Tag Archives: Evil

God’s People, part 211: Jerusalem

Read Matthew 23:37-39

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Jesus answered, ‘I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I AM!’”  (John 8:58, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

Jerusalem-2013-Aerial-Temple_Mount-(south_exposure)Part 211: Jerusalem. When I look at the United States of America, the country from which I am from, I find myself in lament nowadays. Don’t get me wrong, I take great pride in being an American and I love my country dearly. I really, really do. My father served this country in the Army over in Vietnam and is paying the price for his service. Yet, he would never take back his service. While, I did not serve in the military, I come from a family where mostly everyone did.

So, I come from a family that is deeply rooted in this country and I grew up being proud of it. I have a deep respect for America and for those who have sacrifice so much to serve it and to make it a place of freedom and opportunity. In fact, it is out of this love for my country that my lament comes. When I look around today and see the deep, ever intensifying division, my heart sinks. There is social discord on just about every level imaginable.

Looking at all of this, I have thought to myself that this is not the America I grew up in. Yet, the more I reflect on that statement, I am beginning to realize that it is untrue. This is the America I grew up in, we just did a better job at hiding it. These divisions we see now are not divisions that sprouted up over night; rather, they are divisions that have been brewing behind the scenes and now, following a few significant triggers, they are now exploding all over the place. So, I find myself in lament.

To lament is to passionately express grief or sorrow. In our Scripture reading for today, we see Jesus lamenting over Jerusalem. Like how I feel about my country, Jesus had a love for Jerusalem, like any good Jew would have. This was the city of his ancestor David and was the center of Jewish worship. This was a city with much history and glory, a city to which people from all around the world came to visit.

Yet, the leadership in Jerusalem were corrupt and their hearts were hardened. They didn’t care about those suffering underneath them. They didn’t care about those affected by their rigid laws and their calloused attitudes to those in a much weaker and vulnerable state than they were in. All that they really cared about was maintaining the status quo so that they could keep ahold of the power they had acquired.

Even if that mean consorting with the Romans, they were willing to do what it took to keep themselves at the top. Of course, they claimed that they were looking out for the safety of their people, and they no doubt fooled themselves into believing that; however, Jesus saw their hearts and the hearts of those who came before them. This was the same city that through Jeremiah into a cistern, the same city from with the wicked kings of Judah’s past had allowed idolatrous temples to be built for the worship of foreign gods, and the same city that had put countless prophets and people of God to death. What’s more, they were about to do it again in putting Jesus, the Son of God, to death.

Friends, it is out of a love of one’s country that one laments the evil found within it. We often think that patriotic loyalty means a blind acceptance of one’s nation without any questioning of the powers that be. This, however, is not patriotic loyalty, it is merely a toxic form of nationalism that put one’s nation over and above God and all that is good and right.

Let us be challenged by Jesus lament over Jerusalem and let us look with Christ’s eyes at our own countries. No matter where you are from, you live in a country that sometimes gets it right, and other times gets it wrong? In what ways, and over what things, should you be lamenting. More importantly, what are you willing to do about it? Jesus’ marched into Jerusalem and offered himself up as a sacrifice for the world’s sins. While we can never do what Christ did, we can offer ourselves up for Christ and for the Christian witness in our world. I pray we all have the strength and courage to do so.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not whether they be clergymen or laymen, they alone will shake the gates of Hell and set up the kingdom of Heaven upon Earth.” – John Wesley

PRAYER
Lord, help me to see things clear enough to lament the wrong I see, and give me the courage to stand against such things in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

A LOOK BACK: Meet Antichrist

bflw-devotional-800x490Writing the Life-Giving Water devotionals is not only an important ministry, but is a deeply rewarding spiritual discipline for me as well. With that said, observing Sabbath (aka rest) is an important spiritual discipline as well. So here is a LOOK BACK to a devotion I wrote in the past. Read it, reflect on it, be challenged by it. Who knows how God will speak to you through it and how it will bear relevance in your life today? May the Holy Spirit guide you as you read the suggested Scripture and subsequent devotion.

God’s People, part 208: Silenced

Read Matthew 9:32-34

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“But Jesus reprimanded him. ‘Be quiet! Come out of the man,’ he ordered.”  (Mark 1:25, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

JesusHealingDemonPossessedManPart 208: Silenced. In today’s passage, we have yet another encounter between Jesus and a demon. That particular demon, according to the account, had taken away the man’s ability to speak and communicate. Once he was brought before Jesus, the Lord cast out the demon and the man was instantly able to speak.

When it comes to passages such as this it is hard to not begin to think like a person living in the 21st century. We become suspicious of such accounts because of our scientific understanding. For instance, was this man TRULY possessed by a demon or was this a medical or psychological condition that kept him from being able to speak?

It is easy to get lost in such thoughts, but to do so would be to miss the entire point. Whether this was a medical condition or whether it was the resul of demonic-possession, the point is that once this man encountered Jesus he was healed. Jesus healed this man of what was plaguing him and he was able to speak. It’s is a miracle no matter how one looks at it.

We should be careful  to not see a demon behind every illness. Such theology is bad and can be deadly. With that said, that does not mean we should completely deny the existence of demons and evil spirits. It is very possible that this man was, in fact, afflicted by demons and that Jesus did exactly what the account says he did.

It is important to stress is that the devil seeks to silence us from expressing our love of God. Conversely, the devil seeks to silence the voice of God within us. Thus, Jesus’ healing this man tells us something about the power Jesus has over the devil. While the devil tries to silence us from communing with God, and while the devil tries to silence the voice of God within us, Jesus is on the side of the silenced and puts the devil back in his place.

The most important part of any relationship is communication. If communication is severed and/or cut off, relationships fail. This is true in human relationships and it is also true in our relationship with God. Satan wants nothing more than to destroy our relationship with God. We are silenced in our relationship to God through sin and seeking our own way over God’s. What’s more, God’s voice can silenced within us by all of the temptations that attempt to lead us astray.

Of course, God’s voice can never truly be silenced, but it can grow faint beneath the layers of temptations we face. We can choose to end the silence by opening our hearts to Jesus and reestablish our communication with Him. What’s more, if we reopen our hearts up to God, we can also end being silent on our love of God. We can witness to others who have been silenced by this world and the devil. We can bring them to Jesus so that they, too, can experience liberation from the silence and establish communication with God.

The devil certainly doesn’t want you to start witnessing about Jesus, and Satan will do whatever is in his power to keep you from doing that; however, Jesus is onto Satan’s modus operandi, and the devil is powerless against Jesus! In fact, Jesus liberates us and silences Satan. So, we are being challenged to open our hearts to Jesus and to put our trust in his power to conquer the evil forces in our lives and in this world. We, who are God’s people, can and will conquer evil and spread the joy and love of Christ if we but put our trust in Him.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“God is the Creator; Satan is the counterfeiter.” – Joyce Meyer

PRAYER
Lord, heal me from the things that silence my soul and muffle the sound of your voice within me so that I may serve and glorify you. Amen.

God’s People, part 181: Lazarus

Read John 11:1-44

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Then the leading priests decided to kill Lazarus, too, for it was because of him that many of the people had deserted them and believed in Jesus.”  (John 12:10-11, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

Bonnat01LazarusPart 181: Lazarus. The account of Lazarus is on that is familiar to many people. Not to be confused with the poor man named Lazarus in Jesus’ parable in Luke, Lazarus is the brother of Martha and Mary. Not too much is known about him other than the fact that he and his sisters were friends and followers of Jesus. There is much speculation as to his age, as the Bible mentions that he was “living with his sisters”, indicating that Lazarus might have even been a boy living in their care.

Regardless of his age, he was someone Jesus had loved, and when he died Jesus was deeply moved to the point of weeping. In fact, the Scripture says that Jesus grew angry (or greatly disturbed) at his death. Of course, anger is a natural part of the grieving process and Jesus, being human, was grieving the loss of Lazarus. The scene is very touching, a beautiful display of Jesus’ humanity and a testament to the love he had for Lazarus, Mary, and Martha.

Lazarus’ death, and Jesus’ reaction to it, is a stark reminder of on very important fact regarding the world we live in: it is broken and evanescent. What’s more, life in this world is short, fragile and, eventually, everything in this world dies. What’s lamentable is that is not how God created the world; however, due to human sin, that is the very reality that the world fell into. If you think back to the wicked serpent’s words to Eve in the Garden of Eden, which was addressed in part 1 of this series, you will see the bigger picture.

The devil, through the serpent, told Eve that humans would not die if they disobeyed God and ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, but that humans would instead become like God. Those words were true to an extent, and the first humans did not immediately die, but became like God in having the ability to discern good from evil. With that said, they instantly became separated from God, and while they knew good from evil, they lacked in the wisdom to discern what was ULTIMATELY GOOD and ULTIMATELY EVIL.

What’s more, death immediately entered into their reality, even if they didn’t realize it at first. They were cut off from the tree of life, they had to kill animals to cover their nakedness, their oldest son killed their youngest son thus giving birth to murder. From that point on, the beautiful world that God created was never the same. As much as it was still beautiful, it was also filled with sin, evil, greed, corruption, oppression, murder and, ultimately, death for everything that lived in it.

We see this reality in what follows Lazarus being miraculously raised from the dead. Scripture says that, following his resurrection and six days prior to Jesus’ crucifixion, Lazaurs is at a supper that Martha prepared for Jesus. Many people from all over surrounded the home they were in because they wanted to see Jesus and this man whom he had raised. This, of course, disturbed the religious leaders and it says that they even considered murdering Lazarus because so many people were believing in Jesus as a result of him being raised from the dead.

While, we don’t have a ton of information on Lazarus, and it is impossible to tell what his strengths and weaknesses were as a human being, what we can do is come to an understanding of the world in which we all live. This world is so mired in sin that it would rather snuff out the presence of God than celebrate at the salvific work of God in and through others.

This should challenge us to pause and reflect on how we participate in trying to snuff out God’s work. In what ways have we allowed sin to dominate and control our lives, and in what ways have we participated in the world’s rejection of Jesus Christ. I pray that, in honest reflection, you open your heart to the ways in which you resist God so that you may respond to God’s grace and move more toward God and who God is calling you to be.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“The mystery of the Christian life is that Christ expects us to flee sin and the devil, but does not expect us to rid ourselves of either on this side of glory. Repentance is a way of life, and so is the pursuit of godliness. I wish every Christian could be reminded of these two things.” – Kevin DeYoung

PRAYER
Lord, expose my sin to me and cleanse me of it so that I might fully praise, worship and serve you. Amen.

God’s People, part 114: Mordecai

Read Esther 2

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Mordecai sent this reply to Esther: “Don’t think for a moment that because you’re in the palace you will escape when all other Jews are killed. If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?” (Esther‬ ‭4:13-14‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

  Part 114: Mordecai. Continuing on from the last devotion, we are going to explore some of the key characters in the book of Esther. To quickly refresh you, you will remember that Esther was a Jewish girl who was taken out of the custody of her cousin, Mordecai, and placed into the king of persia’s harem. A harem was a separate living quarter for three groups of women in the royal palace: legal wives, royal princesses, and concubines.

The first two are pretty obvious, but people today might not necessarily understand what concubines are. Some people view concubines as promiscuous women who are of low moral character because they sleep around with married men; however, this is a false understanding of the concubine’s situation. In Perisa, along with other Middle Eastern cultures, a concubine was a person who was legally bound to the king for sexual purposes, but had lower status than wives. They were not merely mistresses who threw themselves before the king; rather, they had no choice for they were chosen to be in sexual service to the king. They were, in essence, sex slaves.

Mordecai was Esther’s cousin; however, he was much older than her and he adopted her as his own daughter after her parents died. Anyone with a heart can imagine how hard it was for Mordecai to see his loved ones pass and how his heart must have broken for Esther. At the same time, we should not over-romanticize it either. Extended family members were obligated, as pure their cultural and religious customs, to take care of the children of their deceased family members.

With that said, the Scripture implies that the relationship between Mordecai was a close one. In Esther 2:7, it says he raised her as his own daughter. Mordecai was clearly someone Esther had a great deal of respect toward and someone she listened to. It was, after all, Mordecai who convinced Esther to risk her life and go before the king uninvited to petition for the lives of her people. It was Mordecai who bluntly laid the reality of the situation before her in Esther‬ ‭4:13-14‬.

Mordecai was no doubt petrified and in a panicked state his words, no doubt, came off forcefully. What he was asking her to do was to go on a possible suicide mission by breaking the courtly codes of conduct for a queen. The queen was not permitted to come uninvited before the king when he was conducting royal business in the court. To do so meant death unless the king favored his wife and accepted her reasoning. Esther believed that she had fallen out of favor with the king, that he was bored with her, and so to go before him most certainly meant death.

Mordecai, on the other hand, had just been informed of a royal decree, sent out under the authority of the king, permitting Persians to kill any and all Jews. This happened as a result of the King being tricked by his evil advisor, Haman. So, Mordecai didn’t have time to mince words and he let the queen know that saving her own life in this moment would most certainly mean death for them all in the next.

With that said, it is also important to note that Mordecai was directly responsible for egging on Haman and causing him to lash out in such a wretched and evil way. Haman worked in the king’s court as an official and all the officials were expected to bow and show respect to Haman, who was the king’s chief official. Mordecai refused to do so. Not just once, or twice, but time and time again, day after day. His reasoning for not bowing in respect to the chief official, evidently, was that he was Jewish. Of course, there’s no law against showing respect to a king or an official, so long as you are not “worshiping” the official as a god, but Mordecai refused to budge and, consequently, so did Haman who was as proud as he was arrogant. The end result was that Haman, who was evil, plotted to have all Jews killed in spite of Mordecai’s defiance.

Perhaps Mordecai had good reason for not bowing, or perhaps he simply did it pridefully because he wasn’t going to be seen as inferior to Haman. It’s hard to say because the author leaves the explicit reason out. Mordecai’s defiance, however, begs us to question our own motivations when we are being defiant. Not all defiance is good, not all defiance is bad; however, defiance does lead to unintended consequences and because of Mordecai’s unwillingness to compromise and follow protocol, the very lives of his people were put into unnecessary jeopardy. Thankfully, Esther was able to expose Haman’s evil and justice one out in the end; still, let us reflect on our own pride (whether Mordecai was prideful or not) and how our unwillingness to budge can be harmful to others.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Anger is the enemy of non-violence and pride is a monster that swallows it up.” —Mahatma Gandhi

PRAYER

Lord, help me to evaluate myself honestly and humble myself sincerely so as to not bring harm, if possible, to those around me. In Christ, all things are possible. Amen.

God’s People, part 80: Ahaz

Read 2 Kings 16; 2 Chronicles 28

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Uzziah was the father of Jotham. Jotham was the father of Ahaz. Ahaz was the father of Hezekiah.” (Matthew 1:9 NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

KingAhazPart 80: Ahaz. Oh boy. We’ve all heard that phrase, “The apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree.” Well, this was certainly NOT the case for Ahaz who wasn’t even a quarter of the king his father Jotham was. With that said, Ahaz didn’t grow up in a vacuum and the things that his father let slide during his reign, ended up manifesting in his son, Ahaz, who “did not do what was pleasing in the sight of the Lord his God, as his ancestor David had done” (2 Kings 16:2 NLT).

If you recall, King Jotham was mostly a good king; however, he carried on some of his father, Uzziah’s, policies. The policy that ended up affecting Judah the most was the one that allowed the foreign shrines to remain and the idol worshipping to continue. More than likely, this was done in order to be welcoming of foreigners traveling through the land and the more welcoming a nation is the more money it generates through tourism and other such things. Think about all the money being offered to the gods at the pagan shrines, and then you might begin to see, from the king’s perspective, the benefit to leaving them there.

With that said, the question should always be, “do the benefits outweigh the risks?” Would Jotham have followed those policies if he knew what would become of his son…or his grandson? 2 Kings 16:3 tells us that Ahaz “had his son pass through the fire.” Though there is some discrepency as to what that means, the probable meaning, as you can imagine, is that he sacrificed his son to the gods by burning him alive. Nice, right? I am pretty sure Ahaz didn’t make “father of the year” that year.

What’s more, when people attacked him, and large portions of his people were exiled to Damascus in Assyria (2 Chronicles , he allied himself and made himself a “vassal”, or subordinate) to the King of Assyria. He even visited Damascus (in what is modern-day Syria) and admired the altar to the gods they had set up there. So, he instructed his high priest to design a duplicate altar for God’s Temple and to remove the bronze one for the king’s own personal use. He also had a canopy that was used for the Sabbath removed from the Temple, among other things. What’s more, the Chronicler recorded that Ahaz ended up closing the temple so no one could worship there, and set up shrines to Baal all over Jerusalem. Yikes.

In the end, there was no direct consequence to Ahaz for his actions; however, he left Judah forever weakened, vulerable, and a subordinate to an enemy state that would one day come in and threaten the safety and sovereignty of Judah, in which Jerusalem would eventually be beseiged by the Assyrians. Similarly, the Northern Kingdom of Israel (whom the Ahaz followed the ways of), would be attacked and held captive by the Assyrians.

The challenge for us is to realize that just because God is our God, and just because we are God’s people, does not mean we are immune to sin and evil. What’s more, we asbolutely must recognize the sovereignty of God and trust that God’s way is better than our own ways.

Our actions have a greater impact than we realize. It is not just us who experience the consequences of our sin. In fact, sometimes we are not the ones at all who experience those consequences, but the ones we love and the ones who follow us. Let us turn to our God, who is graceful and sovereign, and fully rely on the Holy Spirit, through our Lord Jesus Christ, to lead us from where we are to where God is calling us to be.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
If our sins do not catch up with us, they will fall like bricks on the ones we love and those who follow after us.

PRAYER
Lord, thank you for your grace and your forgiveness of my sins. Lead me to where it is you are calling me. Amen.

God’s People, part 68: Ahab

Read 1 Kings 16:29-34

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“The king of Israel answered Jehoshaphat, ‘There is still one prophet through whom we can inquire of the Lord, but I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me, but always bad. He is Micaiah son of Imlah.’ ‘The king should not say such a thing,’ Jehoshaphat replied.”

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

img_0908Part 68: Ahab. One of my favorite classic movies is Moby Dick, about the fanatical Captain Ahab who leads his crew to destruction on a hellbent, vengeful hunt against a giant sperm whale who bears the name of the film’s title. It was based off of a novel by Herman Melville and is believed to have been inspired by a real seafaring tragedy in which a captain who was taken out of a whaleboat by a foul line had drowned.

The story’s protagonist/antagonist, Ahab, was given that name based off of King Ahab found in 1 Kings 16-22. Like King Ahab, the captain was an ungodly idolator who allowed other influences to give him a puffed up confidence in his ability to overcome fate and destroy his archenemy, the whale known as Moby Dick. Of course, listening to the advice of the “yes people” around him, Ahab took his entire crew on a suicide mission in order to hunt the whale that took his leg years earlier. In the end, Ahab was not successful in killing the whale, but ended up being brought down to the depths of the ocean, a result of getting caught in the lines attached to the harpoons that where protruding out from Moby Dick.

King Ahab, according to the Bible, was King of Israel for 22 years and did much evil in the sight of the Lord. For the most part, the evil that the Bible mentions is Ahab’s idolatry and his leading the entire Kingdom of Israel further astray from God than his predecessors had. Ahab had the potential to be a great king and, under his rule, there was relative stability between his kingdom and the Kingdom of Judah. In fact, there was an alliance between Judah and Israel due to King Jehoshaphat’s (of Judah) son Jehoram having been married Ahab’s daughter Athaliah.

Yet, Ahab does not end up relying on the Lord. He married a Sidonean (a person from the city-Kingdom of Sidon) named Jezebel and was influenced by her to worship the Canaanite god, Baal. He built temples and altars to Baal, surrounded himself with prophets of Baal and killed anyone who spoke against him or against his idolatrous practices. Elijah, who we will discuss at a later point, was the last remaining prophet (at least at one point) of the LORD and notoriously took a stand against Ahab and the prophets of Baal.

The king, like many rulers, was not a fan of being told no and was not a fan of people prophesying against him. When Neboth refused to sell the wicked king his vineyard, he and his wife plotted to have Neboth murdered. Once the evil deed was done, Ahab took his vineyard for himself. He hunted down Elijah anyone who stood against him and listened to the unwise and false advice from the “yes people” he called prophets who surrounded him.

The result is that he led himself, and the entire people of Israel, down a destructive path that led straight to their demise. In his own words, Ahab stated he hated one of the prophets of the LORD, Macaiah, because he never had anything good to say to the king. In other words, Macaiah always brought words of correction and rebuke toward the King for doing evil in the Lord’s sight and the king didn’t want to hear that. He just wanted to hear accolades and praises about himself; however, that is NOT the call of a prophet. The call of the prophet is to speak the truth of God to those who desperately need to hear it. The kings words betrayed his own pride and foolishness.

Ahab, when you think of it, is not much different than most politicians, leaders and, even, people in general. No one likes to be told they’re on the wrong track and that they need to change. With that said, we are being challenged to change our outlook, and have the wisdom to accept being held accountable by God and those whom God sends with corrective messages. To dismiss them because they don’t line up with one’s own self-perception is foolish and, often, deadly for oneself and those whom one is around. Be challenged by this, listen to what God is actually saying to you, rather than what you would like God to say. Listen and be changed by the sanctifying grace of God through the Holy Spirit.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“It’s [one’s] own mind, not [one’s] enemy or foe, that leads [one] to evil ways” — Buddha

PRAYER

Lord, help me to listen to and be corrected by your Holy Spirit. I submit myself to you. Amen.

A LOOK BACK: Reversing Evil

bflw-devotional-800x490Writing the Life-Giving Water devotionals is not only an important ministry, but is a deeply rewarding spiritual discipline for me as well. With that said, observing Sabbath (aka rest) is an important spiritual discipline as well. So here is a LOOK BACK to a devotion I wrote in the past. Read it, reflect on it, be challenged by it. Who knows how God will speak to you through it and how it will bear relevance in your life today? May the Holy Spirit guide you as you read the suggested Scripture and subsequent devotion.

God’s People, part 57: Amnon

Read 2 Samuel 13:1-22

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“So at Absalom’s signal they murdered Amnon. Then the other sons of the king jumped on their mules and fled.” (2 Samuel 13:29 NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

Jan_Steen_001God’s People, part 57: Amnon. We have discussed, at length, the character and person of King David. Now it is time that we turn our attention to some of David’s more prominent children. I will not go into nearly as much depth with them as I have with others, nor will I be bringing up David’s sins (for the most part) as excuses for what his children did. No doubt, David’s sins played their part and I think that is clear enough that I do not need to reiterate that point over and over again. The first son we will will look at is Amnon.

We do not know too much about Amnon, but that he was the eldest son of David and Ahinoam (who was the woman David married after leaving his wife, Michal, behind while fleeing from King Saul). The reality is that David was polygamous and had many wives who, in turn, had many children. If you think sibling rivalries happen in the nuclear, monogamous family, you can only imagine how much more challenging the family dynamics are in polygamous families such as David’s.

All that Amnon is really known for is the terrible and horrifying sin he committed against his half-sister Tamar. Being David’s eldest son, Amnon was set to be the heir of his father’s throne. He had everything going for him and, I can imagine, felt a good sense of entilement given his status as heir to the throne.

Amnon, according to the Bible, was lusting after his half-sister Tamar. His desire for her grew into an obsession, and eventually he acted out on his lust. His friend helped him devise a plan to pretend he was ill and request that Tamar be the one to serve him food and care for him while he was sick. Once that request was granted, Amnon made his sexual advances toward her, which Tamar rebuffed.

Amnon would not be told no, as is the case with predators, and he raped his half-sister. Once he had his way with her, he sent her away from his room and refused to have any dealings with her, let alone any sort of relationship. This act of evil brought shame to the entire family and left Tamar completely scarred and broken. The Bible states that she never recovered from it and, seeing his sister completely destroyed in body and in spirit, Absalom sought out and enacted vengeance against Amnon. He waited two-years to complete the deed, but he eventually had Amnon put to death in order to avenge his sister.

This story is an extremely relevant one, as allegations of sexual misconduct, harassment, and rape are coming out of the woodwork against politicians, business people, clergy, church members, and Hollywood stars alike. Rape is nothing new; however, it is one of the most egregious and evil acts that one could ever commit against someone else. Rape has nothing to do with sex, nor does it have anything to do with hormones.

Rape has to do with power. Amnon did not rape Tamar because he had the hots for her (which would alone was sinful given that she was his half-sister); rather, he raped her because he could. Because he wanted her and she wasn’t going to tell him otherwise. With him, as with all rapists, it came down to power. He had it, she didn’t, and he was going to show her that she had no business telling him no.

What’s more, rape need not have to be committed sexually at all. We can rape people in more ways than just sexually. We can rape them emotionally, as well as spiritually. Rape is an act of dominance, of power, where we take what is not rightfully ours to take…because we can. Because we want it. Because we put ourselves over and above the other. How many of us have been guilty of this? How many of us have sought to exert our power over others in ways that are, in effect, raping them?

I know, I know. This is not a comfortable topic; however, with the amount of rape being had out there, it is a topic we ought to be reflecting on. We are called to love people, not manipulate them. We are called to honor and respect the divine dignity in all people, not rape them and rob them of it. Let us be a people who are challenged by what we see going on in the media and respond in a self-reflective and honest way, by repenting of our sinful and/or evil actions to our Lord Jesus Christ, and by allowing Christ to transform us into agents of the Kingdom of God and of reconciliation.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“How can we excuse David from the sin of Eli; who honoured his sons more than God?” – Rev. John Wesley

PRAYER
Lord, turn me away from my selfish need for power and control. Steer me away from being a manipulator so that I may not walk the pathway of Amnon, but that of Jesus Christ. Amen.

God’s People, part 34: Jephthah

Read Judges 11

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
But I say, do not make any vows! Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one.” (Matthew 5:34a, 37 NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

1909 Jephthahs DaughterPart 34: Jephthah. Daughter, O daughter, wherefore art thou daughter? I wonder if you have even heard the name Jephthah before. He was, believe it or not, one of the major judges who rose up to deliver Israel from her enemies. He was a judge for a period of six years and was a great, great warrior. Yet, like all of God’s people, Jephthah was far from perfect.

The Bible indicates that Jephthah was the son of Gilead and a prostitute, who lived in the land of Gilead. Given the nature of a prostitute’s job, this might mean that his father was not named Gilead, but was unknown. In other words, his father could have been any one of the men of Gilead consorting with a prostitute. So, the great and mighty warrior’s story starts off with the detail that he was an “illegitimate child”.

Yet, this child (as all children are) was created and loved by God, and he rose up to defend his people against the Ammonites. With that said, he was reluctant to at first, because of the way he had been treated by his own people, the Israelites. Since his birth was scandalous, he was shunned and driven out of Gilead by the residents there. He was told he would have no inheritance in his father’s house. Again, his father might have been named Gilead, or this might be symbolic of not being welcome in his home town due to the scandalous nature surrounding his mother.

When asked to defend Israel against Ammon, Jephthah refused to do so unless they made him a permanent ruler over all the Israelites. The people, desperate for his help, vowed an oath under God to make him the permanent ruler. So, Jephthah agreed to lead the Israelites against the Ammonites. Scripture tells us that he was filled with the Spirit of God; however, Jephthah wanted to ensure victory and, in doing so, made a tragic and fatal mistake. He vowed that if the Lord would give him victory, he would sacrifice the first thing that walked through the front door of his house.

What a silly, silly vow. Why would he vow such a thing? Didn’t Jephthah know that the first thing that would walk through his door was his one and only daughter? This is, yet again, another one of more vile texts we find in the Bible, for Jephthah does indeed hold true to his vow to God and sacrifices (aka murders) his daughter. He lets her wander the hillside with her friends for two months but, following that, he sacrifices her.

The Bible is not clear as to whether or not God wanted such a sacrifice, or whether God wanted Jephthah to carry that sacrifice through. All we have is the vow that he made and the action that he carried out. With that said, God’s silence does not mean that this is what God wanted, let alone what God demanded. The reality is that people do all sorts of evil and sick things, and God does not come down out of the heavens (as was the case with Abraham) to stop them from carrying it forward.

The point of this story is not to take it literally and get hooked on the gory and horrific details. The point of is to learn something about ourselves in it. Had Jephthah trusted that the Spirit of the LORD was with him, he would not have made such a rash, foolish and ultimately tragic vow. Had he merely trusted in God’s presence, he would have simply led his people out to victory and won. Instead, by trying to secure his victory through bartering with God, he put himself and his daughter in a situation that should have never existed.

I believe that Jephthah should have never carried that vow out to conclusion, just as he should have never made the vow to begin with; however, he did what he did and we’re left horrified by the whole scenario. Let this be a reminder to us that we need not barter with God, as if God can be bought by our silly vows and promises. All God asks of us is to seek to live justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with the LORD, our God. The challenge for us is to be satisfied in our faith, to be satisfied with the assurance Scripture gives us of God’s presence in our lives, to be confident in the hope that GOD will not abandon us, and that salvation and deliverance will come. Why? Because God delivers and is faithful. Let us be faithful back to God and place our trust in the Holy Spirit within us.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Those that vow the most are the least sincere.” – Richard Brinsely Sheridan
 PRAYER
Lord, your Holy Spirit is within. Give me the assurance to trust in your presence. Amen.