Wednesday, February 29, 2012

1 Samuel 11 - Saul's Finally Worthy

Saul: Farmer, Warrior, King...

King Saul coming from the field from behind the oxen... I have always loved picturing this. Now, at this point the people hadn't really accepted him as their king, but God had already had Samuel annoint Saul as king.

You notice I didn't mention savior in the above list? Under Saul's leadership and direction, Israel was delivered from the Ammonites. But, Saul gives credit to God when in verse 13 he says, "No one shall be put to death this day, for today the LORD has brought deliverance to Israel." The LORD has brought deliverance. It is always and only the LORD who delivers. It is necessary to remember that.

When Samuel first annointed Saul as their king, not everyone was ready to accept him as their king. But, having proved his worthiness of the position in battle, they are now ready to renew the kingship.

It is an unfortunate reality of life, that often in order to be accepted we have to do something really outstanding. Our works need to be some really in your face stuff in order for our gifts to be recognized as beneficial. After all, if we're not beneficial to others, will they accept us? Unfortunately, again, not usually. Seems often we have personal ulterior motives for following someone or even letting them into our lives and unlike God we insist they prove themselves before we can accept them.

May God help us to learn to be more like Jesus - opening our arms to those He sends into our lives no matter who they might be. Help us to not judge whether they are worthy of our love, but to learn to love as unconditionally as God loves us.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

1 Samuel 10 - Filled With The Spirit

Saul is annointed (10:1)and is filled with the Spirit (10:9). God - the Spirit gives Saul a new heart. Once we start reading about Saul's reign as king, we're going to find that he must have forgotten some of what God had done for Him, calling Him, to be the King, the one who would save His people.

At Baptism, we too are annointed with the Holy Spirit. We are changed. We are given new hearts. Our hearts of stone are changed to hearts of flesh. Hearts that beat with life and the love of life, for our lives and the lives of others. But, as we grow, as we go; something happens. The Holy Spirit is still with us, but, that original annointing is not real evident in our lives. As time passes, we might turn our backs on God and turn to our own desires. We do not listen to, we do not follow; in fact we flat out reject the guidance of the Holy Spirit and go our own way.

Let us remember our baptisms. That in the waters of baptism we have died with Christ, so to live in Christ. Remember... that we have been annointed with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God has been poured out upon us. A very precious gift has been given us. Let us honor that gift and do not despise or reject the Spirit.

Monday, February 27, 2012

1 Samuel 9 - Searching (Ramblings today)

I am sure glad no one expects me to tell them where their donkeys are! It's hard enough for me to find my own car in Wal-Mart's parking lot!

Saul is focused on find his father's donkeys. He ends up searching out the prophet Samuel for advise on where to find them. Samuel tells him not to give any further thought to the lost donkeys, for they have been found. Samuel has seen and heard more than this. The LORD has shown him that it will be Saul whom He has chosen to be annointed as King over Israel. I like how Samuel does not question God. He just moves about and does what needs to be done without any added stress. He just is. Everything just seems to moves along and is accomplished in Samuel's life in the order the LORD ordains and when he ordains it.

Would our lives not be more pleasant if we too, could just listen and do what we hear from the LORD? If we could just "be" children of God, servants of God. If we could just listen for His will for us and not get so excited about finding our own direction in the world?

Yesterday, after Sunday School, I went downstairs to talk to the teachers and youth to see how the first Sunday of pre-confirmation went. Every class is studying the catechism during Lent. They loved it. For the first time ever, the 4th thru 6th grade class was not ready to leave the class. They are studying the 10 Commandments, using a resource called "Respect" from Sola Publishing. "Respect" is being supplemented with taped video sessions on the commandments by Walt Wangerin. As Roger was trying to dismiss the class, the young people were asking for time for one more question. Roger had planned to go through 2 commandments each Sunday; however, they barely got through the 1st yesterday. The young people were listening and out of their listening came questions and responses - conversations. They were also beginning to realize that the direction that they have been going in, may not be exactly where God would have them go - not exactly what God has been calling them to. They were excited to know - that the ways of God are not the ways of the world.

Our young people are searching for something. If we are going to help them then we need to direct them to the Word of God, so that through the Word, by the power of the Holy Spirit, they may find what they have been looking for. They may find a new direction for their lives - that the way the LORD would have them go is not necessarily the same way that they have been traveling.

Ok... long enough ramblings for the morning... God's Peace be with you. Pr. J.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

1 Samuel 8 - We Want What We Want!

Everyone else has one! We want one, too! Like little children, the Israelites want what they want and they want it now!! They want a king!

Doesn't appear that God is too thrilled with their desire to have a king, other than Himself. Why is it that the Israelites and we just can't listen to Him, just can't follow him? Why do we insist on setting men (and women) up in high places to lord it over us? Why do we insist on throwing ourselves into bondage to others - to serve anyone, but the LORD our God? Just so we can complain later? Do we need something to do that bad?

God warns the people through Samuel. They are told that they and their children will become the king's servants. He will demand the best part of their crops. He will take the best of all that they have. He will oppress them and when he does the LORD promises not to help them.

But, guess what! So what if God thinks it's a bad idea! The children of God want what they want and they want it now! So God relents and gives them what they want.

May God help us to remember that the ways of the world are not our ways. May He give us the wisdom and courage and strength to follow in His ways.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

1 Samuel 7 - Altars of False Gods

The LORD thunders His mighty voice and routes the Philistines out of Israel! Awesome!

Obviously or presumably Israel has put away the false gods and turned to the LORD with all their hearts as God helps them to be free of the Philistines.

Return to the LORD, who helps you... Put aside your false gods and turn to the LORD... Sound like a familiar theme? At the risk of sounding like a broken record we're going there again today. Chapter 7 begins with a reminder to put away false gods and ends with Samuel building an altar to the LORD.

When I was a wee bit younger, I did a whole lot more hiking and kayaking than I do now :) I recall two different altars I ran across on those journeys. Neither of these altars were public altars of any kind. I ran across them quite accidentally. The owner of at least one of them probably never expected anyone to ever find it. They were both in very isolated areas and struck me as being personal and private worship areas for someone. They both looked out over Lake Superior. They both were made of rocks and they both had a place in the rock where a fire could be made. However, the first one I stumbled across had obviously been used recently as the bones of small birds were laid out on the rocks. It smacked really bad of burnt offerings. It felt bad there. I did ask the owner of this property about it at the time as it really disturbed me that I should find something like this on property belonging to clergy. He denied knowing anything about it. It is quite possibe that he did not as the land area was quite vast.

I could not tell for what or whom the second altar I ran across had been built for. The area was clean and much more in the open, in an area where anyone could easily stumble across, unlike the first one. There were no signs of worship of false gods, of worship of sun or moon, or any other such entity... I simply don't know what it was. It did not have that yucky feeling that went with the first altar.

I member those two excursions as I read chapter 7 this morning as I once again remind us all: Return to the LORD with all your heart, put away all foreign and false gods. Direct your heart to the LORD, and serve Him only, and He - the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob - will deliver you.

Friday, February 24, 2012

1 Samuel 6 - Get God's Presence Out Of Here!

Send the presence of God with His ark back! Get rid of it!

The Philistines consult their priests and diviners as to what to do with the ark of the LORD! They don't want it around them. Their false gods fall down before it. Wherever it is, the Philistines break out with tumors.

They send it back with offerings of gold and the people rejoice. The people of Bethsemesh celebrate and give thanks when it comes to them led by two cows. They give the cows as a burnt offerings. They celebrate, but not all of them. They look upon the ark and seventy of the men are struck down by the LORD. Seventy of God's chosen people are struck down for not respecting the ark, which ultimately mean they disrespected God's presence with the ark. Not good news! The people, although excited to have it returned, are a little bit - ok - a whole lot nervous. Who can stand before the LORD? Do the wrong thing and die! So they look for someone who will be able to take possession of the ark - they (like the Philistines) don't want it among them.

Maybe steering clear from God's presence isn't such a bad thing? (being facetious in case you think I'm serious) At least from a human standpoint? Maybe this is why so many fail to come to the places designated to bring offerings of thanksgiving? Fear of coming into His presence? Just surmising... The good news is that we don't have to fear for Jesus Christ paid the penalty for our sins. He overcame the power of death for us. We can come joyfully into the presence of God. We can bring our offerings of thanksgiving without fear of death. We can hear His Word and celebrate!

Who can stand in the presence of God? Who can stand before the law of the LORD? Not a one of the Israelites. Not a one of us. But, there is one who could. Thanks be to God for Jesus the Christ!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

1 Samuel 5 - False gods fall before the LORD

The message for this morning is: False gods cannot stand before the LORD. The God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, our God has power over all things. And again... we ought not be trying to manipulating God. It doesn't work. He will have His way - one way or the other.

Sharing another story... :) About my own false gods... I have known since I was about 11 or 12 years old that I had been called into the ministry. However, I did not answer that call until I was in my 30's. I said no to God for many, many years and yes to the things of this world that were calling me. I did begin to turn my life around when I was in early 20's, but I was not willing to give up my will to His, not yet. One by one, those false gods showed themselves to be worthless. It took a lot of trials and testing to bring me to this day. Now, this may all have been God's plan for me so that when I got here, I would realize fully how worthless following other gods - following my own will and desires - actually is. Following my own desires (false gods) was definitely a wilderness experience. It is a repetition of the Israelites wandering in the wilderness. Go off doing your own thing - end up with troubles - return to the LORD - go off and do your own thing - end up with troubles - return to the LORD.

False gods are worthess. They will not stand before the LORD. They will fall before Him and bring you nothing but trouble - nothing but destruction.

During this season of Lent, consider the false gods that may have sneaked into your life and allow God to be in His rightful place in your life.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

1 Samuel 4 - The Glory Has Departed - Enter Lent

The glory has departed from Israel...

The Israelites attempted to use the ark as a means to manipulate their odds of winning the battle with the Philistines - like God is some puppet that if we say the right words or do the right thing He will do our bidding. They never consult God. They don't ask Him for guidance. They bring the ark of the covenant onto the battlefield in order to manipulate the outcome to their favor and they lose. They lose the battle. They lose the ark. The glory has departed from Israel.

I have been thinking a lot lately about the power of God and His many gifts to us. I think especially of the gift of His presence with us. He is with us always. His glory is with us. Yet, I wonder if we are really aware that God is with us? Do we use words like "God is with you" as platitudes in order to try to comfort the lost, the lonely, the hungry, the bereaved? Or, do we really believe these words? Do we use the words like magical incantations - hoping they will comfort - hoping they will help conquer? Or, do we really believe? Where is God's glory in all this? Is His glory with us when we use his word - his law - calll upon His presence - like a magical incantation - to manipulate the outcome - to bring us success?

The glory has departed from Israel. They are still His people. Yet, they have entered into some dark times because they did not trust Him or His will for them, rather they tried to manipulate it for their benefit.

The glory, I believe, has departed from many lives - lives of His children today. Simply because we use the gifts, the freedom He has given us in Christ to try to manipulate Him. We don't trust Him. We don't go to Him. We don't listen to Him. We do all the talking and telling. We don't have glory. God is the glory! Without His glory, we are going to be in a very dark place. And, so this Ash Wednesday morning we being our Lenten Journey, considering that without God we are nothing. From dust we have come. To dust we shall return.

May God help us on our Lenten journey that we might return to the LORD, our God. May He help us so that we might learn to hear His Word, to listen to Him, and return to Him for our life and salvation.

Remember: There is only one God and that is not you! Bow down and worship the one true God - do not bow to your own desires.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

1 Samuel 3 - Speak Lord Your Servant Listens

"Speak, for your servant is listening." (3:10)

I love this story of God speaking to Samuel. I think of it often, especcially when things get overwhelming - when there is more work than hours in a day - when there are more people to help that I can get to - when there are more people who need praying for than I can even remember. In times when I just no longer clue as to what to do next that I finally give it up and turn to God and pray: Speak Lord, for your servant is listening. There are times that I have boxed myself in such a corner that I have no place to turn except to stop, be quiet, and listen.

Truth is - sometimes we get so busy doing all the things we think we need to do - we forget to listen to the Word and will of God. So when the going gets tough, here is what I do, cut my evening prayer petitions short and lying down in the quiet of the night, pray one last petition: "Speak Lord, for your servant listens.." Then I listen. I should be doing this every night, but I don't. I simply do not do what I ought to do. I do not listen as I should.

Want to know why I don't think there are more prophets? No..? Well, I'll tell you anyway. We don't hear from the prophets much these days because nobody hears the Word of God in the stillness of the night, nobody hears God whispering our name as He calls to us, because He can't be heard above all the noise. We sabotauge ourselves with all of the noise and with all the things to do. We stay busy doing "busy things" until it is time to collapse for the night. We do not make the time for ourselves to be able to sit quietly in His presence and just listen. As I said in my sermon this past Sunday, I think we're all just a little bit more afraid of God than we'd like to admit. We're all just a little bit more afraid of where God might call us, of what He might say to us, if we were listening.

Jesus calls to us and what does he say? Follow me... And where did his earthly journey take him? To the cross. That is not a message that we particularly care to hear. It is just a little fearful because we do understand that the journey will take us to places where we would rather not be, to do what we'd rather not do, to be what we'd rather not be. It is a call to give ourselves for the sake of others. That is where the voice of Jesus calls us. The journey to the cross is not easy. It is easier to fill our lives with noise and busyness so that we don't have to respond to what Jesus is calling us to.

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, a time to remember his journey to the cross and a time to remember that he calls to each us. And when he calls your name, will you respond, "Speak, for your servant is listening?" Follow me...

P.S. BTW Do you know what happens when a prophet speaks? Very few respond like Eli when he said, "It is the LORD; let him do what seems good to him." No, normally prophets are ignored, persecuted, shut out. Nobody wants to listen...

P.P.S. Hope this blog isn't too convoluted today. Seems I have one of those days again where busyness is threatening to consume the day and sadly I am rushed...

Monday, February 20, 2012

1 Samuel 2 - Fat Donuts or the Lord's Supper?

Very sad. Very sad indeed. Eli's sons are greedy. They do not respect the LORD. They do not honor him. The LORD passes judgment upon them and it is not going to be good. Very sad indeed! Now, we might say that this is no less than they deserve. But, this morning I am thinking of all the sons and daughters of this world today. Do they honor the LORD? Will they be blessed or will they not?

Having the privilege (only bestowed upon us by the blood of Christ) of serving God is the greatest blessing that we could ever want. Having the privilege to abide in His presence, to eat at His table, what more is there?

Tomorrow is "Fat Tuesday." It never fails to amaze me how many paczkis are sold on Fat Tuesday. A whole lot of people indulge on Fat Tuesday by running to the bakery to fill up on these fatted and tasty treats. But, what about Ash Wednesday? Some I've talked to in the past didn't even know what Ash Wednesday was - but - they sure enough knew about indulging on Fat Tuesday!

What about Ash Wednesday? Will they show up for a simple soup (broth?) supper on Ash Wednesday? Will they remember that they are nothing but dust and to dust they shall return? Will they remember who it is that gives life and takes it? On Ash Wednesday, will they be eating and drinking of the body and blood that was shed for them? Maybe the body and blood of our Saviour isn't tasty enough - isn't filling enough? Or maybe it is that some are just greedy and have no real clue how satisfying Jesus really is? That is sad. It is sad that Jesus call us to His Table and we say no - but - rather run to the bakery for the fat donut. Very sad indeed that anyone should not know the blessings -the free blessings - given to us by our LORD.

Eli is about to lose his sons because they were greedy and wanted the best, the fat. How very sad, indeed!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

1 Samuel 1 - Dedicated to God

A woman without child. She prays and God hears. He answers. In return for being blessed with a son, she lends him to the LORD's service for his life-time. While still in the womb, she dedicates her son's life to the LORD. She makes vows for him (appearing to be similar to a Nazirite) even before he is born.

How many of us have done this? How many mothers grieve as their children grow in years, that they do not serve the LORD with their whole hearts and minds and souls? Is there a gift that could be better than this - that our children should know the LORD and be in a living, loving relationship with Him?

May God grant that the children of all who read this would turn to the LORD and serve Him above all others. That they would turn to Him and live full lives dedicated to walking with God, who is the only one who can make their journeys worth rejoicing.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Ruth 4 - Marriage Is About Commitment

Most often when I counsel couples about to be married, I talk about the commitment that marriage is. It is a contract between two people to be bound together, to live together, supporting each other 'till death parts them. For what God joins together, man cannot separate. Even when divorce happens and it does at times... once they have been joined together, they will always be a part of one another.

I remind them that marriage is as much about commitment as it is about love - even more so. It is the commitment they make and keep that will help their love to stay strong and even grow. There will be days in their lives together when they may not feel like they love one another any longer. It will be in those times that they should remember the commitment they made to one another as they stood before God and the people and made a covenant to share their entire lives with each other. They will need to remember that they have committed themselves to love and to care for each other till death parts them. Marriage is about commitment. It is about faithfulness. It is about loyalty.

After such a short time of having known Ruth, Boaz cannot know if he truly loves this woman - at least not in the way that comes with caring for someone through time. But, he is committed to seeing that she and her mother-in-law are cared for. He is committed, as is Ruth and Naomi, to seeing that the family name, the inheritance of Elimelech, is passed on for another generation. He is willing to father a son, who shall be his late relative's son, who shall be the inheritor the property left behind and the son who will care for Naomi in her old age. He is committed to blessing not just Ruth, but the mother-in-law, Ruth, whom she does love. Boaz is committed to love and to care for Ruth and all whom she loves.

Marriage is a life-long contract. It is a commitment to love and care for each other, no matter what may come. There may be times when we may think that maybe we made a mistake in making that commitment, but as we work on that commitment, love will indeed grow.

To follow Jesus Christ, to become his bride, we also make a commitment. There will be many times, when life in relationship with him, may seem like it is more of a commitment than we can bear. But, as we remind ourselves of the commitment he has made to us, we will be reminded of the great love he has for us and our love for him and one another will also grow.

May the LORD give us the faith, strength, and courage needed to help us in our commitment to love the LORD with all our hearts, souls and minds and to love one another as ourselves.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Ruth 3 - On the Threshing Floor

Ruth and Boaz on the threshing floor together... Interesting story...

The NRSV Bible that I normally use in the mornings has the notes printed so small I have to use a magnifying glass to read. But, I wanted to read the notes, so opened up "The Lutheran Study Bible" (that would be published by Concordia) that my godfather just gave to me - with large print. Yeah!! I can read the notes. Then I thought: I wonder how the other "Lutheran Study Bible" (published by Augsburg) compares. So I pulled it off the bookshelf and dusted it off.

Thought I'd share the differences with you all just for something a little different today.

"The Lutheran Study Bible" (Concordia) on Ruth 3:4
"observe the place where he lies. No amount of darkness could hide the embarrassment associated with approaching the wrong man! uncover his feet. The night's chill would waken Boaz. In light of v 9, the uncovering of Boaz's feet symbolized Ruth's proposal for marriage. See "Boaz's Feet," p 422."

On page 422 we find: "Boaz's Feet. Some interpreters view the uncovering of Boaz's feet as a polite way to note sexual activity. However, nothing else in the Book agrees with this interpretation, and everywhere the faithfulness and intergrity of Ruth and Boaz are emphasized."

Here is the note from "Lutheran Study Bible" (Augsburg Fortress) on the same verse Ruth 3:4.
"go and uncover his feet: In Hebrew the word for foot is often used to refer to a man's sexual organ, and thus the original hearers of this story would have heard a double meaning. Ruth is making a bold move by lying next to Boaz."

I'd share/compare more with you, but out of 18 verses the Augsburg version only comments on 5 of them so there's not much to compare. I wouldn't think that it's the authors' faults that there's not much there. I'm sure that it was the intent of the publishers not to overwhelm the average person with anything that might be too difficult for us to understand :) I don't know why I hadn't ever noticed before that the "Lutheran Study Bible" isn't really geared for real study - better to get a good commentary or "The Lutheran Study Bible." Maybe I never noticed, because I haven't really used it. The Bible I've been using most often is the Harper Collins Study Bible (NRSV) which is really good as well. (But, I do require large print for early mornings. Thanks to my Godfather Ken for the gift of the large print from Concordia!)

No matter what we think may or may not have happened on the threshing floor, the story of Ruth remains about love and faithfulness. It is not all about sex. It is about a proposal of marriage. It is about commitment. It is about taking care of one's neighbors, one's family.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Ruth 2 - Do Unto Others

At our Bible study yesterday, we discussed Matthew 7. "Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get." (7:1-2 NRSV) and the Golden Rule... "In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets. (7:12) Often, we like to look at these verses separately. But, since they are both in this same chapter, maybe we should look at them together. When my children were young, I often taught them these verses as one lesson. (I hope they remember this lesson) Do to others what you would have others do unto you, because what you do to others will be done to you. Or... what you give, is what you get... what goes around, comes around...

In our reading from Ruth, we see this principal at work. Ruth has chosen to care for and provide for her mother-in-law, Naomi. She didn't have to. She could have went home to her family when her husband died so that the men of her own family would provide for her. She couldn't have taken the easy road - the wide road. But, she didn't. Instead, she is out picking up the left-overs in the field so that she and Naomi can eat. Boaz looks kindly upon her and chooses to ensure that they are both cared for and fed. She is treated as graciously by Boaz as she treats Naomi.

How often do we wonder why bad things seem to always happen to us, why we seem to be in a state of crisis so often without considering that just maybe we are receiving exactly what we would and have given to others.

May God grant that each of us would be more generous to one another that we might all live in peace...

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Ruth 1 - Love and Faithfulness; Ruth and Naomi

The day after Valentine's Day and we begin a love story - the story of Naomi and Ruth and Boaz, too... The Book of Ruth is about love and about faithfulness. After some of the books we've read, it is a relief to hear a story about the ancestory of Jesus that is about love and faithfulness.

If the world could only treat one another as Naomi and Ruth treated each other, with concern for the other's future, with a willingness to walk beside the one they are with, supporting them even as they support you.

It had to be pretty tough for Naomi to find herself without any men in her (their) lives to care for them. It was not a time when women were able to care for themselves well. She had not only lost her husband and sons, but now she would lose her daughters-in-law because she could not care for them. They needed to return home to their families so someone would support them. But, Ruth would not. She would walk beside her late husbands mother. They would continue as family even though there was no blood connection between them.

There is a blood that is thicker than blood. It is the blood of Christ shed for you... A gift of love... to join us as family forever...

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Judges 21- Wives and Valentines

In those days Israel did as they saw fit... That`s for sure! Let's get this straight.
 1.  A Levite gives his concubine to be raped in his place.  She dies.
 2.  The Levite cuts her into pieces and sends her pieces to all the tribes, inciting war with the Benjamenites.
 3.  Thousands upon thousands die.
 4.  The Benjamenites have to have women.  For some reason there are lots of men left alive - but - not enought  to wives.
  5.  Since the rest of Israel won't let them marry their daughters, they plan a way for them to destroy more people lives and steal themselves some wives.  Sounds almost like we're back at number 1!

In spite of the fact that the tribes of Israel sometimes killed each other, they were sure concerned about keeping all of the tribes alive and  propagating no matter what.

It is Valentine's Day here in America. Now, I live in enough reality to know that not all relationships are as wonderfully perfect as I'd like them to be. But, I would hope that we could all treat our spouses with just a little more respect than we might normally do - treat them with genuine caring. Thank the LORD that relationships today have the possibility of being more than husband and property. Today, relationships can be so much more than they were for the people of early Israel. We pray that they will be for all our sons and daughters.

P.S. Have to apologize for errors and overall rush this morning. On my eepad this morning and still not use to it! With my husband of 40 years (Happy Valentine's Day) and granddaughter in Tecumseh, MI. Will be home today so will be back on my home computer tomorrow.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Judges 20 - Assault on Benjamin

Lots of good stuff in the reading this morning.  There's the military tactics and the fact that the LORD lets so many of the other tribes be slaughtered before they actually win the battle.  As I read this chapter though and about the thousands upon thousands that died in this 3 day battle, I thought about why they died, why they went to war in the first place.  Some very perverse men in Gibeah decide they want to have their way with the Levite.  The Levite gives them his concubine in his place and then when she dies, not acknowledging his own cowardice and guilt in giving her, incites Israel to take vengeange for her life.  He incites them against an entire clan because of a few men's actions and thousands upon thousands men on both sides die. 

How many wars have been started similarly?  Thousands upon thousands die to find and put to death a minority that commit atrocities against humankind.  Countries allow rulers to persecute, torture and murder innocent men, women and children for political purposes and then...  Then, when it gets so huge that the world cannot help but acknowledge the atrocities, the rest of the world decides they should help the innocent.  The problem is, at this late date, even more innocent will die in order to stop those barbaric rulers. 

So this morning, I wonder why the people of Gibeah allowed men to live in such a way that would eventually stir up all of Israel against them.  I wonder too, about this Levite, this priest, who gave a woman to suffer for him and then, not acknowledging his own cowardice, stirred up a battle where so many of his own people died - in a sense defending his honor - honor that he did not have in the first place.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Judges 19 - Who Should Die For You?

Has such a thing ever happened?  Yes, it has before and after.  Yet, as I read the story of this certain Levite and his concubine I thought that no one can tell me that our time is more evil than the times before us.  We live in very sinful times, indeed.  And... this sort of thing may happen.  I am sure similar occurances probably happen in this world, someplace.  But, thanks be to God, I do not know anyone who would give his wife or girlfriend or concubine to save their own flesh. I don't know anyone who would give them over without a fight. 

This woman died for the Levite - not by choice - but - because she belonged to him.  It was the Levite's choice that she should take his place to save his skin. 

Thanks be to God for a Son who freely chose to die in our place. He chose not to save not His own flesh, but to save our very souls!  Thanks be to God for a Saviour, who delivers us from sin, death, and the power of the devil!  May we always follow in his footsteps willing to give of ourselves that others might live.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Judges 18 - Danites heading for trouble

Things are not sounding good for the Danites....  They seem to be on top of things in this chapter; but, the way they get there tells me there is trouble waiting for them.  They talk a priest into stealing for them and you just don't get to go setting up idols in the temple and expect all to be well in your future. 

There just seems to be certain consequences for certain actions and we can be pretty sure that these people are going to end up in captivity - in bondage - once again. 

P.S.  Vacation is going pretty nice - was out at the Old Sheldon Church (and cemetery) at sunrise taking pictures then went down to a river and got a couple shots of a dolphin.  Trying to talk everyone into doing some local historical sites today...  We will see what the day has in store for us..

Friday, February 10, 2012

Judges 17 - Personal gods and priests

Seems like some pretty not so good stuff going on in this chapter!  What is this 1100 pieces of silver that had been taken from Micah's mother?  And... why does Micah have it?  Notice too, that this is the exact amount Delilah got from each person to betray Samson.   So, what is that about?  Anyway, Micah gives the silver back to his mom, who is ecstatic and consecrates it to her son who shouldn't have had it in the first place.  Out of 200 pieces of the silver an idol is made for Micah's personal household shrine. Sounds like something the LORD would really approve... And the story goes on...  Micah installs one of his sons to be his priest.  But, what good fortune, a Levite comes along and sells his services as a priest to Micah.  Really doesn't sound like a good idea to me!!!!   I have a feeling nothing good is to come of this story.  Just haven't figured out why the Israelites haven't figured out that personal gods and gold and silver idols just are not the greatest plan for a future with hope.  And I wonder how many pastors and preists haven't figured out selling one priestly duties to the highest bidder isn't such a smart idea, either...

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Judges 16 - Samson the judge?

I find myself wondering this morning exactly what kind of judge Samson is.  He has not really been a leader of any kind.  Seems to me the only thing he has done is assaulted and killed many Philistines.  Then when they finally catch him, he destroys even more as a vendetta for them taking his eyes out.  If as a judge, he doles out justice, I am afraid I have a little difficulty with his sense of justice.

Regardless, it appears he is called by God to relieve the Israelites of the Philistines who have been persecuting them and they do have a bit of a reprieve for the 20 years that Samson "judges."  I guess maybe we can "excuse" his behavior with these women who are not for him, because it appears that he is still young and immature.   It is hard to imagine any man being stupid (yes, I said stupid) enough to fall into Delilah's snare, not just once, but four times!  It is hard to imagine, but it happens.  Even today, it happens!  If you love me...  then...  How many men (and women) have fallen for that line and followed in the path of their own destruction?

There is only one path to follow.  Steer clear of the path that your wayward friends would cheerfully guide you on.  The only "if you love me, then..." you should be hearing is the one found in St. John, Chapter 21 when Jesus asks Peter, "Do you love me?  And... when Peter answers "Yes Lord, you know that I love you."  Jesus tells Peter, "Tend my sheep."  Real love is not about vengeance.  It is not about ripping apart your enemy.  Real love is about caring for all of the sheep.  It is about caring for and feeding all whom Jesus loves and he loves all enough to die for you.

P.S.  Would have gone into the nazirite stuff, but this is suppose to be a brief blog.  Suffice it to say that I don't cut my own hair... :)  Have a blessed day.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Judges 15 - More of the ex-wife

It's hard to keep my tongue after reading the opening paragraph this morning.  I cannot believe that Samson actually wanted to go and visit his wife!  If someone in the same circumstances told me they planned to do this... well... actually no one that knows me would probably tell me they intended to do something like this for fear I would laugh at them. 

Well, Samson does and there is trouble...  But, since Samson is the LORD's judge it works out for the Israelites and against the Philistines.  Lots of trickery going on; though, to get to the finish line. In spite of all the negative stuff that brings Samson to the forefront, Samson's exploits do make for some interesting story-telling.  He kills a lion with his bare hands and eats hands full of honey taken from the innards of the lion; ties the tails of foxes together and then sets them on fire in the Philistine vineyards and fields so that all is destroyed.  And then.... after the bonds he is being held in melt like flax  in a fire, he kills a thousand men with the jawbone of an ass. 

Really cool stories... but, not the one where he thinks he should go back and visit his wife who betrayed him in the first place.  Take a lesson from Samson, you don't want to end up in a big mess?  Don't be trying to get over-friendly with your ex-wife who betrayed you... 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Judges 14 - Wives and Trolls

Samson's riddle is something else!  No one could possibly guess the answer!  No one knew except this Philistine wife which his parents had objected to in the first place.  She had whined and accused Samson of not loving her and whined some more until he told her.  She betrayed his trust, telling the 30 companions.  Samson ends up killing 30 men and leaving his wife.

I don't know what this marriage was based on.    It certainly wasn't trust or love.  I'm guessing it was more, "I'm not supposed to have that so I want her."  Even though he's suppose to be who God sends to deliver Israel from the Philistines, he wants to marry one.  Not good planning.  Just because you want something, doesn't mean it's going to make you happy.  But, scripture does say that this whole wedding was a part of God's plan so that Samson would have a pretext of acting against the Philistines.  Well, it worked.  But, I think this chasing after a woman not suited to him probably caused him more heartache than he had bargained for.

Reminds me of a troll story I heard when I was young.  There is this troll named Hulda (or maybe Huldra).  Hulda looks like a real human woman.  But, she has a tail.  If she can trick a man into marrying, her tail will fall off, but the man will still be married to a troll.  Moral of that story:  Be very careful who you enter into a marriage (any relationship) with.

It is time to hit the road - in the beautiful Blue Grass State this morning - cold and foggy.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Judges 13 - Births - Samson & Jesus

The Israelites are given over to the hand of the Philistines because they are doing evil in the sight of the LORD again!  Will they ever learn?  They are pretty stubborn people, it seems.  They are going to do what they want to do not matter what.  Not so unlike the people of today...  Will we ever learn?

The fact that the LORD sends a baby to deliver them tells us that the Israelites are not going to be delivered overnight.  It's going to take a few years.  The parents of this unborn deliverer know this, how?  An angel of the LORD comes to tell them.  Fast forward to a time when the LORD sends another deliver, our Saviour.  How do these parents know?  An angel of the LORD tells them.  An angel appears to Mary.  In a dream, the angel of the LORD appears to Joseph and tells him:  "She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins."  (Matt 1:21 NRSV)

The LORD in his mercy, has sent deliverers to this world, but, none like Jesus.  Through the sacrifice of Jesus, we have been give freedom from our bondage to sin.  We have been saved from our own propensity to turn away from God.  Let us receive his merciful gift of life through Jesus Christ.  Let us receive this abundant life in his presence, and turn and follow in his footsteps in the heavenly kingdom. 

God's Peace be with you...

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Judges 12 - Uninspiring Leaders

Death...  That's what you would get from the men of Gilead for having an accent...  That is how they discerned whether someone was the enemy or not.  Sounds a little like racial profiling.  But, this isn't even between races.  This discrimation, this division, this dissension is within the family of Israel.  42,000 Ephraimites fell to the men of Gilead at that time.  And... Jephthah died after 6 years of judging Israel. 

As I was helping my granddaughter with her social studies class the other day, she asked me which president was my favorite.  I couldn't think of a favorite.  Many of them were pretty ineffectual presidents.  I don't mean to disparage them.  They just were.  And even those presidents who had wonderful or just awful things happen during their presidency a whole lot of that really was because they just happened to be president at the time - they were in the right or wrong place at the right or wrong time.  Not because the men themselves were so great or so small.  It just was or is.  Leaders are like that.  There have been very few who have really had a tremendous impact.  If we're going to talk about great leaders, I would have to go with people like Martin Luther King, Jr.. or Gandhi.  They made impacts - real impacts on the lives of people.  In a republic or a democracy, people who are running for presidency may think they can make major changes to benefit the people (or themselves).  The reality is they don't, because they can't.  The system isn't set up that way.  Most presidents have very little effect on anything, other than what congress or senate or the people allow them to do.  Except maybe they can stall the progress of the country by causing dissension as sometimes those judges in the O.T. would do.  With rare exception, presidents and other political leaders are essentially about as ineffective and uninspiring as the rest of us...

And, so it seems were some of the judges.  Following Jephthah's death, Ibzan of Bethlehem judged Israel for 7 years; Elon the Zebulinte judged Israel for 10 years; and Abdon the Pirathonite judged Israel for 8 years.  There is not much said about these 3 judges other than Abdon's 40 sons and 30 grandson road on seventy donkeys and Ibzan had his children marry outside of their clan.  Pretty uneventful 25 years here...

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Judges 11 - Jephthah - Another Son

So it seems that Gideon had even more than the 70 sons that Abimelech (one of his sons) had killed?! First their was Jotham who managed to hide from his brother.  Today, we encounter Jephthah, the son of a prosititue.  Jephthah had been run out of his father's house when he grew up so that he would not take part of his father's inheritance.  After all, with 70 brothers, how much inheritance would there be?  Best to get rid of one or two of them?  That had been Abimelech plan, too...  

Anyway, here is that brother who has been run out of the tribe and now they want him back to fix things for them...  I can relate.  Not wanted when everyone is having fun, but when the good times backfire, all of a sudden you're wanted and even needed to help fix things!

I'm not too sure about what kind of mindset Jephthah has that he would make an oath to the LORD that he would offer up as as a burnt offering the first thing that came to meet him when he got home, if the LORD would make him victorious.  He had to know that it would be a person, someone from his own household that would greet him.  Now I've foolishly tried to bargain with God a few times, but never would I agree to give the life of another in attempts to get God to do what I wanted.  I might bargain to give my own life for another, but not someone else's for my life or future.  Some of these heroes of the Old Testament just baffle me...

Friday, February 3, 2012

Judges 10 - Israelites Repent

Well... they blew it again!  The Israelites (like us) have a tendency to turn their back on God and worship other gods.  But, I have to give it to them - at least they have enough sense to repent - to turn back to God who has and will deliver them - when they are backed in a corner and need deliverance!  I am always amazed at the number of people who will not repent - who cannot even begin to acknowledge that the reason that they are in trouble is because of the false gods they've been following and serving.

I have to admit, on more than a few occasions, I have just wanted to say:  "What is wrong with you?  Can't you see that you've done this to yourself by making choices to follow a god - to follow a path - that can only lead to destruction?"  Actually, what goes through my head is usually not in such kind terms. 

It is just very difficult for me to believe that it is so hard for people to understand that all the bad stuff that might be happening in someone's life - is not everyone else's fault.  In this world, it is important that we take responsibility for our own actions and if the consequences are not so good then maybe we need to consider other courses of action.  Listening to the way in which the LORD, your only true God would have one go, would be a very wise thing to do - particularly if you're really sick and tired of being backed in a corner with no place to go.  Jesus saves!  Only God can deliver you from yourself. 

May the LORD, your God help you to follow in the way that He would have you go. 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Judges 9 - Abimelech Rises and Falls

Abimelech - one of the seventy sons of Jerubbaal (Gideon)...  what a piece of work!  In order to be king, he kills all his brothers except Jotham, the youngest, who hid himself.  Doesn't matter who dies - even his brothers - so long as he gets to be king!  

Abimelech does this treacherous thing with the aid of his kingsmen of Shechem.  Jothan stands on a mountain top and curses the whole lot.  He curses them with fire if they have not acted in good faith in choosing their king.  Shechem and Abimelech end up warring against each other.  Abimelech enemies are holed up in the tower of Thebez.  He sets it on fire fulfilling Jothan's curse.  And... after only three years of ruling, Abimelech has his head crushed by a woman.  To save face, he has his armor bearer kill him so that it could not be said that he died at the hand's of a woman.  What a mess Abimelech's lust for power got him and the people into.  Nasty stuff sure does seem to happen when one follows after his own hearts desires instead of the will of God for the people.  Stuff happens when we go following false gods...

We are in the midst of another Presidential election year.  I find it increasingly difficult to discern if any of the politicians are serious about doing the will of God (as many imply) for the good of the people or if they all have personal agendas as their top priority.  Actually, I do believe that they all put their personal agendas first. They all want to be king.  But, I wonder which one(s) put the people at least second on the list.  During election year some (most) wear their religiousity proudly.  You see so many wearing their Christian faces.  The question is how far from reality are those masks?  Are we really dealing with Christians or are their other gods they serve that they are not willing to reveal publically. 

History, I am afraid, is doomed to repeat itself so long as we put false gods (including ourselves) before the LORD, God Almighty. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Judges 8 - Decisions and Ephods

Now that's the way to stop a disagreement before it gets too big...  Flatter them.  Gideon flatters the Ephraimites when they get jealous because they were not asked to be involved in the rucus with the Midianites.  But, when Succoth and Penuel refuse to feed Gideon's army; Gideon returns to destroy them.  Maybe that is why he is called a judge - because of the decisions he has to make and hand down; decisions either for peace or for enmity. 

In the end though, as faithful as Gideon has been. he is an instigator in turning the people toward false gods.  Gideon takes the booty (gold earrings) that the people have given him for his triumph over Midian and makes an ephod of the gold to set up in Oprah.  Not sure why an ephod - maybe it's symbolic for the decisions Gideon as a judge has had to make.  But, sadly the people wind up prosituting themselves to this gold ephod.  Hmmm...  Gold anything made and set up by man is probably not a good idea...  After his death, the Israelites relapsed and made Baal-berith their god.  Another not so good idea!

Final word for this morning:  "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.  You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God..."  (Exodus 20:2-5 NIV)

There is only one God worthy of our worship.  Dont' waste your time or your life in the worship of any other...