Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Courts In our Lives

I used to watch the People's Court on TV when it came out in the early 80s.  Then there was Judge Judy and a whole bunch of other similar shows that came out.  For awhile, there were so many of these kinds of shows on Television that it was hard to keep track of them all.  It seems as if everyone loved to watch courtroom drama. 

All of these different kinds of "courts" brings to mind a passage that gives an evaluation of different kinds of courts. 

I Corinthians 4:3-4 says, "I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself.  My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent.  It is the Lord who judges me."

The first courts the text mentions are human courts.  Sometimes we refer to the "Court of Public Opinion."  This refers to what the public thinks of certain things, actions, or people.  We also have our official courts of law.  This is where legal decisions are handed down.  The judgement of a court of can order someone to cease and desist, to pay a fine, or even do time in jail.  Both of these are human courts.  This passage makes it clear that human courts are not what ultimately will judge us in the end.  Human courts are not the ultimate standard to judge us.  In fact, human courts are just as fallible as the human beings in them, especially the court of public opinion.

Another "court" is the one in our heads.  Every single one of us has a conscience that either convicts us or excuses us.  When we consider an action, our conscience is our inner guide that tells us whether it is right or wrong.  However, according to this passage, our conscience is not the standard of authority that will ultimately judge us.  In fact, our consciences can be defiled according to Titus 1:15, or seared as with a hot iron, according to 1 Timothy 4:2.  Even if our consciences are clear, this does not make us innocent.  A person's personal conscience is not what ultimately determines what is right or wrong.

The final court is the court of the Lord.  This is ultimately the only court that matters in the end.  It is not the court of public opinion, human courts, or even one's personal conscience that ultimately will judge a person in the end.  It is the Lord who judges.  This means that it is not the word of man, but the word of God that is the standard. 

This is a reminder that popularity does not make something right.  The majority does not make something right.  What is considered right, good, or enlightened by society in today's times does not make something right.  What everyone else is doing does not make something right.  Even if something is legal, this does not necessarily mean it is right.  In fact, Proverbs 14:12 says that there is a way that "appears" to be right, but in the end it leads to death.

This is why it is so important to live in the word of God and let it shape and mold your mind.  Romans 12:2 says "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."

Neither the court of public opinion, nor some human court, nor even my personal conscience is what will judge me in the end.  It is the Lord who judges.

Lord, please forgive me for the times that I allowed myself to be more influenced by the world and its values rather than your word.  Father, please grant discernment and wisdom to see things as they really are.  Help me to view things from your perspective.  Help me to evaluate everything according to truth, which comes from you.  Remind me that the pattern of this world is passing away and will be destroyed, but you and your kingdom will endure forever.  May I be conformed to the image of Christ rather than to the pattern of this world. 

Friday, April 29, 2016

Reflection on 2 Kings 23-25 - Creation of "Hell" and the Last "Armageddon"

What a pitiful end to what could have been a magnificent story!  For hundreds of years, Israel disobeyed God through idolatry along with cult prostitution, engaged in child sacrifice, and oppressed the poor and needy in the land.  God sent prophet after prophet, yet the people did not repent.  Finally, Josiah comes along.  Nearly a whole chapter is devoted to a description of Josiah's destruction of everything pagan in the land - and there was a lot!  He even dug up the bones of the pagans from their graves and burned them on the altar where pagan sacrifices had been offered. 

It also says in 25:10 that he "…defiled Topheth, which is in the valley of the sons of Hinnom, that no man might make his son or his daughter pass through the fire for Molech." 

The Valley of Hinnom is "Ge-Hinnom" in Hebrew.  This was the place of pagan worship, which included child sacrifice.  The name of the specific spot in the valley was, "Topheth," which paints a picture of the grisly scenes and sounds from that place.  "Topheth," which means, "drums," is a reminder of the drums that were used during the child sacrifices to drown out the screams of the children who were burned in the pagan sacrificial fires.

Josiah defiled and desecrated this place so that it would no longer be suitable for pagan worship.  Though the text does not say how he desecrated the site, we can imagine that he filled the site with dung, dead carcasses, refuse, and other things that would have make the site no longer suitable for pagan worship.  After this time, the place was never again used for any kind of worship.  "Ge-Hinnom" literally became the city dump where people would dump garbage and burn trash.  The irony is that the place where pagan fires once burned became a place where the only thing burning was trash and garbage that had been thrown out.

This eventually became the word picture used for the place of eternal destruction for the wicked.  "Ge-Hinnom" came from Hebrew into the New Testament as "Gehenna" in Greek, which translators translate as "Hell."  According to Jesus in Mark 9:43f, Gehenna, or "Hell," is the place of eternal destruction were the fire is not quenched and the maggots do not die.  This is an eternal trash dump with eternal fire and eternal worms/maggots. 

Even though Josiah did a good thing and went on to reinstitute the Passover, the sins of the people and the leaders after hundreds of years of warnings did not stop the destruction that came.  Josiah was killed in a battle at Megiddo, and soon afterwards, Israel was defeated by Babylon, which destroyed the temple and carried away all of its treasures.  However, in reality, the people had already made the temple desolate long before this due to their ongoing wickedness and disobedience.  The destruction of the temple and the city around it was merely a physical reflection of a spiritual reality that had been there for generations.  The books of Kings closes with the temple, which was the focal point of God's relationship with Israel, in ruins. 

Fortunately, the story does not end there.  The last book in the Bible shows another battle at "Har-Meggido," which means, "Mountain of Meggido" in Hebrew.  It is usually rendered English as "Armageddon."  In John's vision, the enemies of God gather together to make war against God and his people.  Revelation 16:16 says, "And they gathered them together to the place which in Hebrew is called Har-Magedon."  However, things turn out differently this time.  God's seventh angel pours out God's final bowl of wrath, and all of nature destroys God's enemy.  The battle is over before it even gets started!  In spite of all of the bravado of God's enemy, Armageddon never happens!  All of God's enemies are subsequently destroyed and thrown into the lake of fire.  Then, the final picture we have in Revelation is of God's people living in the new Jerusalem with a New Heaven and a New Earth.  There is no more sickness, pain, mourning, or death.  There is no one who practices wickedness or abomination there.  Satan, Death, Hades, and everything contrary to the nature of God has been destroyed in the lake of fire forever.  Finally, God's people "will see his face," according to Revelation 22:4.

This reminds me of the need that we have for God.  We cannot fight Satan on our own.  The first battle at Megiddo ended in disaster.  However, at the last battle at Meggido in Revelation, God fights for his people and destroys the true spiritual enemy that has been fighting against God's people from the very beginning.  Only when we truly and fully rely on God can there be victory.  As Jesus said in John 15:5, we can do nothing apart from him. 

Therefore, no matter how much Satan tries to lure us away, whether it is through intimidation or deceit, we remain faithful to God because he is the one that will lead us to victory.

Gehenna is the place for the wicked.  We don't stand with the wicked, even when it is the in thing and everyone else is doing it.  Even if the whole world tries to redefine what is right and wrong, or tries to jettison the very idea of right and wrong, we will not be intimidated, bullied, shamed, or pressured into buying into the political, multicultural, or prevailing view of what is right.  When Christ returns on his white horse, there will be a final judgment based on what God says, not on what the university professor says, the politician says, the school teacher says, or your friends say.

If I stand with Christ, the burning may be bad on this earth.  However, it will only be temporary.  If I stand with the world, then I may avoid the temporary burning on this earth, but will not avoid the eternal burning in Hell.  If I try to choose neither and straddle the fence, then I am not standing with Christ and still will not avoid the eternal burning.  In Matthew 12:33, Jesus said I am either for him or against him.  This means that Satan owns the middle fence.  I cannot stand with Christ if I am on the fence.  Trying to straddle the fence detestable to God like an unfaithful spouse who is trying to straddle the fence and juggle between a spouse and a lover.  Straddling the fence is spiritual adultery.

Lord, please help us to learn the lessons of the past.  You have committed much more to us than we could ever commit to you.  Help us to see the world as it really is and what the end results are of whatever path we choose.  May we love you with all our heart, soul and mind.  May we, like Jesus, love righteousness and hate lawlessness.  May we hate sin so much that we are willing to lay down our life for our neighbor to rescue them and bring them to Christ.  Help us see how trying to straddle the fence is as detestable to God as a spouse trying to straddle the fence between a spouse and a lover.  May you always be number one and the only one in our lives.

Reflections on 2 Samuel 7

I think I can understand why David wanted to build a house for God.  After all, it hardly seemed fitting for David to be living in a palace while God's sanctuary was a tent.  God's response says something about the God that we serve.  He didn't need a house; he was completely content with his sanctuary being portable in a tent and never said anything about wanting to have a building.  God is a God that goes to his people.

It occurs to me that God's greatest glory is not reflected in a building made of brick and mortar and overlaid with gold and other precious material.  This may be impressive, but this is not God's ultimate temple.  Even though it may be impressive to the eyes, the work and art of human hands can in no way even begin to capture the glory of God.

Instead of David or some other man building God's house, God told David that it would be God who makes the house.  God said he would raise up a descendant of David who would build God's house, and God would be the one to establish the throne of his Kingdom forever.

Solomon, David's son, built a marvelous temple for God.  At the dedication of the temple in 1 Kings 8, Solomon prays to God about the temple.  Whenever they needed to repent and return to God, whenever they needed to turn to God to help, whenever they needed to pray to God, they would pray toward this temple and God would hear.  But Solomon recognized at the dedication that God does not dwell in temples made with hands.  God's throne is Heaven, and the earth is his footstool.  The whole universe is God's temple. 

Therefore, the house that God told David God would build is not the temple that Solomon builds.  That temple is only a shadow of what God had in mind. It would be another descendant of David who would build God's ultimate temple.  This is why Matthew specifically pointed out how Jesus was descended from David in his genealogy in the first chapter.  Jesus would be the one who would build God's house, and it would not be anything like the temple Solomon built.  In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul said that Jesus himself is the foundation of God's house.  In 1 Peter 2, Peter said that we are all living stones in God's house.  Ephesians 2  says that we, God's people, are God's dwelling.  God's temple is made up of Jesus as the living foundation, and us as the living stones.  In other words, God's temple and dwelling place is not a man made building, but a God made and redeemed people.

This reminds me that God is not confined to a place.  Like the tabernacle that was mobile, God moves about all over the place in his people.  This also reminds me that God is living and active.  He is not a mute, dumb, dead idol.  He is the living God and works in us and through us.  God's sanctuary is a holy place, which means that we, his living stones, are holy and live according to God's purposes and not our own.  God's sanctuary is never an item that is complete that sits at a certain place for people to look at.  It is always growing, always being built, always getting new living stones added to it, and always on the move. Like the sanctuary that people could turn to in order to connect with God, those who do not know God can learn of God and find God through us.  People don't go to the temple, the temple goes to them.   

Lord, please prepare us to be your sanctuary.  May we be true and loyal to Christ and never defile ourselves with actions and thoughts that are contrary to your will.  May we remain pure and holy.  May our lives reflect the righteousness, holiness, and beauty of you.  May we serve as priests, turning the eyes of all around us to you.  May people see your glory shining in your sanctuary, your temple, your house, which is what we are. 

Monday, March 14, 2016

Reflection on Joshua 2

Several questions come up concerning Rahab when I read Joshua 2.  Why did the spies that Joshua sent go to the house of a prostitute?  Why did God bless a lying Canaanite prostitute?  There are a few other questions, but I am reflecting on these two.

On the surface, it seems that the spies may have sought out the services of the prostitute.  However, this seems unlikely.  In Deuteronomy, there was a renewal of commitment to the covenant.  The covenant made adultery a capital crime.  Perhaps the spies saw the strategic advantage of staying at a house right on the city wall where they could easily escape.  Being a public place, they could hide out there and blend in with the clientele.  It was probably nothing more than a strategic move.  

When the spies were discovered, officials came to arrest them at Rahab's house.  Instead of giving them up, she hid them under some flax on her roof,  told the officials that the men had already left, and that if they hurry, they might catch up to them.  This was a bald faced lie.  In spite of this, God blessed her.  I can remember discussions I have had about ethics, honesty, and lying.  This is one of the biblical incidents that always comes up.  Rahab decided to protect the men because she recognized that they served Yahweh, the God of Heaven and Earth.  She, along with the rest of the city, had heard how Yahweh had parted the sea when they came out of Egypt and how Yahweh's people utterly defeated the Amorites.  She had a decision to make when the officials came to arrest Yahweh's spies.  She chose to stand with Yahweh, God of Heaven and Earth and protect these men.  Therefore, when she asked for herself and her family to be spared in the upcoming battle, Joshua spared her.  Judes 6:25 says that Joshua spared Rahab the harlot and her father's household and all she had and that she lived in the midst of Israel for the rest of her life.  

Over a thousand years later, Rahab's name is written into Hebrews chapter 11 as an example of faith alongside Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Moses, and others: 

Heb 11:31, "By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace."

James 2 also points to Rahab as an example of an active faith: 

James 2:24-26 says,  "You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead."

Rahab the harlot is an example of faith.  She did not tell the truth in order to protect these men who were from God.  It was not "bearing false witness against a neighbor" as the Ten Commandments prohibit, nor was it lying with malice.  This is similar to the Hebrew midwives in Exodus 1 did in Egypt.  In spite of Pharaoh's orders to them to kill Hebrew baby boys during birth, they allowed them to live because "they feared God."  When Pharaoh asked them why they did not kill the Hebrew babies when they were being born, they lied and said that the Hebrew women were so robust that by the time they got to them, their babies were already born. The text says that God was good to these midwives and established households for them, indicating that their actions found favor with GodThis might not be very different than those who in World War 2 hid and protected Jews from the Nazis against their orders.  They felt it would have been immoral to give them up to die to a tyrant.  They may have asked themselves which was the greater evil?  Was the greater evil to give over the innocent to the authorities to avoid putting themselves at risk of being arrested, or was it lying and being disobedient to an immoral tyrant to protect the innocent?  Many chose the later. 

I wonder if it is intentional that the Bible consistently refers to her as "Rahab the harlot?"  We might think this to be too indelicate.  We might want to clean it up and just refer to her as "Rahab," or "Rahab of Jericho."  We might balk at using Rahab "the harlot" as a positive example.  

But the Bible tells it like it is without trying to clean things up.  Unlike the Sunday School version which is toned down for children, the Bible itself gives an honest portrayal of its' "heroes."  Many of them were very rough characters. 

I am reminded of Origen who wrote about Rahab in the second century.  He pointed out that the first Joshua (which is actually Yehoshua, or Yeshua in Hebrew, which is the name of Jesus) sent out spies who were welcomed by a harlot.  The second Joshua, he wrote, sent out his people, whom the tax collectors and harlots welcomed gladly.  Jesus welcomed all who would come to him in faith, regardless of their backgrounds.  From the woman who was a sinner and wept at his feet, to the tax collector who made his living cheating people, to the convicted criminal dying on a cross, Jesus welcomed all who would place their faith in him.  I can imagine how much of a rag-tag group of people that must have been.  

It seems then, that what makes these people in scripture worth mentioning is not their impeccable reputation, background, or character, but their willingness to leave everything behind and follow our Lord.  We may see a rag-tag group of people, but our Lord does not see us in this way.  Ephesians 5 says that Jesus loves the church and gave himself up for her in order to dedicate her to himself, to clean her up by the washing of water with the word, and to present the church in all her glory with no spot or wrinkle or anything like that.  As a husband sees his perfect beautiful wife is how Jesus sees the church, his bride, his people.

Maybe all of this is why Rahab gets a special mention in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew.  As I go back and look at the Genealogy of Jesus, I notice that Rahab is mentioned alongside other women that are questionable in some way…

Matt 1:5-6 says, "Salmon was the father of Boaz by Rahab, Boaz was the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse. Jesse was the father of David the king. David was the father of Solomon by Bathsheba who had been the wife of Uriah.

Ruth is a Moabite, not an Israelite, yet she receives special mention.   

Bathsheba committed adultery.   

Verse 3 mentions Tamar, who, like Rahab and Bathsheba also had a history of sexual impropriety.  

So why mention these particular women?  As I look over the genealogy, I don't see Sarah mentioned, or any other woman that I might include.  Instead it is these women.  Ruth is the great grandmother of David the King, and Rahab is his great-great grandmother.  Yet, God chose David to be king because he was a man after God's own heart.  The specific mention of these women in the genealogy of David the King, and of Jesus the King of Kings, says something about the nature of our God.

Lord, please help me to see people as you do.  People have been created in your image, so you look past all the rough edges and can see your glory, and beauty, and the potential of all that we can be through your son.  Lord, let me never look down on anyone, but be welcoming to all as Jesus was.  Remind me that my best efforts and my so-called righteousness are as dirty rags to you, but you love me anyway.  Lord help me to grow in kindness and compassion and value all people as you do.  In the name of Jesus who accepted me, Amen.

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Reflection on Deuteronomy 1

I am struck by the opening of Deuteronomy.  In verse 5, it says that "Moses undertook to expound this law, saying,…" What follows is not a bare list of dos and don'ts.  It does not read like our law books today.  Instead, Moses begins to recount the history of the people.  Included in this recounting are the laws, statutes, and instructions that God gave to Israel.  So, not only does Moses recount the laws that God gave, but he also recounts the circumstances and history surrounding those laws.

This reminds me of the instruction about the Passover in Exodus.  From chapter 11-13 of Exodus, God gives instructions concerning how to keep the Passover.  However, the text does not give a bare list of instructions about how to keep the Passover, but gives the historical context as well.  Instructions for the Passover are interwoven with the story of the Passover. 

I find it interesting that the first five books of the Old Testament are referred to as "Books of Law," yet the majority of what I find in these books are historical narratives and stories about God and his people.  I have read law books in the library, and they are nothing like the "books of law" in the Bible.

What does this say about God's law, and the kind of God that we serve? 

Those who understand Hebrew will remind us that the English word, "law" doesn't carry the full range of meaning of the corresponding Hebrew word, "Torah."  Torah can be rendered law, or instruction.   The verb form or Torah means "to instruct."  This, along with the way Torah is presented, indicates that God did not give a list of arbitrary rules.  God was interested in much more than just compliance with a set of arbitrary rules.  The stories and historical accounts give a fuller picture than a bare list of dos and don'ts would have.  Even more significant is that the historical accounts surrounding the giving of the law demonstrates the nature of the God who gave them.  God's desire is not compliance, but knowledge.  He wants his people to know him and love him.  A few chapters later in chapter 6, Moses tells the people that these words were to be "on their heart," and that they were to love Yahweh, their God, with all their heart, soul, and might.  Later in their history, God will reveal through Hosea in Hosea 6 that his delight is in loyalty, or steadfast love, rather than sacrifice, and in the knowing of God rather than burnt offerings.

No wonder God refers to his people as his bride, or the child whom he loves!  God is inherently a relational God and has always desired a relationship with his people.  1 John 4 reminds us that God is love.  Therefore, his "law" or "instruction" is more like the rules and instructions that a loving parent gives to his children rather than the laws on the law books of a nation.  Out of love, God gives his Torah to his people for their good. 

This should affect how I see and understand God's laws, statutes, commandments, and instructions.  Like the Psalms exclaims in both the 19th Psalm and the 119th Psalm, I should savor them as sweeter than honey.  I should love God's law and look forward to meditating on it in the night watches.  I should rely on God's law as that which gives wisdom, understanding, and life. 

Lord, please forgive me for those times I have relied on something other than your word.  Your word reveals your goodness, compassion, holiness, and beauty.  In keeping your word there is great reward.  Lord, may I be sustained by your word because it is the word of life.  May your word be my meditation all day and all night and may it continue to transform my heart into the beauty of your holiness.  Thank you Lord for your guidance, life, and love.  In the name of your Son, Jesus, your word that has become flesh, Amen.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Reflection on Risen

Earlier this week, I went to go see the movie, "Risen" with a group from my church family.  In light of some of the other movies about biblical events, this one was quite refreshing.  The main character is a fictional character, but not out of character from what we know in scripture.  1 Corinthians 15 says that Yeshua had appeared to over 500 people.  Since his mission was ultimately the whole world, and since Yeshua had already ministered to non-Jewish people, such as the Canaanite woman and a Centurion, among others, it is reasonable to assume that some of those that Yeshua appeared to could have been Roman. 

The film fills in some of the details that the scriptural writers do not mention, such as how the tomb's seals were broken.  There are a few details that are simply not correct, such as the place of CHrist's ascension, which, according to scripture, was in Jerusalem at not in Galilee, which is what the movie seems to suggest.  But aside from these things, the movie overall is a good movie.

Some of the things that I appreciated about the movie:

1.  Jesus was a Jew.  The actor looked like a middle eastern man rather than the typical caucasian man typically seen in artistic interpretations of Jesus.  Throughout the movie, they referred to Jesus by the Hebrew pronunciation of his name, "Yeshua."  This portrayal showed the cultural, ethnic, and religious distance from Jesus and a Roman like Clavius who served the empire. 

2.  The resurrection of Yeshua was front and center.  Some times portryals of Yeshua emphasize his crucifixion and give much less attention to his resurrection.  The Apostles, in their preaching, put much greater emphasis on the resurrection.  According to the discussion 1 Corinthians 15, all of our hopes rest on the resurrection.  Without it, we are still in sin and without hope.  It was the resurrection that grabbed the attention of the Roman tribute and caused him to start to question everything that he had accepted as truth.

3.  The portrayal of those who believed Yeshua.  At one point in the movie, the Clavius is asking Peter all kinds of questions about Yeshua and his resurrection.  Peter responded by saying there was a lot of things he simply did not have the answer to.  He didn't need to know everything in order to be a follower of Christ.  It was enough that Yeshua had demonstrated that he was of God and was indeed the promissed anointed one.  At another point in the movie, Bartholomew told Clavius that at first, they really didn't understand that Yeshua would literally be resurrected from the dead.  Clavius wanted to know - why then did they followed him?  At that point, Yeshua heals a leper that stumbled on the scene.  After the leper walks away, Bartholomew smiles, looks at Clavius, and answers, "That's why!"  Yeshua gave signs to those who had ears to hear that he was indeed the Christ, with the ultimate sign beign his resurrection.  What I appreciated was how the movie showed that you do not have to have all the answers to have faith.  When Clavius sits with Yeshua as Yeshua is apparently praying, Clavius said, "I don't even know what to ask."  Here is a man that wants to know and wants to understand.  He is on a journey to faith that leads to him telling what he discovered about Yeshua to a stranger and saying at the end of the movie, "I believe."

4.  The movie invites the audience to consider Yeshua.  In portraying the journey of faith from the standpoint of an outsider who begins as an unbeliever and skeptic who becomes a believer when faced with the evidence, it invites the audience to also consider the evidence.  Jesus is risen from the dead.  What does this mean for you? 

This movie is a great reminder to all about the centrality of Christ and his resurrection to our faith.  It is also a great beginning point to starting a conversation about Jesus and the significance of both his work and his identity. 

Monday, February 22, 2016

Reflection on Numbers 22-25: Lessons from Balaam

Numbers 22:7 and 24:1 indicates that Balaam was a man who used divination and was seeking omens.  Balaam is an illustration of greed, error, and false teaching, according to 2 Peter 2:15; Jude 11, and Revelation 2:14.  The Israelites later killed Balaam, according to Joshua 13.  Balaam was not an good or godly man.

The puzzling thing is why God would speak through someone such as Balaam.  As I read the story, I see a man who claims, "I could not do anything, either small or great, contrary to the command of Yahweh my God" (Num 22:18).  I find this statement astounding.  In what sense is Yahweh the God of Balaam?  I seriously doubt that Yahweh was truly Balaam's God.  Balaam is not an Israelite and seems to only know about Israel what Balak's men or what God tell him.  Balaam is a man that appears to engage in divination and omen seeking to whatever god will work for him in at the moment.  In this case, it happens to be Yahweh.  Only in this sense can he say that Yahweh is "his God."  

I suppose if God could speak a message through Balaam's donkey, he could speak a message through someone like Balaam as well.  For God to use someone in his divine plan does not depend on whether that person is an obedient and faithful follower of God.  I am reminded of how God stirred up the heart of Cyrus, king of Persia, so that Cyrus would let Israel return from captivity and finance the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem.  I am also reminded of Judas Iscariot.  God used Judas' betrayal as part of his divine plan for Jesus to die on the cross for the sins of the world.  God can use Balaam in spite of Balaam.

As I consider Balaam, I see a man who is focused on himself.  Even though God already had told him not to go with Balak's men, Balaam tried to get further word from God.  He was hoping God would change his mind after Balak increased his offer to come and curse Israel.  The money was simply too good to turn down!  I don't know if Balaam was looking for an omen, using divination, or using some other method to seek some sign from God.  Whatever he does, it appears that he kept inquiring until he got the answer he wanted.  God finally "allowed" Balaam to go with the men.  This did not mean God was pleased with it.  Even though God permitted it, God was angry with Balaam for going after God had already said no the first time.  God sent an Angel of the Lord to stand in Balaam's path with his sword drawn and ready to strike him down.  Only Balaam's donkey could see it.   If it were not for Balaam's donkey that kept dodging the Angel of the Lord in the road, Balaam would have been struck down.

What a lesson!  When God makes his will known, that should be the end of it.  But Balaam seemed to be determined to get the answer from God that he wanted.  I suppose we can do the same thing today.  Instead of divination, we can use enlightened skepticism against the Bible so that we deem it unreliable and inapplicable to our day and age.  Instead of seeking an omen, we can misuse modern scholarship to make a passage say something different than what it actually says.  We can simply reject the Bible, or parts of it that we feel do not fit with the modern times.  We can make ourselves feel okay with what we want to do just as Balaam did.  No wonder 2 Tim 2:14 says not to wrangle about words, which is useless and leads to the ruin of the hearers!

It is simply the wrong approach to try to find a way around what God has plainly communicated.  Even if there doesn't appear to be any immediate consequence, this does not mean God is okay with it.  There may still be a consequence down the road for not being submissive to what God has communicated to us.  Even  if there is not a consequence in this life, there will be an eternal consequence for disregarding God's word.  1 Samuel 15:23 says that rebellion against God is like the sin of divination and insubordination is as the sin of idolatry.   Psalm 119:11 clearly says that God's word is settled in heaven. Isaiah 40:8 says that the grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.

Lord, please forgive us for the wrangling of words that we do.  You have communicated that this is unprofitable for us and leads to our ruin.  Help us to be open, submissive and obedient to you in order that we may please you.  Help us to never forget the transient nature of this world and everything in it.  You are the same, your years will not come to an end.  Your word stands forever.  Your word is sweet to our taste, it makes us wiser than our enemies.  Lord, even when following your word puts us extremely out of step with the world around us, help us to remember that we are not of this world, and that in the end, you will abolish all rule, authority and power. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Reflection on Numbers 1-4: God's Ledger

As I began to read the book of Numbers, it became apparent from the first chapter why it is titled the book of "Numbers."  God instructed Moses to take a census of the people of Israel.  As a result, they counted all the men old enough to fight in the army from the various tribes and were laid out by camps around the tent of meeting.  Even the Levites, who were exempted from the battlefield, were numbered and arranged by their various priestly and levitical families and duties.  When all was said and done, everyone was numbered and accounted for.

The only reason the text gives as to the purpose of this accounting was to survey the number of people eligible to go out to battle.  It gives a number of the size of the fighting force in Israel.  But for whose benefit was this?  It doesn't seem that God would need to know the number of the righting men.  The number of men is irrelevant to God, as he demonstrated with people such as Gideon in the book of Judges.  One man and God is always a majority, regardless of the size of the opposing army.

Maybe this was to be a revelation to God's people and to the nations of how God had blessed his people and multiplied them.  God wanted his people to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth, according to Genesis 1-11.  In Exodus 19, God said that Israel would be a nation of priests.  As a priestly nation, they would have special access to God and be able to demonstrate God's character and goodness to the rest of the world.  In a far clearer way than the heavens that declare the glory of God, his priestly nation would declare his glory through their observance of God's Torah that God had given to them for their good.

Maybe it is to show that God's promise was not yet fully fulfilled.  God promised a childless Abraham a son and many descendants who would eventually have a land of their own.  In fact, God had promised Abraham in Genesis 32 that his descendants would be too great to be numbered.  God's people had been granted land in Numbers, but they were too few to be numberless.  There was still yet more to be fulfilled in God's promise.  God's blessing would overflow much more than this.

In Revelation 7, we see a highly symbolic picture of God's people on the earth from each tribe accounted for in a similar way to what we see in Numbers.  However, each tribe has a symbolic apocalyptic number of 12,000.  12, the symbolic number of God's people times 1,000, which is the number of completeness multiplied.  All of God's people in their completeness were accounted for.  This reminds me of the numbering of the tribes in the book of Numbers.  This was an accounting of the military force of God's people.  This is a reminder that God's people are in a state of spiritual conflict while on this earth.  After all, Jesus said that we are not of the world, and the world loves its own, but hated Christ and his followers.  But the text in Revelation also says that they were "sealed."  So not only was every single person accounted for in God's army, but God placed his seal on them to identify them as belonging to him and protect them. 

Then, the scene shifts up to Heaven, the throne room of God.  The text describes it as a "multitude which no one could count from every tribe, nation, people and tongues." This is a reminder of the promise that God made to Abraham that through his seed all the families of the earth would be blessed and that his descendants would be innumerable.  God's people, who are from every tribe, nation, and language, are safe in the hands of God.

This reminds me that God is faithful to his promises.  At times it may seem as though we are alone and God does not see us.  Sometimes we may forget about God's promises, but God never forgets.  God sees our struggle and hardships and nothing is ever beyond his notice.  Jesus makes this point when he talks about how God numbers even the hair on our head.  In Matthew 10:29-31, he said, "Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.  But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows."

Jesus, the good shepherd, has accounted for every single sheep.  All of us are on his heart, and none of us are beneath his notice.  We are much more than a number to him.  In John 10, I am reminded that Jesus said that he knows his sheep by name.  In his book of life, we are more than a number.  He has our names, which he knows intimately, written in his book of life.   In fact, it is even more intimate than this.  In Isaiah 49:15-16, God says, "Can a woman forget her nursing child And have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.  Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; Your walls are continually before Me."  God has us tattooed or etched on his hands.  We are much more than a number and much more than a name in a book to our God.  We are near to his heart like a baby is to his mother!

Lord, how loving, kind, and compassionate you are!  You are our Father, and you are our Mother.  You protect us and provide for us.  You love us and nurture us.  Thank you for reminding us of these things in your word so that we can grow in hope, and encouragement.  Help us to see ourselves and one another the way that you see us.  Help us to love as you love.  Help us to look to Jesus as our example of true love in action.  Thank you in his name, Amen!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Reflection on Leviticus 4: Leadership

Since I have been thinking a lot about spiritual leadership, one of the passages from Leviticus 4 jumped out at me.   There is a section that describes what to do in the case of some sort of corporate sin among the people.  Like other sin offerings, the people were to bring a bull from the herd to the sanctuary so that the priest could offer it up as a sin offering.  However, unlike the other sin offerings, God specified that it was the elders of the congregation that were to lay their hands on the head of the bull before it was offered up as a sin offering.

I am picturing in my mind how this may have looked and how this might have affected the people.  Can you imagine how it would have affected them to watch their leaders humbly approach the sanctuary, lay their hands on the sin offering, and seek forgiveness from God?  Can you imagine the effect it would have if they were to hear their elders confess the sin of the congregation and ask God for forgiveness and reconciliation on behalf of the people they lead and represent?

I am reminded of Moses, who stood in solidarity with his people when they sinned in Exodus 32.  Moses told God to blot his name out of God's book if God would not forgive the sins of his people.  I am also reminded of Jesus, who is the prophet like Moses.  Jesus also stood in solidarity with his people.  Like Moses, Jesus stood with his people even in their sin.  In fact, Jesus actually carried our sin!  

I am also reminded of Josiah in 1 Kings 22.  When he discovered that all of the people had completely neglected God's law, he tore his robes as a sign of mourning led the way in national repentance.  There is also the example of Jonah who went and preached divine destruction to the city of Nineveh.  The king set the example with humble repentance and mourning.  God then relented and did not destroy the city. 

I am also reminded of Moses' reaction when he saw his people begin to complain and rebel against him as God's leader and against God himself in places like Numbers 14 and Numbers 16.  Moses' first reaction was to fall flat on his face as prostrate himself.  He knew the holiness and wrath of God, especially since the people now had a history of rebellion against God.  As their leader, Moses fell flat on his face as to humble himself before God so that perhaps God might be merciful in spite of their rebellion.

This reminds me that repentance and humility are part of what makes for a good leader.  A leader does not stand apart or against his people.  He stand with them and for them.  A leader will model humility and repentance in solidarity with the people.  A leader would lay down his life for his people.  A leader genuinely loves his people.

Reflection On Exodus 20: God's Name

Often times, when I am thinking of God's law, I think of the tablets of stone on which were written the Ten Commandments. As a child, I can remember the drills we did on the JOY Bus in reciting the Ten Commandments. They began with, "You shall have no other gods." 
However, as I am reading text once again in Exodus 20, I am reminded that God did not begin with "You shall have no other gods." Instead, God began with "I am the LORD, your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery." As I am reading, I notice that LORD is spelled in all caps, which is the traditional way translators render God's personal name, "Yahweh." For a long time, I hadn't really noticed this. God says, with "I am YAHWEH, your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery." 
In a very significant way, these words affect how I read and understand God's law. God doesn't begin by throwing out a bunch of arbitrary rules and laws. Instead, God begins with his personal name, Yahweh. 
In Exodus 6, God indicates that this is something new. In past times, he appeared as "God Almighty," but not by his personal name, "Yahweh." This makes me think of times when I offer my personal name to people. I don't go around offering my name out to just anyone. When I offer my name, it is usually because I am initiating some sort of relationship. This makes me somewhat vulnerable to other persons needs and wishes. It opens up a greater possibility of being hurt by someone. This is why I don't just offer my name to everyone. 
Yet, God has given his personal name. He has initiated a relationship with his people. This is not a distant God merely giving arbitrary laws, but a God who is coming down to make a personal covenant with his redeemed people, a people he refers to as his special treasure (Ex 19:5-6). This is a God who has come down to be in their midst in his sanctuary tabernacle he will have them build.
This reminds me of when we took our wedding vows. It was an extremely personal and intimate moment. "I, John, take you, Stacey to be my wedded wife. . . " We were covenanted to each other to love, cherish, and honor each other. This is essentially what God does at Sinai when he begins with his personal name rather than with the first of his covenant stipulations.
This reminds me that God's word, like our wedding vows, are extremely personal and precious. It is next to the heart of God. God's word expresses how we are faithful in our covenant with God. We are now called by his name because we are his bride, and his children. No wonder the Psalmist had such a high regard and love for God's word in the 119th Psalm!

Reflection on Exodus 1-2: When You are Stuck in Chapter 2

Exodus 2:23 says that in the course of those many days, the king of Egypt died, and the sons of Israel sighed because of their bondage and cried out.

For years, I read quickly over Exodus chapter one and two.  Because so much time is compressed in those two chapters, I don't think I ever fully appreciated how difficult those chapters were.  Whether it is in the burning bush, the plagues or the pillar of fire in the wilderness, God is intensely present throughout the book of Exodus.  Well, he is intensely present throughout all of the book of Exodus except for chapters one and two.

I don't know how bad those "many days" were, but they were bad enough for an entire nation to groan and cry.  They probably saw no end in sight.  They probably could not envision better days ahead.  They were probably overcome with depression, grief, uncertainty, fear, and despair. 

Before jumping ahead to the burning bush, perhaps it would be good for me to consider chapter two.  There are times in life when we are in chapter two, and we can't just turn the page.  Chapter two seems to be the end.  We can't see anything better down the road. 

However, Exodus 2:24 says that God heard their groaning, remembered his covenant, and took notice.  We may not be able to turn the page, but God can.  He provides future chapters full of hope, a better future, redemption and deliverance.  He writes the conclusion when he will wipe all tears from our eyes and will destroy all death, pain, mourning, and sickness.  Then we will live in complete peace with him.

Sermon Reflection: Foundations

As I consider the words of Dave's Sermon about a good foundation, I find myself reflecting on his illustration of rebar.  I am not a builder like Dave and therefore do not know the procedure for pouring a good foundation for a building.  However, I do understand the value of rebar being laid in the concrete.  I have seen how concrete can crack.  I imagine that without rebar, those cracks can turn into breaks, which can lead to the concrete breaking up into smaller pieces and no longer sticking together. 

In order for my faith to be strong and carry the load, it needs to built up with God's rebar.  I am reminded of things like the Word, fellowship, prayer, service, and many other things that God has provided to strengthen us from the foundation up.  Do I try to build with my own materials, or do I faithfully allow God's rebar to strengthen me inwardly?

I find myself reflecting on one of the passages from the sermon.   1 Peter 2 seems to indicate that my disposition and attitude can actually change how the building material looks.   

For those who believe, the Bible says that God lays a "choice stone," a "precious cornerstone" and that "he who believes in him will not be disappointed." 

However, this stone looks different to those who do not believe.  For those who do not believe, it is a "stone of stumbling" and a "rock of offense." 

How can the same stone be so different for different people?  When I came inside this morning, I didn't stumble over the corner stone, the foundation stone, rebar, or any other building material.  Why?  The builders faithfully made it a part of the building and it now performs its function. 

However, the half-built building down the road is another story.  Someone did not use the proper materials and had to abandon it.  It leans and is not safe.  Bricks, rebar, nails, and other building materials are laying around and make the area unsafe.  This is the picture I get of one who disbelieves and does not use the building material that God has provided but has substituted his own building materials.  The material God provided lays on the ground, neglected, and is now a tripping hazard for those who choose not to believe.  

This is kind of what my life would look like if I did not have the proper foundation and faithful use the building materials from God.  Whether it is my family, my job, or anything else in my life, if I don't build using God's materials according to his blueprints, then my life will eventually fall in.  If it doesn't happen now, it definitely will happen when my time on earth ends.   

I do not want to build with inferior materials that will fail in the end.  I do not want God's stone to be a stone of offense or a stone of stumbling for myself.  How bad would it be to reject the only thing that will last for eternity!  How ironic would it be to stumble over what can save me rather than pick it up and utilize it!  How sad it would be to have passed on what is best in favor of what is withering away!  I want God's stone to be my chief cornerstone.  I want it to be the foundation of my life.  I want it to be what I build my education, my career, my family, my friendships, and my legacy on.  I want to accept God's rebar to give me the lasting strength that only he can give.

It seems then, that the question is simple.  Will I believe and be faithful and obedient so that God's foundation stone can become my dependable and unfailing foundation for all eternity?  Or will I be unfaithful and disobedient so that God's foundation stone is nothing more than a stone of offense or stumbling, leaving me with stones that will break, crumble and fail, leading to my eternal death?

A Storm is Coming. Am I Ready?

They say a storm is coming. One of the largest companies in town actually will be closed tomorrow because of the coming storm. I looked outside my window. The sky is blue, the sun is out, and it is a great day for January. I went outside and took a picture of the sky. What a beautiful day it is.

If one did not hear the weather report, he might not have any idea of the snow, ice, and freezing temperatures headed our way. Some might even scoff at the idea when looking at how beautiful it is outside. However, the warning has been issued. There is a storm headed this way. Some reports have said there would be nearly two feet of snow. Those that have taken heed of the warnings have stocked up on supplies for home.

I am reminded of biblical warnings of coming storms. The ultimate storm in the Old Testament was not a snowstorm, but a worldwide flood. No one survived except Noah and his family because they were faithful to God and therefore found favor with God. They obeyed God's instruction to prepare for the storm by building an Ark and were saved.

The ultimate storm in the New Testament will be a storm of fire and brimstone. This storm will destroy the entire world. It may not seem like it. Life is beautiful, the skies are clear, and the warning was given in scripture so long ago. It seems like a fairy tale to some people.

This reminds me of the passage in 2 Peter 3.

"Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, 'Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.' For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men" (2 Pet 3:3-7).

The next worldwide storm will not be a flood as in the day of Noah, but will be a storm of fire and brimstone. The flood will seem like a light sprinkle compared to the coming tempest of fire.

However, God has provided a way to prepare for this coming storm. As God saved Noah because he was faithful and obedient to Him, so we also can be saved if we are faithful and obedient to God. I am reminded of the passage in 1 Peter 3

"For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you--not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience--through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him" (1 Pet 3:18-22).

God has provided a way to be rescued. As God saved Noah through the water in his faithful obedience to God, God saves us through baptism by the death and resurrection of Christ in our faithful obedience. Through Christ, God has provided a way to be rescued from the coming storm.

There may be those who may deny that there will be a storm just as they likely did in the days of Noah. One may be offended at the warnings and ignore them. One may discount the warnings and say that no storm is coming at all. No matter how vehemently someone may wish to ignore and discount the warnings, it does not change the reality of what is coming.

God loves us, therefore he has given us instructions on how to be ready for the storm when it comes. This will not be a snow storm, nor will it be a flood. It will be a storm of fire and brimstone. 2 Peter 3:10 says that the earth and everything in it will be destroyed. Through Christ, God will rescue those who are faithful and obedient to him. Only Christ can be our lifeboat that can survive the fire.

When I look up and see the blue sky, I need to be reminded that a storm is coming that will burn away even that blue sky. I need to be prepared for it by being faithful to God and obedient to his instructions just as Noah was. Our Lord is preparing a new heaven and new earth that has a beauty, magnificence, and glory that does not even compare with this.

Reflection on Genesis 44: Divination in God's Family?

In Genesis 30, Laban tells Jacob, "I have divined that the LORD has  blessed me on your account."  Through divination, Laban figures out that  the reason he has been so prosperous over the years is because Jacob  has God's favor and he has been indirectly blessed by this.   

In  Genesis 44, when Joseph meets his brothers after years of living in  Egypt, he has his cup secretly placed in Benjamin's bag.  But it is not  just any ordinary cup. It is the cup that Joseph uses for divination. 

Apparently,  even though these folks seemed to follow Yahweh, they still were  engaging in the pagan practice of divination.  I am reminded of when  Saul was told in 1 Samuel 15 that "rebellion is as the sin of  divination."  This indicates that divination is something that God finds  abhorrent.

I wonder, under what circumstances did they  practiced divination?  Why didn't they seek the Lord for guidance?  Was  divination a way they tried to find guidance from Yahweh?  Didn't they  understand that Yahweh is not bound by spells, incantations, or any  other attempts to try and manipulate him?   Did they not know that this is actually a pagan notion and not a true view of God? 

I wonder if we have pagan notions of God, or some other unbiblical notion of God that affects how we approach him?  I wonder if  we have our own ways of trying to manipulate him.  Maybe it is  bargaining with God, or thinking that using a verbal formula or posture for  praying will be the thing to make him do something.  What forms of “divination” do we have in our lives? 

How patient God is as we grow in  our understanding! How merciful he is even in our stubbornness!  In spite of our immaturity, God still blesses us due  to his graciousness, just as he blessed Laban, Jacob or Joseph through the rough times  in  life.  Truly, God is Good! 

Lord, please for give us for our foolish ways.  May we always seek you as you are, not not as we wish you to be.  Help us to humbly seek you through your word and to be faithful and devoted to your in spite of our weaknesses.  Thank you Lord for your long-suffering patience. 

Adam's Transformation

"Arrrrgh! Me do it! Go away!"

Adam was determined to do it all by himself. His mother, Ruah, had tried to sit her tiny son on her lap to guide him through the process. Ruah thought that little Adam might have ODD and had him tested. After several visits, everyone discovered that Adam did no have ODD after all. He was just a stubborn child.

The incident at school that sent them to the doctor to get Adam tested for ODD was three years ago. The school regularly had problems with Adam. Ruah remembered how she cringed every time her cell phone would ring during work. It was either her mother in Omaha, or it was the school calling about Adam.

Ruah remembered that dreaded phone call like it was yesterday . . .

"Mrs. Ruah Devine?"

"Yes, can I help you?"

"This is Mrs. Granger at Crossway Academy. We have a problem with Adam and need you to come and get him."

She sighed, "What did he do this time?"

"Well, it was time to come in from the playground and he refused. We tried to coax him inside, but nothing work. When Miss Thompson held out her hand to him, he bit it and took a chunk of skin with it. Miss Thompson had to go to the hospital."

That was his last day. They asked her not to bring him back.

Here they were, three years later. The stubbornness had gotten better, but it was still a challenge.

Ruah watched Adam twist his shoestrings around his fingers, holding his tongue out of the corner of his mouth in concentration.

"Son, you are going to get it into a knot. Here, let me…"

"No!" shouted Adam, "Adam do it!" Adam ran across the room.

Pursing her lips in frustration, Ruah answered, "Fine. Do it yourself." With that, Ruah went down the hall to the kitchen to fix breakfast.

Right as she inserted the bread into the toaster, she heard a frustrated growl followed by a scream from down the hall. She wanted to run down the hall, but stopped herself. She was very familiar with this sound. She paused and listened. Then she heard Adam's familiar "Arrrrgh!"

Silence. . . Then the sound of sobs.

"Mommy! Me can't do it!" Adam sobbed.

With that, Ruah went back down the hall and walked into Adam's room.

"Do you need help Adam?" She replied.

"Yes," said Adam, as he held back his sobbing "please help me Mommy!"

Adam looked up and saw his mother standing in his doorway with her hands over her mouth. She just stood there a moment looking at him, trying not to laugh. Adam's fingers were tangled in his shoestrings. His hands were stuck. She gathered her composure, knelt down in front of him, and looked straight into his eyes. "Adam, look at me… if you want me to help, then you have to let me show you how to do it without interrupting me …you can't run away…you can't argue. Do you understand?"

Adam stopped sobbing, and looked back down at the tangled mess that had enslaved his hands. "Yes mommy."

With that, she picked Adam up, sat down in the chair by the bed, and sat him in her lap. After gracefully undoing the knot and freeing his fingers, she took his hands in hers and began to guidthem through the process of tying his shoes. Adam started to protest again.

"Adam, do you remember what I said?"

Adam sighed and quietly stopped his protest.

With his mother's hands to guide his hands, they made a beautifully tied knot on both of his shoes.

"Adam, we are going to need to do this several times until you are comfortable with doing this yourself? Do you understand?"

"Yes mommy. Can I go eat breakfast now?" asked Adam.

"Yes, Adam. Why don't we……"

. . . . . . .

"What are you thinking about?"

"Huh?" said Adam, as he snapped back into the present.

"Are you ready to go on?" asked Dr. Dodd. "It looks like your mind was a million miles away."

"Oh," said Adam "Actually, my mind was about 40 years away. I was thinking of my mother and when I was growing up."

"Well, it's time. Dr. Winklestein is about to give your introduction. Are you ready?" Asked Dr. Dodd.

"Yes," Adam replied.

Adam looked across over the wall to wall crowd as Dr. Winklestein began. . . "Today, it is my privilege to introduce Doctor Adam Land. . ."

Adam gathered himself as Dr Winklestein finished his introduction. He picked up his notes and Bible from the chair beside him, and walked with a smile to the podium.

"Control," he began as he looked at the overflow conference crowd, "It is an illusion. That is something I had to learn at a very early age. There is a reason why the Bible says to be still and know that he is God. The more we try to control things, the more frustrated and rebellious we became. I know because I was a very stubborn child. My stubborn tendency caused me to become angry, bitter and frustrated. When I became older, I finally learned what faith was all about. It is about letting go of control. It is about letting God guide your hands, your feet, your heart, and your mind. And so, let's open our Bibles…."