Monthly Archives: August 2013

Saturday Spotlight- Samuel

iStock_000019044346_ExtraSmallSamuel was a great prophet who led the people of Israel as an honest judge and prophet, but he was still human. Dedicated to God from birth, young Samuel mistook God’s voice for that of Eli, his spiritual mentor.

 

Years later, when King Saul’s arrogance and disobedience caused God to reject Saul, God insturcted Samuel to anoint a new king. Although devoted to God, Samuel was not above feeling fear at the thought of crossing this powerful king. Nevertheless, he followed God’s direction and went to the house of Jesse to anoint a new king. In spite of a lifetime of devotion to God, Samuel still had trouble perceiving God’s will. When Samuel was impressed by the physical appearance of Jesse’s older son, God had to remind him not to be influenced by good looks, but to judge by the heart. Only then did Samuel look deeper and discern that Jesse’s youngest son David, who was presumably lowest in the family pecking order, was actually the one God intended to be the next king. 

 

As a boy, Samuel mistook God’s voce for that of Eli, his spiritual teacher. While we learn from others, it’s important to remember that they are human; only God belongs in first place. Even after a lifetime of serving God, Samuel still mistook God’s intention when discerning which of Jesse’s sons to anoint. Learning to follow God’s will is a never-ending process, so we don’t have to be discouraged if we get it wrong sometimes. God can always lead us back.

 

Samuel’s life reassures us that dedication does not mean perfection and that imperfection does not mean ineffectiveness in serving the Lord and his people.

 

Despite years of dedication to God, Samuel was initially taken in by the good looks of Jesse’s oldest son. What are some superficialities that people admire today? Which of these do you most easily fall prey to? What can help provide perspective?

Wednesday’s Word: Humility

He leads the humble in the right way and teaches them his will. Psalm 25: 9

 

Why does God lead the humble? They’re probably the only ones who listen to him. Humility doesn’t mean believing disparaging things about ourselves. It simply means knowing we don’t have all the answers. When we’re “wise in our own eyes” we can’t see or hear a wisdom beyond ourselves. We don’t look for it—that is, unless we come up against some problem or situation that’s beyond our ability to deal with it. These turning points are often very painful. C.S. Lewis said that God whispers to us in our pleasure but shouts to us in our pain.

 

Whether it’s a health issue, a personal or family crisis, a career catastrophe, or any number of things, once we come to the end of our resources we have no option but to ask for help. When we do, God is there, waiting for us. When we don’t know what else to do, we become willing to listen. Our willingness gives God an opportunity to infiltrate our self-will. When we surrender to his plan, what seems like defeat turns into victory. We see that God really does know more than we do and wants better for us than we want for ourselves.

 

Is there any other way besides pain to acquire humility? We can start by asking God to grant us humility, which is one of the fruits of his Spirit. Since growing in his Spirit is his will for us, we can trust him to lead us in the right way.

 

Prayer:  Lord, grant me the humility to listen to You.

 

Reflection for sharing:  How can trusting God help you grow in humility?

Saturday Spotlight – Ruth

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The book of Ruth is the beautiful story of Ruth’s love and willingness to serve. She went to remarkable lengths to stand by her widowed mother-in-law, Naomi. Although Ruth would have been more comfortable in familiar surroundings, speaking her own language, and following the customs she grew up with, she chose to venture to a strange land. As a poor, widowed foreighner, Ruth would have no status in her new home.

 

Once in Bethlehem, Ruth’s devotion continued to show itself in her actions. She worked–as the needy did in that culture–gathering leftover grain in the fields of wealthy landowners. She accepted this humble and physically demanding work to feed herself and her motherin-in-law. Ruth found herself working in the field of Boaz, who, as a relative of Naomi’s deceased husband, would have been responsible for taking care of her. Ruth obediently followed Naomi’s instructions and presented herself as a wife for Boaz, according to the customs of the time.

 

Ruth’s quiet acts of faithfulness, which were far beyond what might have been expected from a foreigner, spoke volumes. They won Ruth the respect and admiration of Boaz and the entire town. God had a plan for this foreigner. Ruth demonstrated to the Israelite ocmmunity that God works through whomever he chooses–even a foreign widow with no standing in the Israelite social order. After marrying Boaz, Ruth gave birth to a son, Obed, who became the grandfather of the great King David.

 

Heroic loyalty like Ruth’s is called for and answered in a myriad of ways today. Maybe we have honored past commitments, maybe we haven’t. None of us can undo the past. With God’s help, all of us can make choices that are in our best interests and those of others as we go forward.

 

In spite of being a foreigner from the enemy country of Moab, Ruth’s actions won the respect of the Israelite community. When in your experience have noble actions broken social barriers?

 

Adapted from “Fools, Liars, Cheaters & Other Bible Heroes”  http://www.biblemeditations.net/books

Wednesday’s Word: Stop

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There an angel of the Lord appeared to [Moses] as a flame coming from the middle of a bush. Moses saw that the bush was on fire but that it was not burning up. “This is strange,” he thought. “Why isn’t the bush burning up? I will go closer and see.”  Exodus 3: 2-3

 

When God saw Moses coming closer, He called to him from the burning bush. What if that had happened today? Moses might have been busy texting or checking his Facebook page and missed it.

 

Moses was watching sheep when God spoke to him. No doubt it was easy for him to notice the burning bush. There probably wasn’t much else going out in the pasture.

 

It’s more of a challenge for us today. So many things demand our attention and so many distractions are literally at our fingertips. How do we make room for God to speak to us in our busy lives?

 

It might start by us looking at our priorities. If God really is our Creator, wouldn’t it be wise to carve out at least a few minutes each day to connect with the Source of our being? Earning a living, family responsibilities, exercise, and chores: it’s a long to-do list for most of us. Spending time with God might seem like one more demand. It might be tempting to rattle off prayers or rush through our “quiet time” so we can check it off our list, but that misses the point. I’ve done it.

 

On time I tried to meditate but felt the pressures of the day nagging me.

Okay, God, I thought. I’m here. I’m listening. What do you want me to do?

 I felt the answer in my heart.

I just want you to be.

Yes, but after that, what do you want me to do?

I just want you to be.

I know, but after that…

 

 I don’t remember how long it took me to settle down and let go of the split-second timing my agenda seemed to require. I do remember coming away feeling relaxed and refreshed. Whatever I got done or didn’t get done that day, it all worked out okay—and I was in a lot better frame of mind.

 

Spending quiet time listening to God isn’t for His benefit, but for ours. Let’s not have our burning bush be the point where we are so worn out that we have no choice but to rest.

Maybe what He wants to tell us is we don’t have to try so hard.

 

Prayer:  Lord, slow me down today.

 

Reflection for sharing:  Who or what helps you settle down and listen?

Saturday Spotlight – Gideon

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Gideon wondered how he could possibly rescue Israel from enemy forces. He was a nobody. His seeming insignificance didn’t worry God, though. If we supply the willingness, God supplies the power to do whatever he calls us to do.

 

Gideon became a man on a mission, amassing an army of thirty-two thousand–far too many for God’s purposes. God wanted it clear that the victory would be due to his power alone. God had Gideon send home twenty-two thousand soldiers that were afraid to fight. Although a huge loss, eliminating those who were afraid made psychological sense. Cowardice on the front lines might have been contagious. Gideon’s force had been reduced by two-thirds. Surely he was stepping out in faith, wasn’t he? Nope. Still too many. God instructed Gideon to reduce the army further, selecting only three hundred to fight by the way they drank water. By God’s power, Gideon and these three hundred were victorious over the Midianites.

 

What does Gideon’s story have to do with us? If God is love, why would he prepare us for battle? Maybe we need to stand up for ourselves in an abusive relationship or an unacceptable work environment. Maybe we’re being called to resist the enemy voices in our own heads–voices that bully us or camouflage themselves as false humilty, telling us we dare not venture outside our comfort zone. “I’m not good enough,” isn’t humility speaking; it’s fear.

 

Are you being called to do battle against some oppresive force–either internal or external–in your life? If so, how can Gideon’s story help you address the issue?

 

Adapted from “Fools, Liars, Cheaters & Other Bible Heroes”  http://www.biblemeditations.net/books

Saturday Spotlight – Deborah

iStock_000019044346_ExtraSmallAlthough strong women are mentioned in both Old and New Testaments, few are mentioned that held such a postion of leadership in a male-dominated culture as Deborah. Portrayed as a community leader, when she sent for Barak, a military commander, he came. She told him what God had commanded: Barak had been chosen to lead the Israelites to victory against their oppressors.

 

Barak refused to go unless Deborah went with him.  Who can blame Barak for wanting a show of good faith on Deborah’s part? Deborah backed up her words with action. She trusted God’s message and her willingness to act on that trust empowered Barak and in turn inspired others to follow.

 

Deborah’s courage was not just shown in her willingness to stick her neck out on a battlefield. It was shown in her willingness to step out and be true to what she felt God was calling her to do, in spite of cultural restrictions.

 

Women aren’t the only ones challenged to step beyond the status quo. It’s tempting to tune out inner promptings that invite us to venture where we have never gone before. It’s OK to start small. Not all of us are called to a prominent role in society. Whether our choices impact the world or just our little corner of it, we can still make a difference. Willingness to act outside the norm–when it’s part of God’s plan for us–prepares us to act with more courage in the future and may inspire others as well.

 

Challenging the status quo doesn’t always involve dramatic situations or gain widespread attention. Are you being called to move beyond “the way things have always been” in some area of your life? Is anything holding you back from making that change? What can help you overcome that obstacle?

 

Adapted from “Fools, Liars, Cheaters & Other Bible Heroes”  http://www.biblemeditations.net/books

Wednesday’s Word: Simplicity

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At that time Jesus said, “Father, Lord of heaven and earth! I thank you because you have shown to the unlearned what you have hidden from the wise and learned.” Matthew 11: 25

 

No one has to take an IQ test to get into heaven.

 

Scholars and theologians have written volumes analyzing the bible, and that’s good. New information about background and context provides a clearer understanding of scripture’s meaning and perspective. Nevertheless, brain power alone doesn’t enable Scripture scholars–or any of us–to act on what we know.

 

In fact, there are times that too much thinking can tangle us up. It’s easy to get bogged down in details, to strain out gnats and swallow camels, to debate the nuances of a scripture passage instead of applying it to our lives. Sometimes, keeping it simple helps us be “doers” of the word instead of just “hearers.” When we’re humble—and therefore teachable—it’s easier to trust God instead of our own analytical theories. Maybe that’s why Jesus spent so much time talking to crowds of every day people using down-to-earth terms. He used images like sheep and grain, images that were common to their daily lives, instead of writing treatises or having conferences with the religiously educated elders of his time. It’s tempting to allow education to pass for superiority. Jesus knew better.

 

God looks at our hearts. That levels the playing field for all of us. Thank you, God!

 

Prayer: Lord, grant me the open-mindedness that comes from humility.

 

Reflection for sharing: When has what you knew—or thought you knew—interfered with your understanding of the truth?

Saturday Spotlight: Rahab

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Rahab was a lying, Gentile prostitute. Why is she listed in the genealogy of Jesus? Because she was part of God’s plan.  Before entering the Promised Land, Joshua sent two spies to investigate the town of Jericho. When the king of Jericho came looking for them, Rahab hid them and lied to the king about their whereabouts. Rahab had heard how God dried up the Red Sea to protect his people. She not only acknowledged the God of Israel’s greatness, but acted on it. She risked her own skin to save God’s messengers. When Joshua and his men conquered Jericho, Rahab and her family were spared and became part of the community of God’s chosen people.

It is ironic that the Israelite community, who experienced God’s saving power firsthand, continued to complain and doubt while this foreign woman from the wrong side of the tracks was convinced enough to convert based only on the testimony of others.  She bet her life, and the lives of her loved ones, on God. We all get many opportunities to make that choice. Rahab made that choice and never looked back.

 

How can you avoid focusing on your past mistakes and turn your attention to what God is calling you to do in the present?

 

Adapted from “Fools, Liars, Cheaters & Other Bible Heroes”  http://www.biblemeditations.net/books

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Meditations

But Jesus answered “The scripture says, ‘Human beings cannot live on bread alone, but need every word that God speaks.’” (Matthew 4:4)

 

All Bible quotes are from the Good News Translation unless otherwise noted.

 

It is reassuring that Jesus called fishermen and tax collectors to be his followers. These were laymen, not Scripture experts. It is wise to seek guidance from religious scholars and clergy who have studied Scripture to avoid errors in interpretation. But the Bible is also a gift given to each of us, to use as a basis for prayer and meditation.

 

I’m not a Biblical scholar; I’m an expert only on my own experience. Following the Scripture passage is a brief meditation along with a question or two as a springboard for your own reflections. Please feel free to share your own thoughts or insights on the passage by adding a comment. All comments are moderated, so please allow some time for your comment to be posted.

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