Thursday, April 30, 2015

5/1/15- Christ is the Head

18And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. (Colossians 1:18)

Thoughts: The church is seen as the body and Christ is seen as the head of the body here.  The head is what makes the rest of the body move, and is generally seen as the essential part of a human.  Hearts, lungs, limbs may be transplanted or replaced but a full head has never been transplanted.
    But more than just the bodily image, Jesus is the head in the sense that He is the first of the New Testament church.  He is the firstborn from the dead.  He is the first one through the tunnel, leading through death into life.
    He also is the supreme head.  He is overall- the top of the ladder- the boss.  It is the power to conquer death that makes Him supreme.  He is over the supreme court.  He is the ultimate judge of life as He has the power to give life to the dead. He is King of kings and Lord of lords as well as judge of judges.  

Prayer: Lord, help me to listen to you as my head.  Give me a heart to follow in your ways.  

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

4/30/15- Jesus as the image of God

15The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.  (Colossians 1:15-16)

Thoughts: This is a statement of faith- Jesus is the image of God.  If you want to know what God is like- look at Jesus.  The image of God is the image of Christ- who was before all creation.  All things are created in him and for him.  Her is not before all creation just in terms of time- but before all creation in terms of supremacy.  It is the supremacy as the creator that is the point.  People misunderstand this verse if they think Jesus is only number one among a long line of created beings.  All that we see or do not see; all powers; all were created through and for Him.  This does not degrade His godhead- but elevates and praises it. 

Prayer: Lord you are worthy of all I am as my King and Lord.  

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

4/29/15- A Celebration Introduction

3We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people— 5the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel 6that has come to you. In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace. 7You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant,c who is a faithful minister of Christ on ourdbehalf, 8and who also told us of your love in the Spirit. (Colossians 1)

Thoughts: Paul usually begins with thankfulness, grace and peace.  Paul is excited that the people of Colossae are keeping their faith and loving the people of the church.  This faith and love come from hope.  These three abide (1 Corinthians 13:13)- they last.  He is celebrating their faith and love that has its roots in heaven.  But there is also hope now- it is bearing fruit in this life and it is spreading.  The gospel is still spreading today- and that keeps us from losing heart in this life.  So we have hope in the life to come, and we see God's good news spread here too.  Epaphras is seen elsewhere as someone who does not abandon the faith but is called a "faithful servant" (Philemon 1:23; Col. 4:12).  We should imitate the faith, hope and love of the Colossians.  

Prayer: Lord, help me to keep the faith and love today- and to always have hope and not give up. 

Monday, April 27, 2015

4/28/15- Holy and faithful

1Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
2To God’s holy people in Colossae, the faithful brothers and sistersa in Christ:
Grace and peace to you from God our Father. (Colossians 1:1,2)

Thoughts: For the next few weeks we'll be looking at Colossians.  Colossians is a great book about faith, love, and unity.  In our world where there is disregard of human life and property this is a great and timely book.
     Paul speaks with the authority of an apostle.  He was made an apostle not by his own doings, but by God's will.  He had the approbation of the other disciples in this.  Paul was writing with his friend and disciple, Timothy.
     He was writing to the saints- the holy ones in Colossae.  They are made holy as they are called by God to be holy.  We are not holy because we are good on our own.  We are made holy by the grace of God that calls us to be different and holy.  We are called to be faithful in our holiness as brothers and sisters in Christ.  Holiness and faithfulness go together.  Faithfulness without holiness means little.  But holiness without faithfulness also means losing holiness.
    In response to the holiness and faithfulness Paul offers grace and peace.  

Prayer: Lord give me grace and peace and enable me to be holy and faithful to you.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

4-27-15- Age of Accountability

41Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. 42When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. 43After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. 44Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. 45When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. 46After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.47Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”
49“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”f50But they did not understand what he was saying to them. (Luke 2)

Thoughts: There is not much in the canonical Bible about Jesus as a boy.  There are extra-canonical texts that add tremendous and unbelievable stories to the narrative of the life of Christ.  Traditionally, this has been seen as Jesus coming of age and recognizing his calling as a boy of twelve.  So around 10-14 years young people confirm their baptism vows or profess their faith for the first time. This has been called "the age of accountability."  This is the age that we are responsible and made aware of our own relationship to our God (instead of simply relying on our parents' faith).  It is important to recognize that there is a time when we recognize we should be in our Father's house.  It is important to recognize that the place of worship is our home- and a taste of our ultimate home in heaven.   

Prayer: Help me, Lord, to always want to come home to you- in your house of worship.  

Saturday, April 25, 2015

4/26/15- Not too Young

6“Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.”
7But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. 8Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.
9Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth. 10See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.” (Jeremiah 1)

Thoughts: At our church tomorrow is youth Sunday.  Sometimes people will listen to the young more than they will anyone else.  The YMCA started (1844) as "The Young Men's Christian Association" and was a way for  young men to lead the church in terms of missions around the world and mission to the poor in the area.  Instead of getting into trouble in taverns and prostitution, the young men were encouraged to take part in Bible study and prayer.  For sixty years, this group along with others changed the world for better.  Some times the young need to rise up and break through the scar tissue of old ideas.  Tradition after tradition can hide the living word of God- like old varnish on a table.  The young are called not to bring in a new way- but to go back with energy to the eternal truths that last from generation to generation.  This is what Jeremiah did - and what the Young MCA group did too.  

Prayer: Help, me, Lord to do your will and to listen to the young.  

Friday, April 24, 2015

4/25/15- Presbyterian Frogs

15He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.” (Mark 16)

Thoughts: I have always thought it ironic that some think progressive means not doing miracles.  To me that seems a bit regressive.  Progress has always had a positive connotation, but if people say, "No, no, no we can't do miracles here"  then it seems they are putting their hands over their ears.
    Then on the other hand are passages like this one.  Some just handle it by saying it was a later text added to Mark.  But it really is a part of our current Bible- and our current canon. Some handle it by saying it is superstitious-- written in times before we had modern medicine and see things from a materialistic point of view.  When I ministered in western North Carolina, each year someone would be bitten by a rattlesnake in a snake handling church, and it would be blasted and ridiculed all over the news.   The other day my dog was barking near my grandaughter.  My wife thought there was a snake and called me to go "handle" the situation.  When I got there it was just a frog- and the frog was faking deadness- playing opossom. I moved it away from the dog and it hopped off.  I thought to myself about this passage.  We have watered down the power of God so much these days- almost so that handling snakes is seen as handling frogs.
     Really what this passage is saying is that we can be bold.  We do not need to fear those who would persecute us (making us drink poison) or even the dangers that we face as we go to share the gospel.  I still have missionary friends that talk excitedly about how they have seen God work in miraculous ways as they go to share the good news of Christ.  Those who are bold enough to share the good news of Christ will be blessed and see God's hand work in unusual and miraculous ways. 

Prayer: Lord, keep me from denying your power.  Help me to not test you but to be bold in you as I speak to others of your love and reality. 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

4-24-14- What About the Other Guy?

20Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) 21When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”
22Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.”23Because of this, the rumor spread among the believers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?” (John 21)

Thoughts: We are sometimes too curious.  The lesson here is not what will happen to the apostle John.  Jesus does care for John.  He was the only apostle to not die in martyrdom, though he was in exile.  The real lesson is we should focus more on our responsibility to our Lord.  We are not called to judge one another, or worry about another's end.  Jesus reminded Peter- his responsibility is to follow Him- no matter what.  

Prayer: Lord, forgive me when I take my eyes off you by looking to others.  Help me instead to follow you with full focus.  

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

4/23/15- Jesus' belief in eternal life

26Now about the dead rising—have you not read in the Book of Moses, in the account of the burning bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’d ? 27He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You are badly mistaken!” (Mark 12)

Thoughts: Jesus took the side of the Pharisees against the Saducees here.  The Saducees are like the skeptical Christians who do not believe in miracles or the power of God in daily life.  Jesus often debated with the Pharisees.  He called them "whitewashed walls" and "a brood of vipers."  He criticized them for being showy in their religion and for being legalistic to the point that the law lost its beauty (especially he criticized how they restricted the Sabbath).  Yet here he agreed that God is God of the living and not the dead alone.  It is interesting that Jesus did not condemn the Saducees but only disagreed with them.  They missed the power of God- which saddened Jesus (vs. 25).  God is still the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and they still worship Him.  Jesus illustrated this even more in his parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Lk. 16).  The poor man was taken to Abraham's side.  The transfiguration also illustrated the living of Moses and Elijah.  It is clear that Jesus taught and believed that those who believed could live on.  

Prayer: Lord, help me  believe and trust in your hope and life. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

4-22-15 The Resurrection and Reign

29“Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. 30But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. 31Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. 32God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. (Acts 2:29-32)

Thoughts: Peter's great sermon was a linking of Jesus to David. He saw Jesus as the permanent king on the throne.  Peter believes that David prophesied the resurrection of Jesus, his descendant. The resurrection of Jesus was the fulfillment of the promise of David that he would always have a descendant on the throne. God the Father did not abandon the Messiah.  God the Father did not abandon His promises to David.  The resurrection is a sign of the fulfillment of a promise of everlasting life everlasting reign.  God is reliable and the source of life. He is worthy of our trust and hope. 

Prayer: Lord, thank you that as you did not abandon Jesus to decay you will not abandon us.  

Monday, April 20, 2015

4-21-15 Faith and Faithfulness

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. 18Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!” (John 21)

The passage below illustrates Peter's faith and Christ's call upon that faith

Luke 9:20“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Peter answered, “God’s Messiah. 
21Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone. 22And he said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”

23Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. 25What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? 26Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

Thoughts: Those who have faith are called to be faithful.  Peter in Luke 9 confessed Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God,  Jesus' response is to say those who follow Him must lose their lives- and take up their cross and follow Him.  After the resurrection, when Peter confessed his love for Christ and a promise to feed the sheep, Jesus warned him that he would die for his faith.  When Christ bids us come- He bids us come and die.  Strong tradition says that Peter died at the hands of Emperor Nero in the circus maximus- what is now St. Peter's Square.  Tradition also says Peter asked to be crucified upside down because he felt he was not worthy to be crucified like his Lord.  The great thing is that if we believe we are raised, our death, which is inevitable is secondary.
    This also is a lesson about the ministry..  Christian ministry is not a call to make a living.  It is a call to give of yourself fully- all in.  Too many today want to make a living from doing the Lord's work and that will not work.  Going into ministry is hard.  Being crucified is not easy- and Peter, the leading minister was.  Those who enter the ministry should expect blessings- great blessings- but not in this world (as I often say the benefits are "out of this world").  Those who are not willing to come and die should never enter it. The ministry fails when people just try to keep their jobs and do not give their lives.  There are other important callings in life.  But this passage illustrates the price that is paid for those who seek to "feed [His] sheep."

Prayer: Help me, Lord to make the good confession and to stick to that confession in death and in life. 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

4-20-15 Doubt and Death Did not Stop Them

9When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene,out of whom he had driven seven demons. 10She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping. 11When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it.
12Afterward Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country.13These returned and reported it to the rest; but they did not believe them either.
14Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.

Thoughts: This passage was full of those who would not believe their eyes about Jesus.  There are always doubters and doubt in any church.  But we do not need to wallow in it.   Rather we should let the resurrection of Jesus give us the power we need to make a difference in life and in death.  

Prayer: Do not let my doubts or the doubts of others keep me from believing in you.  

Saturday, April 18, 2015

4/19/15- To Know the Power

 10I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:10,11)

Paul wanted to know the power of the resurrection of Christ.  It is this power that changes us from a dead, zombie-like existence to a living one.   It is this power that makes us lively- and wanted to share good news to the whole world.  As we live in that power, we become transformed more and more by it until we reach heaven itself.  

Prayer: Transform me by your resurrection power.  

Friday, April 17, 2015

4/18/15- The Resurrection and Fellowship

33They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.  (Luke 24) 

1When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tonguesa as the Spirit enabled them.
5Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. 7Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? 9Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,b 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11(both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” (Acts 2)

Thoughts: When the arrest of Jesus happened, the disciples scattered.  Peter and John tried to follow, but then Peter denied knowing Jesus three times- and then went out into the night.  John managed to stay at the foot of the cross with some of the women followers.  They were gathered later in the upper room with the door locked- but even then, Thomas was out.  It was only after Jesus rose that they were brought together with a purpose.  The eleven were together when the women brought them the news of the resurrection.   The Spirit works best when the believers are together.  Pentecost came when they were "all together in one place."  When the Spirit came, it brought people together by enabling them to understand the same message in different languages.  I have often seen images of the UN assembly with different headphones and interpreters- bringing people together in their understanding.  Google translater does a similar thing.  The Resurrection and the Spirit represent the power of God over death and the power of God to help us really live.  Both events bring people together. 
There is an illusion and a false teaching that says that religion only divides.  The faith may be divisive.  Jesus even said that the faith can divide son and daughter from parents- when one has faith and another does not.  Even churches can divide and bicker.  But the ideal of God is that the church be alive and united.  Without the resurrection- there would be no alive or gathered church.  Without the Spirit there would be no alive or gathered church either.

Prayer: Lord, may our faith in you, the living Lord, and the power of the resurrection and Spirit give us life and keep us united in you.  

Thursday, April 16, 2015

4/17/15- The Resurrection, Prayer and Forgiveness

15When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
16Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
17The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” (John 21)

Thoughts: The Resurrection also means that Christ calls out to us to answer Him.  He is alive and listens to us- but he also asks us, as He asked Simon, "Do you love me... do you love me more?"   Simon's answer should also be ours- "Lord you know that I love you."  Simon was asked three times responding to his three denials of Christ before His crucifixion.  The resurrection, see, also means that when Christ says you are forgiven then you really are.  Our sins died with Him and forgiveness lives with Him.  

Prayer: Lord, may my love for your grow and be alive as you are alive to me.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

4/16/15- Luke's record of the Great Commission

Luke's great commission- in his gospel:

45Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48You are witnesses of these things. 49I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24)

Thoughts: There are four parts to this great commission found in Luke. 
1) The Gospel message- Jesus suffered, died, and rose on the third day.
     Just going and doing mission without the basis for that mission is not enough.
      Jesus was really human- suffering and dying; He was really God- rising from the dead; It was really real- happened in history- in time- three days. 

2) The Gospel applies- repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all.
      This makes a difference in that we can have forgiveness.  Forgiveness means an escape from our shame and guilt but also a restoration of relationship and innocense.      

3) The Gospel reminder- you are witnesses.
       We share this because we have, as John said, experienced it with our eyes and touched it with our hands.  It is because of this experience that the love of Christ compels us to witness. 

4) The Gospel power- the promise of power from on high- the Holy Spirit
       We do not speak on our own- the Spirit reminds us (Jn. 16); We do not go with our own direction- the Spirit leads us; We forget much- but the Spirit reminds us.  We are not motivated on our own- otherwise we common folk would be afraid.
       The Gospel is worth sharing.  Luke reminds us the content, the context and the call. 

Prayer: Lord, remind me of my need and call to go.