Archive for January, 2013

Oh How Things Have Changed (Genesis 32; Mark 3)

January 31, 2013

“Then He said, ‘Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.'” Genesis 32:28

And when His family heard it, they went out to seize Him, for they were saying, ‘He is out of His mind.'” Mark 3:21

Whoever said, “Life is a constant series of changes,” understood a great spiritual truth.  In my own life it seems I am undergoing constant change in many ways.  For example, “I have been going to a chiropractor for the healing of an injury.”  The doctor took multiple x-rays before meeting with me.  Once this was done, he said, “There have been some changes in your body over the years.”  Thankfully, he is able to make adjustments that aid in the healing process.

In a much greater way, the Word of God daily takes spiritual x-rays of our lives.  This was the case for both Jacob and for Jesus in our More for Christ readings.  Let’s first consider Jacob.  His life was filled with change.  He began his life as a deceiver and he continued to live this way until the change came (God’s work in his life).  Consider how God did this:

1.  The development of humility, Vs: 1-21

For the first time we see Jacob submitting to God’s direction.  Maybe there were other times, but this time is clearly an indicator of a man who is developing humility.

2.  The development of honor, Vs: 22-32

Here Jacob wrestles with God.  In this moment we see a picture of the last 20 years of his life.  Jacob has wrestled with so many things, but now he understands that only God is the source of true blessing.  In this moment, things change for Jacob.

Question, “Have you encountered God?”  If so, “Are there visible marks of change in your life?”  Now let’s consider Jesus.  In Mark three, one must watch the movements of Jesus.  Each of these movements teach us powerfully of the change Jesus was bringing and the change Jesus was blessing people with.  However his own family did not get it.

Maybe the change in your life is being perceived by others as one who is going off the deep end.  Allow me to encourage you to keep on allowing Jesus to change you.  Hear the teaching of Paul, “Do not grow weary in doing good, for in due season we will reap if we do faint,” Gal. 6:9.  

Bottom line.  Jesus is preparing us for an eternity with Him.  At the same time He is making a powerful salt and light witness in your lives. Brothers and sisters embrace the change for His glory and for His fame!!!

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The Old Verses The New (Gen. 31; Mark 2)

January 30, 2013

“If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the fear of Isaac, had not been on my side, surely now, you would have sent me away empty-handed.” Gen. 31:42

“…But new wine is for fresh wineskins.”  Mark 2:22

It’s a debate that has been raging for centuries, “Which is better, the old or the new?”  When it comes to purchasing vehicles most would vote, “The new is better.”  When it comes to modern conveniences most would vote, “The new is better.”  But strangely enough, when it comes to our faith many vote the opposite way.

Consider for a moment the two passages before us:

Genesis 31 recounts the story of Jacob’s breakaway from 20 years of hard labor.

Jacob has spent two years in a foreign land with family that have let’s say “kind of deceived him.”  He has made some bonehead decisions along the way.  But on this day we see his maturity in finally heading to where God was calling him to go.

Mark 2 recounts Jesus ministry in terms of a new day

The chapter begins with Jesus power in healing.  This healing gives us a picture of the spiritual healing (Forgiveness of sins) that only comes from Jesus.

This chapter continues with the calling of Matthew and the pronouncement of Jesus, “I have come to call sinners to repentance.  In these verses we are reminded of how many were looking to the old instead of the new.

This chapter concludes with two illustrations of how Jesus has fulfilled the old and has made all things new!  Jesus was doing what the old order could not do and would not do.  Jesus is engaging sinners and he is giving life to all he touches.

Brothers and sisters, “In Christ the old becomes new.”  This would happen with Jacob and it happened with Matthew.  Bottom line, “It must happen with all men before they can be saved.”

Question, “Are you living in the old or are you living in the new?”  Many followers of Christ become stale because they fail to realize, “His mercies are new every day.”  Oh how I challenge you to daily seek to walk in the new.

The Early Days(Genesis 30; Mark 1)

January 29, 2013

“Jacob’s anger was kindled against Rachel, and he said, “Am I in the place of God, that he has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?” Genesis 30:2

“That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed with demons,” Mk. 1:32

Recently I came across some pictures from my early days of life.  Immediately I thought back to those days when life was simple and life seemed to be so much fun.  I remembered days of playing in the woods with my friends.  I remembered days of playing in the creek (body of water, usually referred to as a river by city folk).  These were great days.  But there were also some not so great days.  The fact is, from my earliest day, I was and still am a sinner.

In Genesis 30 we see the early married years of Jacob.  In all of the events in chapter 30 we are reminded that Jacob (as both you and I) was a sinner.  However when we look at Mark 1 we see the early day’s of Jesus ministry.  Here is an outline of the text:

1.  We see the one who prepared the way, Vs: 1-11

2.  We see the one who wanted to pervert the way, Vs: 12-13

3.  We see the one who proclaimed the way, Vs: 14-46

We see his message, Vs: 14-16.  We see his ministry team, Vs: 17-20.  We see his ministry, Vs: 21-46.

As you read through this chapter one unique difference is seen in Jesus life.  Jesus, unlike every other person, lived and ministered without sin.  You and I from the earliest days were and still are sinners.  But Jesus was without sin.  As we follow his life, we see a pattern of how we are to now seek to live as redeemed followers of Christ (II Cor. 5:17, Rom. 12:1-2).

Because of His grace, I have been forgiven of my sin.  Because of His grace I have power to overcome sin.  Because of His grace I have a new direction.  May you and I praise him from our earliest days until our last day!!!

Going In and Coming Out, Genesis 29, Matt. 28)

January 28, 2013

“And in the morning it was Leah!  And Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me?”  Did I not serve with you for Rachel?  Why then have you deceived me?”  Genesis 29:25

“Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified, for He has risen.”  Matthew 28:6

Years ago I heard a pastor describe the trials of life as follows: “Either you are going into, standing in, or coming out of a trial.”  This is an amazing description of our lives.  Question, “where are you in this process of life?”

In our More for Christ readings we see two parts of this description. Jacob is going into some deep trials (Genesis 29).  His trials are of his own making.  God will use these trials to get his attention and to alter his life.  Jesus is coming out of a deep trial (The grave.)  His trial came as a result of becoming the sacrifice for man’s sins.  His trial was all as a substitutionary sacrifice for sins.  His victory is a guarantee of our victory over trials.

Question, “In whom do you more readily identify?”  In all of our lives we identify with Jacob in the fact that we are sinners.  In each follower of Christ life we see trials of faith.  We are certainly not facing trials to be saved.  We are suffering trials because we are saved.

We identify with those who have experienced the power of the empty tomb.  We identify with those who have been given the assignment of giving witness of the empty tomb.  Our goal is to make disciples of all people.

These people could either be going into or coming out of trials.  We must reach them at their point of need.  Jesus has promised to walk with us through these trials.  So let us all, whether we are going into our coming out of trials, got forth and make disciples.

The Last Week Pt. V (Genesis 26; Matthew 25)

January 25, 2013

“And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Matthew 25:46

Often we read scripture with a detached mindset.  Here is what I mean, “Often we read about people’s lives, such as the story of Isaac in Genesis 26, and we fail to consider the same drama in our own lives.”  We look at others and we wonder why they do what they do, without ever considering that we do the same things.

Let’s look at an example, “Matthew 25.”  Jesus is teaching about His Second-Coming!”  The first 30 verses contain two parables.  They teach us two principles of living:

1.  Be prepared for His coming, Vs: 1-10

2.  Be productive while you wait, Vs: 11-30

As we read these verses we think about those people in that day.  If we are not intentional we will fail to draw conclusions for our own lives.  Beginning in Vs: 31 we see those who took to heart what Jesus said.  They were both prepared and productive.  Because of this they are blessed to enter heaven with great reward.

However, there were those who were not prepared and they were not productive.  The end result was the punishment of hell.  Brothers and sisters I am greatly challenged personally by this text.  I must live every day with a passion to bring people to Jesus.  He could return this very day.

Brothers and sisters, this could be the day, week, or month Jesus comes for you. Oh how I pray that you would be prepared and that Jesus would find you productive when He comes.

The Last Week, Pt. IV (Genesis 25; Matthew 24)

January 24, 2013

“Two nations are in your womb, and two people’s from within you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger.”  Genesis 25

“And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.”  Matthew 24:12

“It seems they were always arguing and they were always at each other.”  This was the mothers commentary about her two sons during their developmental years.  This could have also been the commentary of Rebecca about the two children in her womb in Genesis 25.

When you look at Matthew 25 you realize this is the commentary of all of humanity as the time of the Lord’s return get nearer.  I pray you take time to read through this chapter with an eye to the great weight of the chapter.

Jesus is giving a straightforward answer to the question asked by the disciples, “tell us what will be the sign of your coming and the end of the age.”  Here is Jesus response:

1.  First a general prophecy

Before Christ returns there will be false Christs, futile wars, and famines, Vs: 4-8.  Before Christ returns there will be persecution, falling away of the church, and increased lawlessness, Vs: 9-13.  Before Christ comes the gospel will be proclaimed throughout the whole world, Vs: 14

2.  Second, a specific prophecy

The Antichrist comes on the scene and proclaims his deity.  The Antichrist sets up a one world government.  When these things happen we will be able to know that his coming is soon.

3.  Third, a straightforward warning

The exact moment of his coming is information only the father possesses.  The world will be preoccupied when he comes.  When he comes, he will judge the world.  We as followers of Christ must be alert and we must be about the business of reaching people because our world is showing all the signs of the Lord’s coming.

Father, help me to see the signs and help me to sow the seed of the gospel.  Father, help all who read this to see and to share the glorious news, “The King is coming!”

The Last Week Pt III (Genesis 24; Matthew 23)

January 23, 2013

“The greatest among you shall be your servant.  Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”  Matthew 23:10-11

It’s your choice, God will not force you in one direction or the other!!!  Yes, brothers and sisters, “You can either be prideful or you can be humble.  The choice is yours.”  As you consider your choice, allow me to give you two examples, one from the camp of the prideful and the other from the camp of the humble.

In Matthew 23 we see the camp of the prideful (Scribes and Pharisees).  Jesus points out 7 woes that occupy their lives.  Each of these woes show us the end result of a prideful life.  “They will not escape the sentence of hell.”

In Genesis 24 we see the camp of the humble (Abraham, his servant, Rebecca, and Isaac).  Abraham is walking in humble obedience as he sends his servant back to his homeland to find a wife for Isaac.  The servant, in humility relies on the Lord’s leadership.  Rebecca responds in faith by going with the servant.  Finally we see Isaac responding in love for God’s choice.

Two paths, one leads to peace and the other leads to death.  Question, “Which path are you on today?”  Allow me to encourage to walk the path of humility.  As you do, “Jesus will be glorified in many people coming to know him.”

Certainly this path is not easy.  This path is filled with moments of hardship as well as moments when you will have to fight off the old nature.  But this path is worth it because great things are accomplished in the name of the Lord.  Read Matthew 23:11-12 once again. Consider its path and its power!!!  You will never be the same.

 

The Last Week Pt II (Genesis 23, Matthew 22)

January 22, 2013

“The field and the cave that is in it were made over to Abraham as property for a burying-place by the Hittites,” Genesis 23:20

“Where should we bury you?”  These were the sobering words a grieving husband asked his wife just days before her death.  It was that time of life, she had lived a good life and God had done many wonderful things in her life.  But now it was time for her to go the way of all who live on the earth, “It is once appointed unto man to die…”  

Certainly this could have been how it was for Abraham and Sarah as she came to the end, but we really do not know.  One thing is for sure, she died.  Abraham  then purchased a burial-place for her in the land that some day had been promised would be Israel’s. What faith he had in the promise of God.  But even greater, we have the promise of a resurrected body that will live in the greater promised land called heaven.

How could this be?  The answer comes to us from Jesus work on the cross.  In His death, burial, and resurrection we have freedom from sin, freedom from wrath, and freedom from eternal death.  We have life in his name (John 1:5).

Here in Matthew 22 we are reminded of the righteousness that Christ imparts to those he calls to his kingdom (Matthew 22:1-14).  He clothes us in what we could never be clothed with on our on!  Because of this we have every reason to love God and to reach out in love to our neighbor (Matt. 22:37-28).

Today, you could be facing a tough prognosis, but be assured his power is greater.  Even if death comes (John 11:24-25) we rejoice because we bury others and we are buried by others in hope of the resurrection.

The Last Week Pt.1 (Genesis 22; Matthew 21)

January 21, 2013

“And Jesus said to them, ‘Yes, have you never read, out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise?”  Matthew 21:16

This morning our minds are gripped with two connecting scenes in scripture.  The first connects us with Abraham and the son of promise (Isaac).  God commands Abraham to sacrifice his only son (Picture of Christ).  But in the moment of trial (God provides himself a ram).  The second connects us with the only Son of God (Jesus Christ).

Jesus last week of earthly ministry before the cross is center stage.  There are 4 scenes before us in this chapter:

1.  Jesus enters Jerusalem, Vs:1-11, “The whole city is stirred up”

2.  Jesus enters the Temple, Vs: 12-17, “The children cry out in praise”

3. Jesus returns to the city, Vs: 18-22, “The disciples marvel”

4. Jesus returns to the temple, Vs: 23-46, “The leaders challenge his authority”

    A. They are blind to the truth, Vs: 26-32

    B.  They reject the truth, Vs: 33-46

As I read this chapter I came away with such joy in God’s sacrifice for my sin.  In this chapter we see how the common people were caught up in the moment.  We see how the children truly saw Jesus as he was and is.  We see how the leaders perverted the authority of Jesus.  In the end, these same people cried out crucify him.  But we see the grace of God in that Jesus died for them and many of them came to Him after the resurrection.

Today, we celebrate the love and mercy of this great and glorious God.  Today we cry out in humble dependence and we cry out in anticipation to Easter and to the day when we see Him face to face.

Now, I certainly do not know what is going on in your life today.  But I see in Jesus life much of what you face.  So take heart and look to Christ and follow Him today.

Which Kingdom is Yours? (Genesis 19, Matthew 18)

January 18, 2013

“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants.”  Matt. 18:23

Brothers and sisters, “Our days are fast and often filled with activity that will some day be judged by God.”  No new truth here, but needed truth in these days of elevated activity because of all our modern technological advancements.  This morning I felt great conviction as I read both of our selected readings.

In Genesis 19 we see both a man of God and men of ungodliness.  The man of God is delivered and the men of ungodliness are destroyed.  Question, “If you had lived in that city, would you have noticed a difference in the way the one man lived versus the way the other men lived?”  The answer is yes!

In Matthew 18 we see a detailed discourse between Jesus and His disciples.  This discussion centers on a question, “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of God?” Really, whose life reflects the Kingdom of God?  In Jesus answer we discover life in the kingdom:

1.  Life in the kingdom begins with salvation, Vs: 1-4

Notice the importance of repentance (turn) and reception (heart of a child).  Jesus gives us a footnote (Vs: 5-6) about those who would hinder this process.

2.  Life in the kingdom continues with sanctification, Vs: 7-9

3.  Life in the kingdom centers on seeking the lost, Vs: 10-14

4.  Life in the kingdom is committed to sincere discipline, Vs: 15-20

5.  Life in the kingdom is characterized by forgiveness, Vs: 21-35

At this point I challenge you to look back at the previous headings.  Spend time in the text of God’s Word.  After doing so, ask yourself this question, “Does my life reflect this type of living?”  Now ask yourself another question, “Are there things that I need to change so that I can reflect kingdom living?”  Finally, one last question, “Am I really in God’s kingdom?”  If not, follow the path outlined in Matthew 18:1-4.

Brothers and sisters, what a great honor to be called to the Kingdom and what a great honor to be God’s mouth peace in calling others to the Kingdom!