Archive for : June, 2017

Reflections to consider

Jesus said that real prayer, attention-getting prayer, God-honoring prayer, heaven-satisfying prayer is not just prayed secretly but prayed sincerely. Jesus adds that your Father rewards what is done in secret. He’s saying secrecy fosters sincerity. God knows that when you take the time to go to a secret place and get alone with him, you are sincere about what you are doing. When you are in that secret place, there is no applause and nobody is clapping for your religious performance, for how skillful you are in talking to God. If you have something extremely sensitive and important to talk to someone about, you may offer, “We need to find a place where we can talk.” You want to make sure that you are heard and you want to make sure that you hear. When you shut out the noise of this world, you maximize your ability to hear God. It shows God that you are taking your relationship with utmost seriousness. Do you have that secret place? Do you have that place designated where you can be alone with God? It can be anywhere. It can be your closet, your basement, your spare bedroom, but you need to have a place of rendezvous where you go and show you mean business with God. (52 Weeks with Jesus)

Luke 3

In our reading Luke cites the words of Isaiah the prophet (40:3-5) in order to provide scriptural warrant for John’s ministry in the wilderness.It was common for a nation to go to great lengths to repair and prepare the path for the coming of a great king. Yet, how did John prepare the path of the King of Kings? The imagery of preparing the way by creating straight paths, filling in every valley, and making low every mountain and hill is understood by Luke in terms of repentance. For John preached that people must become humble and the corrupt must repent. The great reversal must begin. Only then will the road be prepared for the coming of the Messiah, so that all mankind will see God’s salvation. The people had to cross the hard line from self-centered religious pride and piety to humble themselves so they could hear and accept the message and salvation of this coming Messiah.

Luke 2

The child arrived! So the story begins that is going to change the whole world forever! This child you was the King of kings was born in a stable and was worshipped by simple shepherds. The praise for the arrival of this King came not from nobles and priests but the very angels in heaven. Yet, we need to realize that He grew up and developed just like our own children. When He was 12 and traveled to Jerusalem and became separated from his parents for 3 days. I do believe His response to His parents (“why do you search for me”) does portray a maturity level on par with a boy who was twelve. Luke closes by summarizing Jesus’ life from age twelve until his baptism. For Jesus grew intellectually, physically, spiritually, and socially.

Luke 1

“May it be to me as you have said.” I have always been blown away by Mary’s response to the news that she was going to give birth to the Messiah! A young woman who was found to be pregnant and not married could very well be a death sentence!
Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph and yet she had no idea how he was going to react, this which the angel announced to her could mean that Joseph could be out of her life forever! How she was even going to become pregnant with this child was a complete mystery just that God was going to do it through the Holy Spirit. I think I would be rattling off nonstop questions to fill in all the unanswered questions that arise from the announcement the angel made! Yet, truly God chose the right young woman for this task & honor – for she placed her trust in God and declared – “May it be to me as you have said.” Wow! That is what faith looks like!!!

Philemon

Onesimus, a slave, had run away from Philemon, his master, and fled to Rome. There he somehow came into contact with the apostle, and became a follower of Jesus. Paul was bound to inform Philemon, his friend and Christian brother, of the situation, and to send Onesimus home. It is also possible that Paul wished Philemon to send Onesimus back to him so he could offer further service to the aging apostle. Paul weaves his argument with great expertise, as he persuades Philemon to treat his returned slave with Christian love. Paul carefully lays each piece in place so that the actual request rests upon a solid foundation. Even then Paul goes further telling Philemon that he personally will make up any lost he might have suffered. Then Paul tells him that when he is released he was going to come and visit Philemon. Out of this little masterpiece — we see Paul’s skill in motivation. This letter reminds us that this transformation process will change how we see our relationships and how we see the world!

Colossians 4

Paul noted that we should pray that we “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity” If we are to be effective in sharing the message, we must be wise in the way we act toward outsiders. Wisdom enables us to combine boldness with tact. Wisdom enables us to employ the proper approach in specific situations and with particular individuals. If we are to be effective in sharing the message, we must also make the most of every opportunity. It refers to, snapping up every opportunity that comes. Paul, the prisoner, used every opportunity to share the message. For the sharing of the message of Christ to be effective, the wise walk must be accompanied with flavorful talk. Our talk is to be gracious, rather than gruff, and charming, rather than coarse. Our conversations should be seasoned with salt. Perhaps the best understanding of the reference to salt is that our speech is to be both wholesome and appealing. Paul also said that we should pray that we know how to answer everyone. He tells them to answer with speech which is gracious, wholesome, and appealing. These are points that I often pray each day!

Reflections

Today is a day to reflect over our readings. Today I am reminded of our reading in Col. 3 where Paul tells us that we need to center our heart and mind on things above. The question I need to ask myself is – what is it that fills my heart and mind day in and day out? For Jesus noted that where my treasure is,there I will find where my heart and mind is focused! I think that is something worth reflecting on!

Reflections to consider

A hypocrite is someone who looks out the window but never looks in the mirror. Jesus never said, “You are wrong to look out the window.” What he is saying is, “Always first look in the mirror.” Most people misunderstand what Jesus said because they try to make Jesus say something he didn’t say and they don’t hear him saying something that he did say. What Jesus was saying was that as we encounter someone in need of correction, we should first look for the log and then deal with the splinter. First look in the mirror, and then look out the window. Jesus is not forbidding judgment that is done at the right time, in the right place, in the right way, with the right spirit. One of the marks of a spiritual person is someone who knows how to judge correctly. First Corinthians 2: 15 says, “The spiritual person judges all things.” It is not wrong to confront a person who has sin in their life. God’s judgment is meant to draw us closer to him. Jesus died on the cross and was raised from the dead so that we could escape ultimate judgment. Come to the One who doesn’t want to be your judge, but wants to be your Lord and your Savior. (52 Weeks with Jesus)

Colossians 3

In our reading Paul reminds them of the transformation process. This transformation process has an objective – to take on the image our Creator, which in this context could be Jesus or God. This chapter talks about “putting off” and “putting on” – a process that often seems overwhelming to a new Christian. This is of course a process, a process that has more to do with how we think than effort! Paul began this chapter by reminding the Colossians that they should keep their focus on Christ. Col 3:2 “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” This is where one begins in this process – we need to start filling our minds and hearts with Jesus, bible study, prayer, worship, and service are all tools to help us in this process. Paul noted that we are being renewed “in knowledge in the image of the Creator.” An important key in this process is the on going quest to know our Creator! The more we get to know God, the more we will desire to conform to His image. When this is the objective our thinking, God, the Son, and the Spirit will begin to change our hearts, which will result in a change in our actions. A process God will bring about in our lives as we mature in Christ. See! It is not about trying to conform to a list of commands; it is about changing how we see ourselves and the world around us.

Colossians 2

A key point that Paul makes over and over again in our reading is that Jesus is the KEY to everything! Paul told them that his objective was to help them have a deeper understanding of Christ – “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Christ is the KEY as we see God’s plan unfold in the O.T. Christ is the KEY that allows us to be righteous. When one is baptized according to Romans 6 our old self died, here Paul says that our “sinful nature” was removed when we were baptized – just like circumcision. When one enters the waters of baptism they emerge as “new creations” and their debt to God is cancelled! Christ is fully God, and we are full in him. Christ is the KEY to our eternal salvation for He has disarmed the spiritual forces that want to bring us down. Christ is truly the KEY to everything!! Amen!

Colossians 1

In verses 15-20 in our reading there is a style change from the first person “confession” which preceded in verses 12-14, and from the direct application style of the following verses. Because of style and language there is general agreement that verses 15-20 was a hymn sung by Christians in Paul’s day. So, clearly Christians very early on held to and proclaimed that Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. They understood that Jesus is the visible manifestation of God and our eternal Creator and Reconciler, who has supremacy in the universe and the church. These magnificent words form the heart of Paul’s presentation of Christ to the Colossians! Had one known the human Jesus personally, one could hardly have imagined the truths about him expressed here. But when Jesus was raised from the dead, Christian understanding broadened and deepened, as the wonder of God’s action became known in increasingly greater glory. For as this hymn declares “God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in Him.” Wow!

Philippians 4

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” There are a few points that we need to realize in this command. Realize that there is a difference between being concerned and being anxious – concern expresses an apprehension about possible danger or misfortune which will motivate us to put into action a plan to address those concerns. The main focus of that action plan should be making God our guide and partner as we address those concerns. Being anxious expresses stress and fear about the danger or misfortune one faces, such fear and stress expresses the idea that we feel we are powerless and so we are anxious. We are not powerless and God calls for us to trust Him by placing the stressors in our life in His lap and trust Him with them. We have a hard time with this because in some strange sense we feel that being anxious gives us some kind of control over the outcome – nothing could be farther from the truth!! True peace only comes when I am willing to place my faith in God, believing that in the end – all things will work out of the good! (Rom. 8:28)

Philippians 3

The image that Paul paints is very powerful!! How does one move forward as a Christian? The first step is that we have to let go of the past – you will not make any progress in your Christian walk dwelling on your past. One of the great gifts that God gives us is the ability to start fresh when we have failed and sinned!! Paul would have never been the power servant for Christ that he was if he kept beating himself up every day for the years that he had persecuted his brethren. He had to let that go, trust in God’s grac and move forward. The second step in moving forward as a Christian is a renewed commitment to the journey. Paul paints a picture of a race where we are trying to win with every fiber of our being; the word “straining” is the picture of the racer stretching to get across the finish line first. That is the kind of focus and effort God expects us to put into our walk with Him! We want to move forward in your Christian walk – let go of the past and focus like a laser on the finish line!!!

Reflections

It is time to pause and reflect over our readings. Philippians is one of those books that love to read and reflect. One of my favorite chapters is chapter two! In verses 5-11 we have this amazing picture of what it means to love and to put the needs of others before our own needs. This text is thought to be a song that was sung by Christians at the time of Paul. We see in this text both the price of our salvation and the promised victory to all who are obedient to tha Father and His will! We are truly loved!!

Reflections to consider

In the story of the rich man and Lazarus the rich man had everything in life but Lazarus had nothing. Yet when death came everything was reversed! Lazarus, who had nothing but God, now has everything. The rich man, who had everything but God, now has nothing. Lazarus’s body wasn’t even given a decent burial. Back in that day, poor people were thrown into a garbage dump called Gehenna and their bodies were burned. Rich people would be buried in the finest tomb available, anointed with the most expensive perfumes, and wrapped in the most expensive cloth. Lazarus died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. Jewish listeners will understand that to mean “paradise.” The custom in that day was to seat the most honored and respected guests next to the host. The most honored place a Jew could have would be the side of Abraham, the father of the Jewish race. Poor Lazarus didn’t have much of a funeral, but he had some unbelievable pallbearers! People are not ready to meet God because they are so spiritually nearsighted. They can see only as far as today, but they’re not looking ahead to tomorrow. Yet today’s decision determines tomorrow’s destiny. (Adapted from 52 Weeks with Jesus)

Philippians 2

The call to work out our salvation with fear and trembling struck me in our reading today. As we progress in this journey with our Lord in are in a continual process of transformation. It is an amazing journey! In this process of working out my salvation with fear and trembling God’s grace allows me to work through things and in the process my faith and understanding grows. Of course, it is always important that we keep in focus the second part of that verse and that is God is working in me to accomplish His purposes. For transformation does not take place as I work out my purposes, but His purposes for me!! “Lord today I am your servant, what purposes of yours do you wish to work in me today and what do you want me to learn along the way.”

Philippians 1

Are you there yet? Paul in this text expresses a very important mind set – when Paul looked at the possibility of his death he was excited. Paul said that if it was up to him, he would move on from life and spend eternity with Christ! Paul was willing to serve as long as the Lord wanted him to serve but with all his heart he wanted to move on! This approach to life is key in defeating fear and anxiety, for when I try to hold on to life with all my power and will the thought of losing my life becomes a powerful fear that will control my life. The Hebrew writer notes that Jesus came to take this fear away (Heb. 2:14-15). The day that you find yourself with the outlook that Paul expresses in this text – is the day you will discover an overwhelming peace! So, are you ready to set sail and leave this life behind – I promise you it will be amazing!! So let me ask again – Are you there yet?

Ephesians 6

Our reading commands us to “honor” our parents. We need to realize that “honoring” our parents is a big deal. It is a principle that is carried into adulthood. As adult this principle should cause us to continue to show them love and respect all their lives. What is also important to realize is that this principle also implies that honoring our parents includes caring for them in their latter years. Jesus tied this principle into providing financial support for our parents (Mark 7:10-13). “To ‘honor’ our parents means much more than simply to obey them. It means to show them respect and love, to care for them as long as they need us, and to seek to bring honor to them by the way we live.”  (from The Bible Exposition Commentary)

Ephesians 5

“However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” Paul in this text shows how Jesus’ relationship to the church is a model for our marriages. This text ends reminding us of two very important principles in the marriage relationship. Wives desire and need love, husbands desire and need respect!! Over & over again in my marriage counseling I find that at the heart of most of the marriage issues I encounter is the fact that these two basic needs are not being met in the relationship! Paul reminded each one of us, that in the body of Christ we need yield (submit) to each other, always looking for ways to serve one another. Both in marriage and in the body of Christ we need to think of not only our own needs but the needs of others, often before our own!

Ephesians 4

God had a plan that the church was to be the place where His people would “grow up into Christ.” Paul notes that a mature Christian, is one who is not “tossed back and forth” by every wind of doctrine. They are Christians that know the truth and are able to defend that truth. They are also people who have made it their focus to promote unity and love in the body of Christ. These mature Christians have set for themselves a goal of “attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” And last but not least – these mature Christians realize that they have role to play in the Lord’s church and kingdom! For these mature Christians realize that they were saved to serve. The interesting thing we discover in this chapter is that Jesus put in place, as a gift, those who were to teach and prepare God’s people for works of service. By reviewing the marks of a mature Christian we will discover the areas in our walk with our Lord where we need to grow and mature!