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Saturday, September 22, 2012

Stones - For Glory or Dishonor?

            I have been pondering Absalom's treasonous act against David, the divinely appointed king of Israel, and Absalom's death and burial. Specifically, I have been pondering the significance of his dishonorable burial under a pile of stones instead of under the pillar he erected as a memorial to himself or in the burial place of kings and princes. While considering these things, I began recalling the significance of stones in the Bible. These daily devotions take you through what I have read and considered. Hopefully they will lead you to your rightful place, the Church of God, where He has provided the Cornerstone. 

Monday: Read Genesis 32:22-33:20. Altars were called Ebenezers, too. Ebenezer translated from the Hebrew means “stone of help.” Who set up a stone altar? Why? What was the place named because of it? El Elohe means “mighty is the God of Israel.” What did this ebenezar show about God? This was a spiritual marker of an important place where Jacob had an encounter with God. Jacob gave God a sacrifice of praise here.  

Tuesday: Read Genesis 35. Who set up this stone altar? Why? What was the place named because of it? Bethel means “house of God.” This altar/ebenezar was also set up because of an encounter Jacob had with God. God is given a sacrifice of praise here, too.  

Wednesday: Read Joshua 4:5-9. Who set up a stone altar here? Who told them to do it? Why? This altar was set up as a reminder, as a spiritual marker, an ebenezar, so the Israelites always remember God gave them the victory and their own land as He had promised. 
Thursday: Read Joshua 7:20-26.  What was the pile of stones a reminder of in Achor? Achor means “trouble.” Not the spiritual markers/reminders/ebenezars we will have as Christians will remind us of good things God did for us. Sometimes God disciplines us to get us to go on the right path and grow. These will be spiritual markers, too.  

Friday: Read 1 Samuel 7:1-12. Who set up a stone altar here? Who told them to do it? Why? This altar was set up as a reminder of how God gave them the final victory over their enemy. This stone was a remembrance to Israel that “thus far the Lord has helped us.”  

Saturday: Read 1 Peter 2:4-8. Who is this Living Stone? Are we supposed to be reminded of God by this stone, too? Is this stone special for everyone? No, these spiritual stones of the past and this Living Stone are special only for those to whom God has taught/helped/called. God calls each of us to come to Him. If we call Jesus our Living Stone, then we also become stones built according to the Father to become an altar proclaiming His praises and calling others to come out of their darkness to “this marvelous Light.” We become the stones making an altar of praise to God for people to see God and come to His light. Are you letting Him do that, to use you as a lighthouse beacon for His Light? Have you decided to become a part of His Church to be built in the way He wants others to see Him? You are a “chosen” person, a loved child. He wants to shelter, lead, and forgive you, too, just as David wanted to shelter and forgive his son, Absalom, who chose not to accept it. Absalom’s grave with stones mounted upon it became a marker for Israel to remind them not to run away from God, but return to Him. God had to discipline Absalom for attempting to overthrow the divinely anointed king, David.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Vision for Life

Consider the life of Moses; his family did not raise him (Exodus 2). Yet God allowed him to see the burden of his brothers and know that something was not right with the situation. God burdened Moses. Moses knew from his mother these slaves were his kinsmen. The Pharaoh's family raised him to see them people as a necessity for the Egyptian empire, as a commodity to make it productive. On one day, God opened Moses’ eyes and he saw the Hebrews no longer as a staple of the kingdom, but as people, his people. God gave him a vision; he was the one to lead these people, his brothers and sisters, out of slavery. God opened his eyes to see them as people. He gave Moses His own vision of the people.

What does God do next? He took Moses to a lonely place for 40 years (Exodus 3). God had a purpose, to bring Moses in line with His plan, with His purpose for the children of Israel. God showed Moses he was one of this tribe of people. Now God had to mold him into the man-leader He needed to take these chosen people from slavery through the desert and the battles into the Promised Land. Moses knew God put a vision in him, His vision. He may have wondered why Yahweh was taking so long to put him into action. God has a plan. During the forty years with Jethro, God taught Moses how to be a shepherd, how to be a Hebrew, how to pray, and how to wait on His timing. After those years, God molded Moses into His own man to lead His people, to stand up to His people as their God-appointed leader, and to hear His voice.
Let us step forward a few hundred years to David. David was a shepherd boy and the youngest of his father’s sons (1 Samuel 16). God, through Samuel, appointed David to be the king of His people while he was still a teenager. Did David ascend to the throne at once? No, God took him through years of shepherding, battle-training, empire-leading, and spiritual learning. God had David live in the king’s palace just as Moses did. God did not just choose the men and put them into the fire of His work. He took His time - put them through the valley, the fires, and the floods - to shape them to be His anointed leader who recognizes Him as their guide and help. They waited on God instead of running and “doing” the vision on their own steam. These men waited on God’s exact guidance to fulfill the vision.
Fast forward a thousand years or more to the time of Jesus and His disciples. Almost immediately upon the start of Jesus’ ministry, He called men to Him. Did He send the men out immediately to perform miracles or preach the Word? No, Jesus taught them the Word was alive and with them. He taught them the power of the Word. Jesus taught them the purpose of the Word. He taught them how to be followers of the Word. Jesus taught them so they would believe. The fishermen were Jewish; that was not an issue. Jesus had to train them that the Word was Himself, God among them. For three years, the disciples walked with Jesus. They walked with Him, learned how to teach, and learned who Jesus was, from where His power came, and through Whom God would save the Israelites. The disciples, too, saw, in person, the life of Jesus so they could not doubt He is the Son of God brought to earth to save humanity from their sins and bring them eternal communion with the Father, Yahweh God. This Yahweh and Son are one in the same and are the same as the One who trained Moses and David. The three years Jesus trained His disciples, He molded them into men of God, not just fishermen. They were used to the storms of the sea as fishermen, but they were not accustomed to the storms which humanity created. The disciples experienced first-hand the cunning of humanity through the acts of the Pharisees and the jealousy of the current kings of the land. They watched the indifference of the people who chose to follow like blind sheep rather than trust a God with whom their people had history. The disciples experienced a Jehovah who calls the lowest in the land to become shepherds of His chosen people. They experienced the denial and wrath of people who chose not to follow Jesus and threw taunts and stones at them for “blaspheming.” In all of this, the disciples did not give up on the Jesus who chose them, the ones whom Jesus asked the Father to sanctify because they remained firmly with Him on earth and stood strong during trials. These men were the ones that Jesus protected and guarded in the Father’s name and the ones whom Jesus felt He must safeguard when His time on earth finished (John 17). The Father chose these men out of His chosen people to be the ones whom Jesus called to follow Him, to receive power from on high (the Holy Spirit), and to “go into all the world preaching the Good News” (Matthew 28:18-20). 
Are Moses, David, and the disciples different from you or me? Did they have anything more in them than we do as Christ followers? God called each of these people to be His own possession, to be His witnesses (Acts 1:8). The desire that each of these people had is no different from the desire we have now as disciples, followers, of Jesus. This desire is not a desire of “doing” for Jesus, but of being in perfect relationship with Him. We, in this way, have a perfect relationship with Him, being entirely His as Jesus stated to the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane (John 17). This garden is where countless generations of God-followers went to pray. The garden is where Christ anguished about His sacrifice, the garden of His betrayal. This garden is where we must watch and pray. The garden of Gethsemane is the place where each of the men came before God when He called them to Himself, a garden of prayer and watching and waiting. This could be any garden in your life from where the Father and Son have called you to serve Him. God will become manifest to each person He calls at this point, the place from which God’s transformation of the man and woman He calls begins. It could take forty years like Moses, twenty-five years like David, or three years like the disciples. The timing is not the important part, but waiting for God and His molding of them for His purpose. As children created by God, He calls to each one of us to come to Him, be made new, sit quietly before Him, and be filled with the Holy Spirit. God calls us because He loves. He waits for us because He loves. God keeps watch for us because He loves. Do we hear, watch, and wait for God to call us, remake us, and lead us to the vision to which He calls us? Alternatively, do we “boldly go where no man has gone before” and walk in our own strength and knowledge? Would you not rather have your senses heightened and used for him - your mind renewed, heart re-called, soul returned, and your body replenished - instead of walking forward in your own strength? To have each of these areas transformed by God creates in us a strength unknown to humanity to “go and tell,” no matter how far or into what circumstance He calls us to go - the vision which God places on our hearts. Jesus told us that to love God, we must love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength (Luke 10:27). Can we give ourselves to God to love Him this way and allow Him to re-mold us for His purposes? God had a vision for His people Israel, to lead them, guide them, and save them. He has a vision for our lives, too. He calls us to the vision He places in our hearts, for which we must be in a continual relationship with Him. What are you and I willing to give to God to be in relationship with Him - to be re-molded and re-made over time for a purpose, to experience and share God’s love, and be a channel of God’s love?