Friday, December 29, 2017

Psalm 50: Sacrifice Is Not A Bribe

"It's easier to ask for forgiveness than permission."  While there is a ring of truth to that statement as it may be practiced in the world, it would be a tragic mistake to apply such a cynical philosophy to our spiritual relationship with God.

Matthew 28: Famous Last Words

"His Last Command...Our First Concern!"  

These words hung on signs in every classroom at the first United Methodist Church in which I served as an associate pastor. 

Matthew 27: Who Killed Jesus?

Who killed Jesus?  In studying His last hours, we find a number of guilty parties who could be said to share in the responsibility for His death.

Matthew 26: A Story That Must Be Told

"Truly I tell you, wherever this good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her" (vs. 13).

Matthew 25: In The Meantime...

We find three consecutive parables of significant length in Matthew 25, and they all share one theme in common:What should the followers of Jesus do while we await His return?

Matthew 24: The Boy Scout Motto

You know the Boy Scout motto, right?  "Be prepared."  

Jesus would agree.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Matthew 23: The Horrors Of Hypocrisy

Merely a quick scan of Matthew 23 will reveal that Jesus is unloading on his old rivals, the scribes and the Pharisees.  The primary target of His attack is their hypocrisy.

Matthew 22: Stump The Messiah

The Bible contains some vivid scenes of antagonism and opposition.  Shepherd boy David versus warrior giant Goliath.  Elijah's spiritual contest with the false prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel.  Daniel in the lions' den.  Paul on trial before Agrippa.  To this list we must add Matthew 22 with Jesus questioned at the Temple.

Groups of Jesus' opponents line up to take their best shot at the presumptive prophet.  The Herodians, those politically-connected wily collaborators with Rome.  The Sadducees, the religious establishment that trusts in the security of the Temple rather than the promises of God.  The Pharisees, smug in their own self-righteousness and spiritual pride.  Each school has an explosive question to lob at Jesus, confident that it will de-rail the growing support of this so-called Savior.  It's time for a little game of "Stump the Messiah!"

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Matthew 21: Fever Pitch

Jerusalem circa 33 A.D. was a pressure cooker.  Roman oppressors alongside revolutionary zealots.  Galileans rubbing shoulders with Judeans.  Pharisees pitted against Sadducees.  Scribes versus sinners.  And everyone had messianic hopes and fears that were reaching a crescendo as Passover drew near. 

Matthew 20: Grace Is Not Fairness

Some people look to God for justice; others pray to Him for grace.

Matthew 19: Relationships Vs. Riches

Matthew 19 is a study in contrasts.  The Pharisees come to Jesus seeking approval for the termination of marriages.  Jesus tells them a marriage is the spiritual merger of a man and a woman into one flesh; it is not so simply ended.  Meanwhile, a rich man approaches Jesus seeking to gain entry into the kingdom of heaven.  Jesus tells him that spiritual perfection for him lies in the renunciation of all his goods.  This the man cannot accept; he would rather cling to his possessions than follow Jesus.

Psalm 49: Do You Believe The Ransom Has Been Paid?

"The ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough" (vs. 8).  Psalm 49 could be taken as a very depressing song, even one of the "blues."  It is a meditation on the inevitability of death for everyone - rich and poor, wise and foolish, powerful and weak.  At best, the Psalmist's point could serve as a cold comfort to the downtrodden: Don't be overawed when people get wealthy and influential - their time of death is coming, too.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Matthew 18: Childlike Faith

There are many who accuse Christians of being childish; a more apt description, however, is that we strive to be childlike.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Matthew 17: Mountaintops And Valleys

Matthew 17 begins with Jesus and His inner circle ascending a high mountain.  Something incredible and otherworldly is about to happen: Jesus is going to be transfigured!

Matthew 16: Torn Between Two Kingdoms

Simon Peter is a fascinating individual.  At times, he could be counted on as a bold and fearless leader of the early church.  At other times, he could not be counted on at all; he would waver and lose faith.  Whether courageously getting out of the boat to walk on water (before doubting and sinking) or cowardly denying three times that he even knew Jesus (before repenting and returning), Peter's spiritual highs and lows resonate with a large majority of believers in Christ.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Matthew 15: Cleanliness Is Next To Godliness?

What's more important?  Clean hands - or a clean heart?  Should we be more concerned with what we put into our bodies - or what comes out of our bodies through our words and actions?  Jesus is pretty clear in Matthew 15 that God's is not so much concerned with the raw materials that go into making up our bodies (physical) as He is with what we do with them (spiritual).

Monday, December 11, 2017

Matthew 14: Narrow-Minded John

What would today's culture make of John the Baptist?  Sadly, I think our world would view him as judgmental and hopelessly old-fashioned. 

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Psalm 48: The Testimony Of Zion's Hill

There is an indelible link between God and His people, between heaven and earth, between the spiritual and the physical.  Many other philosophies and religions make this crucial error: they believe that the divine and human realms are completely separate and never the twain shall meet.  Judeo-Christian faith, however, consistently sees God at work in His world.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Matthew 13: Wild Kingdom

Can you imagine describing a vivid sunset to a blind man?  Or a magnificent symphony to a deaf woman?  I believe Jesus faced a similar dilemma when He endeavored to instruct us about the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 12: Keeping The Sabbath Holy

In Matthew 12, a dispute arises between Jesus and the Pharisees regarding the proper observance of the Sabbath.  Jesus seeks to follow the original intent and spirit behind the Sabbath Law; the Pharisees are more interested in enforcing the Sabbath traditions set up by men.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Matthew 11: Reaching A Verdict

Matthew 11 contains a lot of imagery about the process of spiritual discernment - coming to a judgment or reaching a verdict about what God is doing.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Matthew 10: Marching Orders

Some of Jesus' sayings are harder than others; His marching orders to His disciples as He sends them out in Matthew 10 definitely fall into the former category.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Matthew 9: Everyone's A Critic (Almost)

Some advice that I was given early in my ministry calling still rings true: If you're not being criticized for something, you're probably not doing enough!

Psalm 47: Sing Praises!

Psalm 47 is a call for us to rejoice and praise God, the King of the earth.  All the nations belong to Him.  All rulers serve under Him.  And He has established beloved Israel as His people and put all the other nations under them.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Matthew 8: The Unexpected Messiah

One thing you can say about Jesus: He consistently confounded the expectations that people would have placed upon Him as the Messiah.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Matthew 7: The Underestimated Importance Of Follow Through

"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven" (verse 21)

Matthew 6: Looking Out For Number One

Who's Number One in your life?  While Matthew 6 includes an array of practical teaching on many spiritual topics, the underlying theme of them all is the importance of giving God the place of first priority in your life.

Matthew 5: The Spirit Of The Law

When I was a youth pastor, there was one question I could always count on whenever the topic was sexual purity.  "How far is too far?"  The question wasn't a request for intellectual information; it was all about knowing where the line was - so it could be walked right up to.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Matthew 4: The Devil Went Down To Jordan

Satan looks for the most opportune time to get you off God's plan.  For Jesus, the devil showed up when He was about to start His ministry, perhaps filled with questions about His role and His mission, and coming at the end of a 40 day fast.  If there was ever a moment of spiritual vulnerability in Jesus' life (short of the Garden of Gethsemane), this was it.

Psalm 46: A Song For Troubled Times

In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, many Americans turned to the scriptures in search of comfort, understanding, and hope.  I remember Psalm 46 serving as a beloved resource in those troubled times.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Matthew 3: Theophany!

You may have heard of "Epiphany" - the celebration twelve days after Christmas which celebrates the revelation of Jesus to the world (especially Gentiles).  This coincides with the arrival of the magi from the East which was described in Matthew 2.  Today's term - "Theophany" - is similar.  It means a striking revelation of God, or a physical manifestation of God.  It is often associated with Jesus' baptism as recounted in Matthew 3.

Matthew 2: The Old Testament Connection

Matthew goes to great lengths to connect the story of Jesus Christ with what has come before in the Old Testament.  In addition to beginning his Gospel with a genealogy that spans the story of the Jewish people, he continues to link events in the life of Jesus with Old Testament prophecies.  He lists four of these fulfilled scriptures in his second chapter.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Matthew 1: Something About That Name

Matthew begins his story of Jesus with a recap of the Old Testament genealogy of the Jewish people leading up to the birth of their Messiah.  From Abraham to King David, 14 generations.  From David to the Exile, 14 generations.  And from the Exile to the Christ, 14 generations.  It is clear that Matthew believes God is doing something BIG in the life of Jesus.

Jude: Contend For The Faith!

The little book of Jude contains some powerful words against straying from the faith.  If you are in danger of wavering - or of placidly condoning the backsliding of other believers - give Jude a listen to!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Hebrews 13: Jesus Is Enough

Wrapping up his letter to the Hebrews, the anonymous author concludes by returning to his theme of the sufficiency of Christ.  Whether comparing the New Covenant to the Old, or considering how to live out our faith in this hostile world, his message is the same: Jesus is enough!

Psalm 45: Celebrating The King

Psalm 45 is rather unique.  It was originally composed as a wedding ode for a king and his bride. 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Hebrews 12: Firm Up Your Flabby Faith!

"Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed" (vs. 12-13)

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Hebrews 11: The Hall Of Fame Of Faith

Hebrews 11 is one of the Bible's crown jewels.  With a stunning sweep of Old Testament characters and events, it presents a panorama of what it means to follow the Lord in bold, saving faith.  We are given examples ranging from Adam to the prophets, with Noah, Abraham, Moses and many others included.  Hebrews 11 is truly the "Hall of Fame" of faith!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Hebrews 10: It Is Finished

The sacrifice of Christ upon the cross is perfect, complete, finished.  "Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin" (vs. 18).

Hebrews 9: By The Blood

"Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness for sin."

Monday, November 13, 2017

Hebrews 8: New Covenant > Old Covenant

You might be picking up by now that one of the main themes of Hebrews is the superiority of Jesus and His ministry over everything else, even the good Jewish/Hebrew elements that preceded Him.  While the Old Covenant was a gift of God and helped show people the way, the New Covenant is better.  Jesus is the way.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Psalm 44: When Bad Things Happen To A Good People

There is an undeniable pattern in the Old Testament: 1. God's people rebel and reject their covenant; 2. God delivers them over to their enemies; 3. The people are struck with remorse and decide to repent, calling out to God for help; 4. God hears His people and remembers His covenant with them and rescues them; 5. God's people prosper and become complacent, soon beginning the cycle all over again.  

But Psalm 44 sticks out as a sharp reminder that this pattern does not always apply.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Hebrews 7: Jesus > Priests

In continuing to extol Jesus as superior in every way, the author of Hebrews goes to great lengths to demonstrate how He surpasses and exceeds the Levitical priesthood.

Hebrews 6: Once Saved, Always Saved?

Want to start an incendiary debate among a group of Christians?  Ask them if they think it's possible to lose one's salvation!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Hebrews 5: Jesus, The High Priest

In continuing to explain Jesus' identity and role, the author of Hebrews describes Jesus as the high priest.

Hebrews 4: Rebellion Or Rest?

"Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion...As in my anger I swore, 'They shall not enter my rest.'"

Monday, November 6, 2017

Hebrews 3: Jesus > Moses

How does Jesus compare with Moses, who played such an important role in the covenant established at Sinai?  While both were faithful in all God's house, Jesus is regarded as a Son while Moses is regarded as a servant.  The author of Hebrews again makes the point that Jesus is above all, even one as great as Moses!

Psalm 43: Hopelessness And Hopefulness

Psalm 42 and 43 vacillate between postures of hopelessness and hopefulness.

The recurring theme of "Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me?" strikes me as an expression of deep hopelessness.  The Psalmist has been remembering his times leading the multitude and participating in worship in the house of the Lord.  Yet something has happened to make these experiences nothing more than memories for him now.  His current state is one of being oppressed by enemies and persecuted by the ungodly. 

His sights, however, are set not on his past joys or his present troubles but on hopes of better times to come - when he will "go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy and praise you with the harp O God, my God" (vs. 4).  The cure for his [our] hopelessness is hopefulness - and not just in anything, but in God!

"Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God" (vs. 5).

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Hebrews 2: Just Like Us

Even though Jesus is higher than angels (ch. 1) the author of Hebrews strives to point out that He is also just like us (ch. 2)!

"Brothers and sisters" is the term applied to our relationship with Jesus (vs. 11, 12, and 17).  Jesus, the Son of God, took on flesh and blood in order to make us sons - and daughters - of God. 

Hebrews explains that He accomplished this through His suffering.  Jesus suffered everything that we do, and even suffered to the point of death to break the power of death.  

Because Jesus suffered, He is able to help us who are suffering!

Hebrews 1: Jesus > Angels

The Book of Hebrews contains a lot of theology.  It begins by exploring the question of just who Jesus is.  Remember that the first generation of Christians had a lot of questions and uncertainties regarding their faith.  Was Jesus the greatest human being who ever lived - or was He something more?  Could He possibly be considered on a par with the angels?

The book's author (whose identity is known only to God) is determined to demonstrate that Jesus, as the Son of God, ranks far above even angelic creatures.

While angels are divine servants, Jesus Himself is divine!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

II Peter 3: The Fire Next Time

Peter mentions three times in II Peter 3 that a judgment by fire is coming upon our world:

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

II Peter 2: Examples Of Evil

II Peter 2 is a good example of why studying the Old Testament is relevant to New Testament Christians!  Peter cites numerous examples from the Old Testament to drive home the point that evil is real, and that God knows how to judge it and deliver us from it.

Monday, October 30, 2017

II Peter 1: True Story

As a young pastor, I once found myself in hot water with a member of my congregation who objected to my reference from the pulpit to "Bible stories."

"You shouldn't call them that.  They aren't 'stories,'" said my friend angrily.  "They're true!"

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Psalm 42: Thirsty For God

The Psalmist of Psalm 42 and 43 (they go together) is deeply troubled.  His experience is one of being a joyful worshiper in the past - even a leader of religious pilgrims (vs. 4) - yet he finds now to be a time of spiritual dryness.  He remembers being once quenched and satisfied by God's presence, like a cascading waterfall, but now he is like a thirsty deer, longing for a fresh encounter with the living God.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

I Peter 5: The Call To Humility

One of the most overlooked virtues is that of simple humility.

I Peter 4: The Difference

Peter argues that, when it comes to living the Christian life, there should be a difference between believers and non-believers.  This difference manifests itself in our behavior, our motives and character.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

I Peter 3: Deeper Things

Peter is interested in taking our faith to a deeper level.  Rather than focusing on shallow and superficial pursuits like physical beauty (vs. 3) or when bad things happen to bad people (vs. 17), Peter explores the topics of inner spiritual beauty and the call to suffer for doing good.  The apostle challenges us to consider what is really important in our marriages and in our dealings with one another.  Obedience and Christlikeness is the goal!

Monday, October 23, 2017

I Peter 2: The Rock On The Stone

Peter wasn't always named Peter.  He used to be Simon.  But somewhere along the way, Jesus saw something in Simon that prompted Him to give Simon a new name: Peter, the Rock.  Even though Peter didn't always act like a rock (i.e. Good Friday), the name stuck.  Years later, as "The Rock" wrote his first letter to the Christian believers scattered around the world, he reflected on how his Lord and Master is like a Stone Himself!

I Peter 1: Perishable And Imperishable

I Peter begins by talking about two things that endure forever: our inheritance in heaven (vs. 4) and the seed by which we have been born again by the living word of God (vs. 23).  Everything else in this world - the flesh, as Peter describes it (vs. 24) - fades like the grass.  Even gold, which is tested by fire, is perishable (vs. 7).  In a world of change and decay, it is good news that not everything is perishable!  In fact, it is THE GOOD NEWS itself which is the word of God and endures forever! (vs 25)

Psalm 41: Genuine Enemies And False Friends

Genuine enemies and false friends.  David had both.  So did Jesus.

Friday, October 20, 2017

James 5: True Wealth

As James brings his letter to a close, his final messages concern what to pursue in this life, and what not to bother chasing after.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

James 4: Spiritual Principles

James continues to rock our world with unabashed spiritual guidance, containing some extremely helpful principles.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

James 3: Tongue Of Fire

Some teachings never go out of style.  James' words of warning about the tongue are just as appropriate in 2017 as they were in the first century.

Monday, October 16, 2017

James 2: Inconvenient Truths

I know many Christians who act as if they don't have James 2 in their Bibles. 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

James 1: Quotable Quotes

The book of James has been called "the Proverbs of the New Testament."  Even just dipping into the first chapter, perhaps you can see why.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Mark 16: A Surprise Ending!

Jesus' story ends like none other.  This is true for two reasons.  First, Jesus is like no other.  And second, His story does not truly end.

Mark 15: At The Cross

"So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified."

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Mark 13: End Of Days

As I write this blog entry on October 10, 2017, the news is dominated by such stories as the mass shooting in Las Vegas, nuclear tensions with North Korea, and the recent devastating hurricanes of Harvey, Irma, and Maria.  While fears that the world is about to spin out of control may once again prove to be unfounded, it is revealing to find how quickly things can change for the worse.  This may not be the biblical "end of days," but the Jesus assures us that at some point in the future, it will be.

Mark 12: Q & A

It is Holy Week.  By the time we reach Mark 12, Jesus has arrived in Jerusalem for Passover, cleansed the Temple, and is now available to the religious authorities for their own investigation.  No longer do they have to send out spies and fact-finding teams.  They can look into Jesus' teaching for themselves.  Here are some of the questions that are fielded in the Q & A:

Monday, October 9, 2017

Mark 11: Donkey Joy Ride Through A Ticker-Tape Parade!

If the situation described in Mark 11:1-11 were to happen today in a parallel event, I can't help but think that what we would witness is a donkey joyride through a ticker-tape parade!

Psalm 40: Choosing God

You don't have to live very long in this world to have an experience of being in "the pit."  It's a universal human condition.  We're not sure exactly what specific situation David is referring to in vs. 2 when he sings, "He drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog."  But it is clear that God is the One who David turns to, and the One who delivers him from his circumstances. 

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Mark 10: Divorce Is Not An Option

Whenever you want to trip someone up, try introducing a controversial topic.  That's what the Pharisees were hoping to do by "testing" Jesus with a question about the nettlesome issue of divorce.  "Is it lawful," they asked, "for a man to divorce his wife?"

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Mark 9: Highs And Lows

Mark 9 is a study in contrasts.  Jesus goes from an ascent on a high mountain to experience the Transfiguration to a descent that brings Him face to face with a deaf and mute spirit.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Mark 8: Who Do You Say That He Is?

It is a question that all of us must one day answer for ourselves.  Who is Jesus?  Who do you say that He is?

Monday, October 2, 2017

Mark 7: Clean Hands, Or Clean Heart?

As we reach Mark 7, Jesus has earned enough notoriety that He is now being investigated by a team of Pharisees and scribes dispatched from Jerusalem.  As they scrutinize His ministry, they make some pretty petty criticisms: "Your disciples are disgusting; they don't wash their hands before they eat!"  

Mark 6: Faith - And Lack Of Faith

Can God's power be limited by humans?  The answer to that question is apparently yes, based on vs. 1-6.  Because the hometown crowd found it difficult to put their faith in Mary's boy, Jesus "could do no deed of power there," except for a few healings. 

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Psalm 39: Getting Perspective

My wife tells me that one of my strengths is an ability to be objective when the moment calls for it.  Rather than letting heady emotions run away with me, I can take a step back and look coolly and dispassionately at the situation.  (It's a very helpful skill to have in a threatening or overwhelming crisis.)  Sometimes this is called "getting perspective," and it seems to be what David is doing in this Psalm.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Mark 5: Restoration!

Three supernatural miracles make up Mark 5: the exorcism of the Gerasene demoniac, the healing of the bleeding woman, and the resurrection of Jairus' daughter.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Mark 4: Nature And Supernature

Mark 4 introduces us to Jesus' favorite teaching method: Parables. 

Mark 3: Liar, Lunatic, Or Lord?

C.S. Lewis penned a famous essay that suggests we really only have three options when it comes to forming an opinion about Jesus: that He is either liar, lunatic, or Lord.  The verdict we reach could scarcely be more important.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Mark 2: Criticism And Opposition

Well, that didn't take long!

Here we are, in only the second chapter of Mark, and we find Jesus as the target of criticism and complaint.  Opposition is already building to this prophet from Galilee, and it is coming from the religious establishment of scribes and Pharisees.  He is confounding them because he refuses to meet their expectations of what a holy person ought to be and do.

From Mark 2:1 to Mark 3:5, there are 5 reported instances of Jesus coming under attack for his words and actions:

Mark 1: Buckle Up!

Of all the gospels, Mark is the most fast-paced.  Jesus appears on the scene in chapter 1, and is already preaching 15 verses into this book.  Mark repeatedly uses the breathless phrasing of "immediately" or "at once" in his transitions between stories.  If you're looking for a story with a lot of "get up and go," Mark is the gospel for you!

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Psalm 38: Looking To The Lord

Psalm 38 sounds like it was written by David in the throes of a serious physical ailment which he took to be a punishment from the Lord for his sins.  

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Philemon: Text And Subtext

I love the little book of Philemon!  In it, we get a glimpse of Paul's relationship with some early Christians, as well as his knack for bringing his strong personality to bear on them through his writing.  We also learn a little about the dynamics of household slavery in the first century.  (Plus, in a single session's reading, you can knock off 1/27th of the books of the New Testament!)

Titus 3: The Gospel In A Nutshell

Have you ever wondered just what is "the gospel?"  There are many places in the Bible that give hints or descriptions of the "good news" (the literal translation of "gospel").  One of these scriptures is Titus 3:3-7.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Titus 2: Priorities

In his letters, Paul is often concerned with the reputation of the early church.  Will the followers of Jesus Christ be known abroad for their gentleness and love - or for upsetting the social order and causing chaos?

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Titus 1: Titus In Crete

Although Paul's final letter was most likely II Timothy, Paul's epistles are not arranged chronologically in the New Testament.  Instead, they are arranged from longest to shortest in two batches, first his letters to churches and second to individuals.  Thus, after his letters to Timothy, we pick up with a fresh missive to another disciple of Paul: Titus.

II Timothy 4: Famous Last Words

II Timothy is widely believed to be Paul's final letter, which would make today's chapter his last recorded words.  They are a mix of personal greetings and public sentiments, bittersweet good-byes and bold challenges.

Psalm 37: More Than Meets The Eye

It is a common lament: Why do the righteous suffer and the wicked prosper?  Or, as we may put it in a more modern expression: Why do bad things happen to good people?

Friday, September 15, 2017

II Timothy 3: Uncomfortable Christian Truth #37

"Indeed, all who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted."

II Timothy 2: Remember

"Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David - that is my gospel." (vs. 8)

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

II Timothy 1: Before The Beginning

"Join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life - not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace.  This grace was given us in Jesus Christ before the beginning of time..." (II Timothy 1:8-9)

I Timothy 6: Godliness?

Three times in I Timothy 6 Paul uses the term "godliness."


Monday, September 11, 2017

I Timothy 5: Good Advice

Paul's instructions to Timothy about the leadership of a church continue in chapter 5 as he dispenses good advice regarding widows, elders...and wine!

Psalm 36: The Good, The Bad, And The Almighty

Psalm 36 is yet another appeal to God for His judgment upon the wicked in conjunction with deliverance for the righteous.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

I Timothy 4: Timothy's "To Do" List

Paul's personal advice to Timothy reaches a crescendo in chapter four.  He is determined to encourage Timothy in his mission of leadership service to the church. 

I Timothy 3: What Leadership Looks Like

In I Timothy 3, Paul addresses the necessary qualifications for church leadership.  What sort of person ought elders and deacons to be?

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

I Timothy 2: Living In (Biblical) Tension

Do you demand complete clarity in your Bible?  Do you insist everything be a matter of black-and-white when it comes to biblical teaching?  If so, you may have difficulty reconciling various passages of scripture that approach some issues differently!  While I agree that the vast majority of scripture is quite plain and straightforward, there do exist areas of tension that arise naturally from the context of the verses in question.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

I Timothy 1: Dear Timothy...

As we transition to Paul's personal letters, we see a shift from his messages to congregations and groups toward a focus on speaking intimately to specific individuals.  

Monday, September 4, 2017

II Thessalonians 3: Christianity Is A No Idling Zone

In addition to being interested in the end-times, several in the Thessalonian church seemed to have a problem with idleness.  Paul warns them that such a lifestyle is not appropriate for believers. Rather than being dependent on others for their bread, everyone should work for their own food.  In fact, Paul even coins a new phrase: "Anyone unwilling to work should not eat."  This may sound harsh to twenty-first century American ears, but Paul is concerned for the integrity and respectability of the Church of Jesus Christ.  It is not a place for busybodies or freeloaders.  Independent living ought to be the goal for everyone. 

Christianity is a "No Idling Zone!"

Psalm 35: Vindication

Vindicate \ˈvin-də-ˌkāt\: To show that someone should not be blamed for a crime, mistake; to show that someone is not guilty.

Psalm 35 is a protest against injustice.  David the psalmist is crying out in the midst of being accused and attacked by a group of enemies.  In response, he asks for the Lord to be his defender.  He wants to see the designs and schemes of his opponents turned back upon their own heads.  He desires to be rescued from his plight by the vindication of the Lord.

Vindication is a powerful word.  Here David is seeking to be vindicated by God and declared not guilty.  ("Vindicate me, O Lord, my God, according to your righteousness, and do not let them rejoice over me" [vs. 24] and "Let those who desire my vindication shout for joy and be glad..." [vs. 27]) 

It is difficult to read Psalm 35 and not think about the arrest, trial, and crucifixion of Jesus.  So many of the images of a bullying mob, manufactured evidence, and shoddy justice that David composed in 1000 BC came to light in the life of his descendant Jesus a thousand years later. 

Praise God for His vindication of Jesus in the resurrection that came three days later!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

II Thessalonians 2: All About The Antichrist

The Thessalonian church was very interested in the end-times.  They wanted to know what to expect - and when.  In fact, some were concerned that they had already missed the return of Jesus!  Paul sets their mind at ease by explaining a few details that they (and all of us) should know about The End.

II Thessalonians 1: Made Worthy

As Paul begins his second letter to the Thessalonian church, he acknowledges their afflictions and persecutions.  But he also highlights the reason they are undergoing such troubles.  It is for their benefit, so that they may be made worthy.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

I Thessalonians 5: Finding God's Will

After sharing some powerful thoughts about the Return of Christ, Paul brings his letter to the Thessalonians to a close.  Along the way, he shares three short but powerful verses that encapsulate God's will for His children.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

I Thessalonians 4: The Shape Of The Christian Life

I Thessalonians 4 contains some very practical teaching on how Christians should live.  Paul includes several instructions about what a life pleasing to God looks like.

Monday, August 28, 2017

I Thessalonians 3: What Hath Persecution Wrought?

In I Thessalonians 3, Paul reveals that he was concerned about the Thessalonians.  He feared that - because he had been rushed out of town during a time of persecution - the Thessalonians' faith would waver and diminish.  Paul wondered, "How would this young church fare after its planters had suffered persecution and fled?"

Psalm 34: Taste And See!

This Psalm has a great back story.  While on the run from King Saul, David stopped by Israel's enemy, King Achish of Gath in I Samuel 21.  To avoid being killed as a threat, David pretended to be insane.  Achish let him go.  In response to the Lord's favor and deliverance from a time of trouble, David composed this psalm. 

Saturday, August 26, 2017

I Thessalonians 2: Models Of Ministry

In I Thessalonians 2, Paul spends a great deal of time reminiscing about his ministry.  He recalls the time when he first came to Thessalonica after being expelled from Philippi.  He reminds the Thessalonians of how he conducted himself among them, for he was always proclaiming the gospel to them - even when he was not preaching.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

I Thessalonians 1: The Power Of Example

As Paul begins his first letter to the Thessalonians, he warmly compliments them for the example that their faith has set for the rest of the churches in their area (1:7).  Their faith in God is well-known, as well as the hospitality they extended to Paul and his friends when they evangelized among them (as recounted in Acts 17), and how they turned from idols to God. 

The Thessalonians are an example to us, too, that we should let our faith shine!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Colossians 4: Echo Of Ephesians

You may have noticed while reading Colossians that some parts sound very familiar.  There are a number of similarities between Colossians and Ephesians.  Both letters were written by Paul, probably around the same time.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Colossians 3: Get Dressed!

Every Christian needs a change of clothes.  In Colossians 3, Paul writes of the "old self" being stripped off for the new wardrobe of righteousness that awaits.

Colossians 2: Spiritual Transactions

Maybe it is good that Paul never preached to the Colossians!  He seems determined to convey to them the core message of his gospel, which we also benefit from by reading this epistle.  Just as Paul's explanation of the identity of Christ in chapter 1 is a theologically rich and informative resource for the Church, so, too, is his description of the cross and what transpired there, as well as how it impacts us when we come to faith in Jesus.

Psalm 33: What Makes The Difference?

The author of Psalm 33 realizes he has an important mission: to encourage the people to praise God!