Matthew 10

Vs. 1, “He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.”  Question: Why send out the twelve?  Because, Jesus had just finished up saying in our previous chapter that the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few (Matthew 9:37).  At this point in Jesus’ ministry He has prepared His disciples well and they are now ready to help spread the Good News!  Certainly, the appointing of twelve apostles is not arbitrary for we remember the twelve tribes of Israel.  Their role is to help usher in the kingdom of Heaven and be used by the Holy Spirit.  Basically, Jesus sends them out on a short-term missionary trip.  Don’t misunderstand the order for this early missions trip to only reach out to the lost sheep of Israel (vs. 5).  The Gospel is certainly for all nations (Matthew 28:19-20), but there was historical order of salvation setup through God; first to the Jew, than the Gentile.  There is both the sense of urgency and complete dependence as Jesus instructs them not to bring anything on their trip (vs. 8-10).  Interestingly, Jesus also speaks to them (and us) of a future time when they will go out among the world (vs. 16-23).  When they go out to the harvest field, Jesus give them instructions of how to be a true disciple (vs. 24-42).  I love how Jesus exhorted all of us not to be afraid when it comes to bearing witness of His name to the world around us (vs. 26).  Jesus is quite adamant how He must be first in our lives (vs. 34-39), for their will even be division amongst our own families when we draw the line for Christ!

Regarding application…Peacefully Wise.  Vs. 16, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”  A dove represents peace and the snake in our context represents wisdom (in a good way).  In other words, be street-smart yet innocent.  There is a bit harsh reality that though the world and God’s creation testifies of His glory, it is also a very dangerous place!  There are evil people that have no mind of God and literally hate others.  Under Roman persecution as the years progressed it is estimated that 175 million Christians were killed.  Caesar Nero was so evil towards believers that he would put wax on them and then light them up to use as torches in his palace!  God has called us to go out into this world to bear witness of Him.  There are many fears, but Jesus reminds us not to be afraid.  Many missionaries and Christians alike will continue to receive persecution, but blessed are those who are peacefully wise and yet persecuted for Jesus’ name!

III John

Vs. 5, “Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers and sisters, even though they are strangers to you.”  Gaius was commended for doing what Diotrephes was not; giving hospitality.  This is why it was so important to know the truth, for Diotrephes swung on the other pendulum by completely refusing to show hospitality.  Gaius is a wonderful example for us as we consider someone who stood up against opposition and did what was best.  John writes to send encouragement since he was not able to come right away and deal with Diotrephes.  John also points out that Demetrius was another wonderful example to look to.  In this letter, we see the importance of Godly pastoral authority.

Regarding application…Addressing Conflict.  Vs. 11, “Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God.”  I appreciate how John does not ignore the situation.  Rather, he firmly addresses it and will come soon to handle such conflict.  Having just used Diotrephes as the bad example, John now commends Demetrius.  Perhaps you have had experiences of a “Diotrephes” in your own church.  I completely believe that Godly leadership should have the confidence and wisdom to address such conflicts in the church.  And if you are not in a leadership position be like Gaius and Demetrius who chose to do good rather than evil towards others.

II Timothy 3

Vs. 1, “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days.”  Yikes, quite an ominous statement that Paul gives to Timothy.  Question: When are these last days?  The last days were during Timothy’s time and has extended to ours too.  Sadly, these descriptions are not people who are pagan idol worshippers (vs. 2-9), but they are people who are part of the church.  Brothers and sisters, we should not be naïve of such things.  Many people will state they are Christians, but they have no mind of God.  They are imitators like Jannes and Jambres (vs. 8) the Egyptian magicians who were able to mimic a couple of the miracles Moses had done.  We are to follow the example of Paul (vs. 10-13) and remember that living a life for the Lord is going to be full of persecution.  If we live for the Lord, we will be persecuted.

Regarding application…Word of God.  “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”  Question: How do we combat the last days?  Know God’s living word!  Because of the spiritual warfare, we must be equipped (vs. 17).  Paul likes the word of God to the sword of the Spirit (vs. 17) and this is our one offensive weapon we can use.  We live in an information society.  Information is at our fingertips; Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia.  We read the word of others every day.  It’s so important to ensure we are staying up to date with God’s word!

Genesis 45

Vs. 3, “Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still living?” But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence.”  Some 22 years later, Joseph finally would be able to reconcile with his brothers!  A beautiful picture of reconciliation, forgiveness, and the released weight of guilt would come upon the brothers.  I love the outpouring of emotion and affection that Joseph gives to his brothers (vs. 14-16).  Additionally, we see how God’s people would find themselves in Egypt because of the famine (vs. 4-11).  I find myself so overjoyed for Jacob/Israel when he find out the news that Joseph his beloved son is alive (vs. 26-28).

Regarding application…God is Sovereign.  Vs. 8, “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.”  Brothers and sisters, the story of Joseph is a huge reminder for us when the evil intentions of others cause us to wonder if there is a God.  God works in mysterious ways.  I am not about to even try to explain it for the wisdom of man is foolishness to God (I Corinthians 3:19).  Though we live in a sinful world, God is in control.  There is nothing that happens that He is not aware of.  I wish we were all immune from the evil of this world.  But find a hope in knowing that Jesus will return again to conquer evil for good (Revelation 19).  Joseph set the example for us in patience, faith and forgiveness.  Let us go and do likewise.

Genesis 6

Vs. 5, “The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.”  Sadly, this should be no surprise for us, for Jesus prophesied our current events with the increase in evil during the days of Noah (Matthew 24:37).  Let us not be disheartened by the increase of evil from our reminder with the killing spree in Aurora, CO., but all the more strive to be a light to this darkened world.    One big question arises from this chapter that can be confusing.  Question: Just who are the sons of God?  Who are the Nephilim?  A few interpretations have rendered the sons of Seth had been intermarrying with the daughters of Cain.   However, the Hebrew translation of Nephilim is “Giants” and means “fallen ones.”  And the Sons of God seems to be a clear reference to angels.  There are differing thoughts on this, but I just wanted to expose you to both sides.  However, it is clear that the bigger issue was the increase of sin.  Many biblical scholars point out that the earth’s population was literally in the billions (especially in light of humans living longer).  This would have added to the increase in evil being more prevalent as well.  But we see another example of a person and his family who chose to live differently.  The Lord gave them 120 years to repent (vs. 3), but they chose to disobey.   The latter half is the instructions of the ark (vs. 9-22).  I think it’s interesting to note that these pairs of animals, etc. must have been babies so that it could house all the species.

Regarding application…Finding Favor.  Vs. 8, “But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.”  Question: How did Noah find favor?  Faith.  The writer of Hebrews would tell us specifically it was Noah’s faith (Hebrews 11:7).  We poke fun of those who try to be the teacher’s pet.  Sure, there are probably many who do it with ulterior motives.  But, here we are presented with an example of a Godly reason for finding favor.  I have an adopted sister who happens to be four days older than me.  Growing up, it was inevitable that there would be times we would compete for the favor of our mom.  I recall being jealous and envious of her musical talents and how my family would gush over her piano skills.  I on the other hand barely got past playing “chopsticks”, though we both started lessons at the same time.  So I realized my avenue of finding favor needed to be in a different arena.  I devoted myself to the sports side of things.  This was my way of getting the favor and attention I had hoped for.  Certainly, God is most pleased when His children faithfully trust in Him.  He knows the intentions of our hearts.  Just be honest with the Lord and let’s have very blessed beginning of our weeks!

Zechariah 1

Vs. 4, “Do not be like your ancestors, to whom the earlier prophets proclaimed: This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Turn from your evil ways and your evil practices.’ But they would not listen or pay attention to me, declares the Lord.”  Repent, Repent, Repent!  Though the LORD was angry (vs. 2), He now calls his people to return and repent of their ways (vs. 1-6)!  Question: Why?  God is faithful in His covenant promises!  Notice the “community” call for the people, not just individuals to repent.  We now see Zechariah share with us eight visions (prophetic) in this chapter and the following that the LORD revealed to him in one night.  In the first vision (vs. 7-17), Zechariah sees a man on a red horse (vs. 8).  There is nothing that is peculiar from the red horse, for “red” (סוּף) in Hebrew was not the literal color red that we associate with.  Though, there are some scholars that see “red” as a symbol of war, blood and judgment.  The identity of the “man” is an angel of the Lord (vs. 10).  It’s interesting to note the report of the whole world at peace and rest (vs. 11), but this is not a good report, for it signifies that time has not yet come for the end time fulfillment.  The LORD will extend mercy (vs. 16) upon Jerusalem.  In the last vision of our chapter (vs. 18-21), Zechariah sees four horns and four craftsmen.  The horns depicted here are understood as metaphors of nations (Babylonians, Medo-Persians, Greeks and Romans) that were enemies of God’s people.  The craftsmen are believed to have been nations that usurped the others.  No matter the interpretation, the application that God is in control is the most important here.

Regarding application…What is Repentance?  Perhaps many of you are familiar with repentance as this idea of return, change, or a 180 degree turn from our old lives.  To repent is to feel sorrowful for our sins and confess them.  Repentance can certainly be evident in how we live the actions of our lives.  But more importantly, repentance is living a life that is pleasing to the Lord in all aspects, mind, spirit, and body.  Part of what builds and encourages us is not looking at repentance from an individual perspective.  I think of the Ninevites who all repented (the whole city of 300,000 people) together.  What a wonderful reminder for the church today!  We each play a part in prayerful repentance not only for ourselves, but for our church body.  There is a time and season for everything (Ecclesiastes 3), perhaps a time of repentance is needed now more than ever!

Habakkuk 2

Vs. 1, “I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint.”  Habakkuk waits to see how the LORD will answer.  How will the LORD answer the questions about why He seems to tolerate evil?  God makes sure Habakkuk writes down His response so there is no misunderstanding (vs. 2).  Yet, the answer that is given will not be a popular one (vs. 3), for they are instructed to be patient and wait more.  The LORD goes on to describe the wrongdoing of the wicked (vs. 4-5).  It’s important to remember the identity of the wicked are the Babylonians.  Question: What will happen to those who do evil?  What kind of hope will God’s people have in these times of trouble?  The rest of this chapter, The LORD reveals five woes (vs. 6-20).  We see greed, power, atrocities, drunkenness, and idolatry all as things that people do with no fear of God.

Regarding application…Live by Faith.  Vs. 4b, “but the righteous will live by his faith.” (NIV 84).   Though the wicked live such evil ways, we are called to live by faith.  The New Testament quotes this passage three times (Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11, Hebrews 10:38).  Question: What makes them (righteous) different than those who do evil?  The righteous will believe what God says.  While it may seem that evil is prevailing, God will win.  And remember that the “righteous” are not those who are better than others, rather those who now are righteous out of faith in Jesus.  It’s not what we have done, but it’s what Jesus has done to make us righteous and able to live by faith in the first place.  We must be patient knowing that God is in control.  Question: How are you living today?  What things or events in your life are you taking matters into your own hands?  It’s time to believe and live this journey in faith!

 

Nahum 3

Vs. 1, “Woe to the city of blood, full of lies, full of plunder, never without victims.”  Yikes, this is not easy reading, but one that chronicles the reality of the sins of Nineveh and the Assyrians.  When the word “woe” is used, this signals a very stern warning.  I have commented in the past concerning the outright evil deeds of the Assyrians.  They treated human life worse than we treat animals.  They tortured people beyond comprehension.  They were given chances to repent, but now the battle would begin (vs. 3-4).  Again, we are reminded that the LORD is against Assyria and that her deeds will now be exposed (vs. 5-7).  Nahum proceeds to use the Egyptian city Thebes as an example to Nineveh (vs. 8-13).  Ironically, it was the Assyrians who had conquered this impregnable city, now they would be conquered by the Babylonians.  In the last part of our book of Nahum (vs. 14-19), we are given the final word of destruction for Ninevites.

Regarding application…God is Just.  Vs. 19, “Nothing can heal you; your wound is fatal. All who hear the news about you clap their hands at your fall, for who has not felt your endless cruelty?”  Question: Is God just in dealing with the evil actions of the Ninevites/Assyrians?  I suppose, we must address “evil” in the first place.  Many theologians describe evil simply as the absence of good.  In the end, it is a very debated topic and one that cannot accurately be addressed simply in a few sentences.  In the end, we must have faith in the providence of God and that God has his intentions for allowing evil to exist.  Certainly there are many examples as we study the bible of evil and how God deals with it.  My encouragement to you is to know that God is just and put your trust in Him in all situations.  Know that if God allows destruction to come to His creation, He did everything He could to reconcile them back to Him.  God saved the previous generation of Ninevites but brought destruction to a new one.  God saved previous Israelites, but brought destruction to many unrepentant ones later.  God is just.

Luke 8

Vs. 1,After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him.”  It’s important to note how Jesus and the apostles depended upon the women who would come to help support them and even travel with them (vs. 2-3).  And now we get the wonderful opportunity to hear the teachings of Christ.  In the Parable of the Sower, we are starkly reminded of the importance of hearing and doing (vs. 4-15).  The lamp on a stand instructs us to share His light to the world (vs. 16-18).  While it may seem Jesus’ response to his family was a bit harsh, it’s really a encouragement to know we are part of God’s family (vs. 19-21).  Jesus us with us in the storms (vs. 22-25), Jesus can deliver us from evil (vs. 26-39), and Jesus is our great physician (vs. 40-56).

Regarding application…Sharing Joy!  Vs. 39, “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.”  The man who had been healed from demon possession was so overjoyed he wanted to follow Jesus.  But, Jesus knew the powerful testimony this man would have upon the town he was from.  Everyone had known about this man and now that he was healed, it would bring much glory to Christ.  Sometimes we have the tendency to want to dictate how we are going to be used by God, but God always knows the best way.  We just need to trust and be obedient.  Each of us has this joy deep inside from what Jesus has brought into our lives.  Let’s go testify and share the joy this Christmas!

Jeremiah 41

Vs. 3, “Ishmael son of Nethaniah and the ten men who were with him got up and struck down Gedaliah son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, with the sword, killing the one whom the king of Babylon had appointed as governor over the land.”  What a suspenseful chapter of deceit, betrayal, battles and fleeing!  Who ever said the Bible is boring, didn’t read this!  Ishmael who was a descandant by blood of king David followed through on his plot to assasinate Gedeliah.  What a hardened heart he had for he did this very cowardly and deceitfully by faking alliance through dinner and traping them in.  And to make matters worse, Ishmael went out weeping to the eighty traveling worshippers and convinced them to come follow him.  But this too was a trap!  They would slaughter seventy of these men and thrown them into a cistern (pit) after they were dead.  Wow, such evil!  Now, the plot thickens again!  Ishmael proceeded to kidnap the remaining Jews from the city and take them over the Ammonites his ally.  Sidenote: Jeremiah was also one of the captives in this group.  But remember our friend Johanan who had tried to warn Gedeliah in yesterday’s chapter?  Johanan mustered his men and went forth to rescue the captives!  Ishmael escaped, but rather than return to Israel….Johanan began a journey towards Egypt, because he feared a response from the Babylonians.

 

Regarding application…Evil Acted Out.  This is a disturbing reminder of the extent of what we as a sinful people can do to God and to each other.  So many senseless killings…and we have seen this only increase as we live in the End Times.  Don’t give up brothers and sisters in being a light into a every increasing wicked world.  We put our faith in God that He is in control and ultimately…He will avenge His people.  When you look at Ishmael’s heart, it was one of pride and self-entitlement.  He felt he was betrayed and deserved to be the ruler by birthright.  But really…none of us have any rights.  We lay down our rights for the sake of the cross.  We complain that we have the right to be free.  Do we?  We compmlain that we have the right for justice?  Do we?  Let us be humble in all that we do.  It starts with our own selfiish desires that can make our actions evil.  Look into the mirror of your heart and check yourself today!