Tuesday, November 25, 2008


“And He was amazed at their unbelief.” (Mark 6:6 CSB)

Jesus and His disciples walked from Capernaum to Nazareth, His hometown. They climbed the rocky path through fragrant rosemary, and on through the olive grove, then up the hill to the village on top. He was home. Or was He?

Jesus saw old friends, some He had grown up with and had made annual trips to Jerusalem with as a boy. His mother was there, and His brothers and sisters. The town elders were there, and undoubtedly there were greetings all around. They had been hearing interesting stories about Him, though nothing much had changed for them in Nazareth. The Sabbath came, and He and His disciples went to the synagogue where He opened the Scriptures and taught. The men were amazed at His wisdom, understanding, and knowledge, but just as much, they were offended. Who did He think He was? Wasn’t this the carpenter’s son? We know His mother and brothers and sisters. Who does He think He is?

Luke says that they were even angry enough to kill Him when they heard Him on one Sabbath announce that the Scripture was fulfilled in Him and when He mentioned the Gentiles in the synagogue. They grabbed Him and intended to throw Him off a cliff, but He escaped their grasp.

Jesus left Nazareth for the last time, bewildered by their unbelief. The word Mark uses is “amazed,” literally meaning, “He stood outside Himself.”

Not much amazed Jesus. The only two things that amazed Him was the faith of a Roman centurion and the lack of faith of His hometown people in Nazareth. How sad that they had such opportunity but, because of the hold their culture and traditions had on them, could not find their way to faith and could not see the reality that was before them. How sad that even today, we see the same thing.

Lord, We thank You for opening our eyes so we could see and respond in faith. We pray for those who have not yet seen Your light, that they, too, may open their eyes and enter the kingdom with us. Amen

Monday, November 24, 2008

Praise Power

“May the Lord be praised! Day after day He bears our burdens; God is our salvation.” “God, You are awe-inspiring in Your sanctuaries. The God of Israel gives power and strength to His people. May God be praised.” (Psalm 68:19, 35 CSB)

Praise is a uniquely human expression of admiration, adoration, adulation toward one for whom there is appreciation and affection. People are created with the capacity for praise. The fact of this capability actually argues for the existence of God and the truth of creation.

Christians are people who choose to give the full praise of their hearts to God and God alone. We praise Him because of who He is and what He is like. He is a God of grace and compassion. He is also a God who instructs and disciplines as expressions of His love. He is the all-powerful Creator of the universe. He is, therefore, worthy of our praise.

We also praise God because of what He does. We know Him as the God who has saved us from the penalty of our sins. He has rescued us from the eternity of hell by His gracious act on the cross and by the power of His resurrection, so that we might have eternity with Him and with all His people and creation in heaven. He has set us free from the domination of sin now so that we can live a life of joy and peace on this earth

When we praise our Lord, this action has a way of unleashing the power of the Holy Spirit in us. It is not our power but God’s power, but we nevertheless find it energizing. It gives us a zest for life and helps us look beyond the temporal.

Lord, We praise You for who You are, because of who we are. Amen.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Patches and Wineskins

“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. Otherwise, the new patch pulls away from the old cloth, and a worse tear is made. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost as well as the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.” (Mark 2:21-22 CSB)

A common view of this text is that Jesus was slamming the tradition of fasting. Fasting was, in fact, the context for these statements, but Jesus was not rejecting the practice of fasting. He even said that the time for fasting would come after His departure, but that since He was present, there was not a cause for fasting. What Jesus was doing was to point to the need for appropriateness in terms of tradition. We don’t observe tradition for tradition’s sake, but we observe it when it is appropriate to do so. We cannot be slaves to tradition, in other words.

We see this in the two metaphors that Jesus used. If you sew a new piece of unshrunk cloth onto an old garment, the patch will create a greater tear when it shrinks. If you put new wine into old wineskins, you will end up losing both. You have to put new wine into new wineskins.

This goes to a discussion of the importance and relevance of form in relation to content. Which is more important: the form, or the content? The answer is: both. One is dependent on the other. But if you become a slave to form, you can never have anything new; you cannot grow. If you become a slave to content, again, you will never have anything new that is also lasting. Both are required for real growth. And an important point to remember is that while the forms may need to change at times, the content does not. It is still wine that you put into the wineskins. The content is what we are looking for, but the form for holding the content, while still of the same basic material, needs to be renewed from time to time.

Lord, May the traditions we observe always serve to glorify You and never get in the way of what You want to accomplish. Amen.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Eyes of the Lord

“For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to show Himself strong for those whose hearts are completely His.” (2 Chronicles 17:9a CSB)

Shortly after Asa became king of Judah, a one-million man army showed up on his doorsteps. He was able to muster an army of 580,000, which meant he was out-numbered 2 to 1. Asa genuinely cried out to God for help, and the Lord responded by routing the Cushite army. Judah enjoyed a great victory. What followed then was a great revival as Asa led the people to remove their idols and seek only the Lord.

Fast-forward about 35 years later, following great prosperity in Judah. King Basha of Israel went to war against Asa. He began to fortify the city of Ramah to choke off all trade from the north. Asa collected the gold and silver from the treasuries of the Temple and sent them to the king of Aram to get him to attack Israel so the Israelites would release their choke-hold. The strategy worked. The Israelites ceased their fortifications of Ramah and withdrew to fight Aram. Asa then sent his men to Ramah, who then dismantled the fortifications and used the materials to fortify several of the cities in Judah.

God sent the seer Hanani with a message. The message went generally like this, “The Cushites and Libyans brought a vast army against you, and you depended on the Lord to rescue you. Now, you have foolishly depended on the king of Aram for your rescue. From here on, war will be your lot.” The message angered Asa, and he put Hanani in prison. Asa developed a disease in his feet but even then would not seek the Lord.

Why is it that, when we have no resources we tend to depend on the Lord, but when He then blesses us with resources, we tend to depend on them rather than on Him? The Lord seeks those who want to tie their lives and their futures to Him in personal faith. That is why “the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth, to show Himself strong to those whose hearts are completely His.”

Lord, May our hearts be completely Yours, whether the resources You give us are abundant or not. May our hearts be fully in tune with Your heart. Amen.