Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Sticks & Stones, Feathers, and Leprosy

Sticks & Stones, Feathers, and Leprosy
Leviticus 13:2:  “When anyone has a swelling or a rash or a bright spot on his skin that may become an infectious skin disease, he must be brought to Aaron the priest or to one of his sons who is a priest.”

            Ten year old Shakira wasn’t ready to leave school yet.  Kids surrounded one little boy who crouched down with his hands over his head.  “Leave him alone!” Shakira demanded.  As the kids drifted off to their busses, Shakira helped the little boy to his feet.  “Don’t mind them,” she said.  “You’ll return to school a little taller and they will have totally forgotten this.”

            People often speak harshly to one another, so kids learn early to grow what is known as a “thick skin”.  Words are like arrows.  Cruel people know exactly where to aim arrows to cause the most damage.  Surely, this child will return to school a little wiser.  He won’t allow word arrows to cut him to the core in the future.

            “Sticks & Stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me!”

             That’s not true.  Words hurt!

            God rules the serious offense of speaking harshly about others equal to a skin disease that kills.  That’s why we’re created with two gates to contain the weapon of words from shooting out of the mouth.  Teeth and lips can clamp shut, preventing the escape of harsh words. 

            Leprosy is a scary physical disease that disfigures one’s appearance.  Leprosy disrupts people’s lives, separating the diseased from others…because leprosy is contagious [kon-TA-juss].   Contagious means easily spread from one person to another.  God is serious.  Speaking harsh words intended to hurt others is a sin.  Once shot out of the mouth, words’ direction is beyond our control.  Their effect is often   deadly.  That’s why the Hebrew term for someone with a disease like leprosy is labelled motzi-shem-ra, which means “spoke badly about another person”.

            See the lesson linked below for how Old Testament people with a skin disease were treated and what the New Testament advises to avoid this sin.

Take Home Nugget

            Once there was a man who enjoyed insulting someone.  Later, he regretted his words.  He asked a priest for forgiveness, promising to restore the person’s good name.  He was told to cut open a feather pillow and watch the feathers scatter in the wind.  After he did that, the priest told him to collect the feathers.

            “That’s impossible!” the man admitted. 
            “Right,” the priest said.  “Once words leave the mouth, no one can put them back, or trace how far they spread.” 

Holy Father, please help me to think before I speak so that I never hurt another with my words.  I ask this in Jesus’ Name, Amen. 

 Adapted from devotion “Feathers in the Wind” from Holy Land Moments.com.  Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein.  April 26, 2017.

J.D. Griffith 
                



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Friday, May 19, 2017

Our Father Knows

OUR FATHER KNOWS

Matthew 6:31-32:  “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.”

            “Run after” is the Greek word epizeteo, that means use all your might with sweat and stress.  But epizeteo isn’t how our heavenly Father created His kids to live.  Our Father knows what we need: food, drink, and clothes.  He promises to provide everything we need to live. 
            See God’s guarantee of provision in the lesson, below.  Our Father never intended for us to run after things we need. 

            He always wants us to seek Him first!

            Zeteo is the Greek word for “seek”.  Jesus’ native Aramaic was initially translated into the Greek language.  Greek words are defined specifically.  Zeteo means to hunger, to pant after, or worship.  English words can mean more than one specific thing.  (Consider the English word sit.  Sit can mean take a seat, rest, meet together, or even be placed).  Zeteo simply means to want something without really trying. 

            Jesus is clear in Matthew 6:33:  “Seek FIRST the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things [food, drink, and clothes] will be given to you as well.”  Caps added to emphasize God’s priority. 

            The Greek word for “first” is proton.  Proton means first in order of importance, the highest place in our affections.  Our Father created us in His likeness so that we might form a relationship.  He wants first place in our lives.  Anything other than God claiming first place in our lives is an idol.  An idol is over whatever or whomever we obsess.  It could be a star athlete or Hollywood actor, a statue, icon, or symbol.  An idol replaces God’s rightful first place in people’s lives. 

            Sooo: hungering after God’s kingdom more than anything is how our Father wants His kids to live.  But what is God’s kingdom?  Romans 14:17 says, “The kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.”  God’s kingdom lives within whomever accepts Jesus as Lord and Savior. 

            God’s Spirit living inside Christians is His righteousness, peace, and joy.  The Holy Spirit meets all of Jesus’ conditions to receive everything we need to live! 
          
Take Home Nugget

            Every Believer-in-Christ can proclaim first thing each morning, “I am the righteous of God in Christ!”  (2 Corinthians 5:21).  Then, we fulfilled seeking the kingdom of God AND His righteous first every day. 
            And then we never need be concerned with getting what we need to live.  What a gift! 

Thank You Father for knowing AND providing everything we need to live, including Jesus!  Amen. 

Adapted from devotion “Seek First God’s Kingdom” from www.JosephPrince.org.   April 21, 2017.
J.D. Griffith                 



                   Written for http://www.Biblestudyforkids.com  

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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Miraculous Times


MIRACULOUS TIMES

Leviticus 20:22:  “‘Keep My decrees and laws and follow them, so that the land I am giving you to live may not vomit you out.’”

            Mark Twain visited Israel on a trip to the Holy Land in the year 1867.  Here is how he described Israel:  “A desolate country given over wholly to weeds … a silent mournful expanse … a desolation … we never saw a human being on the whole route … hardly a tree or shrub anywhere.  Even the olive tree and the cactus, those fast friends of a worthless soil, had almost deserted the country.”

            The Hebrews’ absence from Canaan, the land God promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (who God renamed Israel), began with Joseph around 1200 B.C.  Joseph was sold by his brothers to a traveling caravan.  The caravan sold Joseph to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officials.  Joseph made such a great impression on Egyptian officials—both in and out of jail—that Pharaoh placed him in charge of all of Egypt.

            The Israelites—including Joseph’s family—fled Canaan for Egypt during a famine around 1250 B.C.  The Egyptian timeline is found in Genesis 37:25-Exodus 13:17.  430 years after Joseph, God sent Moses to convince Pharaoh to free the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.  God, Himself, led them back to Canaan.
      
            While Israeli slavery in Egypt began as a choice, Israeli exile to Babylon happened from disobedience to God.  Around 720-450 B.C., the Hebrew nation was hauled off to Babylon.  Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, and Daniel tell an awesome, often heartbreaking story of captivity in Babylon.  
  
            What that famous writer saw and wrote about so many years ago appears exactly what the opening Scripture predicted.  The land did, in fact, vomit the inhabitants out!  It was only a matter of time when the people disobeyed God’s laws before the land spat them out!  

            Mark Twain’s visit to Israel in 1867 was about eighty years before Israel became a nation on May 14, 1948.  After the United Nations recognized Israel as an independent, sovereign country in the Middle East, Arab countries of Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria attacked Israel. 
  
Take Home Nugget

            Amos 9:14-15 predicted in the 8th century B.C.: “‘I will bring back my exiled people to Israel; they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them.  They will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will plant gardens and eat their fruit.  I will plant Israel in their own land, never again to be uprooted from the land I have given them,’ says the LORD your God.”

            Today, we’re wide-eyed on Israel watching miraculous times—biblical prophecies come true.
Holy LORD, Mark Twain described Israel as a “silent mournful expanse.”  Thank You for transforming her to an abundant garden today!
     
Adapted from devotion “Living Prophecies” from Holy Land Moments.com.  Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein.  May 5, 2017.
J.D. Griffith     
            



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Friday, May 12, 2017

Honor & Privilege


HONOR & PRIVILEGE

Philippians 2:1-11

Philippians 2:5-9:  “Your attitude should be the same as Christ Jesus: Who, being in the very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross.”

            Children are blessings from God.  (See the lesson linked below).

            The honor and privilege of being a mother never lessens when sacrificial servanthood is needed.  Every woman who carried a baby in her womb also conceals a sacrificial servant story.  Many will never admit what they refused pursuing when pregnancy altered their lives. 

            Others confess that having children was their life purpose and never sacrificed a thing.  Serving others is some people’s best quality.

            But women forget. 

            She forgot the morning sickness.  She forgot how her body adjusted to a growing bowling ball for months.  The most dreaded event she forgot was labor.  She forgot every inconvenient sacrifice and numbing service (2:00 AM feedings) when her newborn first nestled into her arms. 

            Peering into space, it has no idea what’s happening.  Momma’s voice is the only constant companion in its tiny world.  Naturally, mom coos softly to her infant.  Her voice directs where new eyes scan upwards to focus on her own.  Sacrifice comes automatically.  Mom decides then that she’d do anything to keep her infant safe—from all harm. 

            There are times when constant sacrifice wears thin and serving others becomes anything other than an honor and privilege.  As Jesus spent three years leading a bunch of stragglers, even He wondered aloud how much more must He endure?  Answering Philip in John 14:9a: “Don’t you know Me, Philip, even after I have ben with you such a long time?  Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father…” 

            This happened hours after Jesus had shown the best example of sacrificial servanthood (John 13:3-16).  He knelt down and washed His disciples’ dusty, smelly feet.  Then He suggested, (commanded) that His followers copy this humble example of serving others. 

Take Home Nugget

            It’s only when people stoop down and get dirty that they discover the gold inside the lining of servanthood.  “Dying to self” while pouring our lives into another, “picking up our crosses”, creates the godly legacy that’s remembered for generations (Luke 9:23).  

            Mothers forget to remember the honor and privilege that serving her family is.

            What greater blessing of becoming truly filled can anyone find other than in God’s perfect design of motherhood?

Heavenly Father, thank You for giving me the honor and privilege to lead and serve children.  Yours is the gift that keeps on giving eternally!  Amen.
                  

Adapted from devotion “The Service of Motherhood” from www.intouch.org.  Dr. Charles Stanley.  May 8, 2017.

                                            Happy Mother's Day!
J.D. Griffith   
              



                   Written for http://www.Biblestudyforkids.com  

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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Purposeful Living

PURPOSEFUL LIVING

Leviticus 19:2:  “Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy.’”

            What does this mean?  How can we obey God's command to be holy?

            Kadosh is the Hebrew root word for holy.  The blessing over wine when sharing Christ in the sacrament of Communion is Kiddush.  The blessing recited over a marriage is kedushin.  When a person dies, a Jewish male says a prayer called the kaddish. 

            What do they teach us about holiness?

            The blessing recited during the Sacrament of Communion is distinct [disTINKT] meaning separate from all other Sabbaths or holidays. The Believer stands before God, exclusively His.  The blessing said over a marriage couple makes them distinct from other couples who have not vowed to remain exclusive to each other.  The kaddish prays for the deceased to draw ever closer to God, separated from the living.

            Kadosh means holy by means of separation.  Drinking Christ’s blood or wine during the Sacrament or Holy Supper separates His Believers from all other people.  The husband and wife promise to remain separate from all others, their holy union exclusive unto themselves.  As the dead soul gathers closer to Holy God, the living dissolves into a separate realm. 

            Kadosh is the root of the word for holy, just as believers are separate, or set apart exclusively for God from the world.  Christians are in the world but are not of the world.  God wants His kids to mirror Christ in the world and be separate from all others of the world. 
 See lesson linked below.

            All three situations separate from one thing in order to come closer to another.  God’s idea of holiness are lives exclusively dedicated to serving Him.  Holy lives abandon all stuff that subtracts from that purpose. 

            God has the right to ask His kids to be holy.  He set us apart exclusively for Him. 

Take Home Nugget

            May Believers-in-Christ live purposeful lives, exclusive only to God.  We know our purpose is to cooperate with God’s Spirit and grow spiritually into Christ-likeness.  We recognize that our purpose is to share Christ with others who are lost.  We accept our purpose to sprinkle Christ salt and shine His light throughout the world.

            In short, everything we do lines up with God’s purpose.

            When we forget his, we live “by accident.” 

            Mindless, self-indulgent acts never serve God.  Living selfishly misses our target, the purpose why we were created.  Do you want to live by accident or on purpose?  If you choose purposeful living, you’re becoming holy!

Holy Father, help me to live a purposeful life that lines up with Your intention of why You created me.  I ask this in Jesus’ Name,  Amen. 

Adapted from devotion “Living on Purpose” from Holy Land Moments.com.  Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein. May 3, 2017.
J.D. Griffith                 



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Friday, May 5, 2017

How We Observe God's Feasts

HOW WE OBSERVE GOD’S FESTIVALS

Eighth of eight devotions in What God’s Festivals Teach series

1 John 5:2-3a:  “This is how we know that we love the children of God, by loving God and keep His commands.  This is love for God: to obey His commands.”

            These festivals are observed differently.  The Passover involves eating Jesus’ flesh and drinking His blood in remembrance of Him.  In the Days of Unleavened Bread, eat no bread that has yeast—clean all yeast from the homes.  The Day of Atonement is the only feast that’s observed with no consumption of food.

            They teach spiritual growth.  They are commanded for celebratory fun.

            All these commanded festivals are holy to God.  They are feasts of the LORD proclaimed by holy convocations, or sacred assemblies from Leviticus 23:2.  Only God can set time aside as holy.  He lifted these festivals above ALL humanly-devised holidays.  
             
            Jesus didn’t come to abolish the law but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17).  He led New Testament Believers in observing these feasts, observing Passover in Matthew 26:2, 17, 18, and19; Mark 14:12-16; Luke 2:41-42, 22:1; John 2:13, 23, 6:4, and 13:1-30.  Paul led Christians in 1 Corinthians 11:23-29.
            Jesus celebrated the Feast of Unleavened Bread in Matthew 26:17; Mark 14:12; Luke 2:41-42, 22:1 & 7.  Paul kept this feast in Acts 20:6 and 1 Corinthians 5:6-8.  Pentecost was observed in Acts 22:1-21, 20:16, and 1 Corinthians 16:18.  The Feast of Trumpets was celebrated in Matthew 24:30-31, 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, and Revelation 11:15. 
            Paul noted the Day of Atonement in Acts 27:9.  Jesus kept the Feast of Tabernacles in John 7:1-2, 8, 10, and 14.  Jesus observed the 8th Day, or The Last Great Day in John chapters 7 and 9.

            See the lesson linked below for more. 
  
            Doing no regular work is the constant theme of these festivals.  Exodus 12:16b exempts food preparation as work: “Do no work at all on these days, except to prepare food for everyone to eat—that is all you may do.” 
            The Day of Atonement is different.  This holy day is without food.

Take Home Nugget

            Responding to God’s commands is a matter of faith.  It is important to begin honoring these holy days when we learn about them.  Despite our not knowing everything at first, more will be revealed as we obey God.  Psalm 111:10 says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow His precepts have good understanding.”

            Annual feasts are happy times to be shared with family and fellow saints.  They reveal wondrous meaning and offer an awesome promise of hope for all people!  Observing them reminds us of God’s overwhelming love for everyone.

Holy LORD, Thank You for the wonderful gifts of Your commanded feasts!  Amen. 

Adapted from God’s Holy Day Plan, The Promise of Hope for All Mankind.  ©1966, 1998, 2001, 2010, 2013 by the United Church of Christ.  Ohio.  Pgs. 59-62.
J.D. Griffith    
             



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