Mark 2

Vs. 17, “On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”  Amen to this!  There’s incredible comfort in knowing that Jesus came for the sinners, the lost.  I expound on that in the application section.  The healing of the paralytic is a reminder of the forgiveness of our sins (vs. 1-12).  The calling of Levi (Matthew) would most definitely call to attention the choices of who Jesus was selecting (vs. 13-17).  Here Jesus was dining with sinners while the “righteous” were fasting (vs. 18-22).  And lastly, we are reminded again how Jesus brings a certain type of freedom when we are in a relationship with him that even supercedes the law (vs. 23-28)

 

Regarding application…True Righteousness.  Vs. 16, “When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the “sinners” and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?”  Question: Were the deceiving and greedy tax collector’s better than the self-righteous Pharisees?  Of course not, it wasn’t the action or the lack of action that made them righteous.  It was the condition of their heart in response to Jesus.  Brothers & Sisters, that is what is so important.  There is nothing you can do or not do that can change the love of the Father that is in Christ Jesus.  Even doing QT’s daily isn’t going to make me any more loved than you by God.  Righteousness comes from Jesus by the cross (II Cor. 5:21).  As you continue your journey, having that in your mind and beginning to grasp God’s grace will help give you the reason you want to (not have to) spend time with our Lord who loves you!

Lamentations 2

Vs. 1, “How the Lord has covered the Daughter of Zion with the cloud of his anger…”  Indeed, this is quite a fire and brimstone message upon God’s people!  How sad that so many would not listen to the truth and turn to false prophets.  They did not want to believe that anything could happen to them.  Though they turned from God, they took him for granted.  The scenes Jeremiah shares with us are things I hope to never see.  People strung out dead in the streets, children fainting in the streets and dying.  It is a graphic scene and one that is intended to remind us as readers not to forget.

 

Regarding application…God’s Wrath.  Vs. 6, “He has laid waste his dwelling like a garden; he has destroyed his place of meeting. The Lord has made Zion forget her appointed feasts and her Sabbaths; in his fierce anger he has spurned both king and priest.”  Yesterday, the application was on “Sin Seperates”…and today we are reminded of God’s wrath.  The Babylonians did not prevail…it was God’s wrath that brought the consequences to his people.  If we only looked at this chapter, we would have a very distorted view of God.  That is why it is very important to step back and look at the full context of the Bible.  Even in Jeremiah’s life…he spent 40 years sharing God’s love and mercy upon the people.  But they would not listen.  There was nothing else that could be done, but bring about punishment because their hearts were so hard.  Yet, unlike and enemies punishment…God’s wrath has love and promise to it.  God does not delight in evil.  He allowed such to happen so that his people would turn in repentance.  God is faithful and always will be.

 

Think back in your own life for a moment.  There have been valley’s and mountains.  Yet, God is doing everything he can to draw you nearer to Him.  Question: Are you like the people of Jeremiah’s time?  Ever hearing, but not doing?  Don’t be so complacent and lazy that such a thing could happen to you.  Turn your heart back to God TODAY!  His love and mercy is endless.

Matthew 2

Vs. 1, “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi a from the east came to Jerusalem.”  Matthew wants to ensure that the reader understands that Jesus was born in the city of David which would fulfill the requirement that the Son of God must be born in Bethlehem (vs. 6 – Micah 5:2).  The visit from the Magi would remind us that the Gospel is for Jew and Gentile.  We get a glimpse of the evil of Herod and ultimately the enemy (satan) who tries to stop God’s will.  Sadly, the world would already hate Jesus as a baby.  I love how Matthew uses scripture to backup Jesus, because we see a reference from (vs. 8)…good old Jeremiah 31:15, talking about Herod’s edict to kill all boys under the age of two.  Matthew also quotes from (vs. 15), the prophet Hosea 11:1, that the king would come out of Egypt.  As you hav read, we have many character’s in this chapter: The Magi’s response, Herod’s response, the Chief Priests and teacher’s response and Joseph’s response.  Each giving us insight to the condition of their hearts.

 

Regarding application...Responding Rightly.  Vs. 11, “On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.”  The Magi’s response is a wonderful example for us all!  But I wanted to focus more about how Joseph and Mary responded.  Notice the gifts they lavished upon Joseph, Mary, and Jesus.  Remember, that Joseph and Mary were poor.  When an Angel of the Lord came to them to tell them to flee Egypt, this was a very expensive endeavor.  Question: How did they afford such a move?  Some scholars suggest by the gifts.  The point I’m sharing is that when God tells us to do something; He also provides!!!  Therefore, we are challenged to have a right response to His call in our lives.  Question: How are you responding these days to the Lord?  Let God speak to your heart and mind today!

Jeremiah 17

Vs. 5, “This is what the LORD says: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the LORD.”  God’s holy law & word should have been written on His people’s hearts…but instead, their sin was engraved there.  We may try to forget our sins, but our sins unfortunately will not forget us.  They remain on our hearts until what?  Until we repent.  A pastor once said, “The heart of every problem is the problem in the heart.”  Their harden hearts caused unbelief and this would cause a downward spiral until sin.  And the second part of this chapter concerning the Sabbath…some may say that God was all about law & legalism…BUT….A religious obedience to the Sabbath law wasn’t what God wanted, but obedience that came from their hearts because they loved and feared the Lord.

 

Regarding application…Heart Condition. Vs. 9, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.  Who can understand it?”  That is exactly the point!!!  Question: Who are we to try to assume we know our hearts?  We may think we know where are hearts are coming from…but we don’t know our own hearts. Only God does.  Vs. 10, “I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind.”  He searches the heart and mind and knows exactly how to reward each person. If we want to know what our hearts are like, we don’t try to assume we already know or ask what others think….we must read the Word and let the Holy Spirit teach us!  Sometimes, I think I have a pretty decent heart, but my selfish side comes into play and I am quickly reminded of my heart condition.  We are all in need of a heart transplant that can only happen spiritually.  The world is in awe of modern medicine and the ability for man to do physical heart transplants….but the bigger miracle is when a hardened heart is replaced with the heart of Christ!  In fact, that miracle has happened to many of you!  That miracle has happened to me….but sometimes, we revert back and our spiritual bodies try to reject our new heart and want our old hearts back.  Only the Word of the Lord & prayer can keep the new heart breathing and alive!  Question: How’s the condition of your heart transplant?

Jeremiah 2

Vs. 1, “The word of the LORD came to me…”  Jeremiah’s first message would be a message of tender exhortation to turn back to God.  It reminded me of our Youth message this past Sunday about drifiting along. Jeremiah would use many picture illustrations of how God’s people had turned from Him.  From an unfaithtful wife, broken cisterns, a plundered slave, a stubborn animal, a degenerate vine, a defiled body, an animal in the desert, a disgraced thief, a prisoner of war…Jeremiah would try his best to help them see their folly.   Why was judgment coming to the nation of Judah?  Because the people were unfaithful to God and had mixed the worship of God with the worship of idols.

Regarding application…Denial of Sin.  Vs. 35, “you say, ‘I am innocent; he is not angry with me.’But I will pass judgment on you because you say, ‘I have not sinned.”  What keeps a person seeking holiness?  I believe they never forget what they are…a sinner.  The apostle Paul was able to do so much because he called himself the chief of sinners.  When we approach God, we should be like the tax collector who bowed his head and confessed he was a sinner.  Yet, I think so many of us are like the Pharisee who stands before God proud of what we have accomplished so far!  I believe that is why Jesus would exhort us to take up his cross daily.  We need to die each day to ourselves so that sin cannot penetrate our being and rule our lives.  Denying sin and turning from sin are two different things.  Take a moment today and consider your own life & the sins you may have still lingering around.  Let’s confess them to the Lord & let his grace heal the scars of sin.  Let’s be careful to stop drifting along…

Revelation 2

Jesus speaks directly the churches, so let’s examine a bit further into each church:

Ephesus

.”  Ephesus had become a large & proud church…they had accomplished plenty.  Discerned false teachings, suffered for Christ, grew in their knowledge…yet they had lost the most important ingredient of all: Love.  Without love the light of Christcould go out.Vs. 4, ”

Smyrna

.”  Smryna had opposition from both unbelieving Gentiles & hostile Jews.  Though they lived in a affluent city, they found themselves in poverty (maybe because of sanctions against Christians at the time).  They were a picture of a suffering church.  Small & beaten…yet Jesus reminded them that the crown of life awaits them in this temporary world we liven in.Vs. 9, ”

Pergamum

.”  Pergamum was a city full of idolatry…and where idolatry is…Satan flourishes.  This was not a easy city to live in as a Christian.  Christians were compromising their faith & were peer pressured into following the crowd.  They were accepting things that God had clearly laid out to his children that are wrong….Idol’s & sexual immorality.Vs. 14, ”

Thaytira

).  We must be careful when it comes to accepting activities in this world that contradict our Lord!.”  Thaytira would be the opposite of Ephesus …plenty of love, but no discernment.  They were easily swayed by false teachers, particularly a woman prophetess by the names Jezebel (Vs. 20, ”

Regarding application…Good News & Bad News.  Vs. 23b, “Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.”  Just when we think we are doing well in our churches…in our walks with the Lord…we are reminded here in Scripture that there is no time to grow complacent.  I am reminded of when someone tells us, “I have good news & bad news.”  We usually don’t even want to hear the bad news in the first place.  Jesus came to us today with good news & bad news.  Yet, the beauty of Jesus is that He made sure to praise the churches for the good things, share the bad things in truth & love, and then share the best part by sharing what happens when we overcome!  Dearest brothers & sisters, as Jesus searches our hearts today…let him show us what it is in our lives that we need to correct!  Let us not be like Jezebel from Thyatira who was given the chance to repent, but chose to harden her heart instead.  Let us overcome together in prayer & petition to our Lord & Savior Jesus Christ!

I John 2

Vs. 15, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”  I like John’s style of explaining things…this chapter focuses now on our relationship with Christ.  There are many things that can keep us from the Love of Christ…the hatred of others, the love of the world, the false teachings of others, the denial of God in our life…  Jesus is our advocate, Jesus is our example and Jesus is our commander.  He helps us against our enemies and Jesus is the source of our hope!

Regarding application…Walking.  Vs. 6, “Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.”  Before there were planes, trains & automobiles =)…there was walking.  It still is the main source of how we get from point “A” to point “B”.  Think of people who are in wheelchairs their whole life…we take walking for granted.  Yet, I believe we take the our Spiritual walk for granted even more.  For Christians…there is no denying it…We claim to be “In Christ!”  Yet..talking the talk vs. walking the walk are two very different things.  Why is it that Christians complain and cry out “Woe is me” when trials and tough times come?  Why is that these trials make us question God’s love?  Because…we don’t know God’s word!  If we did…we would realize that the walk Jesus took was filled with joys & trials.

Remember the movie “Forrest Gump”?  There was a time in the life of Forrest that he could not walk well…and as he got older and went back home…he decided to not only start walking but jogging across America.  It became a phenomon in the movie as many followers began to run with Forrest.  But when asked where he was going or why he was doing it…Forrest didn’t really have an answer…he just did it.  But we don’t just walk for no reason.  We walk with deliberation and conviction.  We are called to go down the path less traveled.  We must walk with Jesus.  You must walk with Jesus.  Why?  Because He lives in us!

II Peter 2

Vs. 1, “But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves.”  We should never underestimate the danger of false teachers.  Please note: Keep in mind that a false teacher is not a person who teaches false doctrine out of ignorance.  Throughout history, many great teachers over time have and do hold different interpretations to minor matters…but false teachers are professed believers who know the truth but who deliberately teach lies in the hope of promoting themselves or getting financial gain from their followers.  But we know God will ultmately condemn them for their selfish greed.  I like the fact that Peter doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to this very serious topic.

Regarding application…Sad Reality.  Vs. 21, “It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them.”   Pastor John Vernon McGee would once say after his sermons…“Friends, if you came in here today unsaved and you walk out of here unsaved, I am the worst enemy that you have ever had, because you have heard the gospel and you can never go into the presence of God and tell Him that you have never heard the gospel. You have heard it, and it will be worse for you when God pronounces judgment than for any heathen in the darkest part of the earth today.”

This reminds me of Judas Iscariot…Jesus would say it would have been better if Judas had never been born.  This is different from those of us who know what is right, but the flesh is weak.  These are people who deliberately strive to hurt the church and all that it has worked for.  Let us be discerning children of God so we can not only keep from being duped…but also help others be able to keep from following such false teachers.

James 2

Vs. 18, “But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”  Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.”   Throughout this chapter, we see the importance of faith shown real by action & love.  If we show favoritism (Vs. 1), how can we see we live by faith?  Faith is believing in what we do not see…and that also means to stop looking at things we can see.  When we judge others by their gender, race, culture, rich/poor, popular/unpopular…we are living by sight rather than faith.  We also are given a great lesson on faith in action from this chapter.  While we have been justified by faith not works…we also cannot live faithfully without works. That is one of the big knocks on Christians from the outside world.  There are so many so-called Christians not living out their faith and the world sees this and wonders what good it is to call yourself Christian if Christians look and act just like them.

Regarding application…Walk the Walk..  Vs. 26, “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.”  Think of it this way…We are justified (declared righteous) before God by faith, but we are justified before men by works.  God can see our faith, but men can see only our works.  The reason why we can look to Abraham as a great man of faith is because he walked the walk.  When push came to shove, he not only believed it in his heart, he acted upon his faith with action…even if it meant sacrificing his beloved son.  Personally, I hope selfishly God would never put me through such a test of faith.  But don’t misunderstand…God tests our faith far more than we probably ever realize.

Illustration:

An old Scotsman operated a little rowboat for transporting passengers. One day a passenger noticed that the good old man had carved on one oar the word “Faith,” and on the other oar the word “Works.” Curiosity led him to ask the meaning of this. The old man, being a well-balanced Christian and glad of the opportunity for testimony, said, “I will show you.”

So saying, he dropped one oar and plied the other called Works, and they just went around in circles. Then he dropped that oar and began to ply the oar called Faith, and the little boat just went around in circles again—this time the other way around, but still in a circle.

After this demonstration the old man picked up Faith and Works and plying both oars together, sped swiftly over the water, explaining to his inquiring passenger, “You see, that is the way it is in the Christian life. Dead works without faith are useless, and “faith without works is dead” also, getting you nowhere. But faith and works pulling together make for safety, progress, and blessing.”

QT – Hebrews 2

Vs. 17, “For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.” The writer of Hebrews continues to put Jesus as the focal point and remind us that He is higher than angels in authority. Jesus is better than the first Adam (& Eve)…he is the perfect Adam. The first Adam brought death and sin…the perfect Adam (Jesus) brought life and delivered death to the enemy. While we know that Jesus became flesh and dwelt among us…I think we should take a bit more time to appreciate Jesus’ humility. I love how we are reminded that Jesus can help us when tempted because he was tempted too (Vs. 18).

Regarding application…Drifting Away. Vs. 1, “We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.” How do we drift away spiritually? By neglecting the power of the Gospel and His Living Word…basically doing nothing with the salvation that was given to us. The people at the time were unwilling to hear…essentially they were became lost. A very long time ago when I was probably 4 years old…my family had gone tubing down a river (like rafting but with a inner tube of a truck instead.) One of my siblings at the time, Joelle, who must have been around 10-12 years old somehow got away from the crowd and before we knew it, we didn’t see her anywhere. She had drifted away so far without realizing it. Fortunately, she is here today…so someone must have ran down the side of the river to find her. She wasn’t paying attention and drifted so far…there could have been a giant waterfall down the river. We must be careful not to drift spiritually. I think we underestimate the power of the spiritual currents (evil) that can send us drifting from God.