Hearts melt, crowds applaud, people are convicted, and husbands and wives are moved by romantic stories of adoption. Honestly, who could not have their conscience pricked by the photos of orphans in
Enter through the front door of my home and it would not be unlikely for you to be greeted by at least one of my six children, either dressed in the latest hero costume or donning last nights evening
An alarming epidemic is arising among the Christian community, those who are called to be “Fishers of Men”. We have placed a “No Vacancy” sign on our time and our lives. We have lost sight of God's ca
For the past seventeen years I have been a parent. I could have never imagined that my life would have turned out the way that it has, ordinary it is not. I am a mother of six childr
As we start another new year, God in his wisdom has guided me to be studying Lamentations 3. We look for times to begin anew with making desired changes in our lives and often choose the beginning of
As Orphan Sunday approaches Nov. 6, 2011, a day where we remember children without a family. I am reminded of words spoken by the orphans. I must tell you, wise words sometimes come out of the mouth
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No, this is not Cherie's description of our marriage. This is Abigail's description of her marriage in 1 Sam 25.25. This is another instance where it pays mighty dividends to study the definition of Hebrew proper names. Abigail is married to Nabal. The word Nabal means "a fool."
One wonders what exactly his parents were thinking, "Let's set the little boy off right in life, let's call him "The Fool." We don't know how he got his name, whether it was a nickname he earned through his behavior, or whether that was his name from the start and it doesn't really matter. Nabal means "a fool" and he acts like a fool. He's also described as "churlish and evil" (KJV). One would have to search long and hard to find anyone in the Bible described in a worse way.
One thing that fascinates me about the narrative here is Abigail's character. She is married to a fool, she knows it, the servants know it, David certainly knows it, but what do we find her doing? Being a good wife to Nabal. She ends up saving his life! This is a woman of character.
After Nabal dies (the Lord smote Nabal [KJV]), David sends his servants to take Abigail as his wife (When my wife—who is on the same Bible reading plan as I—read this passage, she said, "Wow, way to woo a woman, David. Send servants to propose." Strange culture, that).
A couple of things stand out to me in this story. First, it's possible to be the richest man in your neighborhood and still be a fool. Second, it's possible to be married to the biggest fool in your neighborhood and still live righteously.
Do you remember that television ad jingle: "You asked for it, you got it, Toyota" or am I dating myself? It was probably written by Barry Manilow, in which case, yes, I am dating myself, and I am an old geezer. I thought of it this morning in my Bible reading (Quick Aside: How is your Bible reading plan coming?) I came to 1 Samuel 9 this morning. Specifically, 1 Samuel 9.2: "And he had a son, whose name was Saul."
Do you know what the name Saul means? It means: "asked for" or "demanded." Isn't that interesting? The people demanded a king in 1 Samuel 8.19. So what did they get? A (soon to be) king named, "Demanded." Of course this is no mistake, Saul would be a living, breathing reminder that God gave to his people what they asked for, which, if you recall Israel's history, did not turn out very well for them. I wonder if they soon wished that Saul could have been named "return to sender."
In God's grace and mercy, after the disaster which was Saul's reign, God gave his people a king who would be a picture of the coming Messiah, King David. What was he like? Read Psalm 23.
I've been immersed all this week in thinking about the importance of daily devotional Bible reading. Thom Rainer, president of Lifeway Publishers, does a good job of pointing out the importance of Bible reading to discipleship. Now comes empirical evidence that the more you read your Bible, the more you will want to hug a tree.
A new study done at Baylor University links the frequency of Bible reading with concern for issues of conservation, justice, poverty, and the supposed conflict between science and religion.
Some highlights. The more people read their Bibles, the more likely they were to:
Say that active concern for issues of social and economic justice was important to being a good person.
Oppose the death penalty
Oppose harsher punishment for criminals
Not believe that there is a conflict between religion and science
Support conservation and consume fewer goods
So if you are a tree hugger, the more you read the Bible, the more trees you are likely to hug.
While this comes as somewhat of a surprise to the world, it really does not surprise the community of faith. Since God created the world, we have the duty and responsibility to care for it in a God-honoring manner. God is not honored by pollution and devastation of natural resources, he is honored when we watch over what he has created with care and concern for issues of sustainability and conservation and ensuring that the natural world is around for our kids and grandkids to enjoy. So if you are not a Christian tree hugger, you ought to be one.
God never ceases to amaze me. If you were picking out someone to deliver your own people from bondage, would you pick a man who was the son of a prostitute, who collected "worthless men" around him, and who made at least one, hasty, regrettable vow? Neither would I, but this is exactly what we find God doing in Judges 11 and 12.
Jepthah is noted for being "the son of a prostitute" (Judges 11.1). He is kicked out of the family by the legitimate brothers because he is illegitimate. He heads off to Tob (wherever that is) and surrounds himself with "worthless men." Now here is material for great use, right? What do we find in Judges 11.29: "The Spirit of the Lord was upon Jepthah." Seriously? Did I read that right? God picks THIS guy to deliver Israel from bondage to the Ammonites?
What does Jepthah do when he pursues the Ammonites? Makes a vow that if he is successful, the first living thing he sees when he returns to his house will be offered as a burn offering. Is this a good idea? Did he consider the fact that he just might see a human being? (Theologians differ on whether he ultimately sacrificed his daughter or just devoted her to God so that she was never allowed to marry. I won't investigate the point here in the interest of brevity. Suffice to say that we can probably all agree that it was a rash vow). At any rate, the first living thing he sees is his daughter!
God never ceases to surprise me with his unexpected actions. I would not believe that he would choose a Jepthah to deliver his people from oppression. Of course I would not expect him to send the Saviour of the world to be born in a barn either.
When I read about Jepthah, it does give me hope. If God can use Jepthah, then he just might be able to use me...and you...and in a great way too.
I'm reading in Mark 2.15 this morning where Christ is reclining at the table with "tax-collectors and sinners." The tax-collectors were part of the native population hired by someone who had won a government contract to collect taxes in that particular location. They were universally despised because, according to NIDNTT, "The prevailing method of tax collection afforded collectors many opportunities to exercise greed and unfairness."
The way society perceived them at the time can be readily ascertained since they are connected in the gospels with sinners, heathen Gentiles, prostitutes, extortioners, imposters, and adulterers. Ouch! They were hated and despised and yet here you have many following Christ and him appearing to accept and even love them.
This makes me wonder who the modern day tax-collectors are. The people who we think do not deserve to be saved because they are such slime balls that grace shouldn't extend to them. Casey Anthony comes to mind. Imagine if she showed up at your church to hear the gospel. I think in a lot (not all, but a lot) of churches she would not be well received because we think she really doesn't deserve forgiveness and restoration, she deserves judgment. Of course we conveniently forget that we too deserve judgment, and we too are sinners, we too are tax-collectors, and like Casey Anthony in desperate need of God's grace. Christ never forgot this. The greater the sinner, the more he loved them.
His Name (Alone) is Excellent
I like how the psalmist strains to find words to proclaim the praise of the Lord in Ps. 148.7-13. He calls for anything and everything that he can think of to praise the name of the Lord. Dragons, deeps, fire, hail, snow, vapour, stormy wind (fulfilling his word), mountains, hills, trees, cattle, birds, creeping things, kings, princes, judges, old, young. Listen all you people/things/events, "praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is excellent."
There is a lot of theology in that list. Notice how the psalmist puts in the aside comment, "stormy wind—oh yeah, that stormy wind that knocks over stuff seemingly willy-nilly? That wind fulfills his word." Fire? "Yep, that too." Hail? "Yep." Creepy crawlers? They do also. And in some sense creepy crawlers and birds and cattle can praise the name of the Lord (I'm thinking its because he is their creator).
I think what the psalmist is getting at is that everything—yes, everything—can, should (and at least when it comes to nature, does)—praise the name of the Lord.
How about you? Do you praise the name of the Lord?
Have you ever noticed that the book of Ruth keeps coming back to Naomi, over and over? Me neither. I got this from reading Dale Davis' book The Word Made Fresh [excellent little book]. Davis says: "Every chapter returns to Naomi and some provision for her."
Really? Is that true? I had never noticed that before. In Chapter One, after the death of her whole family, Naomi is given...Ruth. Chapter Two: After the interesting day at the barley field the chapter ends as Ruth reports the incredible provision to...Naomi. Chapter Three: The mysterious encounter at the threshing floor ends with Ruth's debriefing to...you guessed it...Naomi. Chapter Four: Boaz takes a wife. Look how that ends, what it all meant to...Naomi (4.13-17).
What does it mean? I don't have a clue, fortunately, Mr. Davis does. He writes: "He [the Lord] simply can't take his eyes off Naomi; he is preoccupied with her welfare. It's the text's way of saying, Naomi is never forgotten; she is always the focus of Yahweh's attention."
Go back to chapter one (Ruth 1.20) where Naomi says that her name should be changed to "Mara" which means "bitter," "for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me" (KJV). Her life circumstances were seemingly very bitter. A widow with no family was a prescription for a life of extreme poverty. Naomi could not see it at the time, but the truth of the matter was that God could not keep his eyes off of Naomi's welfare. He keeps coming back to provision for her time after time!
The lesson? As Mr. Davis puts it: "All of which should teach us caution and wisdom: we simply don't know enough, ever, to despair intelligently and completely over our senseless troubles - or even over our apparently insignificant service."
I confess that one of my life-long struggles in the Christain faith is a consistent prayer life. My progress might be compared to automobile traffic in Los Angeles. Sometimes everything is going along smoothly at posted speeds, but all too often I'm stuck in what appears to be a gigantic parking lot, making no progress at all (Here's a hint: If you ever visit LA, stay off the freeways during rush hour, which is most of the time, but I digress). To be honest, my prayer for you all borders on the sinful, since it used to bear all the signs of benign neglect (which is admittedly a politcally correct way of saying, um...neglect).
Thankfully, Johnny came to my rescue. He devised a Graham Prayer Journal for us! It is designed to pray for three church families every day as well as one section of Graham ministries every day. If you follow the journal you'll pray for all church ministries every week and all Graham families and missionaries every two months.
This has been really helpful to me personally. I'm no longer stuck in LA traffic. I've graduated to Michigan roads now. Sure every now and then I'm stuck in traffic going nowhere quick, and yes, I have to deal with a lot of potholes and the roads aren't everything I'd like them to be, but most of the time I'm going at posted speeds.
Thanks Johnny! You rock!
You can pick up your copy of the Graham Church Prayer Journal in the church office. It takes only a few minutes of prayer each day. Wouldn't it be really cool if we were all praying for the same three or four Graham families every day!
What to make of these terrible pictures of tornado destruction in Joplin and Minneapolis. Spend some time reading through the comments ranging from the promise to pray for the cities and the mocking of those who pray and the God to whom they pray. Unsurprising I suppose. What do we, as followers of Christ, say about such unspeakable destruction of homes, indeed of lives snatched away into eternity suddenly, unexpectedly.
Judging from the comments what everyone seems to agree on is that there is something wrong here. Things like this shouldn't happen. Nature should not do this. The world is broken. How heartily we agree with that response. Something is wrong. The world is broken. Things like Joplin shouldn't happen. But they do. There is something fundamentally shattered about this earth, something severed, torn, splintered. We are helpless to fix it.
What can we do? Pray, give, go. We can all pray. We should all pray. Americans are hurting, we are Americans. All of us can pray. We can, as we are able, give to the relief of those who are suffering (Samaritan's Purse comes to mind, among others). We can, as opportunity arises, go and use our God-given skills to relieve suffering.
"That the creation itself may be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God" (Rom 8.21)
Peter writes to fellow believers: "Keep loving one another earnestly, for love covers a multitude of sins" (1 Pet 4.8). There is a lot said in a short amount of time when you begin to think about it. Take the little word "earnestly" for example. In the Greek it is a word that means to persevere, but also carries the implication that you don't waver in your interest or devotion while you persist at something. This is perseverance that costs you. It takes commitment, effort, and the resolution not to quit.
So we are to love one another with this love that doesn't quit. Yep, even when the other party isn't interested in returning your love. Indeed, Peter tells us to love one another fervently, earnestly, and perseveringly (is that a word?) because this type of love is a sin-covering love. It "covers a multitude of sins."
Tall order isn't it? Especially when it comes to your kids...or your spouse...or Mr. Prickly Pear Cactus who always seems to drop in at the most inconvenient times. If it were easy, we wouldn't have to depend on the Holy Spirit, would we?