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Friday, September 30, 2011

10/1/11 The parting of water and the Presence of God

 8 Then Elijah took his mantle and rolled it up, and struck the water; the water was parted to the one side and to the other, until the two of them crossed on dry ground.
9 When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, "Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you." Elisha said, "Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit." 10 He responded, "You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not." 11 As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven. 12 Elisha kept watching and crying out, "Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!" But when he could no longer see him, he grasped his own clothes and tore them in two pieces.
13 He picked up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. 14 He took the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and struck the water, saying, "Where is the LORD, the God of Elijah?" When he had struck the water, the water was parted to the one side and to the other, and Elisha went over. (1 Kings 2:8-14)

(Elijah and the Chariot Giuseppi)
Click below for "Swing Low Sweet Chariot"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UVyBjqY3r0k&noredirect=1


Thoughts: Rivers represented borders and turning points. The parting of the waters was a symbol of an important turning point that had God in it.  When the Israelites crossed the Red Sea they had begun their journey to the promised land.  When they crossed the Jordan under Joshua they had entered into their new land.  When Elijah crossed (vs. 8) he was about to enter into the promised land (who says the afterlife was not believed in until the New Testament times).  Elisha's parting of the waters was also a sign that the prophet who at one time was the only one left, now had a successor and the story of God continued.  Is there a turning point in your life that you are crossing?  We should ask like Elisha did, "Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?" 

Prayer: In my crossing over the boundaries of life, do not leave me Lord.  I can only go if you go before me and prepare the way.  Yet, when I am in your will, may I not doubt your power and ability to make a way when there is no way. 

Thursday, September 29, 2011

9/30/11 A Lucky Shot

17 Then Micaiah answered, “I saw all Israel scattered on the hills like sheep without a shepherd, and the LORD said, ‘These people have no master. Let each one go home in peace.’” (1 Kings 22:17)

29 So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat king of Judah went up to Ramoth Gilead. 30 The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “I will enter the battle in disguise, but you wear your royal robes.” So the king of Israel disguised himself and went into battle.

34 But someone drew his bow at random and hit the king of Israel between the sections of his armor. The king told his chariot driver, “Wheel around and get me out of the fighting. I’ve been wounded.” 35 All day long the battle raged, and the king was propped up in his chariot facing the Arameans. The blood from his wound ran onto the floor of the chariot, and that evening he died. 36 As the sun was setting, a cry spread through the army: “Every man to his town. Every man to his land!”
37 So the king died and was brought to Samaria, and they buried him there. 38 They washed the chariot at a pool in Samaria (where the prostitutes bathed), and the dogs licked up his blood, as the word of the LORD had declared. ( 1 Kings 22)



Thoughts: Elijah had already prophecied that where they killed Naboth, the dogs would lick up Ahab's blood (implying a violent death at the same place Ahab had performed violence- 2 Kings 21:19).  Now another prophet reluctantly prophecies that Ahab will die in the battle to take Ramoth-Gilead.  While Aram's commanders aimed to kill Ahab, they could not.  However, a "random" arrow, just happened to hit Ahab in his chariot landing in the creases between his armor plates.  This was not just a lucky shot, but an arrow from God (Psalm 64:6-8), to put an end to Ahab's evil- (killing prophets, forcing idolatry, murdering his subjects like Naboth, etc.).  God shows His sovereignty in predicting the future through his prophets. 

Prayer: Lord, my future and my present are in your hands.  Help me to trust in you, the King of kings.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

9/29/11

     5 His wife Jezebel came to him and said, "Why are you so depressed that you will not eat?" 6 He said to her, "Because I spoke to Naboth the Jezreelite and said to him, 'Give me your vineyard for money; or else, if you prefer, I will give you another vineyard for it'; but he answered, 'I will not    give you my vineyard.'" 7 His wife Jezebel said to him, "Do you now govern Israel? Get up, eat some food, and be cheerful; I will give you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite."
     8 So she wrote letters in Ahab's name and sealed them with his seal; she sent the letters to the elders and the nobles who lived with Naboth in his city. 9 She wrote in the letters, "Proclaim a fast, and seat Naboth at the head of the assembly; 10 seat two scoundrels opposite him, and have them bring a charge against him, saying, 'You have cursed God and the king.' Then take him out, and stone him to death." 11 The men of his city, the elders and the nobles who lived in his city, did as Jezebel had sent word to them. Just as it was written in the letters that she had sent to them, 12 they proclaimed a fast and seated Naboth at the head of the assembly. 13 The two scoundrels came in and sat opposite him; and the scoundrels brought a charge against Naboth, in the presence of the people, saying, "Naboth cursed God and the king." So they took him outside the city, and stoned him to death. 14 Then they sent to Jezebel, saying, "Naboth has been stoned; he is dead."     15 As soon as Jezebel heard that Naboth had been stoned and was dead, Jezebel said to Ahab, "Go, take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, which he refused to give you for money; for Naboth is not alive, but dead." 16 As soon as Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, Ahab set out to go down to the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, to take possession of it.     17 Then the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying: 18 Go down to meet King Ahab of Israel, who rules in Samaria; he is now in the vineyard of Naboth, where he has gone to take possession. 19 You shall say to him, "Thus says the LORD: Have you killed, and also taken possession?" You shall say to him, "Thus says the LORD: In the place where dogs licked up the blood of Naboth, dogs will also lick up your blood." (1 Kings 21: 5-19)

(Naboth's Vineyard Caspar Luiken 1712)


Thoughts: Ahab was one of the richest kings in the history of Israel.  He had a large palace with a large army.  He had alliances with Judah to the south and Tyre to the north.  But it was not enough. Greed can easily destroy realationships with neighbors or even family members.  How many families split apart after the will is read?  Ahab had enough- he did not need another vineyard to survive.  He would rather have a neighbor defamed or killed than not have his greed satisfied.  This is a classic example of coveting and jealousy.  Jezebel clearly had the idea that the king could do anything to the little guy that he wanted. Elijah confronted Ahab one more time.  It is a reminder to us all to trust in God who owns everything, and that no one is insignificant in God's eyes. 

Prayer: Today, Lord, help me be content with what I have.  Instead of coveting my neighbor's stuff, help me to be generous to my neighbor. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

9/28/11 Angry at the Good Because of the Bad

17 After this the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, became ill; his illness was so severe that there was no breath left in him. 18 She then said to Elijah, "What have you against me, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance, and to cause the death of my son!" 19 But he said to her, "Give me your son." He took him from her bosom, carried him up into the upper chamber where he was lodging, and laid him on his own bed. 20 He cried out to the LORD, "O LORD my God, have you brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I am staying, by killing her son?" 21 Then he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried out to the LORD, "O LORD my God, let this child's life come into him again." 22 The LORD listened to the voice of Elijah; the life of the child came into him again, and he revived. 23 Elijah took the child, brought him down from the upper chamber into the house, and gave him to his mother; then Elijah said, "See, your son is alive." 24 So the woman said to Elijah, "Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the LORD in your mouth is truth. (1 Kings 17:17-23)

(Elijah presents the son to the widow- Louis Hersent d. 1860)


Thoughts: In her distress, the widow forgot God's blessings and even accused Elijah of coming to hurt her son. But God did not send Elijah to her to hurt her.  She had forgotten that because of Elijah she and her son were saved from the famine.  Perhaps it is because of our selfish nature that we quickly turn away from the good when bad things happen.  But it is only God and His goodness that can help us in the bad times.  Too many get angry at the good side of life because of the bad things in life.  Specifically, too many today get angry at God when bad things happen.  Anger at God keeps us from finding God as our refuge and calling out to Him in prayer. The woman here overcame her anger by listening to Elijah.  She gave him her son and he raised him by prayer.  So we are to give our situations to God, and let Him help us.  God is able to bring life and hope when there is none without Him. 

Prayer: God, give me grace and peace to overcome my anger and commit my problem and myself to you.

Monday, September 26, 2011

9/27/11

Then the word of the LORD came to him, saying, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" 10 He answered, "I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away."

11 He said, "Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by." Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. 13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" 14 He answered, "I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away." 15 Then the LORD said to him, "Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram. 16 Also you shall anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel; and you shall anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah as prophet in your place. 17 Whoever escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall kill; and whoever escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall kill. 18 Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him." (1 Kings 19:9-17)

(Elijan fed by an angel- Bol)

Thoughts: What would happen if the church shrunk to just one person?  Elijah had just one a contest with the prophets of Baal, and the people said they would follow the Lord.  A great miracle and triumph had happened, but sometimes after the mountaintop comes a steep valley.  Elijah was tired from running a very long way- (Mt. Carmel to Mt. Hebron).  He was tired, hungry, and thirsty, and alone with the powerful queen tryiing to have him hunted down and killed.  But God who had protected him from famine and drought and the prophets of Baal, was not about to abandon Elijah. He send an angel to nourish him, and He Himself encourages Elijah.  A weary Elijah did not need shock and awe (earthquake, wind, fire) but a still small voice giving him hope.  He was to anoint a new king of Aram (God is in charge of even the non-Jewish nations); He was to anoint a new king of Israel (God is the King of kings) and he is to anoint a new prophet, Elishah- a successor- so he would not have to worry about the future of the faith.
When we feel weary and alone- maybe even depressed and ready to die (1 Kgs 19:4)- yet we are faithful to Him- God will not abandon us, but will multiply our efforts to bear fruit.

Prayer: When I am weary, help me ot hear your still, small voice calling me to yourself, Lord. 

Sunday, September 25, 2011

9/26/11 Choose your God

20 So Ahab sent to all the Israelites, and assembled the prophets at Mount Carmel. 21 Elijah then came near to all the people, and said, "How long will you go limping with two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him." The people did not answer him a word. 22 Then Elijah said to the people, "I, even I only, am left a prophet of the LORD; but Baal's prophets number four hundred fifty. 23 Let two bulls be given to us; let them choose one bull for themselves, cut it in pieces, and lay it on the wood, but put no fire to it; I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood, but put no fire to it. 24 Then you call on the name of your god and I will call on the name of the LORD; the god who answers by fire is indeed God." All the people answered, "Well spoken!" 25 Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, "Choose for yourselves one bull and prepare it first, for you are many; then call on the name of your god, but put no fire to it." 26 So they took the bull that was given them, prepared it, and called on the name of Baal from morning until noon, crying, "O Baal, answer us!" But there was no voice, and no answer. They limped about the altar that they had made. 27 At noon Elijah mocked them, saying, "Cry aloud! Surely he is a god; either he is meditating, or he has wandered away, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened." 28 Then they cried aloud and, as was their custom, they cut themselves with swords and lances until the blood gushed out over them. 29 As midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice, no answer, and no response. (1 Kings 18:20-29)

(Elijah's sacrifice on Mt. Carmel William B. Hole d. 1917)


Thoughts: The question Elijah asks is the question asked of us- who do you follow?  It seemed that Baal had won the whole country over.  Elijah appeared to be the only prophet left (later he would found a school of prophets).  He felt he was the only one left in all the land though there were over 7,000 (1 Kgs. 19:18).  The prophets of Baal claimed that their god produced rain and fertility.  Elijah clearly sought to evidence to the people that the Lord (Yahweh) was the God of rain, lightning and drought.  The power of God to answer prayer is still an inspiration to worship Him. 

Prayer: Give me strength and wisdom, O Lord, to trust in your ability to asnwer my prayers.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

9/25/11- God's Care in the Recession

     1 Now Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, "As the LORD the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word." 2 The word of the LORD came to him, saying, 3 "Go from here and turn eastward, and hide yourself by the Wadi Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. 4 You shall drink from the wadi, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there." 5 So he went and did according to the word of the LORD; he went and lived by the Wadi Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. 6 The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening; and he drank from the wadi. 7 But after a while the wadi dried up, because there was no rain in the land. 
     8 Then the word of the LORD came to him, saying, 9 "Go now to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and live there; for I have commanded a widow there to feed you." 10 So he set out and went to Zarephath. When he came to the gate of the town, a widow was there gathering sticks; he called to her and said, "Bring me a little water in a vessel, so that I may drink." 11 As she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, "Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand." 12 But she said, "As the LORD your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of meal in a jar, and a little oil in a jug; I am now gathering a couple of sticks, so that I may go home and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die." 13 Elijah said to her, "Do not be afraid; go and do as you have said; but first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterwards make something for yourself and your son. 14 For thus says the LORD the God of Israel: The jar of meal will not be emptied and the jug of oil will not fail until the day that the LORD sends rain on the earth." 15 She went and did as Elijah said, so that she as well as he and her household ate for many days. 16 The jar of meal was not emptied, neither did the jug of oil fail, according to the word of the LORD that he spoke by Elijah.(1 Kings 17:1-16)

 18 The blameless spend their days under the LORD’s care, and their inheritance will endure forever. 19 In times of disaster they will not wither; in days of famine they will enjoy plenty. (Psalm 37:18,19)

Thoughts: Elijah lived in a time of drought and famine, but God miraculously provided for this one who sought only to do God's will.  Elijah was commanded to forecast the drought, and he lived as if it were going to happen- going to a water source, and the drought and famine came.  But even the safest places gave out of water, so Elijah went to a needy lady.  Amazingly he asked this lady who was living on less than social security for help.  She had nothing, and was about to give her last portion to her child and then they would die of starvation.  It is apparent that he was willing to give to the prophet, but she had nothing to give.  Yet ,even in a time of famine God looked out for the widow and fatherless.  In a time of famine God looked out for his godly servant.  Elijah, the widow, and the son looked to the Lord (not Baal or themselves) for help.  In our time of recession, it is important to remember to not be stingy.  It is important to recognize God's care in tough times. 

Prayer: In these tough times, Lord, keep me not only alive physically, but allve spiritually.  Let me see your hand providing for me and trust in you.

Friday, September 23, 2011

9/24/11 The Calling of the first king

15 Now the day before Saul came, the LORD had revealed to Samuel: 16 "Tomorrow about this time I will send to you a man from the land of Benjamin, and you shall anoint him to be ruler over my people Israel. He shall save my people from the hand of the Philistines; for I have seen the suffering of my people, because their outcry has come to me." 17 When Samuel saw Saul, the LORD told him, "Here is the man of whom I spoke to you. He it is who shall rule over my people." 18 Then Saul approached Samuel inside the gate, and said, "Tell me, please, where is the house of the seer?" 19 Samuel answered Saul, "I am the seer; go up before me to the shrine, for today you shall eat with me, and in the morning I will let you go and will tell you all that is on your mind. 20 As for your donkeys that were lost three days ago, give no further thought to them, for they have been found. And on whom is all Israel's desire fixed, if not on you and on all your ancestral house?" 21 Saul answered, "I am only a Benjaminite, from the least of the tribes of Israel, and my family is the humblest of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin. Why then have you spoken to me in this way?" (1 Samuel 9:15-21)

(Saul- Rembrandt 1655-60)


Thoughts: Samuel was the last of the judges, and the one who annointed the first two of Israel's kings (Saul and David).  Samuel began as a child who had a special relationship with God even as a boy (remember the voice calling- and his response: "speak for you servant is listening").  Samuel is called here "the seer" which is an early name for "prophet."  In this time, fast knowledge was very valuable and rare.  They could not call their relatives to ask about the donkeys on their cell, or email or tweet.  So Samuel's knowledge about the donkeys was valuable and showed God's interest in Saul.  Saul was taller than any man around, yet felt inferior so he was easily swayed by human opinion.  When God calls us to do something, we need to believe and trust in that calling and cling tightly to Him in obedience. 

Prayer: Help me, Lord, to trust in you and follow in your ways.

9/23/11- The Problem with Taxes

"These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen, and to run before his chariots; 12 and he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his courtiers. 15 He will take one-tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and his courtiers. 16 He will take your male and female slaves, and the best of your cattle and donkeys, and put them to his work. 17 He will take one-tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. 18 And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves; but the LORD will not answer you in that day." (1 Samuel 8:11-18)

[Jesus] said to them, "How is it then that David speaking by the Spirit, calls him [the messiah] 'Lord?' for he says, 'The Lord said to my Lord: 'Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet." (Matthew 22:44)

(Christ as King at the Last Judgment- Michelangelo- Sistine Chapel 1537-41)


Thoughts: Up to the time of Samuel (roughly 1375-1050 BC) the people of Israel had no centralized government.  They had no palaces, no white house, no courtroom, no library of congress, few roads, no large cities, no standing army or navy, no elections- but also no centralized taxes.  The people had been dependent on God but also dependent on their being faithful to God.  They appeared stuck in a cycle of rebellion-remonstrance-repentance-restoration, because they refused to be faithful.  Armies would invade the land every forty years or so.  They claimed God as their King, but had a hard time living like it.
    As soon as they had a king, they began having a standing army for protection, and eventually all the things listed above (or similar) that they hadn't had before.  But Samuel's warning of what the king would take would come true.  In tough times like ours, such taxes are especially hard to swallow.  But it is also true that it is hard to restrain the government from over-taxing.  Here the biblical standard for taxing is 10% (vs. 17)- similar to the tithe to the church.  To a people who had no taxes at all, 10% was a huge amount.  But such a flat tax is lower than what most pay today in America.  Jesus said "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's"(Mt. 22:21).  Within us there is a longing to be free- with no taxes.  Within us there is a longing to have God alone as King.  But the problem is we are not faithful to God and would thus leave ourselves open to punishment.  But as Israel shows (722 and 586 BC and 70 AD- both north and south were destroyed) even with a king, being unfaithful has its consequences.  The ideal that we all long for is no taxes, yet protection from God.  That is how it will be in heaven.  Calvin said that Christ is ideally our prophet, our priest and our king.  His rule is easy and His burden is light.


Prayer: My God and my King, help me to submit to your rule in my life.  Keep me from rebelling against you or those you have placed over me.  Prince of Peace, grant me the peace of knowing you are reigning even now.   

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q. 26- How does Christ execute the office of a king? A. Christ executes the office of a king in subduing us to himself, in ruling and defending us, and in restraining and conquering all his and our enemies.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

9/22/11 False Prophet

If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a sign or wonder, 2 and if the sign or wonder spoken of takes place, and the prophet says, “Let us follow other gods” (gods you have not known) “and let us worship them,” 3 you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The LORD your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul. 4 It is the LORD your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him. 5 That prophet or dreamer must be put to death for inciting rebellion against the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery. That prophet or dreamer tried to turn you from the way the LORD your God commanded you to follow. You must purge the evil from among you. (Dt. 13:1-5)

(William B. Hole- Elijah on mt. Carmel)


 17 The LORD said to me: “What they say is good. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him. 19 I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name. 20 But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, is to be put to death.” (Dt. 18:17-20)

Thoughts: The tests of a false prophet are given here.  They are given for every age, and thus also apply to us.  Here are some of the signs of a false prophet:
1) They may encourage you to worship other gods (13:2).
2) They use sorcery and occult (18)
3) They speak in the name of other gods (18:20)
Another test is whether what they say comes true or not.  If it does not, such a person is a false prophet, and should not have presumed to speak in God's name when they did not.
In contrast to the false prophet is the true prophet- Moses.  He speak and lives in holy ways.  When John the Baptist and Jesus came on the sceen- some thought John or Jesus was the prophet.  It is very important to be able to discern who is a true and false prophet these days.

Prayer: May I hear and respond to true words, following you only, Lord.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

9/20/11 Deuteronomy 10:12-22 New Testament Faith in the Old

12 And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to observe the LORD’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?
14 To the LORD your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it. 15 Yet the LORD set his affection on your ancestors and loved them, and he chose you, their descendants, above all the nations—as it is today. 16 Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer. 17 For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. 18 He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. 19 And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt. 20 Fear the LORD your God and serve him. Hold fast to him and take your oaths in his name. 21 He is the one you praise; he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes. 22 Your ancestors who went down into Egypt were seventy in all, and now the LORD your God has made you as numerous as the stars in the sky.

(Becca Hancock, an American "foreigner" working with Ugandan orphans)

Thoughts: This is a wonderful passage.  It is a passage in the Old Testament that sounds like something in the new.  It tells us that true faith is not a matter of the exterior- but a matter of the heart ("circumcise your hearts" quoted in Dt. 30:6; Jer. 4:4; sounds like "blessed are the pure in heart" or Mk 7).  Often people quote Micah 6:8- what does the Lord require of you.  But this passage came first.  What does God ask of us?  Fear, obey (twice), love Him, serve Him from the heart.  Basically love God and listen to Him (John 14:26). 
Perhaps this passage might also play into some of our attitudes toward foreigners around us.  We are to treat them with Christian love and grace.  It certainly tells us that God cares about the needy- the widow, the orphan, the foreigner who feels lost and alone.
This is a great mini-Psalm of praise.  Perhaps it will inspire your day to love God a bit more today.

Prayer: Help me, Lord to walk in your ways, to love you, to serve you with my heart and soul, to listen to you for my own good. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

8/18/11 Deuteronomy 9

1 Hear, Israel: You are now about to cross the Jordan to go in and dispossess nations greater and stronger than you, with large cities that have walls up to the sky. 2 The people are strong and tall—Anakites! You know about them and have heard it said: “Who can stand up against the Anakites?” 3 But be assured today that the LORD your God is the one who goes across ahead of you like a devouring fire. He will destroy them; he will subdue them before you. And you will drive them out and annihilate them quickly, as the LORD has promised you.
4 After the LORD your God has driven them out before you, do not say to yourself, “The LORD has brought me here to take possession of this land because of my righteousness.” No, it is on account of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is going to drive them out before you. 5 It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land; but on account of the wickedness of these nations, the LORD your God will drive them out before you, to accomplish what he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. 6 Understand, then, that it is not because of your righteousness that the LORD your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people.

(Moses- breaking the Ten Commandments in reaction to the Golden Calf 1659).


Thoughts: Three times Moses reminds the people that it is not because of their righteousness that they would be brought into the land.  Later in this same chapter, Moses reminds them of their making of a golden calf and his breaking the two stone tablets.  The people of God were not a perfect people.  Yet they stubbornly held onto their faith.  What God detested was the child sacrifice to the Moabite God Chemosh; the cuiltic fertility prostitute worship; the sorcery all were reasons the people were kicked out of the land.  When we know we are chosen as God's people, we need to make sure we are do not take pride in this, but humble ourselves before God.

Prayer:

Saturday, September 17, 2011

9/18/11 Deuteronomy 8:10-18 Do Not Forget God

 10 When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God for the good land he has given you. 11 Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. 12 Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, 13 and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 15 He led you through the vast and dreadful wilderness, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock. 16 He gave you manna to eat in the wilderness, something your ancestors had never known, to humble and test you so that in the end it might go well with you. 17 You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” 18 But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.

(Fool's Gold- Iron Pyrite)


Thoughts: We do not plan on forgetting God. But pride keeps our focus on ourselves or on the things that we do.  We forget that all the raw materials; all the time we have; all the natural talents we have; all the education we were able to have (being born in the right country and time)- are gifts from God.  When we are in need, perhaps we are more conscious of our need to call on God's help.  But when we are prosperous it is more difficult (like getting the camel through the eye of the needle).  I once knew a man who was born into a wealthy family, educated at an Ivy League school, had a great paying-but-easy-job.  He told me that he really didn't see a need for God in his life.  Glittering things on earth can distract us from what is truly valuable in eternity.

Prayer: If I forget you, do not Thou forget me. (Prayer by a British general before battle)

Friday, September 16, 2011

9/17/11 Deuteronomy 7:7-14

7 The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. 8 But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. 9 Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments. 10 But those who hate him he will repay to their face by destruction;
he will not be slow to repay to their face those who hate him. 11 Therefore, take care to follow the commands, decrees and laws I give you today. 12 If you pay attention to these laws and are careful to follow them, then the LORD your God will keep his covenant of love with you, as he swore to your ancestors. 13 He will love you and bless you and increase your numbers. He will bless the fruit of your womb, the crops of your land—your grain, new wine and olive oil—the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks in the land he swore to your ancestors to give you. 14 You will be blessed more than any other people;

(Choosing a people)


Thoughts: It is God's grace that we are loved.  It is not that we have worked hard, or are so handsome or pretty or smart that causes God to love us.  God chooses us out of His love and grace.  In gratitude to God's love and election, we are called to obey Him.  In response to our obedience comes God's blessing.  Our obedience is sandwiched and strengthened by God's grace.  The grace and love of God enables us to know Him, follow the commands, and then be blessed by Him.  Our response to God is to listen, seek, and obey Him.

Prayer: Lord, we claim your faithfulness and love.  Keep me from pride, but instead, help me to follow you. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

9/16/11 Deuteronomy 6:20-25 Purpose in the Law

20 In the future, when your son asks you, “What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the LORD our God has commanded you?” 21 tell him: “We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. 22 Before our eyes the LORD sent signs and wonders—great and terrible—on Egypt and Pharaoh and his whole household. 23 But he brought us out from there to bring us in and give us the land he promised on oath to our ancestors. 24 The LORD commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the LORD our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today. 25 And if we are careful to obey all this law before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness.”



(Moses Smashing Ten Commandments- by Rembrandt 1659)
Thoughts: It is God's grace that saves us from our oppression  It is God's grace that teaches us to live in the ways we were created to live.  It is God's grace that He desires we prosper and be kept alive. 
    Some feel that the Law is only there to repress us, to limit us, to control us, to stifle and stigmatize us.  But freedom comes when we listen to the Law.
Stop lights represent the law.  They may make us stop, but overall, they help with the safety and flow of traffic. 
    Obeying the Law also eliminates guilt.  While none obey perfectly,and all sin, yet listening to what God says prevents guilt, which causes all kinds of problems.  Some may say we should never feel guilty and they try to remove guilt by saying there is nothing to feel guilty about.  But that is a false hope. Guilt when we break God's Law is ingrained.  We cannot live for long without rules.  With any rules at all, we will break them.  Hypocrites, in a sense are those who break their own rules- which in some sense is all of us.  The person who says they are better off for they have no rules is a fool who should not be trusted. If someone really says they have no rules- so as not to be a hypocrite- can they be trusted to not lie, or to not steal, or to not take your wife when your back is turned?  If we eliminate rules, we eliminate a sense of goodness- and thus a sense of trust, integrity, and reliability.  Fear the Lord that we may prosper and live in peace. 
    Clearly God loved and saved His people, and He does so regularly.  He also saves us from ourselves by teaching us how to live that we might be guided in life about right and wrong, and into a prosperous and loving way.  Jesus said if we love him, we will do what he says (Jn. 14:26).

Prayer: Help me, O God to love  your boundaries. Keep me from straying away or actively rebelling against your way for me.



Wednesday, September 14, 2011

9/15/11

1 Remember, LORD, what has happened to us; look, and see our disgrace.
2 Our inheritance has been turned over to strangers, our homes to foreigners.
3 We have become fatherless, our mothers are widows.
4 We must buy the water we drink; our wood can be had only at a price.
5 Those who pursue us are at our heels; we are weary and find no rest.
6 We submitted to Egypt and Assyria to get enough bread.
7 Our ancestors sinned and are no more, and we bear their punishment.
8 Slaves rule over us, and there is no one to free us from their hands.
9 We get our bread at the risk of our lives because of the sword in the desert.
10 Our skin is hot as an oven, feverish from hunger.
11 Women have been violated in Zion, and virgins in the towns of Judah.
12 Princes have been hung up by their hands; elders are shown no respect.
13 Young men toil at the millstones; boys stagger under loads of wood.
14 The elders are gone from the city gate; the young men have stopped their music.
15 Joy is gone from our hearts; our dancing has turned to mourning.
16 The crown has fallen from our head. Woe to us, for we have sinned!
17 Because of this our hearts are faint, because of these things our eyes grow dim
18 for Mount Zion, which lies desolate, with jackals prowling over it.
19 You, LORD, reign forever; your throne endures from generation to generation.
20 Why do you always forget us? Why do you forsake us so long?
21 Restore us to yourself, LORD, that we may return; renew our days as of old
22 unless you have utterly rejected us and are angry with us beyond measure


(Fall of Jerusalem)

Thoughts: Here is someone who really believes God reigns- reigns forever.  He recognizes they are being punished for sin, but als cries out under its heavy penalty.  The world has turned upside down for them.  Princes are treated like slaves, and slaves like princes.  This happened in the French Revolution, the Russian Boshevik Revolution, The Chinese Revolution, The Mexican Revolution, even in some ways the American Revolution of 1776, and in a smaller sense in the American Civil War.  Royalty has lost its clout and power and the common person is lifted up. 
The cry "why do you forget us?"  Is in itself an act of faith- for there is a god who may forget.  He asks God to restore, renew, return, and remember.  So, in our troubles, we should call out to God in a similar manner. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

9/14/11 Lamentations 4

1 How the gold has lost its luster, the fine gold become dull!
The sacred gems are scattered at every street corner.
2 How the precious children of Zion, once worth their weight in gold,
are now considered as pots of clay, the work of a potter’s hands!
3 Even jackals offer their breasts to nurse their young,
but my people have become heartless like ostriches in the desert.
4 Because of thirst the infant’s tongue sticks to the roof of its mouth;
the children beg for bread, but no one gives it to them.
5 Those who once ate delicacies are destitute in the streets.
Those brought up in royal purple now lie on ash heaps.  (Lamentations 4:1-5)



Thoughts: When disaster strikes, values change.  When a hurricane hits and we can't get food or gas, a cadillac is not worth much.  When the electricity is off, the TV and computer isn't worth a lot.  So Jeremiah laments that gold and silver are scattered- not worth anything, because the people are gone.  The writer of Lamentations laments that the most precious gift-= children, and tehy are devalued as if they were dust or clay.  The rich and the powerful have been devalued.  In 1982 Mexico defaulted on its debt (overspent on social programs) and the inflation rate there for the next 11 years was 10,000%.  Those who had saved up for their retirement lost everything.  Then in 1985 there was the Mexico earthquake (10,000 were killed).  America's neighboring country can teach us a lot about security.  The things of this life which we think are always secure may not be so secure.  Jeremiah reminds us to value people over things in this life.   There is a time to laugh and a time to weep in this life.  But there is always a value that cannot be taken away by any army- that is our treasure in heaven. 

Prayer: Help me not to store up treasure on earth, but treasure with you. 


Monday, September 12, 2011

9/13/11 Some Try to Erase God

1 O God, why have you rejected us forever? Why does your anger smolder against the sheep of your pasture? 2 Remember the nation you purchased long ago, the people of your inheritance, whom you redeemed— Mount Zion, where you dwelt. 3 Turn your steps toward these everlasting ruins, all this destruction the enemy has brought on the sanctuary. 4 Your foes roared in the place where you met with us;
they set up their standards as signs. 5 They behaved like men wielding axes to cut through a thicket of trees.
6 They smashed all the carved paneling with their axes and hatchets. 7 They burned your sanctuary to the ground; they defiled the dwelling place of your Name. 8 They said in their hearts, “We will crush them completely!” They burned every place where God was worshiped in the land. 9 We are given no signs from God; no prophets are left, and none of us knows how long this will be. 10 How long will the enemy mock you, God? Will the foe revile your name forever?  (Psalm 74:1-10)


(cross at Ground Zero that some have sued to remove)

Thoughts: The enemies of God tried to wipe out every trace of God from the land.  They burned the Temple, trying to utterly destroy and erase God.  Today, there are people, out of fear and misunderstanding, wish to eliminate the Christian faith from the land.  Even some believers are hiding their faith by not praying in the name of Jesus, or not inviting others to worship.  Some wish to hide any sign of faith from life.  So some sue to eliminate the cross of melted steel beams found under Ground Zero; or setting a clergy-free zone (as Mayor Bloomberg did); or pull crosses from national cemeteries; or eliminate "under God" in the pledge- which came from the Lincoln's Gettysburg address; or various efforts to stop prayer, poetry, art and expression of Christian faith in the public square.  The Psalmist asks how long God will put up with this?  Truth is, we may try to erase God, but He cannot be erased, or even ignored.  Sometimes, even in the enthusiasm to erase God- God's presence is called forth. 

Prayer:  O Lord, come to us to save us from those who would erase you from life. 




Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/12/11 In Grief, Compassion

The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him. It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.,,,Let them sit alone in silence for the Lord has laid it on thm. Let them bury their face in the dust-- there may yet be hope...for people are not cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. Lam. 3:25-33

Thoughts: Imagine sitting with those who are have survived a disaster like 911. There is a sense in which those who survive feel guilty. The writer of Lamentations asks us to remember that in the midst of trouble, God is compassionate. God does not cast us ot forever. It is hard to live in hopelessness for long. We are called to remember hope.
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Saturday, September 10, 2011

9/11/11- Hope in suffering

16 I heard and my heart pounded, 
my lips quivered at the sound;
decay crept into my bones,
and my legs trembled.
Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity
to come on the nation invading us.

17 Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,

18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.


 (Cross found in rubble of world trade center- atheists are suing over those who want the cross as a part of a memorial to the dead there).
Thoughts: The cross is generically a symbol of hope in the midst of suffering.  The empty cross is a reminder of the end of suffering and hope of life beyond the grave. As such, it should be hopeful to anyone who wishes to have hope that goes beyond life's suffering. 
    Whenever we remember a disaster, it may bring back memories of our own problems/troubles/disasters.  It is so ten years after 9/11, and was so when Israel was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC (the time of Habakkuk).  Habakkuk starts out questioning God's righteousness and justice in chapter 1.  He concludes by saying that he is weak and God is his strength.  He implies an amazing faith- that he will trust in God no matter what.  That is what covenant making is.  It's like getting married- I will stay with you for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health.  To say that no matter what happens we will rely and believe in God is important. It means we will not be blown about by the winds and waves of circumstances.  Too many are angry at God and drive off down the road like a mad husband-- but with nowhere to go.  Habakkuk reminds us that we are better off controlling our anger and finding peace.

Prayer: May we find grace and strength to believe and follow you despite the problems and disasters of life. 

9/10/11 Ladder 6- Waiting

For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. (Matthew 16:25)

(Ladder 6 company and Josephine Harris)

Thoughts: Ladder company 6 had gone into the North Tower of the twin towers.  Before they could get to fight any fires, the South Tower collapsed.  They were ordered out of the North Tower and many were running to get out.  However the ladder 6 company ran into elderly Josephine Harris who was out of breath and energy from coming down from the 73rd floor.  Josephine made the whole company slow down, while everyone else was running to escape.  The amazing thing is that when the North Tower collapsed, these firefighters and Josephine Harris were encapsulated in a stairwell.  The rest of the tower collapsed- mainly on those running a few minutes earlier; but they were safe inside a steel stairwell.  The whole company called her their guardian angel for that.  Josephine, called them her guardian angels too.
For the whole story- on NBC.  They made Josephine a jacket saying, "Guardian angel Josephine Harris."
Josephine has since passed away, but she will always be remembered as the one who saved them by allowing the ladder 6 company to help her.
    There are many stories that day of those who went into help but did not come back out.  These responders were true heroes.  But there is also hope that shows us that sometimes going the extra mile when it doesn't make sense is rewarded.

Prayer: Help me, O Lord, to grow in love for my neighbor. 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

9/9/11 Hope Among Ruins

19 I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall.
20 I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.
21 Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:

22 Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”

(Pentagon building showing destruction from Flight 77 that hit the building 9-11-01)

Thoughts: Today heard Eddy Morehead, a Clemson graduate who was a colonel serving in an office next to the wedge that was hit by flight 77.  He was awarded the Soldier's Medal for his continued efforts to rescue his colleagues.  He kept going back into a hole made by the nose of the plane- filled with fire from the jet fuel to try to help others. 
    Jeremiah was a survivor, though he saw many who died.  He was not wrong to thank God for helping him survive.  If God saves anyone from anything- it is not because we deserve it, but because of God's mercy.  Many survivors testify that they could have easily been on the most dangerous level, but they left just before the plane hit (as Mr. Morehead said today).  It is not an evil or wrong thing to be thankful that God has done something for you that has not been done for everyone else.  Not everyone is blessed in the same way.  We are called to see and appreciate the Lord's faithfulness and blessings to us-- even in the midst of sadness around us.

Prayer: You are worthy of my thanks for your faithfulness and compassion, O Lord.  Help me to perceive my need for gratitude. 







Wednesday, September 7, 2011

9/8/11

In fierce anger he has cut off every horn of Israel.  He has withdrawn His right hand at the approach of the enemy.  He has burned in Jacob like a flaming fire that consumes everything around it.  Like an enemy He has strung His bow; His right hand is ready.  Like a foe He has slain all who were pleasing to the eye; He has pourd out His wrath like fire on teh tent of the Daughter of Zion.  The Lord is like an enemy; He has swallowed up Israel.  He has swallowed up all her palaces and destroyed her strongholds.  He has multipied mourning and lamentation for the Daughter of Judah. (Lamentations 2:3-5)

"My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?"  (Jesus recorded in Matthew 26)












QUOTES FROM THOSE WHO WENT THROUGH 9-11 IN NEW YORK CITY
"I think God could have ended this all.  I'm losing respect for Him.  I don't have any love for God- the weeks that followed September 11.  It is too barbaric...I look at Him now as a barbarian." (security guard at the Twin Towers). 

"It is harder for me as an atheist, for it shook the last belief I had...there is nowhere to turn."

"God could not be counted on the way I used to count on Him." (Episcopalian priest)

"If God's ways are mysterious, live with the mystery."  (Jewish Rabbi).

"Today our nation saw evil- the very worst of human nature...  The attacks have united our country, rallied a nation."  (President George w. Bush).

"I used to think we lived in a world of gray and that there was no black and white [or evil], but after September 11 I question the existence of evil." 

Thoughts: The God-forsaken feeling is the worst feeling ever.  The Lamenter speaks of God becoming our enemy.  When God who made us and befriends us becomes like an enemy it is the worst possible problem.  The quotes above speak of God as an enemy on September 11.  The feeling of the Lamenter has become real to them.  Evil, however, is not defined by our feelings that go back and forth.  Rather evil is defined by the absence of good.  In that sense, evil is dependent- even parasitic- on the good.  C.S. Lewis defined hell as the absence of God.  Our God forsakenness here is the mini-experience of hell- it is the experience of evil. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

9/7/11 Learning from Jeremiah's Lament

1 How deserted lies the city, once so full of people!
How like a widow is she, who once was great among the nations!
She who was queen among the provinces has now become a slave.

2 Bitterly she weeps at night, tears are on her cheeks.
Among all her lovers there is no one to comfort her.
All her friends have betrayed her; they have become her enemies.

3 After affliction and harsh labor, Judah has gone into exile.
She dwells among the nations; she finds no resting place.
All who pursue her have overtaken her in the midst of her distress.

4 The roads to Zion mourn, for no one comes to her appointed festivals.
All her gateways are desolate, her priests groan,
her young women grieve, and she is in bitter anguish.

5 Her foes have become her masters; her enemies are at ease.
The LORD has brought her grief because of her many sins.
Her children have gone into exile, captive before the foe.

(Jeremiah Laments- Rembrandt 1630)

Thoughts: This is the poem written at the end of the nation, the end of the first Temple.  The nation existed again but not in the same sense. The place of worship was sacked, destroyed.  It was the worst of disasters. It is an acrostic poem, a song about the destruction of what was most precious. The queen has become a slave; her friends have become her enemies; those who have chased her have caught her; her foes have become her masters.  It is the worst nightmare.
     Our church is beginning a study of the prophets.  Many of the prophets' prophecies end with Lamentation's fulfillment of them.  For centuries the prophets warned the people that if they left the Lord to pursue other gods, God would leave them.  If they forsook God, He would forsake them. It happened.
     Since 9-11-2001 America has gone through many diasasters: the twin towers, Katrina, three wars, fires, earthquakes, wallstreet disasters, economic recession.  But these do not compare to what happened to Jerusalem when the people who were supposed to be chosen of God forsook their God.  They refused to repent.  They refused to acknowledge God's power, help, and God's ability to change the situation.  Instead they formed idols, and tried to be like all those around them.  Ironically, America (and her western allies) basically defeated marxism with the fall of the iron curtain in 1989.  But instead of turning to God, turned toward the gods they defeated- materialism, work (the Sabbath has been destroyed since 1989, and family has taken a back seek to money).  The Lamentations are a poetic warning to all who forsake God and refuse to repent.  We need to humble ourselves and open ourselves to the Holy Spirit's filling.

Prayer: Lord, give us grace to heed your warnings.  Let us learn the lesson of sadness from previous generations that we might come back to you with our whole heart.
   

9/6/11 Man in the Red Bandana

24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life] will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. (Matthew 16:24-26)

(Below: Welles Crowther as a volunteer firefighter; note red bandanna on helmet; he always carred it with him).

     One of the many stories that came out of the 911 tragedy was of the former volunteer firefighter, Welles Crowther.  His father was a firefighter, and he received his certification as a volunteer firefighter at 18.  He went onto graduate from Boston College, become an equities trader for Sandler ONeill and Partners on the 104th floor of the south of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center.  When the plane hit the tower, it his on the floor he was on.  He helped people on two different floors find the stairs out.  They recognized him as "the man in the red bandanna."  He was giving instructions, carrying others.  They found his body on March 19 2002 on the makeshift firefighter center on ground level surrounded by many firemen.  He was responsible for rescuing many injured and perhaps hundreds.  Ling Young described herself as dazed and bloody when the young 24 year old said, "I found the stairs, follow me, and only help whom you can help."  She made it to safety.  The young man was buried under the rubble, and over 1,000 attended his funeral at Grace Episcopal Church in Nyack, NY. 
     Christians are called to not look out for their own interests, but to care for the itnerests of others (Phil. 2:3,4).  We are called not to value this life and comfort so much that we cannot help our neighbor in their need.  Rather we are called to deny ourselves and lose our lives in the life of Christ.  Christ continually calls us beyond ourselves to a higher- the highest purpose- for which we were made.

Prayer: Help me, O Lord, to not crave the addiction to my own comfort.  Help me to give of myself for others. 
     

Sunday, September 4, 2011

9/5/11 Labor Day Devotion

The sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether he eats little or much, but the abundance of a rich man permits him no sleep...Then I realized that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given him-- for this is his lot. (Ecclesiastes 5:12, 18)

28 Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. (Ephesians 4:28)



(Norman Rockwell's Behind Apollo 11, 1969- An illustration of how many work to make a higher goal happen).

 
Thoughts: Today, when we look at motivations for work, we see some fairly shallow thoughts like: survival, to pay off debts, to get more/newer stuff.  The scriptures call us to a higher ideal- loving God and neighbor.  Loving God by working for the glory of God (Col. 3:23).   Loving neighbor- as Eph. 4:28 says, that we might have something to share for those in need.  Work is not just for ourselves or for our own comfort.  Certainly not for our own self-indulgence.  God gives us time. God calls us to work. 

Prayer:  May my work please you, O Lord.  May my work be used to please neighbor. 

 



Saturday, September 3, 2011

9/4/11 The Purpose of Labor and the Deceit of Riches

Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful. (Matthew 13:22)

 17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”
(Exodus 20:17)



Thoughts: We have the perception that we do not have enough.  But compared to whom?  The median income for the world is right over $8,000/year or $22 a day (roughly 3.1 billion live on less than $8,000/year). Kenya is roughly $4.50/day/capita; Uganda $4.38/day/capita. The United States is not number one, but still has a per captia gdp of $47,200 (somewhere between 7th and 9th in the world).  Yet, we are in the bottom half of the world in unemployment rate (9.2% is about 100th out of 193 countries rated).  A lot of what is dragging us down is our debt- both household debt, bad debt held by our banks, and exceeding debt by our federal government. Much of the reason we came into so much debt is the perception that we deserve to have more than what our income allows.  Our economy has slowed and it remains to be seen how we will take being told we must live within our means. 
    The deceit of riches is that they are never enough to satisfy.  Ecclesiastes says that the eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear of hearing (1:8).  Peace doesn't come with a bigger house, newer car, or longer boat.  Peace comes from being content with God- and being content with what He gives us.  Peace shows itself in our focus.  The neighbor is not just someone who might be able to give us something- but someone for whom we care.  If our focus is right, we are able to let go of our tight grip on this world and open our hand with generosity to God and neighbor. 

Prayer: Lord, help me to be a generous person, focusing on you and others.

9/3/11 Coveting- the Inside Counts

21 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. You shall not set your desire on your neighbor’s house or land, his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” (Dt. 5:21)

1 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. (James 4:1-3)

20 He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. 21 For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” (Mark 7:20-22)



(Cleaning the inside is most important)


Thoughts: Jesus said that the sins we commit on the outside begin on the inside.  If we get our inside cleaned up, the outside will be more controlled.  Jesus did not mention coveting by name, but he had a lot to say about it.  He spoke about worry (Mt. 6); he spoke about having your heart set on the wrong treasure; he spoke about having our outside appear clean when our inside is not; he warned that anger is murder; lust is adultery.  Coveting is similar to stealing from the inside. 
James says that coveting causes fights and quarrels.  Coveting is interior selfishness.  It is wanting for me what you already have.  It looks to our own interest instead of the interest of others (Phil. 2:3,4). 


Prayer: Lord, forgive my selfishness and covetousness.  Help me to be more giving, more kind, more considerate.

Quote from John Calvin:
 “God wills our souls to be disposed to love, therefore we must banish all desires contrary to love.” 



Thursday, September 1, 2011

9/2/11 The Opposite of Coveting

Rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn. (Romans 12:15)
Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:4)

Thoughts: The opposite of coveting could be giving or caring for your neighbor. Coveting is looking for your own interests. Coveting is focusing on yourself, forgetting about the desperate needs of the world.

The larger catechism says: The sins forbidden in the Tenth Commandment are: discontentment with our own estate; envying, and grieving at the godo of our neighbor, together with all inordinate mortions and affections to anything that is his.

Prayer: Help me Lord, to desire you and my neighbor's good more than my own.
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