Genesis 28:10-17 Jacob the Scoundrel Meets His Match

Theevents in Genesis 28:10-17took place just after Jacob cheated his brother Esau out of his birthright as Isaac’s firstborn son and after Jacob received the blessing that Esau was supposed to receive from their father Isaac. Consequently Esau threatened Jacob’s life. Jacob left home and headed out from Beersheba with the birthright, the blessing, and little else besides his own wits….or so it seemed!

At some stage of his journey, Jacob settled down for the night, picked a rock for a pillow, and tried to get some sleep. That is when God came to Jacob in a dream. In the dream Jacob was reminded that God was able and willing to maintain communications with His children even in the most desolate places and lonely times. During the dream God reiterated the covenant He had with Abraham. It described the blessing which would come through Jacob’s family to the whole world. But then God moved from generalities to specifics which were of great interest to Jacob. God promised that He would always be with Jacob. The promise of the divine presence would be both a source of encouragement and, at times, a source of embarrassment to Jacob as his life unfolded. Jacob realized for the first time in his life that he is not the centre of the universe.

Different people have different ways of waking up to God but few people ever needed to wake up to Him more than Jacob! His habits which were so clearly demonstrated in his home situation and which led to exile from his family got him into all kinds of trouble. He had no hope without God but God in His wisdom called Jacob to play a significant role in the blessing of the nations. This should remind us that God’s ways are not our ways and that no one is outside of the possibilities of a changed life through divine intervention.

God had to remove Jacob from everything that was a comfort to him in order to reveal Himself to Jacob. What began as a crisis that forced Jacob to be removed form his family and friends led to an encounter with the living God and a fresh vision of God’s purposes for his life. How often we go about our daily routing=e and fail to recognize that God is in the place where we are. God must often do radical things in the life of the servant in whom He has special plans: separation from family, removal of physical and emotional resources, an encounter with God.

God did not judge Jacob’s prior actions with regard to his brother and his father. Instead, God gave Jacob one promise after another. God transformed an ordinary stone and an ordinary place into something special-a place where God’s presence has made a home in the world. Similarly, God transformed Jacob from a trickster into a richly blessed man who served as a source of God’s blessing to others. Unfortunately, as we will see, this change did not take place immediately.

Something profound had happened in Jacob’s heart. By creating the pillar and anointing it, Jacob memorialized the place and retained it in his memory as the scene of a deep and lasting commitment to the God who had touched his life at that place. Bethel- “the house of God”-was instantly a sacred place for Jacob. It was there God met him, dealt with him, and took a special interest in his needs. The words “I am with you and will keep you wherever you go” must have reassured Jacob when he was alone and on the run. Similarly, God will always stay with us and keep all His promises to us, even when we go through the storms of life. When we wonder if He is really there—He is!       

Can we see ourselves in Jacob? God gives us the free gift of salvation, and we grudgingly give God a crumb or two and then imagine we are God’s followers. That way of thinking leads to exile from God’s kingdom-just like Jacob was exiled from his father’s house. What did Jacob finally give back to God? What will we give back to God? What can we give back? What should we give back? One tenth of our lives? Everything? Who knows. The only thing that is certain is what the God who meets us at our Bethels always seems to do, which is to grant us blessed dreams, precisely when we need them, and to give us everything we have never and could never deserve.

Jacob’s story promises us to consider God’s presence in those places where we do not immediately recognize His presence. Our own experiences of the hidden God remind us that God often reveals Himself indirectly, in a seemingly concealed manner. It can be through a dream such as in Jacob’s case, or through weakness and suffering as in Jesus’ death on a cross, or in places we least expect.

God has a promise for our lives. What promise has God given you, or do you know? For starters, He promises to never leave us and that He will be with us and keep us wherever you go. God promises to always be with us. This is an awesome promise!

Bibliography

  1. Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; p. 41-42)
  2. Briscoe, D.S., & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 1: Genesis (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1987; pp. 226-232
  3. Stanley, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles; 2005)
  4. John Holbert, “Forgetting Leads to Exile: Reflections on Genesis 28:10-19.” Retrieved from www.patheos.com/progressinve-christian
  5. Juliana Claassens, “Commentary on Genesis 10-19a.” Retrieved from www.preacherexchange.org
  6. “God’s Promise.” Retrieved from www.dailydisciples.org
  7. Shauna Hannan, “Genesis 28:10-19.” Retrieved from communic@luthersem.edu

Luke 16:19-31 Role Reversal

In Luke 16:19-31 we see a powerful situation of role reversal. The world is turned upside-down-or rather, right side up. Mary sang about a situation like this in the Magnificat. The poor are filled with good things and the rich are sent away hungry. The powerful are brought down and the lowly are lifted up.

The Pharisees thought they were entitled. They had the strange idea that money was deserved. Money was a sign that they were blessed by God, and poverty was the result of God’s curse. Jesus said that this idea was false. All of us are stewards of what we have, and we are to use it to bless others, to bring life, to bring health and hope and joy. In contrast, the mention of crumbs, sores, and dogs made Lazarus a nobody in the eyes of the Pharisees. They saw such things as proof of divine disfavor. They saw such people as not only unclean, but also hated by God.

Jesus didn’t question how the rich man got his money or that he had it. The rich man wasn’t even necessarily a bad man. The rich man might have been a deeply caring man who was dismayed by unemployment and inflation figures, or he might have been a generous donor to charitable causes. Regardless of whatever else he was, in this story he was blind to the person in need who was sitting outside his gate. He was sentenced to eternal damnation for his casual indifference to the person right at his door.

Are the two men in this story real, or is this story a parable? If a parable, then it is the only one Jesus told in which one of the characters has a name. The text said that Lazarus laid at the rich man’s gate, but the Greek term conveys far more intensity, literally meaning that he was “thrown down” at the gate. His friends would bring him there every morning, dump him at the gate, and then go on their way. Despite his terrible circumstances, Lazarus trusted God.

As a poor Jew, Lazarus would not have been buried in a tomb. He may have been placed in the potter’s field-land often used to bury poor people. More likely, Lazarus was not buried at all but taken to the edge of the city and thrown on the dung heap of Gehenna, where the city’s garbage was burned. By contrast, the rich man, with all of his wealth, probably had a magnificent funeral.

The Bible clearly states that all people, created in the image of the eternal God, will be alive somewhere forever-either in the presence of Almighty God, enjoying endless fellowship with him, or in the torment of hell. These are the only two possibilities.

On earth, perhaps less that 20 metres stood between these two men-one at the gate and the other inside the mansion-yet in eternity the two were separated by a great, impassable gulf. People do not get a second chance after death. Humans have one precious life-a wonderful stewardship bestowed by God. The rich man had the resources to “uplift” Lazarus and the entire community but was insensitive and uncaring. Perhaps he saw his wealth as a matter of entitlement and effort and that the beggar was poor because of laziness or lack of initiative. The rich man’s failure to see and hear, to empathize, created a gulf that lasted into eternity.

There is a great chasm between the rich man and Lazarus in death because there was a great chasm between them in life. The rich man could have crossed the chasm in life any time he entered or left his home and saw someone who was sick and hungry. The rich man was condemned for ignoring the great gulf between rich and poor and not acting. He should have learned a lesson from the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Being rich toward God and having treasure in heaven is about selling possessions and distributing wealth to the poor. After he met Jesus, Zaccheus gave half of his possessions to the poor and repaid anyone he defrauded four times as much according to Luke 19:1-10. The early believers sold their possessions and gave the proceeds to the needy according to Acts 2:45 and Acts 4:32-34.

Even in death the rich man showed contempt for Lazarus. He wanted Abraham to send Lazarus to him with a drop of water. Then he wants Lazarus to be a messenger to his five brothers back home to warn them what awaits them.  The rich man is so insensitive that even when he is tormented as a result of his previous callousness, he still does not see how he missed Lazarus. The poor man continues to be insignificant and the rich man doesn’t even address Lazarus directly, and Lazarus is not some anonymous butler to run the rich man’s errands in the next world.

Arrogance often accompanies wealth. The rich man was as arrogant in Hades as he was on earth. Christ described hell as a place of unspeakable torment. The rich man assumed that he could summon service. Perhaps that was part of his sin. Lazarus did not complain about his state in the world, and he did not gloat when he made it to heaven. Lazarus accepted whatever came as from God’s hand.

Jesus said there is no hope for the brothers. Anyone who is familiar with the Old Testament has missed the message if he or she is not prompted to care for a beggar at the gate. The rich man’s concern about his brothers was a form of self-justification. Miracles never make anyone believe. Romans 1:16 states that the gospel itself is the power of God unto salvation. Because unbelief is at heart a moral problem rather than an intellectual problem, no amount of evidence will ever turn unbelief to faith. Only the Word of God can make this change.

We are the five brothers of the rich man. The parable makes it clear that we have been warned about our urgent situation. We have Moses and the prophets, we have the Scriptures, we have the lessons about God’s care for the poor and hungry. We even have someone who has risen from the dead. The question is: Will we see? Will we heed the warning before it is too late?

The gate at the rich man’s home is a stop sign. It tells Lazarus and everyone else that they are not welcome. The gates tell them to stay out and not to bother the rich man or his way of life. The rich man wanted to remain separated from other people.

Jesus’ primary objective in this story was not to teach the details of the afterlife but to expose how the Pharisees were misusing the life they already had-an ostentatious, outward religion that had no lasting, inward reality. The rich man, selfish and oblivious, sinned when he looked at Lazarus and had no pity in his heart. Jesus teaches us that all of our lives are caught up with each other in ways that have consequences both now and in eternity. Jesus teaches that the more we have, the more responsibility we bear for society. Wealthy people like the rich man are bound to support the poor.

This parable has been used by God to change people’s lives, and God used this story to change the life of Dr. Albert Schweitzer. Albert Schweitzer was a man from England and he was enormously gifted. He had degrees in music, medicine, and theology; he could do almost everything and anything. One day, Albert Schweitzer came to church and heard a sermon preached about the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, and his life was changed. For him, the rich man was Europe; the poor man was Africa, and he knew that he had to give his life to the poorest of people in central Africa. Soon he left the safety of England for the unknowns of the heart of Africa, and he gave his heart, soul, time, and abilities to the poorest of the poor in central Africa.

Not once did the rich man own up to his own mistreatment of Lazarus. Not once did the rich man repent. Not once did the rich man even talk to Lazarus, but he knows Lazarus’ name. That indicates that the rich man knew all along about this poor, suffering man who laid at his gates, hungry and covered in sores.

Do we have people who can be prophets to us, who can convict us, rebuke us, teach us and point us to a life that is worth living? The answer is yes. There are many people like Lazarus around us. We have to ask ourselves if they can help us. The rich man begged Abraham to send Lazarus to help him, but Abraham explained that Lazarus could not help the rich man. The rich man had a chance to learn from Lazarus and he refused. We have a chance to learn from the Lazaruses of our world.

All of us are both Lazarus and the rich man. We depend on God. We can’t by our own reason and strength believe in Jesus or come to Him. We can’t please God for ourselves. Our culture, our society, every aspect of our lives tells us that God doesn’t matter. It tells us that enjoying life, having fun, partying, and filling our homes with goods until we need public storage facilities to store them are the only things that matter. We are all the rich man because we are content with our lives, indulgence, wanting to move up. Our closets are filled with clothes we hoard while others have little or none.

Places in God’s kingdom are not given out according to what we have, but according to what we give away. Solidarity and love count. Those who made names for themselves but didn’t care enough to share their wealth have no name any more. Those who could not achieve anything in life have been given names of honour. Believing in the name of Jesus is only the beginning of faith. It calls for action. It calls for healing, for our participation in God’s creation.

We are called on to confront the reality that every day we pass by people who are in desperate need and we walk right by. Jesus warns us that our time is short. Our opportunities to serve the poor don’t last forever. Our economic choices shape our deepest identities and our eternal destinies. Jesus is inviting us to repent of our ignorance of God and our ignorance of the suffering of the world and step through the gate of knowledge and radical love into the kingdom of God, where God’s will for justice and peace is done on earth as in heaven.

The choice to hear the cries of the poor and to observe our own attitudes and responses occurs all the time. It happens when we check our news feeds online or pick up the newspaper. It occurs when we pay our bills and respond to the worthy causes that present themselves to us. It occurs in the use of time and talent. Will the use of our gifts and resources bring greater or lesser beauty of experience to the world?

Bibliography

  1. Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; p. 1419)
  2. Larsen, B. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 26: Luke (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1983; pp. 243-246)
  3. Stanley, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles; 2005)
  4. MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Version (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
  5. Barbara Rossing, “Commentary on Luke 16:19-31.” Retrieved from www.workingpreacher.org
  6. The Rev. Janet Hunt, “God is My Help: Seeing Lazarus.” Retrieved from www.dancingwiththeword.org
  7. Lois Malcolm, “Commentary on Luke 16:19-31.” Retrieved from www.workingpreacher.org
  8. Daniel Clendenin, Ph.D., “Poverty Reduction-Of the Soul: The Parable of Dives and Lazarus.” Retrieved from www.journeywithjesus,.net
  9. The Rev. Dr. Chris Tuttle, “Blindness and a Vision of Community.” Retrieved from www.day1.org
  10. The Rev. Paul Brandeis Raushenbush, “The Sin of Ignorance.” Retrieved from www.day1.org
  11. The Rev. Edward Markquart, “What Are You Doing Lazarus?” Retrieved from http://www.sermonsfromseattle.com/series_c_the_rich_man_and_lazarus.htm
  12. Jude Siciliano, OP, “First Impressions, 26th Sunday -C-, September 25, 2022.” Retrieved from firstimpressions@lists.opsouth.org
  13. “Another Kind of Gate.” Retrieved from newsletter@christiancentury.org
  14. Bruce Epperly, “The Adventurous Lectionary-Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost-September 25, 2022.” Retrieved from www.patheos.com/blogs/livingaholyadventure/author/burceepperly/
  15. Chelsey Harmon, “Luke 16:19-31 Commentary.” Retrieved from https://cepreaching.org/authors/chelsey-harmon/

Luke 7:36-50 Don’t Judge Others, Because God Will Judge You

Most of us have heard the old saying “Judge not lest ye be judged.” In Luke 7:36-50 we see an example of this saying. Simon judged the prostitute, and in turn Jesus judged Simon. Most of us do not need the help of others to judge ourselves. We know that we have sinned, perjured ourselves, done or said things that we should not have done or said, and not done or said those things we should have done or said.

Jesus judged the woman. He puts a face to God’s judgment, and it is a judgment of love. It is not a judgment of ridicule, or rejection, or hopelessness, or boredom, or eternal condemnation. Luke sets this story in the context of sin and forgiveness. Those who are forgiven little love little, but those who are forgiven much, love lavishly. Simon’s love is thin because he doesn’t recognize his need for grace. In contrast, the woman knows full well the extent of her own sin and the wide embrace of Jesus’ forgiveness. This is an important lesson, and Jesus teaches it beautifully in the parable of the creditor and the debtors.

This story should not be confused with similar stories in Matthew, Mark, and John, which took place in Bethany. The woman here is not Mary, the sister of Lazarus of Bethany, because Luke describes the woman as a prostitute. Little does this Pharisee know he is a sinner as well. The two figures in this story provide a striking contrast: a woman of ill repute who came to Jesus recognizing her need for forgiveness, and an upstanding religious leader who was as lost as he could be.

It would have been shocking for everyone who attended to see a woman with such a low reputation come to a Pharisee’s house. Dinners like the one at Simon’s house would have been open to spectators, but no one would have expected a prostitute to attend. Her coming took a lot of courage, but she was desperate to receive forgiveness. Her weeping was an expression of deep sorrow and repentance.

The Pharisees were lay leaders who were full of self-religious pride. They maximized everybody else’s faults and minimized their own faults. The Pharisees thought that touching a prostitute would ceremonially defile them, so they never intentionally went near such a person. Jesus allowed this prostitute not only to touch Him but to wash His feet and lavish them with kisses. This was the custom-if someone saved your life, you would come to that person and kiss his feet.

Simon was shocked that this prostitute walked boldly into the dinner party and that Jesus did not immediately rebuke her and send her away. Simon believed the Lord’s behaviour proved He was not a prophet. Jesus continually broke the norms and shocked the establishment-something He still does today.

Although he was a Pharisee, Simon was spiritually lost. The Pharisees were religious men, highly respected by the Jewish people. They knew the Law and Scriptures thoroughly. It is likely most of the other dinner guests were Pharisees. Simon could not deny the truth of this powerful parable-but his answer (“I suppose”) indicates he was not a willing receiver of it. Simon fell into Jesus’ trap.

Simon’s reaction reveals a lot about who he was and why he invited Jesus to the party. He did not invite Jesus as a social equal and he did not provide the usual amenities for Jesus. He invited Jesus as a curiosity. He heard that Jesus was a prophet and he wanted to see for himself who this questionable celebrity was.

The custom in Jewish culture, dating all the way back to Abraham, was to have a basin of water at the door so when guests walked in from the dusty streets, a servant could wash their dirty feet.  Simon apparently ignored this. He also neither offered any anointing oil for the Lord’s head nor the friendly kiss of greeting that was the ancient equivalent of shaking hands. Jesus contrasted the woman’s loving actions with Simon’s lack of them.

Like Simon and the Pharisees, many people are certain about whom God includes, who is worthy of God’s love. If we spent as much time embodying the faith of the woman as we do figuring out those who don’t do faith as they should, how much farther the church would be ahead when it comes to living and securing God’s righteousness.

The gift of ointment, her tears, and her behaviour showed that the woman’s old life had ended and a new life had begun. With His word of forgiveness, Jesus lifted her burden of guilt and she responded with overflowing gratitude. Because she had been forgiven so much, she washed His feet with her tears, dried them with her hair, and anointed His feet with expensive ointment. Her many sins were forgiven because she loved Jesus so much. If we don’t see how great our sins are, Jesus’ sacrifice will not seem large. In fact, it might seem like overkill. When we know how great our sins are, His sacrifice will inspire deep love.

God’s kingdom and the Gospel it heralds will have the greatest appeal and the greatest impact on those who know they need grace and mercy the most. The high and mighty in society are usually the last to feel that way. Simon didn’t know that his own deepest longing should have been to have Jesus turn to him and say the same thing He said to the woman-“Your sins are forgiven.”

Simon doesn’t understand the true nature of God’s love and acceptance. Simon would reject the woman and think that she was unworthy of God’s forgiveness. Although Simon no doubt heard Jesus teach, he had not accepted His message. Instead of inviting Him into his heart, Simon invited Him to dinner. Many people still have that sort of superficial relationship with Jesus. They are social believers-they would like Him as a dinner companion-but they do not want Him any closer, certainly not as Saviour.

This story is all about forgiveness. When we know we are forgiven, we don’t have time to judge people any more. All we can do is be grateful and show that gratitude by forgiving others. When we forgive others, we release a hold not only on the other person, but also on the grudge we were holding, on the hunger for the revenge we were harboring, and on a life dominated by the past.

Jesus wants us to realize that we are all like the woman. She came to Jesus with a large sin debt. When we, like the woman, kneel at Jesus’ feet and pour out our love, we will be healed. Jesus teaches us about Grace and mercy. Grace is getting something wonderful that we don’t deserve. Mercy is not getting something terrible that we do deserve.

The essence of the Gospel is the love of God. God’s love is very different. God loves us just the way we are now. There is nothing we can do that can make Him love us more than He does right now. If we respond to His love He will not leave us as we are.

Bibliography

  1. Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; p. 1399)
  2. Larsen, B. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 26: Luke (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1983; pp. 139-142)
  3. Stanley, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles; 2005)
  4. MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
  5. Lucy Lind Hogan, “Commentary on Luke 7:36-8:3.” Retrieved from www.workingpreacher.org
  6. Debie Thomas, “What the Body Knows.” Retrieved from www.journeywithjesus.net
  7. David Lose, “Pentecost 4C: It’s All About Forgiveness.” Retrieved from www.workingpreacher.org
  8. Scott Hoezee, “Luke 7:36-8:3 Commentary.” Retrieved from https://cepreaching.org/authors/scott-hoezee/
  9. Karoline Lewis, “Your Faith Has Saved You.” Retrieved from www.workingpreacher.org
  10. Edward Markquart, “The Woman With the Ointment.” Retrieved from www.sermonsfromseattle.com
  11. Br. Curtis Almquist, “Sin, So Tedious; Love So Enduring.” Retrieved from www.ssje.org

Hebrews 13:1-8,15-16 How to Serve a Living God

Lindsey burst through the door. “Mom, I’m back! I got paid for walking Lilly. I have enough! Can we go to the mall before I go to Mrs. Stevens’ to pack up the donations for those flood victims? Please?”

“How about some downtime instead?” said Mom. “You’ve run yourself ragged all summer earning money for those Bangle Brights. How many does a girl need?” Mom raised one eyebrow and looked pointedly at the numerous neon-colored bracelets that flashed and sparkled on Lindsey’s wrists. Each thin bangle fit tightly against another to form thick bands that ran up her forearms.

“But Mom,” Lindsey protested, “you get four in a package, along with a code that unlocks a treasure on the website! They’re worth it. Besides, won’t it be cool if I’m the only girl who has all the sets before school starts?”

Her mom shook her head a little. “Oh, Lindsey, you know cool isn’t determined by stuff,” she said softly. “You belong to Jesus, and He makes you shine brighter than all the Bangle Brights in the world.” She nodded toward the living room. “Why don’t you go rest for a while before heading over to Mrs. Stevens’? We’ll go to the mall another time.”

Lindsey went to the living room and turned on the television. But she didn’t watch it. She started thinking about stuff–all the stuff she had and what it would be like to lose every bit of it overnight.

Later that day, Lindsey peeked into Mrs. Stevens’ garage. She’d brought her new backpack filled with all her school supplies and two new school outfits. She had lots of clothes and could use her backpack from last year, and she’d replace the school supplies with the money she’d earned walking Lilly. The newest bangles could wait. These kids had lost everything in the flood.

Mrs. Stevens thanked her for her donation with a hug, and Lindsey got to work sorting donated items. Some were new, but most were gently used. She opened a box marked “Girls.” It was full of hair accessories and jewelry. She slid half the bangles off each arm and dropped them into the box. She smiled. “I know you’d say this is the cool thing to do, Jesus.”

The first readers of the Letter to the Hebrews needed encouragement in the face of persecution. They were called to follow the perfect example of Jesus, who overcame difficult circumstances. Hebrews 13:1 begins a section where the author gives readers practical examples of how they might serve the living God rather than turn away. The phrase “brotherly love” is composed of two Greek words meaning “tender affection” and “brother.” Brotherly love is a natural result of the Christian life.

The Jews considered themselves the sons of the patriarch Abraham and thus the chosen people of God. This sense of being chosen produced a camaraderie among the Jews that led them to speak of each other as brothers. Their common heritage through Abraham and the prophets, and their shared status as recipients of the mighty acts of God, created a ground in which the rich fruit found deep roots.

We as modern-day Christians are also brothers. This means that we do not look at the world with cool disdain or reserved sophistication. We are called to love one another in spite of our differences. There is nothing of a more bonding nature than our common acceptance by Jesus Christ. The brotherly love of which Jesus speaks is parallel to the love of Jesus for the suffering of the world.

The source of this brotherly love is our birth into the family of God through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. It is the same dynamic as Jews being considered siblings because of their common heritage in Abraham. It goes far beyond this. The experience of redemption is so radical that human personality is changed and drawn into a family fellowship that covers the world and includes every believer regardless of their race, nationality, colour, economic condition or political party.

It’s easy for us to fail to love the unusual. It takes something extra to engage in the entertainment of the foreigner or stranger. That extra something is the love of Christ that reaches out to the outsider and includes him or her. For example, scholars generally agree that Hebrews 13:2 refers to the time when Abraham went out of his way to help three strangers who were passing by his tent. Two were angels and the third was the Son of God Himself. Christ’s love draws the foreigner into the inner circle where we discover an individual who brings a unique blessing into our loves.

The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews urges his audience to extend hospitality to everyone we meet, because we might be entertaining angels in disguise. Could these angels be immigrant children, people who are being bullied and harmed by white supremacists and racial institutions? Could these angels be an opponent for someone from another country with whom we pause long enough to listen?

The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews tells his readers to remember the prisoner, whether he is a prisoner for his faith, a prisoner because of his criminal actions, or a prisoner of disease. We are to imagine ourselves as being prisoners with them. It is easier to go to the persecuted one than to the prisoner. Fear of being associated with prisoners can keep us away from those in prison.  

Suffering is so immediate and can seem so permanent that we can easily lose sight of the big picture. The pain can be so crushing and our hearts can be so broken that we just don’t understand why! When that question fills our mind, we can hear God tell us to trust Him.

The phrase “the bed undefiled” conveys the idea that the Lord approves sexual intimacy between a husband and wife. However, the sins of fornicators and adulterers have particularly damaging consequences. Marriage, like any other covenant, takes a lot of work. The very costliness of marriage makes it both frightening and difficult, but also very rewarding.

One of the greatest gifts of God is contentment. It means the way we feel when we feel and act when we know that we have enough for our needs. For most people, enough is never enough. People with half a million dollars socked away in investment accounts are worried abut not having enough money. Others work like crazy to climb the corporate ladder hoping to make their jobs secure, because jobs can vanish quickly these days. Others seek the admiration and love from others-sometimes by overdoing like people in church who can’t say ‘no’ to any request.

These people will never find contentment because they are looking in the wrong places. We can turn to God and say “Please help me.” Covetousness is a sin of the mind that causes a person to lust after things that belong to someone else. The word “content” could also be translated as satisfied, adequate, competent, or sufficient. The same Greek word is used in 2 Corinthians 12:9 when God tells Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you.” God’s promise to never leave us is connected to our financial future. We don’t need to hoard our resources because we are assured of God’s presence.

Our capitalistic society is geared toward accumulating wealth. There is nothing wrong with being rich, but many Christians have lost sight of why God has blessed them with prosperity. We are called to share what we have with others. God blesses us to make us a blessing. That should be the main motivation for desiring and praying for God’s blessings in our lives. We are not to take comfort in the material things of this world.

The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews tells his readers to remember those who have led them. They have spoken God’s Word to the hearers. The readers are not to hitch their wagons to falling stars. In other words, they are not to listen to false teachers. If they follow leaders who are holding firm against other leaders who are falling, they will receive victory and stability. Just like His Father, whose ways are everlasting and who says that he does not change, Jesus remains the same forever.

Following Jesus has everything to do with everything in life. Since every part of our lives is affected by the presence of God, the longing that He would live in us is actually the most reasonable thing we could desire. Obstacles and struggles are opportunities for God to prove Himself faithful. The unexpected can be hard to accept and even harder to walk through, but God is always with us.

God has not promised to shield us from trouble, but He has promised to protect us in the midst of trouble. We must never forget that because of Christ’s death and resurrection, Satan is already a defeated foe-and some day the war will be over.

Hebrews chapter 13 offers many motivations for virtuous behaviour:

  1. God knows our deeds.
  2. God will judge those who are unfaithful to their spouses.
  3. God is with us and provides for our needs.
  4. Jesus remains the same, so we can praise God through Him.
  5. Sacrifices of praise and sharing please God.
  6. We live not for a present reward of an earthly holy city or temple, but for the promised future one.

Verse 6 can be translated from the original Greek version as “I will never, by no means leave you, and I will never, by no means, utterly forsake you.” Jesus said the things found in the world are not important because they won’t last forever. It’s just stuff. What really matters is who you are in Jesus. Ask Him to show you how you can share His love with someone today and trust Him to make you shine!

Bibliography

  1. Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New Kings James Version (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 2013; pp. 1764-1765)
  2. Charelle Wilson, “Less Equals More.” Retrieved from info@keysforkids.org
  3. Evans, L.H, & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 33: Hebrews (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1985; pp. 232-245)
  4. Stanley, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles; 2005)
  5. Lucado, M.: The Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles; 2010)
  6. Bill Crowder, “Abide With Me.” Retrieved from noreply@rbc.org
  7. Rick Warren, “How Much More Do You Need?” Retrieved from connect@newsletter.purposedriven.com
  8. Christine Caine, “God Can.” Retrieved from no-reply@christinecaine.com
  9. Anne Graham Lotz, “God Loves Even Me.” Retrieved from info@angelministries.org
  10. Billy Graham, “God Promises Protection.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
  11. Bruce Epperly, “The Adventurous Lectionary-The Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost-Aug. 28, 2002.” Retrieved from www.patheos.com
  12. “Exhortations for Jesus’ Followers.” Retrieved from newsletter@christiancentury.org
  13. Dr. Kari Vo, “Contentment.” Retrieved from www.lhm.org

Jeremiah 1:4-10, Psalm 71:1-6, Hebrews 12:18-29, Luke 13:10-17 Doing God’s Work, Especially on the Sabbath

, and Luke 13:10-17.

Jeremiah 1:4-10 is a story about how God can use anyone and everyone to do His work in our world. Jeremiah was called by God to be a prophet, but Jeremiah argued that he was too young to be a prophet. God replied that his request was part of His plan for Jeremiah’s life, and He would tell Jeremiah what to do and what to say. God’s love will break through every barrier and challenge the limitations we place on our abilities and God’s gifts in our lives. God is willing to give us more than we can ask or imagine, but we have to open our hearts, minds, and hands to receive God’s blessing for ourselves and others.

When God looks for someone to do His work, He goes after someone who isn’t looking for the position. He does not call the equipped. He equips the called. He calls us and equips us to share the Good News, and He equips us to face the consequences of sharing the Good News. People need the Lord, but they also need the companionship of other people. The world needs more people like Jeremiah-people who sense God’s call on their lives and who pursue it. They are not interested in instant gratification like so many people in our modern society are.

Jeremiah’s work was not stellar. For forty years he preached a single message from God-a message that the Israelites would be destroyed and everything the people held dear would be gone. The people did not listen to Jeremiah. In fact, they tried several times to kill him. Jeremiah remained resolute in his message, and we must also be resolute when doing God’s work, no matter how difficult our circumstances may be.

Long ago the church began to recognize “the priesthood of all believers.” The church teaches that the Holy Spirit lives in the hearts of believers. We are all authorized as witnesses to the gospel in fulfillment of the Great Commission. Before we can do this, we need the power of God if we are to have any hope that the Word of God will get through to the people we are trying to help.

Doing God’s word can be scary. We can feel like the writer of Psalm 71, which is a lament from someone who was in danger. Doing God’s work takes us out of our comfort zones. We will face hardships, including hatred and persecution. These hardships won’t last but the strength that God will give us will last if we trust in Him.

The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews calls on us as Christians to fulfill our Christian duty of loving others. We are to love one another, show hospitality, remember prisoners, be faithful in marriage, obey our leaders and not love money above anything else. This includes comforting the sick and afflicted like Jesus did in our Gospel passage.

When we do God’s work, we must be careful not to slide back into worldly ways. Worldliness leads to fear and trembling. Heavenly ways lead to a personal, loving presence with the living God. We stand with confidence because we have been sprinkled with the blood of Jesus. Christ’s blood and our faith give us the grace and strength we need to do God’s work. Neglecting our salvation will only lead to judgment. Instead of neglecting the free gift of salvation, we respond with joyful, grace-oriented, reverential worship and service of God.

The synagogue leader in Luke 13:10-17 was obsessed with obeying rules; specifically, the rule about keeping the Sabbath holy. The Jews, especially the Pharisees, were so obsessed with keeping God’s Commandments that they came up with all sorts of rules that governed what they could and could not do on the Sabbath. Included in the list of things that could not be done on the Sabbath was healing a sick person. Healing was considered work, and a good Jew could not do that type of work.

The commandment forbidding work on the Sabbath left the term “work” undefined and allowed for various interpretations. The Pharisees came up with a list of tasks that were forbidden on the Sabbath, but the list did not include healing. They agreed that lifesaving intervention could be performed on the Sabbath, but they were divided on whether healings of non-life-threatening conditions such as a woman who was bent over could be performed on the Sabbath.

We aren’t used to thinking of the church as a place where hurting people are invited, encouraged, and released to “stand up straight,” especially if they are disenfranchised by those who hold power and authority both inside and outside the church. Why is this the case? It is because like the synagogue leader the church often emphasizes legalism over compassion.

The synagogue leader objected to Jesus’ freeing of the bent woman from her bondage on the Sabbath. In other words, in the mind of the synagogue leader, freeing animals from bondage was more important than freeing people from the bondage of sin and illness. By healing the woman on the Sabbath, Jesus’ actions were considered to be within the intention or spirit of the Sabbath, and they enhanced Sabbath observance instead of destroying it.

Acts of compassion are holy work, and holy work was allowed on the Sabbath. After all, if holy work was not allowed on the Sabbath, what would the synagogue leader do? His work was holy. In Mark 2:27, Jesus argues that “the Sabbath was made for humankind and not humankind for the Sabbath”. In other words, we must not lose sight of the person in need. For example, what do you think would happen to the sick if paramedics or people in the medical profession did not work on the Sabbath? What would happen if firefighters or police officers refused to answer emergency calls on the Sabbath?

By healing the woman on the Sabbath, Jesus was doing God’s work. In doing so, He proclaimed the Good News. As Christians we are called on to do God’s work by proclaiming the Good News. Jeremiah’s experience of receiving, experiencing, and delivering God’s Word is a good example for us and the church to follow. We have been set apart as proclaimers of God’s word to the nations. We must accept with humility this responsibility.

Jesus formally denied that God rests on the Sabbath. He is creative effervescence. He constantly and lovingly creates. The institution of the Sabbath is a symbol of creation yet to be completed and still needs to be brought to fullness. We as Christians are to continue this process of creation. This story illustrates a basic truth about God’s kingdom. The kingdom doesn’t care about our timing, or our sense of etiquette, or our obsession with propriety and decorum. The kingdom cares about love now.

We are called on to free people from bondage. By healing the woman, Jesus freed her from the bondage of disability-a bondage that some people in that time believed was caused by a person’s sin. Similarly, the people of Israel were bound by affliction and sin. They were godless in heart since instead of crying out for help they sat complacently and gnawed over their own affliction.

The Sabbath so overwhelms us with God’s abundance and grace we are desperate to share it. The Holy Spirit keeps us on the lookout for anyone in need of healing or empowerment. We don’t restrict this to specific times, places, or days, but we do this every day and everywhere by the unbounded Spirit of God, which gives us strength to do His work in our world.

This story asks us what kind of fruit our adherence to tradition bears. Does our vision of holiness lead us to hospitality, to inclusion, to freedom for ourselves and others? Does it cause our hearts to open wide with compassion? Does it lead the broken to feel loved and welcomed at God’s table? Does it make us flexible? Does it prime our minds and hearts for a God who is always doing something new?

Bibliography

  1. Craig Condon, “The Call that Frees us…….and Others Too!” Retrieved from the author’s sermon library.
  2. Craig Condon, “God is Our Refuge and Strength.” Retrieved from the author’s sermon library.
  3. Craig Condon, “For Every Rule, There Are Always Exceptions.” Retrieved from the author’s sermon library.
  4. Carolyn Sharp, “Commentary on Luke 13:10-17.” Retrieved from www.workingpreacher.org
  5. Michael L. Ruffin, “Commentary on Jeremiah 1:4-10.” Retrieved from www.workingpreacher.org
  6. “Proper 16C.” Retrieved from http://girardianlectionary.net/reflections/
  7. Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013, pp.751-752,963, 1413-1414,1763-1764)
  8. Swindoll, Charles R.: Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary: Hebrews (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers Inc.; 2017; pp. 207-210)
  9. Scott Hoetzee, “Jeremiah 1:4-10 Commentary.” Retrieved from https://cepreaching.org
  10. Bruce Epperly, “Adventurous Lectionary-The Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost-August 21, 2022” Retrieved from www.patheos.com/blogs/livingaholyadventure

Jeremiah 31:31-34 God Forgives and Forgets

With her sidewalk chalk, India colored in the flowers she had drawn along the edge of the driveway. Then she stood back and frowned.

Dad came out of the house and smiled at India. “What lovely flowers!” he said. “And I won’t even have to water them.”

“No, but I’m going to,” said India. “I want them a different color.” Taking the garden hose, she aimed the stream of water at her artwork. WHOOSH! All traces of chalk soon disappeared down the driveway.

India grinned at Dad. “Now I can start all over,” she said. “Cool, huh?”

“That is pretty cool,” said Dad. “That’s a picture of what Jesus does for us. He gives us a chance to start over when we confess our sin to Him.”

“Oh, great,” India said, rolling her eyes. “I can already see my chalk flowers are going to be used in a sermon!”

Dad grinned. “Well, that’s what happens when you have a pastor for a dad!” He nodded toward the wet spot on the driveway. “Where are the flowers you drew?”

“They’re gone,” India replied, “and I know what you’re going to say–that when we confess our sins, they’re gone too.”

“That’s right,” said Dad. “Now bring those flowers back for a minute.”

“I can’t!” India said. “They’re washed down the drain, and they don’t exist anymore.”

Dad smiled. “They’re gone, never to be seen again. That’s what happens to our sins when we confess them to Jesus and turn away from them. He forgives and forgets them. The Bible says He removes them from us as far as the east is from the west!”

“But sometimes I still go over them in my mind–even after I tell Jesus I’m sorry,” India said.

Dad nodded. “Sometimes it’s hard for us to forget the bad things we’ve done, and even after confessing them, we wonder how God can forgive and forget them. When that happens, ask Jesus to help you remember His promise to always forgive your sins and remove them.”

“And thank Him for letting me start over,” added India. “Just like I’m going to do with these flowers!” Chalk in hand, she began drawing again on a dry section of the driveway.

Have you ever had one of those days when nothing goes right? It feels like the world is against you. To make matters worse, someone might tell you that God is always faithful, and you want to punch that person in the mouth. Biblically, that someone was the prophet Jeremiah. We see an example of this in Jeremiah 31:31-34.

The earliest Christians followed these words as they tried to understand Jesus’ call for them to live as His disciples. They felt called to continue living in ways that were shaped by God’s Word from the Hebrew Bible. They found that Jeremiah’s words encouraged them to let their faith in Christ fill their hearts and direct their living, so that everything they did and everything they said became a testimony to the forgiveness they had received and the lives they were called to live.

Covenants with God are not necessarily communal. When they are broken, the entire community suffers. God suffers, and our neighbours are also hurt. In this case, the Old Covenant can’t be fixed. Covenants are mere lip service if the heart is devoted to other gods. Instead of leading the people in their covenant relationship with God, the Kings of Israel sought political alliances to increase their own power. This was supposed to keep Israel from being conquered, but to Jeremiah it was a violation of their covenant with God.

Jeremiah put the earthly powers that subverted the covenant on notice. God deals with these destructive people and aims directly for our own hearts. He will know us and we will know Him no matter what our status is with our fellow humans.

The Lord solved the problem of a corrupt heart by writing His Laws on the hearts of His people. With the law written on the heart each person would act instinctively in God’s ways. They could live out the New Covenant requirements in exterior acts, but these acts would flow from a heart turned to God.  In other words, by the indwelling Spirit of God, the laws of God would move from being an external reality to an internal reality. This provision of the New Covenant was instituted through the blood of Christ. The unconditional covenants God made with Israel secured her future blessings, and the blood of the New Covenant secures all those who are in Christ.

God distinguished this covenant from the one He had given them at the time of their Exodus from Egypt. The terms of that covenant were written on tablets of stone. They were broken. The New Covenant was represented by Jesus and His death and resurrection. In the New Covenant, every individual would truly know the Lord through a direct, personal relationship rather than one that was mediated primarily through priests and prophets. It is the forgiveness that washes away the barrier between God and humanity and sets up a dynamic of intimate knowing. Those who know God will participate in the blessings of salvation.

There is no possibility of true happiness until we have established friendship and fellowship with God. There is no possibility of establishing this fellowship apart from what Jesus did for us on the cross. It is only through Christ’s death on the cross that we can be forgiven and reconciled to God.

God put our sins on Jesus and judged them there so that He could put them out of His mind and deal with us mercifully. Jesus’ great atonement for our sins removed all sin from the mind of God. Believers wear a divine righteousness. When we mourn over our sins and shortcomings, we must also rejoice that God will not hold our sins against us. This makes us hate sin. God’s free pardon makes us anxious to never again grieve Him by disobedience. God continually renews the covenant we break so that we might know the One who wants nothing more than to be in relationship with us, even when we rebel.

Christians must never lose hope. Our belief in Jesus gives us hope for the future. He will always love us just like He has always loved His people. Even after generations of people had spit in His face, He still loved them. After His people had stripped Him naked and ripped His flesh, He still died for them. Even today, after billions of people have forsaken Him for power, fame, and wealth, He still waits for them. This isn’t logical or rational, but it is that lack of logic and rationality that gives God’s Word its greatest defense, because only God could love like that.

When I was doing my research for this message, I read about an interesting custom that takes place every New Year’s Eve in Italy. Just before midnight the streets are cleared. At the stroke of midnight, the windows of the houses fly open, and to the sound of laughter, music, and fireworks, everyone throws out what they no longer need-things such as old furniture, dishes, and some personal possessions. It’s a way of wiping out the old and starting fresh.

We can wipe out the old and start fresh as well when God forgives us and forgets our sins. The principle of remembering and forgetting is nowhere more important that when we apply it to our sins. God clearly wants us to remember that we are sinners. Then when God forgives our sins, He also forgets them and He wants us to forget them too. We need to remember what God remembers and forget what God forgets.

Forgiveness gets us to relationship with God so that we can be His people and know Him intimately. When things get tough, Satan will tell us that we are alone. When he does, he lies. If we are in Christ, we are never alone. Through the Holy Spirit who lives in us, we are one of His people and we know Him and are known by Him. In a lonely world, that’s great news.

There are many people today who have benefitted from the blessings of God but do not walk in His ways. Carrying a Bible, attending a good church, and outwardly presenting the appearance of a devout Christian are not enough. God’s truth must be in our hearts. Unless it is real on the inside, the outer façade will soon disappear and the truth will come out. God is not deceived by things that may hide our inward thoughts and feelings from other people. He is looking for people who will be true to Him, beginning on the inside.

Have you done something wrong? If you trust in Jesus, He’s already taken the punishment for all your sins, and He promises to forgive any sin and remove it from your life. When you do something wrong, tell Him and ask Him to forgive you. Even if you think of the bad thing you did again, He won’t–it’s gone forever! Then you can start over, depending on Him to help you do what’s right.

Bibliography

  1. Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New Kings James Version (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 2013; pp. 1005-1006)
  2. Guest, J. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series Vol. 19: Jeremiah, Lamentations (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1988; pp. 211-213)
  3. MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
  4. Lucado, M.: The Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson; 2010)
  5. “He Remembers No More.” Retrieved from Christianity.com@crosswalkmail.com
  6. Hazel W. Marett, “Gone for Good.” Retrieved from infor@keysforkids.org
  7. “Remembering and Forgetting.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
  8. Pete Briscoe, “Experiencing LIFE Today.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
  9. Greg Laurie, “Put It Away.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
  10. Jude Siciliano, OP, “First Impressions, 5th Sunday of Lent (B)< March 22, 2015.” Retrieved from www.preacherexchange.org
  11. Billy Graham, “Forgiveness and Fellowship.” Retrieved from Cristianity.com@crosswalkmail.com
  12. Dr. Paul Chappell, “Written on the Heart.” Retrieved from daily@dailyintheword.org
  13.  The Rev. Dr. J. Bennett Guess, “Written Within You.” Retrieved from www.day1.org
  14. John Piper, “The Greatest Salvation Imaginable.” Retrieved from noreply+sj@feeds.desiringgod.org

Psalm 85 Spiritual Deafness

“We had a new girl in our class at church today,” Josephine said as she set the table for lunch. “Her name is Lauren, and she’s deaf. She reads lips.”

Mom nodded. “I met her mother. Their family moved here recently.” She set a plate of vegetables on the table. “Just last week I read an article that said several million people in our country are totally deaf, and even more can’t hear as well as they should.”

“Nolan doesn’t hear as well as he should.” Josephine smirked at her brother. “He only hears when he wants to. He hears just fine when somebody mentions dessert, but he doesn’t seem to hear when someone mentions chores that need to be done.”

Nolan smirked back. “Speak for yourself!”

“I guess we’re all guilty of that once in a while,” Dad said as he filled a pitcher with water. “It’s called selective hearing–only hearing what you want to hear.” He started pouring water into the glasses on the table. “Sadly, some of us who have perfectly good hearing are deaf in another way–we’re spiritually deaf.”

“Spiritually deaf?” asked Josephine. “What does that mean?”

“It means failing to hear what God has to say,” said Dad. “He invites everyone to trust in Jesus and be saved, but many people don’t seem to hear Him. God warns of coming judgment, but people are so busy with their own interests that they don’t pay attention. It’s as though they’re deaf to what He’s saying.”

“Even Christians often don’t hear God as well as they should,” said Mom. “After accepting His gift of salvation, we sometimes stop meeting with other Christians or don’t make time to read the Bible and pray. We seem to quit listening–especially if we’re afraid we’ll hear something from God that we don’t like.”

“I guess that would be like what Dad said we’re guilty of,” said Nolan. “Selective hearing.”

“That’s right,” said Dad. “We need to keep our spiritual ears open all the time and be listening for what God wants to tell us.”

Most of us live between memory and hope. We remember what God has done in the past with gratitude, and we hope that He will do it again. This makes our present sorrows and discouragements bearable. It is a sign that we need revival. Revival is the inrush of the Spirit into a body that threatens to become a corpse. It brings new life and fresh vigor. It brings renewed momentum. What can we do during these times? That’s the issue in Psalm 85.

In the psalm, Israel has experienced a great loss, probably a military defeat. She knows that God is angry. The psalmist remembers that God brought His people out of captivity before and forgave them, removing His wrath. Thus the psalmist has the courage to ask God to do it again. The six verbs-been favourable, brought back, have forgiven, covered, taken away, turned on-highlight God’s redemptive work in Israel’s history. God’s gracious dealings with Israel in the past justify the hope that He will again show grace and forgiveness.

Everywhere we look, there are signs of spiritual decay and decline in our society. This evil has infected both the world and the church. There is a need for revival, but it can’t be produced by human means or effort. It is the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on God’s children that we should be earnestly praying to see become a reality.

Throughout the Bible, God’s judgment is always a result of His righteousness and our moral failure. For this reason there will never be restoration, revival, or reunion apart from forgiveness. This makes the cross where Jesus was sacrificed central to our faith. As John 1:29 says, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” When restoration occurs, and it is based on forgiveness, God’s wrath is lifted.

If we have experienced a crisis in our lives, perhaps God has a purpose behind it. Perhaps God has taken steps to get our attention, and the next step is ours. Believers often complain because they don’t have any power, but God has given them the power. They simply refuse to use it. They get caught up in their own circumstances, problems, and issues. They simply forget to ask God for His help.

Christ breaks us free from Satan’s captivity, cancels our sins, and takes God’s judgment upon Himself. How then can we deal with our present depression and darkness? The first thing to do is to remember the past, especially what Jesus has done.

There are only two potions for us-God’s wrath or God’s life. Both come from Him. We can’t work up repentance and somehow deserve divine mercy. God has to do the work. All we can do is ask Him to do it. These truths emphasize His sovereign grace and lift the responsibility from us for our salvation and place it upon Him.

The word “mercy” means “lovingkindness” or “steadfast love.” It is a powerful word used elsewhere in the Old Testament to describe God’s unconditional love and His covenant commitment. There is great comfort in knowing that when a person sins, God does not change. His steadfast love allows everyone to seek further grace and forgiveness.

No one is beyond hope-no matter how far gone they appear to be. God is sovereign, and He is able to bring revival and new life to even the coldest heart or the most rebellious nation. The promise of salvation is followed by a warning not to return to our sinful, human nature. Grace must never create presumption. We are to respect God. As we do, salvation will be near. With God’s deliverance comes His glory. Only those who renounce their sinful autonomy and put their complete trust in the living God will enjoy the blessings of salvation and the future kingdom. Spiritual revival is not only about getting right with God. It is about returning to a place where we can delight in God. The very presence of God lives among us.

A good word to describe Christianity is “exposure.” We become Christians after being exposed as sinners. We grow as Christians and become exposed to our need of change in some area. We confess daily sin and it is exposed in our lives. We flourish in rwalk as a result of being exposed to the Scriptures. Joy depends on our understanding the grace of God, knowing that God’s grace is at work even when we suffer. Faithful living requires an attitude of listening for God’s voice, and then determining its meaning for our lives or our situations. Faith requires action on our part. We must seek forgiveness for the times we have neglected or turned away from God. We must recommit our hearts to Jesus.

What we need is a sweeping revival. Decline occurs in nine cycles. We go from:

  1. Bondage to spiritual faith
  2. Spiritual faith to courage
  3. Courage to liberty
  4. Liberty to abundance
  5. Abundance to selfishness
  6. Selfishness to complacency
  7. Complacency to apathy
  8. Apathy to dependence
  9. Dependance back again to bondage.

As humans we are forever returning to our old, sin-filled ways. No matter how many times God rescues us from ourselves and the damage we do to one another, when will we ever learn? When will we listen to God and live in the promised peace and wholeness that is ours in Christ?

This psalm expresses the union of God’s mercy and peace on the one hand and His kingdom order, truth and righteousness. Law and gospel, demand and gift, become one by His grace. We are pointed to Jesus, who bears all of these attributes in His own person. We gain His righteousness, and this righteousness brings peace or wholeness to God’s people. Righteousness comes from heaven as God’s gift and measures and judges the earth. God’s mercy and righteousness will triumph, and the earth will be blessed again. This gives us hope for the future-a future that impacts our homes, our cities, our nations, and our world.

Bibliography

  1. Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New Kings James Version (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 2013; pp. 762-763)
  2. Williams, D. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 14: Psalms 73-150 (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1989; pp. 108-113)
  3. Stanley, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles; 2005)
  4. MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
  5. Stephen Davey, “Taking a Bath…Daily!” Retrieved from http://www.wisdomonline.org
  6. Bayless Conley, “The Vital Sign of Joy.” Retrieved from Bayless@AnswersBC.org
  7. Bayless Conley, “The Importance of Revival.” Retrieved from Bayless@AnswersBC.org
  8. Christine Caine, “A Time for Revival.” Retrieved from no-reply@christinecaine.com
  9. Shelley Cunningham, “Psalm 85:8-13.” Retrieved from communic@luthersem.edu
  10. Raul Ries, “Revive Your People.” Retrieved from http://www.crosswalk.com/devotionals/somebody-loves-you-radio-w-raul-ries/
  11. Krista Vingelis, “Psalm 85 verses 8-13.” Retrieved from communic@luthersem.edu
  12. Ron Moore, “Soul Calm.” Retrieved from Crisswalk@crosswalkmail.com
  13. “Hearing Problems.” Retrieved from info@keysforkids.org

Jeremiah 2:4-13 Being the Bearer of Bad News

Have any of you ever had to deliver bad news? It isn’t an easy experience. I know because I’ve had to deliver bad news. The prophets in the Old Testament often had to deliver bad news to the people. We see a good example of this in the passage we heard from Jeremiah.

Jeremiah’s preparation was over. God was ready to give Jeremiah the word of the Lord for the nation-first an indictment and judgment against Israel for worshipping other gods, and then a call for the people to turn from their sinful ways before it is too late. God leveled several accusations against a people who did not find it easy to keep their faith in the mundane, day-to-day world.

Jeremiah pointed out two reasons why Israel was accused. First, Israel acted against common practice. Never in their history had the people forsaken the Gods of their inheritance. Second, they acted against common sense. Why did they take something of great value and exchange it for something worthless? They had forsaken God, the fountain of living water for cisterns of their own making. The Israelites gave up everything and went after nothing.

Cisterns are reservoirs dug into the earth. They are usually made of solid rock and are designed to hold water. On the other hand, a fountain is a spring that bubbles up from the earth with an unending supply of fresh, pure water. Instead of choosing God’s living water, we often choose to make our own cisterns. When we choose our own way instead of God’s way, we realize that our own way doesn’t work because it is broken.

The people’s ingratitude moved to idolatry and then to indifference. Hearing God’s Word, the people didn’t even ask, “Where is the Lord?” God was not absent. The people and their priests ignored the God of Israel as they pursued other, pagan gods. The priceless heritage of the Promised Land was ignored in favour of idolatry.

We do the same thing today when we get caught up in our daily worries. We resort to coping strategies such as finding a distraction. Unfortunately not thinking about something doesn’t make it go away. Our broken cistern is a cheap substitute that is not better than the living water.  We can choose between doing what we think will help us cope and drinking the water of life that can deal with the issue.

When we exchange God for an idol, we are changed. We become what we pursue. If we pursue something that is empty, we will become empty. If we pursue vanity, we will become vain. If we pursue darkness, we are assimilated into the darkness. What pursuits or ambitions lead us from the source of living water? Technology has made our lives easier, but it is a broken cistern that can’t hold water.

Israel had been given the privilege of God’s glorious presence. The people had known God as their glory, and yet other nations had demonstrated greater faithfulness to their pagan gods. No one can blame God for their sin or for their wandering habits. As an old saying goes, you made your bed, and now you have to go and lie in it. Any severe and prolonged pattern of sin, especially if it is practiced by people who claim to be devoted to God, leads to punishment from God.

Jeremiah warned that God’s people were trying to quench their cravings for salvation and significance in the wrong places. They committed two evils by turning away from the only true source of living water and by creating cisterns that could hold no water-even if living water was available. We always make a bad deal when we exchange God for anything else. If we choose something such as money, fame, power, sex, pleasure or influence instead of God, we end up with nothing but trouble-including death. There is nothing wrong with these things unless they become our focus instead of God. He is the only One who can satisfy us with His Living Water.

Some people argue that religion, which is not the same as Christianity, is a broken cistern. Religion makes us feel better. It gives us the impression that we are good, but it hides our inner evil. Religion focuses on the work of the hands, but it ignores the sin of the heart.

Where is the dryness in our own lives? Where are the parched places that long for living water? Where have we foolishly looked to our own resources for life and turned away from the true source of living water? What false gods are we worshipping in our lives? What false gods are worshipped in churches today? Where are we tempted to “own” the earth and control the future? We are not immune to pride, rebellion, and replacing God as the centre of our lives. We were meant to fly in a relationship with God, but we’ve traded His power and His strength for boring lives that can offer us little.

God cares about what we do. He feels the pain of the earth and the pain of those who suffer injustice. Our behaviours that cause pain also cause God pain. We can love God best when we love His creatures.

Bibliography

  1. Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New Kings James Version (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 2013; pp. 964-965)
  2. Guest, J. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 19: Jeremiah, Lamentations (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1988; pp. 34-35)
  3. Stanley, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles; 2005)
  4. Lucado, M.: The Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson; 2010; pp. 1022-1023
  5. Jilly Lyon Taylor, “Broken Cisterns.” Retrieved from info@seedsofthekingdom.net
  6. Stephen Davey, “Drawing From the Right Well.” Retrieved from www.crosswalk.com/devotionals/a-wisdom-retreat
  7. Richard Griffiths, “The Water of Life.” Retrieved from info@seedsofthekingdom.net
  8. Chuck Swindoll, “Cheap Substitutes.” Retrieved from www.insightforliving.ca
  9. Dr. Ed Young, “You Are Meant For So Much More.” Retrieved from ministry@winningwalk.org
  10. Richard Floyd, “Living Water and Leaky Containers.” Retrieved from dailydevotional@ucc.org
  11. Anathea Portier-Young, “Commentary on Jeremiah 2:4-13.” Retrieved from www.workingpreacher.org
  12. Alphonetta Wines, “Commentary on Jeremiah 2:4-13.” Retrieved from www.workingpreacher.org
  13. Henry Langknecht, “Commentary on Jeremiah 2:4-13.” Retrieved from www.workingpreacher.org

Amos 8:1-12 Is History Repeating Itself?

The events in Amos 8:1-12 happened almost 3,000 years ago, but they could read like headlines from today’s news. Amos lived during the reign of King Jeroboam II, whose reign was characterized by territorial expansion, aggressive militarism, and unprecedented national prosperity. His people took pride in their misguided religious beliefs, their history as God’s chosen people, their military victories, their economic affluence, and their political security.

Amos was a blue-collar lay preacher. The elites saw him as an unwelcome outsider. His criticism was brutal. He described how the rich mistreated the poor and flaunted their wealth. Fathers and sons visited the same temple prostitute. Corrupt judges sold justice to the highest bidder. Loan sharks exploited vulnerable families. The religious leaders pronounced God’s blessing on it all! Does this sound familiar? God sent his prophet Amos to warn the Israelites to repent of their sins. God gives us these examples in this passage to teach us that He hates sin. He promised a Saviour who would save us from our sins.

God used an image of ripe fruit to tell Amos the message that He wanted the Israelites to hear. The Hebrew word for end sounds like the word for summer fruit, which was harvested at the end of Israel’s agricultural season. This wordplay indicates that Israel’s end is near. The point of the vision was to declare that Israel’s rebellion had ripened. The harvest of their disobedience was God’s judgment. Israel’s refusal to return to the Lord brought her to the point of no return.

Israel’s wealthy eagerly awaited the end of feasts and the Sabbath so they could continue exploiting the poor. But on the Day of Judgment, not only would those celebrations be turned into mourning but there would be a famine of the words of the Lord-His truth would no longer be revealed through His prophets. Today, the Bible is available nearly everywhere, but deaf ears can still produce spiritual drought. Not many people listened to Amos. In fact, Amaziah the priest defended King Jeroboam and ran Amos out of town.

These visions have implications for us today. When is an individual, a church, or a ministry ripened fruit? Does resistance to God finally result in an irreversible end? Physical death ends the possibility of repentance and new life. We will spend eternity separated from God unless we accept His offer of salvation through Christ before we die. The scariest thing is that it is possible to resist the overtures of God’s love for so long that our wills can become hardened. We have to recognize the danger of becoming ripened fruit by never confessing Christ as Lord. Any claims of righteousness by faith must be combined with seeking and doing His will in our relationships and in our responsibilities to care for the poor, hungry, and disadvantaged.

When we do not heed God’s warnings and His exposure of what is wrong, we face the eventuality of becoming ripened fruit. We run the danger of becoming ripened fruit through the long process of hypocrisy. Israel’s hypocrisy ripened and would be cut off. Spoilage began and decomposition was not far off. All of us suffer from the danger of pretending to be pious while our actions contradict our words.

In Amos’ time, religious hypocrisy led to blatant rebellion. The passage from Amos revealed four charges. One charge was against the hypocrites who pretended to be religious while the poor were starved, sold into slavery, or lived in an impoverished state. Weights and measures, which were crucial to the economic order of the nation, were being falsified in the sale of grain, wheat, and produce. In verse 7, God swore an oath the He would never forget these practices of the hypocrites. The consequence of His oath would be like an earthquake.

The greatest impact of God’s judgment on the hypocrisy would be a famine of hearing the words of God. It would not be a famine of words, but a famine of hearing. Hypocrisy ripened to the point where the people no longer sought God’s words, nor did they listen when He spoke.

Amos rightly calls this period of silence a famine. It will be discouraging. The pain of living under Roman rule will be bad enough, but the total lack of prophesy will make it worse. The Israelites will be able to practice their religion, but only because the emperor allows it. The people will wonder where God is. They won’t be given any sign that Roman power is limited in either time or magnitude. Their belief that God is the Lord of all creation will be mocked, and He won’t do or say anything to prove them wrong.

In this famine of hearing, people will react like starving people. News reports bring into our homes and hearts the reality of people who are starving. As we see physical hunger, we are forced to see the stages of starvation, especially in Africa. Hatred grows between people. The hungry move from place to place looking for food and water. Soon apathy sets in. Absent stares are seen in eyes that are set in dark, hollow sockets. The starving people sink to the ground. Atrophy begins. Then the terrible grip of the monster of hunger causes them to writhe in pain. Finally, there is death. This is similar to the spiritual starvation of the Israelites when they experienced the famine of hearing the words of God.

We can identify the famine of hearing in our own time. It is similar to the famine of food. When people substitute hypocrisy for a dynamic relationship with God, there is an unsatisfied spiritual hunger. They go through the same process as in physical starvation-agitation, then acrimony, followed by criticism and negativism. People run all over the place in search of meaning in their lives.

God has sent a famine of hearing today. We can block the ears of our minds and our hearts to His words of grace and guidance, His demands of righteousness and justice in our personal lives and society for so long that we become spiritually deaf for a time. When we want God as much as a starving person longs for food or a thirsty person for water, we will be satisfied. If we want to be right with God, and we want His righteousness in our relationships and our responsibilities, God will answer our prayers. Spiritual famine does not have to lead to our spiritual death.

Unfortunately many people don’t realize that they are in a spiritual famine. Many people do starve when spiritual food is available. Others eat spiritual junk food when they really need a substantial intake of spiritual food that they can only get by receiving the nutritious truths from God’s Word.

There is not a famine of the words of God in the world today. We can turn on the radio, television, computer, smart phone, or tablet at almost any time of the day or night and hear or read a biblical exposition. The difficulty is in the willingness to hear. Something is seriously wrong in our hearts when we see God’s commandments and regular, corporate worship as a burden to get through rather than a privilege to enjoy. When we lose our appetite for Scripture it is because of spiritual sickness. This passage from Amos gives us an opportunity to help people identify their spiritual hunger and determine why they may not be listening.

How hungry are we for the Word of God? In 1 Peter 2:2, Peter tells us to be hungry for the Word like newborn babies hunger for mother’s milk. How much time do we spend each day feeding at the divine table and savor each line and doctrine with such complete joy and relish that it changes us from the inside out? How much do we long to fill our souls with the pure and wholesome teaching of God’s Word? How often during the day do we pause to have devotions and savor the beauty, goodness, and truth of God and His Word?

If Amos were among us today, what would he see, and what would he say? God’s children are starving because the word of God is being withheld from them. We must ask ourselves if it is just rules getting in the way of them being fed. What if we suspended the rules? Would Christ show up anyway?

Bibliography

  1. Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New Kings James Version (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 2013; pp. 1186-1187)
  2. Lucado, M.: The Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson; 2010; pp. 1227-1229)
  3. Ogilvie, L.J. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 22: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.: 1990; pp. 355-366)
  4. Stanley, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN:Nelson Bibles; 2005)
  5. Dr. Paul Chappell, “The Worst Famine.” Retrieved from daily@dailyintheword.org
  6. Charles R. Swindoll, “Spiritual Famine.” Retrieved from info@insightforliving.ca
  7. T.M. Moore, “Hungry for the Word.” Retrieved from noreply@ailbe.org
  8. Mike Slay and Matt Richardson, “Where is God?” Retrieved from noreply@ailbe.org
  9. Jennifer Brownell, “Rules.” Retrieved from dailydevotional@ucc.org
  10. Dan Clendenin, “Amos: Will Not the Land Tremble?” Retrieved from www.journeywithjesus.net

2 Kings 2:1-2,6-14 The Passing of the Mantle

There are times in our lives when we have to say goodbye to the ones we love. It could mean saying goodbye to a family member or friend that we have visited, or a loved one who is dying. Parting isn’t always easy, but it is a necessary part of life. The passage we heard from 2 Kings 2 is an example of a parting of the ways.

Elijah knew that God was about to take him home. He tried to keep it a secret, but he didn’t know that God told Elisha and the prophets what was going to happen. Elisha had served and followed Elijah faithfully for many years, but when the time came for Elijah to leave, Elisha made sure he was there to receive God’s anointing to continue the ministry of his master. For this to happen, he had to see his master go and be ready to receive the Spirit of God that would empower him.

Faithfulness and loyalty to Elijah were essential traits for Elijah’s successor. Some suggest Elisha was disobedient in not staying, but Elijah was testing Elisha, and Elisha passed the test. When Elijah tested him a third time, Elisha still refused to put his own comfort first.

Why did Elijah want the group to stay behind? He wanted to spare them the pain of seeing him leave. Also, he knew God was going to perform a miracle to bring his earthly life to an end, and he didn’t want to “show off.” He knew God was going to give a new meaning to the Kenny Rogers song, “Let’s Go Out, in a Blaze of Glory.”

When Elijah struck the waters of the Jordan River with the mantle again, he implied that God was with Elisha as He was with Elijah. After they crossed the Jordan River, Elijah asked Elisha if there was anything he could do for Elisha. In response, Elisha asked for a double portion of the prophetic spirit. His request related to Deuteronomy 21:17 where the oldest son was entitled to a double share of the father’s estate.  Elisha requested a double portion of Elijah’s spirit, the energizing power characterizing Elijah’s ministry. Elisha wanted to be designated as Elijah’s heir. Elisha wanted God’s empowerment far more than he wanted wealth. By receiving double what the other prophets would get, Elisha would become the leader of the other prophets. Elisha made a big request because he had come to know a big God. What “big things” might God be pleased to do in our lives if only we would ask Him?

Elijah knew that only God could grant this request. If God allowed Elisha to see Elijah when he was taken away, that would be a sign that God granted Elisha’s request to be Elijah’s successor. Elisha did see Elijah being taken away.

The chariot and horses of fire were likely an angel squadron on special assignment. Elijah’s exclamation speaks to the reason God commanded Israel’s kings not to stockpile horses or fear armies with chariots; every powerful resource is found in God, who fights for His people. The horse-drawn chariot was the fastest means of transport and the mightiest means of warfare in that day. Thus, the chariot and horses represented God’s protection, which was the true safety of Israel and is our true safety today. Just as earthly kingdoms are dependent for their defense on such military force as represented by the modern day versions of horses and chariots, one single prophet-Elijah-had done more by God’s power to preserve his nation than all their military preparations.

Elijah had placed his prophetic mantle on Elisha as Israel’s next prophet. Now Elisha demonstrated his acceptance of the call. We can depend on the Elijahs in our lives as long as God allows, but there will come a time for us when we have to step out on our own like Elisha. That’s the time when we are tempted to cling to our Elijah and feel that we can’t go on alone, but God says that we must go on. All of us need people who model what it means to follow Jesus, just like Elijah modeled for Elisha what it means to follow God. May God give us godly people who help us grow spiritually. May we also, by the power of the Holy Spirit, invest our lives in the lives of other people. 

Crossing the Jordan represents a separation from those we have been clinging to and beginning  to take our walk with God in total dependence upon Him. We can’t depend on anyone other than God to determine where we are to go and what we are to do. We have to take what we have learned from our Elijahs and learn for ourselves whether God is the God we have faith to believe Him to be. Only then are we ready to proceed to the other side of the Jordan.

Performing the same miracle as Elijah demonstrated that Elisha had received a double portion of his mentor’s spirit. This put him in the tradition of Moses and Joshua, who respectively parted the Red Sea and the Jordan River. Like Joshua, whose name means “Yahweh Saves”, Elisha would live up to the meaning of his name- “God Saves.”

So how can we inherit our own double portions of God’s power? There are three things we have to remember:

  1. We have to have a hunger for it. This hunger comes from God. Great anointing comes with great responsibility and great difficulty.
  2. Humility comes before honour.
  3. We must be totally committed to our calling.

Our human problem is to have a little bit of God’s power of compassion when we need a lot of God’s inner, gentle love for those who are suffering around us. We need a double portion of Christ’s selfless love for those who are hurting.

The passage of the mantle is what the church has been doing for thousands of years. In many ways we inherit a double portion of what has been before as we build on the foundation of everyday prophets, saints, and sinners, all the way back to the first witnesses of the resurrection. When we sow into someone with great favour like Elijah did for Elisha, we will reap some of that favour. Grace put them there to bring us favour. As we connect to them, new doors to save will open, and new talents will come out. When we as God’s people are on the march, and we are doing what He wants us to do, nothing can stop us.

Nothing worthwhile that is accomplished for God comes without a struggle. We will face active opposition from the world, the flesh, the devil, and sometimes other Christians. We should expect these troubles rather than being surprised by them. If we only do the easy things, we will fall short of His purpose for our lives. We should do what Elisha did and recognize obstacles as opportunities for God to display His power in our lives. Because he had God’s approval, Elisha was not swayed by the opinions of men. Because he had God’s power, Elisha was not discouraged by the opposition of men. We can rely on the Holy Spirit to equip us for the task-just like Elisha relied on God’s Spirit. Because we have God’s approval, we must not be swayed by popular opinion. Because we have God’s power, we must not be discouraged in the face of opposition.

Let’s consider for a moment the Elishas we know. They are good, faithful people caught up in a mess of someone else’s making, trying with everything they’ve got to hang on, playing their last card like a gambler with nothing left to lose. For example, a transgendered church member fits that description. Bullied by their roommates, despairing of a way out, they send up a Sunday morning SOS, tearfully begging the congregation for leads on a safe place to live. When they strike the church’s fount of blessing, the water parts to reveal an elderly couple, not on anyone’s list of potential landlords, who feel God is speaking directly to them. The service postlude has barely ended when the 80-somethings invite the 21-year-old and their service dog to come live at their house.

Elishas are the people who pass through the waters and then go on to work great wonders. We are often asked to be reasonable or practical, but this passage reminds us that God’s power is not controlled by the limits of our imagination. We must not be afraid to ask for what seems to be impossible. We should praise the God who makes a way out of no way and give thanks for the ones who provide a way over. Then smack those waters with all our might.

Bibliography

  1. Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New Kings James Version (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 2013; p. 482)
  2. Dilday, R. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 9: 1,2 Kings (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1987; pp. 245-248)
  3. Stanley, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles; 2005)
  4. MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Version (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
  5. Vikki Kemper, “Troubled Waters.” Retrieved from dailydevotional@ucc.org
  6. Os Hillman, “Thirsting After God.” Retrieved from tgis@marketplaceleaders.org
  7. Joel Osteen, “A Double Portion.” Retrieved from devotion@goto.joelosteen.com\
  8. Ron Moore, “A Bold Request.” Retrieved from www.ronmoore.org
  9. Dr. Paul Chappell, “Taking on Hard Things.” Retrieved from daily@dailyintheword.org
  10. Ed Markquart, “2 Kings 2:1-12.” Retrieved from communic@luthersem.edu
  11. Estera Pirosca Escobar, “Someone Who Leads.” Retrieved from donotreply@email.rbc.org