Judges 2

Vs. 2, “and you shall not make a covenant with the people of this land, but you shall break down their altars.’ Yet you have disobeyed me. Why have you done this?”  Sadly, because Israel did not drive out and defeat the pagan nations, this would bring upon consequences from the LORD (vs. 1-5).  Not only did Israel spare the Canaanites, they began to adopt their pluralistic religions.  These nations would become a thorn and trap for Israel (vs. 3).  After the first generation of those who entered the Promised Land passed away, the new generation did not follow in their heritage (vs. 6-10).  How sad to see that Israel as a whole people would begin to forget God.   Because they turned to other gods, The LORD allowed them to be defeated (vs. 11-15).  But the compassion of God heard them in their distress (vs. 15).  So, here we see God raised up judges (deliverers) who would help not only deliver them in military disputes, but also help provide counsel for Israel (vs. 16-23).  It’s important to note that these judges were on a more local scale rather than the nation as a whole.  Sadly, the cycle of their sin would plummet Israel into continued disobedience.  Yet, God’s mercy triumphed over judgment (James 2:13).

Regarding application…God’s Compassion.  Vs. 16, “Then the LORD raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of these raiders.” God was disciplining Israel for their actions.  Yet, God in His infinite compassion and mercy would still reach out to His people.  There is a part of me that is angered to think that they were taking God for granted.  Yet, the danger for all of us today is to think that we are not like them.  I’m reminded of the passage Proverbs 3:12 and Hebrews 12:6, “God disciplines those He loves.”  Question: Is God disciplining you today?  How so?  Take time to search the things deep in your heart that you might be putting before God.  While we may not fall into pluralism, there are other “idols” we may be lifting up (money, relationships, status, etc.)  Lord, may we be a people that begin to see your love and compassion more and more!

Luke 24

Vs. 6, “He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee.”  A most comforting message to the faithful women who came to honor the body of Jesus after the Sabbath Day (vs. 1-12).  In a world that seems to be male dominated, the first witnesses of Jesus’ victory over death would be women!  We take for granted the Resurrection, but for everyone at that time, it was inconceivable that Jesus could have resurrected on His own.  The Road to Emmaus (vs. 13-35) is an account unique to Luke’s Gospel and grants us incredible details!  The two men (one named Cleopas) are traveling back home after the traumatic events of the Cross.  Jesus’ appearance to them serves the purpose of informing all of us that these events were not happenchance, but planned by God (vs. 25-27).  As the disciples converge to share their testimonies that Jesus is risen, Jesus Himself appears (vs. 36-53).  It is a shocking time of the disciples and Jesus ensures that He is not coming back as a spirit, but in flesh for He asks to eat something (vs. 40-43). Their obedient witness continues to this day as we remember Jesus words.

Regarding application…Open Our Minds.  Vs. 45, “Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”  Notice it was Jesus who opened their minds to the Scriptures.  This is a perfect example of why the writer of Hebrews tell us that the Word of God is alive and active (Hebrews 4:12).  The disciples grew up learning scripture and even spent over three years with Jesus, yet there was still more for them to learn from Scripture.  That’s what is so amazing about reading God’s word daily!  There is a sense of awe and excitement we should have because God’s word is not words put on paper.  God can transform these words of Scripture and open our minds to His good and perfect will!  Take time today to open your mind and heart to remember how we can bear witness of Jesus in our lives!

Mark 10

Vs. 1, “Jesus then left that place and went into the region of Judea and across the Jordan. Again crowds of people came to him, and as was his custom, he taught them.”  The Galilean ministry is over and Jesus is headed towards Jerusalem.  The Pharisees continue to challenge Jesus and this time they bring up the issue of divorce (vs. 1-12).  It’s no surprise this issue was brought up in Judea, for this was the region where Herod Antipas ruled.  Herod’s divorce and remarriage led to John the Baptist beheading.  It’s interesting that the victims of divorce are often children and the next issue is about them (vs. 13-16).  In Jesus’ indignation, we see the value of children and how important they are in reminding us about our faith.  We also see Jesus’ encounter with the rich young man (vs. 17-31).  It is a sobering story of someone who had so much opportunity, but left with nothing.  The young man seemed to have everything, but lacked the most important one: faith in Jesus.  As they continue their journey, Jesus gives them more detail regarding His impending death; the location and who would crucify Him (vs. 32-34).  Earlier in Matthew’s Gospel (Matthew 20:20-28), we were given another perspective on James and John’s request to be at the right and left of Jesus in His glory (vs. 35-45).  It was still very hard for the twelve to understand what true humility is.  As came and left Jericho towards Jerusalem, they encounter the two blind men on the road.  Mark focuses in on Bartimaeus for he was the more vocal one (vs. 46-52).

Regarding application…Putting Things Aside.  Vs. 50, “Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.”  Notice that our blind friend Bartimaeus did not shy away when he knew Jesus was coming by.  He boldly called out Jesus’ name and threw his cloak aside when Jesus called him.  I couldn’t help but notice the many who rebuked him when he tried to reach out to Jesus.  In some ways, this is a microcosm of what happens when we do likewise.  Our Christian walk is not a timid one.  There will be naysayers and detractors.  And like our earlier example in the rich young man, we must be willing to put aside all things that could potentially keep us from following Jesus.  Question: What are you putting aside?  This past week, our bible study series challenged us to do a twenty-four hour media fast (no music, no internet, not television, etc.)  I have to admit that it was pretty difficult to set these things aside.  But, we are certainly challenged to set aside much more than just those things.  Our lives were bought at a price and so let us apply what the writer of Hebrews stated, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1)

Numbers 19

Vs. 9, “A man who is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer and put them in a ceremonially clean place outside the camp. They shall be kept by the Israelite community for use in the water of cleansing; it is for purification from sin.”  Question: Why go into an elaborate explanation now about being clean from touching dead bodies?  As you may recall, the last few chapters, we have encountered God’s divine judgment upon thousands of people in the Israelite community.  Contact with a decaying body was considered unclean for both practical and spiritual matters.  This solution presented in our chapter addresses how a person could become clean without coming to the sanctuary.  God is quite practical!  God provided a free way through the ashes and water cleansing for His people to be ceremonially clean.

Regarding application…Becoming Clean.  There were two times in my life I went five days without showering; Boy Scout camp and a missions trip.  It’s comical to think that during that time, I didn’t even realize how dirty I actually had become.  But, you certainly realize it when you cleanse yourself with a shower.  For the Israelites it was through the sacrifice of an animal that they became clean.  Hebrews 9:13-14, “The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean.  How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!”  If a cow could cleanse the Israelites, how much more can the blood of Christ cleanse us from our sin?  It too is offered free to those who accept it!

Hebrews 13

Vs. 8, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”  What an eloquently worded reminder of Jesus!  In our concluding chapter today, the author of Hebrews gives us some very practical applications on life (vs. 1-18).  Notice how we are reminded first of all to ensure we are loving each other (vs. 1).  Through loving, we are then able to have good standing relationships with others (vs. 2-3, 16), our marriages (vs. 4), and our leaders (vs. 7, 17-19).   In other words have good relationships, with our community, with our family, and with our church.  In a consumer society, we are reminded not to allow the love of money to corrupt our lives (vs. 5).  And most importantly, let us not forget to offer up sacrifices of praise to our Lord (vs. 15).  How wonderful music and declaring the goodness of God is for us, but more importantly honors the Lord.  And lastly, the writer of Hebrews ends with a benediction, a prayer for God’s blessings (vs. 20-26).

Regarding application…Being Content.  Vs. 5, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”  Question: Are you anxious?  Are you stressed out?  Are you worried?  The exhortation to being content is more than just about money.  Jesus will never leave you.  We have a most blessed assurance.  There were times in my early spiritual walk with the Lord that I was worried about my assurance of salvation.  What if I did something that would separate me from the love of Christ?  But there are a plethora of verses in the bible that gives us this promise that He will never leave us.  This idea of never being forsaken is taken from God’s promise to the Israelites in the desert (Deuteronomy 31:6).  In the busyness of the Christmas season, let us together remember to find contentment in the Lord!

Hebrews 12

Vs. 3, “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”  Here we are presented a picture of believers running a race or a marathon to reach the objective end (vs. 1-4) with Jesus setting the example.  We were the reason and the joy that He endured for us (vs. 2).  The audience of this letter were growing weary of their trials, so the next section of the passage reminds all of us of God’s love and discipline (vs. 5-12).  The last section of our passage exhorts the believers not to forget just who our God is.  He is powerful and should receive our reverence and respect, yet He is gracious (vs. 14-29).  The new covenant is covered by the grace of God through the blood of Jesus our mediator (vs. 24).

Regarding application…Bitter Root.  Vs. 15, “See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”  Interestingly, the ministry at my church is called Roots Ministry.  Our roots are to go down to the foundation of Christ (Colossians 2:7).  Yet, we are given a reminder that our roots can become bitter and fall short of the grace of God.  Question: What does this look like?  Someone who lives without making Jesus a part of their life.  A person who gives up their belief in the Lord and no longer lives a life transformed by Christ.  Be careful brothers and sisters that your root does not grow bitter due to the troubles of this life.  I’ve seen this reality in my own heart and the testimonies of others when our hearts are not reminded of His grace.  Let us prayerfully consider how we can thankful to our God today (vs. 28).

Hebrews 11

Vs. 10, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”  This chapter is one of the most well known passages in Scripture; dubbed Hall of Faith.  Question: What is faith?  Trusting and believing in the Lord, though we do not always see or understand (vs. 1-3).  Question: What does faith look like?  The author of Hebrews goes through example after example of those who walked faithfully for God (vs. 4-40).  We would be wise to follow the examples of those who paved the path for us.  Notice that not everyone who was listed was delivered from their particular circumstance.  Don’t forget, that the readers of this letter were in their own trials of faith.  This was timely encouragement for them to recall others who were able to trust in the Lord.

Regarding application…Believe.  Vs. 6, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”  My wife and I took a three day vacation last winter to Las Vegas.  We love the good food and cheap entertainment.  We were just sightseeing through all the casinos and saw Chris Angel’s show called Believe.  It was interesting because it was spelled like this: Believe.  How coincidental that the word “lie” is imbedded in our English word believe.  I did some quick etymology and didn’t see any connection either.  But the application is that no matter your circumstance, our faith and belief must show in our actions.  Notice how the believer is to earnestly seek the Lord!

Hebrews 10

Vs. 10, “And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”  Brothers & sisters, we have a problem: sin.  But God took that problem and gave the most incredible sacrifice for us in His son Jesus.  The old covenant sacrificial system was but a shadow of the sacrifice to come (vs. 1-10).  Jesus’ sacrifice was final and did not need to be continually done (vs. 11-18).  We are also reminded that only the high priest could enter the Most Holy Place (vs. 19), but now Jesus gives all of us that amazing access (vs. 19-25).  We are then presented quite a stern warning about deliberate sinning (vs. 26-31).  Even in the old sacrificial system, there were no sacrifices that could be used to cover willful and deliberate sins.  And lastly, the author of Hebrews ends this portion of his text with a upbeat note (vs. 32-39), encouraging those who have so faithfully lived in faith.

Regarding application…Draw Near.  Vs. 22, “let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.”  It seems like an obvious exhortation to draw near to God.  But for many, this realization that access to God at anytime and anywhere was still very foreign.  In fact, I would contend to say that while Christians know this privilege, we don’t act upon it.  We don’t just have to turn to God while we are at physically at church.  Jesus gives us the assurance and boldness to approach the throne of God with humility and confidence.  As we do so, let us continue to find ways to encourage each other to keep drawing nearer to God (vs. 24-25).

Hebrews 9

Vs. 11, “But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation.”  Having been fresh off the book of Leviticus, this is a familiar description of the earthy tabernacle (vs. 1-10).  While the earthly tabernacle was ordained by God, it is inferior because of its location (earthly).  Other things to note is that it was only accessible by the high priest (holy of holies) and that ultimately it was a temporary residence (vs. 8).  But as we are reminded, there is more superior and heavenly sanctuary (vs. 11-28).   Question: Why?  Remember the author’s intention is to exhort a people who were still holding onto the past.  In the OT, the high priest also sacrificed for his own sins.  However, Jesus our high priest was the sacrifice not for his sons, but ours!  We can’t help but see God’s eternal plan working itself out before His creation!

Regarding application…Only The Blood.  Vs. 22, “In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.”  Someone had to pay a price for our sins.  It was the greater sacrifice through Jesus that covered over our transgressions.  We were bought at a very high price.  When something is valuable, we have a tendency to take care of it.  By God’s grace, we were considered valuable enough for Him to sacrifice His one and only son.  This is a wonderful reminder this week as Christmas draws nearer each day.  Think about something you can do today that shows the value of God’s love and act upon it!

Hebrews 8

Vs. 1, “Now the main point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven.”  Like any good presentation, we see the author of Hebrews give us a summary of the main point and central focus of the letter.  Jesus is the high priest that continues to serve in our lives today!  Jesus is not in some man-made tabernacle, but Jesus is at the right hand of the Father.   Jesus is ministering in the heavenly tabernacle not the copy of it that was on earth (vs. 3-6).  It served a temporal purpose, but Jesus serves eternally.  The old covenant was fulfilled and made perfect (due to man’s sinfulness) through the new covenant (vs. 7-13).  Moses was the old covenant mediator, but Jesus is the perfect mediator.  The fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy (Jeremiah 31:31-34) came to pass.

Regarding application…Is the Old Covenant Bad?  Vs. 13, “By calling this covenant new, he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.”  Question: Who gave us the Old Covenant?  God had His purpose for His promises given to His people at that time.  Both the old and new covenants were given for the good of God’s people.  Both covenants offered blessings.  Jesus did not come to abolish God’s law (Matthew 5:17), but He came to fulfill God’s ultimate promise to love His people and be a blessing to His nations.  God has written His law in our hearts and our minds, we are without excuse!  Let us therefore make every effort to honor Him in all that we do!  Question: What can you honor him with today?