Showing posts from April, 2017

Easter Devotional - Day 16

"After a while the people of Joshua's generation died, and the next generation did not know Yahweh or any of the things he had done for Israel. Yahweh had brought their ancestors out of Egypt, and they had worshiped him. But now the Israelites stopped worshiping Yahweh and worshiped the idols of Ba'al and Astarte, as well as the idols of other gods from nearby nations. Yahweh was so angry..." Judges 2:10-13

This was a recurring theme among the Hebrews. A generation would be faithful under the lead of a prophet. The next generation seemed to forget Yahweh altogether. Even within Moses' generation, worship of Yahweh was at best tenuous. Joshua fought to keep the people on track of following Yahweh, but in his final speech before death, he still considered them an idolatrous nation. Yahweh would lead them in victory over their enemies, free them from oppression, and provide for their needs, only to have the people forget all about Yahweh. They would be distracted by …

God Did It!

There is a current of thought in Christian circles about God's sovereignty that says everything that happens is God's will. There is a problem with that. There are several problems, actually.
First of all, if everything that happens is God's will, God does not seem to be very picky. God would apparently be alright with the genocides going in Sudan, Rwanda, and Syria. God would apparently be fine with the slaughter of Jews, homosexuals, and mixed-race peoples in the Holocaust. God would apparently have been fine with the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, slaughtering Christians under Nero, Domitian, and Caligula, and the killing fields of Pol Pot. God would have been happy enough with the Jim Crow laws, segregation, slavery, and the lynching of innocent blacks to cover up for the misdeeds of whites in the South. God would be fine with abortion, incest, rape, murder, and a host of other things we classify as sin.
Sin... wait a minute... isn't there something in the Bib…

Easter Devotional - Day 15

"But the child who was born in the natural way made trouble for the child who was born because of the Spirit. The same thing is happening today. The Scriptures say, 'Get rid of the slave woman and her son! He won't be given anything. The son of the free woman will receive everything.' My friends, we are children of the free woman and not of the son." Galatians 5:29-31

The Jews prided themselves on being Abraham's descendants through Sarah. They were of the line of the son of the promise to Abraham. They were the legitimate heirs to the promise. That other son, though firstborn, was deemed unfit, unacceptable, and of lesser status and importance than their own ancestor. Reading the stories of Isaac, we might wonder what all the fuss was about. After all, the only really special thing about him was that he was Abraham's son through Sarah.

He failed the test of character. He failed the test of fatherhood. He failed the test of bringing up his own sons to honor…

Easter Devotional - Day 14

“The next day, God stopped sending the Israelites manna to eat each morning, and they started eating food grown in the land of Canaan. They ate roasted grain and thin bread made of the barley they gathered from nearby fields.” Joshua 5:11-12

God’s provision does not often come in the manner we expect. The Hebrews were accustomed to manna coming as the morning dew, but now it came no more. Previously, they had complained that manna was the only thing to eat. Doubtless, many complained now that the manna was gone. It is the problem of human nature. We desperately desire security in the things we know. We are often loath to try new ideas, experiences, food, and traditions, because we find safety in the forms of life that have sustained us across the years—especially those which call to mind the nostalgic memories of childhood.

Manna, however, was not the focus of God’s plan. Manna was a provisional step to care for them until they entered the Promised Land. Now as the people crossed over t…

Missionaries and Immigrants

I grew up on the mission field. I was two years old when we moved to Brazil. After several months of moving, visiting relatives, going to missionary orientations, and speaking in churches, we finally landed at the airport in São Paulo. I asked my mother, “Are we home now?” She answered, “Yes, Chris. We are home now.”
That is what a two-year-old needed to know. He needed to know that he was at a place where he belonged. He needed to know that there was some kind of security in being in a place he could accept and be accepted as being his. Growing up, that was always his understanding. Brazil was where he belonged. It was the place that had accepted him and in which he did not feel like an outsider, even when he had been born elsewhere, spoke a language on top of the local language, and carried a passport that was not issued by the Brazilian government. He even carried an alien registration card with him at all times, even if that did not communicate a message of any impending deportat…

Easter Devotional - Day 13

"We went there [Jerusalem] because of those who pretended to be followers and had sneaked in among us as spies. They had come to take away the freedom that Christ Jesus had given us, and they were trying to make us their slaves." Galatians 2:4-5

Paul had ongoing conflict with the day's legalists. The Galatian letter is mostly devoted to legalism in the early church. Many wanted to accept Jesus Christ, yet force faith within the mold of Jewish legalistic tradition. They seemed to miss that Jesus had struggled against the very tradition and legalism to which they so desperately clung. They ignored Jesus' preaching about serving God in spirit and truth, about religious defilement being a result of heart attitudes, not food and external issues.

The legalists were worried with questions of dietary laws, questions of ritual purity, strict observation of the Sabbath, and the circumcision of all males. These questions clouded over issues of faith, grace, and Jesus' summary…

Easter Devotional - Day 12

"Don't forget that you were once slaves in Egypt and that it was Yahweh who set you free. … When you become successful, don't say, 'I'm rich and I've earned it all myself.' Instead, remember that Yahweh your God gives you the strength to make a living. That's how he keeps the promise he made to your ancestors." Deuteronomy 8:14, 17-18

How could anyone forget they had once been a slave? It might seem a little disingenuous to think that someone could forget something of that nature. Moses' words, however, were targeted to a new generation. Those who had actually been slaves were dying out, and the younger generation with only vague memories of slavery was Moses' audience. The next generation only had stories of their grandparents' day. Moses himself was nearing death. He was talking to the next generation and those who would follow. He was pointing to the years ahead when the Egyptian experience was a vague memory of ancestor who lived no…

Easter Devotional - Day 11

"In fact, all creation is eagerly awaiting for God to show who his children are. Meanwhile, creation is confused, but not because it wants to be confused. God made it this way in the hope that creation would be set free from decay and would share in the glorious freedom of his children. We know that all creation is still groaning and is in pain, like a woman about to give birth." Romans 8:19-22

Paul was talking about redemption, not environmentalism. Paul was discussing issues of sin, forgiveness, and reconciliation with God. Paul was talking about the lengths to which God has gone to bring us into relationship with God and one another. He was talking about the effects of sin on our lives and relationships. He understood as well, that sin impacts the very world in which we live.

This was not a radical concept in Paul's day. The nations all around understood that sin was a factor in the coming of rain or the beginning of a famine. They were attuned to the idea that sin coul…

Easter Devotional - Day 10

"You must be very careful not to forget the things you have seen God do for you. Keep reminding yourselves, and tell your children and grandchildren as well. Do you remember the day you stood in Yahweh's presence at Mount Sinai? Yahweh said, 'Moses, bring the people of Israel here. I want to speak to them so they will obey me as long as they live, and so they will teach their children to obey me, too.'" Deuteronomy 4:9-10We often forget that storytelling is a Biblical mandate. We get caught up in good things like Bible study and rehearsing the canonized stories of faith. We forget that there is a whole other sequence of faith stories. They are our own stories. They are the stories of how God has dealt with us and brought us through our own experiences of redemption from Egyptian bondages. Moses commanded the Hebrews wandering in the desert to rehearse their stories of God's intervention in their lives. They were to talk with their children of how Yahweh had …

Some Questions on our Death Penalty

When so much of our societal support for the death penalty is framed around ancient concepts described in the Bible, you'd think our basis for it would be better than when we used the Bible to support slavery and racism. -Is there a more appropriate last meal for a Christian?
-Is our death penalty really based on the Bible, or simply on ancient ways of punishing people?
-Is there actually room on our "justice system" for repentance?
-Should there be room for repentance in our "justice system"?
-Are we more interested in revenge killings than in rehabilitating criminals?
-Do we understand the implications of Jesus' death at the hands of the "justice system" of another political power in regard to how it should impact our own political system?
-Would you choose Holy Communion as your last meal?
-Does it bother us that the inmate executed claimed to the end that he was innocent?
-Why is it that so many of our inmates on death row are not white?

Easter Devotional - Day 09

"Test yourselves and find out if you really are true to your faith. If you pass the test, you will discover that Christ is living in you. But if Christ isn't living in you, you have failed." 2 Corinthians 13:5

We think of the resurrection as something of long ago. We sing songs about it, re-enact events leading up to the resurrection, decorate crosses, plan festivities, and celebrate special services at sunrise to commemorate the importance of that first Easter Sunday, two millennia ago. From Paul's words to the believers in Corinth, if that is all we do, we have completely missed the point of the resurrection.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is not simply an event of long, long, ago. It is not just about those happenings in the garden the women were reluctant to proclaim. It is not even just about the confirmation to the disciples that Jesus was indeed who he had claimed to be. While the resurrection was proof positive of Jesus' divinity and the ultimate confirma…

Easter Devotional - Day 08

"Then they started spreading rumors and saying, 'We won't be able to grow anything in that soil. And the people are like giants. In fact, we saw the Nephilim who are the ancestors of the Anakim. They were so big that we felt as small as grasshoppers.'" Numbers 13:32-33

Fear was the spies' motivation. Their message had little to do with the reality they had witnessed across the Jordan. They were focused on their own insecurities, rather than any confidence in God. Instead of bringing back a report as they had been tasked to do, they brought back and spread rumors of half-truths that grew more outlandish with the fanning of their fears.

Moses had sent them to spy the Promised Land and let the people know what to expect. It was a land that had once belonged in part to some of their ancestors. It was the land promised to Abraham and his descendants in ages past. It was the land that Yahweh had promised to give the Hebrews as he led them out of Egyptian bondage to P…

Easter Devotional - Day 07

"'Lord, that's true,' the woman said, 'but even the dogs get the crumbs that fall from their owner's table.' Jesus answered, 'Dear woman, you really do have a lot of faith, and you will be given what you want.' At that moment her daughter was healed.” Matthew 15:27-28

Jesus was always in teacher mode, it seems. He had been talking with the disciples about ritual impurity, religious traditions about application of the law, and what makes people unclean before God. He had categorized that attitude the disciples took for granted as pointless, blind drivel. It is not the external things of life that separate us from God, but the inside motives and intentions of the heart. After giving the disciples the theory or doctrinal discussion, he went to the borders of Judaism to give them the practical application.

That is where he found her. She was not even part of the chosen people. She was a foreigner. She ate the wrong foods—the ones every Jew avoided on acc…