Sunday, March 27, 2011

Cry of the Poor

If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered. (Pro 21:13)

Lord, I know that I don’t do nearly enough to help people in need. I live a cloistered life. All my family and friends and coworkers are well fed and have good homes. How often do I concern myself with those who are less fortunate – those who are barely making it, or those who have no jobs at all? Lord, could it be that my prayers are not answered because I have hardened by heart to the suffering around me? How can I be a man of God if I have no compassion for the poor? And how can I be compassionate if I fail to act? Lord, I will open my heart to the poor. I will begin to serve those in need. Forgive me for my self-absorption and remind me of the promise I make today. Amen.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Ruler of Men's Hearts

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his officials so that I may perform these miraculous signs of mine among them.” (Ex 10:1)

God’s plan for Israel from the very beginning was to engineer a miraculous deliverance for them from Egypt. But his plan of blessing for them came at the cost of great suffering and hardship for the Egyptians. Pharaoh was willing to let his people endure ten great plagues before he finally let the Israelites go. After the first five plagues the Bible says Pharaoh hardened his heart, but with the sixth plague something different happened. God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. For plague seven, again Pharaoh hardened his own heart, but then God had given him all the chances he was going to get. For the final three plagues God made sure Pharaoh’s heart was hard so he would not relent. Was that unfair? I don’t think so. Everything we have is a gift from God and he gives us many chances to turn our hearts to him. Many chances, yes, but there will be one time that is the last time. I pray for lost loved ones that God will give them many chances to repent, that God will not shorten their lives.

Lord, when I read this grim story of the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart a glimmer of hope comes into my mind. I know that if you can harden hearts you can also soften them. Just as you turned Saul from persecutor to apostle in one dramatic moment on the Damascus road, you can change a lost person's heart in an instant. You changed my heart in just that way. Lord, I will continue to pray for your miraculous hand to save the lost. Soften their hearts and grant them mercy. Amen.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Numbering Our Days

Show me, O Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life. (Ps 39:4)

Why would David want God to reveal to him the date he was going to die? Because he wanted to be reminded how little time we have to serve God in this world. In the previous verses David tells of the powerful conviction he felt when he remained silent in the presence of evil. Finally he speaks when he can remain silent no longer (v3). But why do we ever put off doing what we know we should do? We delay because we are lazy or selfish or afraid. We act like we have all the time in the world, but David knew differently. “Each man’s life is but a breath.” (v5) What God has called me to do I must do now and not later. “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you!” (Lk 12:20) That is how God rebuked the man who hoarded his wealth in Jesus’ parable. Lord, forgive me for wasting my time when I should be “about my Father’s business.” You have given me one life to live, and I want to live it for you. Remind me how short my days are when I am tempted to procrastinate. Amen.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Who Am I That I Should Go?

But Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (Ex 3:11)

We criticize Moses for being reluctant to obey, but actually he is asking an excellent question here. When God commanded Moses to go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt, the worst thing Moses could have done is charge in on his own to obey. It would have been foolhardy for Moses to rely on his position as a former prince of Egypt, or his skill as a warrior, or any other worldly ability. By asking “Who am I” he rightly recognizes that on his own he is doomed to fail. But it was not God’s intention for Moses to go alone. God’s reply to Moses is, “I will be with you.” (v12)

Now Moses should have said, “Yes, Lord.” But he continued to question God’s command. When we reply to the Lord’s command by saying, “But, but, but…” we must understand we are no longer doubting ourselves; we are doubting God. He is fully able to accomplish in us whatever work he commands us to perform. Thank you, Lord, that you choose us, inadequate vessels that we are, to do your will. Teach me not to doubt that even with all my flaws you can do great things through me. Amen.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

From Prince to Frog

Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. (Ex 3:1a)

In the fairy tales, the princess kisses the frog and he turns into a handsome prince. In the story of Moses, it seems at first as though God has it backwards. He takes Moses, a prince of Egypt, and turns him into a shepherd. Shepherding was a lowly profession in Egypt. Gen 46:34 tells us that shepherds were despised by the Egyptians. Imagine what Moses must have thought about the turn his life had taken. He was the prince whom God had turned into a frog! Or so it seemed. But God had a different idea. He had a bigger plan for Moses than being a pampered royal prince in Egypt. After 40 years of shepherding sheep, he was ready to be a shepherd of God’s people.

How often do I misunderstand the turns my life has taken? Illnesses, failures, disappointments – they don’t seem like the stuff of a great master plan for my life. But they are! Every hardship and every failure, if I’m willing to learn from them, molds me into the kind of man God can use for his glory. Lord, I am willing to learn. Redeem my failures by teaching me to be your obedient disciple. Lead me through the hard times and train me up as a man of faith to be your witness. Thank you, Lord, for your great plan for my life. Amen.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Least of These

I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me. (Mt 25:45)

How often do I have a chance to help someone but choose not to? How often do I ignore those in need? How often do I not even notice? Too often! I am selfishly absorbed in my own wants and comfort. I choose me over others. But in this passage Jesus is telling us that the heart of a true Christian is focused on others. And who are those others? Who are “the least of these?” They are the invisible ones, the nobodies who have nobody to care for them. God forgive me for retreating to the comfort of my home with hardly a thought for those in need. I may write a check, but I assume others will get involved in the messy business of people’s lives. But Jesus had something more personal in mind than that. Jesus loved the unlovable. As much as the miracles or the great teaching, it is what defined him. Society’s greatest outcasts found hope and comfort in him. Lord, I want to be like you. Forgive me for ignoring “the least of these.” Teach me to see them as you see them, and to love them as much as you have loved me. Amen.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Sin of the Sadducees

Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.” (Mt 22:29)

The Sadducees tried to trip up Jesus with a tricky question about the resurrection, but Jesus would have none of it. He rebuked them because they knew neither God nor his word. The funny thing is, the specific question they asked is one that I don’t think any Bible scholars would know the answer to today if Jesus’ answer had not been recorded here in Scripture. So why was he all over them? Because he could see their hearts. The cynical, worldly Sadducees didn’t even believe in the resurrection; they just wanted to make Jesus look foolish. So Jesus goes straight to the heart of their issue: “You do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.”

So my first thought when I read that is, stupid Sadducees! You tell ‘em, Jesus. But I have to stop and ask myself, do I really know the Scriptures and the power of God? And I think the answer is, much less than I like to think. Do I live my life like someone who believes in a God who raises people from the dead? Do I experience the power of God in my life? Do I expect God to move powerfully in my life? If I had really taken the Scriptures to heart I would. I think I talk like a disciple but live like a Sadducee. Lord, help me to expect great things. Help me to have faith that you will act in a mighty way. You are the God who raises men from the dead! You rose from the dead! No question is too hard for you and no problem too great. Remind me of that when I falter. Keep me from the sin of the Sadducees.