John 11

Vs. 1, “Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha.”  We now come to undoubtedly the most powerful miracle recorded as Jesus shows He has power over death and life in an indisputable resurrection of life in Lazarus (vs. 1-44).  Upon receiving the message that Lazarus was sick, Jesus surprises us by not going to Bethany right away (vs. 4-6).  It was a dangerous thing to go to Bethany (vs. 8, 16) for it was only a couple of miles away from Jerusalem.  The disciples knew by this time how polarizing Jesus’ ministry was and how dangerous it would be to be so close the capital city where the opponents held the strongest influence.  Upon arriving to Bethany (vs. 17-37), Jesus comforts the grieving sisters; Martha and Mary.  John shares with us the fifth I AM statement as Jesus states, “I am the resurrection and the life…” (vs. 25).  We are given quite a personal perspective on the emotions of our Lord (vs. 35).  For the benefit of all of us, Jesus raises Lazarus (vs. 38-44); I wonder what kind of testimony Lazarus would have on what he might have remembered.  However, all of these miracles culminated to the point that the enemies of the cross conspired to stop Jesus’ influence (vs. 45-57).

Regarding application…Man of Sorrow.  Vs. 35, “Jesus wept.”  Question: Why did Jesus weep?  Certainly, He knew that Lazarus was going to be raised up to life again.  However, this was a unique miracle and one that is certainly not going to be repeated until the resurrection of the dead when Jesus returns again (I Thess. 4:13-18).  There could have been many reasons Jesus wept.  Perhaps he wept because He saw the pain of those he loved in sorrow, perhaps he wept because he knew that death was never something He intended for his creation.  One of the members of my church recently lost a loved one.  There was a beautiful service and as the eulogy was being shared, I couldn’t help but weep with the grieving.  Fortunately, life is a vapor in the wind and death is but a entryway into eternal life for those who are saved.  In the midst of all of our busyness, let’s take time to have our hearts reach out to others.

John 6

Vs. 4, “The Jewish Passover Feast was near.”  Again we see events that surround one of the festivals that are drawing near.  Some time has passed and John now takes an opportunity use one of Jesus’ miracles and teachings to compare and contrast the Passover festival.  The feeding of the five thousand (vs. 1-15) reminds us of how God provided manna during the Exodus.  John gives us additional insight as we see Jesus testing Philip (vs. 5-7).  Jesus’ walking on water (vs. 16-24) reminds us also of the water miracle with the crossing of the Red Sea after Passover.  Having arrived in the headquarters at Capernaum, Jesus uses an opportunity to further teach that He is the Bread of Life (vs. 25-35) the first of the great I AM statements.  Jesus’ teaching highlights the process of how we come to salvation one that involves God’s sovereignty, yet also our free will (vs. 36-40).  However, this was very difficult for many to hear and understand so they grumbled (vs. 41-51).   Jesus continued to share truth in love as He revealed more about how we come to the Father.  Jesus use of eating flesh (51-59) confounded the Jews as the imagery of who Jesus is was too much for them to handle.   Only through the body (bread) and the sacrifice (flesh and blood) can we find eternal life.  Sadly, for many, this hard teaching would draw many so-called disiples to desert Jesus (vs. 60-71).  This chapter teaches us about incredibly deep things of God.  May we be like Peter who simply realized that there was no better place to be than with Jesus (vs. 68-69).

Regarding application…Right Reasons.  Vs. 26, “Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.”  The crowds followed Jesus all the way to the other side of the Sea.  However, their intentions were not right.  Ironically, they were looking for Jesus to provide for them, but what they sought was not what they really needed.  Question: I wonder how often we are guilty of the same thing?  We come to church looking for provision.  We come to church to satisfy a guilty conscience.  We may even come to church for good worship, fellowship, etc.  But, Jesus is sifting out the chaff.  Jesus didn’t ask them to leave, but He did teach them the reality of the cost and deep truths.  It reminds me of when God instructed Gideon to give any solider who trembled in fear a way out (Judges 7).  Twenty-two thousand of the thirty-two thousand soldiers left.  68% were in God’s army for the wrong reason.  Question: Are you following Jesus for the right reason?

Luke 2

Vs. 1, “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.”  The most powerful man in the world had no idea that he was a mere puppet in the sovereignty of God.  Jesus was to be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2) from the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10) from a virgin (Isaiah 7:14).  The tapestry of God’s will was being woven before creations very eyes.  How fitting that the most amazing story was first revealed to humble shepherds (vs. 8-20).  Luke also gives us some insight into Jesus’ infancy as Joseph & Mary obeyed the OT Laws of circumcision at eight days (vs. 21- Genesis 17) and purification after 40 days (vs. 22-40 – Leviticus 12).  There are two wonderful pictures of faith in the song of Simeon and the prophetess Anna.  Luke then fast-forwards us to Jesus as a youth as a twelve year old (vs. 41-52).  Up until Jesus begins His ministry, we are not really given any insight into his life, except for this incident at the temple.  The family travels up to Jerusalem for the Passover Festival celebrating the deliverance from Egypt and the harvest.  Traveling in a caravan of families and groups, its quite understandable that Joseph and Mary would have thought Jesus was with someone else.  I love how we see Jesus as a boy sitting amongst the adult teachers conversing and questioning!  Question: Can you imagine being questioned by Jesus when he was a boy?

Regarding application…Social Networking.  Vs. 17, “When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child.”  If Twitter existed, the Shepherds would have been the first to tweet about the amazing encounter with the Savior of the world!  The angel told them that this Good News was for all people (vs. 10).  The love that Father has for us is shown evidently in the birth of His Son!  Because we have been loved, it’s time to share that with the world!  It’s Father’s Day in the US today, but even if you don’t have a father in your life, we can celebrate our Heavenly Father.  Take time this week to reflect upon the faithfulness and love of our Father.  Share His love to someone in your life this week in a tangible way.

Deuteronomy 16

Vs. 16, “Three times a year all your men must appear before the Lord your God at the place he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks and the Feast of Tabernacles. No man should appear before the Lord empty-handed.”  We have previously read details of each of these important festivals/feasts.  The Passover / Feast of Unleavened Bread (vs. 1-8) recalls how God rescued the Israelites from the hand of the Egyptians.  It was the final plague where the firstborn of the Egyptians died, but the Israelites firstborn were spared by the lamb’s blood on the door.  God passed over all the Israelites doors.  The Feast of Weeks (vs. 9-12) was Pentecost or also known as the feast of harvest, and the day of first fruits.  It was celebrated 50 days (Pentecost) after Passover.  It marked the beginning of the time when the people were to bring their first fruits to the Lord.  The Feast of Tabernacles/Booths (vs. 13-17) helped the people remember how God delivered them from the wilderness.  It was also during the fall harvest and it transpired five days after the Day of Atonement.  Each of these three main festival / feasts were to rejoice in God’s provision and faithfulness.  As you may notice, the last section of our chapter seems to flow better with the following chapter seventeen.  Moses had previously assigned leaders at Sinai, but now it was important to ensure this delegation of leadership proceed (vs. 18-20).  Also, the Israelites would be entering a land full of idolatry (vs. 21-22) and they should not follow in this pattern.

Regarding application…Giving Back.  Vs. 17, “Each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way the Lord your God has blessed you.”  We are a consumer society.  Sadly, I feel that we have become experts in receiving.  So much so that it is a rarity to hear stories and testimonies of those who give back.  There are touching movies, books and testimonies that will prickle our hearts about giving back.  But, often we don’t put ourselves into those extraordinary stories.  We cynically scoff at the idea that one person can make a difference.  But I really love how the Israelites were to bring a gift in “proportion” to the blessings of God in their life.  Question: What does that look like today?  We must be givers rather than takers.  As John F. Kennedy exhorted on his inaugural presidential speech, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”  Invest your life in being a part of serving the body of Christ in your community.

Matthew 26

Vs. 2, “As you know, the Passover is two days away—and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.”  Jesus points to Thursday evening at sundown where they will celebrate the Passover supper; this would also become known as the Lord’s Supper.  However, at that same time the enemies were plotting ways to kill Jesus (vs. 3-5).  Matthew also records the anointing of Jesus by Mary in Bethany (vs. 6-13).  Bear in mind, Matthew does not place this chronologically for this happened the day before Jesus entered Jerusalem.  I preached on this a few weeks ago and it is a wonderful reminder of the sacrificial love she gave Jesus.  This nard (perfume) was the equivalent of about $60,000 in our present day (at least in LA county where I live).  Sadly, Judas Iscariot goes to the chief priests (vs. 14-16) and unknowingly fulfills prophesied scripture (Zechariah 11:12).  The thirty pieces of silver were about four months wages (a price of a slave) which would be the equivalent of $20,000.  As the disciples gather for the Passover supper, Jesus informs that He not only will be betrayed, but that the betrayer is one of them (vs. 20-25).  It is here that Jesus calls out Judas, but the disciples were probably confused with what was going on.  The Gospel of John (John 13:30) further sheds light and tells us that Judas left the supper that night to go prepare for the arrest.  Jesus than instructs the disciples that the bread would signify His body (vs. 26).  You may recall the Passover was commemorated when God delivered the Israelites from Egypt.  Every home that had the lamb’s blood on the door, the Spirit of God would Passover that house and not kill the newborns.  Jesus was the Passover lamb (I Corinthians 5:7).  The cup (vs. 27-29) would signify the blood of Christ that would bring redemption to all.  Upon leaving the upper room, they travel over to Gethsemane a garden near the Mount of Olives to pray.  Sadly, Jesus predicts that not only was Judas a betrayer, but all of the other disciples will fall away and scatter (vs. 31-35).  Led by Peter protests, Jesus informs Peter he will deny Him three times.  It’s important also to note the others stated they too would not scatter.  The prayers at the Gethsemane (vs. 36-46) are incredibly intense as we get insight to the struggle Jesus was having.  He knew what He was about to face and it was going to be excruciating.  Being beaten and dying by crucifixion was intense, but nothing compared to bearing the sins of all and having the Father turn His face from His son.  The enemies temptation was strong for Satan early had tried to offer Jesus an easy way out (Matthew 4:8-9).  Judas now comes to the garden knowing the Jesus and the disciples would have been there.  He brings an angry mob ready to arrest Jesus (vs. 47-56).  Jesus accepts, Peter overreacts and all disciples scatter.  Caiaphas, the High Priest, broke even the Jewish laws by assembling a disgraceful trial at night and in his own home.  They even concoct bringing false witnesses to contrive lies.  They charge Jesus was blasphemy (speak contemptuously about God) and proceed to seek Jesus’ death.  It’s important to note that capital punishment was only delivered by the Romans (they gave the Jews some power, but not on this).  Additionally, blasphemy to the Romans was a not a legit reason for death.  And lastly, upon Peter witnessing the trial and seeing Jesus beaten, proceeds to deny he knows Jesus.

Regarding application…Overcoming Temptation.  Vs. 41, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” Question:  Since our body is weak, how then do we overcome temptation?  Watch and pray.  For believers, certainly our spirit is willing to do the will of God.  But our body/flesh lives by a different code.  Jesus gave us the ultimate example of surrender and trust in the Father.  We see His prayer to the Father if there was any other way, make it so, but if not…He was willing to go through with it.  Isn’t it amazing that the solution is simply prayer?  For in prayer, we surrender our will.  Not my will but yours be done (vs. 39).  We are one day before Easter and I’m so thankful for the resurrection and defeat of sin on the cross!  Last night, we had so many souls turn to the Lord in trust to Jesus at our Good Friday service!  Thank you Lord!

Numbers 28

Vs. 2, “Give this command to the Israelites and say to them: ‘See that you present to me at the appointed time the food for my offerings made by fire, as an aroma pleasing to me.”  Previously, in the book of Leviticus 23, the LORD laid out the appropriate holy times of worship.  In this chapter and the next, we see the LORD expound upon these times of worship for the benefit of the new generation, as they are about to enter the Promised Land.  Each of these offerings in our chapter are part of worshipping God; daily, monthly, Passover, Feast of Weeks.  Essentially, this was a yearly calendar for God’s people.  We have our own annual calendar events; New Years, Easter, Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc.  We look forward to these events as a community and country.  Likewise, the Israelites had these times of worship and events to remind them of God and His faithfulness!

Regarding application…Relationship With God.  Vs. 4, “Prepare one lamb in the morning and the other at twilight.”  It’s no coincidence that the first mention of holy times of worship is the Daily Worship.  In essence, all of these commands were created for the purpose of being in a relationship with God.  Not a day should go by, not a morning go by, not an evening go by without remembering God in our lives!  God gave manna daily, Jesus referred to our daily bread and we now do our daily QT with the Lord as an offering pleasing to the Lord.  Question: What do we offer?  We don’t offer lambs as a burnt offering, but we do offer our lives.  Start out your first day of the week with a commitment to spend time daily with the Lord; not out of obligation, but because the Lord loves you!

Numbers 9

Vs. 1, “The Lord spoke to Moses in the Desert of Sinai in the first month of the second year after they came out of Egypt.”  Chronologically, this chapter should go before the military census in chapter one.  In this chapter, we see an interesting relation with the observance of Passover (vs. 1-5) and then the cloud and fire (vs. 15-23); both of which were a part of the Exodus out of Egypt.  Question: Why observe Passover each year?  Some scholars point out that the Israelites were ungrateful.  Whatever the reason, it was a way to please God and remind them of His faithfulness.  Remember that Passover celebrates God’s deliverance by the lamb’s blood.  I love God’s attention to the details given for those who became unclean due to a death (vs. 6-14).  God cares even about some of the smallest details!  In the latter half of our chapter (vs. 15-23), we see God giving clear direction of His purpose and presence through the cloud.

Regarding application…Living by the Cloud.  Vs. 17, “Whenever the cloud lifted from above the tent, the Israelites set out; wherever the cloud settled, the Israelites encamped.”  How interesting that we use this terminology when it comes to the way we live our life on the internet.  The internet guides many people’s lives as it the source for information, studying, living and entertaining.  Yet, just as the Israelites lives were dictated by the cloud (God), our lives must be obedient to God’s direction too.  I’ve often thought what a privilege the Israelites had to have the physical manifestation of God.  Yet, we have something far more special through the promised Holy Spirit in our lives!

Numbers 3

Vs. 1, “This is the account of the family of Aaron and Moses at the time the Lord spoke to Moses at Mount Sinai.”  In the next two chapters, we are given insight to the Levites and why they were not counted into the military census in our previous chapters.  The LORD would use the Levite firstborn males as a satisfactory fulfillment of requiring all firstborn males to be sacrificed; this prevented all the Israelites from having to sacrifice their firstborn males sons not only physically but also devoting a lifelong service to God (vs. 11-13).  The Levite tribe would take upon this task.  Their were three sons of Levi; Gershon, Kohath, and Merari.  Each tribe was given different responsibilities to the caretaking of the tabernacle (vs. 21-37).  The Lord in his organized and exact ways goes into detail about how each male firstborn from the other tribes is to account for the number of Levites (vs. 40-43).  But the total firstborn from the tribes vs. the number of Levites exceeds by 273.  So, God ensures that any excess be redeemed by five shekels apiece (vs. 44-51).

Regarding application…God Redeems.  Vs. 51, “Moses gave the redemption money to Aaron and his sons, as he was commanded by the word of the Lord.”  I realize this is not an easy chapter to understand.  But this application to our lives is huge!  We can look back to Passover  (Exodus 13) as God’s process of redeeming us and than requiring a right sacrifice.  Though the Egyptians lost their firstborn, the Israelites did not because of the lamb’s blood.  Yet, there needed still needed to be sacrifice.  It’s not coincidence that on Passover week, Jesus was sacrificed as a payment for our sins.  God is redeeming us.  Though He no longer requires us to set aside a family member for service, we are to follow the example of Jesus.  The more we live a life of service for God, the more we can be a reminder to a lost world that God redeems.

Leviticus 23

Vs. 2, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘These are my appointed festivals, the appointed festivals of the Lord, which you are to proclaim as sacred assemblies.”  These were special times that the Israelites were to observe, remember and worship the LORD.  These festivals were designated times that God had given them.  The weekly Sabbath and seven more important days (sacred assemblies) were designated over the year.  Sabbath (vs. 3) was not an annual feast, but was that day that the LORD would give them a weekly rest.  In addition, we also remember Passover (vs. 5) in which they recall their deliverance from Egypt.  Passover was immediately followed by the festival of Unleavened Bread which reminded them of their hasty departure out of Egypt (vs. 6-8).  The waving of the sheaf of barely(vs. 9-14), was done on the day after the Sabbath of Unleavened Bread.  It was a way to give the firstfruits acknowledgement of the harvest from the LORD.  Fifty days later, they celebrated Pentecost/Feast of weeks (vs. 15-22) which was the period of the harvest from barley to wheat.  It was a feast surrounded with joy and thanksgiving.  We then come to the sacred seventh month for Israel.  The first acknowledgement was the festival of Trumpets/Rosh Hashanah (vs. 23-25) in which is celebrated today as the Jewish New Years.  The Day of Atonement (vs. 26-32), was discussed in detail previously (Leviticus 16) and was certainly a very special day of forgiveness of sins.  And lastly, we come to the Festival of Tabernacles (vs. 33-44).  Tabernacles/Booths is to remind Israel how the LORD helped them travel through the desert to the Promised Land.

Regarding application…Don’t Forget.  We are an absent-minded people.  Each of these festivals and special days were all about helping the Israelites remember God’s faithfulness.  Perhaps that is why Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas are still so dear to us in our times.  They all challenge us not to forget the many blessings and gifts God has bestowed upon us.  I think that is why the value of church retreats are so enriching to our souls.  We need a break from the normalcy of life and a time to get back on track for the Lord.  Take time to make sure you can go to those church retreats.  And in the meantime, allow the Word of the Lord to work in your heart as you turned to Him today!

Exodus 23

Vs. 1, “Do not spread false reports. Do not help a guilty person by being a malicious witness.”  It was very important to have a just system when it came to the law (vs. 1-9).  God is just and demands that we not treat each other unfairly.  Sadly, we don’t always treat each other the way we should.  We should also marvel at the system God instituted to take care of the poor and ensure everyone get rest (vs. 10-12).  The three annual festivals (vs. 14-19) are a reminder of how important community is.  Festival of the Unleavened Bread was Passover.  The Festival of Harvest was Pentecost.  Festival of Ingathering is right after the Day of Atonement and is known as the Feast of Tabernacles/booth.  In the latter half of our chapter, we get a glimpse and preview of what is to come as Israel looks to the possession of the Promised Land (vs. 20-33).  This chapter ends this section of what we have called the Book of the Covenant.  The angel mentioned in this section helped throughout the journey thus far and will help them conquer the land.  Some scholars believe it is the preincarnate Christ.

Regarding application…Peer Pressure.  Vs. 2, “Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong. When you give testimony in a lawsuit, do not pervert justice by siding with the crowd.”  The context exhorts a witness not being negatively pressured by the crowd to give false testimony.  There is always going to be the pressure to conform to the pattern of the world (Romans 12:2).  Yet, the LORD has a different expectation for His people.  We are not to follow the crowd if they are doing wrong.  Don’t go by what feels right, go by what is right.  The world pressures many to sexual promiscuity at a young age and that only increases with cheating and adultery as we get older.  Just because everyone supposedly does things doesn’t mean we should too.  Question: What pressures are you dealing with in your life?  Bring that to the Lord and pray that you would respond with a right heart!