Monday, September 28, 2009

A donkey and an ox

"If you come across your enemy's ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to take it back to him. If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load, do not leave it there; be sure you help him with it." Exodus 23: 4-5

In some of my recent studies, this passage was a focus. The passage is one that gives the people of Israel rules for living in community. A huge part of living in community involves helping others. The interesting part of this passage is that it is "your enemy's ox"...not your friend's ox. It is assumed that people will help people that they like (which I hope is still true today more than it's not), but not help someone they dislike. This command is one of many important in developing Israel as a people set apart to bring about God's intentions in the world.

The passage made me think of another passage that we all may be a little more familiar with:
"What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, 'Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,' but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.But someone will say, 'You have faith; I have deeds.' Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder." James 2: 14-19

The words in Exodus inspire me to live to a higher standard- one that witnesses through the way I treat everyone. The words of James remind me that my faith should spur me on to action.

This week, seek opportunities to live out your faith and God's intentions for the world.

Monday, September 21, 2009

How to mend.

"His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. "We are your slaves," they said.

But Joseph said to them, "Don't be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don't be afraid. I will provide for you and your children." And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them." Genesis 50:18-21

After my recent theft experience, I was left to reflect and try to gain some understanding as to why it happened. I addressed this in last week's devotional. The other thing I thought about was how to deal with this... Genesis 50:20 is an easy verse to look at when one feel's victimized. But I don't want to talk about verse 20. I want to talk about Joseph's perspective, and his statement in verse 19: "Am I in the place of God?"

Joseph had every reason to be angry and every reason to seize an opportunity to get even. But instead, he was able to see and understand that it wasn't his place to get even. Instead of using his powerful position against his brothers (they sold him into slavery), he used his position to help them, thus repairing the family relationship. Maybe Joseph knew that he hadn't always been easy to get along with (see Gen. 37:1-10)... whatever happened, Joseph realized that there was no sense in repaying evil with evil. Instead, he worked for the good of all, and looked for a way to be the solution to the problem rather than adding to the bitterness and hatred.

We all need to take a lesson from Joseph's life. Use your opportunities and positions to mend relationships and bring healing in a wounded world.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


(First off, let me apologize for this being late. Please forgive my tardiness.)

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal." Matthew 6: 19

Last Monday night/Tuesday morning my car was broken into. I foolishly left my wallet in my car (I thought it was out of sight, but apparently not), and someone smashed the window took the wallet, a book of CDs, a cell phone charger, and some random other things. Of course, the biggest loss was my wallet- all of the cards that were in there, my driver's license... basically most of the ways that I can be identified as being me. I spent the rest of the day calling credit card companies, speaking with people at my bank, and talking to police... trying to figure out how to put things back to the way they had been. It was definitely a day to forget.

During all of the phone calls and waiting around, I tried to see the positive: maybe someone really needed that cash more than me. Maybe someone will actually get more play out of those CDs... but everything seemed to be about the other person. I didn't want to be selfish, but really 'What was in it for me?' Answer:

All of these things can be taken in a matter of moments. All of these things can be replaced in a few hours (or through some phone calls). Many of the things that we value so much really aren't worth as much as we make them out to be.

I take comfort in knowing that the one truly invaluable thing I have cannot be taken from me.

"For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matthew 6:21

Monday, September 7, 2009

Share alike

Have you ever caught yourself mumbling under your breath, or maybe even complaining loudly, "They don't deserve that! They didn't do anything to earn it!" It's pretty common- from an early age we learn what is fair and what is unfair...and we are usually pretty quick to point out any "unfairness" toward us. It's just the way we are, we like things to be even, deserved...especially when it comes to other people's earnings. Here is a great example from the Old Testament:

"Then all the corrupt and worthless fellows among the men who had gone with David said, 'Because they did not go with us, we will not give them any of the spoil that we have recovered, except that each man may take his wife and children and leave.' But David said, 'You shall not do so my brothers, with what the Lord has given us; he has preserved us and handed over to us the raiding party that attacked us. Who would listen to you in this matter? For the share of the one who goes down into the battle shall be the same as the share of the one who stays by the baggage; they shall share alike.' " 1 Samuel 30: 22-24

This story takes place toward the end of David's time in the wilderness, hiding from Saul. He and his men had been out and the town that they were calling home had been raided. The Amalekites had stolen their possessions and taken their wives and children hostage. Upon discovering this, David and his men pursue the Amalekites, defeat them and reclaim their families and possessions. But during the pursuit, many men had grown tired and could not continue, so they were left behind. The men that finished the mission weren't willing to share their spoils of war with the men that did not fight. Fair enough, right? Yes, but David understood that fairness could be divisive- he would be showing favoritism to the men that helped and morale could be ruined because of jealousy.

I'm all too familiar with this kind of scenario. As a young child, I'm sure I let my parents know "That's not fair" on many occasions. And I can still find myself wanting to say those words again. Whether it involves work, grades, competition, or even worse: religion!

It can be quite unsettling to think that we who go to church every week and put money in the offering plate, volunteer with the church, and even go on mission trips are going to receive the exact same reward as those who have merely professed a faith and trust in Christ. Honestly, it's not fair. And I am very thankful that it's not about fairness, earnings, or deserving because if it were, I wouldn't be expecting what I hope for.

As you think of what it means to not complain about unfairness, read what Jesus has to say on the subject by reading Matthew 20: 1-16.