Spirit. Jesus embraced this message, was baptized by John, and the Holy Spirit came upon Him with an accompanying voice, “…’You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.’” (11b) Jesus was immediately impelled by the Spirit to go into the wilderness. Here His identity, and dependency upon His Father, would be challenged by the devil. Often we resist our “wilderness” intended by God to work in us dependency on Him so we are able carry out His mission. Without the wilderness, we are ill-equipped to serve God or His purposes. Repentance, and wilderness lessons, are foundational to all healthy service.

November 7, 2016

Isaiah 2:1-11 “Elevating God’s House & Rule”

This prophetic word to Judah and Jerusalem regarding the last days, are the days of the church. There is an exaltation of God’s house or the place where people gather to worship and pray. This people will attract others to come and be taught by God. God’s word will go forth from God’s house to His worshipers. Yet God’s people will be abandoned by Him if they are filled with the influence of those outside His rule. They take on the ways of the world and adopt the methods of this world leaning on their own abilities and judgments. God, however, will judge man’s pride so He alone will be exalted. Our greatest sin is independence from God and our greatest strength is our total reliance on and obedience to Him.

Matthew 28:1-20 “Enjoying Jesus’ Promised Presence”

It is interesting that the resurrection of Jesus paralyzed the guards, but motivated His disciples to worship and listen to Jesus. His final instructions called them to a recognition of His place of authority and to embrace His mission to make disciples. This involved baptizing and teaching them all Jesus commanded. As they obeyed this exhortation and mission, the disciples were promised the reward of His PRESENCE to the end of the age. We cherish and enjoy the presence of our Lord when we embrace His message and methods. Our goal is not to know ourselves, but to deny ourselves and know our Lord Jesus Christ.

November 4, 2016

Isaiah 1:18-31 “Restoration or Crushing, Our Choice”

In spite of the evils found in God’s people, He desires to bring mercy by the simple repentance found by listening and obeying His word. “If you consent and obey, You will eat the best of the land; But if you refuse and rebel, You will be devoured by the sword…” (19-20) After all God has done for us, He is puzzled by our lack of turning to Him for cleansing. There will be a restoration and cleansing for the repentant ones, “But transgressors and sinners will be crushed together, And those who forsake the LORD will come to an end.” (28) May God grant us the grace and mercy to heed His word and respond to His invitations.

Matthew 27:57-66 “Resurrection Is Certain!”

The death and burial of Christ was very public and witnessed by many. A wealthy man, named Joseph, asked Pilate for Jesus body and placed it in a tomb while others watched. Because of the fear of His disciples coming and stealing the body and faking a resurrection, the tomb was secured with a special guard. All of this testifies to the veracity of the resurrection of Jesus and our hope is fortified by this event. May we walk in light of His resurrection and all of its implications for us. Praise be to God who raises us from the dead.

November 3, 2016

Isaiah 1:1-17 “Honoring God with Our Attention”

Isaiah received this series of visions during the rule of four kings of Judah. Visions reveal three basic elements: 1. Where we are at truly; 2. Where we are going; 3. How to get from where we are at to where we are going. Judah was off track with where God wanted them simply because the failed to honor Him as their God and PAY attention to what He said to them. It is not about what we accomplish for God, but it is about our attentiveness to God and obedience of what He says. If we do not take the time to listen to God in prayer, worship and scripture, we will not be able to obey Him. May God give us the wisdom to listen and obey.

Matthew 27:33-56 “God’s Ways Are Not Ours”

Ironically, the Jews rejected Jesus as their King and Pilot crucified Him with that charge. They mocked Him asserting that if He were truly who He said He was, then God would rescued Him. Yet, His suffering and death actually lead to God purpose. When Jesus died there was a release of God’s power raising many from the dead who appeared in Jerusalem after His resurrection. At the moment of His death, the centurion guarding Him cried out in fear, “…’Truly this was the Son of God!’” (54b). God’s ways are not ours and we need His wisdom to see what He is accomplishing in our suffering.

November 2, 2016

Ecclesiastes 12 “Start Young!”

“Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth,…” (1a) We all know people who regret their past and failure to seek God in their youth. I so appreciate parents who guided me into a relationship with Christ at a young age. Though we all regret some things, developing a love for God’s word in my youth is something I cherish. I do not regret a moment of reading, studying or meditation in Scripture. There are many “important” things that pale in comparison to the value of God’s word. “The conclusion when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person.” (13)

Matthew 27:27-32 “I Am a Child of God!”

Jesus was not guilty of a single charge leading to His crucifixion. How did He face such mocking and pain without a word of frustration or anger? The key was knowing who He was [God’s Son] and who His Father Is. Jesus knew who He was, where He had come from, and where He was going! John said, “Jesus, KNOWING that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God,…” (John 13:3) Jesus was able to humble Himself as a servant because He knew who He was and who [His Father] was in charge. If we know whose we are and His power in our lives, we can boldly face humiliation and mockery in peaceful silence. We are the children of God!

November 1, 2016

Ecclesiastes 11 “Give All You Can!”

Sharing the blessings of the Lord in regards to provision is both joyful and wise. Even when we look back to “days of darkness”, we have something to rejoice about. While we are privileged to enjoy life, we do so know also we give account for all we do in life. It is, therefore, unwise to be stuck in grief and anger which hinder us from staying focused on God’s intended purposes for our lives. While this world says, ‘get all you can for you only go around once’, wisdom says, ‘give all you can for you only go around once.’ It truly is better to give than receive!

Matthew 27:11-26 “Are We Governed by Emotions?”

Jesus stood before Pilot facing charges from Jewish leaders and people who were stirred by them. Jesus did NOT defend Himself before these leaders, but did admit to Pilot He was King of the Jews. Pilot, realizing their envy, and being warned by his wife from a dream, sought to release Jesus. So he gave them an option to release Jesus or a notorious prisoner named Barabbas. However, both Pilot and the people were governed by something much stronger than truth and logic, that is fear and passion of raw emotions. Remember this principle: Passion Prevents Proper Perception Promoting Promiscuous Pursuits!

October 31, 2016

Ecclesiastes 10 “Who Is Truly Wise?”

This chapter is packed with what we might call common sense wisdom. “Dead flies make a perfumer’s oil stink, so a little foolishness is weightier than wisdom and honor.” *(1) The content of a man’s temperament, speech, handling of injustices and work ethic will reveal the distinctions of the wise and the foolish. Even the most secret of conversations will be exposed so we must carefully guard our words. There is need for balance and good timing in all things. May God grant us grace to guard our hearts.

Matthew 27:1-10 “Repentance or Just Remorse?”

When Judas made a deal to betray Jesus to Jewish leaders, he did not anticipate it would lead to Christ’s death. He sought material gain at the expense of loyalty. He had seen Jesus escape from harm from these men before. The resulting condemnation of Christ to death brought remorse to Judas, but he did not repent of his self-seeking manner. His suicide reflects a high level of selfishness seeking to avoid the pain of genuine confession of his true condition to find repentance. Godly sorrow will lead us to repentance, but simple remorse will intensify our selfishness. May God grant us the wisdom to see the difference.

October 28, 2016

Ecclesiastes 9 “Look Beyond This Life!”

Here is painted a most frustrating perspective on life ‘under the sun.’ There seems no advantage to the righteous over the wicked, the wise over the foolish, or the pure over the unclean. They all share the same end. He sees wisdom as being more important than strength, but in the end what does it matter? Consequently, this earthly bound perspective leads to self-indulgence and purposeless living. May we learn from the preachers example that there is no true fulfillment in possessions or accomplishments as seen ‘under the sun’, but when life is lived from an eternal perspective, we have both hope and satisfaction.

Matthew 26:69-75 “Have Faith in God!”

As Peter was confronted as having been with Jesus, he denied it as prophesied by the Lord. He was identified as being with Jesus by the way he spoke, so he responded by swearing and cursing to validate his denial. If we walk with Jesus it will be seen in the way we speak. After his third denial, the rooster crowed reminding him of Jesus’ word. At this point Peter realized his weakness and left weeping bitterly for his failure. We need to learn that our faith must rest in the certainty of God and His Son’s love for us and not our love for Him. We will eventually be confronted by the weakness of our love, but can be restored when we are focused on the greatness of God’s love as seen in His Son.

October 27, 2016

Ecclesiastes 8 “Life Can Be Frustrating”

Wisdom can improve our countenance and move us to respect authority. Yet, there are many things outside our ability to change. There are times when it appears injustice rules producing much frustration and even discouragement. This may cause us to turn to pleasure or some other distracting activity or interest, but will still leave us empty if our perspective is limited to this life. There are no philosophies ‘under the sun’ which will remedy the emptiness of life. Only as we look to our Creator and Redeemer can we realize a truly satisfying life.

Matthew 26:57-68 “From Injustice to Life!”

Peter was confused by Jesus response to His aggressors. As a result he followed Jesus ‘from a distance’ to see what would happen to Him. What appears to us to be a terrible injustice was a part of God’s plan to bring about a greater good, the redemption of humanity. Because these leaders could find no basis for accusations, they twisted Jesus’ words out of context to form their case against Him. Jesus’ bold assertion of who He was, intensified their anger and brought a sense of justification to them so they would make further accusation and mockery. Though they came to the erroneous conclusion that He deserved death, their actions would result in our salvation. May we ever show great gratitude for the injustice to Christ that brought mercy and life to us all.

October 26, 2016

Ecclesiastes 7 “Seeing God in Our Trials”

“A good name is better than a good ointment, And the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth.” (1) Yesterday I spoke with a man who said funerals are too often about the sadness of our loss, rather than a celebration of the life of the one who has passed. Here we see the value of what we might call the negative side of life. We are often so focused on the moment, we fail to learn valuable lessons from our journey. Do we see what God is accomplishing in the difficult seasons of our lives? Focus on ‘life under the sun’ is frustrating and we must be liberated from this limited perspective. Our destiny is shaped by lessons learned during our journey. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8).

Matthew 26:47-56 “Are We Fighting God’s Will?”

After Jesus prayed for help in facing the cross, He called His disciples to join Him in facing His betrayer. Judas betrayed Jesus in the dark of night with an expression of affection. Jesus did not resist, but one of the disciples drew his sword and cut of the ear of the high priest’s slave. Yet, He did not rebuke His betrayer or His aggressors, but He did reprove His disciples for their ignorance of God’s sovereignty and God’s word in Scripture. The ability to deal with those who betray or oppose us, is found in our faith in God’s power, sovereignty and His will as revealed in Scripture. Without these, like Balaam (Numbers 22), we fight against God’s will failing to realize His destiny for our lives.

October 25, 2016

Ecclesiastes 6 “Emptiness Outside of Eternity”

Here we see the frustration of a man who works hard but is not able to enjoy the fruit of his labor. Even long life and a great number of children without a joyful life frustrates man as he dies in obscurity. Regardless of lifestyle, to the one whose perspective is this life alone nothing will resolve his sense of futility. Life ‘under the sun’ will never bring the peace and joy God intends for man. Only redemption and eternal life through Christ will heal this emptiness in man.

Matthew 26:36-46 “Grace to Embrace God’s Will”

In the face of Jesus’ crucifixion, He pulled away from the crowd and some disciples to pray. Yet, as He began to be distressed and grieved, He also pulled away these to be alone with His Father. He appealed to His Father, if it was possible to escape the cross. But, if there were no other way, He sought strength to embrace His cross. It is one thing to know God’s will, but quite another to have the grace to embrace it. Like Jesus, we also must pray for the wisdom and grace to embrace His will looking beyond the present to the long term goals of our loving heavenly Father.

October 24, 2016

Ecclesiastes 5 “Don’t Forget God!”

Though Solomon slipped from his devotion to God, he still observed some basics of faith eventually bringing him through this dark period. He understood it is more important to walk in integrity than to abound in gifts and words. Keeping our word is essential to keeping our faith. He also sees the folly of obsession with money and possessions. The sense of abundance of things, can leave us open to deception. Love of money leads to injustice and leaves us in great disappointment. Yes, we should enjoy God’s blessings, but if we are not careful in so doing, we will forget our eternal perspective and live foolishly. When we confess constant dependency on and to God, He is able to secure us from all foolishness and its deceptions.

Matthew 26:31-35 “Hope Found in Jesus’ Promised Presence”

Jesus tells His disciples of His pending death and their being scattered. Yet, He did not stop there, but spoke of going before them to meet in Galilee. Peter’s response reflected a false sense of self-confidence. Self-confidence presents two dangers. First, we fail to see our vulnerabilities and seek God’s help. Second, we defend ourselves to the point of missing the promise of Christ found in the second part of what He said. Our hope is not in self-confidence, but in the restorative promises of being in His presence again. We are not doomed by our weaknesses. In fact, God desires to shift our faith from self to Himself. No matter how we fall, He is waiting to meet with us full of mercy and love! It is not how we feel about ourselves, but our conviction about Christ.

October 21, 2016

OT – Ecclesiastes 4 “Getting Beyond Frustrations”

Seeing oppression and injustice brings great frustration despairing even of life (1-6). There is no work we embrace that can truly mitigate against this. The sense of being alone and having no one to share our joy, will leave us empty regardless of accomplishments (7-12). Power and position without wisdom will lead to turning to others for hope, but without satisfaction (13-16). Nothing ‘under the sun’ can provide for the void within. We must look beyond our present into the hope found in an eternal perspective and the redemption realized in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Matthew 26:14-30 “Danger of a Self-Centered Focus”

After this costly expression of worship, Judas went to the Jewish leaders asking what he could gain for betraying Jesus to them. Judas did something for temporary personal gain without looking to its long term impact. He had stolen from the ministry, but now he would enter a level of disobedience from which there would be no return. When we are focused on the “moment,” we make decisions negatively impacting our future. This will lead to actions we never imagined we would embrace. God’s plan will prevail, but may God give us the wisdom and grace to stay kingdom focused and not self-centered.

October 20, 2016

Ecclesiastes 3 “Overcoming a Depressing Perspective”

While Solomon sees the order established on earth for man, at this point, his life he is entirely focused on his present. Though eternity may be in his heart, his eyes are focused on life under the sun (16). He sees no distinctions between the life of man and the life of beasts for they all share the same fate of death. Consequently, for him there is nothing more important than being happy in his activities. This depressing perspective will only be corrected when our eyes are lifted to the hope [involving eternity] we have in our Creator and Redeemer.

Matthew 26:1-13 “Extravagant Worship, Effective Evangelism”

Jesus’ now shared openly with His disciples regarding His coming crucifixion. Jewish leaders were actively seeking opportunity to kill Him to fortify their positions of power. At this time a woman approached Him with a very costly perfume [life savings] and poured it on His head. This infuriated the disciples for it had much value to meet the needs of the pour. Even Jesus’ own disciples failed to understand the value of costly worship, so He rebuked them for failing to recognize her good deed to Him. We do not have endless opportunities to worship our Lord. Besides, extravagant worship is a powerful testimony of our value of Christ!

October 19, 2016

Ecclesiastes 2 “Overcoming Misery”

A key word in the futility recorded here is the word “myself.” “I said to myself…”; (1) “I enlarged my works: I build houses for myself, I planted vineyards for myself;” (4) The pursuit of pleasure, possessions, wisdom and work are meaningless being motivated by self and viewed in the light of this life alone. This narrow perspective leaves us empty and unfulfilled. No wonder Paul said, “If we have hope in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.” (1 Corinthians 15:19) May we live in light of eternity serving others above ourselves so we are freed from this miserable and narrow perspective.

Matthew 25:31-46 “Are We Serving Jesus?”

This teaching of Christ reminds us we will be held accountable for our use of time, finances and energy. Those motivated to serve the “least of these” will be rewarded as serving the needs of our Lord. Those failing to serve the “least of these”, will receive eternal punishment. When we are preoccupied with our own interests, we miss abundant opportunities to serve Jesus. Failing to serve others reflects self-interest and failure to serve Christ with eternal consequences. May God give us an eternal perspective and a heart to serve others as the Lord Himself.

October 18, 2016

Ecclesiastes 1 “Satisfied or Empty?”

This book of Solomon reflects the frustrating perspective of life on earth outside of God. All our works and the greatest pursuits of wisdom do not yield satisfaction, but in fact leave us empty and frustrated. The limits of an earthly perspective, regardless of our work ethics or pursuits of wisdom and knowledge, are futile leaving us empty: “‘Vanity of vanities,’ says the Preacher, ‘Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” (2) Only a focus rooted in a Divine and eternal perspective will ever lead to a truly full and satisfying life.

Matthew 25:14-30 “Good & Faithful or Worthless?”

This parable of talents [money] entrusted to slaves, reveals to us some important truths. First, we receive from God as stewards of what belongs to Him. Nothing in this world belongs to us but is entrusted to us from God. Second, will be called to account in this stewardship for what God gifts to us. Third, we are rewarded NOT according to the amount of our gift, but for our stewardship of the gift. Are we good and faithful or worthless? God is not looking for people with great gifts, but for our faithfulness to what God has given us.

October 17, 2016

Proverbs 31 “She’s A True Beauty!”

King Lemuel was taught by his mother. She warned him not to fall into the trap of giving his strength to women, over indulging in strong drink and not to ignore the rights of the needy. She also gave him a picture of the kind of woman he should pursue as a special and rare treasure. She is trustworthy, seeks his good, hard working, sharp in business, giving of herself for her family, sacrifices to serve others and other great qualities. She is focused on obtaining a good future and full of wisdom and kindness towards others. Here is the bottom line… “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.” (30)

Matthew 25:1-13 “I Need More!”

At the return of Christ God’s kingdom is compared to ten virgins, five foolish and five prudent. Yes, they were all virgins, but the five foolish were content with the oil in their lamps and the prudent, thinking of the future, sought more oil taking it in flasks. We must be careful not to embrace spiritual contentedness, but alway seek for more of the Holy Spirit. Otherwise, we will be unprepared to meet our coming bridegroom. May we have the posture of confessing our need and pursuing God for more of His Spirit.

October 14, 2016

Proverbs 30 “A Beauty From God”

From Agur we learn the way to wisdom requires a confession of our own poverty of knowledge and focusing on God’s greatness (1-6). He points to factors in creation revealing His greatness. Today, Pam and I got up to a beautiful bouquet from God as the morning sun kissed the intensified colors of fall. Even in regards to personal purity, we must guard ourselves from our own assessments. “There is a kind who is pure in his own eyes, Yet he is not washed from his filthiness. There is a kind – oh how lofty are his eyes! And his eyelids are raised in arrogance.” (12-13) May the grace of God to shift our focus to the beauty surrounding us and the inward beauty available to us.

Matthew 24:42-51 “Stay Alert!”

“Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming.” (43) No one but God knows the timing of Jesus’ return. We, therefore, must stay alert and not be found wasting the time God has gifted us with while on earth. Two attitudes prevail at the return of Christ. First, there are the faithful and sensible servants tending to the needs of others. These will be blessed. Second, there are those who have the philosophy of partying and enjoying life. These will be severely punished and given the reward of hypocrites. The first is ever conscious of His master’s return, but the second is focused on celebrating life now. The first mindset equips us to stay alert, but the second intoxicates us with distractions insignificant to eternity. May God give us wisdom to stay alert!

October 13, 2016

Proverbs 29 “Disciplined for a Happy Life”

Discipline needs to start young and continue through our lifetime. “The rod and reproof give wisdom, But a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother.” (15) “Correct your son, and he will give you comfort; He will also delight your soul. (17) Undisciplined young people often reject wisdom and reproof as they age. But when we accept correction, we will have great joy. The disciplined person looks beyond the moment and pain to his rewards in the future. “Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, But happy is he who keeps the law.” (18) May we have the grace to embrace correction and wisdom so we may have a happy present and future.

Matthew 24:29-41 “Get Ready, Get Ready, Get Ready!”

While Jesus warns us not to be distracted by false prophets and teachers, He assures us that He will return. His return will not be a secret but visible to all (29-31). Yet, there will be a great distinction between those who are prepared and those who are of the tribes of the earth. Those of this world will suddenly be filled with mourning for the fearful nature of their coming judgment. But those who are prepared, will be filled with joy anticipating great reward for their faithfulness. Whether we are afraid of the coming of the Lord or look forward to Jesus return, depends on whether we are living in light of His return or going the way of this world.

October 12, 2016

Proverbs 28 “Honoring God’s Word”

“He who turns away his ear from listening to the law, Even his prayer is an abomination.” (9) God is not impressed with our religious activity unless we have a heart to hear and obey His word. In fact, religious activity without repentance and compliance disgusts God because it reflects a lukewarm disinterest in Him. We must be cautious not to trust our own heart, but look intently into the law of liberty. “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, But he who walks wisely will be delivered.” (26) May we continuously humble ourselves before our God and His word.

Matthew 24:15-28 “May God’s Rule Prevail in Us”

What is the Abomination of Desolation (15) spoken of by Jesus. It is forms of idolatry which replace God’s rule in our lives with self-rule. It is not forms of wickedness of which we commonly think. It is not just lying, immorality or perversion [all of which are evil], but the exaltation of self which pushes aside the rule of God. Yet, we who adhere to Christ’s words of warning, will not be led astray by those promoting self-centered forms of Christianity. Jesus said, “Behold, I have told you in advance.” (25) May God give us a passion for His word so we will not be mislead by the abundance of false prophets and teachers in this world.

October 11, 2016

Proverbs 27 “True Friends!”

Friendships are key to healthy and wise lifestyles. What should we look for in a friend? He or she is not one who gives hearty approval to all we do or say. “Better is open rebuke/Than a love that is concealed. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.” (5-6) Many seek friends who will agree and sympathize, but a true friend will not be silent when we are off track. A true friend is closer than a brother and will not fear our disapproval (10). “Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another.” (17) Love is reflected more in honest reproof than in affection and sympathy. Though, at times, this kind of friendship is very uncomfortable, it is much healthier for our long term well-being.

Matthew 24:1-14 “Avoid Distractions & Stay On Mission!”

The disciples asked Jesus about the sign of His coming and the end of the age. His first concern was, and is: “…See to it that no one misleads you.” (4b) False religion, wars, famines, earthquakes and other distractions are NOT signs of the end, but distractions from our mission of taking the gospel of the kingdom to the world. We guard against these and the influences of lawlessness, so we may persist in love and complete our mission

October 10, 2016

Proverbs 26 “Hope in God Alone!”

Wisdom and proverbs are entirely useless to the fool. And even worse than a fool is one who is confident in himself. “Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” (12) It is not self-worth or self-confidence we need, for these are obstacles to learning and wisdom. Awareness and acknowledgement of our wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked condition helps us open the door to Jesus to receive true wealth and worth (Rev. 3:14-220. May we turn to God to receive His wisdom. Our hope is in God alone!

Matthew 23:37-39 “Divine Destiny or Desolation?”

Rejection of God’s invitations through His servants ultimately leads to divine judgement. Christ’s heart toward Jerusalem was filled with love and compassion, but their rejection of Him not only led to their devastation, but to the desolation of their children (37-38). Until we are open to God and His messengers, we remain hopeless and potentially leave a legacy of desolation to our children. “For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, ‘BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!” (39). We will experience desolation or Divine destiny based on our response to Christ & His servants.

October 7, 2016

Proverbs 25 “God’s Ways Are Not Ours”

Here we are exhorted to not self-promote, not to be quick to argue, to be cautious about context in speaking, and to note the value of reproof to the wise. The effectiveness of our speech is not in a good forceful argument, but in gently spoken words reflecting love and concern. In place of revenge, we are to embrace acts of kindness as the most effective tool in dealing with enemies. These words summarize an important truth: “It is not good to eat much honey, Nor is it glory to search out one’s own glory. Like a city that is broken into and without walls/Is a man who has no control. over his spirit.” (27-28) May God grant us grace for wise living!

Matthew 23:13-36 “Lessons from Bad Examples”

“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.” These leaders of Jesus’ day pursued the honor of men and neglected the honor of God. They were active evangelists, but sadly produced disciples after their own examples. They manipulated people and the word of God for personal gain and focused on the easiest elements of the law while neglecting those of greater significance. Jesus’ words were strong: “…, how will you escape the sentence of hell?” (33b) Rejecting God’s messengers they became trapped in self-deception. May God give us the grace to learn from their mistakes.

October 5, 2016

Proverbs 23 “Healthy Hearts Receive Discipline”

Here we see the danger of envy to our hearts (1-12). Nothing impoverishes us like discontentment. Yet, the reception of discipline strengthens our hearts and gives joy to those who love us. “Do not hold back discipline from the child, Although you strike him with the rod, he will not die. You shall strike him with the rod/And rescue his soul from Sheol [abode of the dead].” (13-14) A good father encourages his children to learn from the pain of discipline. Yet, if we are distracted or intoxicated, there is no end to our pain. A healthy heart accepts discipline though painful and avoids the relief of distraction.

Matthew 22:34-46 “Real Hunger, Real Love”

A lawyer asked Jesus which commandment was the greatest. He summarized them by commanding them first to love God, and then to love each other. Their insincerity was obvious, so Jesus asked them a question to shut them down from any further inquiry. We, like Jesus, need to know when people are really interested in learning or just want an argument to make them “feel” right. Also, if we are “commanded” to love God and each other, than love is not so much an emotion as it is a choice to value something highly. May God give us discernment to see genuine hunger to learn and express genuine love in our choices and priorities in life.

October 4, 2016

Proverbs 22 “Present Inputs Determine Our Destiny”

What we choose for our influences greatly impacts wisdom and discernment. “The prudent sees the evil and hides himself, But the naive go on, and are punished for it.” (3) Prudence is the quality of evaluating our present in light of its impact on our future. As our Brother Clark Slone said Sunday, prudent people live in the light of eternity! We guard ourselves against all influences contrary or hindering our eternal destiny. Our ability to trust God greatly depends on our inputs. “Incline your ear and hear the words of the wise, And apply your mind to my knowledge;” (17) May God grant us grace to bend our ears toward healthy influences so we secure a hearty future.

Matthew 22:23-33 “How Do We Look to God?”

Jesus greatest conflicts were not with sinners, but with religious people. He addressed them as scribes, hypocrites, blind guides and even serpents. They focused on looking right [before others], but inwardly were dishonest, self-serving and dangerous. They even sought ways not to keep God’s word. They were evangelists, but were putting people on the road to hell. Their righteousness was outward, but inwardly they were full of death and defilement. They were concerned about how they looked before men, but not before God. May God give us the grace to go beyond outward religion pursuing inner righteousness for His glory.

October 3, 2016

Proverbs 21 “Honor God & Government!”

“The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He wishes.” (1) Obviously a good leader is sensitive to God’s directives, but is God actually over evil leaders? In the New Testament, Paul exhorts us to honor and pray for our governmental leaders. This is especially difficult when so many are full of corruption and crimes without repercussions. While disobedience to a corrupt leaders may be occasionally necessary, disrespect for those over us is always to our own detriment. By knowing God’s sovereignty and love for His people, we can be at peace even when surrounded by injustice and wicked leaders. God’s purposes will prevail and we rejoice in Him alone.

Matthew 22:15-22 “Trap Questions”

Questions are not always properly motivated. Here some sought to trap Jesus in what He said, but were not genuinely interested in His answer. Like Jesus, we must be wise in addressing ill-motivated questioners. Are they seeking truth or presenting a trap? Jesus detected their “malice” and responded with a question leaving them without an answer: “…Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (21b). They went away in wonder of His response. May God give us wisdom to discern the sincere.

September 30, 2016

Proverbs 20 “We Need God’s Judgment”

“Wine is a mocker, strong drink is a brawler. Whoever is intoxicated by it is a brawler.” (1) Avoiding certain influences is central to wisdom. When our emotions rise within [for arguing] our external influence is diminished. Our inner motives, plans and ambitions need Divine inspection, guidance and enablement. If we fail to invite God’s input, we do not posses the light when needed most. Yet, if we listen to what God is saying in our adversities, we will be cleansed in our inner being (30).

Matthew 22:1-14 “God Wants to Meet With You!”

The parable of a King’s wedding feast invitation illustrates our need to respond to God’s invitations to dine with Him in festive celebration. Many were “unwilling” to come and he sent others to invite them, “…But they paid no attention and went their own way,…” (5a) They did only what they wanted and would not pull away from their jobs, mistreated his messengers or showed up without appropriate attire. All these responses reflect ignorance of the importance of this great event. May God grant us the grace and wisdom to respond with excitement to His every invitation to dine with Him (Rev. 3:14-22).

September 29, 2016

Proverbs 19 “Are We Growing in Wisdom?”

The characteristics of wisdom and foolishness are contrasted here, but a key threaded throughout is repeated three times: “He who gets wisdom loves his own soul; He who keeps understanding will find good. (8) “Listen to counsel and accept discipline, That you may be wise the rest of your days.” (20) “Cease listening, my son, to discipline, And you will stray from the words of knowledge.” (27) Wisdom is not simply acquired and achieved, it must be sought, maintained and increased or it will be lost. May God give us the humility and grace to continuously pursue Him and His word for wisdom throughout our lives.

Matthew 21:33-46 “Ownership Is God’s Alone”

In this parable, Jesus points out how Israel’s leaders drifted into the misconception of thinking they were owners and not stewards entrusted with a task. The vineyard and everything in it comes from God, belongs to God and He expects fruit from it at the proper seasons. If we do not yield fruit to the Lord in season, His kingdom is given to a people who will do so. Only God’s will can prevail. Our wills need to be broken, but if they are not we will reap the harvest of judgement. We have a great and wonderful privilege of serving in God’s vineyard, so let us show respect to His ownership of all.

September 28, 2016

Proverbs 18 “Inputs & Outputs of the Wise & Foolish”

Distinctions between wise and foolish people are enumerated by their inputs and outputs. Fools separate from the input of others to seek their desires arguing against sound wisdom. They are want to promote and protect their desires and ways. The wise always grow and pursue knowledge in humility. The foolish love to share their own mind, but the words of the wise are a fountain of life giving water. The wise are cautious in seeking not to offend, but the fool only cares about speaking his mind. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit.” (21) The wise man is careful in picking friends, but the foolish man is reckless in his associations.

Matthew 21:28-32 “Consent or Obey?”

In this simple illustration of two sons and obedience, Jesus expresses concern for those who claim to be “followers” but are really only “consenters.” The first son rejected his father’s will, but later regretted it and obeyed him. The second agreed with his will, but did not follow through by obedience. We do not enter into God’s kingdom through the faith of agreement with God, but with the repentance bringing us into obedience to God!

September 27, 2016

Proverbs 17 “Distinctive Characteristics of the Wise”

The contrasts in this chapter between the wise and foolish are many. The wise are restrained, but the fool speaks his mind. The wise embrace adversity and correction and become wiser. Fools ignore any lessons to be learned. The wise avoid the presence and association with fools as more dangerous than a mother bear robbed of her cubs. The wise avoid quarrels, but fools love to argue. The wise are settled in their spirit, but a fool is always unsettled and looking for something to satisfy them. May God grant us the grace to pursue the path of the wise and avoid the influences of the fool as dangerous to our eternal destiny.

Matthew 21:23-27 “Accept Correction or Create Deflection?”

When Jesus entered the temple, the leaders where challenged by His ministry and teaching. He brought serious reproof to them. They asked a question not looking for an answer, but with the intent of silencing His reproof. Many times we reject correction not challenging the correctness of its content, but by challenging the right, or motives, of its presenters. This self-destructive tactic has eternal consequences. It takes the light off our error and deflects it toward the messenger of life. May God grant us the wisdom and humility to embrace God’s correction without attacking His messengers.

September 26, 2016

Matthew 21:18-22 “Power for the Unusual”

One morning, Jesus came to a fig tree in leaf without fruit. He publicly cursed it and it withered. This shocked His disciples. He responded to them “…if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ it will happen.” (21) Some have turned this into a metaphor and missed the point. It was a literal fig tree and He was likely pointing to a real mountain. Jesus is simply saying if we have faith and do not doubt, we have the power to do unusual things.

Proverbs 16 “We Can See Clearly”

Two verses here are similar: “All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, But the LORD weighs the motives.” (2) “There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.” (25) Here we see clearly that we cannot see clearly without God. We cannot trust our own judgement. However, another verse shows how to remedy this: “He who gives attention to the word will find good, And blessed is he who trusts in the LORD.” (20) By the input of God’s word and the illumination of His Holy Spirit we can see clearly. May God grant us the wisdom to see our inability to see without Him and to trust in His word completely

September 23, 2016

Proverbs 15 “Life-Giving Instruction”

Our speaking, whether gentle or harsh, influences the response of others (1-7). It also reflects our awareness, or lack thereof, of God’s loving concern for our lives. Sometimes we contend for what will not profit us: “Better is a little with the fear of the LORD/Than great treasure and turmoil with it. (16) Joy and peace flow from a heart sensitive to correction in humility: “He whose ear listens to the life-giving reproof/Will dwell among the wise. He who neglects discipline despises himself, But he who listens to reproof acquires understanding. The fear of the LORD is the instruction for wisdom, And before honor comes humility.” (31-33).

Matthew 21:12-17 “Welcoming Jesus”

These sobering verses show us the compassion of Christ to those in need. He condemned the religious who had made a business of God’s house: “…It is written, ‘My HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER’; but you are making it a ROBBERS’ DEN.” (13b) In the place God intended people to meet with Him [in prayer], religious leaders had turned it into a business where thieves were protected. While they were disturbed about Jesus powerful ministry to the needy, they were even more disturbed by His reception of praise from children. Jesus told them their praise was prepared by God for God. While Jesus met the needs of the humble, He left the presence of the self-righteous.

September 22, 2016

Proverbs 14 “Leaving A Legacy of Wisdom”

Distinctive characteristics of wise and foolish men are enumerated here. Injected among them are a number of sobering exhortations to keep us on track: “Leave the presence of a fool, Or you will not discern words of knowledge.” (7) Wisdom is not what “seems right” for trusting our own judgment is folly (12). Wise men cautiously avoid all evil, but foolish men are prideful and reckless (16). Our pursuit of wisdom is critical to our children and the legacy left to them: “In the fear of the LORD there is strong confidence, And his children will have refuge. The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, That one may avoid the snares of death.” (26-27) May God in His mercy grant us the grace to walk in the wisdom of the fear of the Lord.

Matthew 21:1-11 “A Humble King”

In these final days of Jesus’ life on earth, He gave instructed His disciples to go into the village, find a donkey and bring it to Him. This, quite simply, was to fulfill prophetic scriptures. He would not come on a war horse, but in humility on a “BEAST OF BURDEN.” Jesus’ leadership was in stark contrast to the political and religious leadership of the day and is still so today. This brief moment of recognition and praise by His disciples would soon be interrupted by a series of events leading to His crucifixion. May God grant us the wisdom and grace to follow His example of giving His life for the well-being of God’s people.

September 21, 2016

Proverbs 13 “Love Correction, Live Happy”

Wisdom and righteousness have benefits reflected in attitudes toward correction, rebuke, work and honesty. For example: “A wise son accepts his father’s discipline…” (1a); “A righteous man hates falsehood,…” (5); “The one who despises [neglects] the word will be in debt to it, But the one who fears the commandment will be rewarded.” (13); “Poverty and shame will come to him who neglects discipline, But he who regards reproof will be honored.” (18); May God grant us a receptive heart and attitude toward those who love us enough to correct us.

Matthew 20:29-34

Large crowds followed Jesus as they were leaving Jericho, but two blind men received special attention from Him. These shouted “…’Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!’” (30b). Their cry reflects four key elements. First, upon hearing of Jesus’ presence near them, they shamelessly cried out in desperation. Second, they did not assert their worth, but their need of mercy. Third, they recognized Jesus for who He was. Fourth, they were persistent in their cry in the face of opposition. Too many of us are not desperate for Jesus’ touch, unwilling to acknowledge our unworthiness, fail to assert who Jesus is, and persist until He responds. May God grant us the wisdom of these two blind men so we may walk in the light of who He is!

September 20, 2016

Proverbs 12 “Humility and Legacy”

Here a rich contrast continues between the wicked and the righteous, the wise and the foolish. “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, But he who hates reproof is stupid.” (1) Pride and arrogance are stumbling blocks to learning, but the humility in receiving counsel and correction is key to growing in understanding and wisdom. Another verse says, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But a wise man is he who listens to counsel.” (15). The parallel here is obvious. We can arrogantly march forward in what we believe is right, or we can be wise by humbly seeking counsel and walk in the favor of the Lord (2). Our choice in this matter will result in great loss or a great and lasting legacy (7).

Matthew 20:17-28

As Jesus reveals to His disciples that He is about to suffer and die, His disciples are distracted with desire for positions of power and honor. Jesus takes this opportunity to explain to them that greatness is not revealed in position and authority over men, but in humble service of men. We do not strive to be leaders, but we strive to be servants. As we humble ourselves to serve others we achieve true greatness.

September 19, 2016

Proverbs 11 “Contrasts of Rewards”

These verses reveal a very important and fundamental truth: There is great contrast between the righteous and the wicked. This is true of their behavior and their reward. There is a sense of satisfaction and peace for the righteous, but the wicked suffer severe consequence in theirs. Wisdom leads to healthy decisions: “He who despises his neighbor lacks sense, But a man of understanding keeps silent.” (12) Speaking our mind is not always a good thing. Wise men have the understanding to know when silence is better. May God bless us with wise choices to walk in righteousness and restrain our tongues from evil.

Matthew 20:1-16 “Joy or Envy?”

This parable of laborers in a vineyard illuminates the subtle but very disturbing flaw of envy. God is generous to all by giving grace to all, but our sinful human nature covets recognition and position. They felt they were not being treated “equally.” The desire for our fair share is often a reflection of a sinful flaw in our nature called covetousness or envy. Instead of envying what God gives others, we should rejoice in His generosity. May God grant us the grace to glorify and give thanks to God for His great generosity to all.

September 16, 2015

Proverbs 10 “Important Contrasts”

Here we have a stark contrast between the righteous and the wicked. The righteous brings joy to their fathers, but the foolish are a grief to their mothers. The righteous walk in a satisfied life, but fools are always in want. The righteous receive commands, but fools simply babble on wanting to be heard. The wise are discerning in their words bringing life, but for those who lack understanding await harsh punishment. We know we are on the path of life because we heed instruction, but the fool proceeds rejecting reproof. May God give us grace to be quick to listen, obey and avoid all the wickedness of fools.

Matthew 19:27-30 “Great Gain”

After Jesus warns of the danger material wealth, Peter asks, “…‘Behold, we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us?’” (27b). Jesus, tells them giving up all results in gaining great power with Him. Besides, what we give up to follow Christ pales in comparison to the increase of the same in every dimension of life: material, family, intimate and business. (29). But the greatest thing of all is the inheritance of eternal life. However, there is an order in heaven which is in contrast to earth. May God help us to see the value and treasure of our inheritance, that we can release all this world offers us.

September 15, 2015

Proverbs 9 “Do We Reject or Accept Correction?

Wisdom is appealing and inviting, but only those who acknowledge their lack will pursue her. Before we can embrace wisdom, we must forsake our folly and see the pursuit of it as valuable and essential. Correcting a scoffer or reproving the wicked is useless and results in insults and hate. Yet, we know we are wise when we accept reproof and love those giving it. Where do we start? “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (10) The benefit of wisdom is long life and great personal rewards. Those who follow folly of this loud and boisterous world will find themselves on a path of lies leading to death. May God illuminate our hearts to see the precious treasure of wisdom.

Matthew 19:16-26 “True Treasure!”

A young rich ruler approached Jesus regarding how he could obtain eternal life. Jesus gave him all the commands regarding human relationships and he enthusiastically said he had kept them from his youth. He then asked, “…what am I still lacking?” Jesus told him to give up his wealth, give to the needy, find his treasure in heaven and then follow Him. Unfortunately he left grieving treasuring material wealth more than Christ. Anyone can say they love God with all their heart, but when He calls us to release all and follow Him, are we quick to respond or do we walk away in sorrow? May God open our eyes to see what is truly precious!

September 14, 2016

Proverbs 8 “Wisdom Available to All”

Before we can obtain wisdom, there are a few things we must acknowledge: First, wisdom is available to everyone everywhere at anytime. It all comes down to our choices in life and what we truly value (1-11). Second, its nature and source are in God alone. “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way/And the perverted mouth, I hate.” (13) Third, There are many benefits to valuing and pursuing wisdom (14-21). Fourth, the very creation of the world we live in was by God through wisdom (22-31). Fifth, we will be blessed if we give careful attention and listen to it (32-36). “For he who finds me finds life/And obtains favor from the LORD. But he who sins against me injures himself; All those who hate me love death.” (35-36).

Matthew 19:13-15 “Childlike Dependence”

When children were brought to Jesus, the disciples rebuked them. Jesus, in turn, rebuked the disciples for hindering them for their very nature reflects qualities needed for entrance into the kingdom of heaven. Not only are children quick to receive and believe, but they are extremely dependence upon parents. Luke’s version brings this out as he refers to “infants” being brought to Him. In God’s kingdom we excel when we are fully dependent upon our Savior. Self-reliance eats away at an essential ingredient for spiritual growth. May God give us the wisdom to humble ourselves in childlike dependence on God!

September 13, 2016

Matthew 19:1-12 “Keeping Our Commitments”

As Jesus entered Judea, large crowds followed Him and He healed them. In contrast, some Pharisees asked Him if it was lawful to divorce a wife for any reason. They were not interested in His answer, but only in entrapping Him. Jesus said God’s intent for marriage was for life and no one should interfere or they are messing with God. Divorce, at times, is unavoidable, but never was it God’s intent. Keeping our word and not lying are essential to fulfilling God’s purposes for our lives. Deceit, dishonesty and division are hated by God (Proverbs 6). May God give us grace to be genuine.

September 12, 2016

Proverbs 6 “Listen Up!”

“My son, observe the commandment of your father/And do not forsake the teaching of your mother;” (20) Listening to parental figures in our lives will save us from a world of hurt and serious loss. Whether it be a foolish commitment (1-5), laziness (6-11), bad influences (12-15), avoiding what God hates (16-19) or immorality, attentiveness to caring leadership [especially godly parents] will guard us from the awful consequences of these things. In life, rarely does anyone really care about us like our parents. Even most bad parents want to protect their children from harm. So let us heed the instruction of fathers and mothers God places in our lives by His gracious love and concern for us.

Matthew 18:21-35 “God of Anger or Compassion?”

This question Peter brings to Jesus, He turns to illustrate the significance of forgiveness. The slave is forgiven a debt a lifetime of service would not pay back. But the slave then is unwilling to forgive a fellow slave of a repayable debt or one of relative insignificance compared to his own. This ingratitude changes the posture of his master from compassion to anger (34). Unforgiveness of others moves us from a place of compassion with God to a place of anger from God. May we ever show gratitude by mercy toward others.

September 9, 2016

Proverbs 5 “The Joy of Love & Faithfulness”

“My son, give attention to my wisdom, Incline your ear to my understanding; That you may observe discretion And your lips may reserve knowledge.” (1-2) These two verses set the stage for a sober warning against the influence of seductive people. Though it specifically applies to marriage, we are faced with a world of false religion [Babylon of Revelation] seeking to seduce God’s people from faithfulness to Him. Whether we look at this literally, as is likely intended, or metaphorically as often used in scripture, only our Father’s wisdom is able to equip us so we are not seduced by this ungodly world. Faithfulness to our spouses, and faithfulness to God are exhilarating and satisfying. Beyond this, nothing escapes the eyes of the Lord (21). Bondage and folly await all who ignore God’s instruction (22-23).

Matthew 18:12-20 “God’s Heart for the Lost”

These verses reveal Jesus’ deep love for those who go astray. He is not frustrated or angry, but searches for them in great concern. If they are found, he rejoices over them. Consequently, it is our responsibility to be equally concerned for one another, even to the point of correction for the purpose of restoration. In context, it is also important to address those who stray into sin for the sake of the spiritual health and strength of the church [body]. Beyond this, when this pattern in Matthew 18:15-20 is followed, it leads us to incredible power with God.

September 8, 2016

Proverbs 4 “Where Do We Start?”

“Hear, O sons, the instruction of a father;…” (1a). Solomon points out he was once a son and gave attention to his father. True fathers build a perspective based on critical criteria: 1) they once were young and know its limitations; 2) They have a lifetime of experience and learning; 3) They have been tempered and tuned by time and trials; As a result, they have a perspective of wisdom worth hearing, embracing and heeding. Where does acquiring wisdom start? “…Acquire wisdom; And with all your acquiring, get understanding.” (7). First, we must acknowledge our LACK of these or we will not be motivated to pursue them. Second, “Prize her, and she will exalt you;…” (8a). God gives wisdom to those who persue, value and adhere to her. The great benefit of this pursuit is we grow in attraction, recognition and influence with God and men.

Matthew 18:7-11 “Discerning the Body”

Stumbling blocks to faith are to be expected in the world, but those through whom they come will face serious consequences. Jesus explains we would be better off without critical parts of our body, than to allow those parts to cause us to stumble. He may here be speaking of the metaphorical body of Christ for He goes on to say, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones,…” (10a). Causing God’s children to stumble does not go unnoticed. Despising them is not a matter of hatred, but a matter of not properly valuing them. We are called to value, encourage and war on behalf each another. We will give account for our treatment of God’s sons and daughters.

September 7, 2016

Proverbs 3 “Blessings of God First!”

“My son,…” These proverbs flow from a loving father so his son can enjoy long life and peace. Kindness and truth are to be inwardly engraved and outwardly displayed gaining favor and a good reputation with God and man. We are not to be reckless and arrogant, but cautious, humble and dependent. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” (5-6). Another foundational principle is to honor God with our abundance [wealth] and the first of our income. Material needs are not met by accumulation of wealth, but by putting God first in our finances. May God be first in all our ways so we might enjoy His favor all of the time!

Matthew 18:1-6 “Being Great in God’s Kingdom”

Jesus addresses the question of greatness with a contrast to their expectations. Greatness is not seen in excelling in ability or asserting ourselves, but in humble dependence on God and a posture of learning like children. In fact, unless we become like children we are unable to even enter God’s kingdom. Another aspect of greatness is reflected in receiving “one such child in My name…” as receiving Christ Himself. Those who are great in God’s kingdom are very receptive and concerned for new/young believers. If we do not care for young believers, we will never know greatness in God’s eyes. In fact, if we cause these to stumble in their faith the consequence of such actions will be dealt with severely. True greatness will be reflected in humble dependence on God, as well as, tender care for God’s people so as not to cause them to stumble. May we thrive in His greatness!

September 6, 2016

Proverbs 2 “Are We On Track?”

This chapter begins by Solomon pleading with his son to pursue his instruction, treasure his commands, be attentive to wisdom, incline to understanding and treasure what is most valuable for true life. He points to God as the source of wisdom and outlines its benefits. It will protect us from all subtle and evil influences guiding us into ways of life and separating us from the coming judgment. In doing this, “Then you will discern the fear of the LORD And discover the knowledge of God.” (5). In other words, pursuing and treasuring God’s word gets us, and keeps us, on track to life abundantly!

Matthew 17:24-27 “Defending Our Rights?”

Peter was approached by people challenging him whether Jesus was paying the temple tax. So he went to Jesus who presented a principle illustrating His right not to pay. However, He told Peter to go fishing and the fish caught would contain a coin for the tax. He told him to pay the tax so as not to offend them. We often are so insistent on our being right, that we create offenses. Jesus saw creating an offense as not worth asserting His rights. May God give us grace to follow His example.

September 5, 2016

Proverbs 1 “Reward of Learning”

This first chapter of the book begins with an introduction to its intended purposes. It is summarized by saying, “To receive instruction in wise behavior,…” (3a). After stating a few benefits, Solomon gives this critical key: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (7). He then appeals to his son to understand the perspective of this book as from a caring parents. There is an abundance of information in this world proceeding from its own selfish interest, but the words of this book come from a God Who is deeply caring and perfect in understanding. Wisdom is readily available and rejection of it is dreadfully serious. However, the rewards of our attentiveness to this father’s instruction are rich with life and freedom from evil.

Matthew 17:14-23 “Faith and Focus”

Coming down from the mountain of transfiguration, Jesus was approached by a man falling to his knees begging for his son’s deliverance. The disciples were unable to heal him, so Jesus rebuked them for their unbelief and perversion. After healing him, they questioned Jesus why they could not drive out this demon. His answer was simple and to the point: the absence of faith. Their unbelief reflected a perverted perspective or focus [note verse 17]. Faith is not confidence in who we are, or what we have become, but in Who Jesus is and what He has done for us. The smallest amount of genuine faith in God’s Son and His work, is able to accomplish great things well beyond our natural ability and talents. May God give us grace to stay focused on Jesus!

September 2, 2016

Song of Solomon 8 “Leaning On Our Beloved”

As we conclude this book of love, more attention is given to the desire of the bride for her grooms affection and the desire of the groom to please his bride. “Who is this coming up from the wilderness Leaning on her beloved?” (5). There is only one way “out of our wilderness” and it is by leaning on our beloved Lord Jesus. We are able to rest in the overwhelming love and care He has for us. In Him alone is our freedom.

Matthew 17:1-13 “Doing For or In Obedience To?”

Jesus took three of His disciples to a high mountain to be alone. He was transfigured before them while Moses and Elijah spoke to Him. This supernatural experience prompted Peter to offer to build three tabernacles for them. Before Peter finished speaking, God interrupted saying, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!” (5b). Note two important points: 1. Jesus is distinct from and above all others. 2. It is not what we do “for Him” that is significant, but what we do “in obedience to Him!” Let us listen carefully and obey Him fully.

September 1, 2016

Song of Solomon 7 “The Joy of Love!”

Again, the groom is enamored by his bride defining every detail of her appearance as something that draws him to her. She rests in his view of her, just wanting to do life with him. She says, “I am my beloved’s And his desire is for me.” (16). Our God not only desires us, but wants us to deeply desire to live life in His presence. When we live in God’s presence and awareness of His great love, our lives are filled with great joy.

Matthew 16:21-28

When Jesus told His disciples of His coming suffering and death, Peter objected vehemently. Yet Peter was not helping Christ in His journey, but actually hindering what was essential for our salvation. Following Jesus demands we deny ourselves and be willing to face the uncomfortable and the pain of death to self. It is only as we deny self that God’s perfect will can take hold of us to glorify our Father in Heaven.

August 31, 2016

Song of Solomon 6

The brides admiration of her groom causes others to want to see him. She is not dismayed by his absence, but rests in the confidence of his love and perception of her. The groom goes on and on about every detail of his bride as beautiful and unique. So our love for Christ should attract others to Him and His love for us removes every insecurity. He sees each one of us as beautiful and unique. Our groom [Christ] is taken by a simple glimpse of us. He longs to just “look” at us. All insecurity disappears in our awareness of God’s great love for us.

Matthew 16:13-20 “All Because of Who He Is”

Jesus asked His disciples what people “say” about Him, but was especially concerned about what His disciples say about Him. Peter’s confession, “…‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’” (16). Peter knew by revelation from God who Jesus was and was blessed. Though he had many failures, it was not declaring “who he was” that was significant to his future or that of God’s kingdom. Knowing and declaring “who Jesus is” is key. The key to success is not declaring who we are, but who Christ is!

August 30, 2016

Song of Solomon 5 “Don’t Delay Your Response”

When the groom approaches his bride, she is asleep and very slow to respond to his knocking on her door. He speaks with loving tenderness of his perspective on her beauty. However, she delays in opening the door and when she finally responds, he is gone. She missed an opportunity for intimacy. God is a gentleman knocking on the door of our heart seeking intimate communion with us. Let us not delay and be regretful, but be quick to respond to His invitations.

Matthew 16:1-12 “Danger, Danger!”

The religious elite asked Jesus for a sign. They were looking for reasons to reject Him and were not genuine. Signs abounded in Jesus ministry, but they resisted the transformed life demanded by Him. Jesus gave them the sign of Jonah, foreshadowing His resurrection which they would also reject. He turned and warned his disciples of the subtle dangerous influence of their teaching. It is not the outright heathen posing danger to God’s people, but the religious influence resisting Christ’s transforming power being quite content in their sinful state. May God’s grace guard our hearts from such wicked influences.

August 29, 2016

Song of Solomon 4 “Love Is Attractive!”

Fifteen verses are given to the grooms admiration of his bride. He overflows with poetic details regarding various aspects of her beauty. Her eyes, hair, teeth, lips, mouth, temples, neck and her two breasts all are perfect to him making his heart beat faster at a single glance. Her words are sweet like honey. Her smell is inviting like a fruitful garden. She desires him to come and enjoy her intimately like a garden with choice fruits. This is a beautiful and erotic picture of love. When we know how God admires us in His Son, we also will be incredibly desirous of His intimate presence!

Matthew 15:32-39 “From Lack to Abundance”

Jesus is moved by compassion for those with Him for three days and had nothing to eat. The disciples responded by stating their lack of food or resources needed to feed this great crowd. Jesus turned their attention to what they had, and not what they lacked. They gave Jesus “what they had,” He gave thanks, blessed it and distributed it for all to eat and be satisfied. They had more “broken pieces” left over than when they started. When we stop focusing on our “lack,” bring what we have to Jesus, give thanks, break it and give to others, our lack becomes an abundance!

August 26, 2016

Song of Solomon 3 “From Distress to Rest”

The bride is distressed over loss of her groom’s presence. She pursues him until she finds him and then will not let him go. The groom’s love expresses his concern for her rest and not his own gratification. From the wilderness comes Solomon for his wedding day well guarded, beautifully adorned and prepared for this great union with his bride. Are we troubled by the loss of God’s presence? Do we understand His great concern for us and the preparations made for our final union? If we are, we will be like this bride who says, “…I held him and would not let him go…” 4b). We must not be weary in our wilderness for there we will discover God’s loving approach!

Matthew 15:21-31 “Faith Triumphs Over Unworthiness!”

Jesus had slipped away for rest when a foreign woman came to him pleading for her demon possessed daughter. At first, He ignored her (23). Then it He insulted her (24-26). But she refused to be offended persisting in faith. She was aware of her unworthiness, but focused on God’s abundance of power and love. Previously, the disciples were rebuked for their unbelief, now she is honored for her faith. We may be unworthy, but God honors those who persist in faith due to His great power and mercy.

August 25, 2016

Song of Solomon 2 “Winter Is Past”

The bride’s self-image is improved by the declarations of her groom. She is greatly attracted to him because of how he feels about her. When we understand how God feels about us, we are overwhelmed with affection for Him. His every move, and even His delays, thrill us. He takes us from hard winters into the most enjoyable springs. “For behold, the winter is past, The rain is over and gone. The flowers have already appeared in the land;…” (11-12a). When we are focused on God’s love for us, He changes the way we perceive ourselves!

Mathew 15:15-20 “Free Indeed”

Peter is confused by Jesus’ words regarding defilement. Jesus addresses this is a very basic principle. It is not what we eat that makes us dirty, for food is processed and what is unhealthy is eliminated. Yet, what comes out of our mouth comes from our heart, such as evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, lying, slandering and other things like this defiles us. Sin is not a mere issue of behavior, but a contaminated heart. Only God can address this issue by His Son so we are free indeed.

August 24, 2016

Song of Solomon 1 “Everyone Is Beautiful!”

This Song is an very intimate expression of love between a bride and groom. It both foreshadows the love between Christ and HIs church, and reflects God intended love relationship between a man and woman in marriage. Their love for each other is not distracted, but focused and persistent in spite of her awareness of personal flaws. We need to understand God looks beyond our flaws and sees our potential in Christ. So in marriage we need to look beyond one another’s flaws and see our potential. Again, the significant parallel is that our God is not discouraged by our flaws, but gave His only begotten son to make us beautiful!

Mathew 15:1-14 “Genuine Love for God’s Word”

The Pharisees and scribes [religious elite of Jesus’ day] were so focused on traditions they failed to discern God’s heart in God’s word. In fact, they actually exempted themselves from God’s commands by corrupted “reason” and “logic.” Jesus said their worship was mere lip service reflective of hearts far away from God. While they were focused on diet details, they left out the basics of God’s word. When we love God, we are devoted to His word and our traditions can be adjusted. However, when our religion is a collection of externals, our traditions become inflexible and we drift far away. May God give us hearts passionate in our pursuit of God and His word.

August 23, 2016

Psalm 150 “That Must Be Me!”

This last psalm of praise addresses four issues: 1. WHERE to praise; 2. WHAT to praise God for; 3. HOW to praise God; and finally, 4. WHO is to praise God. First, we praise Him in “His sanctuary” or among His gathered people. We also praise Him in “His mighty expanse” or anywhere in creation. Second, we praise Him because of His great works and His excellent greatness [who He is]. Third, we praise him by various visible, observable and loud ways, such as: trumpets, harps, timbrels, cymbals, other instruments and dancing [Every way possible]. Finally, who is to praise God? “Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD!” That must be me!

Mathew 14:22-36 “You Raise Me Up!”

Jesus sent His disciples ahead of Him in a boat, sent the crowds away, and went up to the mountain by Himself to pray. While the disciples struggled with contrary winds, Jesus passed near them walking on the water. We must remember Jesus is on top of [walks on] whatever hinders our progress in His will. At first terrified, Peter asked if this was truly Jesus, that He ask him to come to Him and so He did. When Peter saw the waves, he began to sink. But when He called out to Jesus, He reached out and raised Peter up. When we are focused on our storms, our faith dwindles, but when we are focused on Jesus, He raises us up!

August 22, 2016

Psalm 149 “Beautiful People, Joyful Praise”

These songs are marked with the command to “Praise the LORD!” (1a) at beginning and end. Sandwiched in between are the reasons and benefits. Here we are to praise God with fresh [new] songs with great joy. Why? He is our creator, redeemer and King. How? Our songs are to be expressions of gladness, rejoicing, dancing and instruments. Why? God takes pleasure in us and makes us beautiful with His salvation. We are blessed with great responsibility characterized by great joy. His praises are in our mouth and His sword [Word] is in our hand. What is more beautiful than God’s people overflowing in praise characterized by great joy?

Mathew 14:13-21 “From Sorrow & Lack to Abundance for All”

At the news of John’s death, Jesus got in a boat seeking a place to be alone. However, when He came to shore, a crowd gathered and He was moved with compassion to heal their sick. He did not allow personal loss to cloud His awareness of others’ needs. Here He taught His disciples how to turn personal lack into abundance where all were satisfied. Not only this, but they picked up twelve baskets of “broken pieces” after feeding 5,000 men. Like Jesus, even in our place of sorrow, we can serve others as He turns our lack [when brought to Him] into a surplus.

August 19, 2016

Psalm 148 “Praising God Keeps Us Strong!”

As we near the end of this wonderful book called the Psalms, a greater emphasis is made on Praising God. All creation, heavens, earth and all they contain, are called to praise the One who created and established them. This is beautifully summed up in verse 13 “Let them praise the name of the LORD, For His name alone is exalted; His glory is above earth and heaven.” We are strongest when we are focused in praise on God as our Creator and Redeemer. Praise the LORD.

Mathew 14:1-12 “Led by Faith or Governed by Fear?”

Though Herod held the powerful political position, He was governed by fear. When he heard of Jesus miracles, he feared John the Baptist was raised from the dead. John had told him it was not lawful for him to have Herodias, so he arrested him for fear of losing the relationship. Herod kept him alive because of his fear of the crowds. But he killed him because of the fear of looking bad after giving his word. Fear is a horrific consumer of lives and is never satisfied leading us to decisions damaging to ourselves and others. May God give us the grace not to be governed by fear, but be led by faith in Christ.

August 18, 2016

Psalm 147 “Praise the LORD!”

Why should we praise the Lord? “…For it is good to sing praises to our God; For it is pleasant and praise is becoming.” (1b,c). We are created to praise God and we are never happier or more fulfilled than when we are doing what we are created to do. Besides this, we praise Him for all His greatness, goodness and lovingkindness. God does not favor those with great possessions or abilities, but those who fear the Lord and those who wait for His lovingkindness. Beyond this, He gives His word to the flawed [Jacob] and His principles to all His people. We are overwhelmed with reasons to praise Him. Let us Praise the LORD!

August 17, 2016

Psalm 146 “Value of Persistent Praise”

This psalm begins with the command [and ends]: “Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD, O my soul!” (1). There is great benefit to praising God and not looking to man or the created realm. We must be determined to praise God in good times and bad. Looking to men, regardless of our need, eventually leads to disappointment. However, the blessing of God rests on all who find their help in Him. He is Creator of all things, brings justice in all matters, provides for us all, and sets us free from all bondage. He intervenes for the oppressed, loves the righteous, protects strangers and supports the helpless. Yet, He thwarts the wicked. Our God reigns forever and, as His people, we praise Him to all generations.

Matthew 13:44-58 “Honoring Jesus Facilitates Miracles”

The first two parables here show the surpassing value of God’s kingdom. Those who know the value of God’s kingdom, will be “sold out.” Their joy is not extinguished by loss of anything in this world. Nothing compares to the treasure of God’s dominion. Beyond this, we have perfect peace knowing there will be perfect justice. Jesus calls teachers to articulate these “treasures” of truth. Yet, the problem of familiarity by people in His hometown, caused them to miss His kingdom and its value. Their failure to honor Him, resulted in restraining the demonstration of His power among them. Jesus shows up in power wherever He is honored and valued!

August 16, 2016

Psalm 145 “Passing on Our Faith”

David begins by lifting up God as His King and committing to bless Him forever. We will ever be learning of His greatness, mighty acts, glory, power, goodness and righteousness. We, by our praise, declare who God is to other generations. Our praise is reflected in joyful shouting. We are constantly amazed by God’s nature and works. His reign and provisions never cease. Everyone who looks to God is satisfied. All His ways are right and He promises to be near to all who call on Him in truth. “The LORD keeps all who love Him, But all the wicked He will destroy.” (20). Our joy filled praise rings out, and so passes our faith on to others.

Matthew 13:24-43 “Healthy Roots, Healthy Fruit”

The parable of wheat and weeds is Jesus’ explanation for how to deal with opposition. If the wicked are uprooted it would uproot the righteous also and growth would cease. We are to leave judgment to God and His angels. The parable of the mustard seed illustrates how healthy growth leads to a strong nest where new life begins. The parable of the leaven reflects the inner invisible nature of God’s work. We must trust God in all our opposition and not get distracted by trying to deal with it ourselves. Let us continue to be nurtured maintaining healthy roots for healthy fruit.

August 15, 2016

Matthew 13:1-23 “Don’t Mess with the Seed!”

Jesus had faithful followers but many rejected His ministry. To explain this, He spoke to them the parable of the sower and seed. The same seed was sown in various places, but it produced varying results due to the condition of the soil [hearts]. The problem was not His message, but with the soil of human hearts. We often doctor the seed of God’s due to lack of results. We seek to make it more relevant, interesting or even entertaining. All these methods do nothing for the soil of men’s hearts. May God give us the wisdom to be faithful to the seed of God’s word and entrust the results to Him.

Psalm 143 “Humility & Favor”

The theme of extreme dependence is expressed by David in this Psalm. His prayer is based in an awareness of God’s faithfulness, righteousness and his own unworthiness as God’s servant. He confesses being overwhelmed in soul by his enemies, yet also focused on what God’s past works. He long’s for Him as “parched land.” Without God’s intervention, he will fail so asks for His lovingkindness in the morning as he relies on and takes refuge in God. He also seeks God to be taught to do His will and give him victory for the sake of God’s honor [name]. He concludes this prayer again appealing to God’s lovingkindness to deal with his enemies as His servant. This humble place is one that gains much favor with God.

August 12, 2016

Psalm 143 “Humility & Favor”

The theme of extreme dependence is expressed by David in this Psalm. His prayer is based in an awareness of God’s faithfulness, righteousness and his own unworthiness as God’s servant. He confesses being overwhelmed in soul by his enemies, yet also focused on what God’s past works. He long’s for Him as “parched land.” Without God’s intervention, he will fail so asks for His lovingkindness in the morning as he relies on and takes refuge in God. He also seeks God to be taught to do His will and give him victory for the sake of God’s honor [name]. He concludes this prayer again appealing to God’s lovingkindness to deal with his enemies as His servant. This humble place is one that gains much favor with God.

Matthew 12:46-50 “Church Family”

While Jesus was speaking to crowds, He was told His family was outside wanting to speak with Him. They expected Him to give preference to them, but Jesus pointed to His disciples, who did the will of His Father in heaven, as His family. One of the greatest blessings to becoming a follower of Jesus is we get to be a part of His family. The church is Jesus’ family and we are valuable and precious to each other. The sense of family is one of the greatest attractions to Christ and His church.

August 11, 2016

Psalm 142 “Liberation for Celebration”

Though David received an anointing to be king, he ran and hid to preserve his life. He did not complain to men, but to God. Though his spirit was overwhelmed, he declared God knew his path and the traps of his persecutors. He had no avenue of escape and no one truly cared for his soul but God. He not only cried to God, but cried out for Him to give heed to that cry knowing his lack of strength before his enemies. He asked for his soul to be released from prison so he could give thanks to God’s name. May the Lord liberate our souls for the celebration of Who He is!

Matthew 12:38-45 “Humility & Hunger”

Many religious leaders asked Jesus for a sign. Jesus said the only sign they would get would be His death and resurrection. In contrast to Nineveh who repented at Jonah’s preaching, and the Queen of the South who traveled a great distance to hear Solomon’s wisdom, they did neither. Yet He was greater than both of Jonah and Solomon. Lack of HUMILITY seen in repentance [when hearing God’s word] and HUNGER seen in the pursuit of wisdom [found in God’s word], will result in the demise of many.

August 10, 2016

Psalm 141 “The High Place of Prayer”

As King of Israel, David was in the highest office in the land. Yet, he regularly bowed himself in humility before his God by prayer. His dependency was a reflection of his awareness of his need for God’s presence. He carefully prayed as incense [pleasing aroma] to God. He asked the Lord to guard his mouth and his heart against all wicked influences. He valued the correction of righteous people even at the expense of personal pain. His focus was on His God and he relied fully on Him to defend and protect him from all evil. The more we grow in God the greater our reliance on Him in prayer will be.

Matthew 12:33-37 “The Power of Words”

After severely rebuking very religious people, Jesus said our words reflect our true nature. Who we are is revealed in what we say. Scripture teaches us words are very powerful and can bring life or death. Consequently, Jesus says, “But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for in the day of judgment.” (36) It is often in the heat of emotions we speak revealing our true nature. May God’s grace abound to us to speak words of love and life. Like the old song says, “Sing them over again to me, wonderful words of life.”

August 9, 2016

Psalm 140 “Who Has Our Reputation in Hand?”

At a time of attack, King David appeals to God to rescue him. He does not retaliate or rely upon his own devices, but asks God to Him to deal with them according to their mischievous words. He pleads with God to deal with them in severity especially in regards to their the slander. His confidence is in God who maintains the cause of the afflicted and the poor. Our reputation [name] should be in God’s hands and not ours. We must turn to Him and refrain from all self-reliance.

Matthew 12:22-32 “Danger, Danger, Danger!”

Jesus had no greater controversy than with the religious elite. Jesus functioned in power casting a demon out of a deaf and mute man. In their minds they attributed this power to the ruler of demons. Knowing their thoughts, He addressed the foolishness of this idea. In fact, he corrected their theology by saying he had bound the strong man and was establishing God’s rule by God’s Spirit. This was blasphemy of the worst kind and cannot be remedied for it is rooted in self-rule rejecting God’s rule and kingdom.

August 8, 2016

Psalm 139 “Search me, O God,…” (23a)

God knows every detail of our lives, even those hidden to us. We make no movement or speak no words of which God is not completely aware. He formed us and there is no place we can go to escape His loving presence. The most incredible thing about this is His posture toward’s us remains only good. We need to avoid every evil influence! Yet, we do need Him to reveal our true selves for our eternal benefit. “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.” (23-24).

Matthew 12:9- 21“Moving On!”

Certain religious people challenged Jesus with questions with no desire for truth, but to defend their own comfort zones. They were not concerned about a man with a withered hand, but with defending their religious borders to maintain their positions and power. Jesus withdrew from them and healed all who came to Him to fulfill God’s word bringing justice and hope to the Gentiles [unbelievers]. It is easy to be distracted by opponents, but like Jesus, we must persist in our mission entrusting our attackers to God.

August 5, 2016

Psalm 138 “Giving God Thanks”

“I will give You thanks with all my heart;…” (1a) Offerings of thanks, songs of praise and bowing before God is key to our spiritual health. Here the psalmist is focuses on who God is and what He has said in His word. God’s word is a key to us discovering and staying focused on the nature of God and His works. When we know who God is, we are bold even in our times of trouble knowing God is over every adversary. Our concerns are God’s and we can rest in His care for us.

Matthew 12:1-14 “Understanding God’s Intent”

Jesus was frequently attacked by the religious people of His day regarding details and particulars of the law. This debate over proper Sabbath observance revealed that the Pharisees had missed God’s purpose in giving the Sabbath. Another issue was their failure to truly understand God’s word. Their interpretation even exempted them from having to be responsible to serve those in need on the Sabbath. Jesus showed them they were more concerned for their animals then their fellow man. Only a humble approach to God’s word can keep us from such erroneous interpretations.

August 4, 2016

Psalm 137 “Our Chief Joy?”

Babylon is a place of captivity to God’s people who disobey Him persistently. Here God’s people long for Zion [place of assemble worshippers/church]. There are some in the church content in “Babylon.” These have no desire to return to “Zion.” Today there is a lack of concern for assembling together, and see “church” as a mere option. May all who rise against the church be dealt with severely (7-9). But as for us, “May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth If I do not remember you, If I do not exalt Jerusalem Above my Chief Joy.” (6)

Matthew 11:25-30 “Is Your Burden Light?”

Jesus is not in need of more intelligent, wise and talented people to advance His kingdom. He chooses to reveal it to the “infants” or, we might say, the ones who are totally dependent upon God. Only when we are “yoked” to the Son of God will we genuinely know the Father and have perfect peace. When linked inseparably to Jesus, we have all the wisdom and strength we need to carry the burdens of life. If our burdens are heavy and overwhelming, we are obviously yoked to the wrong thing! His invitation stands, “Come to Me,…”

August 3, 2016

Psalm 136 “Something Worth Repeating!”

“Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, For His lovingkindness is everlasting.” (1). This summarizes the chapter and we are exhorted to “Give thanks” both in its beginning and its conclusion. Much is said regarding God’s greatness in power as creator and redeemer. However, the basic key ingredient to God repeated 26 times is, “…For His lovingkindness is everlasting.” When we begin to comprehend this basic nature of God, we will overflow with gratitude and praise. God is sooooooo good! Let us remind each other continuously, “…His lovingkindness is everlasting.”

Matthew 11:20-24 “God’s Kingdom or Ours?”

After speaking of the rejection of God’s word through John, Jesus denounced the cities where He did miracles for failure to repent. When we reject the supernatural demonstration of God’s love, He has no choice but to pronounce judgement. There is nothing more disturbing or scary than walking away from undeniable demonstrations of God’s love and greatness. This failure to repent is seen in rejecting God’s rule and clinging to self-rule. This is the essence of the spirit of anti-christ. Let us give thanks for God’s lovingkindness by repenting and turning fully toward Him.

August 2, 2016

Psalm 135:8-21 “No One Like Our God”

The call to praise God is also rooted in the history of God’s work for our deliverance from Egypt [ungodly world] and bringing us into our inheritance [righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit]. All the enemies we face in entering into God’s promises, He will deal with effectively. All this world relies on is useless and ineffective. What this world serves is a distraction from the one true God who loves, protects and provides for us. Consequently, we fear and praise our God for salvation. There is none like our God.

Matthew 11:7-19 “Effective Ministries”

Jesus refers to John as one who was not politically correct, nor a celebrity, but a voice for God preparing people to receive Christ. Though John’s greatness was greater than those preceding Him, the least in God’s kingdom is greater. God’s kingdom suffers violence, but men who, like John, press on to obtain it are even greater. The rejection he faced was not a weakness of ministry, but an unwillingness of people to receive him or the Christ. We do not judge a ministry’s value by its popularity, but by its faithfulness to God [His Word] and its fruit.

August 1, 2016

Psalm 135:1-7 “A Happy Life Is a Life of Praise”

“Praise the LORD. Praise the name of the LORD; praise him, you servants of the LORD. (1 – NIV ) We are never happier than when we are doing what we were created to do: Praise God. We are effective servants of God and His people as we praise Him. Here we have listed a few reasons for praising God. 1. He is good; 2. Praise creates a pleasant atmosphere; 3. God has chosen us and we are His treasure; 4. God’s greatness and power; 5. The sovereignty of God over all creation. Note praising God is not about how we feel, but about who God is. Praising God for these reasons lays a solid foundation for a happy and fulfilling life.

Matthew 11:1-6 “Focus Our Expectations”

John the Baptist witnessed the supernatural at Jesus’ baptism. It was a thrilling moment when God spoke audibly of His Son and John saw the Holy Spirit fall upon Him like a dove. What caused him now to doubt Jesus as the Messiah? His imprisonment was not a part of his expectations. Jesus sent word to John of His supernatural ministry as evidence of His kingdom. His kingdom was not political, but spiritual. Looking to the political realm for hope breads false expectation leading to doubt. We must stay focused on the spiritual, supernatural and eternal nature of God’s kingdom!

July 30, 2016

Psalm 134 “Blessed from Zion”

When we praise and serve God and His people in the “night” season, we get God’s attention and blessing. Our service needs to proceed from the love of God and His people. We are not primarily concerned for self, but the well-being of God’s house [church]. When this is our posture, the Lord Who made heaven and earth will bless us from Zion.

Matthew 10:34-42 “The Enduring Family”

Unfortunately not everyone receives the gospel. Consequently, there are times when we receive Christ, we are divided from those we care about the most. If we are not willing to put Christ before every earthly relationship, we are not worthy of Him. Yet, if we do receive Him and embrace the pain and death to self our cross brings, there is great reward. If we embrace those who represent Him [prophets and righteous men] we will also share in their reward. God’s family is the only lasting one.

July 29, 2016

Psalm 133 “Unity & Blessing”

“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brothers to dwell together in unity!” (1) Here our attention is drawn to the value of unity among family who “dwell” together. This unity is not due to common interest, but among those who live together. It is precious or of great value. It is thorough like the dew settling on God’s mountains. When we are aligned with God, we are united together. Here God “commanded the blessing – life forever.” (3b). This is not a unity of compromise, but a unity from surrendering to God. This is not a unity achieved by men, but received from God.

Matthew 10:24-33 “Overcoming Fear of Men”

Jesus warns us not to be naïve regarding peoples’ reaction to our message. Like Jesus, if we are faithful to Him, we also will experience rejections and accusations. Yet, we are not fear them for they will be exposed. We are not to fear those who can kill our body, but fear the One who has the power to send body and soul to hell. Our suffering, even death, is not unnoticed by God and we are of GREAT value to Him. Consequently, we are to be bold and speak what God gives us for this world! To overcome the fear of men, we put our faith in God alone!

July 28, 2016

Psalm 132 “God’s Place”

David understood the essential need for God to dwell among His people in a place of worship. He fought and worked for this place. He would not rest “Until I find a place for the LORD,…” (5a). David is a prophetic symbol of the coming King, the Lord Jesus Christ. It is for His sake and by God’s word, we call upon God to help us be established in His church. God has chosen Zion, His church to be His dwelling place forever. From here the strength of Christ will spring forth, the light of Christ will shine and He will reign over all His enemies.

Matthew 10:16-23

Jesus sent His disciples out as sheep among wolves. They were to be on guard against men knowing they would come under attack. Though brought before men of power, they were not to worry, but rely on the Spirit of God. They will be betrayal even by family and they will experience the hatred of this world even being put to death. Endurance will result in salvation. When persecuted, we are not retaliate but move on in our mission. One of the hardest things for us to do, is not retaliate. Yet, if we are caught up in defending self, we will be unable to complete our divine assignments.

July 27, 2016

Psalm 131 “Hope in God”

“O LORD, my heart is not proud. nor my eyes haughty; Nor do I involve myself in great matters, Or in things too difficult for me.” (1) Success and position breed arrogance in the fool, but wise men know their limitations and remain completely dependent on God. Like a young child attached to and dependent upon its mother, so David clings to God. There is great hope for those who know their limitations and remain in childlike attachment to, and dependence upon, their God. Our hope is in God alone continuously.

Matthew 10:1-15 “Preparation for Ministry”

“Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority…” (1b) Before sending out the twelve, Jesus gave them authority, direction, instruction and strategy. They were told what to do, where and where not to go and how to respond to rejection. Success in any mission is directly related to time with Jesus receiving these things. So many today are ministering without essential preparation time with Christ. Note also the strategy of Christ involved a demonstration of supernatural power of the kingdom based on authority received [freely]. Any strategy based on methods without the supernatural is doomed to fail.

July 26, 2016

Psalm 130 “Run to God Alone!”

“Out of the depths I have cried to You, O LORD..” (1) We need to learn to turn and cry out to God in our low places [depths]. We especially need God when we are impacted by our own failures [iniquities]. Our tendency is to turn from God in these because of our shame, but if we understand the greatness of God’s love we would turn to Him no matter how deep our valley is. Our hope is in who God is and what He has said [word]. We long to hear from God who alone is full of lovingkindness and redemption. Instead of our failures turning us from God, they should cause us to run to Him as the only place of hope and salvation.

Matthew 9:18-38 “Overwhelmed or Obedient?”

Jesus was on the way to an official’s home because his daughter dying. He was interrupted by a woman so desperate to be healed, she violated Jewish law by approaching Him. He stopped and ministered healing and redemption to her. Here He was interrupted by a message the official’s daughter had died. What looked like a failure was an occasion for a greater miracle. He put out the voices of unbelief and raise her up. In the face of the impossible, false accusation and an abundance of need, Jesus persisted in following His Father’s plan. He encouraged His disciples to see these great needs as a motivation to pray and seek the Father’s directives in the harvest. Instead of being overwhelmed He was obedient.

July 25, 2016

Psalm 129 “Trusting God’s Righteousness”

We do not deny there is persecution of God’s people from those who reject Him. We stand praying trusting in the righteousness of God Who has authority over all and binds any lasting effectiveness of wickedness. As we pray, we confess God will deal with them accordingly and their time is very short. They have no lasting security, prosperity, legacy or blessing. Though we expect it, we walk free of any fear of persecution.

Matthew 9:14-17 “New Wine Demands New Wineskins”

John’s disciples, along with the Pharisees, judged Jesus’ disciples for not fasting. Jesus said it is inappropriate to mourn when the bridegroom is with them, but the time for fasting will come. Beyond this, an apparent transition of “form” [wineskin] is taking place. It is not appropriate to add to, or adjust, the form [wineskin], but there is a need for a fresh wineskin [structure] so both are preserved. When we cling to “old forms” or ways of doing things, we are in danger of loosing the fresh outpouring. We must remember, it is not the forms we cherish, but the precious oil of the Holy Spirit.

July 23, 2016

Psalm 128 “A Key to Happiness!”

“How blessed is everyone who fears the LORD, Who walks in His ways.” (1) The fear of God is a key to true happiness. The fear of God is manifested in obedience. When we lay the foundation of fear and obedience, we have happiness in our work, marriages and our families. Again, God blesses us from our place of worship [Zion] and we have the pleasure of seeing its prosperity. My dad always said he was a rich man, but not in material wealth. He was rich in his family and children who serve the Lord.

Matthew 9:9-13 “What God Desires!”

Jesus invitation to Matthew to be a disciple shocked the religious Jews. As a tax collector, he was considered the worst of sinners. Why? They used an evil system to make themselves wealthy by taking advantage of other Jews. There is a tendency in religious people to justify themselves by finding sinners worst than themselves. The problem with this, is the failure to perceive their own degree of sinfulness. Also, God desires us to express His compassion through us far more than receiving gifts from us! Having compassion on others reflects an awareness of our need for Jesus!

July 22, 2016

Psalm 127 “A Great Reward!”

“Unless the LORD builds the house, They labor in vain who build it;” (1) The word house is often a term for family, group or nation. We are God’s house. Our efforts to build a house are a waste unless we have God as our master builder. The same is true of our security. Without God’s presence, our “houses” are vulnerable to destruction. No effort or skill can compensate for the lack of God’s presence! In fact, the birth of children is God’s gift and reward to us. They are not an inconvenience, but a blessing. They are not a burden, but a reward. Our children are to be viewed as a gift of God and an expansion of our house! As my daughter and her husband visit this week, I realize what a blessing and reward our children, and their children, are to us!

Matthew 9:1-8 “Authority to Forgive”

Jesus had just come from a place He was rejected and asked to leave [Gadarenes] because of a miracle of deliverance. This did not dissuade Him from continuing in the ministry of miracles. Jesus, seeing the faith of men who brought a paralytic, spoke forgiveness before healing the man. Here, religious leaders of the day accused Him of blasphemy in their hearts, but He healed the man to demonstrate His authority to forgive sins. The crowd was awestruck and glorified God for giving this kind of authority to men. Today, many struggle with God’s ability or willingness to forgive them, but we have a responsibility to demonstrate God’s love and power by miracles. Jesus gave this authority to His church to continue this revelation to a sinful world. His great love and mercy are rich toward sinful humanity. He did not come to judge the world, but to show mercy. Are we continuing this message?

July 21, 2016

Psalm 126 “No Greater Joy”

There is no greater joy than when God restores us from a captivity of our own doing. Laughter and joyful shouting are the fruit of a restoration visible to even unbelievers [heathen nations]. Our joyful celebration honors God before the unsaved. We experience a sudden release like the flood streams covering the desert South. Yet, preceding this harvest of joy, was a persistent sowing in sorrow and tears. What we sow in our times of sorrow determines our harvest. Some sow complaint, vent to friends or some other ungodly activity. But, the one who sows confessing and taking responsibility for their sin and resulting captivity, will reap a harvest of great joy.

Matthew 8:28-34 “Jesus Disrupts Lifestyles”

When Jesus came to the Gadarenes, he was confronted by two demon possessed men tormented by His presence. Jesus presence torments evil. Thinking they could avoid destruction, they sought to be sent into a herd of swine. Yet they were destroyed and a lifestyle of disobedience was disrupted. Consequently, rather than being grateful for His presence, the entire community begged Jesus to leave. This community never had the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of God’s rule because they clung to their lifestyles [self rule]. Jesus presence in our lives will expose every evil thing. Will we welcome Him, or beg Him to leave?

July 20, 2016

Matthew 8:18-27 “Jesus Is Over Our Storms”

When a religious scribe approached Jesus to be a disciple, He laid out no promise of earthly provisions, but a sense of being a foreigner. Another man wanted to follow Jesus as soon as he would bury his dad. Jesus, however, said following Him had to be his first priority. When He got into the boat, His disciples followed Him. Following Jesus did not lead to a peaceful journey, but a life threatening storm. All this took place while Jesus was asleep. Fearing for their lives, they woke Him up thinking He did not care. Yet Jesus rebuked their lack of faith before He rebuked the wind and the sea. When following Jesus, we know it will not always be a smooth ride, but Jesus is in our boat, we can rely on His direction and He has authority over the storm.

Psalm 125 “Trust Yields Peace”

Mount Zion was not only a place of worship but a stronghold against the rule of wickedness. God grants to those who trust Him a peace and stability beyond anything this world can provide or even envision. Regardless of the advance of wickedness, it will have no lasting impact on those who Trust God. We pray for God’s good to rest on the good and the upright. While the crooked and workers of iniquity will face God’s wrath, there is peace for all who trust God.

July 19, 2016

Psalm 124 “Had It Not Been…”

“Had it not been the LORD who was on our side, Let Israel now say,…” (1) Attacks on David rose like a flood and he knew if God had not intervened on his behalf, he would have drowned in them. Though he was a king in Israel, David always maintained a humility and dependence on his Lord. He, therefore, persistently praises Him for the help essential to his life. When we realize that ‘had it not been’ for God, none of us would live in true victory, then we also will be a well of perpetual praise.

Matthew 8:14-17 “Foundation for Great Works”

The record of Jesus healing Peter’s mother-in-law is not very dramatic. Jesus noticed her sick in bed, touched her hand, the fever left and she rose to wait on Him. Yet by evening many demon-possessed were delivered by a simple word and He healed all who were ill. Why? Not for His self-promotion, but from a passion to fulfill God’s word regarding Him. Jesus foundational passion was to do the Father’s will and great works flowed out of this. If our motivations are likewise, we also can do great works which will not exalt self but honor God, His word, and His will.

July 18, 2016

Psalm 123

“To You I lift up my eyes, O You who are enthroned in the heavens! (1). As we face a variety of stressful situations, wise men turn their focus to God Who is above all. What should we do? Where should we go? How do we handle this? Like servants attentive to their masters, we look to God for every detail and directive. The humble posture of a servant enables the reception of directives from the One having superior knowledge and perspective. Here we seek God’s mercy to overcome the contempt of the world around us. Though we are immersed in the scoffing of the arrogant, God in His mercy will raise us up to a place of significance and impact on this world. Though we are not valued by this world, our impact is strengthened by our total dependence on God our creator, Savior and Lord.

Matthew 8:5-13 “Under Authority”

A Roman soldier approached Jesus due to a tormented servant in his house. Though he felt unworthy to have Jesus in his home, he understood the nature of his authority as coming from being “under authority.” He knew Jesus would have power in His word simply due to His being “under” His Father’s authority. As a result, Jesus honored his request and commended his great faith. Jesus’ power over disease flowed from His obedience/submission to God. May God grant us the wisdom to be “under” His authority for the power to serve others.

July 16, 2016

Psalm 122 “Peace for Assemble Worshipers”

David was excited about assembling with God’s people for the purpose of giving thanks because of who God is. Jerusalem represents the assembled worshipers of God in tight relationships. Here they receive encouragement, comfort and accountability in God’s presence. Here in worship God’s authorities are established. We pray for the peace of God’s church and prosperity for all who love her. This place is for our good and for a unique dwelling of God’s presence. May God’s peace be on His church!

Matthew 8:1-4 “Jesus Is Able & Willing”

After teaching, Jesus descended the mountain with large crowds following. A leper approached Him having faith He could heal him, but uncertain of His willingness to do so. Jesus said, “…I am willing; be cleansed.” (3b). Often our battle is not to believe Jesus heals, but to believe He is willing to heal us. At times this is due to awareness of our unworthiness. Yet healing is not based upon our worthiness, but upon the worthiness and work of Jesus Christ. After healing him, Jesus sent him to the priest to give the offerings commanded by the law as a testimony to them. Jesus sought the fulfillment of God’s word and the glory of God above all. We too, will see more miracles when we realize and embrace proper basis and motives for them.

July 15, 2016

Psalm 121 “My Help Comes From…”

From where do we receive help, the creation or the creator? Here the psalmist is resolute: “My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth.” (2) Unfortunately many of us look to the created realm for help, but those who are wise understand truly beneficial help comes only from our Creator. He is more than capable and never sleeps on the job. He loves His people and protects them day and night from all evil. Our soul is safe and at rest knowing the Lord is with us every moment for the rest of our lives. In this world of turmoil we also say, “My help comes from the LORD,…!”

Matthew 7:24-29 “Information or Action?”

Life is full of storms and this story shows us two foundations on which believers build their lives to face them. Wise men both hear and act on God’s word, building on a rock [obedience]. Foolish men hear but do not act, building on sand [disobedience]. Everybody experiences the storms of life! Yet, only those who hear and obey will survive them. Some gather information, but those who survive take action based on the word of God they have received. Are we simply gathering information or are we taking action?

July 14, 2016

Matthew 7:13-23 “Beware!”

The exhortation to enter by the narrow gate leading to life rather than the wide leading to destruction, is followed by a warning against false prophets. Outwardly they look good, but inwardly are “ravenous wolves.” The telling factor is the fruit of their lives. Fruit is the outgrowth of our true inner nature. False prophets are not concerned for those they serve, but for their own selves. They promote themselves, their egos and what benefits them. They are good at religious language and activity, but are not aligned with God’s word. They promote religion, but do not embrace God’s rule in their lives. Let us avoid these influences and seek influences promoting God’s kingdom.

Psalm 120 “God Answers Our Cries!”

“In my trouble I cried to the LORD, And He answered me.” (1) The trouble experienced by the psalmist here is being attacked with lying lips and a deceitful tongue. I recently had a dream where such occurred and awoke in great emotional distress and pain. There is no retaliation suitable for those attacking with lies and deceit. Yet, we are “sojourning” [temporary living] among such people. Though we seek peace, we are surrounded by those who are for war. May we have the wisdom to turn to God who alone can adequately address and answer our cry!

July 13, 2016

Matthew 7:7-12

When we go to our heavenly Father asking, seeking and knocking, we will to receive, find and have open doors. If earthly fathers, flawed by sin, give good things to their children, how much more will our heavenly Father give us what is good when we ask Him. In fact, God knows better than we do what is best for us and will withhold no good thing. Since God is such a Father, we… “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets. (12).

Psalm 119:169-176 “God’s Word, Our GPS”

David asks God to hear his cry for understanding and deliverance according to His word. He desires to praise God for teaching him. His song rises in honor of His righteous commands seeking His help because he has chosen God’s ways. He longs for the Lord’s salvation because he has delighted in His law. Even though he has wandered like a lost sheep, he remembers God word and asks God to seek His servant. When we highly value God’s word, He will rescue us even though we have wandered from His ways. God’s word is our GPS in life’s journey. Without it, we are lost!

July 12, 2016

Matthew 7:1-6 “The Danger of Judging”

Nothing is more condemning of our lives then the judgment of others. When judging others, we are implying our superiority to them. Sometimes we do so to make ourselves feel better about ourselves. Jesus cautions us to focus on our own shortcomings which enables us to see better so we can truly help others. When judging, we do not help them but, in fact, we assert a hypocrisy regarding self which keeps us in bondage to a false perception. When our assessment of them is accurate, we waste time “venting” for it is like throwing pearls to pigs.

Psalm 119:161-168 “Stable Living!”

When under attack, we are not to retaliate or trash talk about our abusers. Why? Because we are in awe of God’s words and greatly rejoice in it as a priceless treasure despising falsehood. When so focused, we are able to stay in the place of persistent continual praise. Knowing and loving His word prevents us from stumbling for we are secure in our hope of God’s salvation as seen in His word. We live by faith in, and reverence for, His word!

July 11, 2016

Matthew 6:25-34 “Worry or Wait? Our Choice!”

One of the primary causes of anxiety is concern for material needs. Fear reflects a loss of faith in God as our Father and provider. Worry does not add life, but steals life. We are here commanded by Christ not to worry about earthly needs, “But to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (vs. 33). Worry causes us to take premature and wrongful actions, but faith allows us to walk in faith and wait for God’s provision. Worry keeps our perceptions in the sinful flesh realm, but faith elevates our focus to what is truly important!

Psalm 119:153-159 “Revive Me According to…”

At a time of great affliction, godly people seek the Lord because they have confidence in His word, principles and lovingkindness. No matter how “hard” it gets, we cling to His word. Three times David asks God to revive him and each time he reminds God of the love and value he places on His word. He concludes by saying, “The sum of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous ordinances is everlasting.” God’s word is often abused for selfish reasons because many avoid its totality and skew its meaning from its context. May we love His word in its totality!

July 9, 2016

Matthew 6:22-24 “Walking in Light”

The context of verses 22 is in the use of finances and wealth. “The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light.” (22). If our perception and focus [eye] are on heavenly concerns and not material needs, then we are seeing clearly in light. But, if our focus is on earthly needs and issues, we are in deep darkness blinding us from truth and reality. We cannot be devoted to two masters but must chose who we serve – God or wealth. Let us trust God and walk in full light!

Psalm 119:145-152 “God’s Word, Our Passion & Focus”

As David’s enemies draws near, he cries to the Lord declaring his allegiance to God’s word. He looks no where for help but to God. He rises early and looks forward to night so he can meditate on what God says. He asks God to hear him according to two things: 1) His lovingkindness [character] & 2) His word [promises]. While his enemies draw close, they are far from God’s word but he is close to it. Every command of God is truth and reliable! May we trust God and His word and not be distracted by any of the enemies approaches.

July 8, 2016

Matthew 6:19-21 “Where Is Our Treasure?”

We are commanded by Christ not to store up treasures on earth where they are subject to loss. We should store them in heaven where they are preserved for all eternity. But even more importantly we note, “…for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” The condition of our heart is directly linked to where we place our treasures. By investing in heaven they are not only safe for our future, but we position our heart with an eternal perspective!

Psalm 119:137-144 “Delighting in God’s Word”

God is righteous and His judgements are without flaw. All His words flow from these realities in faithfulness. Our zeal should consume us lest we are distracted by those who disregard to God’s word. Because His word is pure, all true servants of God treasure it. We have a humble self-perception and, therefore, cling tenaciously to God’s precepts as truth. Though surrounded by trouble and anguish, we persist in delighting in God’s commands.

July 7, 2016

Matthew 6:16-18 “Rewarded by God or Men?”

Like prayer, fasting is not to be done to gain the attention of men. We do not put on distressed looks of agony to impress others with our spirituality. If we do, we have no reward with God! However, when we fast to suppress our flesh and to hear from God, He will reward us greatly. All spiritual disciplines are designed to enhance our relationship with God and not to enhance our reputation with men. God knows our hearts and our religious posturing before men does nothing to gain His favor. May God keep our motives pure as we seek Him.

Psalm 119:129-136 “The Wonder of the Word”

“Your testimonies are wonderful;…” (129a) What God speaks to us from His word is truly wonderful. We perceive a beauty in God’s word when our hearts are opened by it. This moves us to a hunger for obedience. It is like someone turns on a light and we suddenly see what we never saw before though it was already there. If we taste of God’s word, our hunger increases and we seek to please Him and not ourselves. We cry out for God to free us of all that oppresses us and seeks to disrupt us from a godly walk. We weep over those who are held in bondage and reject God’s law.

July 6, 2016

Matthew 6:14-15 “The Key of Forgiveness”

Now Jesus explains the importance of extending forgiveness of our transgressors. In forgiving others, we release God’s mercy on ourselves. However, withholding forgiveness, binds God from being able to release His mercy on us. We have received of God’s mercy and we show gratitude for this by extending mercy to others. We hold the KEY for the ongoing flow of God’s mercy in our lives.

Psalm 110:121-128 “Avoiding False Ways by God’s Word”

Doing ri