Vs. 1, “Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge.” They say when you speak off of water, your voice carries easier. Question: Why did Jesus speak in parables? Story telling is powerful and through parables, Jesus would be able to share truth, yet avoid too much controversy. It was a perfect way to touch hearts who honestly wanted to know him and confuse hearts that had no desire. We are reminded of the parable of the sower (vs. 1-20) and the importance of the condition of our hearts. Additionally, the “lamp on the stand” reminds us taking His truth and sharing it for the world to see. Our goal is to be obedient to plant God’s word and be faithful in prayer and service (vs. 26-29).
Regarding application…Jesus Cares. Vs. 38, “Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” Question: I wonder how many times we have asked Jesus the same question(s): Don’ you care about me? I thought you loved me? Why is this happening? And Jesus replied to them and to us, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” Jesus is basically reminding them, of course I care for you. In big situations and in small situations, Jesus cares about what is going on in our lives. Yes, even when we are suffering…Jesus is there and He cares. None of us are immune to the storms of this sinful world, but this storm is momentary when compared to eternity! Keep your head up and turn to Jesus who can calm any storm of today!
Vs. 1, “How the gold has lost its luster, the fine gold become dull! The sacred gems are scattered at the head of every street.” How sad. Yesterday at YG we were reminded of God’s refining fire making gold and now we see Israel’s once beautiful people now become like worthless pots of clay (vs. 2). Yikes the picture that Jeremiah describes to us is graphic and gory! Jeremiah even describes this as worse than Sodom’s destruction. Question: Why? Because, at least with Sodom it was instantaneus. It got so bad that they were having to resort to cannibalism (vs. 10). Sad times. It definitely gives us some perspective on our own struggles and what tough times can bring when we harden our hearts.
Regarding application…Too Confident. Vs. 12, “The kings of the earth did not believe, nor did any of the world’s people, that enemies and foes could enter the gates of Jerusalem.” The problem here was that God’s people had become too confident. They remembered they were His chosen, they knew their city was well fortified…Jerusalem was a mighty fortress! Who could possibly come in and take the land? Question: How many times have we thought likewise? It’s all good. Nothing bad is going to come of me gossiping, turning to secular music, disrespecting my parents, drinking, drugs…it’s no big deal. God is going to take care of me. I’m not some kind of devil worshipper. God is on my side. Really…individually and corportately as a church…may we never get so overly confident that we don’t depend on God anymore.
Vs. 4, “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devill.” While Moses and Elijah also fasted for forty days, there was a reason God would have Jesus do this. As we begin too see start of Jesus’ ministry, we get to see who Jesus really is! Jesus shows us that He is able to overcome the very tempter that decieved Adam & Eve. He also did this because He wanted to show us that He knows what our physical, spiritual and emotional struggles are. God already acknowledged that He was pleased with His son. But, Jesus did this for our sake! Soon after, Jesus goes and begins His ministry in Galiliee to fulfill what the Prophet Isaiah said (vs. 15-16). Jesus also calls Andrew, Peter, James and John!
Regarding application…Fisher’s of Men. Vs. 19, “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” The four apostles chosen in this chapter were all fisherman by trade. There was a reason Jesus called these men…Jesus often chose the lowly of this world. Whether we have ever fished before, we are able to comprehend this wonderful analogy. It takes patience and hard work to fish. But God has called all of us to throw out the nets of the Gospel to the world! While we may have other vocations in the life, our realy job is to go and be fisher’s of men…go and make disciples. Don’t ever forget this and pray that God would give you His heart to be ready to serve all the days of your life. Have a blessed weekend and go to God’s house tomorrow!
Vs. 7, “A lion has come out of his lair; a destroyer of nations has set out. He has left his place to lay waste your land. Your towns will lie in ruins without inhabitant.” Horrible judgment would come upon Judah, and yet God’s people would be unprepared. They would not listen to Jeremiah’s exhortation to repentance. Here we see the example of the weeping prophet Jeremiah as he contemplates the tragedy that would happen to his people. Judah was foolish and ignorant of God & His ways. Yes, there would tragedy in the captivity and the loss of lives…but more importantly…it was tragic that God’s people had so much unbelief that it would take them to this point.
Regarding application…Circumcision of the Heart. Vs. 4, “Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, circumcise your hearts...” They were going through the outward form of circumcision. Circumcision was a sign that showed they belonged to the nation Israel, but God hadn’t given it just as a ritual. More importantly, their hearts needed to be circumcised to God. Peter’s powerful message in Acts 2 on the day of pentecost would circumcise the hearts of 3000 people. Question: What condition is your heart in? Remember the parable of the sower? Jeremiah tells us from vs. 3, “Break up your unplowed ground and do not sow among thorns.” The seed of God’s word MUST land on cultivated soil…a cultivated heart. A cultivated heart will turn to God. A circumcised heart will turn from idolatry. A softened heart will love because He first loved us. A joyful heart will praise in good & bad times. It begins with the heart…when we backslide, when we turn from God…the first thing to change is the condition of our hearts. Check your heart today! Let God’s Word grow deep roots in your heart, so you may bear the sweetest fruit the Lord can create!
“ We see a vision of God’s throne with rainbows, thunder, lightening….we see twenty-four smaller thrones with twenty-four elders…we see four creatures with eyes all over them! Whew….what a sight to behold! Yet, even in this description we do not see a flambouyant display of grandeur, but rather a display of the Holiness of God! Don’t be confused by the details of this chapter…rather look at what all of this is trying to point out: The Greatness of God! Fasten your seat belts & put your seats in an upright position! You are about to come with John to the throne of the Most High!!!! Vs. 2, “Question: Who are the twenty-four elders
Regarding application…Worship of God. Simply ask yourself again…what are we learning from this chapter? Worship of God. Worship is not just saying nice things about God on Sunday. Worship is recognizing who God already was, is & will always be! Theologian J.I. Packer, “We must turn our knowledge about God into knowledge of God.” The more we know of God…the more it will help you to truly worship Him! But once again….you may ask…”But why do we worship?” Pastor Richard Foster, “Our God is not made of stone. His heart is the most sensitive and tender of all.” Wow…do you know what this means? God delights in the worship & attention of His creation! That we would matter to God brings a purpose in life so incredible! Guess what? One day we all will be before this very throne we just read about! Let us join with these four living creatures….join with the angels…join with our brothers & sisters awaiting our homecoming to heaven….join to raise our voices & sing, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty…”
Vs. 19, “We love because he first loved us.” True believers will love each other…it’s that simple folks. John goes on to mention about testing spirits….remember that the New Testament had not yet been completeted…so these young Christians would know if someone was false by what they claimed regarding Jesus. But the true sheep will recoginze the loving voice of their Shepherd. John also reminds us of the fact that we should never forget…Jesus died for us (vs. 9-11). When we remember this fact,God’s Holy Spirit can reside in us and His love fills us (Vs. 12-16). And when we live this kind of love, we need to never fear the final day of judgment…because love drives out fear (Vs. 18-19).
Regarding application…Loving Others = Command. Vs. 21, “And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.” This is not God pleading or hoping that we love. God is not politely asking us to love others. God is commanding us to love. It is shameful to bear the name of Christ in our lives if we are discriminately choosing who we love and who we ignore or even hate in our lives. People may say, “I tried…I just can’t love him or her because of what they did to me.” And the key word to that comment is “I”. When we try to love, it is impossible to love others. But when we surrender our lives over to the Lord, His love is so powerful and great that it will overflow in our lives. If Jesus thought the same way so many of us have…then none of us would be alive today. Question: Who do you need to show God’s love to? Go forth and love deeply in the name of Jesus!
Vs. 1, “Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin.” Peter has already addressed everyday suffering, but now he tells of specific persecution & suffering to come. We are reminded that when we suffer it really is a road to purification (Vs. 1-6) But another real plus to suffering that it most definitely will unite a church who seeks to do His will (Vs. 7-11). But the greatest factor of suffering is the fact that when we suffer, Christ is glorified. Christ is Glorified = We suffer. We suffer = Christ is glorified. This should be a stark lesson on why we should never complain when we suffer.
Regarding application…Loving Covers Sins. Vs. 8, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” What a wonderful verse! This is one of my favorite reminders about love in the Bible! Fact #1 – No one is righteous…in other words…no one is ever going to be perfect. Everyone is going to hurt you at some point in your life. Fact #2 – We are to love with the love of Christ. Not our own ability to love, but to love through the eyes & heart of Christ. Love still loves no matter what. If this were truly practiced…there should never ever be a divorce between believers. If this were to happen…people would stop holding grudges and sins against each other. Upon completeing our “Dealing with Conflict” series recently, this is a great reminder to apply it now to our lives!
Vs. 8, “Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” The problems that are addressed in this chapter really stem from selfish disobedience. It is sad to see brothers & sisters in Christ divided. James addresses some of the main things that can keep us from God…The flesh (Vs. 1-3), the world (Vs. 4-5), and the devil (Vs. 6-7). It is important that we examine ourselves to see if any of these three enemies are defeating us. We have this verse I like to quote at times (Vs. 9) about turning our laughter to sorrow…indeed, there is a time for everything. We are also warned against pride, criticism, and arrogant self-confidence. Lot’s of good exhortations to meditate and pray about.
Regarding application…Compromising. Vs. 4, “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God.” This is not addressing God’s attitude towards us…rather…OUR attitude towards God. The gap between God and the world is so great…that when we compromise and go towards the world, we unknowingly alienate ourselves from God. When we compromise, we begin to not realize how bad our sins have become. Time and time again…we rationalize and compromise the choices we make. I know, because I did and foolishly thought I was going to be okay. But for at least 3 years, I unknowingly showed and despised everything that God did for me because I chose the world over Him. No wonder why James would use such a strong statement as “hatred toward God.” Compromise = Hatred towards God. We can’t have our cake & eat it too. Don’t ever forget…one of the most formidable enemies we will ever face is not Satan…not the world….but OURSELVES! “I want” “I deserve” “I will” “It’s my life”…when we you realize it’s not about you, it’s what Jesus did for us that gives us life!
Vs. 11, “Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.” God promised “rest” for His people of Israel, but they failed to enter that rest due to disobedience. We are not just talking about the literal “Sabbath Rest”…we are talking about a spiritual rest. A rest that can be peaceful even in times of turmoil and struggle. Question: How do we enter that rest? By turning in faith to His Word (Vs. 12) and approaching the throne of Grace (Vs. 16)! Wonderful biblical passages that we see here in this chapter! We are also reminded that Jesus was the final great High Priest who knows all of our struggles because He went through it too.
Regarding application…God Know’s Our Hearts. Vs. 12, “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.“ I love this verse! All of us should have this verse memorized! God knows the thoughts and attitudes of our hearts! Question: Isn’t that great? We don’t have to put on a facade with God…He already knows. We can hide our thoughts from others…but we can’t hide from God. Adam & Eve would learn that lesson about trying to hide. There’s almost a peace in knowing that we don’t have to hide and pretend to be someone else. And if you are not feeling right with God…you can either run or let God heal your wounded heart. Speaking of wounded hearts, don’t forget to pray for the tornado victims! What a sad unexpected tragedy for them!