May 1, 2013 Bible Study — Advice for Couples

     I have been using One Year Bible Online for my daily Bible study for almost a year. For today, One Year Bible Online links here. I started writing this blog because the only way I can get myself to read the Bible everyday is to pretend that I am teaching someone about what it says to me. I hope that by posting these ruminations others may get some benefit as well. If you have any thoughts or comments regarding these verses or what I have written about them, please post them. I hope that the Spirit is moving in others through these posts as the Spirit has definitely been convicting me.

Babbling brook
Babbling brook

Judges 13-14:20

     Today’s passage tells us that the Israelites once more did evil in God’s sight and He turned them over to the Philistines. The Philistines oppressed the Israelites for forty years. In those days there was a man named Manoah whose wife was unable to become pregnant and they had no children. God sent a messenger to his wife to tell her that she must avoid alcoholic beverages and forbidden foods because she was about to become pregnant. The messenger told her that she would bear a son who should never have his hair cut because he would be dedicated to God from birth as a Nazirite. God would use him to rescue Israel from the Philistines.
     When she told her husband, Manoah, what the messenger had said, he prayed to God that He send the messenger to them once more to give them more detailed instructions on how they should raise their son. Once again the messenger from God appeared to Manoah’s wife. This time she ran and got Manoah. He returned and asked for further instructions. When Manoah asked him what rules should govern the way they raised the son the messenger prophecied, the messenger told him once more that his wife should not consume any alcoholic beverages nor any forbidden foods. Manoah offered the messenger a meal, but the messenger declined. Instead stating that he would stay while Manoah prepared a burnt offering. Manoah prepared the offering and laid it out on a stone. While the flames shot up from the offering towards the sky, the messenger ascended to heaven in the fire. Manoah and his wife fell on their faces and worshiped God. In due time Manoah’s wife gave birth and named her son Samson.
     When Samson was a young man, he demanded that his father get him a particular Philistine woman as his wife. His father tried to convince Samson to chose an Israelite girl, but Samson insisted. While Samson and his parents were going down to Timnah, the city where she lived, a young lion attacked Samson. He tore the lion apart with his bare hands, apparently quickly and without being injured since the passage tells us that he did not tell his parents. Once the marriage was arranged, Samson returned for the wedding. On the way he went aside to look at the carcass of the lion. He discovered that some bees had made their hive in the carcass. Samson removed some honey from the carcass and ate some of it as he went on. When he rejoined his parents, he gave them some of the honey as well, but he did not tell them where the honey came from.
     According to the traditions of the time, Samson threw a feast. The people of Timnah chose thirty young men to be his companions. Samson made a bet with these young men that they would not be able to solve his riddle. The young men agreed that if they failed to solve Samson’s riddle, they would each give him an outfit. Samson agreed that if they did solve it, he would give each of them an outfit. Samson gave them a riddle about finding honey in the carcass of the lion he killed. Since no one aside from Samson knew about the lion and that he got honey from it, the young men were unable to solve the riddle. After three days of being unable to solve the riddle, they approached Samson’s new bride and asked her to coax Samson to tell her the answer, threatening to kill her and her father’s family if she did not get the answer for them.
     She went to Samson and begged him to tell her the answer, accusing him of not loving her for not telling her the answer already. Samson responded that he had not told anyone the answer, not even his parents. However, she started to cry when he would not tell her and continued crying for the rest of the wedding feast. Finally on the seventh day of the wedding feast, Samson gave in and told her the answer. She promptly went and told the young men who had made the bet with Samson. Samson knew where they had learned the answer and was furious. He promptly went and killed thirty other Philistines in another city and gave their clothes to his companions. He then went home to his parents house.
     This passage shows several personality and relationship flaws that can get people into trouble. The first is that Samson was impulsive. He saw this young woman and decided that she had to be his wife and would take no advice to that suggested this would be a bad decision. Then when he felt betrayed by his new wife, he threw a temper tantrum and killed a bunch of people who were only peripherally involved with the situation and abandoned his wife for a period of time. Samson should have talked to his wife and found out why she had “betrayed” him. Which brings us to her, when the young men that her father had chosen as companions to Samson for the wedding feast threatened her father and his family if she did not get information from her new husband, she did not confide in him and request his help. He could then have decided to either defend her father’s family or give her the answer. Once again this problem occurred because she did not trust her husband. There are other lessons to be learned from this passage, but the two I see today are the importance of choosing a marriage partner wisely, something Samson failed to do, and communicating with and trusting one’s spouse, something both Samson and his wife failed to do.

Another shot of the brook
Another shot of the brook

John 1:29-51

     The day after he responded to questions about who he was by saying that one greater than himself would follow him, John the Baptist pointed out Jesus coming towards him and said that He was the Lamb of God and the one he had referred to. John told those around him that he would testify that Jesus was the Chosen One of God. On the day after that, John was walking with two of his disciples when he saw Jesus. He told his disciples that Jesus was the Lamb of God. The two disciples started to follow Jesus.
     When Jesus noticed them following Him, He asked them what they wanted. They replied by asking Him where He was staying. He invited them to come and see. They spent the rest of the day with Him. One of them, Andrew, went and got his brother Simon. When Simon met Jesus, Jesus promptly named him Peter (or Rock). The following day when Jesus decided to return to Galilee He found Philip and asked him to follow Him. Philip went and found Nathanael. When Philip told Nathanael that they had found the Messiah and that He was Jesus of Nazareth, Nathanael responded by asking if anything good could come out of Nazareth. Philip invited him to come and see for himself. When Nathanael approached Jesus, Jesus said that he was a true and honest Israelite. Nathanael thought he was being flattered dishonestly, but when Jesus told him what he was doing when Philip found him, he believed.
     Nathanael gives us an important lesson. When Jesus said something flattering about him that he almost certainly wanted to believe about himself, he did not just accept it. Nathanael challenged Jesus. We should not accept someone as a teacher to be respected just because they say things about us that we like to hear.

The brook from another angle
The brook from another angle

Psalm 102:1-28

     Today’s psalm is a heartfelt cry to God for assistance. The psalmist tells us that he is in great distress, yet nevertheless he has faith in God and praises God above all others. When times are bad (and when they are good), I will call out with the psalmist:

Lord, hear my prayer!
Listen to my plea!

But even in the worst of my trials I will also proclaim:
He will listen to the prayers of the destitute.
He will not reject their pleas.

Magrat by the brook
Magrat by the brook

Proverbs 14:15-16

     Well today’s proverb is as relevant today as the day it was written. “Only simpletons believe everything they’re told!” Let us carefully consider the source when we hear something, even if it is something that supports what we already believe. Let us follow the advice of the second proverb and be cautious. Let us be careful what we believe and not rush ahead to spread a story that supports the arguments we make. IF later the story turns out to be false, we will be shown to be a fool and others will ignore our arguments, even if they are good.

April 30, 2013 Bible Study — Living a Life of Integrity So That God’s Light May Shine Through

     I have been using One Year Bible Online for my daily Bible study for almost a year. For today, One Year Bible Online links here. I started writing this blog because the only way I can get myself to read the Bible everyday is to pretend that I am teaching someone about what it says to me. I hope that by posting these ruminations others may get some benefit as well. If you have any thoughts or comments regarding these verses or what I have written about them, please post them. I hope that the Spirit is moving in others through these posts as the Spirit has definitely been convicting me.

Tulips preparing to bloom
Tulips preparing to bloom

Judges 11-12:15

     Today’s passage tells us how Jephthah became judge over Israel. He was the son of a prostitute. When his half-brothers grew up, they chased him off of their father’s land because they did not want to share their inheritance with the son of a prostitute. Jephthah gathered a band of troublemakers as followers. When the Ammonites attacked Gilead, the elders of Gilead sent for Jephthah to be their commander. They promised to make him their ruler if he would come and lead them against the Ammonites. Jephthah attempted to negotiate a peaceful settlement with the Ammonite king, but was rebuffed.
     Jephthah gathered an army to fight the Ammonites and the spirit of God was with him. However, as he prepared for battle, Jephthah made a foolish oath. He promised to sacrifice whatever first came out of his house to greet him when he returned if God gave him victory. He went into battle against the Ammonites and was victorious. When he returned from battle, his daughter, his only child, came out to meet him first. When he told her of the vow he had made, she insisted that he must keep it, but asked for two months to roam the hills with her friends. When she returned, Jephthah fulfilled his vow. Every time I read this passage I wonder at the point of the passage and the only thing that comes to mind is that it is an example of making a foolish vow. One should think through the possible consequences before one makes a promise.

Tulips about to open
Tulips about to open

John 1:1-28

     The beginning of the Gospel of John gives some basic theology for Christians. It tells us that “The Word” (Greek “Logos” which is the root of our word “logic”) was from the beginning and was both with God and was God. Everything was made through the Word of God and nothing was made without Him. It is very interesting, and it carried intentional meaning, that the writer uses the word for “him” rather than the word for “it”. The writer is telling us that the Word is a person, although not necessarily a human. The writer goes on to tell us that the Word contains life and that life is light.
     Life comes forth from Christ the way that light comes forth from the sun, but there is more to it than that. That light that comes forth from Christ is like life in that just as one living being can give birth to another, so this life/light can enter into us and shine forth from us. Jesus is a beacon of life just like the sun is a beacon of light. When the life from Jesus enters into us, giving us this true life as children of God, we become beacons of life to others. The life that we received from Jesus shines forth from us and can enter into others. We are not the source of that life. One could say that we are mirrors of that life, except that unlike a mirror when that life shines on another, they can bring accept it into themselves and shine forth with life from the source not just a reflection of a reflection. When the life from God shines forth from us, it can enter into others giving them life and causing them to shine forth that same life, not in reflection of the life that is in us, but in reflection of the life from God Himself.

Tulips in bloom
Tulips in bloom

Psalm 101:1-8

     This is a wonderful song which calls us to praise the Lord, but also challenges us (or at least, challenges me!). After declaring that he will praise the Lord, the psalmist declares that he will lead a blameless life with God’s help (that may not be how the psalmist meant it, but I know that is the only way I will ever come close to leading a blameless life). He proclaims that he will lead a life of integrity in his own home. That can serve as good advice, because integrity starts in our private life.      If we do not have integrity in our own homes, we will not truly have integrity anywhere else.
The psalmist then promises not to look at anything vile and vulgar (I would have phrased it “vile or vulgar”, but the psalmist is probably correct, because anything that is vile is also vulgar and anything that is vulgar is also vile). He goes on to list behaviors that we should not tolerate in ourselves. However, not only should we not tolerate these behaviors in ourselves, we should have no parts in these behaviors as exercised by others. The psalmist’s list is as follows: crooked dealings, perverse ideas, slandering neighbors, conceit and pride, and every evil. This last is by no means comprehensive (although the “every evil” sort of sums up the rest of the behaviors we should avoid). It is the first part of this I find challenging. Can I really avoid looking at anything vile and vulgar? I don’t mean because it is thrust in front of me, because I don’t think that is what the psalmist meant. But can I choose not to look at anything vile and vulgar and keep to it? That means not watching entertaining TV shows that have vile and vulgar content, or movies. It means not going to websites that contain the same sorts of things. It means not reading books and magazines with such content. What about news stories that contain more vile and vulgar details than necessary to communicate what happened? But I will start with the easy stuff. The stuff that I know that the vulgar and vile is really why I am looking at it, no matter what “redeeming value” it may or may not have. I can work on the things which I genuinely believe that I consume for those “redeeming values”. I am sure that the Spirit will convict me of those in due time as well.
     There is one more important part to this psalm. The psalmist tells us that he will search for companions who are faithful and above reproach. He will not employ those who are deceivers and liars in any capacity, especially not as advisers. If we wish to accomplish the first part, live with integrity and avoid anything vile and vulgar, then we need to spend our time with those who are striving to do likewise. However, there is more to it than that. We must also strictly limit the time we spend with those who do not strive to live lives of integrity and to avoid the vile and vulgar. The choices and behaviors of those we spend time with will rub off on us and lead us to behave in a similar manner, whether that be to the good or the bad.

Tulips and bluebells in bloom
Tulips and bluebells in bloom

Proverbs 14:13-14

     Laughter can ease the burden of grief, but we must remember that the grief will still be there for those around us who are suffering when the laughter ends. It is not enough to lift the spirits of those we know who are grieving, we must be there for them when the laughter ends.
     I prefer the NIV translation of the second proverb today. It dovetails nicely with today’s psalm. It tells us that those who consistently fail to live with integrity will suffer for their ways, while those who do live with integrity will be rewarded for theirs.

April 29, 2013 Bible Study — The Road to Emmaus

     I have been using One Year Bible Online for my daily Bible study for almost a year. For today, One Year Bible Online links here. I started writing this blog because the only way I can get myself to read the Bible everyday is to pretend that I am teaching someone about what it says to me. I hope that by posting these ruminations others may get some benefit as well. If you have any thoughts or comments regarding these verses or what I have written about them, please post them. I hope that the Spirit is moving in others through these posts as the Spirit has definitely been convicting me.

Magrat stretches
Magrat stretches

Judges 9:22-10:18

     After Abimelech had ruled Israel for three years the people of Shechem became disenchanted with Abimelech and set up an ambush for him on the hilltops. They robbed everyone who passed that way, apparently hoping that Abimelech would come and try put a stop to it, but someone warned Abimelech about the plot. Into this developing animosity between Shechem and Abimelech moves Gaal and his brothers. Gaal and his brothers moved into Shechem and gained the confidence of the citizens of Shechem. During the harvest festival, when the wine began flowing freely, everyone was cursing Abimelech. Gaal shouted that Abimelech was not a true son of Shechem and Zebul was no more than his deputy. Gaal said that if he was in charge he would challenge Abimelech to bring his army out to fight.
     Zebul, the governor of the city, was furious at Gaal’s comments and sent word to Abimelech suggesting that Abimelech bring his army secretly to Shechem and ambush Gaal. Abimelech took this advice. When Gaal led the people of Gaal forth to fight Abimelech, Abimelech drove Gaal’s forces back to the gates of Shechem. Zebul then drove Gaal and his clan out of Shechem, while Abimelech camped with his army a short distance away. When the people of Shechem returned to working the fields Abimelech brought his army back and attacked them. He sacked the city and killed all of its citizens. The people of the city retreated into a stronghold in an attempt to survive the attack. Abimelech and his men gathered branches and piled them around the stronghold, lighting them on fire and burning the stronghold down with the people inside.
     Abimelech moved on to attack another town. Once again the people fled to a stronghold within the town. However, this time when Abimelech attempted to pile wood around the stronghold, a woman dropped a millstone on his head, crippling him. He called on his armor bearer to run him through with his sword so that it would not be said that he was killed by a woman. The end result of this was that both Shechem and Abimelech were punished for the sins they had committed against Gideon and his family and Jotham’s curse was fulfilled.
     After Abimelech died two judges ruled over Israel in succession. After the second judge died the Israelites completely abandoned the worship of the Lord in favor of worshiping Baal and Ashtoreth and other gods of the people around them. As a result, they were oppressed by the Ammonites. After eighteen years of oppression, the Israelites called out to God for rescue, acknowledging their sin of worshiping other gods. They got rid of their foreign gods and returned to worshiping the Lord. When the Ammonites once more gathered their armies to subdue the Israelites, the Israelites gathered their forces. The Israelites declared that whoever would take the lead in attacking the Ammonites would be made ruler over those living east of the Jordan River.

Magrat on the walk
Magrat on the walk

Luke 24:13-53

     Two of Jesus’ disciples were walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus on the day of the Resurrection discussing what had happened. Suddenly Jesus came up and started walking with them, but they did not recognize Him. Jesus asked them what they were discussing. They stopped short, surprised that anyone around Jerusalem could be ignorant of the things which had happened. Jesus asked them what things they meant. They then gave Him a short synopsis of Jesus’ ministry, arrest, death and reported resurrection.
     Jesus called them foolish for not recognizing that the prophets had proclaimed that the Messiah would need to suffer these things before coming into His glory. He then began with Moses and worked His way through all of the prophets showing them how they predicted His coming and what had happened. By the time He was finished they were approaching Emmaus. Jesus behaved as if He was going to go farther. However, they urged Him to stay with them since it was late and He agreed. When they sat down to eat, Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it and gave it to them to eat. At that moment they realized who He was. He disappeared from their sight. I think this story represents something we need to pay attention to. We need to pay attention to messages that give us insights into God’s plans and will for us, even if the messenger is not obviously someone we recognize as a messenger from God. I am finding it difficult to word what I am trying to say, so I will try another way. Sometimes we will only recognize that someone has brought us a word from God after the fact.
     The two men got up immediately and returned to Jerusalem. When they rejoined the Eleven and those with them everyone told them that it was true that Jesus had risen. He had appeared to Peter. They then told everyone their story. While they were speaking Jesus appeared among them. Those present were startled and frightened. They thought they were seeing a ghost. Jesus asked them why they were troubled and showed them His hands and His feet and invited them to touch Him. They reacted to this in joy and amazement, but still an element of disbelief because it was too good to be true. Jesus then asked for some food. They gave Him some fish, which He ate. Jesus then repeated the process He had performed on the road to Emmaus, explaining how the Jewish Scripture predicted what had happened to Him. However, He added that now repentance and forgiveness were going to be preached in His name to all nations and that they were witnesses to what had happened. Finally He tells them to stay in Jerusalem until the power that the Father has promised came upon them.
     Jesus then led them out of the city to near Bethany. There He lifted up His hands and blessed them. While He was blessing them He was taken up into heaven. The disciples returned to Jerusalem rejoicing and spent a large portion of their time in the temple.
     There are a couple of points worth noting. The first is from the end. A simple reading of this passage leads one to think that Luke is saying that Jesus was lifted up into heaven on the day of resurrection or possibly the following day. However, Luke does not actually specify how long Jesus spent teaching the disciples the things He taught them about what the Scriptures predicted concerning Him. The other point that I want to discuss relates to Jesus using Scripture to show how He needed to suffer, die and be raised from the dead. Several weeks ago, I came across someone who posted a blog about an artifact that appears to be from the first century before Christ which appears to talk about the Messiah dying and being raised from the dead after three days. This blogger thought that if this artifact turned out to be what it appeared it would shake the faith of some Christians because it would show that the idea of that the Messiah would suffer, die and be raised from the dead was not original with Christianity, but had been present in Judaism all along. I commented to the blogger that there was no reason for such to be the case, since no where in the New Testament does it claim that this is a novel idea. As a matter of fact, passages such as this one suggest that the early Church believed that the idea was “baked into” Judaism, it was just that most people refused to see it. It would certainly make sense to me that Jesus might have used writings such as the artifact referenced to show the disciples how the Jewish Scripture had predicted what would happen.

Magrat on the lawn
Magrat on the lawn

Psalm 100

     What a great psalm of praise. I will call all of the world to acknowledge that God is Lord and I will worship Him gladly. I will give thanks to Him and praise His name for He is good and faithful. Singing praises to God gives me joy and I pray that the same is true for you.

Magrat at rest
Magrat at rest

Proverbs 14:11-12

      Seemingly permanent structures built by the wicked will be destroyed, yet temporary structures put up by the godly will flourish. If we really on our own sense of what is right to determine our path, it will lead us to death and destruction. Some of the most evil people in the history of the world were doing what they thought was right. If we attempt to make ourselves the final arbiters of what is right and wrong, we are following the same path as those men.

Dr. Gosnell, Jerry Sandusky, Columbine and Sandy Hook

     I am not sure that I am going to publish this. I am not sure if I can say what is on my heart without sounding like I am blaming the victims, or blaming people who committed one sin for the acts of people who committed another sin. I am pretty sure I will change the title from “Tragedies and God” to something else if I manage to get this to come out the way it sounded in my head when I was first inspired to write this.
     I was inspired to write this when I read yet another blog post discussing the meaning of the Dr. Gosnell case. I suppose I should first give people a little background on Dr. Gosnell. Dr. Gosnell was a doctor who performed abortions in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In particular, he performed primarily late term abortions on women who were members of minority groups. There were numerous complaints about him over the years submitted to many different authorities. Yet none of those authorities did anything about him until one of his employees caught the attention of the Drug Enforcement Agency for illegal dispensing of prescription narcotics. This led the DEA to launch a raid on Dr. Gosnell’s clinic, where what they found horrified them. They passed on what they found to a grand jury. In the end, the grand jury indicted Dr. Gosnell for the murder of one woman and seven babies.
     The grand jury that delivered the indictments started their report with the following paragraph: “This case is about a doctor who killed babies and endangered women. What we mean is that he regularly and illegally delivered live, viable, babies in the third trimester of pregnancy – and then murdered these newborns by severing their spinal cords with scissors. The medical practice by which he carried out this business was a filthy fraud in
which he overdosed his patients with dangerous drugs, spread venereal disease among them with infected instruments, perforated their wombs and bowels – and, on at least two occasions, caused their deaths. Over the years, many people came to know that something was going on here. But no one put a stop to it.
     Every time I read that last sentence I want to cry, no, I don’t want to cry, I start to cry. What makes me cry is the knowledge that grand jury’s previous sentence understates it; many people not only knew something was going on here, they knew that something very wrong was going on here. But for various reasons they chose to look the other way. These were the same sorts of people (and perhaps in some cases the same people) who not only looked the other way, but worked to cover up the actions of Jerry Sandusky.
     In both cases, people in positions of authority knew that someone was taking advantage of and bringing harm to some of the most vulnerable in our society. Jerry Sandusky and Dr. Gosnell preyed on those whom God repeatedly warned in the Old Testament that He would come to the defense of, the widow and the fatherless. While those these two men preyed upon may not have technically been widows or fatherless, God does not withhold His judgment based on technicalities. How a society which allows such people to prosper, if only for a time, can expect to escape judgment is beyond me. And indeed we have not escaped judgment. For the same mindset that allows people to turn a blind eye to Jerry Sandusky and Dr. Gosnell leads to the school shootings at Columbine and Sandy Hook.
     I did not phrase that last sentence quite right, the cultural roots that lead not only to someone doing the things that Jerry Sandusky and Dr. Gosnell did but to others turning a blind eye to it and covering it up are the same cultural roots that lead someone to cavalierly shoot as many children and other innocent people as possible before law enforcement arrives. All of these things come from a sense that the only accountability is that which might be visited on one by one’s fellow man.
     I ran out of time at this point and was going to come back and write more later, but the inspiration left me. I think this is too important to leave unpublished, so I am going to publish this as it is. Perhaps God will inspire me to come back to this subject and post more on it later.

For Our Struggle Is Not Against Flesh and Blood

As you can tell, I wrote this last week. I wasn’t quite ready to publish it and thought I might polish it up and take some of the edge out of it, but that never happened. I wanted to put this out there for people to comment on. I hope I do not offend anyone with what I am saying.

The date: Friday, April 19, 2013
The inning: Top of the 6th
The score: 8-1 Phillies
The pitcher: Doc, a.k.a. “Dr. No-No”

Ordinarily this game would have me stoked, but with what’s happening in Boston, I am a mess. I am in utter despair. There’s a young man who is foolishly running from the authorities. Were he to turn himself in, at least there’s a chance that he will be redeemed. If he decides to go down in a blaze of glory like his brother, he will most likely be killed, and that most likely means an eternity in Hell.

And an eternity is a pretty long time, people.

It’s not that I didn’t mourn for the victims and their families. But I am praying that God’s Spirit can reach the heart of this troubled youth. And I am desperately praying for him and his soul.

I check the news again, having not looked in the last ten minutes, the curse of living in a 24/7 news world, and I read that the 19-year old has been apprehended. And I breathe a sigh of relief, and pray he doesn’t do anything stupid. I return to pray for those who lost loved ones in the Marathon.

I read people’s online reactions, and while I cannot blame people for reacting the way they did–let’s face it, this is a heart-wrenching thing–I found it all a bit appalling and shameful. Oh, not those who have never experienced God’s grace, but how can I, or anyone else, who has experienced God’s grace and forgiveness, not wish to see it extended to someone else, even someone who has done what this young man has done? Am I really any better than this young man?

The answer is NO! It is only God’s grace that has kept me from committing some act as heinous or worse.

Let me back up a bit here.

I am glad the authorities found him and apprehended him peacefully. I am thankful no other members of the Boston P.D. were hurt or killed while they took him into custody. I am relieved he is off the streets and “behind bars”. I fully believe that God has given the government the authority, and duty, to enact justice, but I am called to forgive.

As a Christian, I feel it is wrong for to call for his head. I’m sure many of the posters who were ready to metaphorically throw stones are parents of 19-year-olds themselves. But I’m not saying *their* 19-year-olds would ever DREAM of committing such acts of anarchy or terrorism. And yes, people were reacting out of the thought that the victims might have been their loved ones and were voicing their opinions extemporaneously. I will not blame them for their reactions. I was angry, too, when the story broke! I wanted to see someone pay. This young man committed the worst act mankind can do: he preemptively caused the deaths of innocent people!! It was “murder…refined, cold-blooded, deliberate murder”, to quote Arthur Conan Doyle. The fact that more people weren’t hurt or killed was a miracle and a mercy.

However, the eyes of the world are upon us this week. Shouldn’t our behavior be a bit more compassionate? Romans 12:19 pops into my head, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord”. Can we not try to take as a model the families of the Amish school children who were shot in 2006? On the day of that shooting the grandfather of one of the victims said to his younger relatives, “We must not think evil of this man.” Other members of that Amish community established a charitable fund for the family of the shooter. To give another example, when Jesus was suffering pain beyond my imagining on the cross, cried out to God, “Father, forgive them.”

We are fearful of those countries that hate us and would see us perish, through whatever means necessary. We wish and pray for a more peaceful world. Yes, we should pray for those countries whose governments are corrupt and do evil to their own countrymen and conspire to commit heinous acts on others across the globe because of some religious or political agenda.

But change, positive change, does not happen at the national level. It happens individually. We are to take love, LOVE! Not hate, and pass it on, and not just when it’s convenient and feels good. Now here’s my crazy idea: If every one of us were to start praying for him, and ask God’s Spirit to touch him, maybe some positive change will occur deep down in his tortured soul. And maybe that change will spread to others who share the violent goals he embraced.

Let me close with Ephesians 6:12 “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

April 28, 2013 Bible Study — Women Were the First to Believe In the Resurrection

     I have been using One Year Bible Online for my daily Bible study for almost a year. For today, One Year Bible Online links here. I started writing this blog because the only way I can get myself to read the Bible everyday is to pretend that I am teaching someone about what it says to me. I hope that by posting these ruminations others may get some benefit as well. If you have any thoughts or comments regarding these verses or what I have written about them, please post them. I hope that the Spirit is moving in others through these posts as the Spirit has definitely been convicting me.

Purple orchids
Purple orchids

Judges 8:18-9:21

     After his victory the Israelites wanted to make Gideon their king and set up his family as a royal dynasty. Gideon rejected the idea of becoming king. He did, however, collect a gold earring from the plunder that each of the Israelites had taken. He took this gold and made an ephod. He placed this ephod in his hometown. However, the Israelites soon started worshiping the ephod rather than God (or perhaps in addition to God), even Gideon and his family. Nevertheless, Israel had peace for the rest of Gideon’s life.
     As soon as Gideon died, the Israelites returned to worshiping Baal. One of Gideon’s sons, Abimelech, went to visit his mother’s brothers in Shechem. He asked them, as his flesh and blood, to gain the backing of the citizen’s of Shechem for him to become ruler of Israel over his half-brothers. The leaders of Shechem agreed to this and took 70 silver pieces from their temple to Baal and gave it to him. Abimelech used this money to hire a bunch of thugs (or as the passage describes them, troublemakers). He used these thugs to kill his 70 half-brothers. However, his youngest half-brother, Jotham, escaped. Then the citizen’s of Shechem and a neighboring city gathered and made Abimelech their king.
     When Jotham heard what they were gathering to do, he went to the top of nearby Mount Gerizim and shouted a prophecy down to them. He compared Abimelech to a thorn-bush. The he told the people of Shechem that if they had acted honorably towards Gideon and his family that he wished them joy of Abimelech as their king. But if they had not acted honorably toward Gideon and his family (and he pointed out that they had just killed seventy of Gideon’s sons), then Jotham called for fire to come out of Abimelech to consume the citizens of Shechem and its neighboring city and for fire to come out of the citizens of Shechem and its neighboring city and consume Abimelech. Jotham then fled to another city because he was afraid of Abimelech (justifiably so).

purple orchid up close
purple orchid up close

Luke 23:44-24:12

     At about noon on the day Jesus was crucified, darkness fell across the land and it remained dark until three in the afternoon. Early Christian writers reference works by pagan authors who, also talk of a long “eclipse” at that time (I put the word eclipse in quotes because Passover occurred at the full moon and eclipses can only occur at the new moon). Unfortunately, none of those works by pagan authors survive to this day. Luke tells us that the curtain in the Temple was torn asunder. Then Jesus cried out to God and breathed is last. The Roman centurion who was overseeing the crucifixion was deeply moved by what happened and praised God. The people who saw this went home greatly saddened. Meanwhile Jesus’ followers stood at a distance watching. I am not sure I understand the significance of it, but Luke makes a point of mentioning the women who followed Jesus from Galilee.
     After Jesus’ death, Joseph, who we are told was a dissenting member of the Jewish high council, went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body in order to bury it. Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a linen cloth and placed it in a new tomb (meaning no one else was buried there yet). The women followed to see where the body was buried. Then they went home to prepare the burial spices and ointments that were traditionally applied to a loved one’s dead body at that time. They were unable to complete these preparations before sunset, which was the beginning of the Sabbath, so they did not return and apply them that day.
     On the morning of the day after the Sabbath (which was the first day of the week), they returned to the tomb with their prepared spices and ointments. When they arrived, they found the stone rolled away from the entrance of the tomb. They entered the tomb and found it empty. They stood there in confusion (think about how you would have reacted in a similar situation) and suddenly two men in dazzling robes appeared. The women were frightened (another very understandable reaction) and bowed their heads to the ground. The men who had appeared asked them why they were looking for the living among the dead and reminded them that Jesus had said that He would be killed and rise on the third day. When they heard this, they remembered that Jesus had indeed said that.
     The women returned to where the disciples (the Eleven and others) were gathered and told them what they had seen and heard. The men thought this sounded like nonsense and did not believe them. Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. When he looked in, he saw the linen wrappings lying there and went away wondering what had happened.
     I have several thoughts on this passage. The first is that we should take note that there were those on the Jewish high council who dissented from the decision to ask Pilate to crucify Jesus. We have no evidence that Joseph was a follower of Jesus, but he acted compassionately to mitigate a decision made by his fellows of which he disapproved. The second is that the account tells us that the first witnesses to the fact that Jesus had risen were women. Women were not considered credible witnesses in that day. It seems unlikely that a made up story would credit them as the first to believe that Jesus had risen. Finally, think about the state of Peter’s mind. He had bragged tat he would face death at Jesus’ side, yet when the time came he had denied that he even knew Him. Now, the women came claiming that Jesus had risen and when he went to see the tomb it was empty and the linen wrappings were left lying there. Peter had to be in a state of turmoil. Could he hope that Jesus was risen? But if Jesus had risen, what did that mean for him, who had denied that he knew Him? If Jesus had risen, it meant that He was the Messiah, but Peter, who had been among the first to call Him that, had abandoned Him when the chips were down. On the one hand, perhaps the man whom Peter had loved so much was not dead. On the other hand, how could Peter face Him again after failing to live up to who he had proclaimed himself to be? I can understand Peter’s turmoil.

White orchid up close
White orchid up close

Psalm 99:1-9

     Another psalm of praise that is a great one to read when I need a reminder to praise the Lord. One of the things I love about the read through the Bible in a year program that I am following is that it has a psalm as part of everyday. While some of the psalms are a little bit of a downer, most of them encourage me to praise God and lift my spirit. This psalm reminds us that God is a forgiving God, but will punish our misdeeds. God punishes our misdeeds, not out of spite, but in order to train us to behave in the manner that will lead to our greatest happiness. This knowledge leads me to exalt God and worship Him.

Those aren't orchids
Those aren’t orchids

Proverbs 14:9-10

     These two proverbs contain very important lessons. The first tells us that it is foolish to mock those who feel remorse for their sins, that fools mock the very idea of feeling remorse for sin. Further it tells us that the godly acknowledge what they have done wrong and strive to do what is necessary to be reconciled to those they have sinned against.
     The second tells us that no one can truly understand either the bitterness or the joy of another person. While this is true, it does not mean that we should not try to understand the bitterness that others feel, nor that we should not attempt to share our joys. It is just that we should understand that in both cases we will not be completely successful.

April 27, 2013 Bible Study — Giving Credit to God for Victory

     I am still trying to adjust my writing to the fact that the computer I usually compose these blogs on is down, but God has blessed me in going over these scriptures in this time. Of course, adjusting my writing to using a different computer is the fact that there have been problems at work that have disrupted my schedule as well. I hope that this has not led to a reduction in the quality of my posts (and overall I don’t think that it has, but I’m not a good judge of that).
     I have been using One Year Bible Online for my daily Bible study for almost a year. For today, One Year Bible Online links here. I started writing this blog because the only way I can get myself to read the Bible everyday is to pretend that I am teaching someone about what it says to me. I hope that by posting these ruminations others may get some benefit as well. If you have any thoughts or comments regarding these verses or what I have written about them, please post them. I hope that the Spirit is moving in others through these posts as the Spirit has definitely been convicting me.

Testing a maneuver
Testing a maneuver

Judges 7-8:17

     After receiving the signs of the fleece, Gideon led his army out towards the Midianites. However, when they camped within striking distance of the Midianite army, God told Gideon that he had too many men. That if he went to battle with such a large army and was victorious, the Israelites were likely to take credit for the victory themselves rather than praising God. So Gideon told the army that anyone who was nervous or afraid about the coming battle should go home. This reads to me as if he said that anyone who was there because they felt an obligation to be there, but were frightened by the prospect of battle, was not obligated to remain and indeed should go home. We are told that 22,000 men left, leaving an army of 10,000.
     God told Gideon that his army was still too large, so, inspired by God, Gideon devised a test. He took his remaining men down to a stream and had them drink. Those who leaned down and lapped the water out of the stream with their tongues were sent home. Those who cupped their hands and brought the water up to their mouth to drink were asked to remain. With these remaining 300 men, Gideon came up with a battle plan.
     Gideon was still nervous about the attack, so he snuck down to the enemy camp. When he got close, he overheard one man in the camp tell another about a disturbing dream he had just had. The second man interpreted the dream to mean that God was going to hand the camp of the Midianites over to Gideon. Thus encouraged, Gideon returned to his camp to put his plan into action.
     Gideon carefully positioned his men around the Midianite camp and had them simulate an attack by a much larger group. The Midianites panicked and began attacking one another while Gideon’s force watched. Those who were not killed fled in disarray. Gideon summoned the warriors of the surrounding Israelite tribes to pursue them. As part of this, Gideon called upon the warriors of Ephraim, who he had not summoned to his earlier muster. The warriors of Ephraim responded, controlled the crossings of the river Jordan, killed a large number of the Midianites and captured two of the Midianite leaders. When they brought the heads of the Midianite leaders to Gideon, they challenged him because he had not summoned them to his earlier muster. Gideon soothed their anger by praising their effort in holding the Jordan river and pointing out that what they had done in a supporting role was more than what he had done in the main role.
     Gideon then led his 300 men in pursuit of the remaining fleeing Midianite leaders. When he crossed the Jordan, he asked for supplies from two cities on the other side (the passage is not clear, but I read these as being cities occupied by Israelites who had settled east if the Jordan River). Both cities denied him aid, saying they would give him aid when he had captured the Midianite leaders, Gideon told them that when he had defeated the Midianites completely, he would return and punish these cities. Gideon continued his pursuit of the Midianite leaders and overtook them as they camped. Gideon attacked the Midianites from an unexpected direction and defeated the remaining 15,000 men with his force of 300. Gideon then returned and carried out his promised punishment of the two cities which refused to provide him with supplies.

A new drill is explained
A new drill is explained

Luke 23:13-43

     When Herod returned Jesus to Pilate, Pilate told the Jewish leaders that he found no basis for executing Jesus and neither had Herod. He said that he would have Jesus flogged and released. The crowd that had gathered demanded Jesus’ death. Pilate attempted twice more to ask them why they wanted Jesus killed, but the crowd got louder and more out of control. Finally, Pilate gave into to their demands and ordered that Jesus be crucified.
     The soldiers took Jesus out to be crucified along with two convicted criminals. As they put Him on the cross, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” Those watching sneered and said that if He was the Messiah, He should be able to save Himself. One of the two criminals being crucified with Him joined in the mockery by telling Jesus that if He was the Messiah He should save all three of them. However, the other criminal rebuked the first, admitting that he deserved to be crucified, but stating that Jesus did not. He then turned to Jesus and asked Him to remember him when He came into His kingdom. Jesus told him that he would join Him in paradise.

Another new drill explained
Another new drill explained

Psalm 97-98:9

     These two psalms are great songs of praise to God. God’s power precedes Him and destroys His enemies before He even approaches them. God does not have to take action to defeat His enemies, their destruction is a product of His essence. We should praise the Lord because His very essence spreads joy to those who love Him. If we love the Lord we will hate evil.
     Let us sing a song to God, telling of His wonderful deeds. I will praise the Lord because He has done marvelous things. God will judge the world with justice and fairness bringing joy to those who love Him. These two psalms bring joy to my heart and lift me up when I feel down.

Jen the chair killer
Jen the chair killer

Proverbs 14:7-8

     The writer advises us to stay away from fools because what they say is devoid of knowledge. He continues by telling us that the prudent look ahead carefully to see where the road they are on ends up, while the foolish convince themselves that the road they are on goes where they want to go without ever looking to see if that is so.

April 26, 2013 Bible Study — Don’t Be Afraid to Lay Out a Fleece, or Two

     I am still running behind in getting these finished and published. Today it is because my main computer is not working properly. I am pretty sure I can fix it, but I did not have the time today. On the other hand, in some ways this break in my routine has helped me see these passages in a different light.
     I have been using One Year Bible Online for my daily Bible study for almost a year. For today, One Year Bible Online links here. I started writing this blog because the only way I can get myself to read the Bible everyday is to pretend that I am teaching someone about what it says to me. I hope that by posting these ruminations others may get some benefit as well. If you have any thoughts or comments regarding these verses or what I have written about them, please post them. I hope that the Spirit is moving in others through these posts as the Spirit has definitely been convicting me.

Magrat poses for the camera
Magrat poses for the camera

Judges 6:1-40

     Once more the Israelites did evil in God’s sight and He allowed them to be oppressed by raiding peoples, primarily Midianites. Whenever the Israelites would plant crops, raiders would come and camp in the land, destroying the crops and taking the Israelites’ livestock. This left the Israelites with little to eat. They called out to the Lord for help and He heard them. God sent a prophet to tell the people how they had failed to follow His commands and had worshiped the gods of those other peoples among whom they lived.
     God, also, sent a messenger to Gideon. The messenger (the word translated angel means something like “divine messenger”) told Gideon that the Lord was with him. Gideon responded that if the Lord was with him, how come the Israelites were being oppressed by the Midianites? And why didn’t they see the great miracles that their ancestors had told of? The messenger then told him to go with the strength that he had and rescue Israel from the Midianites, God was sending him. Gideon responds that he came from the weakest clan of his tribe and his family was the weakest of his clan, how could he defeat the Midianites? The messenger told Gideon that God would be with him and he would defeat the Midianites as if there was only one of them.
     Gideon then asked the messenger for a sign that this was really a message from God. He requested that the messenger remain until he could return with his offering. The messenger agrees to wait for him to return. When Gideon returned with his offering (which from the description would have taken some time to prepare), the messenger told him to lay it out on a rock, pouring the broth over it. Once Gideon had done this, the messenger touched the offering with the tip of his staff and fire burst forth from the rock consuming it and the messenger disappeared. Gideon was terrified because he had seen the angel of God face to face. God told him not to be afraid, that he would not die because of this.
     That night God told Gideon to destroy his father’s altar to Baal and cut down the Asherah pole that was next to it. He was then to build an altar to God in its place and sacrifice one of his father’s bulls upon it, using the wood from the Asherah pole for the fire. Gideon took 10 servants and followed these instructions during the night out of fear of his family and the townspeople. When the townspeople discovered what he had done, they demanded that his father turn him over to them to be killed. His father asked them what was the point of worshiping Baal if Baal was unable to defend his altar?
     Shortly after this a large force of the raiding armies invaded Israelite land once more. Gideon sent out a call to arms to the tribes in the vicinity. While Gideon was waiting for the Israelites to assemble, he asked God for a sign. Gideon placed a fleece on the ground over night. He asked God that if he, Gideon, was to rescue the Israelites from the Midianites the fleece would be wet in the morning, but the ground would be dry. In the morning, the fleece was so wet that Gideon wrung a bowl full of water out it, yet the ground was dry. But Gideon was not satisfied, he asked for a second sign. Once more he put a fleece on the ground over night. This time he asked that the ground be damp and the fleece dry. Again, Gideon received the sign he had asked for and the fleece was dry.
     There is a lot in this passage. However, there is something I never noticed before. When the Israelites cried out to God for deliverance, God sent a prophet to tell them that they had sinned. A casual reading of the passage might lead one to think that the prophet was Gideon, but it does not read that way to me. As I read this passage today, I envisioned Gideon hearing this prophet speak and being inspired to serve God and turn from idol worship. Then he receives a visitor who encourages him to not only turn from idol worship, but to fight back against it. As I read the passage today, it struck me that there was a combination of actual physical messengers from God and the Spirit moving in Gideon’s heart. I think there are a series of steps we can see in this passage.
     First God sent a prophet out to call the people of Israel to repentance. One of those who heard and heeded this call was Gideon. But he was not alone, others throughout Israel heard and responded to the call. However, none of them quite knew what to do. Then God sent a messenger to Gideon who told him to stand up for what he believed in, God would be with him. Thus encouraged to act, the first thing Gideon did was destroy the places where those closest to him conducted idol worship. Word certainly spread of Gideon’s actions and Gideon was emboldened by his success. When the Midianites returned once more, Gideon sent out a call to those who trusted God to join him in confronting them. The point is that when Gideon felt God’s call to serve Him, he did not start with attacking those oppressing his people. Gideon started by tearing down the altars where he and his family had worshiped idols and setting up a place to worship God in their place. He started locally and led by example.

Magrat strikes another pose
Magrat strikes another pose

center>Luke 22:54-23:12

     Those who had accompanied Judas arrested Jesus and led Him to the high priest’s house. Peter followed behind at a distance. Some of those there lit a fire in the courtyard and Peter joined them. A servant girl saw Peter sitting there and told the others that he had been with Jesus. Peter told her emphatically that he did not know Him. After a bit, someone else said to Peter that he must be one of them. Again Peter denied it, speaking even more emphatically. About an hour later, a third person said that Peter must be one of Jesus’ followers because he was a Galilean. Peter denied this even more strongly (and possibly loudly). At that moment the rooster crowed and Jesus turned and looked at Peter. It was at that point that Peter recalled that Jesus has said that he would deny Him three times. Peter left the courtyard and wept bitterly. Do I feel the same level of shame and remorse for those times I have denied Christ? I am afraid that I do not and did not, but I am striving to learn to care so deeply that in the future I will. It seems strange to say that I wish I was more ashamed of what I had done, but perhaps we would all be better off if instead of attempting to feel less embarrassed by the bad things we have done, we strove to feel more embarrassed about them.
     At daybreak the council of elders of the people met together and had Jesus brought before them. They asked Him if He was the Messiah. Jesus answered that if He told them they would not believe Him. And if He asked them they would not answer (I believe a reference to their response when He asked them by what authority John the Baptist baptized). He concluded by saying that going forward the Son of Man would be seated on the right hand of God. The council then asked if He was saying that He was the Son of God. Jesus replied, “You say that I am.” At this the council needed no more testimony, they had heard Jesus say that which they considered blasphemy.
     The council took Jesus to Pilate, the Roman governor, and told him that Jesus was preaching insurrection against Rome. Pilate asked Jesus if He was the King of the Jews. Jesus answered Pilate, “You have said so.” Pilate returned to the Jewish council and told them that he found no basis to charge Jesus. The council replied that Jesus had stirred up riots from Galilee to Jerusalem. When Pilate realized that Jesus was a Galilean, he sent Him to Herod who was in Jerusalem at the time. Herod was happy for the chance to question Jesus, hoping that He would perform a miraculous sign. Herod questioned Jesus for some time and got no answer, while the Jewish leaders hurled accusations against Jesus. Herod and His soldiers began ridiculing and mocking Jesus. Finally Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate.

Yet another pose
Yet another pose

center>Psalm 95-96:13

     The psalmist calls on us to joyfully sing praises to the Lord. This is another one of those psalms which I cannot summarize a lesson out of that says it any shorter than what the psalmist wrote. Let us praise the Lord and sing to Him. I will proclaim the good news that He saves. I want to learn to do this every day to anyone who will listen. I want those who know me to either be saying the same thing or, “Yeah, I got it, you think God can help me with my problems.” I not only think He can help, I know that He can help.

Magrat pretends she's not posing
Magrat pretends she’s not posing

center>Proverbs 14:5-6

     The first proverb tells us that either we are honest and do not lie or we breathe lies. I do not think it is quite that simple, but if we do not strive to always be completely honest, we will end up lying continuously.
     The second proverb tells us that if we mock others in our attempt to find wisdom, wisdom will elude us. While those who strive to understand others will learn easily.

April 25, 2013 Bible Study — Pray Not to Give In to Temptation

     The last couple of days have been very busy at work, so I have been getting these posted later than I would like. I hope that has not caused any problems for those close to the International date line. I will say that even though my routine has been disrupted, working on these has been an even greater blessing than usual for me.
     I have been using One Year Bible Online for my daily Bible study for almost a year. For today, One Year Bible Online links here. I started writing this blog because the only way I can get myself to read the Bible everyday is to pretend that I am teaching someone about what it says to me. I hope that by posting these ruminations others may get some benefit as well. If you have any thoughts or comments regarding these verses or what I have written about them, please post them. I hope that the Spirit is moving in others through these posts as the Spirit has definitely been convicting me.

Another shot of sunset through the trees
Another shot of sunset through the trees

Judges 4-5:31

     After the death of Ehud, the Israelites once more sinned and God turned them over to a Canaanite king and his general, Sisera. Sisera ruthlessly oppressed the Israelite people until they cried out to God for relief. At the time, Deborah was serving as a judge for Israel. One day, at God’s instruction, she summoned Barak son of Abinoam. She told him that God commanded him to call out warriors from the tribes of Napthali and Zebulun and go to war against Sisera.
     Barak said that he would only go if Deborah went with him. She responded by telling him that she would go, but as a result Barak would get no credit for the victory. Sisera would die at the hands of a woman. So Barak mustered the troops of Napthali and Zebulun. When Sisera hears that the Israelites were mustering, he gathered his forces to attack them. The Israelites ambushed Sisera’s army and threw it into disarray. Sisera escaped on foot while the Israelites killed his entire force.
     Sisera ran to the tent of Jael, who was married to Heber the Kenite. Heber’s family was on friendly terms with the king who Sisera served. Jael greeted Sisera and invited him into her tent, where she covered him with a blanket. When Sisera asked her for some water to drink, she instead gave him some milk from a leather bag (this suggests to me that the writer is suggesting that the milk was fermented). Sisera told her to stand at the door of the tent and if anyone asked if someone was inside to tell them “No”. Sisera soon fell asleep from exhaustion. As soon as he did, Jael crept up to him and pounded a tent peg through his temple into the ground, killing him. Shortly after this Barak came in pursuit of Sisera. When he came by Jael’s tent, she came out and brought him in to see Sisera, dead on the floor of her tent. From that time forward the Israelites pushed back against the king that Sisera had served until they destroyed him completely.

Jen kills the chair
Jen kills the chair

Luke 22:35-53

     As they are talking after the meal, Jesus asks them if when he sent them out with no money or supplies if they lacked for anything. To which the disciples replied that they did not. Jesus then tells them that now, if they have a purse they should take it with them and a bag if they have that. He goes on to say that if they do not have a sword, they should sell their cloak and get one. When His disciples tell Him that they have two swords among them He tells them that this is enough. I never before noticed that Jesus contrasted His instructions here with when He sent them out without any gear. I find that very interesting. I think at least part of the message of this passage is that while sometimes we should go forth completely relying on God to provide for us, at other times we should prepare in advance and gather what gear we need. It also seems to me that when the disciples pointed out that they had two swords, Jesus told them that was enough because they were not getting what He was saying.
     When they were finished, Jesus went out to the Mount of Olives, accompanied by His disciples, as He had been doing since He arrived in Jerusalem. When they got to the Mount of Olives, Jesus told His disciples to pray that they would not fall into temptation. He then withdrew about a stone’s throw and prayed to the Father that He take the cup of suffering from Him, but also prayed that He would surrender to God’s will. The passage tells us that an angel appeared to Him and strengthened Him. He returned to where His disciples were and found them asleep. He woke them asking them why they were sleeping and told them to stay awake and pray not to fall into temptation.
     While He was speaking to them a crowd led by Judas came upon them. Judas approached Jesus to kiss Him in greeting. Jesus confronted Judas that He was betraying Him with a kiss. Jesus’ disciples, remembering what He had said earlier about swords, asked if they should strike with their swords and one of them immediately did so. Jesus told them to stop and promptly healed the man His disciple had injured. Jesus then confronted the crowd, saying that He had been in the Temple every day and they made no attempt to arrest Him there. That they waited until after dark to arrest Him was very revealing of their motivations.

Hyacinth in bloom
Hyacinth in bloom

Psalm 94:1-23

     I read this psalm and immediately saw that it is a warning and a comfort to the righteous that God will avenge those who do wrong. It talks about how the wicked are arrogant and boast in their wickedness. Then I got to verse 7:

They kill widows and foreigners
and murder orphans.

It goes on to say that the wicked think “God isn’t looking and besides He doesn’t care.” This made me think of the trial of Dr. Gosnell and of those who enabled him to go on for so long. He is on trial for killing a woman who could be viewed as a widow, she had no husband or father to act as her protector. She was certainly a foreigner, a refugee from Bhutan. He is also on trial for killing babies which survived his attempts to abort them. I would certainly say that by my understanding of God’s reckoning, an infant whose mother desires to kill it while it is still in the womb is an orphan. When you hear the testimony about Dr. Gosnell’s attitude towards the women who came to his “clinic” and the babies which he killed. He certainly fit the bill of one who thought that God did not care about what he was doing. Dr. Gosnell is not alone. There are others like him and there are those who chose to look the other way because it was politically advantageous to do so.
     The psalmist goes on to point out what fools they are. Do they really think that the one who created their ears is deaf? Do they really think that He who made their eyes cannot see? The psalmist goes on to tell us that the wicked will receive their just reward, that those who gang up against the righteous and condemn the innocent to death will face the judgment of God. God will stand forth and protect those who call on His name. He will exact justice for the powerless and not only on those who commit the acts, but on those rulers whose edicts permit injustice. Those political leaders who found it politically expedient to turn a blind eye to those who committed evil acts, will face God’s judgment.

Magrat next to hyacniths
Magrat next to hyacniths

Proverbs 14:3-4

     A fool talks big, but ends up suffering for his braggadocio. The wise are cautious in what they say and are careful to only commit to what they can accomplish.
     It is easy to keep the stable clean if you don’t have oxen in it, but oxen are necessary to plant and harvest crops in any quantity.

April 24, 2013 Bible Study — The Greatest Is a Servant

     I have been using One Year Bible Online for my daily Bible study for almost a year. For today, One Year Bible Online links here. I started writing this blog because the only way I can get myself to read the Bible everyday is to pretend that I am teaching someone about what it says to me. I hope that by posting these ruminations others may get some benefit as well. If you have any thoughts or comments regarding these verses or what I have written about them, please post them. I hope that the Spirit is moving in others through these posts as the Spirit has definitely been convicting me.


Judges 2:10-3:31

     After the generation that grew up in the wilderness died, their children did not acknowledge the Lord and took up the worship of Baal. They angered God by worshiping the gods of the people around them. God handed them over to raiders from the nations around them, when they went into battle He was not with them. The people were in great distress. This led God to raise judges for them to lead them against their enemies, but when the judges died the people went back to their evil ways.
     Shortly after Joshua’s death the people of Israel were forced to serve a king of Aram for eight years. When the people of Israel cried out to the Lord, He raised up Caleb’s nephew, Othniel, to lead them. God gave Othniel victory over the king of Aram. There was peace in the land for forty years. However, after Othniel’s death the people returned to doing evil in the Lord’s sight.
     God gave Eglon, king of Moab, control over the people of Israel because of their sin. They served him for eighteen years being forced to pay him tribute. When the people of Israel once more cried out to God for help, He sent them a deliverer. Ehud, a left-handed man of the tribe of Benjamin, was sent to deliver the Israelite’s tribute to Eglon. Ehud made himself a long double-edged dagger and strapped it to his thigh, under his clothes. After Ehud delivered the tribute, he started home with those who had helped carry it. However, after they had gone past a point which got the others clear of Eglon’s forces, Ehud turned back. Ehud went to Eglon and told him that he had a secret message for him. Eglon commanded his servants to leave the room. As soon as they left the room, Ehud approached Eglon and told him that he had a message from God for him. Ehud then drew his dagger and buried it in Eglon’s stomach. Ehud closed and locked the doors to the room and escaped down the latrine. When the Eglon’s servants returned and found the doors locked, they thought that Eglon was using the latrine. After a long delay, they forced the doors and found Eglon dead.
     Meanwhile, Ehud had fled and mustered the people of Israel. Ehud took control of the Jordan River crossings and attacked the Moabite forces west of the Jordan River killing about 10,000 of their strongest warriors. Israel had peace for eighty years after that.

More Daffodils
More Daffodils

Luke 22:14-34

     As Jesus and the disciples sat down to eat the Passover meal, Jesus told His disciples that He had been eager to eat this Passover meal with them because it was the last He would eat until its meaning was fulfilled in the Kingdom of God. Jesus then took the cup and told the disciples to share it among them because He would not drink wine again until He did so in the Kingdom of Heaven. He continued by breaking bread and telling them to take it and eat it because it was His body broken for them. He then went on to tell them that one of them, sitting there with Him as a friend, would betray Him.
     The disciples then began to ask each other who among them might do such a thing. This discussion deteriorated into an argument about who was the greatest among them. Jesus interrupted their argument by telling them that the rulers of this world lord it over people and then call themselves the “friend of the people”. Jesus’ followers were not to be like that. If we want to be the greatest among His followers we must take the lowest rank and be the servant of others. The greatest among us are not those who tell others, “Do this” and “Do that”. The greatest among us are those who ask others, “what can I do to serve you?” or perhaps even just go ahead and do it without asking.
     Jesus then turned to Peter and told him that Satan desired to sift him like wheat. But Jesus had pleaded in prayer that his faith would not fail. That when he had repented and turned back to Jesus again, Peter would strengthen his brothers. Peter responded by telling Jesus that he would go to jail with Him, that he would even die for Him. At this Jesus told Peter that before the crow cried Peter would deny Him three times.
     I will probably touch on this again, but this passage is one which gives me heart. If Peter could be forgiven for denying Christ and become such a key contributor to the early Church, then there is hope for me after the times I have failed to stand up for what I believe to avoid being thought silly or looked down on. It does not mean I can do such things with impunity but it means that I dare hope that, if I am faithful going forward, God will make some use of me to build His Kingdom.

Daffodils in a vase
Daffodils in a vase

Psalm 92-93:5

     I will proclaim God’s unfailing love in the morning and sing of His great faithfulness in the evening. When I think of what God has done for me, I am thrilled. His great works leave me in a state of awe. The Lord has given me strength and made me strong. The Lord is just and there is no evil in Him.

The theme today is daffodils
The theme today is daffodils

Proverbs 14:1-2

     If you are wise, you will carefully build your house. On the other hand, those who are foolish tear it down by their foolishness.
     Those who fear the Lord walk upright on a straight path. Those who sneak along in the shadows as they wind their way trying to stay out of sight despise Him.