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.