John Mark

Can you recall a time in your life when you failed?  Did you rebound from that failure and learn from it?  Or did you let it dictate your future and decide that you would never amount to much?

Today in our reading, Acts 13:1-13, we see how John Mark recovered from a failure.  We have to read beyond our reading for today to see the full story, but it is sure nice to know that his story does not end at the end of Acts 13.

John Mark was brought up in a prayer filled home.  In Acts 12:12, we read that after Peter was miraculously rescued from prison                          

“he went to the home of Mary, the mother of John Mark, where many were gathered for prayer.”  

As a young man, he was surrounded by the greatest men and women of the New Testament church.  He grew up listening to these men and their stories of the times they had spent with Jesus.  All of their prayers and struggles would have been shared with him.

John Mark may have grown up dreaming of the day that He too would be able to travel throughout the world preaching the gospel.  His uncle was Barnabas, and so when Paul and Barnabas were appointed to go on their missionary journey, John Marks’ opportunity to preach the gospel came to be.

There, in the town of Salamis, they went to the Jewish synagogues and preached the word of God.  John Mark went with them as their assistant. Acts 13:5

He would accompany them on their trip to take care of the work behind the scenes so that Paul and Barnabas could focus on their ministry.  John Mark had to be so excited to be doing what he had only dreamed of!

But, only 8 verses later in Acts 13:13 we read

Paul and his companions then left Paphos by ship for Pamphylia, landing at the port town of Perga.  There John Mark left them and returned to Jerusalem.

The word translated as “left,” in the original means “to desert”.  It means to leave in a negative way and to willfully abandon.  We do not know exactly why he left.  Maybe he was homesick?  Possibly he missed his wealthy lifestyle at home with servants to meet his needs.  Maybe he found he preferred to be served rather than to serve.  Or, maybe like many of us, he had unrealistic expectations.

No matter the reason he left, sometime later we read,

Barnabas agreed and wanted to take along John Mark.  But Paul disagreed strongly, since John Mark had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in their work.  Their disagreement was so sharp that they separated.       Acts 37-39

Paul thought that he had messed up too bad the first time and was not prepared to give him a second chance.  John Mark probably thought that he had messed up so bad that he ruined his chance at ever being used by God on a missionary journey again.  

Thankfully John Mark did not give up even after a failure.  In the years ahead, John Mark proves himself over and over again.  Paul forgives him and goes on to recommend him to others.  We see this in Colossians 4:10 and 2 Timothy 4:9-11.  

John Mark had wondered if he would ever have another chance to fulfill his calling and be involved in ministry.  Now we see Paul confirming this, “He will be helpful to me in my ministry.”  From John Marks life we can take encouragement that failing at ministry or at anything in life does not erase the possibility of future use.  People may give up on us, but God never will.

The Samaritan Woman

Jesus is waiting for you to come.  He is sitting, waiting.

Have you ever had to wait for someone?  Did you know they were coming?  My chauffeuring days are over, but I can vividly remember the years of dropping off and waiting on my children at one of their activities.  The longest wait was always the pick-up line after school.  You either had to get their super early to get a good spot in the front or be late and avoid the line.  My kids always let me know that they hated to be the last to be picked up.  So, I was always in the first 10 cars of the line, waiting patiently (20+ minutes) for them to walk out of the school.  But why did I sit there that long each and every day of the school year?  Because my most beloved children were going to be walking out of those doors and I wanted to be there to greet them each and every day.  I love them so much that I would sit and wait patiently for them each and every single day.  

Today in our reading of the Samaritan woman, John 4:1-42, we see Jesus, sitting, waiting.  I do not believe it was coincidence that Jesus was sitting at the side of the well when the Samaritan woman showed up to get her daily water.  Jesus knew she would be coming at that time.  A time when the well was empty of people, she did not want to be around others for she was ashamed.  Ashamed of her past and who she was.  

Can you imagine the face of Jesus as she walked up to the well?  As He was waiting for her, he probably smiled knowing that He was going to offer her her true hope and life.  He knew everything about her already.  He knew she had 5 husbands and was living with a man whom she was not married.  He knew she was a Samaritan.  

The Samaritans had once been Jews, they knew all about the coming Messiah and the Jewish law.  But, they had intermarried with people of other faiths.  They had brought new gods into their land, and as a result, they knew that they would be excluded when the Messiah came.  They also knew where they stood in the eyes of the Jews. 

All of the above matters made it even more unbelievable to the woman that this Jewish man sitting on the side of the well would speak to her.  

Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Please give me a drink.” 

John 4:7

The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman.  How can you ask me for a drink?”  Jesus answered her, “if you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you the living water.”  Because she was not a jew, she knew that salvation would not be coming for her.  That was, until this moment in time, when Jesus spoke to her.

Jesus told her about all that was going on in her home.  He spoke to her about all that was heavy on her heart, all of her shame, he knew.  At this moment she knew he was different.  How did he know so much about her?  How did He know exactly what she needed to hear? 

The woman said, “I know the Messiah is coming-the one who is called Christ.  When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”  Then Jesus tole her, “I Am the Messiah!”

John 4:25&26

As soon as the Samaritan woman hears these words, she leaves her jar of water and runs back to the town to tell the people everything that she just experienced.

The woman left her water jar beside the well and ran back to the village, telling everyone, “Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did!  Could he possibly be the Messiah?”  So the people came streaming from the village to see him.

John 4:29&30

The whole village came to see what she was speaking of.  She did not hesitate and was not afraid to tell what had just happened at the well.  And because she shared her story, others came to check out Jesus and see what He was really about.  When they met Jesus they asked him to stay in their village, and he did so he could tell His message and more could believe.

Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe, not just because of what you told us, but because we have heard him ourselves.  Now we know that he is indeed the Savior of the world.”

John 4:42

This is our calling!  Not to make others believe, but to tell of what we have experienced with Jesus.  To tell our story of what He has done for us.  Then let Jesus minister to them and so that they will know He is the Savior of the world.  

Jesus is waiting on us to come to Him.  He sees each of us coming and is waiting.  We may not have to walk to a well to get water, but we have so many tasks we have to complete in a day.  Maybe it is walking to the washing machine to put in another load of laundry.  Maybe it is walking from the parking lot into our building where we work or go to school.  God is right in front of us waiting for us to come to Him.  He knows all of our past and shame.  But, just as He did with the Samaritan woman, he looks past it and wants to offer His love and Salvation.  Then He wants us to share our story!

 

Simeon and Anna

 

What is something that you have had to wait for in your life?  Or maybe there is something right now that you are waiting for? Is there something you are asking God to do and are waiting for Him to answer?  Are you praying for someone you know to become a Christian and waiting for it to happen?  Are you praying for God to heal someone you love and waiting for God to answer?  Waiting is not always easy or fun, but if we believe that God hears and answers our prayers, we have faith that He will answer.  Sometimes His answer is yes, no or wait.  The answer wait sometimes takes a few days, months or years, but God will always answer in His own timing.  Today we will focus on Simeon and Anna, found in Luke 2:25-38 and see how they waited on God for His promise of a Savior.

Long before Jesus came to earth as a baby, God gave Moses laws for people to obey.  One of the laws was that any family who had a firstborn son had to take that son and have him dedicated at the temple.  

In Luke 2, we see Mary and Joseph obey God’s law.  They began their travel from Bethlehem to Jerusalem so that the Son of God could be dedicated to the Lord.

Meanwhile, a Godly man named Simeon was in Jerusalem waiting on the Promised Christ.  Simeon had the gift of the Holy Spirit before Jesus died on the cross and rose again.  Earlier in his life God told Simeon that he would not die until he had seen Jesus with his own eyes.

At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon.  He was righteous and devout and eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel.  The Holy Spirit was upon him and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.

Luke 2:25&26

We have no idea how old Simeon was or how long he had to wait for the day that God would fulfill His promise.  Simeon never gave up hope that the promise of seeing the Messiah would be fulfilled.  Every day of his life as he worshiped and served God he kept his eyes open for God’s promised Savior.  He believed that God would do what He said.

One day the Holy Spirit told Simeon to go to the temple.  Simeon listened and did as he had been instructed.  When he arrived at the temple he saw a young woman holding a baby with her husband by her side.  God’s Spirit told Simeon that this baby was the Promised Savior.  Immediately, Simeon went to Mary and reached out so that he could hold the baby.  As he held him in his arms he began to praise the Lord.

“Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace, as you promised.  I have seen your salvation, which you have prepared for all people.  He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel!”

Luke 2:29-32

As Simeon was praising God and blessing Mary and Joseph there was another person in the temple, her name was Anna.  Anna was a widow, her husband had died after they had been married for 7 years.  After her husband died she began serving God full-time in the temple.  She was now 84 years old and was known to all as a prophetess.  She spent her days in the temple fasting and praying.  Anna had a very close relationship with the Lord and she knew that God had promised a Savior.  As she heard Simeon’s praises she walked over to him to see what was going on.

Anna saw the Child and immediately thanked the Lord for sending the Savior who was going to take away the sins of the world.  She then spread the news of the Savior to all who were looking for Him.

Both Simeon and Anna saw and believed that Jesus was God’s promised Savior.  They chose to praise and thank God for allowing them to see His Promise come true.  The both waited for this promise, we don’t know exactly how long they waited, but it sounds like they waited many years and never gave up hope.

What promise are you waiting for?  Have you given up hope that God will answer?  Simeon and Anna are examples of two Godly saints.  They waited for what God had promised and then proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah.  

Just as Simeon and Anna were waiting for the promise of the Savior, we today are waiting for His Second Coming.  The day Jesus returns in great power and great glory.  We are waiting for this promise to come true.  How are we going to wait for this promise?  Are we living each day learning more about God by studying and reading our Bibles?  Are we praying for our friends and family that don’t believe in Jesus?  Are we living a life that is pleasing to God?  We need to wait just as Simeon and Anna did believing everyday that today might be the day we see the promise fulfilled.

 

Peter

Matthew 26:20-75

1 Peter 1-2

I began preparation for today’s post as I always do.  First, I thought about what I already knew of Peter.  I remembered that Peter was a fisherman, that his name means “rock” and he was a disciple of Christ.  I also recalled how he denied Jesus 3 times before Jesus was crucified.  

Next, I read through Matthew 26:20-75, which sets the stage for Peter’s denial.  After the disciples had finished The Last Supper, Jesus predicted that Peter would deny Him 3 times. Then it actually happened, Peter denies Jesus 3 times and the rooster crowed!

Peter swore, “A curse on me if I’m lying-I don’t know the man!”  And immediately the rooster crowed.  Suddenly, Jesus’ words flashed through Peter’s mind;  “Before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.”  And he went away weeping bitterly.    Matthew 26:74 &75

Peter, the “rock” of the church and a close friend of Jesus denies Him 3 times.  I read this and think how could Peter do this?  But, then I think of myself and times I have also done what I don’t want to do or think that I would ever do.  Just as Peter, I am sorely disappointed in myself and what I have done and what I never thought I would do.

But then, I go on to read 1 Peter 1 &2.  What a difference.  We go from Peter denying that He knows Jesus to then Peter actually writing encouraging and helpful words to believers that were suffering persecution.  

How did Peter go from weeping bitterly from denying Jesus to writing  encouraging words to believers?  

As soon as Peter heard the rooster crow, his heart fell.  He felt the depth of his own failure.  He realized that he had just done the very thing that Jesus had said he would do.  The thing that Peter insists he would never do.  It was perhaps the worst moment of his life.  

Jesus is now dead.  Peter’s last encounter with him was denial.  There is not time for apologies.  No time to ask Jesus to forgive him.  Can you imagine the guilt that he felt?

Jesus was dead.  Peter stayed with the other disciples.  On the third day after Jesus’ death, the disciples get a message from Mary Magdalene that the tomb where Jesus was put is empty.  

Now go and tell his disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee.  You will see him there, just as he told you before he died.”                                Mark 16:7

Can you imagine how Peter felt when he heard this?  How nervous he must have been to maybe meet Jesus face to face again after denying him?  

But Peter ran to the tomb and pushed right inside the tomb.  He saw that Jesus’ burial cloths were neatly folded.  Where is Jesus?  

Notice that the message was to “go tell the disciples and Peter”.  Peter was singled out because Jesus had a message for Peter.  Peter, who denied Jesus three times, would be given another chance.

Jesus still loved Peter.  Jesus was going to show mercy and forgiveness to Peter.

He does the same for you and me.

Peter went to Galilee to meet Jesus just like the angel told him too.  Where do you go to look for Jesus? 

As believers in Jesus Christ, we can cling tightly to the promise in Romans 8:1 that says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”.

Peter was forgiven and given an amazing ministry.  

Daniel

As Usual!

What is something you do as usual??  Something that is part of your normal day?  Something you never skip or forget?  Is it working out, eating breakfast, having a cup of coffee, watching a favorite show, checking your phone, or having a daily quiet time?  Today we read about Daniel and learn the most important thing he did as usual.

When I saw that my assigned post for this week was Daniel, I thought about what I already knew about him.  The first story I recalled is Daniel being thrown into the Lion’s Den.  I remembered that he interpreted the kings dream. I also remembered how he and his 3 friends got thrown into the fiery furnace (thank you to a church musical I participated in back in the day, the song of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego will always be in my mind).  The last story that came to mind is that Daniel interpreted the handwriting on the wall.  

Daniel was a faithful man of God.  He faced these incredible situations and managed to live through them!  

Out of all these amazing stories about Daniel.  There is one verse that stands out to me the most.

Daniel 6:10

But when Daniel learned that the law had been signed, he went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room, with its windows open toward Jerusalem.  He prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God.  (NLT, bold print mine)

AS USUAL!!  This is what Daniel did!  He prayed!  Just as he had always done!  Giving thanks to God.  That is it!  We don’t read about his worries or his complaints about the incredible situations he was put in.  Can you imagine standing in a fiery furnace or amongst hungry lions and not wavering in your faith?  Daniel looked to God to provide an escape, and He did.  Every.  Single.  Time.  We see that Daniel did what he usually did – PRAYED!  

It seems so simple.  Pray – as usual.  Do we trust God’s promises as Daniel did?  

Daniel’s habits of prayer were known to all the people around him.  He prayed as usual openly before all who saw him.  There was no question of Daniel’s faithfulness to God.  Daniel glorified God by the life he lived.  His faithful walk allowed God to give him power and wisdom.  Daniel took a stand for the Lord and the Lord used his faithfulness to magnify His own name.  

Pray – AS USUAL – and see how God will magnify His name through you.

Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar

When you are suffering or enduring hardship, where do you turn?  Do you have friends that you immediately pick up your phone and call?  Where do you look for encouragement?  Do you have friends, neighbors or a small group that show up when you are suffering?

We all have heard the story of Job and all he suffered and endured.  Job had 3 friends that showed up for him in his time of need.  

When three of Job’s friends heard of the tragedy he had suffered, they got together and traveled from their homes to comfort and console him.  Their names were Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite.  

Job 2:11 (NLT)

At first, I can imagine Job being so relieved that these men, his friends, showed up for him.  He surely assumed they were there to support and encourage him.  But, it wasn’t long before he realized that they did not bring him any comfort, they only criticized and accused him.  

These three men were jealous of Job because he was a godly man, a rich man and everything was going well for him and his family.  The three knew about God, but they didn’t know God personally.  They could not truly understand why Job suffered as he did.  In Job chapters 4-7 we read the dialogue between Job and his three friends.  The friends point out various reasons of why Job is suffering.  Each time Job responds with a speech of his own.  

The first to speak was Eliphaz who was the oldest and considered the wisest of the three friends.  He starts out by complimenting Job, but soon begins to accuse Job of being impatient.  Then Eliphaz told Job that according to what he himself had experienced and seen in his own life, those who do wrong suffer (even though he had never experienced or saw the same suffering Job was experiencing).

Don’t we sometimes do this in our own life?  When a friend is suffering, we try and relate an experience we have similarly had?  We try to explain why this might be happening to them based on our experiences.  Eliphaz thought he had wisdom because of his personal experiences.  But, our personal experience does not give us sound wisdom.  Sound wisdom only comes from the Bible.  Bible doctrine gives us a divine viewpoint, personal experience gives us a human viewpoint.  

The next to speak is Bildad.  He was pretty harsh with Job.  He accused job of being a windbag and not having anything worthwhile to say.  He told Job to look at past generations to see what happened in their lives.  Bildad took the stand that if Job was upright or had not sinned, God would not be punishing him.  He wanted Job to repent so God would restore his blessings.

Then Zophar talked to Job.  He was the most critical.  He told Job he should be grateful that he wasn’t getting what he deserved.  He used sayings of that day to get his point across.  They didn’t even relate to Job’s sufferings.  Zophar did not use correct Bible doctrine for the situation.  He too thought Job sinned and was being disciplined.  He also wanted Job to repent so God would restore his blessings.

Now, on top of all Job’s sufferings, he was getting tested from Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar.  He had great patience and unconditional love for his friends, but he knew their advice was not good advice based on God’s word.  They were doing just what the enemy wanted, giving advice that had no value and not based on Bible doctrine, they were using their own standards instead of God’s standards.  Satan wanted Job to keep debating with his friends so he would get off track and begin to agree with their false standards.

The three friends agreed that god’s ways are far above their ways.  However, their words to Job did not go along with the doctrine of the Bible.  They judged Job because they were fearful.  They knew Job was righteous and they also thought they were righteous.  (Much like we see in the Pharisees later in the Bible.)  They saw the suffering Job had and they were worried that maybe they would also suffer.  They saw that the righteous do suffer and they didn’t want to believe that.  They wanted Job to repent so his suffering would disappear.  They were fearful that they also might have to suffer at some point in their lives.

You, too, have given no help.  You have seen my calamity, and you are afraid.   

Job 6:21

Satan’s favorite way to control us is through fear.  Fear is an emotion and moves us away from the promises of Christ.  Satan loved that the three friends were in fear.  He hoped their fear would rub off on Job and Job would eventually turn away from God and lose hope.  But, this does not happen.  Even though he suffered, he was able to have courage and not fear.  He was able to concentrate under pressure from the friends.  

The main difference between Job and his friends is not that Job suffers and they do not.  And it is not that Job understand suffering in a way that they do not.  The main difference is that Job fears God and they do not.  

Doesn’t your reverence for God give you confidence?  Doesn’t your life of integrity give you hope?

Job 4:6 (NLT)

The main message of Job is not so much about how to deal with suffering as about learning how to fear God, even through suffering.  Because we all will suffer.

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me.  Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.  But take heart, because I have overcome the world.

John 16:33 (NLT)

This example of suffering and friends coming to the rescue is such a great example for us today.  We all suffer and have friends who may rally around us.  We need to take every word they say and apply Bible doctrine to their words.  Are they pointing us to Christ or causing us to doubt and turn from him?  The devil would like nothing more than for us to turn from Christ in times of hardship.  

We give great honor to those who endure under suffering.  For instance, you know about Job, a man of great endurance.  You can see how the Lord was kind to him at the end for the Lord is full of tenderness and mercy.

James 5:11 (NLT)

Josiah

For the first time ever, I am attempting to read the Bible from beginning to end this year.  I might be a little behind, but my goal is to finish by the end of 2019.  I am reading the One Year Chronological Bible so at this point, I have read through much of the Old Testament.  Many times over the past months I have read about the people constructing and then praising “asherah poles”.  To this day I still can’t fully comprehend why people might stand around a carved pole of some material and worship it.  It seems kind of silly that they think an object could change their life.    Only when I put it into today’s context do I understand that what people put their time and energy into, becomes worship.  In my house and in my life I have an asherah pole.  No, you will not come to my house and see some crazy sculpture in my yard. But, you will see me sitting in a chair in my house with my phone in my hand.  I am not proud to put this out there, but my phone has become my asherah pole.  I spend too many minutes looking at it, living through what I see other people doing.  Thinking that it is motivating me and giving me ideas.  But guess what?  I never put those ideas into motion, because I run out of time from spending too much time worshipping my phone. We barely have our TV on anymore, and normally that would be a great thing, but it is only because we have replaced the TV with a phone.  How can we truly devote ourselves to serving God when we might be distracted by all that is going on with our phone in our hand?

2 Kings 23 is about King Josiah and his life.  Josiah was the King of Judah from approximately 640 to 609 B.C.  He is known as one of the world’s youngest kings, beginning his reign at age 8 after his father King Amon died.  Josiah did what was right in the eyes of the Lord (2 Kings 22:2).  When he was just 18 years old, Josiah raised money to repair the temple.  During the repairs the Book of the Law was found.  Josiah tore his clothes as a sign of mourning and repentance after reading all that the book contained.  

King Josiah then called for a time of national repentance.  Many reforms followed this time.  The temple was cleaned from all objects of pagan worship.  All idolatrous places and asherah poles were demolished. 

The king removed the Asherah pole from the Lord’s Temple and took it outside Jerusalem to the Kidron Valley, where he burned it.  Then he ground the ashes of the pole to dust and threw the dust over the graves of the people. 2 Kings 23:6

He got rid of priests who were leading people astray from the one true God.  Josiah moved further out of the city, ridding all areas and land of all pagan shrines and altars.

Josiah also got rid of the mediums and psychics, the household gods, the idols, an every other kind of detestable practice, both in Jerusalem and throughout the land of Judah.  He did this in obedience to the laws written in the scroll that Hilkiah the priest had found in the Lord’s Temple.  Never before had there been a king like Josiah, who turned to the Lord with all his heart and soul and strength, obeying all the laws of Moses.  And there has bever been a king like him since.                                      2 Kings 23:24 &25

Josiah’s zeal pleased God.  God desires us all to have a desire to rid every trace of sin in our life.  We have replaced asherah poles with phones, altars with food, and we worship our time more than we worship God.  

Josiah was the first and only King to please God and keep continuous devotion to Him.  What is it in your life that you may be worshipping a little too much?  I challenge you to rid that time consuming thing from your life.  See what God can replace it with.  

Samuel

 

Be careful what you ask for.  Sometimes God will give it to you even if He knows He has better plans for you!!

This is exactly what we see happen to the Israelites in our reading for today,  1 Samuel 8.  

Samuel was raised in the house of God, where he grew in stature and in favor with both God and man ( 1 Samuel 2:26).  As a young man, the Lord spoke to Him and through Him.  Samuel served the Lord as a prophet, priest, judge and leader of Israel, yet somehow his own children rejected God.  

When Samuel grew old, he appointed his wayward sons as the next leaders of Israel (1 Samuel 8:1).  The people knew that the two sons were not walking with the Lord and they were understandably upset.  The people did not look to God and ask what is best, instead they looked all around and decided they wanted what every other nation had…a king.

So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah.  They said to him,

“You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways;  now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.      1 Samuel 8:4 &5

Israel, the nation chosen by God to be set apart, to be His nation, to follow His commands, wanted a king.

The people went to Samuel and pleaded with him. 

“But when they said, ‘Give us a king to lead us,’ this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord.”  1 Samuel 8:6

Samuel went to god with the issue.  The people of Israel did not look to God, but instead to one another.  Then they refused to listen to the counsel of Samuel.  They wanted what they wanted and they wanted it now. God gave them a warning through Samuel that their desires were not His.  Samuel warned them of all the consequences that would happen with a king in place. 

“But the people refused to listen to Samuel.  “No!” they said.  “We want a king over us.  Then we will be like all the other nations…”        1 Samuel 8:19&20  

God wasn’t pleased with this request because demanding a king meant the nation was rejecting God as their leader.  But guess what God tells Samuel to do?  He says to go ahead and anoint Saul as Israel’s first king.

Many of us consult God about important decisions in our lives, but how many of us are ready to accept His counsel and abide by it?  Especially when His counsel appears to go against our own desires?  Samuel was a great man of prayer and consulted God in all situations.  The Lord answered, “listen to them and give them a king.” (1Samuel 8:22)  The people knew this of Samuel and respected him for it.  The Israelites even asked him to pray for them in 1 Samuel 12:19.  

Like the nation of Israel, we sometimes think we know what is best and what would work best for us.  Israel saw the other nations being led by a king and they thought that a king might make their lives easier and solve their problems.  Samuel goes into great detail telling them what would happen if they appointed a king, but they did not hear him.  They stood their ground and asked for a king anyway.  

Is there anything you are asking God for that you think would make your life better?  Has God ever answered that prayer and given you exactly what you asked for?  Only to later realize that maybe your idea was not the best idea?

We look at other people’s jobs, houses, social media posts, talents, marriages, clothing, accomplishments, children, bank accounts, and even other people’s prayer life and think, “I want what they have!”

We think that someone else is doing it better and if we did it that way our life would also be better.  

When all the while, what we really need is more of Jesus.  Our biggest need is a deep, soul-level relationship with God.  Where we seek Him, know Him, trust Him, savor Him, walk in His ways, and serve in His name.  

We need to stop looking to what others have and instead look up to Jesus just as Samuel shows us in the book of 1 Samuel.

Miriam

Who was Miriam?  When I think of the book of Exodus, I definitely think of Moses. I had heard of Miriam, but I  had to do a little investigating to figure out who Miriam wass and why she is our focus in our reading today.  

Exodus 2:3 describes Miriam standing far off as she witnesses her mother putting her baby brother Moses in a basket and setting him in the river to save him from being killed by Pharoh.  Miriam was able to orchestrate her mother then being able to nurse Moses after Pharaoh’s daughter found Moses in the basket.  

The next time we meet Miriam is in our passage today, Exodus 15:1-21.  The Hebrew people have crossed the Red Sea and the waters have crashed down upon the Egyptian soldiers that were pursuing them.  The first 19 verses are a song from Moses praising God for saving them.

In verse 20 and 21 Miriam appears and leads the women in a dance while singing.

Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine and led all the women as they played their tambourines and danced.  And Miriam sang this song:  “Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;  he has hurled both horse and rider into the sea.”       Exodus 15:20 and 21

In this text, Miriam is called a prophet.  She is called this because she led the women in worship of God during the celebration of Israel’s victory over the Egyptians.  

Miriam’s life as a prophet and leader in Israel provided encouragement to the women of Israel.  Miriam’s ministry as a prophet also challenges us today to understand that women have much to contribute to God’s work and that they have much to teach those who are willing to listen.

Miriam set an example for God’s people and was a woman of prominence.

Just as all the Israelites were slaves in Egypt, the Bible teaches us that we are all slaves to sin.  

“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). 

Yet today we have a reason to sing!  Jesus Christ has delivered us from sin by his death on the cross and his resurrection from the dead.

We too should praise God for his deliverance.  If we confess Jesus as our Savior, then one day we will sing just as Miriam did in Exodus 15:21, 

“Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously!”

This is a reminder to praise God gloriously! 

When is the last time you grabbed a tambourine and the people around you and started praising God for all He has done for you??

 

Abel

 

Have you ever been intrigued about your family tree?  There are so many ways these days to discover our family heritage and where so many of our traits come from.  Today while reading our passage, Genesis 4:1-16, I was struck with the fact that the Family Tree is only 4 people long!  That is it!  There is no need for the internet or any amount of searching for finding the background of this family.  They are all right there in front of each other.  

  • Father – Adam
  • Mother – Eve
  • Brother – Cain
  • Brother – Abel

Abel is our focus today.

Abel was the second son born to Adam and Eve.  He was the first martyr in the Bible as well as the first shepherd.  Very little is known about Abel, except that he found favor in God’s eyes by offering him a pleasing sacrifice.  As a result, Abel was murdered by his older brother Cain, whose sacrifice did not please God.

When they grew up, Abel became a shepherd, while Cain cultivated the ground.  When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord.  Able also brought a gift—the best portions of the firstborn lambs from his flock.  The Lord accepted Abel and his gift, but he did not accept Cain and his gift.  This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected.

Genesis 4:2-5

Why did God look with favor on Abel and why did Cain feel dejected?  Genesis 4:6-7 explains why…

“Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain.  “Why do you look so dejected?  You will be accepted if you do what is right.  But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out!  Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you.  But you must subdue it and be its master.”

Cain should not have been angry, both he and Abel knew what God expected as the “right” offering.  Both Cain and God knew that he had given an unacceptable offering.  God knew that Cain had given his offering with a wrong attitude of the heart.  But, God offered Cain a chance to make it right and warned him that the sin of anger would destroy him if he did not master it.

The story ends with Cain killing his brother Able because of jealousy.  Able became the first man to be martyred for his obedience to God.  

Even though Abel died a martyr, his life speaks today of his faith.  He is the first name mentioned in Hebrews chapter 11.

It was by faith that Abel brought a more acceptable offering to God than Cain did.  Abel’s offering gave evidence that he was a righteous man, and God showed his approval of his gifts.  Although Abel is long dead, he still speaks to us by his example of faith.

Hebrews 11:4

Abel teaches us what it takes to have a right relationship with God.  Abel was not considered to be righteous because he was good.  He was considered to be righteous because he believed that if he offered God a proper sacrifice, God would forgive him of his sins.  

Abel and Cain grew up in the same family.  They were brothers and taught by the same parents.  But, it is apparent from Genesis 4 how different they were.  These two brothers show us that obeying god is a choice.  We all face these choices everyday.  Most often we know the right thing that God would have us do.  But, sometimes we (just as Cain did) choose to go against the will of God.  Cain already knew the way to life because his parents taught him.  Nevertheless, he chose to rebel against God and kill his brother.

Abel made a choice to become a righteous man.  He committed his life to the way of God no matter what happened.  

Both of these brothers made a different choice.  Abel chose life.  Cain chose death.  We all have a choice to make.  May we all be like Abel and have the faith to endure and choose to please Jesus.