Archive for : January, 2020

01/31/20: Exodus 28-30; Matt 21:28-46

Matthew 21:  28 “What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’ 29 “‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. 30 “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go. 31 “Which of the two did what his father wanted?” “The first,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32 For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.

As we read this parable and the following “Parable of the Tenants” we see that at this point the chief priests and Pharisees fully understood the meaning of Jesus’s words.  And yet, even while understanding, they did not change their minds and follow the Lord.  Let us pray for those today who “know” but who do not “follow.”

 

01/30/2020: Take Time to Reflect on the Impact of the Scriptures You Have Read …

01/29/20: Exodus 25-27; Matthew 21:1-27

Exodus 25“Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them. Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you.

And, then, in the next six chapters the Lord provides Moses specific details.  Now, a question I have “pondered” is why did the Lord provide so much detail into the construction of His tabernacle.  Why not just instruct Moses to have the people build him a place to reside with them & leave the construction details to the Israelites?   Several commentators offer the following thoughts:

(1) First, leaving it completely up to the subjective tastes of some Israelites might well have led to the building of a Tabernacle that would be uninspiring— or, worse, looked just like a pagan house of worship.  (2) It could have led to building something simply ugly (3)  The Israelite elite could have kept some of the precious jewels they requisitioned for the Tabernacle for themselves.

 

 

 

 

 

01/28/20: Exodus 22-24; Matthew 20

Matthew 20:  10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’ 13 “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’

Now, I do not know about you, but had I been hired first and worked at least 10 hours doing back-breaking work in the sun I would have been a bit upset, as well.  After all, I had earned more through my labors!!  Well, at least that is my earthly perspective.

But Christ is speaking of a heavenly perspective.   We cannot earn our way into heaven.  We are granted entry via the grace of God, by forgiveness, repentance and the waters of baptism.   We must approach our salvation recognizing that is is given to us via the love and grace of God or we risk being “last.”

Matthew 20:16 So, the last will be first and the first will be last. 

 

01/27/20: Exodus 19-21; Matthew 19

Matthew 19:  21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. 23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?” 26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

In this passage I see Jesus speaking directly to the heart of all people — not just the wealthy.    For you see the young man “went away sad” because he valued something (in his case wealth) more than he valued following Jesus.  Jesus’s message to the wealthy is not that you cannot have wealth but you cannot let the wealth stand between your relationship with him.

Examine your life — is there anything you value so greatly that you allow that habit, that object, that sin to stand between you and a relationship with Christ?  If so, it will be “hard to enter the kingdom of heaven.”   But through God all things are possible if we allow his will to override our own.

01/26/20: Exodus 16-18; Matthew 18

Matthew 18:  32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.  35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

When we gather together as a body of believers we need to focus on the message in the “Parable of the Unmerciful Servant.”   For in any interaction between people there are opportunities to offend one another, mostly in error but sometimes intentionally.  And when this occurs via this parable the Lord gives us a perfect example of mercy.

Because we have received the overwhelming mercy of God we must be prepared to offer our mercy and forgiveness to those who may offend us.

The words are easy to read & understand but we must be prepared to act. 

01/25/20: Exodus 13-15; Matthew 17

At times when we read I think we just need to “read the words” and then “be still” and reflect upon the full impact of what they convey.  Today’s reading had two such passages:

Exodus: 15:

“The Lord is my strength and my defense;
    he has become my salvation.
He is my God, and I will praise him,
    my father’s God, and I will exalt him.

 

11 Who among the gods
    is like you, Lord?
Who is like you—
    majestic in holiness,
awesome in glory,
    working wonders?

01/24/20: Exodus 10-12; Matthew 16

First, a bit of background for anyone who is new in joining us this year.  I will sometimes refer to “margin notes.”  These are notes I have made in my Bible over the years and are based on teachings from others, such as Artie, Randy, Buddy Martin & others.  And today I refer to a “margin note.”

Exodus 1212 “On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord. 13 The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt. 

My margin note highlights an important reality in Exodus for Believers today.  God’s grace and mercy protected the Israelites.  But did you notice that the nation of Israel could not just sit back and “do nothing?”   No, they had to take “action” including partaking of the Passover meal and applying the blood to their door frames.

We are also blessed with God’s grace and mercy but we cannot be “lazy Christians.”  While we certainly cannot “earn” our salvation out of love the the Lord we are expected to serve in His kingdom.

And if you ever doubt that you have a talent to serve, just touch-base with Jim or me — we will be glad to help you find an opportunity.  Never forget, we are all uniquely gifted and there are always opportunities for each of us.

 

1/23/20

Take Time to Reflect on the Impact of the Scriptures You Have Read …

01/22/20: Exodus 7-9; Matthew 15

Exodus 7:  13 Yet Pharaoh’s heart became hard and he would not listen to them, just as the Lord had said.  —  22 But the Egyptian magicians did the same things by their secret arts, and Pharaoh’s heart became hard; he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the Lord had said.

Exodus 815 But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the Lord had said.  —  19 the magicians said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God.” But Pharaoh’s heart was hard and he would not listen, just as the Lord had said.

We see this expression appear multiple times in Exodus Chapters 7-9 (and will see it again as we read further.)   A questions that I ask is “How could Pharaoh be so resistant to God’s will after all the plagues his nation had experienced?”

And then I think we can reflect on our own lives.  Is there an action, a behavior, an attitude, or an addiction that we do not stop – even knowing that we are deliberately defying what we know is the will of God for our lives?  We are truly blessed with the mercy of forgiveness but forgiveness requires “repentance” and repentance requires that we “turn our backs” on our sin and walk away.  If not, like Pharaoh, our hearts can “become hard.”

 

01/21/20: Exodus 4-6; Matthew 14

In the passage from Matthew I think we see two episodes related to faith:

Matthew 14:  1Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” 17 “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered.

As we have discussed in our Sunday Bible Class when the disciples saw the needs of the thousands of people with Jesus they did what we often do — they took an inventory of what they had, neglecting to remember who was in their presence.

Matthew 14:   32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

After the Lord calmed the winds and the waves we begin to see their faith grow.  Perhaps it is at the “storm” in our lives that we remember best not what we can do but whose we are.

 

01/20/19: Exodus 1-3; Matt 13:24-58

In our recent Sunday Bible Study on “Fear-less” one of the fears we discussed is the fear of trapping the Lord  in a”box” and not recognizing Him for who He is and all that he can do.  Can you see that fear in the people of His hometown?

Matthew 13:  54 Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” they asked. 55 “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? 56 Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” 57 And they took offense at him.

Did you notice that at first the people were “amazed” at Jesus but, then, his neighbors put Jesus in the “box” of being one of their small town-boys.  And while this may have made them more comfortable scripture tells us they missed-out on the opportunity to experience in power of the Lord.

A word of caution — we must not do the same in putting our box around Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  We must in faith allow them to be who they are and experience their power in our lives.

01/19/20: Genesis 49-50; Matthew 13:1-23

Genesis 49Judah, your brothers will praise you; your hand will be on the neck of your enemies;  your father’s sons will bow down to you. You are a lion’s cub, Judah;  you return from the prey, my son. Like a lion he crouches and lies down, like a lioness—who dares to rouse him? 10 The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be his.

As Jacob blesses his son, Judah, we are truly blessed to see the Divine Plan of God continue to unfold.   For ten generations later we see a descendant of Judah, David, become an earthly king.  And of course Jesus, the Christ, is from the line of David (and therefore Judah.)

As we read further we will continue to see this “thread” unveiled and I am reassured — if God’s promises became reality hundreds of years before the birth of Christ than His promises for us will be realized.

01/18/20: Genesis 46-48; Matt 12:22-50

Today’s passages from Matthew contain a warning from Jesus that is often questioned — what is “Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?

Matthew 12: 31 And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

In my opinion Coffman provides a good explanation:

The peculiar aggravation of their wickedness springs from their reviling Christ although they knew him to be righteous. Contrary to what they KNEW, they said he had an unclean spirit. They put falsehood for truth, darkness for light, evil for righteousness, and shut their eyes and hearts against the Lord. Their blasphemy was of a kind that blotted out the hope of heaven; and there can be little doubt that the same type of blind, senseless opposition to the Lord today would have the very same consequences.

 

 

01/17/20: Genesis 43-45; Matt 12:1-21

A few days ago I wrote of how God’s will “threads,” sometimes imperceptibly,  through our lives.  As we read Joseph’s words to his brothers today we can see that Joseph had the same realization — the Lord is always working through our lives:

Genesis 45:   Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.  “So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt.

01/16/20: Take Time to Reflect on the Impact of the Scriptures You Have Read …

01/15/20: Genesis 40-42; Matthew 11

I always find the story of Joseph’s faithfulness to the Lord throughout all of the “changes” in his life inspiring.  And today we see several examples of his recognition of God’s power (and not his own:)

Genesis 40:  “We both had dreams,” they answered, “but there is no one to interpret them.”Then Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams.”

Genesis 41:  15 Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I had a dream, and no one can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.” 16 I cannot do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.

Genesis 41:  25 Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, “The dreams of Pharaoh are one and the same. God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do

Genesis 4128 “It is just as I said to Pharaoh: God has shown Pharaoh what he is about to do

A thought question — do you follow Joseph’s example and acknowledge the work of the Lord in your life?  Or do you  “take credit” for the work being your own?

01/14/20: Genesis 37-39; Matt 10:26-42

In reading today’s passages from Genesis regarding Joseph I was reminded that while it may not always be obvious the hand of God threads throughout the lives of all mankind.  For example, were it not for God’s intervention through Joseph’s brothers Reuben and Judah Joseph may very well have been killed.

Genesis 37:  21 When Reuben heard this, he tried to rescue him from their hands. “Let’s not take his life,” he said. 22 “Don’t shed any blood. Throw him into this cistern here in the wilderness, but don’t lay a hand on him.” Reuben said this to rescue him from them and take him back to his father.  23 So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe—the ornate robe he was wearing— 24 and they took him and threw him into the cistern. The cistern was empty; there was no water in it. 25 As they sat down to eat their meal, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. Their camels were loaded with spices, balm and myrrh, and they were on their way to take them down to Egypt. 26 Judah said to his brothers, “What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? 27 Come, let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.” His brothers agreed.

Reflect for a minute – how many times has the Lord’s thread moved through your life and you were not aware until days, weeks, months, or even years later?  And then give thanks for His love …

01/13/20: Genesis 34-36; Matt 10:1-25

Exousia — the Greek word for “authority or power” used in Matthew 10:1.

Matthew 10: 1 Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.

I find that the “Strong’s Concordance” explanation of this word opens my mind to further understanding this passage.   Strong states that exousia  means “the power of authority (influence) and of right (privilege.)

Not only did Jesus have power over impure (evil) spirits, disease and sickness, as the Son of God He also had the right (privilege) to be in command.

 

01/12/20: Genesis 31-33; Matthew 9

When you read in Genesis today did you think, “Wow, Jacob certainly had some family problems — his father-in-law and his brother!”  And I found Esau’s reaction to seeing Jacob very familiar to a New Testament relationship:

Genesis 33:  But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept.

Luke 15: “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

And I paused and reflected a bit on the power of forgiveness …