Friday, October 30, 2009

breaking out of the mold

Mark 2, Hebrews 7

The Pharisees could not wrap their heads around who Jesus is.  He is the Son of Man who has the authority to forgive sins (which means that HE IS GOD!).  He is the Friend of sinners and the Doctor to the sick.  He is the Bridegroom of the Church, and His Spirit is the new wine.  He is the Lord of the Sabbath - He is our rest.  I don't think the Pharisees understood that He was fulfilling the old covenant and instituting and fulfilling the new covenant:

Mk. 2:22 "And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the wine would burst the wineskins, and the wine and the skins would both be lost. New wine calls for new wineskins."

The author of Hebrews elaborates:

 Heb. 7:11 So if the priesthood of Levi, on which the law was based, could have achieved the perfection God intended, why did God need to establish a different priesthood, with a priest in the order of Melchizedek instead of the order of Levi and Aaron?

 12 And if the priesthood is changed, the law must also be changed to permit it. 13 For the priest we are talking about belongs to a different tribe, whose members have never served at the altar as priests. 14 What I mean is, our Lord came from the tribe of Judah, and Moses never mentioned priests coming from that tribe.

 15 This change has been made very clear since a different priest, who is like Melchizedek, has appeared. 16 Jesus became a priest, not by meeting the physical requirement of belonging to the tribe of Levi, but by the power of a life that cannot be destroyed.  17 And the psalmist pointed this out when he prophesied,

   "You are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek."

 18 Yes, the old requirement about the priesthood was set aside because it was weak and useless. 19 For the law never made anything perfect. But now we have confidence in a better hope, through which we draw near to God.

Heavenly Father, you are holy and eternal.  Your Word stands forever.  Your salvation comes through faith in Jesus Christ, our great High Priest in the line of Melchizedek.  Lord, I don't really understand it, but I know that you are awesome and mighty to save.  May the power of Christ's life be poured into me and through me into the lives of others.  May I serve you and honor you today.  I ask in the name of Jesus Christ, my High Priest who brings me into fellowship with the One True God.  Amen.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


Mark 1, Psalm 100, Hebrews 6

In the first chapter of Mark, Jesus taught and healed.  Hmmm.... Consistent with Matthew.  Very interesting.

I just made the connection that if Jesus healed Peter's mother-in-law, then that most likely indicates that Peter was married.

Jesus told the man that He healed of leprosy to go present himself to the priest and offer the sacrifice for those who have been healed of leprosy.  That means that when God gave Moses the Law, He included a description for our appropriate response to His gracious healing.  He has been healing all along!

Yesterday I had lunch with several Brothers, and we were discussing the verses in Hebrews 4 and 5 that I meditated on the past two days.  Mark posed the question, "What is our role in practically approaching the throne of grace?"  The passage of Psalm 100 came to mind, so I read through that again this morning, and I think worship and gladness (v. 2), reverent fear (v. 3), and thanksgiving and praise (v. 4) are how we practically approach Him:

Ps. 100:2 Worship the LORD with gladness;
       come before him with joyful songs.
 3 Know that the LORD is God.
       It is he who made us, and we are his ;
       we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

 4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving
       and his courts with praise;
       give thanks to him and praise his name.

Heavenly Father, please fill my heart with gladness and lead me to worship you in spirit and in truth.  Lord, please fill me with the joy of salvation through faith in Christ.  God - Father, Son, and Spirit - you are the LORD, Yahweh, my creator, and I am your servant.  Lord, please teach me to fear you and obey you.  Lord, please help me remember your goodness and kindness to me so that I will continually thank you for how you have blessed me.  Lord may I bless you with the words that I say, the prayers that I lift up to you, and the way I live my life so that you will be praised and your name will be made great among the nations.  Halelujah!  I ask in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Matthew 28, Hebrews 5

We should definitely enter the throneroom of grace boldly because of Christ's victory, but we better be reverent, as well:

Heb. 5:7 While Jesus was here on earth, he offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears, to the one who could rescue him from death. And God heard his prayers because of his deep reverence for God. 8 Even though Jesus was God's Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered.

OK, if the Father answered Jesus's prayers because of His humility (though Jesus is Himself Holy God), then it seems like humility is a very important factor in our prayers (we being creation, unholy and sinful).

This morning, before I read Hebrews 5, I was frustrated because our dog Sam suddenly developed intestinal difficulties yesterday evening for some unknown reason.  Of course, in the middle of the night, he made a mess on the floor and stunk up our apartment.  (Needless to say, Brandi and I are pretty frustrated with him.)  So, I made sure I took him out several times this morning before leaving for work - hoping that he would be able to hold it until Brandi gets home this afternoon.  As I was standing outside waiting on Same to do his business, and remembering the passage from Heb. 4 yesterday, I asked the Lord to heal Sam's digestive issues.  And in a frustrated and disrespectful attitude, I told him that it seemed like a pretty trivial task for Him to take care of.  I quickly appologized to the Lord for my lack of reverence, but I'm still ashamed that I spoke to the Lord disrespectfully just because of my dog's loose bowels; it's pretty embarrasing.

So verse 7 cut to the heart as I read it on the bus.

The Lord gave me an analogy/metephore this morning.  The doorway to fellowship with God was wide-open when Adam and Eve were in the Garden - they could fellowship with Him freely.  But because of sin, the door was closed.  But since Jesus is both the Perfect High Priest and the Complete Sacrifice, His blood is applied to the closed door.  Christ's Victory is analagous to sawing the bottom two-feet of the doorway off.  The opportunity to fellowship with God is now restored, and we can go into His presence boldly anytime, but only by humbly crawling on our knees by faith in Christ's Victory.  If we just walked into God's Holy Presence without humility, we would invoke His instant judgement against our pride and sin.  But when we humbly and boldly approach Him through faith in Christ, then He welcomes us in, and He picks us up and gives us the privilege of standing in His Holy Presence as His Children - Brothers and Sisters with Christ Himself.  So we experience a similar process as Christ - humbling ourselves before Him, and then He mercifully and graciously exalts us to standing with Him.

Heavenly Father, please forgive me for my lack of reverence.  I confess that I am a sinful human, in no way deserving your mercy, love, grace, and kindness.  Please forgive me for my pride.  Dear God, I want to approach you humbly on my knees.  Father, please grow my fear of you.  I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, my Perfect High Priest and Complete Sacrifice.  Amen.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Matthew 27, Hebrews 4

When I consider the brutality of the torture that Jesus endured before and during His crucifixion, it makes these verses super-rich:

Heb. 4:14Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. 16Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

These verses are in the context of rest.  Recently, I am realizing that rest is more important than I previously thought - physically, mentally, and spiritually.  The truth is that rest is a practical life function - we need it.  And God gives it - to those who believe.

Heavenly Father, thank you for sacrificing your own Son, Jesus, to defeat sin.  Lord, I believe in you, I trust you, and I want to know you more today.  Lord, please teach me to rest.  Lord, please help me lead my wife and son to rest in you.  Help us live a balanced life of physical, mental, and spiritual rest so that we will share the refreshment that we've received with others - for your glory and the advancement of your Kingdom.  I pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Monday, October 26, 2009


Matthew 26, Hebrews 3

Mt. 26:73 A little later some of the other bystanders came over to Peter and said, "You must be one of them; we can tell by your Galilean accent." 74 Peter swore, "A curse on me if I'm lying—I don't know the man!" And immediately the rooster crowed.

Peter denied knowing Christ because of fear.  He allowed his fear of what would happen to undermine his faith.  Fundamentally, fear is unbelief.

Heb. 3:7 That is why the Holy Spirit says,

   "Today when you hear his voice,
    8 don't harden your hearts
   as Israel did when they rebelled,
      when they tested me in the wilderness.
 9 There your ancestors tested and tried my patience,
      even though they saw my miracles for forty years.
 10 So I was angry with them, and I said,
   'Their hearts always turn away from me.
      They refuse to do what I tell them.'
 11 So in my anger I took an oath:
      'They will never enter my place of rest.'"

 12 Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters. Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God. ... 18 And to whom was God speaking when he took an oath that they would never enter his rest? Wasn't it the people who disobeyed him? 19 So we see that because of their unbelief they were not able to enter his rest.

Fundamentally, disobedience is unbelief.

Heb. 3:6 But Christ, as the Son, is in charge of God's entire house. And we are God's house, if we keep our courage and remain confident in our hope in Christ. ... 14 For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ.

Heavenly Father, please forgive me for my fear and disobedience, which are really unbelief.  Lord, I believe in you.  Jesus, I trust you for salvation - today and forever.  It is by your grace, Lord, that I can go on with you.  Lord, please turn my heart to you so that I will see you, hear you, trust you, and obey you.  I love you, Lord.  May your name be praised.  I pray in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Friday, October 23, 2009


Matthew 23, Philemon

Philemon 25 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

At the first reading, this sounds like a really nice verse.  But after meditating on it for a little while, I struggle to understand it.

grace - unmerited favor, benevolence, blessing
the Lord Jesus Christ - God and man, the Son of God, the Perfect Man, the Messiah, the Lamb Who was slain for the sins of the world, King of Kings and Lord of Lords
spirit - the core aspect of our being, co-residing with the Holy Spirit, filled with the Spirit of God

all together - To have all of who Jesus is and has accomplished inside the core of who we are

Heavenly Father, please fill me with the Lord Jesus Christ and His Grace!  Lord, please set my mind on the Spirit and not on the flesh.  I want to experience you and express you, for your glory and the advancement of your Kingdom.  I pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

as fundamental as it gets

Matthew 22, Titus 3

A summary of the central aspect of human living by Christ (God and Man):

36 "Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?"

 37 Jesus replied, "'You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.' 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments."

Love God and love others.  God is Love, so to live love is to experience God flowing through you.

What does it look like to love God with all of your heart, mind, soul, and strength?  I think it looks like you want to know Him and serve Him and be with the rest of His Body.  What does it look like to love your neighbor as yourself?  I think it is very different from the way we live as middle-class Americans.

Heavenly Father, please forgive me because I mostly live like I love myself.  Please turn my heart toward you, and may I love you genuinely and completely.  Lord, please teach me to love others as myself.  Father, you demonstrated what that looks like with Jesus Christ on the Cross.  Lord, please help me.  I have such a long way to go; I need your grace.  I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

more than a prophet

Matthew 21, Titus 2

I just can't get over this.  It seems like wherever Jesus went, He taught them about the Kingdom, and He healed people:

Mt 21:12 Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out all the people buying and selling animals for sacrifice. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves. 13 He said to them, "The Scriptures declare, 'My Temple will be called a house of prayer,' but you have turned it into a den of thieves!"

 14 The blind and the lame came to him in the Temple, and he healed them. 15 The leading priests and the teachers of religious law saw these wonderful miracles and heard even the children in the Temple shouting, "Praise God for the Son of David."

Jesus clearly explained on multiple occasions that He is the Son of God; here is one example:

37 "Finally, the owner sent his son, thinking, 'Surely they will respect my son.'

 38 "But when the tenant farmers saw his son coming, they said to one another, 'Here comes the heir to this estate. Come on, let's kill him and get the estate for ourselves!' 39 So they grabbed him, dragged him out of the vineyard, and murdered him.

Heavenly Father, I trust the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation.  I want to experience your power through me.  Please use me to teach people about your Kingdom, and please use me to minister to people's needs.  May the Truth be demonstrated in my life, for your glory.  I ask in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

worker in the vineyard

Matthew 20, Titus 1

Mt. 20:1 "For the Kingdom of Heaven is like the landowner who went out early one morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay the normal daily wage and sent them out to work.

Yesterday after work, JR and I went over to visit with a couple whose son is in NICU.  He was born about four and a half months early, but the Lord has sustained his life.  (JR found out about the situation through a person he was working with on a construction site.)  We stopped by to visit them about a month ago and got to visit with Caleb, the boy's dad, and we have been praying for them since then.  Yesterday we had a brief visit with Katrina, the boy's mom.  We offered for our Bible Life group to bring them meals in a few weeks when they get to bring their boy home from the hospital.  And we invited them to hang out with us sometime at one of our Bible studies or worship services.  As I reflected on the parable this morning, I realized that as workers in His vineyard, we are (1) helping graft branches into the Vine and (2) helping the branches grow and produce fruit:

T 1:1 This letter is from Paul, a slave of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ. I have been sent to proclaim faith to those God has chosen and to teach them to know the truth that shows them how to live godly lives.

I really hope that our Bible Life group will reach out and minister to this family so that they can see God's love and connect to Him through faith in Christ. 

Heavenly Father, thank you for chosing me to be a worker in your vineyard.  Lord, I am just a slave because you bought me with the Blood of Christ, so it is amazing that you bless me with eternal life and anything else.  Lord, it is such a joy to work in your vineyard.  Lord, please help me be faithful to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to disciple the Believers to live godly lives.  Please purify me and grow me so that I can be an example for others to follow.  Please grow me to be an elder in the body, for the advancement of your Church.  I ask in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Monday, October 19, 2009


Matthew 19, 2 Timothy 4

Faithfulness has applications within multiple relationships.  The most fundamental is our faithfulness to Christ, which necessitates that EVERYTHING ELSE in our life follows Christ's Lordship:

Mt. 19:27 Then Peter said to him, "We've given up everything to follow you. What will we get?" ... 29 And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life.

2 Tim. 4:6 As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. 8 And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing.

The next most obvious application of faithfulness is with your spouse:

Mt. 19:8 Jesus replied, "Moses permitted divorce only as a concession to your hard hearts, but it was not what God had originally intended. 9 And I tell you this, whoever divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery—unless his wife has been unfaithful."

Brandi and I were so blessed by the youth of our congregation that pledged themselves to sexual purity last night.  We will continue praying for them.

And, since we are Brothers and Sisters in Christ, we should be faithful to other disciples of Christ:

2 Tim. 4:9 Timothy, please come as soon as you can. 10 Demas has deserted me because he loves the things of this life and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus has gone to Dalmatia. 11 Only Luke is with me. Bring Mark with you when you come, for he will be helpful to me in my ministry.

Of course, the Lord is always faithful!

2 Tim. 4:16 The first time I was brought before the judge, no one came with me. Everyone abandoned me. May it not be counted against them. 17 But the Lord stood with me and gave me strength so that I might preach the Good News in its entirety for all the Gentiles to hear. And he rescued me from certain death. 18 Yes, and the Lord will deliver me from every evil attack and will bring me safely into his heavenly Kingdom. All glory to God forever and ever! Amen.

Heavenly Father, you are always faithful.  Lord, your faithfulness stretches to the sky.  Lord, please help me be a faithful man.  May people see you in me because I am faithful to Christ, faithful to my wife and children, and faithful to my Brothers and Sisters in Christ.  Thank you for growing me; please use me today for your glory.  I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Friday, October 16, 2009

laying hands

Matthew 16, 2 Timothy 1

Last night at Bible study, we talked a little about the Church at Antioch laying hands on Barnabas and Paul as they were commissioned for their first missionary journey.  I was thinking that it is a unification of the spirit, soul, and body of each member of the church.  There is something very significant about the combination of prayer, fasting, and laying hands.  And it is not just for the person on whom hands are laid, it changes everyone involved:

2 Tim. 1:5 I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you. 6This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you. 7For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

So, I don't think I should view "laying hands" on someone as some magical incantation, but I shouldn't minimize its significance, either.  As I think about it, I remember quite a few passages throughout the Bible involving "laying hands".

Heavenly Father, thank you for blessing me and revealing the Lord Jesus Christ to me.  Lord, may my hands be used in your service.  Lord, I offer my hands as part of the living sacrifice that I want to be.  Lord, please take my hands and use them as your own; may they be used as the hands of Jesus Christ.  For I am crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  Thank you.  Hallelujah!  May you receive glory and honor today.  I ask in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, whose hands healed thousands and whose hands bled for me.  Amen.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

maybe I'm just hypersensitive to it

Matthew 15, 1 Timothy 6

Or maybe Matthew was hypersensitive to it.  Or maybe it was just a regular part of Jesus's ministry:

Mt 15:29 Jesus returned to the Sea of Galilee and climbed a hill and sat down. 30 A vast crowd brought to him people who were lame, blind, crippled, those who couldn't speak, and many others. They laid them before Jesus, and he healed them all. 31 The crowd was amazed! Those who hadn't been able to speak were talking, the crippled were made well, the lame were walking, and the blind could see again! And they praised the God of Israel.

Switching topics, I am convicted by these verses:

1 Tim 6:6 Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. 7 After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can't take anything with us when we leave it. 8 So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content. ... 17 Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. 18 Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others. 19 By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may experience true life.

I feel like my Eternity Treasure Box is pretty small.  The Lord has blessed us with a lot of material resources, but are we leveraging them for the Kingdom, or are we simply using them for our temporary comfort.

Heavenly Father, please convict me of sin, especially with regard to financial stewardship.  Lord, I want us to honor you with the resources that you have entrusted to us and make sure that we are using every ounce of our lives to advance the Kingdom.  May the Lord Jesus Christ be praised and worshiped, because He is worthy.  It is in His name that I pray.  Amen.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

more healing

Matthew 14, 1 Timothy 5

It wouldn't be that big of a deal to me if we weren't continually challenged throughout the New Testament to live, think, and act like Jesus.  And I would just leave it alone if (in addition to the Old Testament Prophets) Jesus was the only man who ever performed miracles.  But it seems to me like healing people was not an insignificant characteristic of Christ's ministry:

Mt 14:32 When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped. 33 Then the disciples worshiped him. "You really are the Son of God!" they exclaimed. 34 After they had crossed the lake, they landed at Gennesaret. 35 When the people recognized Jesus, the news of his arrival spread quickly throughout the whole area, and soon people were bringing all their sick to be healed. 36 They begged him to let the sick touch at least the fringe of his robe, and all who touched him were healed.

Heavenly Father, I am ignorant, especially with regard to these matters of miracles and healings.  Your Word promises that if I ask you for wisdom, you will give generously. So please give me wisdom concerning these things.  I know that Jesus Christ is my model, and I want to be conformed to Him, and I want our congregation to be conformed to Him corporately, and I want the whole Body of Christ to be conformed to Him Corporately.  I feel like the congregations I have been a part of have taught your Word but not seen you show your power.  Maybe we are guilty of preaching doctrine and not really knowing you.  Please forgive us.  I know that you are not going to heal everyone all the time, and I know that at some point, you have appointed the end of each person's life.  But will you please stir our hearts and spirits to beg you to show your greatness and your power.  Holy Spirit, will you please prompt those whom you have blessed with the Gift of Healing to obey you in faith in exercising their gift for your glory.  Lord, I'm tired of preaching about your power and greatness but not seeing it displayed in our congregation.  Lord, please stir us seek you, to know you, and to ask you to do great things for the glory of your Name and the advancement of your Kingdom.  I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, my Master.  Amen.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

produce fruit!

Matthew 13, 1 Timothy 4

When I have previously read the parable of the farmer scattering seed, I saw the hard soil as unbelievers, and the rocky, thorny, and good soils as different types of Believers.  But this time, I wonder if the hard, rocky, and thorny soils are all unbelievers, because when you consider Scripture as a whole, it seems like only the genuine Believers produce fruit (cf. Matthew 3:8-10, Matthew 7:15-20, Matthew 12:33, Matthew 21:43, Luke 3:8-9, Luke 6:43-44, Luke 13:6-9, John 15:1-17, Romans 7:4, Galatians 5:22-25, Ephesians 5:8-11, Philippians 1:9-11, Colossians 1:3-12, James 3:17, Jude 1:12). 

Mt 13:23 The seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God's word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!"

This realization is sobering; I must produce fruit in keeping with repentance!  The challenge is that I (in and of myself) can not produce fruit - it is the fruit of the Holy Spirit, which is a supernatural result of faith and obedience.  And, I think it is related to how Paul was encouraging Timothy:

1 Tim 4:6 If you explain these things to the brothers and sisters, Timothy, you will be a worthy servant of Christ Jesus, one who is nourished by the message of faith and the good teaching you have followed. 7 Do not waste time arguing over godless ideas and old wives' tales. Instead, train yourself to be godly. 8 "Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come." 9 This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it. 10 This is why we work hard and continue to struggle, for our hope is in the living God, who is the Savior of all people and particularly of all believers. 11 Teach these things and insist that everyone learn them. 12Don't let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.

These verses are encouraging to me - especially verse 12.  He is talking about producing spiritual fruit!  I think one of the people that I "shouldn't let think less of me because I am young" is me.  I need to continue to step up and be a leader with my wife and son and in the leadership I have in our congregation.

Heavenly Father, thank you for giving me faith in Jesus Christ.  Please forgive me for all of the stinky fruit of the flesh that I have produced.  Holy Spirit, please make me a 100-fold producer of Good Fruit!  Please produce in me a crop of fruit that honors you and leads others to produce fruit.  Lord, please take the seeds that are inside the fruit that you produce in me, and plant them in other people.  Father, may your love flow through me, and may the light of Jesus Christ shine brightly in my heart and face.  Please help me lead my wife and son to worship you and serve you faithfully, and please help me lead the Brothers and Sisters in my Bible study group to walk with you more closely and produce fruit.  Holy Spirit, please convict the hearts of those who think they are Believers but are only deceived, and please lead them to genuine faith and obedience under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  Lord, may you be pleased and honored.  I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Monday, October 12, 2009

spiritual authority

Matthew 12, 1 Timothy 3

Yesterday we studied the beginning of Barnabas and Paul's first missionary journey in their first recorded showdown with Elymas and Governor Sergius Paulus in Acts 13.  Paul exercised the authority of Christ Jesus to squelch Elymas's evil control over Serius Paulus so that he could hear the Gospel and trust the Lord for salvation.  In Matthew 12, Jesus demonstrates that He is Lord of the Sabbath and the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy of God's Chosen Servant.  One of the aspects of Christ's ministry was miraculous healings and casting-out demons.  Of course the knuckle-headed Pharisees accused Jesus of being empowered by Satan, to which Jesus responded,

Mt 12:25 ... "Any kingdom divided by civil war is doomed. A town or family splintered by feuding will fall apart. 26 And if Satan is casting out Satan, he is divided and fighting against himself. His own kingdom will not survive. 27 And if I am empowered by Satan, what about your own exorcists? They cast out demons, too, so they will condemn you for what you have said. 28 But if I am casting out demons by the Spirit of God, then the Kingdom of God has arrived among you. 29 For who is powerful enough to enter the house of a strong man like Satan and plunder his goods? Only someone even stronger—someone who could tie him up and then plunder his house.

Question: does the authority of Christ over evil forces extend to every Believer in Christ (e.g., are we Believers all Deputies of The Sheriff?), or was that authority limited to Christ and His Apostles?  If we do posess that authority, which it seems to me at this point that we do, then why isn't an older Brother teaching me what it looks like to exercise that authority in accordance with the Holy Spirit?

Heavenly Father, I confess that Jesus Christ is Lord!  He is Lord of the Sabbath.  He is Lord over Creation.  He is Lord of the Church.  And He is stronger than the Enemy who He is driving out of the world by His Church.  Lord, please teach me what it means for me to exercise your authority for the glory of your name.  I pray that you will give me discernment to see spiritual oposition for what it is and not be proud or fearful as I face spiritual battles in the power of the Holy Spirit and the armor of Christ.  I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

what are we doing?

Matthew 10, 1 Timothy 1

If I had to summarize Jesus's earthly ministry with only two characteristics, here is what I would say:

Mt 9:35 Jesus traveled through all the towns and villages of that area, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And he healed every kind of disease and illness.
  1. Preaching the Gospel and teaching about the Kingdom
  2. Healing disease and illness
What did Jesus command His disciples and give them authority to do?

Mt 10:5 Jesus sent out the twelve apostles with these instructions: ... 7 Go and announce to them that the Kingdom of Heaven is near. 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cure those with leprosy, and cast out demons. Give as freely as you have received!

Hmmm... that's interesting.  Christ's ministry... the Disciples' ministry... perhaps these two characteristics should describe the work of the Church today?

Then why are so many American churches just bent on teaching doctrine instead of the Gospel of the Kingdom?  And why are experiences of miraculous healings limited to missionaries and a few "charismatic" churches?  It is embarrassing, really.  The truth is that we are focused on ourselves and not on the Lord and His work.

Tragically, it is not a new phenomenon:

1 Ti 1:3 When I left for Macedonia, I urged you to stay there in Ephesus and stop those whose teaching is contrary to the truth. 4 Don't let them waste their time in endless discussion of myths and spiritual pedigrees. These things only lead to meaningless speculations, which don't help people live a life of faith in God. 5 The purpose of my instruction is that all believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith. 6 But some people have missed this whole point. They have turned away from these things and spend their time in meaningless discussions. 7 They want to be known as teachers of the law of Moses, but they don't know what they are talking about, even though they speak so confidently.

Heavenly Father, please help us get in the game!  Lord, I am ashamed of the condition of our congregations.  Please forgive us of our paralizing selfishness, and deliver us from materialism.  Holy Spirit, please stir our hearts for knowing the Lord and walking with you as you accomplish your mission.  Lord, please give us boldness to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom of Christ.  And please give us faith to pray for you to do mighty miracles among us and demonstrate your loving power!  I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, the King of the Kingdom.  Amen.

Friday, October 9, 2009


Matthew 9, 2 Thessalonians 3

I love this weather!  The summer draws to a close, and the harvest is near!

Mt 9:35 Jesus traveled through all the towns and villages of that area, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And he healed every kind of disease and illness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37He said to his disciples, "The harvest is great, but the workers are few. 38 So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields."

2 Th 3:1 Finally, dear brothers and sisters, we ask you to pray for us. Pray that the Lord's message will spread rapidly and be honored wherever it goes, just as when it came to you. 2 Pray, too, that we will be rescued from wicked and evil people, for not everyone is a believer. 3 But the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one. 4 And we are confident in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we commanded you. 5 May the Lord lead your hearts into a full understanding and expression of the love of God and the patient endurance that comes from Christ.

Jesus demonstrated His authority in forgiving people of sin, healing people, and raising people from the dead.  Our mission as His disciples is to study Him, know His will, and obey Him in continuing His mission of redeeming humanity.  May we be faithful to Him!

Heavenly Father, please turn my heart to you today.  Lord, please draw me to you.  Lord Jesus, I want to be a real disciple - I want to study you, know you, and follow you.  Lord, please give me grace to believe you and obey you.  Lord, your heart is for the nations to know the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ; may I be devoted and faithful to your mission.  Lord, I want to seek first your Kingdom and Righteousness.  May you be honored, and may the message of Jesus Christ spread rapidly as your saints are faithful to preach the Gospel!  Hosanna!  Hallelujah!  I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, my Master Teacher and Lord of the Harvest.  Amen.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

healer and judge

Matthew 8, 2 Thessalonians 2

Interesting... I titled my blog entry "healer and judge" for Mark 2 and Romans 2 on 30-JUL-09.

Anyway, it seems to me like there is almost a dichotomy of character in Christ: merciful and just.  But I suppose these two opposites are characteristic of the Lord throughout all of Scripture (Old and New testaments), so I shouldn't be surprised that we see these in Christ.  As for His mercy:

Mt 8:2 Suddenly, a man with leprosy approached him and knelt before him. "Lord," the man said, "if you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean." 3 Jesus reached out and touched him. "I am willing," he said. "Be healed!" And instantly the leprosy disappeared. ... 16 That evening many demon-possessed people were brought to Jesus. He cast out the evil spirits with a simple command, and he healed all the sick. 17 This fulfilled the word of the Lord through the prophet Isaiah, who said, "He took our sicknesses and removed our diseases."

As for His justice:

2 Th 2:7 For this lawlessness is already at work secretly, and it will remain secret until the one who is holding it back steps out of the way. 8 Then the man of lawlessness will be revealed, but the Lord Jesus will kill him with the breath of his mouth and destroy him by the splendor of his coming.

Heavenly Father, it is your kindness, Lord, that brings us to repentance.  Lord, thank you for healing me and continuing to heal me.  Lord, please give me a strong grip on the Truth, and help me obey you in faith with a sober perspective of your holiness and justice.  I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, who is the Healer of the Nations and the Righteous Judge.  Amen.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

even more on prayer

Matthew 7, 2 Thessalonians 2

 3 Dear brothers and sisters, we can't help but thank God for you, because your faith is flourishing and your love for one another is growing. ... [God is just, and He will sovereignly use our suffering for His glory and our good] ... 11 So we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of his call. May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do. 12 Then the name of our Lord Jesus will be honored because of the way you live, and you will be honored along with him. This is all made possible because of the grace of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ.

There are several themes repeated from the Model Prayer in Matt. 5:  thankfulness, persistence in asking, God accomplishing His good work through us, glory to God in Christ, and GRACE!

Heavenly Father, thank you for encouraging me a leading me along in my walk with you.  Lord, please draw me near to you - I want to hear your voice and obey your Holy Spirit.  Lord Jesus, thank you for bringing me into fellowship with the Father and the Spirit.  Please guide me to live a life worthy of your call; I confess that I am weak, and I can only walk by your grace.  I want to honor you Lord.  I ask for grace and mercy in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

more on prayer

Matthew 7, 2 Thessalonians 1

I listened to a sermon on prayer last night by Matt Chandler at the Village.  He basically makes the point that God is totally sovereign and is working out His will, so why pray?  The reality is that God works through His people's prayers to accomplish His will.  So, when we look at these verses,

 M 7:7 "Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.

we realize that we are to continually ask for His will, and He delights in answering our prayers by giving good gifts - because He is Good!

Heavenly Father, forgive me for my perspective of prayer as listing chores for you to do.  Lord, I confess that I am so selfish, even in prayer; please forgive me.  Lord, may your will be done, and may I continually and fervently beg to know you, experience you, and cooperate with you as you accomplish your good will.  May you receive the glory and honor, because you are worthy.  Here I am, Lord, use me.  I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

the will of God

Matthew 6, 1 Thessalonians 5

My Brother JJ noticed that several of my recent meditations have centered on the practice of prayer.  Sure enough, the Lord made another connection this morning through a classic passage:

M 6:9 Pray like this:   Our Father in heaven,
      may your name be kept holy.
   10 May your Kingdom come soon.
   May your will be done on earth,
      as it is in heaven.

At Brandi's cousin's wedding this past Friday, I had a great conversation with her Uncle David (who is a Spirit-led man) about prayer.  He told me that we are so weak in prayer, just like the Disciples with Christ in the Garden.  We usually just thank God for the day and then start rambling off a bunch of things that we need/want.  Uncle David said that we need to train ourselves to be devoted in praising and thanking Him, and then confession and supplication flow out of that.  I think this is consistent with with what we see in Matthew 6.  When we just give God a list of stuff to do, then it is us who is bossing God around our kingdom (and we are usually pretty whiny, too).  But when we adore Him, praise Him, and thank Him for an EXTENDED period of time, then our focus changes to HIS KINGDOM, and we realize that we are HIS SERVANTS to cooperate with Him in fulfilling His will.  So, what does His will look like, anyway?

1 Th. 5:16 Always be joyful. 17 Never stop praying. 18 Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

I think it is the attitude of Christ, replicated in us, that is the essential demonstration of His Kingdom.

Heavenly Father, you are so good and kind.  Your love and your mercy are infinite, and you proved that with Christ on the Cross.  Father, please help me focus on you.  I am so weak, and my focus so quickly shifts to myself and the world.  Lord, if I could just keep my eyes fixed on you, and if I could see you clearly, then I would overflow with joy and thankfulness.  May your will be accomplished in my life, and may I be used as an agent of bringing others to cooperate with you.  I love you, and I need you.  I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Monday, October 5, 2009


Matthew 5, 1 Thessalonians 4

The point of our lifestyle is not to do good, but to please God and know Him!

 1 Th 4:1 Finally, dear brothers and sisters, we urge you in the name of the Lord Jesus to live in a way that pleases God, as we have taught you. ...

What does that look like?

    M 5:3 "God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him,
      for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
    4 God blesses those who mourn,
      for they will be comforted.
    5 God blesses those who are humble,
      for they will inherit the whole earth.
    6 God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice,
      for they will be satisfied.
    7 God blesses those who are merciful,
      for they will be shown mercy.
    8 God blesses those whose hearts are pure,
      for they will see God.
    9 God blesses those who work for peace,
      for they will be called the children of God.
   10 God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right,
      for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.

Behavior characterized as: poor in spirit, mourning, humble, hungering and thirsting for justice, merciful, pure in heart, working for peace, persecuted for Christ.

Result/effect characterized by:  inheriting the Kingdom, comfort, inheriting the earth, satisfaction, receiving mercy, SEEING GOD, adoption, inheriting the Kingdom!

Heavenly Father, thank you for saving me and continuing to draw me to yourself.  Lord, I want to know you and obey you.  I want to hear you and serve you.  May your name be made great among the nations.  Lord, I pray that my lifestyle will please you, and where it does not - please change me.  I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

spiritual parenting

Matthew 3, 1 Thessalonians 2


7 As apostles of Christ we certainly had a right to make some demands of you, but instead we were like children among you. Or we were like a mother feeding and caring for her own children. 8 We loved you so much that we shared with you not only God's Good News but our own lives, too.


 9 Don't you remember, dear brothers and sisters, how hard we worked among you? Night and day we toiled to earn a living so that we would not be a burden to any of you as we preached God's Good News to you. 10 You yourselves are our witnesses—and so is God—that we were devout and honest and faultless toward all of you believers. 11 And you know that we treated each of you as a father treats his own children. 12 We pleaded with you, encouraged you, and urged you to live your lives in a way that God would consider worthy. For he called you to share in his Kingdom and glory.

Summary: sacrificial giving.

Heavenly Father, please make me a good father to my son.  Lord, I want to honor you.  Father, please make Brandi a godly mother.  And please use our spiritual influences to grow the other Believers in our lives, as well.  I ask in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Friday, October 2, 2009


Matthew 1-2, 1 Thessalonians 1

Just a few more weeks before our son arrives!  I am observing an amplification of two signals (one positive, and one negative):

  (+) Brandi and I are eager to see him, hold him, and love him.
  (–) The discomforts of pregnancy are exacerbated in the final stages.

Perhaps there are some spiritual parallels.  As we continue to walk with Christ by faith, our anticipate His return amplifies because we long to see Him and fellowship with Him perfectly.  Simultaneously, the world is progressively more evil and hostile towards God.

1 Th. 1:2 We always thank God for all of you and pray for you constantly. 3 As we pray to our God and Father about you, we think of your faithful work, your loving deeds, and the enduring hope you have because of our Lord Jesus Christ. ... 8 And now the word of the Lord is ringing out from you to people everywhere, even beyond Macedonia and Achaia, for wherever we go we find people telling us about your faith in God. We don't need to tell them about it, 9 for they keep talking about the wonderful welcome you gave us and how you turned away from idols to serve the living and true God. 10 And they speak of how you are looking forward to the coming of God's Son from heaven—Jesus, whom God raised from the dead. He is the one who has rescued us from the terrors of the coming judgment.

In essence, our longing for Christ's return is a driver for the way we live our lives.

Heavenly Father, please help me consciously think about Christ and His return.  Lord, I want to seek first your Kingdom and righteousness.  Lord Jesus, please help me serve you today - living in expectation of your return.  May you find me obedient and faithful, but it is only by your grace.  I pray in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


Colossians 4

This morning at our Men's Prayer Breakfast, our youth pastor, Chad, shared a devotion with us about prayer from James 1.  His main challenge was to pray in faith, earnestly expecting God to answer - not doubting. 

This is difficult for me with respect to chronic illness.  My grandmother died from leukemia, my aunt died from pancreatic cancer, and recently, the son of a couple that went on a mission trip seemed to be recovering from a severe car acident, but then suddenly regressed and died.  I thought that in each of these situations I was praying earnestly and with faith that the Lord would heal them, so I am confused.  Maybe we are supposed to pray earnestly and believing that He will answer, even though sometimes He doesn't.  That doesn't seem very efficient, though.

Paul challenges us to prayer, also:

2 Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart. 3 Pray for us, too, that God will give us many opportunities to speak about his mysterious plan concerning Christ. That is why I am here in chains. 4 Pray that I will proclaim this message as clearly as I should. ... 12 Epaphras, a member of your own fellowship and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends you his greetings. He always prays earnestly for you, asking God to make you strong and perfect, fully confident that you are following the whole will of God.

Heavenly Father, please help me pray genuinely - believing that you hear, care, and answer.  Lord, please forgive me for my unbelief, and please grow my faith to trust that you will answer my prayers as I genuinely pray according to your will.  Lord, please change my heart to match your heart so that I will pray for what you want.  I love you, Lord.  Please use me and draw me closer to you.  I pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.