When You Cannot nor Do not Feel Like Being Thankful this Thanksgiving, Why Should we Pray? 1 Thessalonians 5:12-18

1 Thessalonians 5:12-18English Standard Version

Final Instructions and Benediction

12 We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. 14 And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle,[a] encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 15 See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

Signs of the Thanksgiving season are everywhere this week.

Everywhere we go we are consistently reminded by everyone an everything we see we are to give thanks for all that we have, especially our friends and family.

But what if maybe you an I do not feel thankful?

Maybe this year we are unable to locate one single reason to be thankful.

Maybe you an I are lacking close relationships or recently have gone through a major breakup or loss of a loved one. Maybe you an I do have others in our life, but our relationships are too complex, too conflictual or way too disappointing.

Perhaps the economic climate in our families precludes our usual shopping day.

Perhaps we have lost our job or have serious or chronic health problems, which make it difficult to feel thankful.

Or we might struggle with homelessness, a new high risk of homelessness or addictions, or depression or other mental health problems that make getting through every day a huge challenge we do not feel like confronting.

Maybe there is someone in our family who has become seriously ill and is now unable to participate in the festivities, maybe they have moved far away, there is no money anywhere for anybody to travel the distance now between you both.

Maybe our loved ones are members of the Armed Forces of our countries and the situation is such that no one is able to get those “orders” to travel home.

Perhaps we now have no home to go to because of major weather events which have destroyed the home or flooded it out or made it uninhabitable an unsafe.

Perhaps the home you knew or had just bought, has burned to the ground.

Perhaps the home you knew is now the home you can never go back to because you are a refugee or an immigrant fleeing a dangerous and unstable situation.

If one of these situations resonates with you, or resonates with me, we might not be feeling very thankful this season and we pray others to leave us alone.

For some other people, reminders to be thankful can bring joy. But what are the effects of being prompted to be thankful when you just aren’t feeling thankful?

Unfortunately, when you aren’t feeling thankful, even the minutest, smallest of reminders to be thankful are “offensive,” can make you and me feel even worse.

When you are struggling, being prompted to be thankful may seem insensitive.

You may feel misunderstood, alone, or isolated.

You might feel like everyone around you is thankful and full of joy, and you are alone in your thanklessness.

You may feel annoyed or even angry if it seems that others want you to be thankful to fit their schema for the holiday. If you have tried to feel thankful and just cannot bring yourself to do it, you may feel disappointed in yourself.

I confess… some days I don’t feel thankful. On those days I can still make of list of all my blessings, but instead of it propelling feelings of gratitude it makes me feel that much more guilty its not there, you cannot put it there. 

It’s a horrible feeling to be trying with everything you have to feel something you know you should be feeling but are not and do not believe you are allowed. 

Does that ever happen to you?

Is this a familiar sensation?

If this is how you feel, getting through the holiday can be challenging.

Here are some ideas for making it a bit easier.

1. Accept your feelings and be compassionate with yourself. 

You may think that you are supposed to feel thankful on Thanksgiving.

This is especially true if there are some aspects of your life that are positive, such as good health or a steady job.

However, sometimes our struggles weigh heavily on us, making it difficult to appreciate our blessings.

If this is happening to you, that is alright.

It happens to the best of us.

Not being able to feel thankful doesn’t make someone a “bad person.”

You may be having a tough time, and the tough times may be fleeting or may be more longstanding.

Either way, please see yourself as a good person, and treat yourself with the compassion and understanding that you deserve.

Accepting your feelings is important because it can bring you more peace than trying to fight them.

In addition, accepting your feelings is important because denying feelings can lead to other problems.

“Fake it till you Make it?”

If you are determined to stride into Thanksgiving pretending to feel something that you don’t, this façade can crumble in a hurry during the day, leading you to feel embarrassed or even worse than when you started in the first place.

2. Make a plan for challenging interactions. 

Many holidays have fallen apart as a result of quibbling throughout the day or full-blown arguments.

If you somehow anticipate being annoyed, irritated or provoked by someone during the day, whether it’s your mother-in-law, third cousin, or own spouse or child, make a plan now for how you will react. First, foremost – Pray to God!

Thanksgiving dinner is definitely not the most opportune time for proving that case you are right or making a case for something controversial that is vitally important to you, especially if you are out of sorts and not feeling your best.

Instead of trying to win those arguments, try embracing the goal of getting through the day with as much of God’s grace and God’s peace as possible.

To do this, you need to think about what you will do when someone sets you off or gets under your skin that will deescalate the tension.

This could be ignoring a comment, agreeing if you can, agreeing to disagree, changing the subject, or saying you aren’t going to talk about a particular topic.

Doing any of these things will probably mean that you are being the bigger person. This may not be “fair,” may seem like you are avoiding, but it will increase the chances of you making it through your day with less stress.

3. Make a plan if you are going to spend the day alone. 

For any number of reasons, many people find themselves dining alone on Thanksgiving when they rather would spend the day with others.

There are ways to get around this: inviting others to your home, asking a friend if you can join them (even if doing so is a little awkward), or volunteering at a church or at a homeless shelter or other location serving Thanksgiving dinner.

If none of these ideas appeal to you or are possible, you can still make peace with the holiday on your own. The irony here is that many of us would typically be thrilled to have a day to ourselves with no expectations for productivity.

However, the day can feel mightily empty when it’s a holiday.

Now is the time to start re-framing how you think about this day on your own.

This may not be what you wanted, but it’s what you have.

So, how can you make the best of it?

What would you do if the day were not a holiday?

Thinking about this now is important so you can research what shops or restaurants will be closed and gather whatever you need for your day now.

Remember too that a good plan does not necessarily mean that you won’t have feelings of sadness or disappointment.

But a good plan for filling the time with things you enjoy should help the hours roll by faster and with more pleasant moments.

4. End the day with something to look forward to. 

What do you most enjoy doing in the hour or two before going to sleep?

Maybe it’s a cozy spot with a good book, or a bath and glass of wine, or a long drive, or walk outside.

Whatever it is, do it.

If you have a busy day with friends or family, prioritize carving out and protecting this time.

If you are on your own, save these activities for the end of the day.

Doing this will serve two purposes.

First, you will have something to look forward to as you make your way through your day.

Second, it is a way of rewarding yourself.

By evening, you will have made it through a day that you found challenging.

This is not an easy feat, and you should take pride in what you have done.

How Does the Word of God encourage Us during particularly Hard Times?

1 Thessalonians 5:12-18New American Standard Bible

Christian Conduct

12 But we ask you, brothers and sisters, to recognize those who diligently labor among you and [a]are in leadership over you in the Lord, and give you [b]instruction, 13 and that you regard them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another. 14 We urge you, brothers and sisters, admonish the [c]unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek what is good for one another and for all people. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.

As believers, we are taught to pray.

But what are we taught to pray?

The Word of God for the Children of God

– Begin to Reflect upon something an someone far, far greater than yourself,

Upon God, the Father an Go the Son and Holy Spirit,

Even if you do not know the words – Sing Psalms ….

For example ….

Psalm 42English Standard Version

Book Two

Why Are You Cast Down, O My Soul?

To the choirmaster. A Maskil[a] of the Sons of Korah.

42 As a deer pants for flowing streams,
    so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
    for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?[b]
My tears have been my food
    day and night,
while they say to me all the day long,
    “Where is your God?”
These things I remember,
    as I pour out my soul:
how I would go with the throng
    and lead them in procession to the house of God
with glad shouts and songs of praise,
    a multitude keeping festival.

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation[c] and my God.

My soul is cast down within me;
    therefore I remember you
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
    from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep
    at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves
    have gone over me.
By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,
    and at night his song is with me,
    a prayer to the God of my life.
I say to God, my rock:
    “Why have you forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning
    because of the oppression of the enemy?”
10 As with a deadly wound in my bones,
    my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me all the day long,
    “Where is your God?”

11 Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God.

But why should we pray when we do not feel like it?

But why should we pray when we cannot bring ourselves to do it?

Prayer, even the most silent and most anguished of prayers brings us into a time of sacred communion with God, the maker and sustainer of the universe.

God gives us life, and he sustains our daily living.

We should pray because God has everything we need and wants us to flourish.

What’s more, we should pray, even in silence, even when we feel like crying because in prayer we give thanks to God for all that he is and all that he does.

In prayer, even the most silent and anguished prayer, we recognize our ­utter dependence on God. It can be hard to admit that we are completely dependent.

But at the same time every anguished prayer opens our hearts to more fully experience the breathtaking scope of God’s amazing grace and mercy for us.

Thanksgiving in prayer is not just a good idea or a suggestion, though.

It’s a command, as the apostle Paul reminds us.

By rejoicing always, praying continually, we obey the will of God for us in Christ Jesus who taught His disciples to pray, under any and every last circumstance:

From the Scriptures:

He (Jesus) was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say:

Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
And do not bring us to the time of trial.
–Luke 11:1-4 (NRSV)

Pray then in this way:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not bring us to the time of trial,
but rescue us from the evil one.
For if you forgive others of their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
–Matthew 6:9-15 (NRSV)

Sometimes we think of such “continual” commands as an even worse burden.

But obeying this command (1 Thessalonians 5:12-18)will bless us beyond measure, put us in the best position for loving and serving God in the world.

So when you pray today (and always), spend time communing with God, ask him for whatever you need, in the living Word of God and feel the strong rush of his grace and mercy resulting in a sense of gratitude that shapes all you do.

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

Creator God, your mighty hand threw chaos aside, your hand created heaven and earth, your hand threw the stars into space and the same hand which created me, now reaches down to me with the very gentlest and healing of touches. Yet God, I don’t have the strength to deal with the situation I am facing right now. I pray please uphold me with your stronger than my own righteous right hand. I don’t know what else to do now, or who else to turn to, please help me. You say that I do not need to be afraid, do not need to let my heart be troubled or dismayed because you are my God and you are with me. Still I hurt! Help me to know your presence in the midst of my circumstances and draw strength from you. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

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We Are Saved By The Grace Of God. Matthew 25:31-46

Matthew 25:31-46New King James Version

The Son of Man Will Judge the Nations

31 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the [a]holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. 33 And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 39 Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’

41 “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; 43 I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’

44 “Then they also will answer [b]Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ 45 Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46 And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen.

Let us pray:

Dear Heavenly Father, we save for you our highest thanks and praise that through your Son, our Savior, Jesus the Christ, you have revealed your glorious will for our lives, and have redeemed us from sin and death. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, open our hearts and minds to your Word and the grace contained therein, that we might come to gain a deeper appreciation for all that our Lord has done for us, and come to embrace him as our redeemer. This we ask in his holy name. Amen.

Today, we celebrate another Sunday of our church year, a Sunday, just as every other Sunday which preceded this one – we will honor Jesus the Christ as King.

It is a day to remember that through the power of the Holy Spirit, God calls us to acknowledge Jesus, and Jesus alone, who alone is the only One worthy to be our Lord, an our Savior – who will one day come, judge the world in righteousness.

Our Gospel lesson for this morning is one of two of Christ’s teachings on the subject of his future judging of the world, recorded in Matthew’s Gospel.

The first occurs at the end of what has become known as “The Sermon on the Mount,” where Jesus says:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.’”

In this passage, the judgement of condemnation seems to fall upon those who use Jesus’ name in a casual manner, as if they really did not know and did not understand Jesus from the very deepest depths of their hearts and their souls.

Simply engaging in acts of ministry is not what Jesus wants. He wants us to know him in such an intimate way, that all of our actions, and all of the ways that we live our lives, naturally flow from our koinonia relationship with him.

Our Gospel lesson for today, the emphasis of our Lord’s judgement again seems to fall upon truly knowing Jesus from the heart, in such an intimate way, as we encounter persons in need, we respond to them as Jesus would have responded.

Just listen to how personal and intimate, Jesus makes his judgement.

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me…” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”

The interesting thing about our lesson for today is the fact those who did what Jesus would have expected, did so without trying to earn our Lord’s good favor.

Because they knew Jesus so intimately, so personally, they didn’t even realize that they were acting the way that Jesus desired.

From knowing Savior Jesus, their life had been so dramatically and thoroughly changed, in such a way they just naturally responded to care for those in need.

It was not as if they knowingly set out and acted in such a way to earn brownie points from our Lord come judgement day.

The fact that those whom our Lord blessed and invited into the kingdom of God, did not even know that they had done these things, is a clear statement that it is not our deeds that make us righteous, but our intimate relationship with Jesus.

As the story goes, in a large Christian University, two persons were called upon to recite the 23rd Psalm of David, in a study group focusing on how hearing the Word of God proclaimed, can effect us in diverse, various ways, even change the meaning of a certain text.

One chosen to recite the psalm was a PhD professor trained in the techniques of Biblical Story Telling, speech, drama and music.

As a result, he intoned the psalm with great beauty and power.

When he had finished, those in the class applauded with enthusiasm, and asked him to repeat those verses, they again might hear his beautiful performance.

Then the second person was asked to recite the text.

She was a young first year student, who had yet to pick a major.

With no musical talent or inclination, she chose to recite the whole psalm from her own memory as she was taught to by her mom and dad, her grandparents.

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…

When this young first year non-matriculated student finished reciting that psalm, not one single sound came from anyone the class, even the teacher.

Instead, the students sat quietly, in a deep mood of prayer and devotion.

Finally, the professor stood and addressed the class.

“I have a confession to make,” he said.

“The difference between what you have just heard from my student, from what you have also just heard from me, is that with all of my years of education and of my training. I may know the psalm, but she knows the psalm and loves the shepherd.”

Now I share this illustration with you today, not to simply point to the merits and differences between someone reciting the psalm versus intoning the psalm.

I personally enjoy intoning the psalms, because I deeply believe that is exactly how they were intended to be spoken and heard and felt in a worship setting.

They were ancient hymns and meant to come from the very depths of our souls.

But what is important to me, is that we intone or recite or sing the psalms with maximum conviction, as if we realize that they are written by persons who did know the Shepherd, who understood the context of the shepherd, to convey full of their relationship with God, so that we might come to know God, as did they.

And I believe that this is where these lessons of Jesus about the final judgment ask us to focus our maximum attention on not just Sundays, but every last day.

To honor God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit as sovereign.

It is not so important to know a lot of facts about Jesus, as it is to know Jesus.

Of course, the fact that I have just said this, may give maximum impetus to my readership to question why I have them learn so many facets about the Bible and Jesus. But through learning those facets, it is my hope and prayer that they might come to know God, and begin to relate to Jesus as their redeemer King!

It is for that reason, I have stressed to my readership that doing their daily devotions is more important than scoring aces on their “worldly” quizzes.

Even if my readership misses a few major points here or minor there, I can always tell, through their participation in ‘class’ if they understand truth.

And I can an do try to teach a lot of truths in the long course of my writings.

But TRUTH is – I can NEVER teach them to enter into a relationship with Christ.

That is something I have to prayerfully hand over to the grace of God, and the matchless power of the Word of God, Jesus, and His Spirit, to bring to fruition.

I think Luther put it as well as it can be stated, when he said:

“I believe that I cannot by my own understanding or effort believe in Jesus Christ my Lord, or come to him as my Savior. But the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, and sanctified and kept me in true faith.

What a marvelous insight, for here Luther is insisting that even our belief in Christ is not something that we can take credit in.

For if it would not have been for the love of God working through the church, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we would not even have the opportunity to have heard of Jesus the Christ, let alone come into relationship with him.

But all the highest praise and thanks be to God that he has given us the gift of his Holy Spirit, which has inspired his Beloved Children and church to proclaim his Word, and celebrate the Sacraments, that we might all come to know Jesus, and allow him to become, not only a part of our lives, but through our intimate relationship with him, experience the only direction by which we live our lives.

I remember this story from years past, from my own non-matriculated days.

During the French revolution, a mother of two children wondered through the woods for three days, trying to survive on roots and leaves.

On the third day, she heard some soldiers approaching and quickly hid herself and the children behind some bushes. Several of the young soldiers prodded the bushes with their bayonets, to see what a slight rustling noise might look like.

When they saw the starving woman and her two children, they immediately gave them loaves of brown bread from their own meager soldierly rations.

The mother took them eagerly, broke one into two pieces and gave one piece to each of her children. “Is she not hungry,” said the soldier’s comrade. “No,” he said, “It is because she is a mother and loves her children more than her self.”

Matthew 26:26-30 NKJV

Jesus Institutes the Lord’s Supper

26 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, [a]blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.”

27 Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 For this is My blood of the [b]new covenant, which is shed for many for the [c]remission of sins. 29 But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.”

30 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

Well, on the night in which he was betrayed, Jesus took a loaf of bread, broke it and shared it with us all. Then he lovingly gave up his all he had on the cross, wearing a crown of thorns, and was mocked as being the King of the Jews. Well, today, today celebrate that he is the King, not only of the Jews, but of the world.

As we solemnly approach this coming Thanksgiving – this time of family and togetherness, this coming season of Advent as we remember and recount the ancient story and prophetic passages from God’s Holy Scriptures, to again be aware of how they have impacted those who came before us, how they impacted our lives, how they will continue to impact them and those of our own children, and every single countless future generations of all the children yet to be born,

Then we enter into the wondrous season of Christmas, the season of gift giving, that absolutely positively the greatest gift in all history was the gift of our God,

In a matchless expression of His matchless Charity and Grace – His own Son!

Immanuel – God with Us and God within Us – Alpha to Omega – for all time!

Jesus Christ – Our King!

Jesus Christ, Our Lord!

Jesus Christ – Our Savior!

Ponder that for a while – a long while, an Alpha to Omega while.

Experience what God will most certainly do for you …..

Until then, ……

We might want to get a little more Alpha to Omega practical experience in ……

Psalm 23 AKJV

Psalm 23

A Psalm of David.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul:
he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;
thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:
thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear:
though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident.
One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after;
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple.
(Psalm 27:3-4)

This I shall yet in everlasting praise, Pray to the Shepherd King of my life ….

To our God and soon coming Savior, I give You thanks. God, I pray today that You will reveal yourself to me and those in my life. May we have an encounter from the true and living God. I pray that the desires of our hearts shall be to seek after You that we may know You and that we will be men and women after God’s own heart, Amen.

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Am I Playing Hide and Seek with God? Do I Know this: Nothing in All of God’s Creation is ever Hidden from the Eyes and the Word of God? Hebrews 4:12-15

Hebrews 4:12-15Amplified Bible

12 For the word of God is living and active and full of power [making it operative, energizing, and effective]. It is sharper than any two-edged [a]sword, penetrating as far as the division of the [b]soul and spirit [the completeness of a person], and of both joints and marrow [the deepest parts of our nature], exposing and judging the very thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And not a creature exists that is concealed from His sight, but all things are open and exposed, and revealed to the eyes of Him with whom we have to give account.

14 Inasmuch then as we [believers] have a great High Priest who has [already ascended and] passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession [of faith and cling tenaciously to our absolute trust in Him as Savior]. 15  For we do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize and understand our weaknesses and temptations, but One who has been tempted [knowing exactly how it feels to be human] in every respect as we are, yet without [committing any] sin.

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

“Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13).

He who created all things seen and unseen, is present to all things seen or unseen at all times.

It is he who sustains all things in their being in every moment.

Nothing can hide or be hidden from his gaze.

Human beings, of course, are the only creatures in God’s creation who can conceive of the idea of hiding from God.

And there is a good reason for this.

We are the only creatures who have been given an intellect with which we can come to know the difference between what is morally good and what is morally evil, along with a moral will, the freedom to choose to do what is right, good and true, or refuse to go along with that knowledge for our own selfish reasons.

When we sin we are, quite literally, choosing to deny the truth.

And most of the time we know it.

But here is the kicker for us.

We have also been given a conscience.

God has written the instinct for the good into every human heart. And when we choose to go against that natural, God-given instinct, that is called sin.

Our conscience works in two ways:

Before the choice to sin, we experience the inner struggle between knowing that a given choice is wrong, which is matched against, and often overwhelmed by, the immediate desire for some kind of perceived immediate pleasure, or gain.

The second way conscience is experienced is after the chosen act is done.

If we have chosen to remain true to God’s law, we experience the peace and the satisfaction of knowing we did what was right, even if the result was suffering.

If, on the other hand, we choose to go against our conscience, we experience the bitter, burning pangs of sorrow and guilt.

Our greatest danger is in the fact that we can “numb” our consciences into silence by getting into the habit of sinning to the point that our conscience no longer stirs.

When this happens our souls are in real danger of losing all hope of eternal happiness with the Lord in heaven.

This is why a daily examination of conscience and prayerful reflection is a good habit to develop.

The brutal truth is, it is for our own good for us to develop, activate the habits of choosing the good and recognizing and turning away from all of the undeniably powerful temptations of immediate gratification we are constantly exposed to.

It is in choosing to defy our consciences that we also fall into the folly of trying to hide our actions, and our guilts.

We may be able to successfully “pull the wool” over the eyes of those we have sinned against, temporarily, or even permanently, but God, who sees all and knows all, cannot be hidden from, not matter how we try.

Our every action is before him and we will have to give an account for willful actions in defiance of his law on the Last Day.

All choices have their unavoidable and undeniable consequences.

They come whether we want them or not.

We are reminded here of the admonition in Deuteronomy 30:15-20 Amplified

Choose Life

15 “Listen closely, I have set before you today life and prosperity (good), and death and adversity (evil); 16 in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk [that is, to live each and every day] in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments (precepts), so that you will live and multiply, and that the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you are entering to possess. 17 But if your heart turns away and you will not hear and obey, but are drawn away and worship other gods and serve them, 18 I declare to you today that you will certainly perish. You will not live long in the land which you cross the Jordan to enter and possess. 19 I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse; therefore, you shall choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, 20 by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding closely to Him; for He is your life [your good life, your abundant life, your fulfillment] and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the Lord promised (swore) to give to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”

Is it not wise, then, listen to God, to read and to study and pray over His Living, Active Word, to choose life and blessing, and foolish to choose death and curse?

If we choose life and blessing, there will be no reason to hide.

If we choose to do God’s will, to live in accord with his divine law written into our hearts, we will never have to hide.

But choose sin and no amount of hiding, no amount of trying to bury our heads deep within the sand will keep us from God’s eyes and his righteous judgement.

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

Holy and gracious God, you are the greatest of all. You are full of wonders that no mere human can ever hope to comprehend or understand. Lord, I seek to understand you, your Living and Active Word and your ways so that I can live according to your commandments. I pray for your divine illumination in my heart and mind. Help me see what you intend for me to see. Help me understand what you intend for me to understand. Open my eyes and my ears to see you and hear your whispers. Amen.

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Burying our Sins in our Backyards? Our Sin being Hidden in Plain Sight? Buried, Burying, Unburying Achan’s Treasures? Joshua 7:16-26

Joshua 7:16-26Amplified Bible

The Sin of Achan

16 So Joshua got up early in the morning and brought Israel forward by [h]tribes, and the tribe of Judah was selected. 17 So he brought the family of Judah forward, and he selected the family of the Zerahites; then he brought the family of the Zerahites forward man by man, and Zabdi was selected. 18 And he brought his household forward man by man; and Achan, son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, from the tribe of Judah, was selected. 

19 Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, I implore you, give glory to the Lord, the God of Israel, and give praise to Him [in recognition of His righteous judgments]; and tell me now what you have done. Do not hide it from me.” 20 So Achan answered Joshua and said, “In truth, I have sinned against the Lord, the God of Israel, and this is what I have done: 21 when I saw among the spoils [in Jericho] a [a]beautiful robe from Shinar (southern Babylon) and two hundred shekels of silver and a bar of gold weighing fifty shekels, I wanted them and took them. Behold, they are hidden in the ground inside my tent, with the silver underneath.”

22 So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran to the tent; and they saw the stolen objects hidden in his tent, with the silver underneath. 23 And they took them from the tent and brought them to Joshua and to all the sons of Israel, and [b] spread them out before the Lord. 24 Then Joshua and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, the silver, the [royal] robe, the bar of gold, [c]his sons, his daughters, his oxen, his donkeys, his sheep, his tent, and everything that he had; and they brought them up to the Valley of Achor (Disaster). 25 Joshua said, “Why have you brought disaster on us? The Lord will bring you disaster this day.” Then all Israel stoned them [to death] with stones; afterward they burned their bodies in the fire. 26 Then they piled up over him a great heap of stones that remains to this day. Then the Lord turned from the fierceness of His anger. Therefore the name of that place has been called the Valley of Achor (Disaster) to this day.

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

Soon after they fell into sin Adam and Eve tried to hide themselves in the thickest of bushes and hide their guilt behind coverings made of fig leaves.

Later because of their acute awareness of the magnitude of their sin they also vainly attempted to run as far away as they could, hide themselves from God.

Adam and Eve’s son Cain thought he could hide the guilt of shedding his brother’s innocent blood by claiming that he was not his brother’s keeper.

Joseph’s brothers attempted to cover the magnitude of their sin of selling him into slavery by staining his clothing with an animal’s blood and crying, telling their father he had been devoured by a wild beast – causing severe distress.

Moses tried to bury his guilt in the sand after he killed an Egyptian.

King David also tried to bury the truth, cover up the depth of his sin of adultery by having Bathsheba’s husband Uriah the Hittite killed at the front of battle.

For a short time it seemed as though he had believed he had successfully buried the truth about what he had done, from the eyes of those who could cause harm.

But as we know in His time, God brought the magnitude of those sins into light.

Time and time again God’s revealing and convicting Word tells us about people who went to lengths, tried to cover up or bury their sins in one way or another.

I have just given you but a few examples of this but know there are many more.

In this Old Testament Lesson from the Book of Joshua we meet another person in a long line of “quiet” sinners who thought they could hide and secret their sins from all of the prying eyes of those around them and even from God!

In the story of Achan we hear how he treasured the spoils of mankind, carried them away in secret, literally tried to bury his sins in the ground under his tent.

But this is much more than history lesson.

In the Word of God to which we will now direct our attention for our devotional today – we will also see the depths of deceit in ourselves in the ancient story.

We too have attempted to cover up our sins and bury them in the deep recesses of our hearts and minds – moving quietly into our backyards and bury our sins.

As we read in the early verses of the Creation story, this the devil has often led us to believe the delusion we can, we will, cover up secret sins or private guilt.

Like Achan we may can hide much and then think our sin will not be uncovered.

But we need to remember we can hide whatever we want from the prying eyes of man but nothing can be hidden from God and the guilt of our sins still stands.

So today I pray God the Holy Spirit will lead each of us to consider one question:

“WHAT HAS BEEN “SECRETLY” BURIED UNDER OUR “Achan’s TENT?”

I. Stop hiding your sins and confess them to God

II. Trust that Christ was punished for your sins

Disaster had descended upon the Israelites.

After their spectacular victory at Jericho, where the walls came tumbling down, they were defeated by the people of Ai.

From a human perspective it should have been an easy victory against an insignificant city.

But the victorious army that Joshua sent against the Aites was soundly beaten and thoroughly embarrassed.

They were sent fleeing in retreat.

The Children of Israel were devastated by this defeat.

We are told in the verses leading up to our Old Testament Lesson that the “hearts of the people melted and became like water.”

Joshua was also left stunned and confused.

With his face in the dirt he poured out his discouragement and disappointment to the LORD in prayer.

The LORD then spoke to Joshua explaining what had happened.

“Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have secretly put them with their own possessions.”

During the previous battle against Jericho somebody had taken some of the things that were devoted to the LORD.

God had commanded that everything be destroyed.

God went on to explain the result of the magnitude of this secret transgression.

“That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is solely devoted to destruction.”

Our Hebrew [Old] Testament Lesson begins with the consecrated process that Joshua used to discover, uncover the one who had sinned against the LORD.

I.

In order to first discover and then reveal the guilty party all the Israelites were to appear before the LORD and he would start selecting first one tribe and then one clan, then one family, and then finally one person – to shed the spotlight.

Our text tells us,

“16 Early the next morning Joshua had Israel come forward by tribes, and Judah was taken. 17 The clans of Judah came forward, and he took the Zerahites. He had the clan of the Zerahites come forward by families, and Zimri was taken. 18 Joshua had his family come forward man by man, and Achan son of Carmi, the son of Zimri, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was taken.”

Try to imagine what Achan was thinking as his guilt was slowly being revealed!

He could not run away and hide from what he had done.

Although he had buried the evidence of his sin under his tent God knew it was there. And very soon all his fellow Israelites would also know what he had done.

Like a runaway freight train God’s justice was bearing down hard upon Achan.

It probably came as a relief to Achan when Joshua said,

“My son, give glory to the LORD, the God of Israel, and give him the praise. Tell me what you have done; do not hide [bury, secret] it from me.”

Joshua asked Achan to confess the wicked thing he had done.

God obviously knew what he had done and he couldn’t hide it from God, Joshua encouraged Achan to give God glory, even high praise, as he confessed his sins.

“20 Achan replied, “It is true! I have sinned against the LORD, the God of Israel. This is what I have done: 21 When I saw in the plunder a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. They are hidden in the ground inside my tent, with the silver underneath.”

Just as he had tried to secretly carry away the plunder, then secretly bury the evidence of his sin deep under his tent so too he had attempted to bury the guilt of the magnitude of his sin deep within the most secret recesses in his heart.

In his confession Achan exhaled all guilt to Joshua.

He breathed out the facts about how sin had taken hold of him and what he had done. He no longer tried to hide his sin. He stood up, confessed fully to Joshua.

Once again so that Achan’s story means more to us than a Bible History lesson let’s get back to the question that these verses of Scripture set before us.

“What’s buried deep under yours and mine Achan’s tent?”

“What’s spoils, treasures of sins, is buried deep in our own hearts “backyards?”

Is it a craving of yours or mine own body or a lust of your or mine own soul?

Perhaps you and I have buried a guilty pleasure or a secret addiction that you and I believe is unknown to anyone but you and me.

Are you and I being unfaithful in thoughts, words, or actions to our wedding vows? At our places of employment have we found a seemingly innocent way to “hold back our efforts,” cheat or steal? Are we living a lie at school or at church?

As we answer these questions, “What’s buried under our Achan’s tent?” let’s be brutally honest with ourselves and even more brutally honest with Father God.

Give all of our praise and honor and glory and HONESTY unto our Creator God!

Perhaps making confession We know He sees all we do and He knows all we see.

May we have the holy boldness to dare to echo King David’s words recorded in 

Psalm 69:5, “You know my folly, O God; my guilt is not hidden from you.”

In the full presence of God, as Joshua stood before Achan, encouraged Achan, in Christ, we are also encouraged to stop hiding our sins and confess them to God.

Psalm 32 NASB

Blessedness of Forgiveness and of Trust in God.

A Psalm of David. A [a]Maskil.

32 How blessed is he whose wrongdoing is forgiven,
Whose sin is covered!
How blessed is a person whose guilt the Lord does not take into account,
And in whose spirit there is no deceit!

When I kept silent about my sin, my [b]body wasted away
Through my [c]groaning all day long.
For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me;
My [d]vitality failed as with the dry heat of summer. Selah
I acknowledged my sin to You,
And I did not hide my guilt;
I said, “I will confess my wrongdoings to the Lord”;
And You forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah
Therefore, let everyone who is godly pray to You [e]in a time when You may be found;
Certainly in a flood of great waters, they will not reach him.
You are my hiding place; You keep me from trouble;
You surround me with [f]songs of deliverance. Selah

I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go;
I will advise you with My eye upon you.
Do not be like the horse or like the mule, which have no understanding,
Whose trappings include bit and bridle to hold them in check,
Otherwise they will not come near to you.
10 The sorrows of the wicked are many,
But the one who trusts in the Lord, goodness will surround him.
11 Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous ones;
And shout for joy, all you who are upright in heart.

Today, God the Father offers all of us who are tired of running away from our secret sins and guilt that accompanies them a chance to confess them to him.

Like Achan let’s stop hiding our sins and confess them to God.

What’s buried under your tent?

What’s buried under my own tent?

What sins have you been “secretly hiding” “secretly burying” in your backyard?

What sins have I been “secretly hiding” “secretly burying” in my backyard?

Our best forever friends may not know about them, our family may be unaware of them but rest assured, God the Father, Son and Spirit, sees all and knows all.

Whatever sins you and I have tried to “successfully” hide from God and bury away from the prying eyes of all others will not and cannot long stay hidden.

Tell the gut-level truth to God.

Make NO excuses –

Tell NO Lies –

Do not blame others, do not even try to “hide” the shovel behind your backs.

Simply say, “God, for too long I have hidden these sins from you and others. I will no longer hide them from you. I will confess the secrets I have buried.”

II. So how did things end for Achan, his family, friends and the Israelites?

I suppose the story does not end the way we might expect nor with the outcome for which we might hope in the year of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ 2022.

The consequences for Achan’s sins fell squarely on him and his family.

After Joshua sent men to retrieve the evidence of Achan’s guilt buried in the ground under his tent justice was carried out.

“24 Then Joshua, together with all Israel, took Achan son of Zerah, the silver, the robe, the gold wedge, his sons and daughters, his cattle, donkeys and sheep, his tent and all that he had, to the Valley of Achor. 25 Joshua said, “Why have you brought this trouble on us? The LORD will bring trouble on you today.” Then all Israel stoned him, and after they had stoned the rest, they burned them. 26 Over Achan they heaped up a large pile of rocks, which remains to this day. Then the LORD turned from his fierce anger. Therefore that place has been called the Valley of Achor (disaster) ever since.”

Achan received the punishment that God had said would befall anyone who did what he had done.

If we are honest with each other we probably have to admit that we are left wondering why things ended this way.

If Achan confessed his sin why was he still punished?

His confession seems sincere.

Isn’t the LORD a merciful and gracious God?

Isn’t the Lord slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love?

Perhaps it would be best to not to dig too deeply into the justice of a holy God.

From Achan’s example the Israelites learned how serious God is about sin.

If he doesn’t punish the guilty then he is not just.

Achan received the consequences for his actions and all the Israelites learned a brutally harsh and brutally sobering lesson from it.

Now as we look at the sins we have tried to bury under our tents should we be afraid to confess them?

If God is just won’t we be punished as Achan was?

The consequences for our sins should be even worse than what Achan experienced.

What do I mean by that?

Sin brings eternal punishment.

We should be unceremoniously removed from God’s presence forever in hell!

We should die eternally.

Imagine if our secret sins were laid out today for everyone to see.

And with God and everyone else looking at them we realized there is no escape—no place to hide.

Isaiah 53:5-10 NASB

But He was [a]pierced for our offenses,
He was crushed for our wrongdoings;
The punishment for our [b]well-being was laid upon Him,
And by His wounds we are healed.
All of us, like sheep, have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way;
But the Lord has caused the wrongdoing of us all
To [c]fall on Him.

He was oppressed and afflicted,
Yet He did not open His mouth;
Like a lamb that is led to slaughter,
And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers,
So He did not open His mouth.
By oppression and judgment He was taken away;
And as for His generation, who considered
That He was cut off from the land of the [d]living
For the wrongdoing of my people, to whom the blow was due?
And His grave was assigned with wicked men,
Yet He was with a rich man in His death,
Because He had done no violence,
Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.

10 But the Lord desired
To crush Him, [e]causing Him grief;
If He renders [f]Himself as a guilt offering,
He will see His [g]offspring,
He will prolong His days,
And the [h]good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand.

As the stones of God’s righteous anger are about to strike us right now, as they struck Achan in those most ancient of days, our Savior Jesus takes our place.

Jesus takes our guilt and punishment upon himself.

That’s the truth we remember so vividly during Lent.

We again follow Jesus to the cross to see his sacrifice for us.

Our trust that Christ was punished for our sins is strengthened, by His stripes we were healed.

God said to Adam and Eve, “You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” (Genesis 2:17)

God’s justice is stricter than any justice human courts have demanded.

It is absolute and unbending. The LORD said, “The soul who sins is the one who will die.” (Ezekiel 18:4)

In Romans 6:23 the Apostle Paul declared that “the wages of sin is death.”

There is one demand under God’s justice–complete holiness.

There is one sentence under God’s justice for not being holy.

That is eternal death—eternal separation from God in hell.

If we break God’s commandments only one time we must be condemned.

James tells us, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” (James 2:10)

Thank God that our Savior has kept the “whole law” of God in our place and suffered the consequences of our disobedience.

He was punished in our place to that we ourselves can escape punishment.

Today we have the opportunity to walk away from the sins that control us.

Unlike Achan we can live another day to serve God out of thankfulness and love.

The power of mercy and forgiveness in the believer’s life was expressed well by an anonymous author in a poem called:

THERE’S FORGIVENESS.

“Do not struggle alone, in fear and distress / As if there’s no hope, just your ugliness. Our Lord offers grace, not judgment deserving, / He longs for your love and your soon returning.

THERE’S FORGIVENESS. It’s tough cutting through the darkness of sin / Striving for answers, His favor to win. He stands with His arms outstretched and extended / To hold and restore you, just mercy intended.

THERE’S FORGIVENESS. Why search other places your answers to find / To fill the vast void and touch the divine. Lay down your excuses and learn to confess / Your sins and your shame to His holiness.

THERE’S FORGIVENESS. His promise is certain, “I will forgive,” / Cleansing and freedom, it’s yours to live. From no other source full joy will you find. / He is your victory, your peace so sublime.

THERE’S FORGIVENESS. There’s no one beyond the reach of His arm / To pick up and pardon, to rescue from harm. Return to the Master of your faith’s beginning. / Give Him your all, and you’ll find yourself winning.

THERE’S FORGIVENESS. Yes, friends in Jesus, there is forgiveness. For whatever you and I have buried under tents of our lives there is forgiveness because Christ was punished for our sins.

As we “look under our tent” so to speak we will find sins that we try to hide from God and perhaps others.

Like Achan we are led to confess them and not to hide them any longer.

And today our story has a different ending than Achan’s.

The punishment for our sins fell on Jesus.

We are able to live a new life as he empowers us to overcome our secret sins.

Glory be to the Father an to the Son an to the Holy Ghost.

As it was in the beginning, is now an ever shall be,

Worlds without end!

Amen, Amen and Amen.

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

Eternal Father, you know my past, present and future, nothing is unknown to you. Eternal Father, ever loving and ever Merciful Son, strong to forgive, strong to save, When I worry about what is ahead of me, please calm my fears with the knowledge that you go before me. Holy Spirit, I will never be alone because you will always be with me. You have promised that you will not fail me or forsake me and you are faithful to keep all your promises. Take away my fear and replace it with faith in your unending love. Through Jesus Christ, our Savior. Gloria Patri, Alleluia! Amen.

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Grace Greater than our Sin: We say God is trying to Hide Himself from us. Brutal Reality is we are trying too hard to hide our deceitful selves from God. Psalm 32

Psalm 32 English Standard Version

Blessed Are the Forgiven

A Maskil[a] of David.

32 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
    whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
    and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
    through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
    my strength was dried up[b] as by the heat of summer. Selah

I acknowledged my sin to you,
    and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
    and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah

Therefore let everyone who is godly
    offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found;
surely in the rush of great waters,
    they shall not reach him.
You are a hiding place for me;
    you preserve me from trouble;
    you surround me with shouts of deliverance. Selah

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
    I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding,
    which must be curbed with bit and bridle,
    or it will not stay near you.

10 Many are the sorrows of the wicked,
    but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord.
11 Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous,
    and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

Notice the first two verses of Psalm 32 tell us about a threefold liberation—our transgressions forgiven, our sins covered, and our sin is not counted against us.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow, bless my soul and pass the joy!

But then we run headlong into this qualifier: “… in whose spirit is no deceit.”

In deceit we deliberately misrepresent ourselves; we retreat to our secret places, we deliberately and with much malice, give a false impression of our goodness.

Does God then count our sins against us?

I am still forgiven, but there is little less magnitude of max joy to pass around!

Deceit is about our deliberately, intentionally initiating a “secret conspiracy” to cover ourselves up, starting with covering up our failures even unto ourselves.

Without much effort at all we will immediately, if not sooner deny our sin, we will white wash it, reason it away, we will rationalize it out of existence, make excuses for it, compare ourselves to others whom we judge to be worse sinners.

From all of our best, worst efforts, to wall ourselves away from the bitter reality of exactly what is in front of us, with our deceit we no longer sense God’s grace.

Psalm 32:3-4 English Standard Version

For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
    through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
    my strength was dried up[a] as by the heat of summer. Selah

David himself confesses the dangerous effects of the magnitude of his deceit .

And his own personal awareness of God doing a “romp and stomp” on his soul.

“For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away …. through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped.”

Talk about “Where’s the joy?”!

It was more like David was killing his own Joy with every secret effort he made.

But then David came to his senses:

Psalm 32:5 English Standard Version

I acknowledged my sin to you,
    and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
    and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah

David acknowledged the magnitude of his deceit to God, no longer tried to cover it up, no longer tried to keep it locked up behind a thousand doors, locked up by a thousand and one different misshapen keys, deep in unwritten secret places.

With deceit finally confessed, sin is covered by God’s forgiving, healing grace.

When we deceive ourselves, we try to hide our sin.

When we deceive ourselves, we try to reason with our sin.

When we deceive ourselves, we try to rationalize it away.

Reasoning with sin is quite literally and scripturally impossible.

Rationalizing it away is quite literally and scripturally impossible.

When has anyone ever long kept a secret hidden away from God?

Isaiah 1:18-20 English Standard Version

18 “Come now, let us reason[a] together, says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet,
    they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
    they shall become like wool.
19 If you are willing and obedient,
    you shall eat the good of the land;
20 but if you refuse and rebel,
    you shall be eaten by the sword;
    for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

Isaiah 2:1-4 English Standard Version

The Mountain of the Lord

2 The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

It shall come to pass in the latter days
    that the mountain of the house of the Lord
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
    and shall be lifted up above the hills;
and all the nations shall flow to it,

    and many peoples shall come, and say:
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
    to the house of the God of Jacob,
that he may teach us his ways
    and that we may walk in his paths.”
For out of Zion shall go forth the law,[a]
    and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

He shall judge between the nations,
    and shall decide disputes for many peoples;
and they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
    and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
    neither shall they learn war anymore.

The reality is that mankind will be judged by God and God alone

The reality of it all is the “nation of sin” will be judged by God alone.

The reality of it all is the relationship between man and sin will be judged.

The reality is God judges both the “nations of man” and “nations of sin” either trying to “live” in close harmony with each other or “at each other’s throats.”

The reality is God alone judges the maximum strength, durability of the walls these two “nations” have constructed to hide their efforts from “prying eyes.”

1 Chronicles 28:9 English Standard Version

David’s Charge to Solomon

“And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever.

But there are only two true hiding places.

The Mountain of God – where we will all gather to learn only of His ways.

The Cross of Jesus Christ where Christ settled the matter – once for all time.

John 19:28-30 English Standard Version

The Death of Jesus

28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” 29 A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Our choices are crystal clear – believe God is deliberately trying to hide Himself from us, therefore we try hiding our sin from God, to live in harmony with sin, all the while moaning and groaning, crying and whining from our inequalities,

Or… Just brutally surrender ourselves to the .01% possibility of irrepressible joy.

Psalm 32:6-7 English Standard Version

Therefore let everyone who is godly
    offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found;
surely in the rush of great waters,
    they shall not reach him.
You are a hiding place for me;
    you preserve me from trouble;
    you surround me with shouts of deliverance. Selah

“You are my hiding place,” the psalmist says to God.

Being covered by Grace is so much easier that covering over our deceit.

Being covered by Grace is so much better than covering over our deceit.

Being covered by Grace is so much healthier than covering up our deceit.

Being covered by Grace is so much the wiser choice than destroying our Joy.

Will we this day … Receive this Grace for the very first time?

Will we this day … Receive a fresh anointing of this Grace today?

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

Lord Jesus Christ, you are the name above every other name. Your name is like a fortified tower in which I can find safety and security. When I am troubled, I can find refuge and peace in your name. When I feel weak, I can find refuge and strength in your name. When I feel overwhelmed, I can find refuge and rest in your name. When I feel surrounded by pressures on every side, I can find safety, stability in your name. Your name is revealed! Your name is beautiful, Lord, help me to rely on you. Through Jesus Christ, our Savior. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen.

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Getting Gut-Level Honest with God. Giving God our Bitterness. Psalm 137

Psalm 137Complete Jewish Bible

137 By the rivers of Bavel we sat down and wept
as we remembered Tziyon.
We had hung up our lyres
on the willows that were there,
when those who had taken us captive
asked us to sing them a song;
our tormentors demanded joy from us —
“Sing us one of the songs from Tziyon!”

How can we sing a song about Adonai
here on foreign soil?
If I forget you, Yerushalayim,
may my right hand wither away!
May my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth
if I fail to remember you,
if I fail to count Yerushalayim
the greatest of all my joys.

Remember, Adonai, against the people of Edom
the day of Yerushalayim’s fall,
how they cried, “Tear it down! Tear it down!
Raze it to the ground!”

Daughter of Bavel, you will be destroyed!
A blessing on anyone who pays you back
for the way you treated us!
A blessing on anyone who seizes your babies
and smashes them against a rock!

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

Repentance and Forgiveness ….

Deuteronomy 30:1-3 English Standard Version

Repentance and Forgiveness

30 “And when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the Lord your God has driven you, and return to the Lord your God, you and your children, and obey his voice in all that I command you today, with all your heart and with all your soul, then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have mercy on you, and he will gather you again from all the peoples where the Lord your God has scattered you.

And when all of these things have come upon you, the blessings and the curses which God had set before His Children in those ancient of Days – their Exile.

And the people call them to mind (thank you Holy Spirit) among all the nations where the Lord their God has unceremoniously driven them – into their exile, to the rivers of Babylon where they now sit defeated, angry and bitter. Psalm 137.

And when all of these things have come upon us, the blessings and the curses which God has set before His beloved Children in these most modern of days – (I will leave it to the reader to fill in their own personal “blessings an curses.”)

And when we the Children of God call them to their own minds (thank you Holy Spirit) among all of the places among the nations, where the Lord our God has unceremoniously driven us – where we now sit (wherever our backsides are), where we contemplate our own senses of deep defeat and anger and bitterness. (However any of us today, God’s children identify themselves with Psalm 137)

Those exiled Children of God in those ancient of days now long gone, were called by God to return to Him with all of their hearts, with all of their souls.

Today, from where ever it is we ourselves feel we are about to forever languish in our extended, indeterminate periods of personal exiles, God is calling us too.

You, the reader, might now have the very distinct impression this devotional is about our entering into a time and season of repentance – true, but not exactly.

There is something critically important which needs to be addressed first before we get to God’s call upon our lives to enter into an extended time of repentance.

That critically important something is – our getting gut level of God – to beyond the one place where our anger, our bitterness and our defeats keep us all prisoners.

Psalm 137, this song of the embittered exiles, this prayer comes to us white hot.

Its raw, open, and continuously salted wound forbids our tendency to ask the questions we so desperately to have answered but are simply far too bitter to ask, give smooth answers in the face of impossible to conceive personal cruelty.

The personal injuries go indescribably, undeniably deep – deeper than we dare to even minimally make even a minimal effort to conceive, try to identify with.

As you read, sing, this song, dare to imagine the scene that birthed this psalm.

The Babylonian guards taunted Jewish slaves, saying, “Hey, sing us a song about how your God is the greatest!” Though the slaves refused to sing, they also refused to forget. They stayed angry and bitter about Babylon’s injustice.

Maybe you know a person who was victimized.

Maybe you were the one whose trust was being abused, victimized or violated.

Maybe you are the one who can so quickly and painfully and bitterly identify with the absolute rawness of the emotions being expressed in these few verses.

Something at work or about your work …

Something about your marriage …

Something about your relationship with your children …

Something about your relationship with someone who thought had your best interests in mind, but then, when the iron sharpened the iron – it was betrayal.

Maybe you are the one whose wondering – Why God? or Where is our God now?

Maybe someone is right now bullying, mocking or has mocked your outrage.

Kicking sand in your face and refuses stop despite your most tearful pleas.

Maybe we are among the many who were raised to think that there are not too many real and actual victims in our world, we suspect most sufferers “by their own behaviors, asked for it” or “brutally deserved, got what they had coming.”

But the psalms do not tolerate keeping such a distance from human suffering.

They make us grapple with the depths of our own personal knowledge and our own pained up experiences of “man’s inhumanity towards man,” bitterness.

They make us grapple with ourselves where we ourselves simply refuse to go.

The Pandora’s boxes of our hearts and souls for which we long trashed the key.

They make us grapple with evil’s reality, demanding that we hate injustice and oppression. They experience, and express, anger on behalf of we, the oppressed.

Psalm 137 stuns, us with the depths of its emotional impact on our entire souls.

And the question needs to be asked before we get to anything called repentance,

Can we ourselves be that gut level brutally honest with ourselves, with God?

Bitterness is a pill no one wants to swallow, forcibly shoved down their throats.

Being bullied or mocked and scorned is nowhere anyone wants to live for long.

Living with the bitterness of betrayal constantly in your mouth is no way to eat, the constant reminder of its taste is definitely no way for anyone to enjoy a life.

But, there it was for those exiles – the reality and all of its excruciating tastes.

Blessings and curses…the bitter taste of God’s blessings, daily eating the curses.

The desire for exacting revenge at all costs, and chewing and swallowing on the chance to bless your enemies with every imaginable curse at every opportunity.

Hating evil is critical for a healthy spiritual life.

Feeling like you are eating, digesting the evil is quite another matter entirely.

Feeling like we need to vomit evil onto someone, if not everyone else, in our sphere of influence, including ourselves, is a feeling we need to acknowledge.

We need to acknowledge before God the depths of exactly where we are in life.

As the Psalmist who wrote Psalm 137, as the ancient editors left it there for us,

There is a definite need for us to be brutally honest with ourselves and with our God, acknowledging and affirming the correctness, necessity of true honesty.

It is absolutely Okay with being brutally honest with yourself and with God too.

Psalm 137 is clearly meant to completely, utterly bust up our sin hardened soul.

To boldly go where no one would dare to go before – the depths of their souls.

To bust up every last vestige of ourselves so, God and God alone can, piece by painful piece, reshape it, reshape us, put our souls and ourselves back together.

Being Honest With Ourselves and Being Honest with God

The best thing we can do for ourselves, our connection and our relationship with God is to be hyper-zealous in expressing our vulnerability before Him.

This means being brutally honest with our selves (Psalm 51, then Psalm 32) and being even more brutally honest with Him.

Please tell me, what relationship is healthy without being brutally honest?

If we absolutely value them as much as God absolutely does, there are none and yet we still seem to think we can’t or shouldn’t be as honest with God as is with us and therefore we also absolutely need to be with the entirety of ourselves.

Our honesty solves a million hurts before they can even be formed and it is the beginning of breaking walls already created.

I can hear you right now,

“But God knows everything, so why do I need to be honest with Him?”

It is about the relationship.

It is two sided.

He knows but He wants your whole heart.

This means when we take a step of faith, as being absolutely vulnerable requires, He knows we heard Him, He know we listened, He delights in us.

“But let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the LORD.” Jeremiah 9:24

He delights in us as we see Him for who He is – that He is absolutely loving, kind, merciful, forgiving and righteous and just.

This means unhesitatingly taking all of your heartaches, your worries, your thoughts, and your sins to Him!

Being brutally honest because HE DOES KNOW but when we bring Him these things, we submit them to Him as well.

When we lay them at His feet where they belong, unexplainable peace will follow, Peace even when we are still in the situation because He is with us.

I remember walking down the sanctuary hallway at church and feeling deeply frustrated about where God had placed me. I didn’t want to be there. I wanted to feel different. I thought, “eh I can’t be used here. I don’t even want to be here.”

I knew God knew all about my frustrations but when I prayed about it, He changed my heart.

Does this mean all of a sudden that I loved my church?

No, but my prayer changed after I laid my heartbreak of that season down.

My prayer changed from, “Please change this situation” to “Jesus, please show me something more of yourself because I see too much of myself to be any use here.”

I wanted to know why because He is a loving and just God.

All of a sudden, I wanted to stay where I had wanted to hide and flee from, to see just exactly how He was going to do it. I constantly fought with thoughts about why here, but God was faithful in putting a fire of impacting others in me.

He wants to change my thoughts, He wants to transform, shape our thoughts, but we must FIRST allow Him to. This starts with laying them down before Him.

Step 1: Know what you are thinking.

When I started this blog, I prayed to God to use me through these words He gave me. I made a promise to God, myself to be honest about where I was, even when it wasn’t pretty because when I admitted to the struggles, could change occur.

Have these efforts been a Success or Failure – I cannot say …. the blog continues and so, therefore does the works of God – to continually shape, reshape my life.

My Life is still My Life, but I daily pray my life gradually becomes more like His.

This is why we must be vulnerable with Him. He wants to turn our heartaches into triumphs, but He won’t force His way in. He wants us to hand Him all the keys to our Pandora’s box and help us walk away from them and not fall back in.

He absolutely wants to show us how to live abundantly.

This also means doing so truthfully.

I didn’t like where I had been planted by God at first and it did not change just because I thought I could get used to bitterness, no it took a change of thoughts.

I had to pray daily, continuously that God would use me in spite of me and show me something new there. That He would give me a mission. And WOW, He did!

Step 2: Tell Him what you are feeling and thinking.

Admitting where we are takes strength.

Let me be honest with you, it takes guts.

Can we admit we are NOT strong enough to beat defeat bitterness on our own?

Can we admit we are NOT able to fix our defeat and bitterness ourselves?

Feelings are fleeting but boy, they are painfully real when you experience them.

He is not afraid of what you are feeling – but we are absolutely afraid of them.

Let the entire truth of God through His Living Word overtake all your feelings.

I told Him where I was at with it.

I didn’t like it, but I chose to accept it.

To trust that His reasons are better – Proverbs 3:1-12, 16:1-7, Isaiah 1:17-20

Step 3: Let His Word speak to you.

Our knowledge and experience of our Savior Christ is absolutely greater than our knowledge and experience of our bitterness, our fears and our worries.

Knowing these awesome truths led me to chase after Him.

To seek what He wanted with whole lot more love over what I did at the time.

Now, I would not take it back, but you know what they say, hindsight is 20/20.

Genesis to Revelation: He knows the beginning, the end with every in between.

“A thorough knowledge of the Bible is worth more than a college education.” President Theodore Roosevelt

In a miracle of the cross, Jesus teaches us to love our enemies – even when our greatest enemies are not those who have embittered us – but is only ourselves.

So we trust vengeance to him alone.

Psalm 137 shows there is no room for false piety or trying to appear respectable.

Reading, Praying, Studying, Sharing, Magnifying the Word of God means we can be brutally honest with God about what we ourselves are brutally feeling.

We can even bring our worst kind of bitter anger to God and lay it at his feet.

Because God so love the World …. Because God so loved every single one of us, God got brutally honest in His expression of desire for everlasting relationship.

On a Hill far away …. stood an Old Rugged Cross … the emblem of suffering ….

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

1. Jesus, keep me near the cross;
there a precious fountain,
free to all, a healing stream,
flows from Calvary’s mountain.
Refrain:
In the cross, in the cross,
be my glory ever,
till my raptured soul shall find
rest beyond the river.

2. Near the cross, a trembling soul,
love and mercy found me;
there the bright and morning star
sheds its beams around me.
(Refrain)

3. Near the cross! O Lamb of God,
bring its scenes before me;
help me walk from day to day
with its shadow o’er me.
(Refrain)

4. Near the cross I’ll watch and wait,
hoping, trusting ever,
till I reach the golden strand
just beyond the river.
(Refrain)

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Pondering Our Christianity? No More Excuses for our Excuses? One day all of our Excuses must CEASE! Luke 14:16-24

A psychology professor at a Midwestern University recently asked faculty members for the ‘most unusual, bizarre, and amazing student excuses’ they had ever heard. He got dozens of responses from his fellow professors:

* Grandparent death:

an old favorite, but one professor’s class established some sort of record when 14 of 250 students reported their grandmother’s death just before final exams.

In another class a student reported that he could not take a test because of his grandmother’s death.

When the professor expressed condolences a week later, the student replied, ‘Don’t worry, she was almost terminal, but she is feeling much better now.’

* Car Problems: “I had an accident, the police impounded the car, and my paper is in the glove compartment.”

* Animal Trauma: “I can’t be at the exam because my cat is having kittens and I am her coach.”

* More Animal Trauma: “At dinner last night, my dog ate all of my study notes, and he has not pooped yet this morning – can we postpone this until he does?”

We seem to have an excuse for everything, don’t we?

There are even websites on the internet that will help you generate an excuse!

It is true… you type in the type of excuse you need, and it generates one for you (www.zompist.com/excuse.html).

Also, you can even learn about how to

“Deliver a Fake Doctor’s Note and Making It Stick: 6 Must-Use Tips!”

I find that totally amazing!

What exactly is an excuse?

In a court of law, “an excuse is a defense in which a defendant argues that he or she was not liable for his or her actions at the time a law was broken and thus he or she should not be held liable for a crime. Excuses include diminished responsibility, duress, infancy, insanity, involuntary intoxication, mistake, provocation, and unconsciousness (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Excuse).

I think my favorite excuse from that list is ‘infancy.’

“I was a baby when the crime happened… it wasn’t me!”

Excuse is a reason we give when something happens that does not go our way.

It is the ‘why’ we did something when we get caught.

It is our reasons for not doing something we know we should do.

The Bible is full of people making excuses and making excuses is as old as human beings.

You know the story from Genesis chapter 3. Adam ate the forbidden fruit, then when confronted about it, he came up with an excuse: “The woman you put here with me– she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it” (verse 12).

Then the blame was shifted to Eve. What did Eve have to say? Genesis 3:13 records her excuse: “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

It was the serpent’s turn, and guess what – he didn’t have a leg to stand on!

Exodus 32 shares with us the story of the Golden Calf.

The people of God finally arrived from Egypt and settled at the mountain of God to receive the Ten Commandments.

Moses was gone a long time and the people became restless.

The people wanted Aaron, Moses’ brother, to make idols they could worship.

They gave him gold. Aaron made a calf. They were persistent in their request.

Moses returned with the Ten Commandments in hand and asked Aaron if he had made the idol.

What was Aaron’s response? Aaron is trying to explain himself and says,

“So, I told them, ’Whoever has any gold jewelry, take it off.’ Then they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!” (Exodus 32:24).

Aaron was not to blame… the fire was. Ridiculous and almost comical if the sin were not so grave, have such a bitter taste and have such lethal consequences.

God wants to have a relationship with us, and He wants that relationship to be the most important.

But we default to our sinful unrighteous humanity, and we make our excuses.

It is the great conundrum of mankind – We always have excuses after excuses.

We are going to look at a parable today where the invited guests made excuses.

Let’s read this story from Jesus.

Luke 14:16-24Amplified Bible

Parable of the Dinner

16 But Jesus said to him, “A man was giving a big dinner, and he invited many guests17 and at the dinner hour he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, because everything is ready now.’ 18 But they all alike began to make excuses. The first one said to him, ‘I have purchased a piece of land and I have to go out and see it; please consider me excused.’ 19 Another one said, ‘I have purchased five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please consider me excused.’ 20 And another said, ‘I have [recently] married a wife, and for that reason I am unable to come.’ 21 So the servant came back and reported this to his master. Then [his master,] the head of the household, became angry [at the rejections of his invitation] and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and the lanes of the city and bring in here the poor and the disabled and the blind and the lame.’ 22 And the servant [after returning] said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ 23 Then the master told the servant, ‘Go out into the highways and along the hedges, and compel them to come in, so that my house may be filled [with guests]. 24 For I tell you, not one of those who were invited [and declined] will taste my dinner.’”

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

The parable from Luke’s narrative describes for us a great banquet to which the master of the house had extended invitations far and wide.

No time had been noted in the invitation, but the understanding of the day was, once all was ready, notification would go out to all who accepted.

The moment arrived.

The servants were dispatched to gather the guests.

The minimal, if not automatic expectation would be that those invited would drop what they were doing and simply come, because to accept the invitation beforehand and then make an excuse when the day came was a grave insult.

And yet the excuses come.

Everyone knew that the banquet was being prepared and they were supposed to have cleared their schedules.

All who were invited gave excuses.

Other things and other people were subtly, suddenly taking priority over the banquet that was prepared.

Excuse One:

One man said he was too involved in his business.

The man had bought a piece of ground and needed to look after it.

A person can become too involved in any business, not just the business of developing property or farming.

A person’s business, profession, and affairs can often consume all of life.

Other things fall away, and the business is all that matters.

Excuse Two:

Another man said that he was too wrapped up in new purchases.

The oxen had just been purchased.

They were a new possession and the owner wanted to try them out.

So, it is with new purchases such as houses, cars, bikes, records and CDs, books, radios, televisions, and a host of other material things.

The Bible tells us over and over again, over emphasizes material things can take root in our lives and the love of things can become most important in our lives.

Excuse Three:

Still another man said that he was too wrapped up with his family.

This man had just got married.

We know that marriage is ordained by God and that getting married is certainly a good thing.

I think the master of the banquet would have liked it if preparations had been made to attend. Maybe this man could have brought his new wife along, but just says, “I can’t come.” Family can also become an all-consuming issue in our life.

ONE INTERPRETATION

So what does this parable mean?

As in all parables, there is a surface story and then the spiritual meaning underneath.

This is a story about a prepared banquet and all the guests excuse themselves from coming.

The key to interpreting this parable comes in Luke 14:15 right before Jesus gives the parable.

Jesus is eating in a pharisee’s house (Luke 14:1-14) and is discussing spiritual matters with those attending.

One of the people at the table says,

“Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.” (Verse 15)

Who is the one preparing the banquet in the parable? God.

What is the banquet?

The Kingdom of God / Christian Faith and Life / Christianity

Who are those invited? Us / People / Believers / Non-Believers

ONE APPLICATION?

How does this parable apply to us?

What is the meaning of Jesus’ story about this banquet and the excuses?

How are we to strive to understand the complexities of this parable in our lives?

One 2022 application for this parable comes I believe, in looking at our own personal application of our daily Christianity in the different excuses given.

You see, God absolutely wants us to make Him a priority.

Except, too any of us absolutely do not want God being their #1 priority!

The parable is all about this prepared banquet that all of these people were supposed to attend and were supposed to make a priority.

God wants to be a priority in our lives.

He wants His Word to be the primary influence in our lives.

He wants our Sabbaths to be dedicated to Him.

He wants our worship to be directed at only Him.

He wants the “first fruits” of our resources to honor Him first.

God absolutely wants to have a relationship with us, and absolutely He fully wants that relationship to be the most important of all of our relationships.

But we default to our sinful and unrighteous humanity – and we make excuses.

* Maybe your business has taken over your life and you have no time for God. What is your excuse?

* Maybe the ‘things’ of life and the pursuit of them is more important than God in this moment, this time and this season. What is your excuse?

* Maybe you haven’t cracked open your Bible in quite a while. Have not had a conversation with Father, Son and Holy Spirit lately. What is your excuse?

* Maybe you are holding onto a grudge and just won’t forgive someone. What is your excuse?

* Maybe you are living like a “Christian” on Sundays, but on Monday through Saturday, you are not so sure you can account for “faith.” What is your excuse?

* Maybe all the effort you expend in your devotion and obedience to God has “tired you out,” “completely exhausted your spirit.” What is your excuse?

* Maybe you have decided not to give of your “first fruits” and your tithing. What is your excuse?

A whole lot of “Maybe’s” are going on all around us – so, our excuses are flying.

We are struggling to generate “just one more excuse” to get through our day.

There is no one alive right now who can deny “wanting just one more excuse!”

You see the Christian life is an exhausting one, all about giving God the priority and living and loving and moving forth in ministry under His Lordship alone.

When you accept Jesus Christ into your life, you accept Him as Savior and Lord.

Most of us have no problem with accepting Jesus as Savior.

We know that we cannot earn our way into Heaven, and we need God, and we need our sins washed away. We need Jesus. Yet, we cannot forget that He is Lord of our life as well. He is our priority, and it’s His will that should be sought after.

I have no idea what your excuse is for God or what the issue is. We all do it. We all give God excuses of why we can’t be faithful. I want to encourage you this day to rid yourself of your excuse and commit yourself to being faithful to God.

As tired and exhausted as we all undoubtedly are in these 2022 times, seasons, there is no excusing our way out of our innate needs for connections with God.

God is absolutely aware of these needs.

There is no time when He is not absolutely aware of these needs.

Isaiah 1:18-20Amplified Bible

“Let Us Reason”

18 
“Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the Lord.
[a]Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They shall be like wool.
19 
“If you are willing and obedient,
You shall eat the best of the land;
20 
But if you refuse and rebel,
You shall be devoured by the sword.”
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

The “Invitation to Come and Let Us Reason” is always there.

It has been in the Scriptures for thousands of years.

Ancient Biblical Editors have had uncountable opportunities to remove it.

What if they had removed those words all those thousands of years ago …?

Would that have given us “that one more final excuse” to give to God for why we are such prolific excuse makers – “It was nowhere in your Word, God!”

“Since it was not there in the first place – how can I be held accountable now?”

Do you believe our Lord God has a severe, chronic case of: “exhausted ears?”

His invitation has, in absolute fact, withstood the test of time and mankind.

It is our choice to stop – even for a few brief moments – “why all the excuses?”

There’re definite consequences for not stopping – “but if you refuse, God says.”

There are very definitely, decisively, eternally, consequences to continuing.

One day, Church – All of our excuses will have to absolutely have to stop!

One day, Church – All of our excuses will stop – then God our righteous Judge ….

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

Lord God, my Way-maker, I know you have a destiny for me to achieve in this life. I want to follow the plan that you have laid out. Help me to understand and follow your call. Show me your will for my life and what I need to do right now to get started. Enable me to know who I am in Christ, and the special gifts and abilities you have given me. Give me the spirit of wisdom and revelation as I seek to know you more intimately. Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen.

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Pondering my Christianity! When I am “Called to Account.” When I “know” that only One Whopper of an Excuse will get ME through a Crisis. Exodus 32

Exodus 32:1-5Amplified Bible

The Golden Calf

32 Now when the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain, they gathered together before Aaron and said to him, “Come, make us a [a]god who will go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” So Aaron replied to them, “Take off the gold rings that are in the ears of your wives, your sons and daughters, and bring them to me.” So all the people took off the gold rings that were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. And he took the gold from their hands, and fashioned it with an engraving tool and made it into a molten [b]calf; and they said, “This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.” Now when Aaron saw the molten calf, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made a proclamation, and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord!”

Exodus 32:21-24Amplified Bible

21 Then Moses said to Aaron, “What did this people do to you, that you have brought so great a sin on them?” 22 Aaron said, “Do not let the anger of my lord burn; you know the people yourself, that they are prone to evil. 23 For they said to me, ‘Make us a god who will go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ 24 I said to them, ‘Let whoever has gold [jewelry], take it off.’ So, they gave it to me; then I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf.”

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

Accountability is absolutely essential for any society to function, and Christian accountability is no different. We are all held accountable in one way or another.

For example, there are laws to obey and if we fail to be obedient, we may have to be called to account and suffer the consequences set by the officials who hold us accountable. One’s accountability is simply being responsible for one’s actions.

Pathological excuse making (lying) is not a clinical diagnosis, though it can sometimes be a very definitive symptom of many other underlying issues.

Some people get so accustomed to lying they do so even when there is no clear purpose, and when their lies are easily disproven, leaves everyone scratching their heads over the point of their efforts at so easily creating the deceptions.

Over the years, I’ve experienced a large number of these people — and I have gained some insight into the ways they initially think, react and they speak.

Believe it or not, their rationales and reactions make some “obvious” sense, when you look at it through their eyes and listen to them try to explain them.

Here are some of the reasons behind their ‘rational’ reactionary excuse making.

1. The lie does matter to them. The number one reason people make excuses when it just doesn’t matter is because they actually do think it does matter.

While everyone around them thinks it’s an inconsequential issue, the liar believes it is critically important. They may be putting undeserved emphasis or pressure on themselves, or on the issue, but you won’t know unless you ask something like, “It seems like this issue is really important to you — why?”

2. Telling the truth feels like giving up control.

Often, people tell make excuses because they are trying to control a situation and exert influence toward getting the decisions or reactions they want. The truth can be “inconvenient” because it might not conform to their narrative.

3. They make their excuses because they don’t want to disappoint or harm you.

It may not feel like it to you, but people who tell one excuse after the other are often worried about their losing the respect of those around them. They want you to like them, be impressed, believe and value them. And they’re worried that the truth might lead you to rejecting or shaming them.

4. Lies lead to more lies.

I am sure we all saw the movie Pinocchio where his nose grew every time he lied. We tell a little bitty lie, but then to cover that lie, we have to tell another one, then another, and another — each gets bigger and bigger.

Finally, we’re arguing about senseless points because to admit anything correct creates the real (but unwanted) potential of the entire house of cards tumbling.

If a chronic liar admits to any single lie, they feel like they’re admitting to being a liar, and then you’ll have reason to distrust them and just cast them aside.

5. it’s not a lie to them.

When under pressure, our thinking about the big picture can be challenged.

Our memory of things is actually quite unreliable.

Our memories are influenced by many things, that they change over time, and that they are essentially reconstructed each time we think about them.

Often, repetitive liars feel so much pressure in the moment that their memory becomes simply unreliable. When they say something, it’s often because they genuinely believe, at that moment, that it is the truth.

Their memory has been overwhelmed by stress, current events, and their desire to find a way, find any way, to make this particularly stressful situation work.

Sometimes, this can become so severe that the person almost seems to have created, generated and then fully manifested, a complete alternate world in their head, one that conforms to their moment-by-moment beliefs and needs.

6. They desperately need and want it to be true.

Finally, the excuse maker might want their excuse to be true so badly that their desire and needs again compel and overwhelm their instinct to tell the truth.

Sometimes, excuse makers hope that they can make something come true by “sheer will” saying it over and over, and by believing it as hard as they can.

In today’s environment of “alternative facts and weaponized narratives,” it’s hard particularly hard not to see this as somewhat justified.

Please remember this – People, by and large, are accountable, honest by default.

Most people tell the truth most of the time.

Our very capacity for language is built on an assumption of honesty — we agree the words we use mean the very same thing consistently, and we do not seek to deliberately use words deceptively because this would render language and the very communication of ideas would become “weaponized” and implausible.

Some people lie more than others, but even frequent liars are actually honest most of the time. But it stands out dramatically when their deceptions are so blatant, so easily disproven, and seemingly implausible and unimportant.

As frustrating as it is when people tell whoppers, we can begin to understand the motivations behind them.

Asking the person, “Why is this situation so important to you?” or,

“Why do you need me to see this the same way you do?” can be a useful, non-threatening way to get at the foundations of stress and desperation that often underlie deceptions.

Don’t ask, “Why are you lying?”

We need to remember that the person is often motivated by not being seen as a liar, and this question paints them into a corner they are going to fight against.

Of course, understanding a “Whopper of an Excuse” makers motivations and having empathy in such situations is valuable.

But to function effectively in the real world, we also need people to learn to be more honest and accountable to their actions and ever apparent dishonesty.

Communicating empathy for a person’s desperation can be a valuable tool to give them permission to tell the truth.

And then, recognizing and reinforcing when a person does tell the truth is a powerful way to get more truth-telling. It shows people that the truth is not actually scary, and that the world won’t end when the real truth comes out.

Exodus 32:21-24Amplified Bible

21 Then Moses said to Aaron, “What did this people do to you, that you have brought so great a sin on them?” 22 Aaron said, “Do not let the anger of my lord burn; you know the people yourself, that they are prone to evil. 23 For they said to me, ‘Make us a god who will go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ 24 I said to them, ‘Let whoever has gold [jewelry], take it off.’ So, they gave it to me; then I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf.”

Today we are going to learn how Moses’ brother Aaron when confronted for making a molten calf communicates to Moses that “Whopper of an Excuse.”

Let’s jump into today’s scripture to find out all the details.

We have in this chapter an interesting contrast between man’s way of worship and God’s way of worship.

Moses was in the Mount receiving from God careful instruction as to how future worship was to be conducted.

Its aim was in order to prevent any misconception of God.

But here at ground level, the people, assisted by Aaron, worked out their own way of worshipping God.

A way that could only have led them back into idolatry and rejection of all that was good and right in what the only living true God Yahweh had given them.

The chapter begins with the people being fearful of what has happened to Moses and rebelling against Yahweh.

Moses was in the Mount for forty days and forty nights receiving his written instructions from Father God Yahweh.

The people waiting in the plain below became restless, uneasy to worship.

They had somewhat fearfully seen him ascend and disappear into the cloud and then they had waited and waited, and he had not returned.

After that a whole moon period had passed and he had still not returned.

They knew personally the fearful nature of this God Who was in the Mountain and the warning of what would happen to any who approached the Mountain (Exodus chapter 32 verses 19.21).

Thus, they began to feel certain that they would not see Moses anymore.

By now they were most likely not sure whether they wanted to have anything more to do with this terrible God Who revealed Himself in the way that He had and had made such terrible threats against their lives if they dare approached.

They had agreed a covenant with Him out of a combination of gratitude and fear, but now they were not so sure that that was what they wanted.

They preferred gods with whom they could be more familiar, like the gods they had known in Egypt whom others worshipped.

Exodus 32:1 Amplified

The Golden Calf

32 Now when the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain, they gathered together before Aaron and said to him, “Come, make us a [a]god who will go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.”

It is understandable that the people would become alarmed.

In their minds, their very nerves had reached a breaking point at some of the revelations from the mountain. And Moses had now been gone for a long time.

Yes, the God Yahweh had delivered them, but they decided they wanted nothing to do with this God of the mountains whom unseen and who frightened them.

Does this “worship” sound like something straight out of our 21st century?

Worshipping a “God who was threatening and punitive versus all about “love?”

If one feels they have to choose between an always “threatening” and an always “punitive” versus an always “loving” and always “empathetic” God, which pew do you believe people will feel more compelled towards ‘visibly’ worshipping?

Rather would the Israelites like to approach Yahweh through the kind of images they were familiar with in Egypt, awe inspiring, but without causing trouble?

They wanted a god which was created by human hands to human standards and made to their socio-cultural, their own working socio-economic requirements.

As you know up to this point it was Yahweh Who had gone before them in the pillar of cloud and fire.

But that pillar had disappeared onto the mountain along with Moses.

Now they wanted visible representations of Yahweh instead, so that He could go before them in a way that was controllable.

They wanted Yahweh’s power on their behalf, they wanted to feel comfortable with Him.

They had had enough of this fierce God of the mountains, who fortunately for them and their personal security and physical safety, seemed to remain in the Mountain. They wanted to be on their way, and quickly, so that they could get away from Him. Thus, they demanded of Aaron to make their man-made God.

Now to see this in 2022, in a way, you have to consider the pressure on Aaron.

The people gathered together and sought him out. They were in an ugly mood and Aaron felt threatened. – Does this sound .1% familiar to our 2022 church?

Their confrontation with Aaron was a serious mixture of contempt and anger.

And here is where all the vitriolic excuses start flying in every which direction.

…. “After all he and Moses were the ones who “brought all this upon them.””

But their resentment is loud and clear, filled with high potential for violence.

No sympathy with Moses, only enmity.

Yes, he had delivered them from Egypt, but what had happened to him now?

He had trusted this mountain God, who surely was not the Yahweh Who had delivered them out of Egypt.

And look what good it had done him.

Where was he?

He had disappeared and they did not know where he was.

Indeed, in their minds he was most probably dead – never to be seen again.

And he deserved it. What they wanted was immediate help and assurance from someone they knew and relied on, and to return to the old compromising ways.

32:2 And Aaron said to them, “Break off the golden earrings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.”

It is clear from this that both men (‘your sons’) and women in Israel wore earrings.

And Genesis 35.4, where their earrings are closely connected to their false gods and have to be disposed of, makes clear these had strong religious significance.

They were thus very suitable for the making of ‘their standardized gods’ and would automatically give maximum credence to all the gods which were made.

32:3 So all the people broke off the golden earrings which were in their ears and brought them to Aaron.

The people responded willingly.

This demonstrates how concerned they were and how urgently they felt the need to escape. After the extraordinary events of a month previously they felt a religious need, and that they had been deserted, and so they were willing to offer their valuables if it meant that they could have a god whom they could see.

32:4 And he received the gold from their hand, and he fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made a molded calf. Then they said, “This is your god, O Israel that brought you out of the land of Egypt!”

Aaron received the earrings from them, melted them down and fashioned a golden calf.

Notice how specific this is.

Later he will make the excuse that it just somehow happened.

Please take note that it is never described as ‘the golden calf’. It is a ‘molted calf’.

One fashioned and shaped.

The use of ‘calf’ rather than ‘bull’ is probably deliberate in order to put it in proper perspective. Before God this great bull was but an infant.

The significance of this raises complicated questions which are linked to today.

We demand immediate results from our politicians when we feel we are being threatened by highly stressful, “catastrophic events” and as radical changes are being “thrust” into our psyche’s, we react highly emotionally, highly irrational.

We want our “ordered way” – the way we ourselves believe we should have our lives ordered – according to our biblical view versus our worldview standards.

We highly demand of our ‘leadership” a suitable way that immediately moves us forward toward the future where we alone believe our God wants us to go.

No other way is acceptable to us. No other view of the future becomes tolerable.

It is no bother whatsoever to us to leave “Moses” behind – on the Mountain top.

Along the way, we leave YAHWEH behind to – “deal with a dead, dying Moses.”

“Find us our ‘Aaron!’ We will gladly turn over our ‘riches’ to fashion our “God!”

“We’ll gladly “worship” the “God” which is fashioned by Aaron’s great skills!”

“Moses had his chance, clearly he was never truly strong enough for the task!”

“YAHWEH had His chance too – but, seriously folks, He was just too harsh, too judgmental, much too threatening to our physical and spiritual well-beings!”

So, we the Christians of these times of crisis and seasons of great adversity of this, the 21st century we must minister and unto, fashion our “Golden Calves!”

“Our Golden Calves” according to our “worshipful” standards of our ‘future’ in our living, our moving, ministering to our neighbors in “God’s neighborhood.”

Our 2022 “Christian” response to the enormous spiritual pressure Aaron felt?

We fervently hope, we thrice fervently pray our YAHWEH sees “it our way!”

We fervently hope, we thrice fervently pray YAHWEH won’t get ‘too mad’?

Our “”Way?” – through our “we versus them” uncompromisingly divided eyes?

1 Corinthians 1:10-15Amplified Bible

10 But I urge you, believers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in full agreement in what you say, and that there be no divisions or factions among you, but that you be perfectly united in your way of thinking and in your judgment [about matters of the faith]. 11 For I have been informed about you, my brothers and sisters, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are quarrels and factions among you. 12 Now I mean this, that each one of you says, “I am [a disciple] of Paul,” or “I am [a disciple] of Apollos,” or “I am [a disciple] of Cephas (Peter),” or “I am [a disciple] of Christ.” 13 Has Christ been divided [into different parts]? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized into the name of Paul? [Certainly not!] 14 I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius,15 so that no one would say that you were baptized into my name.

1 Corinthians 3:1-9Amplified Bible

Foundations for Living

3 However, brothers and sisters, I could not talk to you as to spiritual people, but [only] as to [a]worldly people [dominated by human nature], mere infants [in the new life] in Christ! I fed you with milk, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Even now you are still not ready. You are still [b]worldly [controlled by ordinary impulses, the sinful capacity]. For as long as there is jealousy and strife and discord among you, are you not [c]unspiritual, and are you not walking like ordinary men [unchanged by faith]? For when one of you says, “I am [a disciple] of Paul,” and another, “I am [a disciple] of Apollos,” are you not [proving yourselves unchanged, just] ordinary people?

What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Just servants through whom you believed [in Christ], even as the Lord appointed to each his task. I planted, Apollos watered, but God [all the while] was causing the growth. So neither is the one who plants nor the one who waters anything, but [only] God who causes the growth. He who plants, and he who waters are one [in importance and esteem, working toward the same purpose]; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers [His servants working together]; you are God’s cultivated field [His garden, His vineyard], God’s building.

Struggling mightily and vitriolically against the constant prodding of the Holy Spirit to remember a central tenet of our living, moving and being, ministering to our “neighbors” for the sake of God’s Kingdom in God’s own neighborhood:

By Jesus’ own Words spoken to us – as He confronted His own eternal destiny:

John 10:11-18Amplified Bible

11 [a]I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd [b]lays down His [own] life for the sheep. 12 But the hired man [who merely serves for wages], who is neither the shepherd nor the owner of the sheep, when he sees the wolf coming, deserts the flock and runs away; and the wolf snatches the sheep and scatters them. 13  the man runs because he is a hired hand [who serves only for wages] and is not concerned about the [safety of the] sheep. 14 I am the Good Shepherd, and I know [without any doubt those who are] My own and My own know Me [and have a deep, personal relationship with Me]— 15 even as the Father knows Me, and I know the Father—and I lay down My [very own] life [sacrificing it] for the benefit of the sheep. 16 I have [c]other sheep [beside these] that are not of this fold. I must bring those also, and they will listen to My voice and pay attention to My call, and they will become [d]one flock with one Shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My [own] life so that I may take it back. 18 No one takes it away from Me, but I lay it down voluntarily. I am authorized and have power to lay it down and to give it up, and I am authorized and have power to take it back. This command I have received from My Father.”

We have “our ways” and YAHWEH has His and Moses and Aaron are long dead.

The Apostle Paul is also long since dead as are all of the Apostles ….

But JESUS IS 100% STILL VERY MUCH ALIVE AND SITTING WITH HIS FATHER!

So, what about pondering our accountability to God & 21st Century Christianity?

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us dare to Pray,

God of all truth, Author of all Wisdom, Author of my Life, sometimes I not so sure if I’m actually hearing your voice, or if it’s just my own thoughts or even another spirit. Please Sharpen my spiritual hearing, Lord, so I can recognize your words when you are speaking to me. Help me know it’s really you, with no doubt or second-guessing. When I’m asking for your guidance in important decisions, give me your peace that surpasses understanding with your answer. Help me remember that your words to me will never go against your written word in the Bible. Give me a clear mind and push out all my confusion. Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen.

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Our Rejection of God: How Dare We Call Ourselves Christians? Jeremiah 7:16-26.

It is so endearing at times to see little children in a big supermarket or shopping mall. They come in crying with mom or dad, but as soon as they see something interesting—toys, candies, pets, or anything else that moves—their moods are in change mode, they go their own way and forget everything else around them.

And then at some point, suddenly, they look up and look around and realize that their mom or dad are not there anymore. They look mystified, turn around, first carefully walking, then running and checking out places. and then when they cannot find their parents, they start shouting, crying, “Mommy!!! Daddy!!!”

And when even that doesn’t help, you see their faces change from hope to fear and then to a sense of rejection. They think that they will never see mommy or daddy again. The result is a heart-rending crying that won’t stop until their parents have found them, or someone from the store comes to comfort them.

Eventually, there will be a message over the store’s call system asking the mom and dad to return to the customer service area – “that someone very special is waiting for them there.”

Mom and Dad are also likewise in a high state of fear because they cannot find their child. Of course, we know they would not ever reject their child just like that – the child not rejecting mom and dad, “wanders off” after some candy!

Eventually, Mom and Dad and Child are re-united, and everything is all “hugs and kisses, smiles and “don’t worry (_____), Mommy and Daddy love You!”

All is as it should be! The store is happy! Family is back together again!

And life in the “big city” “small town” neighborhood can go on as before.

All is bliss and blessed ……

The Good News is Mommy and Daddy did not reject their child after all.

Perhaps the Better News is their child did not reject their Mommy and Daddy when they were reunited.

Parents will give the best years of their lives to their children.

They give whatever they can, sacrifice their time, their strength, their resources—everything—in order to give all of their children all the best possible in life.

But then, when they in turn start being in need of their children, they may just find a stunning lack of gratitude, a stunning lack of a “return” commitment.

They are just expected to understand that the children have a life of their own.

They need their privacy. They need time and energy to develop their careers. They now have children of their own that take up so many of their resources.

And the parents try to understand, I am sure.

They explain to others with an air of pride how their kids are so busy, because they have such a responsible job and are taking so good care of their own kids.

But deep down inside, there may just be the maturing, searing pain of rejection, too great and too deep to describe, too shameful to freely share with any others.

It is certainly not true in all families –

But it is true is many families and too often goes un-noticed – except by God.

but here also lies an injustice – the rejection of our God, who is our Father!

We can call ourselves Christians, go to church, give our tithes, etc. and yet have rejected God effectively.

The picture God’s Prophet Jeremiah gives of life in Judah comes close to our life in the Christian West, with several gods competing for our loyalty.

Jeremiah 7:16-26Amplified Bible

16 “Therefore, do not pray for this people [of Judah] or lift up a cry or entreaty for them or make intercession to Me, for I do not hear you. 17 Do you not see what they are doing in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? 18 The children gather wood, the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead the dough to make cakes for the [a]queen of heaven; and they pour out drink offerings to other gods that they may offend and provoke Me to anger. 19 Do they offend and provoke Me to anger?” says the Lord. “Is it not themselves [they offend], to their own shame?” 20 Therefore thus says the Lord God, “Behold, My anger and My wrath will be poured out on this place, on man and beast, on the trees of the field and the fruit of the ground; and it will burn and [the fire will] not be quenched.”

21 Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, “Add your burnt offerings to your sacrifices and eat the meat. 22 For in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, I did not speak to your fathers or command them concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices. 23 But this thing I did command them: ‘Listen to and obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people; and you will walk in all the way which I command you, so that it may be well with you.’ 24 But they did not obey Me or bend their ear [to hear Me], but followed the counsels and the stubbornness of their [own] evil heart (mind), and [they turned and] went backward instead of forward. 25 Since the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt until this day, I have [persistently] sent you all My servants the prophets, sending them daily, early [and late]. 26 Yet they did not listen to Me and obey Me or bend their ear [to hear Me] but stiffened their neck; they did more evil and behaved worse than their fathers.

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

God is like a rejected parent.

Jeremiah 7 reveals to our souls the “anger” which “burns inside” a God who has been repeatedly rejected by his people—their Father in heaven whose children have repeatedly let him down, repeatedly turned their backs on him.

There are some seriously dramatic words in Jeremiah 7—even shocking—when God speaks to Jeremiah:

“Don’t pray for this people! Don’t offer any plea or petition for them! Don’t plead with me, for I will not listen!”

Wow! That’s tough language, isn’t it? Jeremiah is told that he is no longer allowed to pray for the people of God. And if he does, God will simply put his fingers in his ears, so to say, and make sure he does not hear a single word.

Have you ever seen parents doing that to their children? I have.

My father did that to me several times – he just turned off his hearing aids. If I tried to carry on our conversation or our arguments – he reached up to his ears and he simply, one by one, removed both of his hearing aids from his ears.

Again, we need not go further than the supermarket to see it happening all the time. Kids find their way to the candy department and start begging for candies.

Mom and dad will answer with a firm “no”.

“Today is not candy day. Some other time.”

But kids are not good at taking “no” for an answer.

So, they keep on asking, they insist, they become stubborn and impossible to handle. Everyone is now at a place where they all need to have “their space!”

And that is where many parents lose their patience.

It doesn’t mean that they stop loving their kids.

It doesn’t mean that they stop caring for them.

It doesn’t mean that they don’t want to give their very best to their children.

It only means at that point they come to the conclusion that their kids now need a firm foundational teaching on the need to hear, listen, respect their parents.

They need to understand that sometimes “no” really, truly, fully means “no”. They need to “straighten up,” obey their parents and accept their authority.

Jeremiah lived in a time when the people of Israel had turned away from God.

They did not think of him any longer as “the” God of Israel. At best, he was “a” god—one among a lot of colleagues and competitors.

For Israel, God’s law and parental authority had become “highly negotiable.”

People felt they were no longer dependent on him.

After all, they could always turn to other gods who were more amendable, more apt to condescend, to compromise, simply adjust to their needs and demands.

Look, for example, at how Jeremiah 7 describes life in the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem:

(Verse 18) “The children gather wood, the fathers light the fire, and the women knead the dough and make cakes to offer to the Queen of Heaven. They pour out drink offerings to other gods to arouse my anger.”

What we see here is this: The people of Judah had broken faith with God.

They had committed spiritual adultery with other gods, which they had adopted from the cultures around them.

They still went to the temple to bring petty sacrifices.

They had a little time set apart for God. But it was not quality time. Their offerings did not come from the heart. They were just a routine ritual.

They thought by going through the motions of ritual, they could make God happy; They could make God believe they still loved and respected him.

But when the duties in the temple were done with, the families gathered together for quality time—a sort of barbeque party, you could say.

The kids went to pick twigs and branches for the fire. Dad lit the fire—after all, that was the man’s job. And mom was in the kitchen baking delicacies.

The cakes she made had the form of a woman.

It was the goddess Asherah, the “Queen of Heaven”.

You may have read that after the reign of king Solomon, the Jewish nation had been divided into a northern kingdom, Israel, and a southern kingdom, Judah.

By the time that God called Jeremiah, the northern kingdom of Israel had already ceased to exist.

Almost a century earlier, the Assyrian army had come and conquered the nation.

Many of the people had been killed or taken into exile, and groups of Assyrians came and settled in Samaria.

That should have been a clear warning sign for Judah in the south.

But everything shows that Judah had not learned its lesson. How come?

Why was it so hard for the Jews to stay faithful to the God who—as they firmly believed—had led them out of slavery in Egypt, given them the Promised Land?

Why did they ever so eagerly embrace other gods—the Queen of Heaven, the Assyrian goddess of the family; or Mammon, the Aramaic god of wealth and trade; or Baal, the Canaanite god of agriculture?

Why did they reject their own God Yahweh, the Creator of heaven and earth?

When I look at the life of Israel, from the moment they left Egypt to the time of Jeremiah and even beyond, I can come up with two answers.

First, their God was “too limited.”

And second, he was “too demanding.”

Let me try to spell that out for you.

Throughout the history of Israel, God appears as a very patriarchal God.

He was the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, not the God of Sarah, Rebekah, Leah and Rachel. He was the God of Moses and Aaron, not the God of Miriam.

The creation story depicts God as inherently both male and female.

But in the history and tradition of his people, he seemed to communicate primarily from man to man, and take sides with the men.

He assigned all worship duties to male Levites and priests.

God seemed to endorse a strongly patriarchal society, where women were owned by their father or husband.

In the law he gave to Moses, women were given lesser rights than the men, even though, we must admit, in Israel women were treated with far, far more respect and equality than anywhere else in the Middle East.

But of course, they did not know, nor would they ever come to acknowledge it.

At times, God threatened to abandon his people in the desert.

At other times he threatened to wipe them from the face of the earth altogether.

He was distant.

They couldn’t see him; He would not allow to have pictures or statues made of him.

They couldn’t hear him, because he would only “speak through his prophets.”

To make things worse, he put a lot of demands on the people.

I don’t mean the ritual worship and sacrifices.

I mean the demands for moral integrity, for love and respect for one another and even for the foreigners living among them or traveling through their land.

God demanded that they take care of the needy, especially the widows and orphans, since there were no institutional social services.

God demanded at regular intervals debts were cancelled and slaves set free.

In short: God demanded the highest form of personal integrity and social justice.

But for those in power—the kings and tribal chiefs, the landowners and those who had made a fortune in trade—these demands were appalling.

The idea one day out of seven they were not allowed to do business or make their slaves and hired hands work on the land felt like a terrible waste of time and resources.

No wonder, then, that the people grew tired of God.

No wonder, then, that they looked for alternatives.

There was an obvious demand for a woman god—a goddess—who was more empathetic, easier to approach, and closer to the life of the family—a goddess with whom particularly the women could identify.

There was an obvious demand for a god who blessed business and trade and allowed a great measure of moral freedom, as long as you made money.

I believe in that respect our time is not so different from the time of Jeremiah.

Our Christian Church is not so far removed from the Jewish nation in Jeremiah’s time.

In the west, New Age spirituality has mixed with the faith of many Christians.

People go shopping, as it were, to fill their religious shopping cart with a nice religious mix that they feel good about.

These are the obvious forms of idolatry—the obvious ways in which God is being rejected as the one and only true God.

But there are also less obvious parallels between Jeremiah’s time and ours.

Every Christian knows the Great Commandment:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. And love your neighbor as yourself.”

But how many of us are really serious about this?

Oh, I know, it is easy to come to worship on Sunday and sing or pray: “Oh, Lord God! How Great thou Art! How I love you! Oh Lord Jesus! or How I adore you!”

But when it comes down to all the choices and decisions we make Monday through Saturday, to the way we deal with our family and friends,

with the people at school or at work, in the bus or the metro; with the beggars in the streets or the customers on the phone

… can everybody see that our lives are maybe not so much actually, genuinely driven by steadfast, immovable commitments to the Great Commandment?

Look at the way you spend your time and your money.

Look at the friends you choose and the friendships you neglect.

Look at your priorities. Listen to your words when you are angry or excited.

What do these tell you, others about your love for God and for your neighbor and for yourself? That is a question we should all ask ourselves—every day!

I see yet another parallel in the way we respect or disrespect the authority of God in our lives.

The simple truth is that God’s won’t necessarily always coincide with ours.

More often than not there seems to be a conflict of interests between God and us.

Just like the little kid in the supermarket, who is determined that she must have an ice cream right now.

To her great disappointment, she may find that her parents have a very different, and most disagreeable view on the matter.

God speaks with authority through the Bible, which we often call the Word of God. Luther called the Bible the supreme authority in matters of faith and living. That does not mean that everything we read in the Bible is normative.

Not everything that is normative is unambiguous and self-explanatory.

Not everything that is unambiguous and self-explanatory is independent of time, place or culture.

But it doesn’t really matter.

Isaiah 6:8-12Amplified Bible

Isaiah’s Commission

Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!” And He said, “Go, and tell this people:

‘Keep on listening, but do not understand;
Keep on looking, but do not comprehend.’
10 
“Make the heart of this people insensitive,
Their ears dull,
And their eyes dim,
Otherwise, they might see with their eyes,
Hear with their ears,
Understand with their hearts,
And return and be healed.”

11 Then I said, “Lord, how long?” And He answered,

“Until cities are devastated and without inhabitant,
And houses are without people
And the land is utterly desolate,
12 
The Lord has removed [His] people far away,
And there are many deserted places in the midst of the land.

The question is: when we recognize God speaking to us through the Bible, do we try to “genuinely” hear Him, “actually” listen to Him, to respect his authority?

Is it our heart’s desire and our will’s determination to seek to obey him?

Or are we selective in applying only what we are comfortable with and what we feel good about?

Think of the events in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3.

Adam and Eve heard God loud and clear: “Don’t eat from that tree.”

But they chose to ignore him and disobey what they knew was God’s command.

First, there was doubt creeping in: “Did God really say that?”

Then, there was distortion of God’s command: “He said we cannot touch the tree.”

It all stems from a hugely distorted image of God as a stern and bossy and unreasonable God who wants to make our lives miserable by denying us the good side of life, and who demands the impossible from us day and night.

As individual believers, and as the Body of Christ—the Church in God’s own neighborhood, and, if possible, as a society built upon the foundation of the Christian faith and tradition—we should take God’s authority seriously.

We should pay heed to his voice crying out in a broken world against social injustice, various forms of abuse and exploitation, discrimination and racism.

And it is not enough that we just refrain from going along with them.

As Christians, we should echo that voice and obey it.

We should encourage one another to live our lives the way God meant our lives to be (Philippians 2:1-4).

And perhaps, the best way to do so is to be imitators of Christ: to love like he loved, to care like he cared, to heal like he healed, and to sacrifice ourselves for others the way he sacrificed his life for us. (Ephesians 5:1-2, 1 John 4:7-21)

We can call ourselves Christians, go to church, give our tithes, etc. and yet have rejected God effectively. The picture Jeremiah gives of life in Judah comes close to life in the Christian West, with several “gods” competing for our loyalty.

Psalm 2:1-3Amplified Bible

The Reign of the Lord’s Anointed.

2 Why are the [a]nations in an [b]uproar [in turmoil against God],
And why do the people devise a vain and hopeless plot?

The kings of the earth take their stand;
And the rulers take counsel together
Against the Lord and His Anointed (the Davidic King, the Messiah, the Christ), saying,

“Let us break apart their [divine] bands [of restraint]
And cast away their cords [of control] from us.”

Three Consequences of Rejecting God’s Authority

If you’ve ever been on a road trip with a toddler, you’ve probably experienced the struggle of trying to keep them buckled in their car seat for hours on end.

They don’t have the necessary maturity to understand that the restraints are keeping them safe, and that ultimately, you love them and know what is best.

So it is with mankind and their Maker.

From the beginning of creation until now, people have tried to cast off every restraint placed on them by the loving hand of God.

Not willing to yield to the perfect will of the Father, nations have rejected God’s authority again and again.

Though the Lord remains faithful, He also maintains justice, and there are consequences to rejecting His authority. Here are 3 of them listed in the Bible:

1. They get what they ask for.

They soon forgot His works; they did not wait for His counsel, but lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tested God in the desert. And He gave them their request but sent leanness into their soul. Psalm 106:13-15 NKJV

Nations that disregard God’s counsel in favor of their own lusts eventually get what they ask for. Sadly, though their flesh is satisfied, their soul is parched like a dry and thirsty land with no water.

Let us come to the Fountain of Living Water—to the well that never runs dry—and drink to the full of God’s goodness and mercy! (John 4:10)

2. They suffer unnecessarily.

Therefore, as the fire devours the stubble, and the flame consumes the chaff, so their root will be as rottenness, and their blossom will ascend like dust; because they have rejected the law of the Lord of hosts and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel. Isaiah 5:24

The horrendous aftermath of a wildfire may be an accurate word picture of the consequences that a nation without God will suffer. Consumed by their own falsehoods, those who reject the Word of the Lord will suffer unnecessarily.

However! The Lord is faithful and just to forgive. (1 John 1:9)

He longs for us to return to Him with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength.

He longs to cover us with His mighty hand and be our Protector.

Let us repent and humble our hearts before Him that He might come and heal our land! (2 Chronicles 7:14)

3. They are left to their own devices.

Of the Rock of Ages who begot you, you are unmindful, and have forgotten the God who fathered you. (Psalm 139:13-18, 23 and 24)

And when the Lord saw it, He spurned them, because of the provocation of His sons and His daughters.

And He said:

‘I will hide My face from them, I will see what their end will be, for they are a perverse generation, children in whom is no faith. Deuteronomy 32:18-20 NKJV

Rejection of the Lord’s sovereignty and provision only leads to a desolate ending.

Without faith in the One who made us, we are empty, lacking, and ultimately left to our own devices.

Let us turn back to our Rock and remember our Maker.

Just like the father, who was waiting at the window for the return of his prodigal son, so the Lord is waiting for us to return to Him!

“In an acceptable time, I have heard you, and in the day of salvation I have helped you.”

Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation. 2 Corinthians 6:2 NKJV

Psalm 34:8-11Amplified Bible


O taste and see that the Lord [our God] is good;
How blessed [fortunate, prosperous, and favored by God] is the man who takes refuge in Him.

O [reverently] fear the Lord, you His saints (believers, holy ones);
For to those who fear Him there is no want.
10 
The young lions lack [food] and grow hungry,
But they who seek the Lord will not lack any good thing.
11 
Come, you children, listen to me;
I will teach you to fear the Lord [with awe-inspired reverence and worship Him with obedience].

Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”

The Hebrew word for “fear” in this expression refers to a loving reverence and awe of God, coupled with our own actual and genuine willingness to obey him, knowing that he always wants what is best for us.

Our relationship with the Lord is built not on terror but on appropriate respect and awe for our Father.

A healthy respect and understanding of God as loving Creator, faithful Lord, and righteous Judge is the foundation of wisdom. (Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 1:7.)

People who lack reverence for God are like children who do not honor their parents.

They throw a tantrum to try to manipulate God into giving them what they want.

When that fails, they storm off defiantly to do their own thing, ignoring the wisdom and authority of their Father God.

Of course, we are all inclined toward such childish rebellion.

On the cross Jesus paid for our sin of dishonoring God.

And when we accept the gift of his death for our sin, we enter into a new and intimate relationship with ABBA, the Father.

But God is not our pal. He cannot be outsmarted, used, or tricked.

God is the Creator of the universe, infinite, eternal, and all knowing.

The very essence of his being, though, is love (1 John 4:8).

Are you growing to know your loving Father?

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

ABBA, Father, teach me to do your will, for you are my God. May your Holy Spirit lead me on level ground. I see your faithfulness and goodness in what you have done for me throughout my life. I think about these things, and I thirst for you. Let me hear of your unfailing love every morning, for I am learning how to listen, learning the blessings of trusting you. Show me where to walk, for I give myself to you. Keep me on firm footing for the glory of your name. Amen.

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“Life is Not Fair at all!” Social Justice, Social Conscience, the Body of Christ.

Awhile back there was an article which appeared in a newspaper which read:

“I used to think I was poor. Then they told me I wasn’t poor, I was needy.

Then they told me it was self-defeating to think of myself as needy, that I was culturally deprived.

Then they told me being ‘Culturally Deprived’ was a very bad image, that I was, instead, underprivileged.

Then they told me that ‘underprivileged’ was abused and overused, that I was actually and in ‘reality’ only disadvantaged.

I still don’t have a dime to my name, but now I have a great vocabulary.

Only now, someone needs to either put the money in my tin cup so I can buy one, or they need buy me a good dictionary for me to know who I actually am.

Why must this be true that my life is just so completely unfair to me.”

Ecclesiastes 4:1-6Amplified Bible

The Evils of Oppression

Then I looked again and considered all the acts of oppression that were being practiced under the sun. And behold I saw the tears of the oppressed and they had no one to comfort them; and on the side of their oppressors was power, but they had no one to comfort them. So I congratulated and thought more fortunate are those who are already dead than the living who are still living. But better off than either of them is the one who has not yet been born, who has not seen the evil deeds that are done under the sun.

I have seen that every [effort in] labor and every skill in work comes from man’s rivalry with his neighbor. This too is vanity (futility, false pride) and chasing after the wind. The fool folds his hands [together] and consumes his own flesh [destroying himself by idleness and apathy]. One hand full of rest and patience is better than two fists full of labor and chasing after the wind.

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

Solomon is troubled by the unfairness of life.

But he was the ‘wisest’ king – why didn’t he just legislate away injustice and punish all the wrong-doers, give away some his vast wealth to feed the poor?

Why wouldn’t that work?

In Ecclesiastes 4, the ‘Wisest of the Wisest’ King Solomon deals with an ancient issue which has been continually frustrating so very many people in our world.

It’s the issue of “unfairness”.

That things just aren’t always right and fair in this life.

Solomon was reflecting on this truth when he wrote:

“Again, I looked and saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun: I saw the tears of the oppressed— and they have no comforter; power was on the side of their oppressors— and they have no comforter.” Ecclesiastes 4:1

Inside each one of us is an inner voice that tells us that all things should be fair.

That’s why we have referees in sports games and judges in courtrooms:

we have an innate sense of right and wrong.

And we serve the God of the universe who continually, continuously tells us there is most definitely a right and there is most definitely a wrong.

But then we see oppression, tragedy and sorrow.

And inside of us there’s this inner voice that says:

“That just not right”

“This shouldn’t be happening!”

“How could we possibly fix this great injustice of life?”

The problem is that there are always and forever these two most annoying, and conflicting truths about life’s unfairness which never fails to drive us all nuts.

The first truth is that – no matter how hard we try – we’re never going to fix the problem.

Life is always going to be unfair.

For example, Jesus said: “You will always have the poor among you…” John 12:8

Have you ever heard that?

Of course, you have… and He DID say that.

Now, there are those who look at what Jesus said there, and they just feel like throwing up their hands and just walking away.

After all, if the poor are always going to be with us… why should we bother to try to help them to begin with? It’s not going to do any good anyway.

That may have been one of the motivating factors in the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus that Jesus told. He said:

“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day.

At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.

“The time came when the beggar died, and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried.

In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So, he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’

“But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony.”

Luke 16:19-25

Now, why was the rich man not sharing anything with Lazarus?

Well, the Bible doesn’t say, but I personally think he was thinking:

Why doesn’t that guy go out and get a job or something?

He’s always out there every day asking for food. It’s really annoying!

If I gave HIM food, it was just encouraging all the other beggars to come annoy me.

And besides, we’re always going to have the poor with us, so my little bit of food won’t make a dent.

The point of Jesus’ story was – DON’T GO THERE.

Don’t you go making excuses for why you don’t help the poor.

The rich man ignored Lazarus’ hunger… and we all know where HE went.

And that brings us to our 2nd truth:

Yes, life is always going to be unfair.

But God says it doesn’t matter. He calls His people to work at “fixing it.”

ILLUS: The story’s told of a man who’d seen an injustice in his city, and in frustration he prayed to God “Why aren’t you doing something about this?”

And God’s voice came to him and said:

“I did do something. I sent you.”

You know I learned something new when preparing this devotional message.

Did you realize that when Jesus said “you’ll always have the poor among you”, he was quoting the Old Testament?

Yeah – it’s true.

In Deuteronomy 15:11 God declared:

“There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore, I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.”

That’s the verse Jesus was quoting.

You’re always going to have the poor among you, THEREFORE help them.

That’s the command of God to His people.

In fact, this is a constant theme throughout Scripture.

In Proverbs God says:

“… blessed is he who is kind to the needy.” Proverbs 14:21

And “a generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor.” Proverbs 22:9

In fact, this is such an important matter for God that He promises:

“He who is kind to the poor LENDS to the LORD, and he will reward him for what he has done.” Proverbs 19:17

ILLUS:

A man just took truck over to his Mechanic to have the power steering fixed.

He looked it over and said it was going to cost $400… but it wasn’t worth it.

The truck had nearly 240,000 miles on it, it needed too many more repairs that would cost more than the truck and it’s time (he said) to get another vehicle.

So, the man went down to the Credit Union where he had an account, and they said they would loan him the necessary amount of money for another vehicle.

That “Credit Union” said they were willing to loan him some amount of money!

Wasn’t that nice of them?

So, next week he’ll be going to his local dealership to look around and maybe to buy another car with the money they’re willing to give him.

But once he borrowed that money, what are they going to expect him to do?

PAY IT BACK.

And more than that, they expect their money back with interest.

So, what God promised us in Proverbs 19:17 was that when you help the poor, you are LENDING to Him.

Do you and I know what God’s saying there?

He’s saying that you and I can expect Him to pay us back… with interest.

That’s how important helping the poor is to God.

BUT on the other hand, though… God is also very clear:

“If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered.” Proverbs 21:13

If you turn your back on the poor… God will turn His back on you.

Now, in my mind’s eye…

I can visualize Solomon sitting there in his vast treasury thinking about this.

He sees people in poverty and being oppressed and misused.

And he’s seeming to be very frustrated about this.

But now… wait a minute!

What is Solomon’s job description?

What does he do for a living?

Well, he’s the king, isn’t he?

If he’s the king, he should be able pass some laws to fix all this. He should be able to punish wrongdoers and oppressors of the poor. Why isn’t he doing that?

And, on top of that, Solomon is wealthy beyond the dreams of avarice.

Why doesn’t he just give away money to the poor?

Well, I think maybe Solomon did do all that.

I think Solomon had worked hard at removing all the oppression he could.

And I’m thinking he did give money to help the poor.

But it’s like he’s barely scratching the surface or making a dent.

Even if he gave EVERYTHING away, people would still be poor.

And it bothers him enormously.

So, part of his discussion here in Ecclesiastes 4 is telling us

WHY even the ‘ wisest of the wisest king ever’ says he can’t fix it all.

In verse 4 he says

“I saw that all labor and all achievement spring from man’s envy of his neighbor. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” Ecclesiastes 4:4

Do You or I actually know what enviousness is all about?

Envious people look at what their neighbor has, then looks at what they have, they shake their heads, and it makes them DISSATISFIED with what they have.

So, their labor and achievement are always about their getting more and more still of what the other guy has.

And because that is their driving passion, envious folks generally end up hurting themselves or others in their covetous blind pursuit of “more.”

They were being driven with ever greater momentum by envy, and envy can make you poor because you end up doing major stupid stuff like coveting. And King Solomon realized that was part of the reason for poverty and oppression.

But Solomon realized there was a 2nd reason that led to poverty:

Some people were just plain lazy:

Solomon wrote: “The fool folds his hands and ruins himself.” Ecclesiastes 4:5

In Proverbs, Solomon put it this way:

A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest—and poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man.” Proverbs 6:10-11

So, Solomon is looking around and he notices that many poor people are poor because they’re too lazy to get off the couch.

They’d much prefer a hand-out to a workout.

Now, that that should NOT be seen as an excuse not to help folks who are struggling.

That’s not Solomon’s point!

Solomon is simply pointing out that you can’t fix everything in life.

You can’t remove all the poverty in the world.

There’s way too much greed and envy out there

– and there’s just way too much laziness – to fix it all

Unfairness, poverty and oppression are just part of life.

And we’re never going to change that completely.

Some of the hardships of life will be our own fault.

But some of those hardships will be the fault of others.

As Solomon said in the first verse of this chapter:

“I saw the tears of the oppressed— and they have no comforter; power was on the side of their oppressors— and they have no comforter.”

Solomon was disturbed by this reality.

And he’s not the only one

Over the years, there have been a number of church goers who have dedicated themselves to dealing with injustice and oppressors by engaging in something called “Social Justice”.

Social Justice is the idea that churches should focus primarily on poverty, slums, ghettos, poor nutrition and education, alcoholism, crime, and war.

Now, those are not bad things in and of themselves.

Christians SHOULD BE concerned with poverty/ slums/ and the all the rest.

We should seek to find ways to confront those who hurt others in this world.

But the problem with the Social Justice crowd is they generally get everything out of whack. They are over-zealous and way off-balance in their approach.

The problem with social justice is that its adherents tend to believe that they need to change the culture of a people before you can talk to them about Jesus.

Where does the Bible say that?

Where did the man, Master Rabbi Jesus say that?

Jesus dealt directly and decisively with ‘healing’ the people ….

Churches should always attempt to deal with poverty and hunger.

Rabbi Jesus understood very clearly -it’s hard to preach to someone dying of hunger – but if you give them enough bread, enough manna, enough fish ….

But if churches get in the habit of feeding people without talking to them about Jesus, they can eventually get into the habit of talking about Jesus altogether.

I remember a bit of church history.

Several years ago, when I was trying to better understand “social justice,” I read about this church at the turn of eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

For the better part of the 1900’s there was a powerful church in Manhattan. It was called Broadway Presbyterian Church and they were committed to reaching out to people for Christ. One of the tools they used was to have food kitchens.

They would bring the poor in off the streets, have a prayer for the food, talk about sin and the need to change lifestyles. And it worked. Folks changed their lives and even began coming to church and digging their way out of poverty.

But later on, from the 60’s to the 1990’s a subtle change began to take place.

In the soup kitchens, prayers were not offered over meals because they were afraid that they’d offend the poor. AND they no longer emphasized trying to convince the homeless to turn unto God and to repent of their past sins. That such an act might just drive away the very people they were trying to feed.

But over time they found that the same people were coming through the lines year after year, and there was no change taking place in their lives.

The “socially conscious” congregation of the once mighty church gradually slipped from membership from 1000 people down to 120 and a once mighty congregation sat with a nearly empty building in need of unaffordable repairs.

You see, that’s one of the major drawbacks of the Social Justice Folks.

For God’s sake, they do not want to offend people that they want to help.

They don’t want to talk about SIN.

They don’t want to go on record as being against abortion or homosexuality or living together because that might offend the people they are trying to help.

Trying to somehow cancel the presence, sovereignty of God from His Kingdom.

You know I just noticed something while I was pondering this devotional which I had never seen nor noticed before.

You remember I quoted Jesus saying, “you’ll always have the poor with you”?

Well, embarrassingly, I had never really looked up that verse.

I just knew it was there and took it for granted that was all Jesus said in that verse.

But I was wrong.

That’s not ALL He said.

THIS IS WHAT HE SAID:

“The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me.” Matthew 26:11

You know, when people quote Jesus about the poor from that verse, they never seem to mention the 2nd part of His comment.

And as I read that verse, I wondered and pondered: why did Jesus say that?

Well, the scene was in a man’s house just a few days before Jesus will be arrested, beaten, crucified and buried in the tomb. A woman hears that Jesus is there, and without invitation, comes and pours expensive perfume on His head.

When they saw this, Jesus’ disciples (especially Judas) were upset.

They each complained that the perfume could have been sold and the money given to the poor.

And so, Jesus said:

“The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me.” Matthew 26:11

You know what was Jesus saying?

He was saying there are PRIORITIES in our mission.

Helping the poor was admirable, but service to Jesus was even more important.

When the resurrected Jesus appeared to His disciples on a mountain, just before going into heaven He gave them their marching orders.

He told them what their priorities were to be.

He said:

“Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20

Do you see or read anything there about helping the poor?

Do you see anything there about working for social justice?

It’s not there is it?

Not that those things aren’t important.

I mean, in the first part of this devotional effort we pointed out that one of God’s highest priorities IS to help the poor and the oppressed.

But that priority is secondary to the command Jesus gave His disciples that day.

Jesus said that our primary mission as Christians is to

1. Make disciples

2. Baptize them into the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

3. Teach them to obey everything Jesus had commanded.

That’s it. That’s the prime directive.

And, you know, when the disciples went out to do that – when they preached about Jesus and made disciples and so on… they often offended people

Peter stood before Sanhedrin one time.

These were the rulers of the nation, and they were furious.

They said:

“We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name… Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.” Acts 5:28

Do you think maybe Peter had offended them?

Yeah, pretty sure he had.

Peter had preached about sin… and the need to repent of that sin.

He spoke truth to power.

And it made folks angry.

Then there’s Paul. In one of his letters to the Corinthians he talks about having been thrown in prison, flogged, whipped, beaten, stoned, and run out of town.

Do you think maybe he’d upset some folks?

Sure, he had. That was part of his job description.

That is a part of our own job description – even in 2022!

You know, the ancient world of that time was NOT a fair and just place to be.

There was poverty and injustice and oppression that was as bad or worse than anything we might see in our day.

And, you know, Jesus lived in a time like that.

And the disciples preached in a day like that.

And Jesus’ command to those disciples was still this:

1. Make disciples

2. Baptize them into the Father/ Son/ Holy Spirit

3. Teaching them to obey everything Jesus had commanded.

And you know why the early Christians followed those orders?

They did it because that was the only way they could change the hearts of men.

When Christ changes the hearts of men – cultures change – into Christ’s Image!

When you change the hearts of men… you give them true freedom.

A freedom from sin and guilt and shame.

A freedom from a mindset of “everything is always unfair 100% of the time?”

Questions for Personal Reflection

For the Joy of the Lord which is now and forever my Strength ….

For the Joy which was ever before Savior Jesus when He endured the Cross ….

  1. What can we do to be more biblically engaged in social justice?
  2. What can we do to understand the perspectives of our neighbors?
  3. What can we do to be more of a service to our neighbors? Acts 6:1-6
  4. What can we do to be kinder and inspire and encourage kindness in others?

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

God of yesterday, today and tomorrow,
we call to mind your presence within us and around us.

Open our ears that we may hear your Word.
Open our hearts that we may understand your Word.
Open our mouths that we may speak your World.

Inspire us with the Gospel message,
that we may celebrate all that is life-giving,
restore hope where it has been lost,
and work to bring about change where it is needed.

May we live the Gospel with courage,
constancy and love.
May we be open to the challenge
of your call to true freedom.
May we be faithful to you in our daily choices and decisions.
May we make your love known
through our words and actions.

May the triune God reign in our hearts, now and forever. Amen

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