Archive for : March, 2017

A reflection to consider

“Jesus substantiated his claim to be the Son of God by performing the miraculous. Diseases were healed, the blind were given sight, even the dead were raised. It would have taken a first-century onlooker with a very hard and unbelieving heart to deny the source of Jesus’s miracles. That’s true today too. Skeptics discount the divinity of Christ. They laugh at the notion that he was resurrected from the dead. As for the miracles Jesus performed, they were either cases of mass hysteria, lies, or sleight of hand. They were anything but proof of Immanuel, which means “God with us” (Matthew 1: 23). The notion that miracles occur is dangerous for skeptics because miracles change everything. If they are real—and they are—then the skeptic has no recourse but to bow his knee. We who believe are also changed by miracles. First, by the miracle of God visiting this earth in the person of Christ. Then, by the miracle of his death—the innocent paying for the guilty. And then, by the resurrection, of which Paul said we are of people most miserable if there is no resurrection. All three of these particular miracles—apart from the many Christ did while walking this earth—have extreme relevance for each of us. The new birth—the most divine miracle for any human being—is the most astonishing miracle to come from the miracle of Christ himself. Our daily walk with God is our ongoing miracle to enjoy on our way to the grandest miracle—the miracle of eternity with God. The entirety of who we are as Christians rests on the miraculous. We must, therefore, never doubt the power of our miracle-performing God.”
(52 Weeks with Jesus)

James 2

James in this text helps us understand that faith is more than believing that something is true. No! Faith is a belief that will cause one to act. The classic example that James gives is of the demons, there is no doubt in their minds that God exists but that belief does not cause them to act to align themselves with that belief. Faith as defined by scripture is both believed in our hearts and displayed in our lives by our actions! So, if someone observed how you lived your life today what would they determine that you believe? Something to think about.

James 1

I like this article on this text and I thought I would share it as my post today. “William Barclay wrote, ‘In order to attain Christian maturity and holy conduct, it is essential to have a firm foundation. The Believer must be able to stand with confidence. He dare not be pushed down by trials. He must not be pulled over by temptation. ‘Push, pull—stick, stick’ must be his motto. How can such stamina be achieved? A believer can stand by pursuing, perceiving, and practicing the Word of God. Trials from without and temptations from within are no match for a Christian who stands in the truth from above.’ All too often trials prompt groaning and complaints. This kind of response does not contribute to Christian maturity. It only makes matters worse. Trials are not to be seen as tribulations but testings. A test is given to see if a student can pass, not pass out. James gave sound advice on how to score high on every test. One who brings the right attitude to the trial, who understands the advantage of the trial, and who knows where to obtain assistance in the trial will certainly end up on God’s honor roll.” (Ron Bontrager)

Galatians 6

Two words jumped out at me “weary” and “give up!” I have seen Christians do both over the years, they become weary and they give up and it is very sad. In classical times the word was used to describe how a bow is ‘unstrung’ when the archer was through using it. People can get ‘unstrung’ too. But Paul would have believers to keep their courage and win their reward! I know that when I have felt weary it is because I have been depending to much on my own strength and not relying on the Lord’s strength. One thing the years have taught me is that it is not about how smart you are or how talented you are – it all comes down to how much faith you have to trust God to use you as His servant. For He will fill in the gaps and give you what you need! Let’s not forget it is not how we start that counts but how we finish.

Galatians 5

Paul in our reading reminds us that we enjoy freedom under the new covenant but that does not mean we are free to live as we please! Paul says if I live according to the flesh, some text read “sinful nature” but a better translation would be “flesh,” I will find myself in opposition to God and the Spirit. Paul makes it very clear in our reading that if I live out my life holding on to those sins, without striving to repent of those sins; I will not go to heaven! Let me be clear – Paul is not talking about someone who is trying to repent of these sins but is struggling! John uses the terms “walking in darkness” and “walking in the light” – two terms that refer to the intent and direction of one’s life. So if I want to enjoy the “fruits of the Spirit” and eternity with God – I must be striving to “keep in step with the Spirit.” Two sins I often find people holding on too in this list are hatred and discord. If one chooses to hold on to hate they will not enjoy the “fruits of the Spirit” and they will not enjoy heaven! Jesus said if I am not willing to forgive – I will not be forgiven!!  

Galatians 4

Paul in this chapter continues to show the Galatians they were no longer under the Law. Paul takes the story of Abraham and compares Abraham’s two sons to the two covenants. What is interesting is that Paul also connects the physical city of Jerusalem to the old Law and thus the importance of the city of Jerusalem will fade also with the coming of the new covenant! When Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed in 70 AD – it marked the end of the old covenant, earthly Zion, and the temple. So when scripture talks of the glorification of Jerusalem and the temple as part of the new covenant – it is not talking about the physical city of Jerusalem, but spiritual Jerusalem! Many miss this point when reading O.T. prophecies and thus they are looking for Jesus to reign in the future in the physical city of Jerusalem. For all those that obeyed the gospel are citizens in spiritual Israel!

Reflections

Today is a day to reflect over our readings of the past week. I often think about what Paul said in chapter 2 – “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians‬ ‭2:20‬ ‭Can I say this about myself? I think that is a question worth pondering!

A reflection to consider

[Jesus said,] “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.” (John 15: 1) “Jesus’s image of the vine illustrates the intimate connection he wants with his followers. This teaching sets Christianity apart from other religions. No other faith offers its followers a personal union with its founder. The Buddhist does not claim to be joined with Buddha. The Confucianist does not claim to be joined to Confucius. The Muslim does not claim to be joined to Mohammed, but Christians claim to be connected to… joined to… Jesus. This is a point of confusion for many outside the Christian faith. They confuse religion with relationship. They think Christians are following a dead man rather than connecting to a living God. Following Jesus is not just an organizational connection with a church, but an organic connection with Christ. Some have done the former rather than the latter, and then they wonder why their faith is fallow and lifeless. We were created to be organically joined to Christ’s life just as branches are connected to a vine.”
(52 Weeks with Jesus)

Galatians 3

Paul in this chapter presents a very powerful argument! Paul refers back to the promise that “all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you (Abraham).” A promise that could not be fulfilled by the Law because the Law was only given to the Israelites. For Paul noted that the Law that came along some 430 years latter did not cancel God’s promise to Abraham. It was always God’s plan to bring mankind all under one umbrella through faith in His Son! The Law taught us a great deal about the nature of God, sin, and salvation, Paul calls the Law our schoolmaster. The Law was a necessary part of God’s plan, but the solution to mankind’s problems was always Jesus! A solution that can only be accessed through faith!

Galatians 2

Paul makes the point that salvation does not come by obedience to the Law but through faith and grace!! This faith is not just about believing Jesus is the Son of God – but a faith that will motivate us to be “crucified with Christ.” A faith that would move one to shift the focus of their life from pleasing self – to pleasing Christ! Paul “no longer lives” in the sense that he controls his life. He has taken up his cross; he has denied himself; and he now lives only by the permission of his King, Jesus Christ. His new Lord not only permits him to live, but has taken up residence in him to help direct his life firsthand through the Spirit. In this statement that Paul makes is the key that unlocks our transformation in Christ! The day we truly die to SELF is the day we begin to LIVE!

Galatians 1

Paul notes that some were now teaching a different gospel. Some in the churches of Galatia had begun to teach that for the Gentiles to be saved had had to obey the Law and be circumcised. They had taken this wonderful gospel of grace and perverted it. What always strikes me in this chapter is the strong language Paul uses to express how God does not intend for His message ever to change! The message preached to those in Derby is the message that is to be preached in Marstons Mills. There are some that believe the message should change to fit the culture, when the opposite is true, the culture should change to fit the message! The gospel was given once for all time! “Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to Godʼs holy people.” Jude‬ ‭1:3‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Hebrews 13

The writer as he concludes this powerful letter reminds us to stay faithful to our calling as we serve our Lord. He reminds us that it is our Lord that will provide and equip us to serve Him! So often we look at our skills, resources, and opportunities to determine our service to the Lord. Often we think – what can I do, how can I help? I know that when I begin to think this way I am looking at what I can accomplish, not what God can do through me. I need to remind myself that the Lord will equip me with all I need, I just need to see past my fears and my petite thinking and trust my Lord. Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow – He equipped them, He will equip us!

Hebrews 12

As we read this chapter we are faced with a powerful “therefore!” The writer has built his case and it is a powerful one. I challenge you as read this chapter to step back and hear what the writer is telling us. Keep moving forward, whatever you have to face might be hard as you strive to remain faithful but do not back down, keep in the race. For we are on the winning side, we just have to have faith this is true! So, let us give thanks for our wonderful salvation for we have won if we do not neglect this amazing gift!! “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe”

Reflections

Today is a day to reflect over our readings. One of the major themes that we have encountered in our readings is the superiority of what we have under the new covenant compared to the Law. The point has made a number of times that since what we have is so wonderful we should be even more faithful and not neglect our salvation. Today would be a good day to reflect on your own faithfulness and determine where you might step up your game!

A reflection to consider

On the day of our salvation it was like we entered the on-ramp to the freeway of true life—God’s freeway. For some of us, we searched for the on-ramp for years. Perhaps in our search we tried various wrong on-ramps that led us down many a dead-end street. Or maybe we tried to fashion our own on-ramp out of the concrete slabs of a broken life… or with the stones that life threw at us. And all the while, God’s on-ramp was there… just waiting for us. No toll. No broken slabs. Nothing but a lit-up, green highway sign over the on-ramp that says in bright letters: “This way to heaven.” Until that time, the secret to a happy life is to stay on the Father’s freeway! Avoid detours!
(52 Weeks with Jesus)

Hebrew 11

This chapter called the roll call of faith put on full display what faith looks like in action! Of course, that is the point that the writer is making – faith is about trusting God and acting to do His will. These men and women drew a line in the sand and were God’s servants no matter the cost. The writer also makes the point that they did not have the knowledge and all we possess under the new covenant, but they knew that this life was not the end game! So, my faith should be even greater because I have so much more than they did, for the Messiah has come and I have the privilege to be in His kingdom! The question on the table for me is – how great is my faith?

Hebrews 10

After the writer of Hebrews has built his case that the salvation we have in Jesus is truly superior to the old Law, he declares a very scary warning! He declares that if we continue to deliberately keep on sinning no sacrifice of sin is left. It is not simply ‘sin’ that threatens to disrupt our covenant relationship with God — forgiveness deals with this contingency. As shown by the context of 10:25, the author does not have in mind the Christian who becomes guilty of this or that particular sin. The person in view is the Christian who ‘gives up meeting’ with the church and ‘deliberately keeps on sinning.’ Having abandoned the church, having purposely chosen a lifestyle of continual sin, the apostate spurns Jesus and his blood (10:29). So, how does one go from a faithful Christian to this state of apostasy – by the neglect of this wonderful salvation, for this is where one who is spiritually adrift ends up.

Hebrew 9

The writer of Hebrews now presents his most powerful argument why they should follow the new covenant and Jesus and not the Law. Forgiveness! For the writer helps us understand that true forgiveness ONLY comes through the blood of Jesus! He is the key and answer, for He is the seed of woman that would crush the head of Satan. The forgiveness that we so cherish in the new covenant took place by Jesus’ blood. The forgiveness that took place in old Law (the first covenant) came about the blood of Jesus (9:15). The forgiveness that took place in the Garden of Eden was made possible by the blood of Jesus (9:26). So without Jesus, the Son of God, no one receives forgiveness! That puts a whole different spin on the Lord Supper we take each week!

Hebrews 8

The Hebrew writer made the case when he quoted Jeremiah 31:31-34, that what Jeremiah had prophesied 600 years before Jesus has now come true. A new covenant had now arrived and it was by far superior to the Law of Moses! Under the New covenant Jesus is both our High Priest and King, like Melchizedek. The Hebrew writer declares since the New Covenant is now in play the first one (Law of Moses) was now obsolete and these Christians needed to understand that they could not return to Judaism, that system was no longer viable. Oh the temple still stood in Jerusalem and daily sacrifices were still being offered in the temple court but soon even that would come to an end when the temple is destroyed in 70 AD. From a theological point the Law ended when Jesus died on the cross and the curtain to the holy of holies was torn in two, yet for some 40 years Judaism and Christianity coexisted in the lives of many Jewish Christians. This is very evident in the life of Paul as it was in the lives of the other apostles. Yes the Law was abolished when Christ died (Eph. 2:14-16) and it became obsolete but there was an aging process, a transition that had to take place before it would disappear.

Hebrew 7

The writer of Hebrews is building one of his arguments that we are no longer under the Old Law. The Jews saw Psalms 110 as being Messanic and it states in verse 4 that the Messiah will be a high priest after the order of Melchizedek. The Writer of Hebrews argues that if we are still under the Law that would not be possible because the high priest came from the tribe of Levi and the Messiah was to be from the tribe of Judah, in the line of David. So, for the Messiah to be both king and high priest we have to be under a new covenant! The phrase ‘without beginning of days or end of life’ simply relates to the fact that there is no biblical history for the beginning or the end of Melchizedek’s priesthood as there was for other priests in the Old Testament history. God developed the unique personality of Melchizedek and had him encounter Abraham to build a blueprint of Christ and His priesthood. Jesus is a kingly, righteous, peaceful priest who is unique in that His priesthood was original. He will forever be a priest of God Most High! Just the very High Priest we need to intercede for for you and me.