Deuteronomy 3

Vs. 1, “Next we turned and went up along the road toward Bashan, and Og king of Bashan with his whole army marched out to meet us in battle at Edrei.”  After a successful battle against Sihon King of Bashan, we now see again God deliver the Israelites another nation (vs. 1-11).  It’s important to remember that peace was offered to these nations for safe travel, but unfortunately, they wanted no part in that (Deuteronomy 2:30).  It’s interesting that we are given the specific measurements of Og the King of Bashan’s bed, which would indicate he was quite a giant (vs. 11)!  It was the LORD who was the source of their victory (vs. 3)!  In our next section, we have a summary of the division of land (vs. 12-17) also recorded in Numbers 32 and 34.  Though 2 ½ tribes (Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh) claimed the conquered land east of the Jordan, their men were to help conquer the Promised Land (vs. 18-20).  And lastly, we see Moses make a request to travel once over the Jordan to see the Promised Land (vs. 21-29), but because of his anger at the rock of Meribah (Numbers 20), God would forbid it.

Regarding application…Picture of Grace.  Vs. 27, “Go up to the top of Pisgah and look west and north and south and east. Look at the land with your own eyes, since you are not going to cross this Jordan.”  Though the LORD forbade Moses to enter the Promised Land; He graciously gave Moses the opportunity to see the vision of their future.  Moses had a intimate relationship with the LORD.  Because of that, it gave him the boldness to still ask even under the consequences of God.  I think that is an amazing picture of grace.  God could have easily said, “No Moses” to this request.  I think of some of the mistakes in my own life and how I have suffered because of them.  But those mistakes did not cut me off from a relationship with our LORD.  Brothers and sisters, this is God’s grace and mercy to continue a relationship with us.  You know about 1500 years later, it was Moses who would appear at the Mount of Transfiguration with Elijah to accompany the glory of Jesus.  Moses finally made it to the Promised Land!  Thank you Lord for your grace!

Matthew 5

Vs. 1, “Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him.”  Indeed, this is the famous Sermon on the Mount message Jesus teaches (Matthew 5-7).  Remember that the target audience Matthew’s Gospel are the Jews.  The Sermon on the Mount addresses Jesus’ expounding upon the law.  Question: Why?  Because as wonderful as the law was, it cannot save us.  True righteousness starts from the heart because no one can meet the high standard that Jesus is laying out.  We must not read this literally, are none of us would be walking around with eyes or hands (vs. 27-30).  There are differing interpretations of the intention and application of Jesus’ ideal teaching, but I believe the most important thing is seeing the Godly standard that is set for us.  Most scholars believe Matthew is basically summarizing this very long discourse and sermon.  Unlike our typical 30 – 45 minute Sunday messages in churches today, teachers in Jesus’ day spoke hours upon hours.  The Beatitudes (vs. 1-12) is basically declaring a blessing upon the people who desire to live for the Lord.  Jesus illustrates our lives like salt and light, both powerful symbols of life.  Jesus than tackles the issue of His relationship with the Old Testament Law (vs. 17-20).  The Bible is God’s written word and Jesus is God’s living Word (John 1).  Rather than focus on the letter of the law, many see these teachings as Jesus shining a light on the spirit of the law.  Over a period of time, the Jews made attempts to interpret the 600 plus OT laws and formed Mishnah (oral law).  Jesus comes and pretty much forces a paradigm shift in how the law is to be interpreted and applied.  It’s important to remember, the law points us to Christ.  Jesus goes on expound upon six important OT laws; murder (vs. 21-26), adultery (vs. 27-30), divorce (vs. 31-32), swearing (vs. 33-37) retaliation (vs. 38-42), and love of enemies (vs. 43-48).

Regarding application…True Righteousness.  Vs. 20, “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”  Question: What is righteousness?  Certainly an attribute of God and one that His creation seeks to have in a relationship with Him.  However, righteousness is not something we can attain on our own (Romans 3:10, Psalm 14).  The Pharisees tried to attain this righteousness through external good works.  But Jesus exhorted everyone that you cannot enter heaven if your righteousness does not exceed the Pharisees and teachers of the law.  For the average Jew, this was shocking news!  They were the standard of righteousness to everyone in Jesus’ day.  By living righteous like them, this was the ticket to eternal life!  How could one be more obedient than they are?  Brothers and sisters, there are times when we fall into the same trap.  We worry about the external things we do that will get us to a right relationship with God.  But, God does not want or need our pious outwards behavior.  He is looking for true righteousness that starts in our hearts.  Question: How is your heart today?  Does it need some exercise?  Does it even need a transplant?  Let God continue His heart surgery on you!

Revelation 22

Vs. 7, “Look, I am coming soon! Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy written in this scroll.”  Crystal Lewis sang that wonderful song People Get Ready that reminds us Jesus is coming soon.  A climatic and fitting end, not only the book of Revelation but the whole Bible!  Notice, that Jesus is coming soon but there is an addition; He is coming to judge us according to our deeds.  Certainly, this doesn’t mean that if we are saved our lack of good deeds will negate salvation.  Bear in mind, we will be accountable for our deeds good or otherwise.  But the more striking fact is that Jesus is the one who will judge.  This puts him on par with God and is again John’s way of reminding us the deity of Christ.  John ensures to remind us that the testimony of Jesus (vs. 16), himself (vs. 8) and the Spirit and the bride (vs. 17) are all witnesses to the testimony of God’s word to us.  Our part is to be ready and not live impure lives (vs. 12-15).

Regarding application…Open Call.  Vs. 17, “The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.”  Our Father in heaven has given us an open call and encouragement to come.  Jesus calls us to Himself, but the Holy Spirit and the bride (which is the church) are all included in this open call to a world that is lost.  When we love and share our lives to a world that is lost, we are beckoning a world to Jesus.  I exhorted the members of Roots Ministry today to “Share Your Life” with others.  Question: What can you do this week to herald the Good News?

Leviticus 10

Vs. 1, “Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, contrary to his command.”  Nadab and Abihu sinned against the LORD.  Our God is a consuming fire.  It is quite a contrast from the celebration just earlier with the glory of the LORD in the tabernacle.  I’m reminded of that statement, “with great privilege brings great responsibility.”  While they used an unauthorized fire source, there was more to it than this.  It was not their responsibility, but their father Aaron’s.  Much like Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5), this was a new beginning with God’s people.  There needed to be a standard set that let the people know God was not one to be manipulated or disobeyed.

Regarding application…God Knows Our Hearts.  Vs. 19, “Aaron replied to Moses, “Today they sacrificed their sin offering and their burnt offering before the Lord, but such things as this have happened to me. Would the Lord have been pleased if I had eaten the sin offering today?”  Though Aaron and his two other sons were not allowed to mourn outwardly the death of their family members (Nadab & Abihu), we see here the grace of God.  They were supposed to have eaten the sin offering that was sacrificed (vs. 16-18).  It was their way of grieving the loss.  Grace was given to them that day.  The point was made clearly and now it was time for the LORD through Moses to show grace.  He knew their hearts.  Take comfort in knowing that God sees both our actions and our hearts.

Philemon 1

Vs. 17, “So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me.”  Philemon was one of the early leaders in the church at Colosse and they met in his home (vs. 2).  The early New Testament churches did not have their own facilities, so they would meet in their homes.  Notice how Paul respected and honored Philemon in his introduction (vs. 1-7).  This was going to be an opportunity for Philemon to forgive as he was forgiven by Christ.  While Paul could have used his authority to demand forgiveness or even not return Onesimus, he wanted to give Philemon the opportunity to have his own rights.  We see a beautiful extension of love from Paul as he offers to pay back any loss incurred upon Philemon (vs. 18-25).  Notice too that Onesimus must have surely agreed upon this and repented of his actions.  He was willing to go back and suffer any consequences.

Regarding application…Price to Pay.  Vs. 19, “I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back—not to mention that you owe me your very self.”  Someone was going to have to pay for the losses of this relationship.  Paul was willing to pay for it because Philemon had suffered loss.  Onesimus was willing to take any consequences and lose his life again as a slave.  Philemon would have to incur loss if he forgave Onesimus.  Bottom line; living a Christian life of forgiveness means someone is going to pay.  Ultimately, Jesus Christ paid the price on the cross for the forgiveness of sins.  Forgiveness is not cheap.  It can cost our grief, our money, our selfishness and even reputation among others.  But brothers and sisters, let us be people willing to pay the price.  We may not always get back what we feel we deserve.  I recall lending money to a few people over the years.  Rarely did they pay me back.  That wasn’t my money in the first place.  And besides, there were plenty of times when someone graciously lent me their time and money.  Let us love with grace each other.

Genesis 38

Vs. 1, “At that time, Judah left his brothers and went down to stay with a man of Adullam named Hirah.”  Juxtaposed in the story of Joseph, we take a break and get a glimpse of Israel’s son, Judah.  Question: Why?   Let’s do a quick review.  The first three oldest sons of Israel had all done things that take them out of the kingly line.  Reuben had slept with his father’s wife (Genesis 35:22) – his step mom, and Simeon and Levi took revenge on Shechem for Dinah’s rape (Genesis 34).  The next son in line was Judah.  Bear in mind, the Messiah would come from the line of Judah.  Other notables were Boaz & Ruth and King David who were descendants of Judah.  Judah’s marriage to a Canaanite woman was an unwise one indeed (vs. 2).  It would set off a chain of sad events.  Judah had three sons, but the first son Er was so wicked we are told God put him to death (vs. 7).  The cultural practices of the time were to have the next brother fulfill the duty of helping the widow bear a child in his brother’s name (Levirate marriage – this was become part of the Mosaic law).  But Onan, the second oldest brother was selfish and wicked and did not fulfill his duty (vs. 8-10).  Judah had one more son who had not yet grown up.  Tamar, who had been originally married to Er, was patiently waiting for one of Judah’s son to help her conceive.  Two were now dead and only Shelah was left, but he was too young (vs. 11).  Through a chain of deception, Tamar would deceive Judah by disguising herself as a prostitute and having a night shared with Judah her father-in-law.  We see the condition and double-standard of the day as Judah who was no saint demanded she be put to death.  But it was his lack of integrity that he did not follow up on allowing Shelah to marry her (vs. 14).  Tamar would get pregnant from that night with Judah and bear him twins.  Eventually, Tamar a Canaanite woman would be a part of the kingly Messianic lineage.  In fact, Tamar would be mentioned in the genealogy of Gospel of Matthew (1:3).

Regarding application…Grace of God.  This can be a confusing chapter and there seems to be no real hero.  However, the true emphasis isn’t Judah or Tamar, but it is God.  God is at work dispensing His will and thankfully His grace.  If our existence depended on our own righteousness, we would all be in hell.  Thankfully, God is gracious.  How interesting that we see such a contrast between Israel’s two sons: Judah and Joseph.  Question: Which son are you more like?  Let’s not take advantage of the grace of God.  This reminds me of the thought process that Paul had at address to the Roman Christians regarding the increase of sin and God’s increase of grace (Romans 5:20).  There was this wrong thinking that since God’s grace increases because of sin, than we have the right to continue to sin (Romans 6:1).  Brothers & sister, may this not be the case for us.

Colossians 4

Vs. 2, “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.”  As Paul is closing up his letter to the Colossians, he is reminding them of one of the main things they can do: Pray.  Question: Why?  Because it simply works.  The more we pray, the more we depend upon God rather than our own abilities.  There was both a corporate prayer request as well as a personal one (vs. 3-4).  I think it’s important to see that Paul was not hesitant to ask for people to pray specifically for him.  As we transits to the final greetings section, we are reminded that Paul didn’t do alone (vs. 7-18).  If Paul had the technology of our time, I think he would have had quite a number of Facebook friends.  Notice how socially connected Paul was, but this was all for the sake of the Gospel!

Regarding application…Grace-Filled Conversation.  Vs. 6, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”  Question: How do you communicate to others?  This was a very convicting passage for me as I reflect upon the last couple of weeks.  The Holy Spirit has been convicting me of not complaining in the Philippian sermon series and then this past Sunday the application to the message was about rejoicing.  I’ve been more aware of my own conversation and also how others converse.  It’s surprising how unseasoned our conversation can be!  Let us be people who have exercise grace in all that we say and do.  Not for the praises of men, but because we honor the Lord Jesus when we live in such a way.

II Corinthians 8

Vs. 7, “But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.”  The first section of our chapter today, Paul uses another church area as an example for them to follow (vs. 1-6).  Though the Macedonian churches (Philippi and Thessalonica) were poor and going through many trials, they gave beyond what they could give to strengthen the whole church and the collection for the poor in Jerusalem.  What’s also encouraging that both the regions of Macedonia and Achaia (Corinth) were predominately Gentiles who were now giving support to the suffering Jews in Jerusalem.  What a picture of generosity and unity!  As a church, we must ensure that we are meeting the needs of our body (vs. 8-15).  In the last section of our chapter, we see the importance of trusting Godly people to help in the collection of the offering (vs. 16-24).  Notice that this is not just a job for Titus, but two others (vs. 18, 22) as they go and are commended by Paul.  The Corinthians are asked to receive them with love (vs. 24).

Regarding application…Jesus as the Example.  Vs. 9, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.”  Question: Why are we to be generous in our giving?  Paul points to the utmost example: Jesus.  Jesus was the Son of God, yet became flesh and poor so that we might become sons and daughters of God (rich).  It’s one thing to use the Macedonians as an example, but Paul drives it home with Jesus as the example.  Question: What can you give?  The direct context is money, but certainly it is not a stretch to look at how God has given us spiritual treasures (gifts) to give to others as well.  The church cannot function if everyone just selfishly chooses not to give of themselves.  It’s great to have examples of Pastors, deacons, leaders in the church to set the tone, but we have no excuse.  Jesus laid out the formula.  It is better to give.

II Corinthians 1

Vs. 7, “And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.”  Question: What is going on here?  Times were tough for the Corinthians and for Paul’s ministry.  People were questioning Paul and wondering why was there all these troubles.  No one is immune to suffering and we see how important it is that we reach out to each other to offer comfort (vs. 3-11).  Rather than go into details about the suffering that must have been known to his original audience, Paul points all of us to consider Christ in this (vs. 5).  In the second half of our chapter, Paul addresses the Corinthians concern about Paul’s faithfulness to them (vs. 12-24).  There were those who accused Paul of being untrustworthy in his promises to them (vs. 17).  Paul had made plans, just as we make plans…but sometimes, God’s plans override ours.  In the end, we must stand firm in our faith that God is in control of all situations (vs. 21).

Regarding application…Relying on God.  Vs. 12, “Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, with integrity and godly sincerity. We have done so, relying not on worldly wisdom but on God’s grace.”  It’s not easy to be accused and betrayed by those whom you love.  This is what was happening to Paul.  Yet, instead of retreating like some had accused him of…Paul had actually put his complete reliance upon the Lord.  In times of distress and trouble, the comfort from the Lord (vs. 5) helped him to trust in the Lord all the more.  In our troubled economical times, this can cause us to rely more and more upon ourselves.  It seems the more trouble we have, the more we revert to self-reliance.  Question: Are you relying on yourself, others, or the Lord?

Romans 11

Vs. 6, “And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.”  Earlier in chapter 9:6, Paul answered one of the questions that arose, “Has God’s word failed?”  Not at all!  God’s sovereignty and grace is not limited to how we interpret God.  He is in control and thank the Lord that we do not have to make such huge decisions.  But not only is God in control, He is faithful to His people Israel as well as Gentiles.  And one day, God will bring all of Israel back to Him (vs. 26).  Many scholars point to this chapter where Paul is teaching the understanding of Dispensationalism (God working in different ways in the Old Testament, New Testament, End times, etc…)  Dispensationalism is a system of interpreting the Bible as God working through Israel and the Church.  There are different forms of this belief and some have a more progressive view.  But setting aside how we interpret this, Paul’s underlying message is clear: God is ever faithful.

Regarding application…Has God Forgotten?  Vs. 1, “I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin.”  Question: Have there been moments in your life where you have felt forgotten?  Where you didn’t feel valuable?  Where you have felt rejected?  I believe if we are all honest with our deep thoughts and hearts, we have felt way this even towards God.  There have been moments in my own life where I have asked myself where I God in all of this?  In the midst of the sadness in the world, has God forgotten us?  Yet, in our deepest heart, God has implanted the knowledge of Him (Ecc. 3:11).  We’ve been taught in Romans how we are without excuse (Romans 2:1).  God has not forgotten us.  Many years ago, we had a Youth Retreat up in Oregon and we had all piled in a van.  We had our activities at a local lake/park and went back to the campsite.  As we pulled out, in the rearview mirror, I saw two of my students running towards the van!  We had forgotten them!  Thankfully, everyone was okay and nothing horrible had transpired.  While we can have forgetful minds, God never forgets us!