Wednesday, December 30, 2009


How many of you read through the New Testament in 2009 like I did? I'd love to hear from you about some of the things you got out of it.

Any idea what you'll do next year? Please let me know.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Revelation 22

The scene around the throne and of the river is so peaceful; my soul is refreshed reading it. We are supposed to remember the opening of the Bible. A garden, a river, a tree of life and the magnificent presence of God remind us of Eden. All is now as God intended it to be in the beginning.

We are told these things will happen quickly (Rev. 22:6-7). Jesus says he will come soon (Rev. 22:20).

These words are faithful and true. If you keep them you'll be blessed (Rev. 22:7).

Monday, December 28, 2009

Revelation 21

This chapter opens with New Heaven and New Earth. As much as, "In the Beginning," this sentence changes everything. How could so many of the promises, allusions, and hopes be tied together in one sentence. Beautiful.

The beauty of the new Jerusalem is beyond description. The glory of it radiates from and reflects the Lamb. It is HIS city.

The language of God's covenants echoes throughout. "I will be their God. They will be my people."

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Revelation 20

I'm not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I know you want your name written in the book of life! Everyone who does not have their name written in the book of life are cast into the lake of fire . . . forever. Get your name in that book!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Revelation 19

A huge crowd sings Alleluia! The wedding supper is beginning. But all the conflict is not over.

A rider on a white horse assembles an army for the quickest, most decisive battle in history. They fought. The beast and false prophet were seized and thrown into the lake of fire and everyone else was killed by a stroke of the sword wielded by the one on the white horse. No contest!

The rider on the horse had a name known only to him (Rev. 19:12). Then we're told he is called the Word of God (Rev. 19:13). And finally, King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev. 19:16). These names tell us everything we need to know about him.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

I hope and pray you have a blessed and happy Christmas. May the hope of the Savior give you every reason to rejoice.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Revelation 18

The fall of the great city is sudden and complete. There are no workers, no children and no workers left. The smoke of her destruction ascends to heaven for all to see.

Three groups mourn over her, all related to their economic loss:
  • Kings, with whom she was adulterous.
  • Merchants, whom she had made rich.
  • Sailors.
They watch from a distance because of her torment. The export list of this city is long and impressive.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Revelation 17

This chapter seems to obscure more than it reveals. He identifies a harlot, horns, heads, beasts and yet for centuries no one has been able to positively identify them -- but, not for a lack of trying.

Everything is now out of control. A harlot riding on a scarlet beast is defiling the nations with her immorality. This seems like one more powerful player lined up to oppose God. She is drunk with the blood of the martyrs (Rev. 17:6), not good. Add to that the sequence of kings that oppose God, Not good either.

They make war with the Lamb, and he conquers them. And, (Rev. 17:17), God puts in their hearts to carry out his purpose. Without their knowing, God directs their opposition toward his own goal. Wow! God is amazing and sovereign to the end.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Revelation 16

The seven bowls are full of the wrath of God. They are each in its own way unspeakably horrible, though the hail may be the worst.

Three times this chapter says something like, "They blasphemed God because of the plagues, but they did not repent." People who receive the wrath of God receive it because they would rather receive it than to acknowledge God as God (i.e., repent)! Wrath does not fall upon innocent people. Even the fierce wrath of God does not bring about humility and repentance.

Sprinkled throughout this futuristic terror are reminders to be ready, to watch, to stay dressed. Don't pretend God's wrath will never happen. Be prepared.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Revelation 15

This chapter is a pause in the judgment. Seven angels with seven plagues are introduced. They will complete the judgment.

Those who overcome the beast and his image and his number stood on the sea. Overcoming the beast I understand, overcoming his number and his name must speak to the completeness of their rejection of and victory over the beast. You overcome the image by not worshiping it and overcome the number by refusing it.

They sung the song of Moses and the lamb. It is not the song of Exodus 15, though both songs reflect God's great victory!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Revelation 14

As soon as the number of the beast is revealed we see the lamb standing on Mount Zion with 144,000 worshipers who learn a new song. They follow the lamb wherever he leads. They are blameless. Are they the same 144,000 as in Revelation 7:4?

Three angels proclaim messages. The first proclaims an eternal gospel for every tribe, tongue, people and nation. That is a recurring phrase throughout Revelation.
  • Message one: Fear God and bring him glory.
  • Message two: Babylon the great has fallen.
  • Message three: Those who accepted the mark of the beast and worshiped his image must face God's wrath. This also a call for the perseverance of the saints (Rev. 14:12).
Interesting summary of the angels' message, "Their works follow after them." (Rev. 14:13).

Then two angels thrust their sickles into the earth and harvest. They harvest to place clusters in the wine press of God's wrath -- devastating judgment.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Revelation 13

The most striking thing about this chapter is the use of the verb, "It has been given" or "it was given." A leopard-like, bear-like, lion-like beast arises from the sea. He deceives and frightens the whole world, yet he only has power that he 'has been given.'

He rules over every tribe, tongue, nation and people. This is one more clear indication of his direct competition with the Lamb.

Another beast arises from the land and deceived people for 42 months. He made an image of the first beast that came alive and was worshiped. Everyone was forced to get his mark, 666.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Revelation 12

Here is a Christmas story for you. It really does bear a great resemblance to the first advent. This seems to be a summary of Satan's whole-scale opposition to Jesus! The description of the beast in Revelation 12:9-10 gives some indication of his opposition both to God and to those who follow Jesus (Rev. 12:17).

I love Revelation 12:11. They overcome by him by the blood of the lamb and the word of their testimony. Allegience to and faith in Jesus is the way to overcome. If they didn't love their lives even to death, what did they love? They loved the lamb. They overcame because they loved the lamb!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Revelation 11

John was to measure the temple and discovered two witnesses with unusual powers testifying to the true God. The beast arose from the abyss and killed them. The whole world rejoiced. Their bodies were on display for three and a half days, then they rose to heaven.

A huge earthquake killed 7,000 and those who remained glorified God. I don't expect that would happen today. If a devastating earthquake killed many, the rest wouldn't respond in worship.

Then the seventh trumpet finally blows. This, too, resulted in worship.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Revelation 10

One powerful, enormous angel appears from heaven with a tiny, opened scroll. His appearance and voice are terrifying. He has one foot on land and the other on the sea, yet John can reach out and take a book from him. Interesting perspective. This angel vowed before God, "There is no more time!"

Eating the scroll, or acting, replaced writing. The voice of seven thunders told him he would speak or prophesy, not read from notes he wrote.

This appears to be a buildup for the 7th trumpet. The end is drawing nearer.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Revelation 9

This is the worst destruction so far. Demons are loosed from the abyss super-charged to destroy. They themselves are indestructible. They appear to be giant insects from hell -- literally!

One third of the people are killed. Those who remain wish they could die but can't. Even then they do not repent. Murder, witchcraft, sexual immorality and thievery are the predominant sins. The only familiar description is the one of idols, so frequent in the Old Testament.

This chapter contains no worship, no singing, no praise -- just destruction, full of fear and pain.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Revelation 8

Heaven is silent for a half an hour. That's curious. One half hour seems like nothing next to 42 months or other measurements of time in this book. Yet, to make note of one particular half hour seems important.

Seven angels prepare to sound seven trumpets and anoth3r angel emerges with a golden censer. The smoke from the censer centralizes prayers of the saints. What follows, in some way derives from those prayers. Were the saints praying for judgment to fall on people?

As the trumpets blow, one third of things are destroyed by catastrophes of various sizes. I cannot help but wonder what is going on here. What would a mixture of hail, fire and blood by like? One great star takes out one third of the rivers and springs?

A final eagle announces woes on everyone living on the earth. Yikes!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Revelation 7

Four angels are set to harm the earth with judgment but are held back until the servants of God are sealed. They were numbered 144,000 from Israel. Beside them he saw a crowd that could not be numbered of those who came from the great tribulation. Why number some and not others? I have no idea. They have had their robes washed and whitened by the blood of the lamb. Blood is not generally considered a whitening agent!

The songs and the scene appear to be a continuation of Revelation 5.

Two other interesting statements of relationship between this crowd and God:
  • The one seated on the throne dwells among them (Revelation 7:15).
  • The lamb shepherds them (Revelation 7:17). I cannot help but recall Psalm 23:1-2.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Revelation 6

The Lamb opened the first six seals. I expected them to have symmetrical results, but they didn't. The four horsemen went throughout the earth. The martyrs received white robes. The heavens and earth shook and began to disintegrate.

The point of all this seems to come at the end, "Hide us from the face of the one on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb. Because the day of His wrath is coming and who is able to stand." The point is that the wrath of God is coming and Revelation is written so every person has fair warning!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Revelation 5

Again this scene appears more vivid than I can imagine. It strikes me as a summary of the redemption story. No law, no prophet, no human, and hero was found to open the scroll and all heaven mourns.

The lamb, the darling of heaven, steps forward to do what none other can do. He is a lion and a lamb. He is conquering and slain! He alone is worthy. That is the central feature of this chapter.

He purchase people from every tribe, nation, language and people. What a triumphant missionary verse. And, not only that, he transformed them into kings and priests. The numbers involved are intentionally staggering -- myriads upon myriads, thousands upon thousands.

All heaven breaks out into a new song -- the lamb is worthy!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Revelation 4

John is invited into heaven. All kinds of things come into focus for him:
  • Brilliant and vivid colors -- jasper, carnelian and emerald! This is not an ordinary black and white dream.
  • The arrangement of the furniture -- a central throne surrounded by 24 others.
  • Twenty-four elders on those thrones all dressed in white wearing crowns.
  • Seven lamp stands near the center.
  • Strange creatures who's chief characteristic is that they are alive!
  • A crystal sea.
The actions consists of the living creatures saying, "Holy, Holy, Holy," and the elders taking off their crowns and bowing to worship.

I think the seven lamp stands draw us back to chapter 2-3 and the seven churches, even though the immediate reference is the seven spirits of God. The whole scene intentionally reminds us of Isaiah 6. The thunder and lightning from the throne compound the overwhelming aura of glory surrounding God.

What am I to think? Is this a solemn and reverent scene? Is is joyful and celebratory? Is it serene and peaceful? It is so perfect and so intimidating at the same time.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Revelation 3

These three churches are in serious trouble. Sardis is about to close down. Philadelphia has an open door, but little else going for it, and an hour of testing is on its way. Laodicea is lukewarm.

Both Sardis and Philadelphia are to strengthen what they have (Rev. 3:2, 11). No matter how weak, they are responsible for what is left.

Laodicea is, of course, a warning to every rich church. They didn't know what trouble they were in. They are to buy from Jesus -- gold, white clothes, and eye salve! Christ rebukes and trains those he loves. Therefore, they are to be zealous and repent.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Revelation 2

Several things stand out here:
  • Each letter is written to the angel (or, messenger) of each church.
  • Jesus authors each letter and connects his byline to one of the characteristics in the opening description.
  • The general format is: 1) "I know. . ." 2) "I have something against you. . ." 3) "This is how to fix the problem. . . " 4) Here are the consequences (good and bad).
  • The reality of the unseen world leaps off the page. I can't help but wonder how this looked in each church. On the surface, it probably looked like a regular church. But, Jezebel and Satan were there!
  • The church at Ephesus had left its first love.
  • The last works of the church at Thyatira were greater than the first.
  • He had nothing against the church at Smyrna and only a small thing against Pergamum.
  • "To the one who overcomes." Jesus expects victory!

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Revelation 1

The picture of Jesus is breathtaking. It is so easy to think of him as a baby in a manger, safe and cuddly. Here, however, He oozes power and radiates glory. He is frightening in any sane sense of the word. John's reaction of falling to his feet as dead seems entirely appropriate. And to think, he is walking among the churches!

Twice it emphasizes he was, and is, and is coming. He is living and eternal, the first and last. These are descriptions one would only use of the one true God, not of some created being!

This is a letter written to seven churches. It is not best-selling fiction. God sends this to churches because they need to hear what he says and it will help them.

Saturday, December 05, 2009


This book has a bunch of weird things in it. Jude, however, draws the same distinctions that all writers do between godly and ungodly. In fact, he uses that work, "ungodly", several times. His main concern is to correct and encourage people not be be ungodly. He lists several bad examples from the Old Testament -- Cain (Genesis 4:1-9), Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:24ff), Korah (Numbers 16:1-33), and Balaam (Numbers 22:27ff). He threatens Gods judgment on ungodliness. He encourages godliness with the promise of joy in God's presence.

The benediction is spectacular, one of the most beautiful in all the Bible. God is able to keep you from falling and to present you blameless. He's able to do what we cannot!

Friday, December 04, 2009

3 John

For the third time in as many days we read of the co-mingling of love and truth. Healthy relationships must be important!

It gives John no greater joy than to hear that his children walk in truth. He speaks not of physical children, but of his church. It is a happy thing to see people staying happy in Jesus.

In the life of each congregation there are positive and negative people. Apparently this church had sent out workers and need to encourage and support them -- positive people. And, there was Diotrophes, who loved first place and manipulated people to keep it -- negative people.

The ending says a ton about early church life -- the 'friends' greet you. . .greet the 'friends'. That simple description of a church, "friends", tells us what is normal in church life!

Thursday, December 03, 2009

2 John

The subject matter of this second letter is very similar to the first. The writer is preoccupied with the truth. He's so stuck on it that he instructs believers not to welcome or greet those who are actively against truth.

And, like 1 John, he reminds them of an old command (1 John 5:3), love one another.

I am continually impressed with how love and truth come together. They first meet in the person of Jesus, who is both truth (John 14:6) and love (John 14:15). In that way Jesus embodies the very essence of healthy relationships. Relationships cannot endure without both love and truth. No wonder he is the way to have a relationship with God! The content and flavor of Christian conversation is love and truth(Ephesians 4:15).

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

1 John 5

It is possible to know (1 John 5:13-14), to know and not wish, or "hope so", but to know that you have eternal life! The life comes only through Jesus (1 John 5:11-12). If you have him, you have eternal life. Period.

If that is the case, it will change the way you related to God and to others. You will love God and keep God's commands (1 John 5:3) and you will love the children of God (1 John 5:2). Loving God prevents his commands from being burdensome. If you love God you love to do what he says!

If you have Jesus as your savior, you are born again and have overcome the world. Jesus keeps you from the evil one who rules the world, who seeks your destruction (1 John 5:18) and hates God.

Keep yourselves from idols. An idol is nothing more than a God-substitute. Everyone believes in an idol or in God. So, keep yourselves from idols.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

1 John 4

The centrality of Jesus again distinguishes between truth and error. If He is God come in human flesh -- you are from Him. If you deny Jesus is uniquely from God, you deny it all.

God sent him as a propitiation for our sins. That is, he loved us enough to send Jesus to receive and satisfy his wrath that we should have received. This is love, not that we love God, but that He loved us.

It is this love of God that needs to be passed around to one another. The proof that you love God is that you love others.

The love of god casts out fear and if I love him I demonstrate it by keeping his commands. We do not have a lvoe of equals, but of a subject to a master.

Monday, November 30, 2009

1 John 3

This chapter presents a happy cirecle. It opens reminding us of the great love God lavished on us to make us his children. Just imagine it! We deserved to be crushed as enemies, yet he chooses to set his love on us and make us children. And, were told in 1 John 3:2, that it gets better than this and we don't really know how good it will be.

Having been loved like this, we should love one another. The proof of having received the love of God is that we love one another (1 John 3:14).

God confirms that you belong to him. He does it when you keep His commands. Assurances of belonging to God and being on your way to heaven do not come from wishful thinking, but from submitting to Jesus.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

1 John 2

There is no more happy exaltation of Jesus than 1 John 2:1-2. He is both the "comforter" or "advocate" and the "propitiation".

The sin problem remains unsolved until John explains the role of Jesus. He advocates for us with the Father. He himself is the means by which God forgives sin, satisfying the wrath of God against sin.

The new command is an old one -- Love one another. Your love is the leading spiritual indicator of whether or not you are a believer in Jesus (1 John 2:11).

The Antichrist is not a person, but many persons who deny Christ. The antichrist is anyone or anything that denies Jesus is the Christ come from God. The refusal to bow before the anointed King Jesus is paramount to denying God. To bow before Jesus is to have the Father and the Son and to be confident in judgment. It's that simple.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

1 John 1

John's concrete experience with Jesus forms the bedrock of the authority of this letter. He has first-hand experience and wants us to know that he is passing on to us what he got from Jesus.

Life! Jesus is life. His words bring life. Christianity is not arguments about doctrine, its about life! That life comes in fellowship with God. A relationship with God, unbroken by sin, is what life is all about. Prospectively, walk in the light and you will have fellowship with him.

If you are trapped in darkness, confess your sin and he will forgive and cleanse you. Don't deceive yourself; don't hide or pretend that some how you don't have sin.

Friday, November 27, 2009

2 Peter 3

The judgment of the world is a present reality. We live under the specter of God's ultimate and final reckoning. The world will dissolve, not unlike described in described in My Chains are Gone. Several verses (2 Peter 3:1, 11, 14) describe the lifestyle that will be prepared for judgment.

God is not slow concerning his promise. He is long-suffering -- a day is like a 1000 years (This is a statement of God's long-suffering more than it is his relationship to time). He desires every person to take hold of repentance. Note: He doesn't just want everyone to have a warm, fuzzy experience in heaven. He wants every person to turn from sin!

He will bring the end like a thief breaks in. Don't be surprised.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

2 Peter 2

This is one of the saddest chapters in all the Bible. It is a description of people who despise authority and break God's commands.

It is better to have not known the commands than to have turned away from them!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

2 Peter 1

What glorious riches are here! God has given us everything that pertains to life and godliness. Nothing is left for us to add, on one hand. On the other hand, we are to work hard to add to our faith . . . so that we will be neither barren or unfruitful.

The coming of Christ is a theme that motivates both with accountability and hope.

Peter establishes a level of authority -- we have the word made more certain -- we were eye witnesses. He's not making this up!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

1 Peter 5

The word "elders" starts the sentence in Greek. Clearly, he intends to discuss the role of leadership. The word "elders" is almost a subheading. They should:
  • Shepherd the flock of God willingly.
  • Not do it for the love of money, but because they want to.
  • Not lord it over the flock, but be an example.
  • Lead as a steward of, and for the approval of, the chief shepherd.
He commands humility first to young men, then to all. Humility takes several forms here: submission, faith that God will exalt, casting your cares on him, being watchful against the devil, the author of pride. I wonder if he doesn't devour peopled by convincing them to be proud and there for to be resisted by God.

How great to cast your cares on Him, because what concerns you concerns Him!

Monday, November 23, 2009

1 Peter 4

Be armed with the attitude found in Christ, namely that suffering is better than sin. The one who suffers has ceased from sin. It is better to suffer than to go back to the former way of life.

The end of all things is near. (hear, there is a sense of urgency about your life). How do you respond to the urgency? Pray! Be sober and self-controlled about prayer. If you have a sense of urgency you will pray. Love one another. Show hospitality. Steward the grace and gifts of God in a way that your service connects back to Jesus.

Two ways we glorify God: speaking and serving in ways sourced in God's word and power. And suffering undeservedly as Christians.

Two uses of the "strange" (Gk. ="xenizo", from which we get xenophobia). Don't live or settle in the present age as someone dominated by human desires, but by God. Be a "stranger". And, don't think it "strange" if you suffer.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

1 Peter 3

How do wives win husbands? By adorning themselves on the inside, not the outside. It is the attractiveness of the inner person that is God's strategy for winning a disobedient husband. The verb is the same as 1 Peter 2:12. Unbelievers in both cases observe the quality of life of believers, and by observing respond in faith toward God and bring Him glory. This strikes me as important.

Husbands face the threat of God disregarding their prayers if they don't work to understand and honor their wives. Ouch! Is that why men don't pray more?

We were called to inherit a blessing (1 Peter 3:9). But the means to that blessing is to guard your words, to seek peace and to prayer (1 Peter 3:10-12).

Jesus died once and for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. . . will you come?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

1 Peter 2

The expectation is that by engaging God's word (1 Peter 2:2) we will grow in salvation and growing we will be continually formed into the unique people of God. Being the people of God affects our relationship to this world. We are now aliens and strangers, and we make deliberate choices to keep the identity of our true homeland.

The middle of the chapter speeds up with staccato instruction. . . "love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king." These things describe what doing good means (1 Peter 2:15).

The other stunning thing is that we can expect to suffer. Jesus left us a patter so that we can walk in his footsteps.

Friday, November 20, 2009

1 Peter 1

So much about this chapter is breathtaking! Not only that, as Peter is writing this, he is aware he is writing breathtaking material. Even the angels stoop to look into the salvation brought by the precious blood of the spotless lamb!

This letter is to the displace in the dispersion. . . according to the foreknowledge of God. Certainly the foreknowledge has to do with them being elect to salvation. But, if that's the case, did the foreknowledge of God also account for their scattering and their unpleasant living conditions. The sovereignty of God is an eternal comfort (they are elect), and a temporal comfort (in the dispersion).

I cannot read this without noticing the assertion that faith in and love for Christ are one-in-the-same (1 Peter 1:8-9).

Noticed what looks like a throwaway line in 1 Peter 1:12 -- Jesus came not to serve himself, but you.

How would it change me if I was captivated by God's foreknowledge, grace, the preciousness of Christ's sacrifice and the resurrection of Jesus as Peter seems to be?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

James 5

The expectation of difficulty drives this chapter. Even the rich can expect trouble. You can expect sickness. You will have reason to grumble against one another. A few will have good circumstances. Help one another in these difficult times by confessing your sin.

Problem: Riches do not last. You would think that our economic recession would have taught us that, but the recent recovery has caused us to forget it. Solution: Store up treasure for the last days.

The coming of the Lord is near, establish your hearts. In every circumstance, pray. The prayer of a righteous person, like Elijah, is powerful and effective.

Turn a sinner from the error of his ways and save him from death. A great promise and reason to be involved in people's lives.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

James 4

The connection of friendship with the world to prayer is interesting. Worldly people fail to pray. You have not because you don't ask. And, they pray for their pleasures, so they don't receive. James 1:7-8 tell us the double-minded man won't receive anything from the Lord. Even being half-way worldly kills prayer!

The necessity for humility comes out three times:
  1. With regard to God. God exalts the humble and humbles the proud.
  2. With respect to the law. Do it, don't be a judge of it.
  3. With respect to life. Dont' brag about tomorrow. You are only a vapor!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

James 3

The tongue is out-of-control. If you use it as a teacher, you'll get a stricter judgment. It is small, but has great power, like a bridle, a rudder, and a small flame. It is untameable. Layne asked, "What about God?" Great question! God really is the only hope. God must change it from the inside out.

Wisdom from above causes peace and bears good fruit. You can tell the source of wisdom by the fruit. Not unlike Jesus saying, "Wisdom is proved right by her children. I need wisdom from above today!

Monday, November 16, 2009

James 2

James writes a stiff warning against partiality, that is against giving people preferential treatment based on external characteristics (like wealth!). When you do this, you misjudge and favor those who actually oppose you. You reveal yourself as an evil judge. You forfeit mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

Faith without works is dead. Faith that does not issue in an active, transformed life is useless. This is a warning to pious, but passive people who think right opinions are sufficient. It should also warn those who do good, but are not motivated by faith. You must believe and have faith that can be seen in your life.

Two things that help this discussion I'd not noticed before:
  • James 2:18 makes it clear that the issue is the demonstration of faith. "You show. . . I show." In other words, how can you see faith? Only by works. It is primarily a visibility question, how do you see faith.
  • The relationship of the body to the Spirit is a key to understanding faith and works. Faith is to works and the body is to the spirit. Works animate faith.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

James 1

No wonder I love the book of James! It is so practical. How many problems I've recently experienced would be solved if people would be swift to hear, slow to speak and slow to become angry. How much better I'd be if I had wisdom to understand my trials . . . and God promises to provide it. How obvious that being a hearer and not a doer proves your are self-deceived. How great to know that God doesn't even have one small change! How great that God gives perfect and good gifts! How practical that visiting orphans and widows constitutes true religion.

Two themes are prominent in this chapter. The word of God is a great gift! It is able to save your soul. If you remain under it, it will work in you. And second, it is easy to deceive yourself. You can deceive yourself about sin (James 1:16), about passivity (James 1:22), and about false religion (james 1:26).

Friday, November 13, 2009

Hebrews 13

This chapter is the glorious application of the glory of grace. These are things that people do who have been capture by the beauty of Christ. Even in application he can't get over Jesus. . ."the same yesterday, today and forever." The relationship to marriage, leadership, prisoners, strangers, money and home all stem from your relationship to Christ.

I cannot believe I've never noticed Hebrews 13:5 before. The key to being free from the love of money is knowing that God will never leave us or forsake us. The choice of our heart to trust in the presence of God frees us from the tyranny of trusting in the presence of money!

I cannot read Hebrews 13:7 and Hebrews 13:17 without a twinge of pain at having them so recently ignored. I would love people to enjoy the benefits of imitating the outcome of my life. What is profitable for people is joyful for leaders. Cool -- everybody's happy!

The benediction is glorious (Heb. 13:20-21).

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Hebrews 12

Jesus endured. We must run with endurance. Jesus had joy set before him. We have a race set before us. That's why we look to him! Focus is the key to endurance.

Discipline, though not joyous, is proof of our legitimate sonship to God. He disciplines us out of love. Discipline prompts us to respect God and is designed to protect us from his judgment (Heb 12:29). We dare not despise his discipline.

So many small gems in this chapter. Jesus' blood speaks better things than Abel's (Heb 12:24). Esau did not find repentance even though he sought it with tears (Heb. 12:16-17). Our God is a consuming fire - end of discussion (Heb. 12:29).

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Hebrews 11

This chapter, among other things, displays thatGod's plan from the beginning was to have his people relate to Him by faith. All the exploits sprung from a heart full of faith. The phrases like "considered the promises", "received the promise", "believed God was able", make me want to be more certain of the reality of God's unseen and unexperienced promises. Lord, make me a man of faith!

These illustrations of faith fall into two groups: First, there are those who trusted God and He kept his promise and they are great models of successful faith. The second group, however, motivates me even more. They are the ones who believed God and didn't see the promise. They believed and were hiding in caves. The believed and were sawn in two! They remind me that faith is the substance of what is NOT seen. Faith is at ist best when you can't see the promise fulfilled.

After all this, we have a striking sentence, "God has provided something better for us, that without us they would not be made perfect" (Hebrews 11:40). My faith somehow fits in and completes this long line of believers!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Hebrews 10

This chapter begins the wrap-up. If it is true that Jesus is superior to the angels and Moses, and if he's a perfect sacrifice and a perfect priest, and if it's true that the new covenant is better than the old, and if it's true that the heavenly tabernacle is better than the earthly one, then. . .
  1. Let us draw near to God (Heb. 10:22).
  2. Let us hold fast to our confession of hope without wavering (Heb. 10:23).
  3. Let us stir one another up to good works (Heb. 10:24-25).
If we do this, we will take seriously the warning of God's judgment and the promise of reward. Our willingness to help others out and be helped out, is a measure of how seriously we take God's word on the final judgment and reward.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Hebrews 9

The argument from the lesser to the greater, which has been going on since the first page of Hebrews, continues here. The earthly place of worship and form of worship is only a dim reflection of heavenly things.

The blood of bulls and goats is only a temporary solution to sin. Ho much more will the blood of Christ cleans our consciences from dead works to serve the living God. The blood of Jesus offered once and for all forgives sin (the problem) and cleanses our consciences (the reminder of the problem).

Jesus offering himself once and for all was more than enough to forgive sin.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Hebrews 8

As a priest in heaven Jesus administers a better covenant, not bound by earthly conventions. He administrates it in a tabernacle built by God himself!

The most amazing part of this chapter is Hebrews 8:6. The new covenant is built on better promises. They are better because they are unilateral. The quote from Jeremiah 31:31-34 explains what he means. Sins can be forgiven, not just covered. Our performance is not a basis for this covenant. God's performance is the only thing at stake!

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Hebrews 7

It is important for us to have a priest, someone who represents us before God, since we aren't qualified to represent ourselves. According to the law Jesus wasn't able to be the priest since he was from the tribe of Judah not Levi.

Jesus is, however, a different kind of priest, a superior one. He is superior in several respects:
  • He does not require a tribal genealogy.
  • He is of the order of Melchizedek, who is greater than Abraham and therefore Levi, because Abraham paid him a tithe (Heb. 7:4-10).
  • Jesus brings a greater hope (Heb. 7:19).
  • He does not die, but remains eternally a priest. (Heb. 7:23). He will never need to be replaced.
  • He is able to save completely those who come to God (Heb. 7:25).
  • He does not sin. Therefore he doesn't need to offer sacrifices for himself before he sacrifices for people (Heb. 7:27).
The tithing argument is built on the belief that tithing represents the acknowledgment of the greatness of the one who receives the tithe. This, in and of itself, is a good argument for tithing today. How do you acknowledge the greatness of God in tangible ways?

Friday, November 06, 2009

Hebrews 6

We are expected to grow beyond the basics. What are the basics? Repentance from dead works, faith in God, baptism, laying on of hands, resurrection and judgment. How do you get started in the Christian faith? By getting those things figured out.

Apparently, among those who genuinely believe, some grow up to be weeds and not genuine believers and are unable to be turned back. This is a sober warning for anyone playing games with the faith.

The promise of God's faithfulness and love in Hebrews 6:10 seems designed to comfort those who may be shaken by the warning in verses 1-9. If you are fully engaged, you have nothing to fear. God will be able to discern what is right. Have you done good to believers? Have you loved the only one who can save you? These questions are not questions about whether you've been religious, but about whether your heart has been changed.

The word of God is sure because nothing is greater than Him which can prevent Him from keeping it. He himself is our anchor and safe place. Jesus has broken through the veil into the presence of God (Hebrews 6:17-20).

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Hebrews 5

A normal high priest offers sin offerings for himself, because he is subject to the same weakness as those he represents. Jesus is sympathetic (Heb. 4:15), but without sin. He himself is the sin offering.

Jesus learned obedience through what he suffered. He brings eternal salvation to all who obey. I don't think Jesus learned in a way that suggests he was disobedient until he learned to become obedient. He learned, or was tested and passed, when he suffered.

You and I have an obligation to grow up to know the Scriptures. God has in mind a trajectory that each person should be on in the same way a healthy child moves from milk to solid food. Apparently, this group was lagging on account of laziness. Growth comes from reason of use. Practice makes perfect when it comes to handling the word and making mature spiritual decisions.

The $64,000 question is this: How can I speed up the process of that kind of growth? This text suggests two things, experience and practice.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Hebrews 4

This passage can be divided into three clean parts. The first is a further development of the idea of rest. God rested. Jesus rested. We must rest, too. Labor, he says, to enter into that rest (Hebrews 4:11). Faith takes work. Either you believe and res or harden your heart and experience judgment.

The second part shows the means for entering God's rest -- His word. God's word is the hinge between judgment and rest. I love and hate that it is so penetrating. God's word is his surgical instrument to examine me and to do surgery on me!

The third section deals with Jesus as the perfect high priest. We are invited, because Jesus is such a perfect pries, to come boldly into the throne room of God to find grace to help just-in-time. Jesus sympathy, his similar testing, and his sinlessness qualify him perfectly to represent us!

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Hebrews 3

Four observations about this chapter:
  • Moses served God's house as a faithful servant. Jesus serves it as a Son. Don't rebel against the son of the house like your forefathers did against the servant!
  • Fighting sin is a team effort. The community needs to encourage one another every day not to be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
  • Sin is deceitful. I have plenty of sins I walk right into, but some sin, I walk into because I don't see what's happening. I'm deceived. There is a hardness about sin.
  • God designs rest for our souls, illustrated by the promise land, that we fail to enter into if we are unbelieving or disobedient.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Hebrews 2

The most important question, framed in a most relevant way is addressed to everyone's conscience in Hebrews 2:3, "How will we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?" Some, I'm sure are hostile toward Jesus, but the majority of people I know simply neglect, or disregard him. That's the problem, passive nonchalance. How will they escape? You must be saved because sin deserves just punishment.

The tough and tender character of Jesus demands my respect and love. He is tender, because of his suffering and temptation; He is a compassionate and faithful High Priest (Hebrews 2:17-18). On the other hand, through his death he rendered powerless or destroyed the one who holds the most power in the world, the power of death. Because of fear of that power he holds people captive. Jesus is a conquering king and a tender priest.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Hebrews 1

This chapter contains the thesis statement for the whole book: God has spoken through his Son! Jesus is the exact representation of the essence of God. No wonder people either stumble at or submit to Him! Jesus brought forth everything by the word of his power.

The rest of the chapter is a piling up of Hebrew Scriptures that speak of Christ. They tell us simply, Jesus is in a class by himself. God relates to Jesus differently than he does to angels. Jesus is greater than angels.

Saturday, October 31, 2009


Two things stand 0ut:
  • Philemon refreshed the hearts of the saints (Philemon 1:7, 20). The word is not the normal word for "heart", it is the word for "emotions". Apparently, he had a refreshing, rest-giving effect on the emotions of the saints. I need people like that in my life. I need to be like that.
  • Paul was confident Philemon would do the right thing. I think that confidence is itself refreshing. The confidence that someone else will do the right thing is golden and comes only when the relationship is deep.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Titus 3

This chapter beautifully illustrates the differences between those who have received the kindnes and love of God and those who haven't. The love of God comes with transforming power. The moral lives of those who believe the gospel has dramatically changed from what they used to be and from what people live like outside the community of faith.

The constant siren song of arguments, empty talk and religious speculation has shipwrecked many a christian and ruined many a church. He comes back to this sooooo many times!

The emphasis on good works again is unmistakable. Christians must be leaders in good works. The outcome of a life of faith matter, not merely what people claim to believe. Christianity is not privately held belief. It is a changed life that produces a good life. The Cretans are lazy gluttons (Titus 1:12). The hard work advocated here would make a Christian very obvious in that context.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Titus 2

Relationships matter. Titus, as a church leader, relates to certain people in certain ways and their relationships with one another need to be constructive, too.

The word for "teaching" that older women are to do for younger women is not the normal word for teaching, but derives from the word for "self-control." What older women are to help younger women with is largely willful.

These relationships inside the church must be squared away for the sake of those outside the church (Titus 2:5, 8, 10). Not only is it clearly stated those three times, as he writes about relationships he breaks into rejoicing at the glory of the gospel.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Titus 1

The best assurance for the future of a church is to have qualified elders who know the truth. Their ability to articulate truth and discern and rebuke errors will keep the church from being capsized. Doctrine, here, is described as healthy (the word from which we get "hygiene.").

The lead characteristic of these leaders is their family. This reinforces for me that each home is a miniature church. Leading at home precedes leading at church. It seems, too, that there are a few things that qualify a leader, but many ways to be disqualified.

We are introduced, too, the theme of Titus -- good works. The problem with bad teaching is not only the teaching itself, but that it produces people unfit for good works. Titus has a results-based view of doctrine.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

2 Timothy 4

This chapter makes pastoral ministry look simple. The exhortations are short, obvious and noble (2 Tim. 4:1-5).

He tells us what it looks like to finish well. He clearly has in view a reward, that in his mind may be only days away.

In stark contrast to the reward is the loneliness and disappointment of ministerial life. Demas left him for the present world. He made an insane exchange. Paul describes Alexander who did him much harm and how he was left all alone at his first trial.

The hope of reward and the reality of life make the simple requests even more personal. Bring my coat, books, and friends before winter.

Monday, October 26, 2009

2 Timothy 3

The description of the last days is a diagnosis of the context in which a church exists and in which Christians live. The negativity of this list is more obvious in Greek than in English. The same negative prefix is used 8 different times in this list of bad characteristics. "Having the form of godliness, but denying it's power," is a stinging indictment of formal, empty religion. "Always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth," has the same force against an education system that ignores God.

The darkness of the context makes all the more glorious the light of God's word at the end of the chapter which is able to change the most corrupt person into a man or woman of God. That word of God is breathed by God is profitable.

The contrast between a life of godliness in submission to God's word and the context that is so dark means that all who would live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer.

Paul's mentoring strategy is first, example (2 Tim. 3:10-11), then suffering (2 Tim. 3:12-14), then Bible (2 Tim. 3:15-17). So simple and so elegant and so practical.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

2 Timothy 2

There is a sobriety and firm resolve about life and ministry throughout this chapter. It starts with a soldier illustration and ends with a gentle servant. Standing strong doesn't happen by accident. Like a soldier chooses which things will please his commanding officer, like an athlete learns the rules, like a farmer works hard, that's what it takes to stand firm.

In two or three paragraphs he warns against getting sidetracked by useless arguments, controversies and quarrels. Apparently they have derailed churches for thousands of years!

In two separate instances the character of God is brought in as support, a foundation upon which to stand firm. "If we are faithless, he is faithful; for he cannot deny himself. . . The Lord knows those that are his."

The last paragraph understands opposition to the gospel to be a trap of the devil.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

2 Timothy 1

This letter feels like a letter from a father to a son. In the greeting Paul says he longs to see Timothy so his joy might be full. . . and at the same time remembers him with weeping. The juxtaposition of joy and sadness in the life of God's servant is stunning, yet standard. They always go together.

Timothy had the privilege of being a 3rd generation Christian. His mother and grandmother passed on to him an unhypocritical faith. Because of their influence he had to fire up the gift of God in him. Were they to soft with him? Clearly he struggled with timidity and deeded to be reminded God gave him a spirit of power and love and a sound mind. Three times it says, "Don't be ashamed."

The confidence Paul is encouraging is found in his salvation which is, in turn, rooted in the eternal purpose of God. The strong language about God's purpose and determination in both his salvation and selection for service takes away an option to cave in or give up. We need to not be so afraid of strong language about the initiative of God in the lives of his people.

Friday, October 23, 2009

1 Timothy 6

The language in this chapter is so significant that phrases here have made it into secular English vocabulary -- "Fight the good fight" and "Money is the root of all evil."

My chief takeaways from this chapter come near the end. After reminding us of the love of money being a root of all evil (a more accurate translation than the one above), we are told to pursue virtue not wealth and to fight the good fight of faith. It occurred to me that the fitght of faith may be a fight to believe that money is not the greatest and highest good in this life.

This same conflict is made clear in 1 Timothy 6:17. Put your hope, not in deceitful riches, but in God. Your hope is going to be in one or the other. Money is a direct rival for God! That explains why those who desire to be rich, have many trials and fall into a snare and get plunged into destruction. They have worshiped another God!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

1 Timothy 5

Here is another chapter describing the specific relationships within a congregation. Here is some of the practical advice:
  • Treat church people like family.
  • Take care of vulnerable widows, making sure they meet certain criteria so you don't do harm to them, the church and the reputation of Christ. Don't give Satan opportunity. Make sure the family fulfills their obligations first.
  • Honor elders. Don't let anyone say anything they want about them. (Once some things are out, they can't be retrieved).
  • Be careful not to show favoritism.
Now, some people's sin goes before them. That is, their sin is obvious. Others' sin follows after. Either way sin haunts people. Sometimes people's good works are obvious, too. In other words, what people really are may not be clear now, but it will become evident.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

1 Timothy 4

The reality of a liberal, generous God is one defense against false teaching. God gives good things to be enjoyed with thanksgiving. It is not gospel to recommend earning points with God by giving stuff up. Things, stuff, are made holy as I submit those things to God's word and prayer. This is the opposite of stoics and ascetics.

In almost the next breath (1 Tim. 4:7-8) he says, "exercise yourself to godliness. The generosity of God is not an excuse for laziness or lack of rigor in personal discipline. Such exercise will be eternally profitable.

1 Timothy 4:12 used to be one of my favorite verses and more important to me than it is now. I hardly qualify anymore as a young man. I still hope, though, to be an example worth following.

The priorities in 1 Timothy 4:13 -- Reading, encouragement, teaching and giving close attention to doctrine are the means of saving those who listen. The instruction about reading is generally regarded as liturgical instruction, but seems to me that it is more of a personal development program. I love the idea that your profiting can bee evident to all! That's what I want.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

1 Timothy 3

The desire for church leadership is a good thing. The text uses two strong words for that desire. Who in their right mind would want it if God wasn't prompting them?

The devil is mentioned twice, personally, and once the word is used as an adjective ("slander", same word). Apparently, the devil has an interest in church leadership!

I admit, I generally read this for the qualifications of leaders and quit paying attention after that. Paul said, I wrote so you would know how to conduct yourself in the household of God. This is about how to organize and live in a church family.

The church itself is a type of household community. The church, too, is the pillar and foundation of the truth. How you conduct yourself has important ramifications.

Monday, October 19, 2009

1 Timothy 2

Again, we read another unmistakable plea to be people of prayer. He piles three synonyms for prayer on top of one another as though he cannot urge us strongly enough. The subjects for the prayer are "all people" and "kings." The reason for the prayer is so that we can live quiet and peaceful lives before God.

Apparently, this quiet, peaceful life is the means for other people coming to faith. God wants all to be saved and has provided one mediator -- Jesus. Jesus brings men and God together. That's why he was sent.

He urges men everywhere to pray, with holy hands lifted and with a good attitude. Do I pray as often as I should? That seems really, really important.

Women should be modest, matching their profession of godliness. They should learn. They should learn and not be disruptive. And, they should not run the church.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

1 Timothy 1

Paul, early and often, contrasts empty thinking and lawless behavior with genuine Christian concern. The goal of the command is a clear conscience, an unhypocritical faith, and a sincere love. Anything less and you are sidetracked. The vices listed in this chapter are the polar opposites of the goal of God's commands. The law of God was being misused and as a result it had no power to control all kinds of bad behavior.

It is a faithful saying that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners -- of whom I am first. As he contemplates the mercy and patience of God, he breaks into praise! If we realize we are sinners in desperate need of saving, and understand God has sent Jesus to be that savior, and that He'd do it for me. . . I can't help but breakout in thanksgiving!

He talks about fighting the good fight. How are we supposed to do that? By having faith and a good conscience in the commands. In other words, we fight the good fight with God's word.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

2 Thessalonians 3

Finally brothers, Pray! How simple, yet how important! Pray especially that the word of God may run and be glorified.

The Lord is faithful. Faithfulness looks like establishing you and keeping you from the evil one. It is directing your heart in the love of God and patience of Christ. I need that directing and that is what a faithful God does.

The protestant work ethic springs from the chapter. It is in other places in the Bible, no doubt, but you can't miss it here. If you don't work, you shouldn't eat. Period. The community of faith needs to reinforce this standard.

There are nuances in church discipline, in remedial action a church takes toward those who will not live according to Christ's teaching. This example is to disassociate as brothers, not enemies. The goal is to make them ashamed of their idleness.

Friday, October 16, 2009

2 Thessalonians 2

The revelation of the lawless one looks a lot like it was happening, had begun, and was describing a current event. It does not look like the end of the age. It also appears they were to endure it.

Four observations:
  • The man of lawlessness will be the personification of Satan's deception and anti-God activity, and will call himself God. (9)
  • The failure to obtain salvation was because of a failure to love the truth. I'm sure he could have said, "believe," but he said love. (10)
  • To those who refuse to love the truth as presented in God's word and preaching, God sent a strong delusion. (11) Without promoting evil, God made it easier to believe falsehood.
  • The bedrock confidence in deceitful times is the election or choice of God that leads to belief in truth. (13-14).
The combination, in the last paragraph, of standing firm, being strong and being comforted at the same time seems unique to me. This does not advocate for a stoic toughness or a sissy comfort, but toughness and tenderness.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

2 Thessalonians 1

I love this church. In the midst of hard times their faith is growing and their love is increasing. In order to encourage this church, Paul reminds them that justice will be exercised on those who are persecuting them on the final day. Faith that God will make things right is one key to enduring in the face of abuse.

The description of unbelief is especially telling -- They do not know God and they do not OBEY the gospel. This is more true and helpful than they way the gospel is commonly thought of, as an optional add-on to an already full life. It demands to be obeyed. To disobey it is to encounter the terrifying and eternal wrath of God.

The return of Christ will be terrifying and marvelous at the same time, depending on your perspective. The perspective to have, of course, is the perspective of faith. Then, Christ's return will be marvelous and glorious!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

1 Thessalonians 5

They did not need to hear about the day or the hour. Why? Because it was going to come like a thief. What thief sends an RSVP before he shows up? Paul does expect God to be the one who keeps believers in one piece until he comes. . . He, nonetheless, exhorts them with simple and direct instruction about how to live. Our obedience is the means by which he keeps us.

I'd never noticed that, as we are challenged to watchfulness, Paul revisits some of the spiritual armor described in Ephesians 6:11ff. Put on the breastplate of faith and love and the helmet of the hope of salvation.

The staccato nature of the next commands adds to the force like a driving drumbeat intensifies music. Most of them are positive and encouraging, especially 1 Thess. 5: 16-22. God's will for me is to rejoice, to pray and to be thankful. Negative people don't do that.

There is a great greek word here: "oligopsychos" or small-souled. What a descriptive word for discouragement. When I am discouraged my soul shrinks. Encourage the small-souled person!

Monday, October 12, 2009

1 Thessalonians 4

The clarity and simplicity of this chapter is reason enough to listen to its message. This is the clearest statement of God's will for my life in all the Bible. His will is my holiness -- plain and simple. That is defined here as abstaining from sexual immorality, exercising self-control over my body with honor, not giving in to passionate desires and not being greedy.

Brotherly love is something taught by God. Part of what brotherly love looks like is this, watch over yourself and provide for your own family. It shows love to those outside my family when I provide for my family.

Ignorance about the return of Jesus Christ is not an option. If you are being persecuted or trying to be holy in an unholy context, it is a great comfort to know that you will be instantaneously with the Lord.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

1 Thessalonians 3

This short chapter, though someone else's mail, is about the joy of ministry. It is about longing to see with your own eyes the work of God accomplished in the lives of those in whom you have invested. It is about confidence in God to continue to work, even though I am absent. There is joy and satisfaction in this kind of ministry.

The chapter culminates in a beautiful prayer. The Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another. . . to establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father in the coming of our Lord with his holy angels. The love itself establishes their hearts and prepares them for Jesus return.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

1 Thessalonians 2

The first thing I notice is that the suffering of Philippi (Acts 16:22-24) was used by God to make Paul and his team more confident to preach the gospel in Thessalonica. God did not waste the opposition. It had a distilling effect on his motives and emboldened him for the central task.

The model of ministry set forth in 1 Thessalonians 2:7-12 is precious. Like a nursing mother. . . like a father. The reason ministry worked that way is that they were dear to him (v.8). No wonder the church grew from only three weeks worth of initial work (Acts 17:1-2).

The church received God's word as from God, not men and were encouraged to walk worthy of the call of God (1 Thess. 2:12-13). That's the other reason the church thrived after only three weeks.

Friday, October 09, 2009

1 Thessalonians 1

I love the memory of this church -- their work of faith, labor of love and patience of hope. May every church be known for that. Oh, that I would be remembered and prayed for like that.

The gospel came, not only in word, but in power and with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. If the gospel produced faith, hope and love (1 Thess. 1:3), it obviously was not mere words.

They received the gospel with much affliction with joy. Those two don't normally go together. Only really, really great news can produce joy in affliction. They became an example to everyone who heard about them of how to embrace the good news of Jesus.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Colossians 4

Prayer appears to be an ongoing, moment-by-moment part of the life of a Christian (be devoted). It has a sense of urgency (be watchful). And it is a happy exercise (with thanksgiving).

He cannot advocate prayer, talking with God, without connecting it to evangelism, talking with people. This takes two forms. Pray for an open door to speak -- opportunity. And, be wise, redeeming those opportunities, having gracious speech. That is, create the doors you pray for. Paul says, ". . . as it is necessary for me to speak" and tells us to be prepared for, ". . . how it is necessary to answer."

"Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt." What a great description of ideal speech for someone who is a Christian. Especially if you believe Jesus' words, "For from the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." The heart is where the grace and seasoning come from!

Again, this rich network of relationships is the church. The long and descriptive list of friends reminds us that people are the church. Paul not only greets his friends, but reminds people of their relationships with other people. Relationships really matter.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Colossians 3

This chapter is a slow motion look at how people are transformed by the gospel. It lists several important facets:
  • We, when we believe, are identified with Christ so that his death (Col. 3:3) and his resurrection (Col. 3:1) are ours.
  • That changes what we pursue with our lives and energy. Seek what is above, what belongs to Jesus. He has become to you as precious as life itself (Col. 3:1-2).
  • The activities and engagements that are in rebellion to God were killed on the cross, so actively reject them (Col. 3:5-9).
  • God is making you new, fashioning you to be like Jesus (Col. 3:10). So, actively engage in new behaviors and characteristics (Col. 3:12-17).
  • Note, the indicative (how things are) precedes the imperative (how things are supposed to be). God works, so you respond.
  • Live in your family and close relationships with Jesus in view. Love each other for His sake (Col. 3:18-25).
Challenge to Fathers (Col. 3:21): "Don't embitter your children, lest they lose their passion." (A literal translation). I need to father in such as way that the fire stays lit in my children!

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Colossians 2

Two errors are addressed in this passage, one with more vigor than the other.

First, He warns against being sidetracked by empty discussions and arguing about things that don' matter. The solution is to be rooted and grounded in Christ.

Second, He pleads with the readers not to be intimidated by those who keep a rigorous religion. The rigor takes the form of strict adherence to rules or the application of special techniques. They observe certain days, they appear humble, they do all kinds of things and look really, really pious. This is hard to deal with, but the solution is the same as it is for the other error -- focus on the gospel. Learn Christ, who is the fullness of God -- nothing else needs to be added.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Colossians 1

So much. So much. My heart is full and overflows. More is here in this chapter than I can absorb. It is a blessing of the sweetest order to have Jesus be as central, exalted, supreme and glorious as he is portrayed in this chapter.

I need to pray the prayer in this chapter for myself and others more than I do: That you may be filled with the knowledge of his will. . . I want God to answer that prayer in everyone I know.

The prayer breaks out into thanksgiving for salvation which stems from the supremacy of Christ. The design of salvation and creation are both to highlight the greatness of Jesus. He is the actor and the object in both. He does the work and he receives the glory.

Colossians 1:21-23 gives a quick summary of the gospel. You were an enemy of God. Jesus reconciled you to God. Jesus presents you blameless on account of his own virtue. Simple. Amazing.

Because Jesus is so glorious and effective in his work, it follows that I will give my life to see people grow up into mature followers of Jesus (Colossians 1:28-29). This is a great expression of why I am in the ministry.

I love the view of Colossians 1:29. I labor by his energy. That's how good works that count for anything happen.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Philippians 4

So much here to keep my heart happy!

Prayer is God's means to keep me peaceful. Thinking on good things, keeping rein on my thoughts is THE way for me to experience the God of peace. It's not that complicated. Why do I let myself think about any old thing?

There is a lot of power in imitation. Choose carefully whose life you imitate.

Philippians 4:13 is the most misquoted/misapplied verse in the Bible. Paul can do all things. What are they? He can abound or suffer want. He can be content in good or bad circumstances. He can handle the whole range because money is not the important thing to him.

Financial peace or security is a spiritual issue. Paul's circumstances taught him that there is something more important than circumstances.

The promise of Philippians 4:19 is such an encouragement to generosity. The "according to" sets the limits for the withdrawal on God's riches. (Compare Ephesians 3:16). The limit is God's riches in Christ Jesus, that is limitless. God can cover your generosity!

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Philippians 3

I need to not cruise through this chapter without marveling at the surpassing greatness of Christ which, by comparison, makes everything else in life look like a loss. Two factors highlight this treasure of Christ. First, the indulgent presence of evil (Phil 3:2) and the proud self-reliance of religion (Phil 3:3-6). Jesus is a treasure compared to which all other virtues and vices fade into worthlessness. The critical question can be framed in a comparison: Do you love Jesus more than these? (John 21:15).

The same two-sided Christianity that we saw in chapter two is present here, too. Christ has laid hold of me. I am seeking to lay hold on him. He does the work. . . and so do I.

There is such power in forgetting what is behind, being confident it is forgiven, and reaching forward to the prize. Too many of us are bound to the past and try to work around it. Jesus laid hold of you so you can move forward. Don't go back there. This is a glorious purpose!

Friday, October 02, 2009

Philippians 2

We are given some of the most significant Christology in the Bible, not as something to study, but as illustration of how we should think of others as more important than ourselves. Jesus was perfectly what we must be.

The exaltation of Jesus is obviously part of Jesus' humility that God doesn't want us to miss. Heavenly knees, earthly knees, and subterranean knees will bow! Jesus is also the perfect example of God exalting the humble (1 Peter 5:6).

The beautiful combo in Philippians 2:15-16 is the secret to the Christian life. "Work out your salvation" and "God works in you to will and to do." Do you need to work? Yes. Does God do the work? Yes. Can you tell if you are doing something or God is doing it? Probably not.

You've got to love Paul's friends. He is literally of "one soul" with Timothy. Paul wanted to be literally of "good soul" or encouraged by him. In Phil 2:2, he wanted them to be literally, "together in soul". Spiritual reality makes a difference in your soul.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Philippians 1

This opening prayer is one that I want to pray when the the pressure is off and there are many good things to choose from -- "that I may approve what is excellent." But this is a prayer for a church in the midst of poverty and suffering. They needed increased love, insight, understanding in all circumstances. I want this whole prayer to be prayed for me, especially the end; I so long to not be barren or unfruitful.

The suffering of Paul has distilled life to its essential ingredients, "for me to live is Christ." He needs nothing else, desires nothing else. This is the one essential aspect of life.

It was given to you not only to believe, but to suffer. Faith is a gift. So is suffering. It is controversial enough to say God bestows faith, but that God grants suffering is even harder to swallow. There is such hope there, though.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Ephesians 6

In the home, there is a high degree of accountability before God. In the last chapter, husbands and wives parallel Christ and the hcurch in love and submission. Children obey their parents "in the Lord." Servants submit. . . "as to Christ." Masters be careful how you treat slaves know you and they have a "master in heaven." More is at stake in our closest relationships than simply what we think about each other. Jesus is an audience in our homes.

The reality of our spiritual warfare is easy to underestimate. We war against rulers & authorities, against world powers of this darkness(lit.) and spiritual wickedness in heavenly places. Not a pretty picture. I need all the protection I can find. Thankfully God provides all I need. The list of armor begins with truth and ends with God's word -- no coincidence, since the devil is the father of lies (John 8:44).

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Ephesians 5

If there is ever a "fake it until you make it" motive in the Christian life it is in Eph. 5:1. Be imitators of God.

The emphasis here and at the end of chapter four on wholesome speech is very important. Nothings shows your heart, good or bad, like your words.

I want to live my life from Ephesians 5:15-18.
  • Walk as wise people.
  • Redeem the time.
  • Understand God's will.
  • Don't be drunk.
  • Be filled with the Spirit.
I don't need many other reasons to be reminded of the sacredness of marriage more than this. Paul set out talking about marriage and ended up (Eph. 5:32) talking about Jesus. I hope that happens when people talk about my marriage.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Ephesians 4:17-32

A golden key for a successfully Christian life lays underfoot, unnoticed in this passage. The expectation that a Christian will live, or walk, differently is clearly stated. But how? Seven times in eight verses (Eph. 4:17-24) he uses words that have to do with our minds, thoughts or ways of thinking:
  • Futility of your mind (17).
  • Having darkened understanding (18).
  • What you learned in Christ (21).
  • You were taught (22).
  • Truth in Jesus (22).
  • In the spirit of your mind (23).
  • Holiness of truth (24)
Christianity is not merely an intellectual pursuit, but it is. at least, a way of thinking.

Everything in Eph. 4:25-32 shouts that I've been changed by Christ coming into my life. For instance, the one who steals should work , so he'll have something to give. Not just so that he can have his own stuff, but so he can give. From thief to donor! That doesn't happen without a new birth. The transformation in speech and temper are also similarly obvious. The quality of Christians' lives and the quality of their speech are distinct selling points for the gospel.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Ephesians 4:1-16

Christian unity is something Christians need to work to keep, not work to create. The list of unifying factors mean nothing except our unity with each other is a by-product of our union with Christ.

This chapter is mandatory reading if you are to understand how God wants his people to work together. Notice first that the church works because of the victory of Jesus Christ from the dead. Part of his work is to win and distribute gifts to His church. The structure for the church is this: The church grows and is built by people who are served and equipped by pastor/teachers. Every part or ligament is important. The ministers are the people, not the pastors.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Ephesians 3

Paul is self-conscious about his calling as an apostle. He's also clear about the content of that calling. It is about bring undeserving gentiles into full participation in the riches of Jesus (Eph. 3:8). The gospel equals the unfathomable riches of Christ. How do you adequately communicate something that is unfathomable?

God's plan was to create a group, a church, purchased by the blood of Jesus, who would reveal the wisdom of God to all spiritual realms (Eph. 3:10). I think I might have tried something else. The church seems a very imperfect and inadequate representation of the wisdom of God. . . or, perhaps I'm missing the main point.

The prayer is stunning. The request is based, not on the performance or even the prayers of the Christian, but on the riches of his glory! The bank account from which this prayer is drawn is limitless. So, I'll prayer this. "In proportion to the riches of your glory, God would you grant my friends. . .
  • to be strengthened in their inner being.
  • to have Christ dwell in their hearts by faith.
  • to be rooted and grounded in love.
  • to have power to comprehend the enormity of Your love."
God will do far beyond all I can ask or imagine. . . perhaps I normally aim too low!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Ephesians 2

The stark spiritual condition of deadness and rebellion that all of us begin with gives way before the majestic grace of God. The work of Christ, physically taking the hostility on his body on the cross, transforms rebels into friends. The realm of the world is no longer the prime reality for the Christian. . . the cross is. Here is a summary of this chapter:

You cannot be bad enough that God in his grace can't save you. Everyone of us starts off in a terrible condition, a helpless captive of an evil rebel, unable to free ourselves. But God in his mercy sent his son as rescuer, apart from any goodness or deserving in the captives. So successful was the rescue that those who were captives have not joined their rescuer in a position of authority over the former captor. These victor/captives live lives devoted to good works without any remaining reason for prejudice, enjoying peace with God and each other.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Ephesians 1

If the Bible were a photo album, this would be a spectacular sunrise. Every bit of beauty that is evident in an English translation is amplified in the Greek text. Every good idea in Christianity is present in this chapter. A few things seem noteworthy to me:
  • The strength of the statements of God's foreknowledge, election, plan and purpose overwhelm a reader who wants to be in control or in the center of the universe. God's eternal purpose is out front.
  • The goal of our salvation is repeated multiple times -- to the praise of His glory (Eph. 1:6, 12, 14).
  • Christianity is a person. Four times "in whom" is repeated as the source of our blessings (Eph. 1:7, 11, 13).
  • In Paul's prayer, God's power is stated as gloriously as possible, synonym upon synonym, and you still get the impression he's under-expressing it (Eph. 1:19-20).
  • Jesus is exalted far above all competition!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Galatians 6

How can the Lord give me just what I need each day? What a great passage. Several things captured my attention:
  • Galatians 6:1-10 describe life together in a church or small group. Bear one another's burdens. Confront sin. Do good to everyone, especially those in the household of God.
  • The spiritual law of sowing and reaping is breathtaking in its simplicity and power. If it is not powerful enough on the face of it, he adds, " God is not mocked." (Galatians 6:7).
  • The sowing/reaping principle is also a key reason not to give up (Galatians 6:9).
  • The cross is a reason to boast. It crucifies me to the world. That is, dying is rejoicing. Crucifixion frees me from the tyranny of an anti-God way of living. It also crucifies the world to me. The world dies in its attraction and power over me!
  • Another "nothing matters" comment: Nothing matters except the new creation (2 Cor. 5:17, Gal. 5:6).

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Galatians 5

Paul is trying to persuade the church to live by faith and walk by the Spirit, not surrendering again to the bondage of the law. His chief argument in this chapter is the impotence of the law to bring about any lasting change. The Spirit, on the other hand, brings victory.

Four ideas I love:
  • All that matters is faith working through love (Galatians 5:6). Nothing else matters. Nothing else represents freedom or virtue. What a simple summary of Christian ethics.
  • Walk by the Spirit and you will not (literally) bring to completion the desires of the flesh. (Galatians 5:16). You may be tempted. You may think about starting down that road, but the Spirit keeps you from finishing!
  • The flesh is opposed to the Spirit. This would make it hard to live life with a foot in both worlds. (Galatians 5:17).
  • Of course, I need a big harvest of the fruit of the Spirit in my life (Galatians 5:22-23). These are things God's Spirit produces in my life not things I work at, hoping to improve a little in one of these areas.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Galatians 4

Freedom is the inheritance of every believer. Why would you go back? His allegory of Hagar and Sarah is a wild example of this. He is attempting to contrast law with faith, performance with freedom and to persuade them to life free in Christ's righteousness instead of trying to produce their own. Why would anyone, if given freedom, shoos bondage?

I find Galatians 4:8-9 especially compelling. Not knowing God you served by nature things that were not God. Why return not that you know the true God, but better yet, are known by God? We are naturally wired to be anti-God, or at least to ignore him. How great is it to know God? How much greater is it to know that the God of the universe knows me?

The line, "I have labor pains dear children, until Christ is formed (lit., metamorphosis) in you," is a great summary of pastoral ministry. My job is to labor so that Jesus is formed in believers who are then transformed.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Galatians 3

It is hard to overestimate the tendency to work the law and achievement back into our faith. It is utterly bewitching to turn away from free justification by faith to works of the law. But people do it. We are wired to establish our own goodness and we drift back easily. The point here seems to be: law and faith are mutually exclusive as means to establishing righteousness.

The purpose of the law was not to establish righteousness but to identify and restrain sin, to show the futility of works righteousness, and to bring us to Christ.

They linchpin for the whole argument is the quote from Deuteronomy 27:26 in verse 10. If you don't do the law you are cursed. Jesus solves for the curse. . . and you can't. Just because someone doesn't want there to be a curse doesn't mean there won't be one!

The other interesting argument is grammatical. Paul is so confident of the words of the Bible he argues the importance of the plural versus the singular (Gal. 3:16). Jesus is THE seed.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Galatians 2

Paul gives a little more of his chronology. He got approval from the apostles (after 14 years). That's a long time between the calling from God and his full-time ministry. It is easy to get in a hurry.

Even Peter and Barnabas get caught in the ethnic divide. They were willing to compormise justification by grace to keep the peace. Paul's confrontation of them was direct (literally, in his face) and public. To think you can earn even some of your righteousness from working at the law is to miss the gospel.

Galatians 2:20 is so central. Christ lives in me. That is a resurrection promise to me after I have been crucified with him. I identify with him in his crucifixion and his resurrection. He loves me and gave himself for me. All the Christian life is the Christ life, in me.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Galatians 1

We do not get to guess or have to wonder at the theme or big idea of this letter. He states it up front. It is amazing you've left the gospel so quickly! Why do people leave? I think it is because the gospel of Jesus Christ opposes all that we naturally value.

The gospel did not originate with a few poeple thinking up a better religion. It was the revealed by God himself.

it is easy to miss, but Paul was not an instant, just add water (or a lightning bolt), apostle. He went to Arabia (some people think for as much as 8-9 years). Then he spent 3 years in Damascus. And, he knew the Old Testament by memory before he started this dozen or so years of training

Thursday, September 17, 2009

2 Corinthians 13

This chapter tells several things about their relationship.
  • Paul hides in the weakness and resurrection power of Christ when interacting with this stubborn church.
  • They need to test themselves to see if they are in the faith. And if they fail. . . he fails.
  • He prays they might be perfect. Prayer is the means for a church to be perfected or built up (2 Cor. 13:9). Why not pray?
  • At the end of this letter, right after he tells them he hopes he won't be too harsh, he commands them to rejoice. Interesting juxtaposition of two seemingly contrary states, harshness and joy!
The benediction is most beautiful (2 Cor. 13:13).

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

2 Corinthians 12

In the preceding chapter Paul pointed to his suffering as his authentication as a genuine apostle. In this chapter he appeals to his surpassing revelation and subsequent humbling and grace from God. These things would never make a resume' today.

The 'thorn' was a messenger from Satan. The messenger of Satan was an agent of God. God used it to give grace and strength. Why does Satan even try if God turns his best efforts into good?

Strength is made perfect in weakness. He boasts in weakness because of the opportunity it presents for God's strength to be obvious.

His good motives and good decision in sending Titus is a further proof of his apostleship. The church had not properly grieved or repented of their sin -- always a problem.

He views them as his children. He would gladly spend and be spent for them.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

2 Corinthians 11

Two things are amazing to me in this chapter:
  • The clarity of his description of Satan's mode of operation. Satan is not all about the evil and disgusting, the scary and magical, but about the alluring and mostly good. If he showed up with pitchfork and horns and a red jumpsuit, people would not be fooled in the least. The best lie always masquerades as truth. What looks good may be the most dangerous!
  • The degree to which Paul suffered for the church. He lists this as an authentication of his ministry. While he has several positive credentials -- Hebrew of Hebrews, Tribe of Benjamin, etc. -- no false apostle can match what he has suffered! I am genuine because of what I've endured. The last line always gets me. . . "Besides all this, I have the daily concern for all the churches." The other suffering is external, but this is internal and incessant.

Monday, September 14, 2009

2 Corinthians 10

Two key verses in this chapter are life-changing:
  • 2 Cor. 10:4-5 -- We don't do battle according to the flesh. We fight spiritual battles with spiritual weapons. A spiritual stronghold is a way of thinking that exalts itself against the knowledge of God. It is an 'idea' or 'imagination' depending on your translation. It is not something that is distant and frightening. It is close and invisible, a way of thinking about life that is against God's will.
  • 2 Cor. 10:12 -- Those who measure themselves by themselves lack understanding and wisdom. How much more clearly can it be said that it is not about me?! How someone goes about deriving their identity says a lot about how they understand the gospel.
Paul does spend a lot of time defending himself and his ministry. How do you know when to do that and when to be content to be wronged? I'm not sure.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

2 Corinthians 9

This chapter contains unblushing promises about giving. You may want to try this at home!
  1. You will reap according to how generously you sow (2 Cor. 9:6).
  2. God loves a cheerful giver. So, don't be satisfied with mere obligation (2 Cor. 9:7).
  3. God is able to make all grace abound to you (2 Cor. 9:8).
  4. You will have all you need in every way for everything with a view to every good work (2 Cor. 9:8). Did he leave anything out?
  5. When you give to the poor your righteousness will remain for eternity (2 Cor. 9:9).
  6. God can multiply and increase your gifts (2 Cor. 9:10).
  7. Generosity causes thanksgiving to overflow to God (2 Cor. 9:11-12).
  8. Giving is a direct response to the gospel (2 Cor. 9:13-15).

Saturday, September 12, 2009

2 Corinthians 8

This chapter oozes love and generosity. It is like Jesus to choose poverty when you are rich.

In severe affliction and deep poverty -- they gave. We don't think of that as a starting point for generosity. Generosity, for us, starts when I'm comfortable and have enough. To give out of poverty requires grace given to the church (2 Cor. 8:1-3). Would you rather have grace or money?

They took care to protect the offering, choosing trustworthy and proven companions for Titus.

They gave themselves first to the Lord, then to us, according to the will of God. That is the launching point for Christian generosity (2 Cor. 8:4-5). I must give myself to the Lord first. My finances are simply and indication of whether or not that has happened.

Friday, September 11, 2009

2 Corinthians 7

Verse one goes with chapter six. It creates a paradigm for Christian living. "Having these promises. . ." To be a Christian is to be a person of the promise. Christianity starts with a word from God that is either true or not; he is either good for the promise or he is lying. Responding to the promise by faith (that's what you do with promises -- you believe them), we purify ourselves inbody and spirit and take aim for holiness in the fear of God.

Paul's earlier letter started them grieving but the grief worked repentance, so it was not useless or without profit. Grief is not wasted if it humbles us and prompts response to God. In the end, their grief let to repentance which brought great joy! The apostle Paul had confidence in them because they traveled this road of grief, repentance, and joy. That pathway leads to spiritual confidence.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

2 Corinthians 6

In chapter five he says he appeals on behalf of Christ. Chapter six begins with an appeal. Now is the acceptable day. Today is the day of salvation. If you know you are not at peace with God, why would you delay? Especially if you know Jesus completely satisfies all God's expectations for you (2 Cor. 5:21). Don't delay.

What follows is Paul's attempt to not put a stumbling block in front of people and the lengths to which he will go so people will see Jesus. He wants his life to commend his message.

I notice a continuity between plagues, hunger, prison, trouble and the like on the one hand and the word of truth, Holy Spirit, love and power on the other. This chapter does not have two separate lists. Christian service includes both parts of the list, not just the good parts.

He argues aggressively against believers being mismatched (Gk: heterozygote) with unbelievers. He doesn't say what kinds of partnerships these would be, but assumes that a large chasm exists between Christ-followers and non-Christ-followers. He bases this on the New Covenant promises from the Old Testament (Ezekiel 36:25-26).

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

2 Corinthians 5

My heart is full of rich and sweet spiritual nourishment from this text. Continuing the thought of looking to eternal things from the last chapter, he encourages us with the knowledge we have a heavenly home that means life not death. For this cause we walk by faith, not sight. We can take courage God will reward actions, good or bad.

It follows that if there is certainly judgment and if death is certain, then someone must plead with people -- be reconciled to God! There are all kinds of motivations mentioned here to plead with people. Why share Jesus?
  • Knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men (2 Cor. 5:11).
  • The love of Christ compels us (2 Cor. 5:14).
  • In Christ . . . New Creation (2 Cor. 5:17).
  • God took initiative to reconcile the world to himself (2 Cor. 5:18-19).
  • We are Christ's ambassadors (2 Cor. 5:20).
  • Jesus is the perfect solution to the problem (2 Cor. 5:21).

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

2 Corinthians 4

I don't think it is possible to be discouraged after reading this chapter. That clearly is the point of it.

The god of this world blinds the eyes of the unbelieving. What don't they see? The light of the gospel of the glory of Christ (2 Cor. 4:4). How many professed Christians don't see that it is about the glory of God in the face of Christ (2 Cor. 4:6)? The gospel is about God's glory first and our salvation somewhere down the list.

The purpose of affliction and brokenness is so that the life of Jesus might be manifest in my circumstances (2 Cor. 4:11). To say it another way, I die with Christ so his resurrection life can be mine. No dying, no resurrection. Death brings life (2 Cor. 4:12). You don't get a resurrection life without a death.

The contrast between the treasure and the treasure container is so hope-giving. It's not about me, it's about the treasure.

2 Cor. 4:16-18 are the most sublime in all the Bible. Nothing pulls me through tough times better than these verses. The eternal vision of glory dwarfs the affliction of the present!

Monday, September 07, 2009

2 Corinthians 3

What a humble and empowered way to live life! I don't consider myself adequate for any of this, but my adequacy is from God. This is so freeing. I don't have to prove myself because anything that is good about me comes from God. I simply have to trust him!

The contrast between the old covenant of condemnation and the new covenant leads to the climax in 2 Corinthians 2:18. We all, with unveiled faces, beholding the glory of the Lord are being transformed from glory to glory by the Spirit of the Lord.

Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. The freedom has to do with the veil being lifted as people turn to the Lord. The Spirit makes people free to turn to the Lord.

The new covenant is the glory of the Lord. Christ on the cross, God writing his law on hearts, taking out stony hearts, giving his Spirit, this is the glory of God (Jeremiah 31:31-33). Only a glorious God would do all that for his people.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

2 Corinthians 2

Two things stand out that I needed to be reminded of:
  • First, the necessity of forgiveness. 2 Corinthians 2:11 indicates that one of Satan's schemes for taking advantage of believers is in the area of bitterness. My ability to forgive is in direct proportion to my experience of the cross -- which is the very thing that defeats Satan. If he convinces me not to forgive, I do not apply the cross and he succeeds. How easily I fall for this!
  • Second, Christ is the same fragrance, smelled two different ways by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. Who is sufficient for these things? Who can change the way someone else perceives Christ? Just present Christ.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

2 Corinthians 1

The opening to this letter is tender and encouraging. God is the God of all comfort and a compassionate Father. Yet, He does not keep us from affliction. Rather, he comforts us as we go through it.

Comfort, like any grace, does not come to us as an end in itself, but comes to be passed along. Comfort is not the end of the journey, but something that happens along the road.

The promises of God are "yes" in Christ Jesus. The Holy Spirit verifies the "yes". It is sad, then, that so many people hear "no" when they hear Jesus. I imagine some of the "no" comes from the way Jesus is communicated and some comes from the way every human is naturally wired.

Paul doesn't Lord it over their faith but, I love this perspective, works together for their joy! We should all have someone working together with us for our joy. That's what I want to do for people.

Friday, September 04, 2009

1 Corinthians 16

1 Corinthians 16:1-4 is an introduction to Christian giving. Have a plan. The church plan is corporate and involves each person. Giving is proportional. It anticipates a need. It is handled in a trustworthy way.

I love 1 Corinthians 16:13-14. It reminds me of the last words of Hugh Latimer as he was burned at the stake. Surely, Paul's vision of Christianity is robust and masculine. True Christianity is not for sissies.

I struggle with each of the items in the paragraph. Sin sneaks up on me -- I need to watch. I shrink from what is right -- I need to be courageous. I don't love like I should.

The relationships of Paul are more beautiful to me on this read-through than ever before. He is not an apostle by himself. His influence was measured by his relationships. What do my relationships tell about me?

Thursday, September 03, 2009

1 Corinthians 15:29-58

The arguments in this half of the chapter are explanation not motivation. It explains what kind of body we'll have. it explains the relation of the resurrection to the law and to sin. It will not be more-of-the-same only longer, when we are resurrected. Part of the hope is that things will be different.

Found myself longing for the resurrection. . . sown in weakness, raised in power. Yes!

Friends who do not share the perspective of the resurrection, the accountability and hope, will corrupt good morals. Be sure of it. (1 Cor. 15:33). Morality ultimately depends on the resurrection.

The conclusion is not to let circumstances dictate how you spend your life. Work for the Lord. The resurrection means that your labor is not in vain (1 Cor. 15:28)

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

1 Corinthians 15:1-28

This is of first importance! Not many things are first. The resurrection is the starting point. The end is that God might be all in all. The resurrection is primary because the victory it testifies places God in the Supreme place in the universe!

Was caught off-guard by the statement preceding the historical events of the gospel. He said, "Which I preached, which you believed and on which you have taken your stand and through which you are saved (I expected this much) -- if you hold fast! Didn't expect that. The resurrection power of God preserving a believer is necessary if someone is going to be saved.

The enemy language is very descriptive. God is placing His enemies under his footstool, both Satan and death! Hurray for the resurrection!

He uses two separate words for "worthless" -- empty and futile. Clearly the gospel is void of its significance if Christ is not raised.

I cannot escape Paul's reasoning that we are most miserable without a resurrection. The question is this: do you live life in such a way that only makes sense if there is a resurrection? That's how he thinks a Christian is supposed to live.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

1 Corinthians 14:21-40

Tongues seems to invite bedlam in the church. 1 Cor. 14:22 follows a quote from Isaiah 28:11-12 and gives the purpose of tongues. If someone will recognize what he hears as a fulfillment of the prophecy -- tongues is appropriate. Someone who doesn't make that O.T. connection will think you a maniac (literal translation of the word).

Bottom line: God is a god of order, not of bedlam.

The focus of worship is not the outsider, but the outsider must understand what is going on. Religious slang and church jargon may be just like a foreign tongue to outsiders. How can worship be both more meaningful and more intelligible to the outsider?

I will not quickly get over 1 Cor. 14:25. What a result for someone visiting a church!
  • His heart will be revealed.
  • He'll fall on his face and worship.
  • He'll say, "Surely, God is among them."
Oh, that such a thing would happen frequently in our worship services!

Monday, August 31, 2009

1 Corinthians 14:1-20

Why is this here? I think that there must have been unloving, disorderly, and divisive use of tongues in this church. That's all he seems to be addressing. . . so far.

Though "tongues" in Acts clearly describes real human language spoken somewhere in the world, he leaves the door open, at least, that he may be talking about something else here. He seems to be describing an ecstatic utterance that you will enjoy, but other people won't understand.

In the church he sees little or no place for tongues because they do not build others up. If other people don't understand our worship, what good is it to them. This has many applications. You must seek understanding if other people are involved.

If you do not engage the mind and the understanding, you will not be able to sustain the Christian faith. It requires knowledge and understanding.

Monday, August 24, 2009

On Vacation

I have a few posts made ahead, but won't be back to posting until near the end of this month. Don't stop reading. Even in small bites we are going to read through the New Testament this year. This might be a good time to review and highlight some of the things that God has spoken to you about as you have read. Please share them with the rest of us. Thanks.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

1 Corinthians 13

Clearly, the context of this chapter is set in church life, not in marital life, even though it is read most often at weddings. The quality most people only dream of for their marriages is what should be normal in church.

The aspect of love described here that is most vulnerable in me today is this: love is not irritable. Why am I so irritable with the people I love? Lord, help me here!

It is not clear what "that which is perfect" refers to. So it is not clear when those things that are "in part" shall be finished. While I can supply multiple possibilities, I do not want to lose sight of the great hope of knowing as I am known and seeing clearly.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

1 Corinthians 12

The Holy Spirit directs Christian worship. What Paul had just written in 1 Corinthians 11 about the Lord's Supper led him to point out you can't worship Jesus without the Holy Spirit. That took him to the way the Holy Spirit assembled the church. He put them together like a physical body is put together. Different people have different gifts.

I have known this, but have enjoyed it more recently than before. I've gained a higher appreciation for the gifts of others and have been more aware that some things come easier for me than they should. The only explanation is the gifting of the Holy Spirit.

What part has the Holy Spirit given you to play in the Body of Christ He has assembled?

Friday, August 21, 2009

1 Corinthians 11

The lead idea in this chapter is clearly stated in 1 Cor. 11:3 -- The head of the woman is man, the head of the man is Christ, the head of Christ is God. Everything else springs from this idea. This statement also has some clear implications:
  • There is no difference in value between Christ and God, so there doesn't need to be inequality between a man and woman.
  • The differences in roles implies a mutual dependence, not a superior or one-way relationship.
  • God intends interdependence in worship. You might think of it as a dance of worship defined by relationships between persons with different roles.
  • An attitude of submission supports worship. Apart from submission at any juncture, worship breaks down.
The Lord's supper is not a place to over-eat or over-drink. It is not a time for rivalry or schisms, but for unity. The warning about taking the Lord's Supper in an unworthy manner is about as stiff a warning as can possibly be imagined.

It is interesting that we should judge ourselves so we can avoid judgment with the world. I'm glad we program that kind of experience into church life regularly.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

1 Corinthians 10

This chapter starts with a stiff warning about sin. Consider Israel; in spite of their advantages they still sinned terribly. Don't be like them. God provides a way out -- don't miss it. A bad example is part of the way to escape. We must always be on the look out for the way of escape and the strategies of grace to avoid sin.

Identification with Christ in communion is a powerful deterrent to compromise. I dare not identify myself with demonic activity or damage my brothers with whom I share a connection to Jesus.

Paule gives us his example of how he makes practical eating and drinking decisions so he can glorify God in everything.