Monday, November 30, 2015

And did I happen to mention peace???

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this. (Isaiah 9:6-7 ESV)
In these two so-well known verses, God has Isaiah use the word peace twice in so many lines. As much as we think "shalom" was an every day word in ancient Israel, it was not so much an everyday event in life. The term is used much less than others. But the time surrounding the promised Child is one dominated by peace; it is endless; it is the bottom line; He is the Prince of Peace. Deep down we all are looking for and longing for shalom. It is found in Him.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Finding Hope when you're not Happy

He has made my teeth grind on gravel, and made me cower in ashes; my soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, “My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the LORD.” Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” (Lamentations 3:16-24 ESV)
Jeremiah had seen his life work of preaching repentance go up in smoke - literally. Despite His preaching and pleading, the people of Israel fell and were exiled. Life was as much fun as chewing gravel. That bad. His hope was all gone, and an uncertain future was before him. So He called out to God and called to mind His great faithfulness and mercy for each new day. Whatever the future holds, He holds us, therefore, we can hope in Him.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Hope in context...

“For thus says the LORD: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile. (Jeremiah 29:10-14 ESV)
Many believers cling to the promise of verse 11 - that God has plans for us, so we can have hope. Specifically this promise was made to the people of Jerusalem and Judea as they were being taken into exile in Babylon. It was not general or individual. But in it we do find applicable hope, because it is based upon the character of God, and He does give us reason for hope. Rather than cling to it as one's personal life verse, however, it would be more applicable to see it as a promise to His people corporately. He has plans for us. When we turn away and get off track He will discipline us and allow us to go through the wringer. When we come together and pray, He will here. God wants us to be people of hope - not that nothing bad will ever happen to us, but that He will never turn His back on His people calling out to Him in prayer together.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Hold Fast to Hope

[17] So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, [18] so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. [19] We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, [20] where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 6:17-20 ESV)
The main Hebrew term used in the Old Testament for "hope" carried with it something of the idea of "something to hold on to." What do we have to hold on to when it comes to our faith in Christ for the forgiveness of our sins? The very character and promises of God. Not only do we hold on - we are anchored; we are held on to. He holds us within the veil, keeping us in God's protective care and Christ's eternal forgiveness. We have every reason to hope in Christ: God Himself guarantees it.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Honey and Hope...

[13] My son, eat honey, for it is good, and the drippings of the honeycomb are sweet to your taste. [14] Know that wisdom is such to your soul; if you find it, there will be a future, and your hope will not be cut off. (Proverbs 24:13-14 ESV)
Most of us like honey. It is sweet and natural, adding to pleasure in life. Here it is compared to wisdom. Wisdom adds hope to life. Through God's perspective, found in His Word, we are able to see beyond the temporal temptations, as well as life's setbacks, to see what is real, important, and lasting. In short, we can live life in realistic hope if we live by wisdom. In a very real sense, without wisdom we will find ourselves without hope. Let's eat some honey, get some wisdom today, and see what God has in store.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Our Hope... is Him

[18] Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, [19] that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine. [20] Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. [21] For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. [22] Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you. (Psalm 33:18-22 ESV)
We trust in so many people and things. We are let down. But there is One in Whom we can trust that will never let us down. Individually, and as His people, we need to trust, to wait upon, to Hope in Him. May He be our Hope and stay today.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Finding Hope - it's not always easy!

But you, come on again, all of you, and I shall not find a wise man among you. My days are past; my plans are broken off, the desires of my heart. They make night into day: ‘The light,’ they say, ‘is near to the darkness.’ If I hope for Sheol as my house, if I make my bed in darkness, if I say to the pit, ‘You are my father,’ and to the worm, ‘My mother,’ or ‘My sister,’ where then is my hope? Who will see my hope? Will it go down to the bars of Sheol? Shall we descend together into the dust?” (Job 17:10-16 ESV)
Job was willing to admit his struggle in finding hope during disaster. He knew that in God, and only God, was there lasting hope, but he did not always FEEL that way. Sometimes His only hope was for Sheol, death. But that was not the solution - never was, never would be. Because what then happens to our hope? Does it just "go away?" Does that not just make my life to this point meaningless? No, there is something, yes Someone who transcends even death. He is the One in Whom we must find hope. Job is determined to find his way through this and share it with others. Press on!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Hope in the Midst of Horrible

Let me have silence, and I will speak, and let come on me what may. Why should I take my flesh in my teeth and put my life in my hand? Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face. This will be my salvation, that the godless shall not come before him. Keep listening to my words, and let my declaration be in your ears. Behold, I have prepared my case; I know that I shall be in the right. Who is there who will contend with me? For then I would be silent and die. Only grant me two things, then I will not hide myself from your face: withdraw your hand far from me, and let not dread of you terrify me. (Job 13:13-21 ESV)
Job had lost everything but his life and wife (and we're not sure if that was a blessing or not...). Life was horrible. He was struggling with feelings of whether he would be better off dead. Yet thoughout his saga he finds reason to Hope. He truly believes in his ultimate salvation. He realizes the only thing He needed was the Hand of God, and for him to have the perspective that His hand was a loving one, not a heavy one of vengeance and terror. There is hope in the midst of the horrible. We can look ahead in hope.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Body Armor for the Church.

In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. (Ephesians 6:16-20 ESV) We often look to this passage in an individualistic way for the spiritual disciplines of our walk with Christ. I have known some very godly believers and leaders who have "put on the armor daily", using this passage as a guide. But somehow we tend to forget that this letter is primarily about the body of Christ, the Church. We need to have a fellowship mentality in our prayers; we need to keep temptation away from us as a group of believers; we need to be praying all the time. And foremost in our mind needs to be what Paul wraps up with: boldness and clarity in proclaiming the Gospel. As we once again look back to the early church in Acts, that is the what and why of their prayers - that God would protect His church and embolden them to proclaim the Gospel - that nothing: sickness, persecution, laziness, or any sin, selfishness or opposition would hinder that call of the Church - to be His witnesses. May we be "praying at all times" in this way.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Prayer: The problem's not with God...

And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:1-8 ESV)
Why should we pray and persist in prayer? The very character of God. Even when it SEEMS like He is not listening, that is not the case. He is nothing like this civil judge. He is just and good and listening. We cry out not for justice but fairness; we are NOT good like He is; we do not persist; we do not listen well. The last line tells it all. Will He find faith? Will He find us trusting in God for all He is, and seeking Him with all our hearts?

Thursday, November 19, 2015

What our Prayer says about what we believe...

Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” And he said to them, “When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.” And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs. And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:1-13 ESV)
Jesus' answer to His disciples was not simply WHAT to pray, but how to pray - pray believing in God as our loving Father, Who is inherently Good and wants to bless His children. Pray persistently, because He loves to hear our voice. Pray listening to Him as He speaks back about His will and our need to forgive as we have been forgiven. What do our prayers reveal about our faith?

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Story Behind the Story: Prayer

At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of what was known as the Italian Cohort, a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God. (Acts 10:1-2 ESV)
Most of us are familiar with this account in the life of the early church, where the Gospel began to make inroads beyond Judea and Samaria, into decidedly Gentile territory. It is a story of prayer - Peter was praying about where to go and what to do, and Cornelius was praying to know more of God's will, and God made it a three-way conversation despite geographical location. It all began because both men were men of prayer. All the great movements of God begin with people who pray. God brings them together, empowers them through His Holy Spirit, and great awakenings happen. Let us pray alone, and ask God to give us those with whom we can pray, then step back out of the way and see what He does.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Getting Serious about Prayer...

About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword, and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread. And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people. So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church. (Acts 12:1-5 ESV)
Earnest prayer. The passage goes on to describe what that looks like - God's people gathered together praying, even though that groups them together and makes them more vulnerable to discovery. It means praying so intently you almost miss the answer when it comes knocking at the door. It means praying to the point that when it is answered, there is no doubt in anyone's mind what has happened: God answered. We rarely pray like this, even in the most dire situations. But when we are committed to the truth and to true fellowship as believers this is part of the package - crying out to God together when any obstacle to the proclamation of the Gospel occurs. What hindrances do we need to pray about so the truth can be proclaimed boldly, freely?

Monday, November 16, 2015

Prayer: Shakin' things up...

When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit, “‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’— for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. (Acts 4:23-31 ESV)
There is no denial that the early church was a church of prayer. It was a daily event for the believers to gather together and sharing a common spiritual experience, including "the prayers."(Acts 2:42). The result was bold and effective proclamation of the Gospel, both by the apostles and by the people in general. So how did they pray? What did they pray. They began with true praise to the Sovereign Lord. They believed in Him so much, and in his control and power so much, that they were able to say: "Lord, You know the persecution we're receiving as followers of Christ, and we trust You to take care of that in how you see fit. As for us, help us remain steadfastly bold in our faith and our words. Help us to step back and watch You work and do what only You can do. " May we pray and see Him shake things up today.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Longing to Break Bread

And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. (Luke 22:14-20 ESV)
Jesus literally "desired with great desire" to have this Passover meal with his disciples. Why such great desire? Was He that Hungry? Maybe, but there were many reasons He wanted to do so. During that evening a lot of the things He had taught His followers would be brought together into a package. He would say and do things that would influence them for their whole lives and ministries, and for eternity. They would begin a new tradition for the Family of Faith, a new "Breaking Bread" that would characterize the Church. It was a commemoration that would keep them, and us, not only looking back to what He said and did, but forward to what He will do, and being with Him. May we long for this breaking of bread as much as He did.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Bad Breaking of Bread

Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world. So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another—if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home—so that when you come together it will not be for judgment. About the other things I will give directions when I come. (1 Corinthians 11:27-34 ESV)
The church at Corinth appears to have had some major issues, the most of which was selfishness. Even when it came to Communion, they forgot that they were "coming together" as the body of Christ. Breaking bread is a time to examine ourselves for what needs to change, and looking to one another to see what they need, not a time to focus on what I need and how others need to change.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Saying a mouthful with bread in your mouth...

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. (1 Corinthians 11:23-26 ESV)
We all know that talking with food in your mouth is rude... but there are ways to talk without speaking a word. Breaking bread - commemorating Christ's death for us - and any other fellowship or sharing that takes place along with that, make a statement about what we say we believe; it proclaims our relationship with God through Christ. In context here, the question is: "Do our actions disqualify our words?" Do our selfish acts of unlove undo what we are saying when we break bread?

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Breaking Bread: Creating memories

On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight. There were many lamps in the upper room where we were gathered. And a young man named Eutychus, sitting at the window, sank into a deep sleep as Paul talked still longer. And being overcome by sleep, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead. But Paul went down and bent over him, and taking him in his arms, said, “Do not be alarmed, for his life is in him.” And when Paul had gone up and had broken bread and eaten, he conversed with them a long while, until daybreak, and so departed. And they took the youth away alive, and were not a little comforted. (Acts 20:7-12 ESV)
Paul was a man on the move. His calling meant he met many people, seeing them come to faith in Christ. He might be somewhere two days or two years. This time when he left the area, he knew he might never be there again. He had much to share with these believers, and went on and on... The place was packed - it was window-sill seating only. The events that night were memorable to Luke as he records, and to all who were there. Luke says nothing of what Paul said that night; it is not just the Bible studies or sermons we remember, but the fellowship, the praying, the breaking of bread and all that surrounds them. We rob ourselves of them by not participating.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Breaking Bread to know more...

So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread. (Luke 24:28-35 ESV)
This whole "breaking bread" thing is much more than a ceremony or a meal. It is part of a bigger picture. Those members of First Church of Jerusalem devoted themselves to it as part of their commitment to the teaching, prayers and fellowship of the followers of Christ. They wanted to know more of Christ, just as these two disciples on the road invited Him in to tell them more. And He did. And He does, when we will commit ourselves to know Him more the way He has designed it: Fellowship with Him and the Father and other followers, guided by the Holy Spirit.(I John 1). So let us not take this "breaking bread" thing so lightly. May we be found rejoicing like they did.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Breaking that Unifies

Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. (1 Corinthians 10:14-17 ESV)
When we think of breaking something, our first response is that we will end up with lots of little pieces, leaving that item useless. But in the Breaking of Bread, when we celebrate what Christ has done for us, the Broken Bread unites us. We are brought together to focus on Him, our common salvation and calling, and His desire that we be One as He and the Father are one. Christ pulls us together from serving all our false gods to serve the true and living God. Breaking Bread reminds us of that. It should have both a purifying and unifying effect on us individually and corporately. But that will only happen if it is more than a mere ritual or reminder. The process itself, of breaking bread, when taken seriously and solemnly draws us and glues us. Let us break bread together, humbly and sincerely, celebrating our oneness in Him.

Monday, November 9, 2015

THE Breaking of Bread...

And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47 ESV)
Breaking Bread was well known in those days. It was common, yet special. You would do it when you gathered with family during festivals or when special guests came. You actually did it every day, as the father would break bread, bless it, and pass it around the table. It was part of family fellowship, the family meal. It was something we know less and less of. But Luke records here that this was something more - it was THE breaking of bread peculiar to the family of God, the followers of Christ. And those they were doing it "day by day," quite often, it was very special. What were they doing that we are missing out on?

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Classic Chapters #7

All Things New...

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed—on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. And the one who spoke with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls. The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width. And he measured the city with his rod, 12,000 stadia. Its length and width and height are equal. He also measured its wall, 144 cubits by human measurement, which is also an angel's measurement. The wall was built of jasper, while the city was pure gold, like clear glass. The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every kind of jewel. The first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass. And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb's book of life. (Revelation 21 ESV)

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Classic Chapters #6

The coming of the Word-Light-Son-Messiah-Lord-Lamb

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known. And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” (Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.) They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing. The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.” The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter). The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” (John 1 ESV)

Friday, November 6, 2015

Classic Chapters #5

All Four Verses...

Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53 ESV)

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Classic Chapters #4

True confessions of God's Mighty Warrior - I'm Scared!

To the choirmaster: according to The Dove on Far-off Terebinths. A Miktam of David, when the Philistines seized him in Gath. Be gracious to me, O God, for man tramples on me; all day long an attacker oppresses me; my enemies trample on me all day long, for many attack me proudly. When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me? All day long they injure my cause; all their thoughts are against me for evil. They stir up strife, they lurk; they watch my steps, as they have waited for my life. For their crime will they escape? In wrath cast down the peoples, O God! You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book? Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call. This I know, that God is for me. In God, whose word I praise, in the LORD, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me? I must perform my vows to you, O God; I will render thank offerings to you. For you have delivered my soul from death, yes, my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of life. (Psalm 56 ESV)

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Classic Chapters 3

It's not just the beginning, but the bottom line...

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears. For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12 ESV)

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Classic Chapter #2

The Example to Follow:

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.
I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know Timothy's proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel. I hope therefore to send him just as soon as I see how it will go with me, and I trust in the Lord that shortly I myself will come also.
I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.

(Philippians 2 ESV)

Monday, November 2, 2015

Classic Chapters #1

This week I am going to let scripture pretty much speak for itself, posting full chapters that I have found especially meaningful to me. This is my number 1.

Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4 ESV)

Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Right Hand of Fellowship

On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised (for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles), and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do. (Galatians 2:7-10 ESV)
As long as I can remember, people who became members of a church received this "right hand of fellowship" when they joined. It was almost like shaking on a business deal. But the meaning is much deeper. Founded on some Old Testament instances, this act denotes an approval, an authority, and an act of mutual support. It is saying that "we're with you 100%; we've got your back; we are all working for the same goal." Is that they way you feel about fellow church members? Are you on the same team, the same page, the same wavelength as they are? Are we working together side by side and back to back trying to take new ground for the kingdom of God? Or are we disjointed and stabbing each other in the back? May we sincerely extend to one another the right hand of fellowship.