Luke 11

Vs. 1, “One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”  What an encouraging sign to see the disciples wanting to grow!  Jesus uses this request to teach them about prayer (vs. 1-13).  If we give to a neighbor in need or a child who is hungry, how much more will God the Father give to us?  We begin to see more tension rising up against Jesus from the Pharisees and teachers of the law as the rest of our chapter unfolds.  After exorcising a demon from a mute man, Jesus is accused of being Beelzebub (name for Satan).  However, Jesus aptly points out that He fixes what Satan tries to destroy.  The vivid example of a demon who returns with seven more (vs. 24-26) is a stark reminder of how important a response is when God intervenes in our life.  As the crowds increase, Jesus rebukes the crowd for their lack of repentance and juxtaposes them with the Queen of the South (Sheba) and the Ninevites who responded better to Solomon and Jonah (vs. 29-32).  Jesus teaches us that lamp of our life is through our eyes (vs. 33-36), so we must be careful what we allow into our lives.  And lastly, Jesus pulls no punches when it came to chastising the legalistic Pharisees and teachers of the law (vs. 37-54).  Jesus’ rebuke addresses legalism, pride, and hypocrisy that had infiltrated their hearts.

Regarding application…What Are You Looking At?  Vs. 34, “Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are good, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are bad, your body also is full of darkness.”  There is the saying, “You are what you eat.”  Likewise, what we look at and focus on is going to affect the way we live this life.  If we are looking at beauty, accomplishments, and money this will often steer us the wrong way.  When I was 16 years old, I was more than happy to drive an old junky car.  But as the years progressed, I began looking at what everyone else was driving.  Eventually, I bought a brand new Mazda 3 and loved driving that car.  But after a year, I sold it.  I realized that having a brand new fancy car (at least for me) wasn’t what it was all cracked up to be.  A car may be a trivial thing, but there are certainly things we tend to focus on that can adversely affect our lives.  Take time today to consider what you are looking at and turn your gaze to what God is looking at!

Mark 11

Vs. 7, “When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it.”  Jesus’ ministry is now coming to an end.  In our opening scene, Jesus is getting ready for the triumphal entry in Jerusalem (vs. 1-11).  We see another example of Jesus’ omniscience as he directs the disciples to go and retrieve a colt.  In the Gospel of Matthew, he records a colt and a donkey (Matthew 21).   Jesus rode in on a donkey as prophesied by the prophet Zechariah (Zechariah 9:9).  It’s important to note that the donkey was in fact an animal that was very appropriate for a king to ride on (I Kings 1:33).  The people initially welcomed and praised Jesus as many thought He was coming to help overthrow the current Roman regime.  However, this triumph of Jesus would not be with pageantry and festivities, but it would be shown on the cross.  The next morning, Jesus would reenter Jerusalem (He was staying in Bethany during the night) and come to clear the temple (vs. 12-19).  There are many factors involved in understanding this, but it’s important to note that the temple and OT practices would soon be obsolete after the Roman destruction in 70 A.D.  There was much corruption in the temple sacrifices and selling of the animals.  There was also the impediment of preventing Gentiles from being able to worship because of all the commotion (vs. 17).  The cursing of the fig tree (vs. 12-14; 20-25) illustrates not only the nation Israel, but the lack of spiritual fruit from the temple worship.  And lastly, we se another scene of the chief priests approaching Jesus to corner Him into blasphemy (vs. 27-33).  Jesus masterfully turns their question with His own question that dumbfounds them.

Regarding application…Faith in God?  Vs. 22, “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered.”  It’s important to see the context of Jesus’ example of having faith in God: prayer (vs. 23-25).  The Jews epitome of prayer was a location: the temple.  That would soon be destroyed.  But, faith in God is not in a tangible object.  Having faith in God is shown in our dependence upon Him through our prayers.  For many Christians, we eagerly claim that we have faith in God.  But a good litmus test for faith in God is the heart for prayer and doing it.  The more we pray, the more we will be able to confidently do the seemingly impossible.  The more we pray, we will be able to love and forgive others (vs. 25).  The more we pray, our faith in God will be a positive example for the world that needs to know Jesus!  Question: Do you have faith in God?

Matthew 6

Vs. 33, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”  You may recall from our previous chapter where we addressed this idea of righteousness.  Jesus now goes on to expand on some examples how the Pharisees and teachers of the law loved to display their so-called righteousness.  Giving to the poor, prayer and fasting all were things that were good.  But many of the Jews wanted the praises of men and to flaunt their righteous deeds.  Don’t misunderstand, Jesus exhorted us to let others see our good deeds (Matthew 5:16), but the difference maker is that by seeing such deeds; they praise God rather than us.  Here we also see Jesus give us the model of prayer (vs. 5-15) in the Lord’s Prayer.  It’s important that we remember it is a model of prayer.  We acknowledge God our Father (vs. 9), we declare His will (vs. 10), we ask for provision and depend on Him (vs. 11), we ask for forgiveness and give out forgiveness (vs. 12), and acknowledge the spiritual warfare around us (vs. 13).  All of this certainly is expounded upon with our own words and heart.  Simply praying this verbatim each day would not be an appropriate prayer if that were all it was.  Fasting (vs. 16-18) is also mentioned here, though there was only one required day of fasting (Day of Atonement).  Certainly, fasting is depending on God and often comes with a particular purpose (prayer, worship, personal reasons to draw closer to God, etc.).  The latter half of our chapter (vs. 19-34), Jesus goes on to share about how can properly deal with our personal daily concerns (wealth, treasures, money, possessions) and still live righteous.  In Jesus’ day, much like today, wealth was a sign of blessings from God.  Bear in mind, Matthew the writer of this Gospel was a corrupt tax collector who fell into the trap of loving money (vs. 24).  Certainly, with all our material concerns can bring worry into our lives (vs. 25-34).  If God can provide for the birds of the air and lilies of the valley, how much more can He provide of you?  We will always have reasons to worry, but we also have reasons to put our faith in the Lord!

Regarding application…What Do You Treasure?  Vs. 21, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  Question: What do we treasure?  For the Pharisees and teachers of the law, they treasured the praises of others and the value of their possessions.  If you stop and think about it, life hasn’t changed too much.  No matter what age or generation you come from, it seems our parents always wanted us to achieve the very best.  They wanted good grades, good future colleges/universities, good careers for us all; all with the intention so they wouldn’t need to worry about us.  We haven’t changed.  We have fallen into the same trap.  Our achievements and the possessions we have do not dictate our value before God.  Question: What do you treasure in this life?  Don’t let the words of our Lord and Savior bounce off your heart today.

James 5

Vs. 8, “You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lords coming is near.”  A timely reminder as we remember Jesus’ first coming and look forward to His second coming.  We are a consumer society and we are exhorted not to treasure the wealth that the world offers (vs. 1-6).  Wealth itself is not a sin, but its when we put it before God or acquire it an unethical way (vs. 4).  We are then reminded to be patient through the trials and suffering of our lives (vs. 7-12).  Just as a farmer must exercise patience to await a fruitful crop, we too must remember things don’t grow overnight.  We are to remember the prophets and Godly people who came before us (vs. 10-11).  Question: What then shall we do when we face trials of many kinds?  We must pray (vs. 13-20).  While we can use our tongues for evil (James 3), we are now exhorted to use it for the highest purpose.  Prayer is so powerful that it can heal (vs. 13-15, it can reconcile (vs. 16), and it can cover over sins (vs. 20).

Regarding application…Power or Prayer.  Vs. 16, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”  Prayer is one of those things that we know is important, yet many of us fail to exercise this part of our life.  Many of those in our nations gave prayers to the Newton elementary tragedy in Connecticut.  We pray because we realize that there is only one source we can turn to in our darkest times.  Prayer is the compass for our life.  It recalibrates our hearts and minds so that we can remember the bigger picture of life.  Let us be people who live righteous and powerful prayer lives!

Exodus 1

Vs. 8, “Then a new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing, came to power in Egypt.”  Exodus continues the story of God’s people.  You may recall, the book of Genesis gave us the understanding of God’s covenants (promises) that started with Abraham (Genesis 12:1-2).  Before Israel/Jacob went down to Egypt, God reassured him at Beersheba (Genesis 46) that He would bring them back out of Egypt.  Our first chapter here in Exodus chronicles this promise.  Even though God was faithful in promising blessings of multiplying His people, they were under extreme duress (vs. 11-14).  The new King of Egypt was so frustrated, that he ordered the mid-wives to kill all the Hebrew boys (vs. 16).  Fortunately, God’s providence would keep them from obeying this order (vs. 17-20).  God was and is always in control.

Regarding application…Godly Fear.  Vs. 17, “The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live.”  Question: Who do we obey?  The laws of this world or the law of God?  What a wonderful example of two women who chose to outright disobey the orders of madman.  While we certainly have a responsibility to be good civic examples, if there is a direct order that would go against the Lord, we see what the outcome should be.  Though I am not an expert in law, there is punishment for being an accomplice to murder or even corroborating with one.  It goes back to realizing that we must examine who we ultimately respect and fear in this life.  Remember to have a Godly fear in how we conduct ourselves.

 

II Thessalonians 3

Vs. 2, “And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil people, for not everyone has faith.”  As Paul concludes his letter to the Thessalonians, I really appreciate how he is humble in asking for prayers too (vs. 1-2).  He reminds us that there is danger from the evil one, yet we can find protection in the Lord!  We then are given one last big exhortation to the body of Christ: watch out for idleness (vs. 6-18)!  Question: What was going on?  Because the Thessalonians were being taught false doctrines about Jesus’ coming, many of them had given up working.  They were waiting for the Lord’s return and living off the generosity of others.  This extra time on their hands also contributed towards other things: more time to gossip, more time to get in trouble, more time to just be a disruption.  Paul makes sure that we understand how important it is to respond the right way to such people.  Also, while Paul had the right to receive support from the Thessalonians (vs. 7-10), he chose to forgo it for their own sake.  In the end, we should deal wisely with our interactions with others in the church (vs. 14-15)

Regarding application…Don’t be Lazy.  Vs. 11, “We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies.”  I think we have all experienced this.  We have a big clean-up day at church.  Some people are working hard, while others are there, but kind of goofing around.  It can frustrate the ones working hard, but Paul encourages them to not tire in doing good (vs. 13).  As for the supposedly busy, Paul warns us not to associate with them.  Perhaps you know the adage, “Birds of the same feather flock together.”  Let’s be people who have a good work ethic, not for bragging purposes, but simply because it pleases the Lord!  He know our hearts and let’s also show it through our actions!

I Thessalonians 3

Vs. 4, “In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know.”  Paul, Silas and Timothy were forced out by opposition to leave Thessalonica earlier than they had wanted.  The persecution was quite strong (so much so that Paul knew it was from Satan himself (vs. 5), but Paul did not want to leave them on their own just yet.  So he sent Timothy back to encourage and strengthen them (vs. 2).  Thankfully, Timothy brought wonderful news that they were able to persevere amidst all the challenges (vs. 6-9).  The latter half of our chapter gives us insight in Paul’s genuine love for the church in Thessalonica.  Question: How do we know this?  Because Paul prayed: he prayed for their spiritual growth (vs. 10), their love for each other would grow (vs. 12) and their lives to be holy for God (vs. 13).

Regarding application…Importance of Prayer.  Vs. 10, “Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.”  Night and day, this was an example of Paul’s heart for those whom he loved.  Question: What is prayer?  Holman’s Bible Dictionary: dialogue between God and people.  Prayer must come from a genuine heart.  Jesus would address issues of prayer that was for praises of men (Matthew 6:5-6).  Even though God knows what we need, we are still asked to pray!  Question: How is your prayer life?  For many years, I had taken prayer for granted.  I use to find excuses.  I had this notion in my mind that I was not worthy enough to have the privilege to come before the Lord.  But, I realized my folly.  Then it was about not having the time to devote to it.  But, God convicted me through the Holy Spirit that I was just making up excuses.  Brothers & sisters, we are called to pray!  Spend time just talking with God.  The more you do, the more you will have insight to His heart!

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.

Malachi 1

Vs. 1, “An oracle: The word of the Lord to Israel through Malachi.”  Malachi opens up with some rhetorical questions regarding the LORD’s love for Jacob and his hatred towards Esau (vs. 2-5).  Basically, they had forgotten God’s grace showered upon them (vs. 2).   This idea of hate is not stemming from evil, rather it shows the just actions of our Heavenly Father.  Israel should have known better their standing with the LORD.  Their sinful ways (most notably, the priests) led to a response that completely brought shame.  They were withholding their best animals and sacrificing blemished offerings (vs. 8) (Leviticus 22:19).  To make matters worse, they would not have done such a thing for their human governor, yet they were doing this to the LORD!  They had forgotten through their actions (at least) that God was the numero uno (vs. 11-14).

Regarding application…Second Best.  Vs. 13b, “…When you bring injured, crippled or diseased animals and offer them as sacrifices, should I accept them from your hands?” says the Lord.”  Before we are quick to judge the priests of Malachi’s time, I wonder how many times we have given God our second best.  Especially these days, bills and debt seem to accumulate far more than profit.  It’s easy to quickly justify our offerings to God (both money and spiritual gifts).  I’ve seen far more commitment from Christians to their workplace or hobbies than to their church.  Brothers and sisters, God is not pleased (vs. 10).  Let us rethink and pray where our priorities are.  Serve the Lord and His church and let’s bring a sacrifice of praise holy and pleasing to God!  Not because we have too, but because He loves us and we love Him!

Ephesians 6

Vs. 11, “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.”  I love this picture of being a solider for the Lord!  But, we first open up our chapter with Paul continuing the instructions of how to live in our relationships with family and those whom we work for (vs. 1-9).  Certainly, Paul is not advocating slavery in the sense that we may be thinking.  In fact, Paul exhorts masters to treat slaves with respect, fear, and sincerity of heart (vs. 9).  Paul then transits and reminds the Ephesians about who are real enemy is (vs. 10-20).  For if we live in such a way that glorifies God, then will certainly be opposition.

Regarding application…Prayer Warrior.  Vs. 18, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”  Question: When should we pray?  When we eat?  When we wake?  When we sleep?  When we are at church?  Paul exhorts us to pray on all occasions!  As a warrior, that person must be strong and work out physically.  As a Christian warrior, our workout regime is in the word and prayer!  Prayer is how we stay strong!  Part of our problem is that we live life so busy, we forget to pray.  Prayers of joy, prayers of sorrow, prayers of supplication…and I love how we are to pray for each other!