March 2012


Prayer Focus: Cape Verde Is, Cayman Is

Bible Reading: Ruth 1-4

Scripture

One day Ruth’s mother-in-law Naomi said to her, “My daughter, I must find a home for you, where you will be well provided for. Now Boaz, with whose women you have worked, is a relative of ours. Tonight he will be winnowing barley on the threshing floor. Wash, put on perfume, and get dressed in your best clothes. Then go down to the threshing floor, but don’t let him know you are there until he has finished eating and drinking. When he lies down, note the place where he is lying. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down. He will tell you what to do.” (Ruth 3:1-4)

Observation

Naomi had good intentions, wanting to get Ruth married and protected and provided for, but she gave some horrible advice.  The advice she gives in the passage above puts Ruth in a compromising position in a public venue!  What was Naomi thinking?  The whole village had been talking about Ruth’s noble character and devotion, how her behavior brought honor to Naomi, and she sends her here to Boaz in the dark of night, sneaking under his blankets?

Ruth does what her mother in law requests of her though.  And when Boaz awakens and questions her, she doesn’t try to compromise him further, nor does she try to seduce him.  She simply asks him to protect her, provide for her by being her kinsman redeemer; to marry her.  Her simple honesty of her need, the humbleness of her approach without artifice, touched him in a way that seduction might not have (based on the nature of the praise he gave her).

Doing what she asked would come at a price to him.  In agreeing to provide for these women, it meant that he would buy the land that belonged to Naomi’s husband.  The first son would be given to Naomi to raise, as he’d be recognized as a child of her husbands line, and that child would then in turn inherit the land he’d just invested in.

Application

How often have I had good intentions, but gone about it the wrong way?  How often have I given practical, but ungodly advice?

Prayer

Father, I ask for your forgiveness for the times I’ve let my good intentions justify my bad behavior.  I pray that you show me the places I can make amends.  Father, I also thank you for being my kinsman redeemer, the one who loved me so much that he was willing to pay the cost for my sin.  Thank you for providing me a place with you.

Amen

Prayer Focus: Canada

Bible Reading: Judges 19-21

Scripture

In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit. (Judges 21:25)

Observation

It’s hard to imagine a nation without one primary leader, yet it was God’s intentions to be their leader, their God, their King. Judges were obviously prominent (hence the name of the book!) but the people still sought the direction and counsel of the Almighty.

Application

It’s hard for me to imagine a nation led by God. Sure, the people were consistently disobedient, but nevertheless they frequently cried out to Him for help and wisdom. When I think about our nation, I question the relevance of our famous slogan “in God we trust.” Oh that it would be true of the United States of America, that we would trust the Creator more than our president, celebrities, or ourselves.

Prayer

Almighty God, it is my prayer that You would be the leader of my life, my family, our nation, and our world. Our country is so messed up. Forgive us for our wicked idolatry. Heal our land. Bring us back to You. Expose the folly of narcissism. May it be said of us that You are our King. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Prayer Focus: Canada

Bible Reading: Judges 14-18

Scripture

So he told her everything.  “No razor has ever been used on my head,” he said, “because I have been a Nazirite  dedicated to God from my mother’s womb. If my head were shaved, my strength would leave me, and I would become as weak as any other man.”

When Delilah saw that he had told her everything, she sent word to the rulers of the Philistines , “Come back once more; he has told me everything.” So the rulers of the Philistines returned with the silver in their hands. (Judges 16:17-18)

Observation

They say that love is blind. Repeatedly Delilah tries to find the secret of Samson’s strength. He knows what she’s after since he keeps leading her astray. Each time, he is attacked. You would think he would realize she is out to get him, yet he is so clueless. What was Samson thinking? He wasn’t thinking! He compromised so many times in so many ways, it was a wonder that God used him, yet that’s exactly what He does. He killed more in his death than in his life, verse 30 tells us. Thus ends one of the most bizarre and tragic characters in the Bible.

Application

Where am I clueless? Where am I compromising? Samson was so strong and yet so weak in certain areas. What about me?

Prayer

LORD, shine Your light on those dark places in my life. Show me the blind spots that I—by definition—cannot see. You have searched me and You know me…better than I know myself. Thank You for using flawed people like Samson—and me! In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Prayer Focus: Cameroon

Bible Reading: Judges 10-13

Scripture

And the people of Israel cried out to the Lord, saying, “We have sinned against you, because we have forsaken our God and have served the Baals.”11 And the Lord said to the people of Israel, “Did I not save you from the Egyptians and from the Amorites, from the Ammonites and from the Philistines?12 The Sidonians also, and the Amalekites and the Maonites oppressed you, and you cried out to me, and I saved you out of their hand.13 Yet you have forsaken me and served other gods; therefore I will save you no more.14 Go and cry out to the gods whom you have chosen; let them save you in the time of your distress.”  Judges 10:10-14

Observation

From where I sit this sounds a lot like sarcasm coming from God.  It sounds a lot like, “Oh, you think these gods which are really just hunks of wood are going to save you?  Okay, well, why don’t we put that to the test.  I’m just going to stand back, do nothing, and let’s if any of them come to save you.”  That, my friends, is the last thing you want to hear from God.  When God says, “have it your way,” nothing good results.

And Israel suffered for it.  Fortunately, God didn’t forget them and another leader was raised up; Jephthah.  Jephthah was a mixed bag; lawless, impulsive, but a great military leader.  It’s a familiar story in Israel’s history; bigger than life people with bigger than life faults.  But maybe that’s what it takes to work with a group of people who’s history includes God freeing them from bondage, parting the Red Sea, pillars of fire, pillars of smoke, plagues, miracles, and turning from that God to worship gods made of wood that they sacrificed their children, too.

It’s a head-scratcher.

Application

I feel like I’ve written this post before, but now I’m thinking that’s the point.  I like to pick on the Israelites.  Honestly, I really enjoy it.  I really feel a sense of satisfaction pointing to all the different passages that prove they really were a stiff-necked people; ridiculous is what they were, totally ridiculous.

And then I have to be honest with myself; I enjoy pointing out their faults because it helps me justify mine.

But all is not lost.  God was always there for Israel.  When they repented He took them back immediately.  God’s good that way.  He wants the best for us no matter how stupid we get.  And I don’t have to think to hard to remember how stupid I’ve been.

Do you know how true that is that He wants the best for us?  He wouldn’t have sent a savior if He didn’t want the best for us.  He wouldn’t have left us with His Word if He didn’t want the best for us.  He wouldn’t have filled us with His Holy Spirit if He didn’t want the best for us.  God wanted the best for Israel, but they had the hardest time remembering that.  God wants the best for us; we best not forget that.

Prayer

Lord, Israel had a short memory, almost as short as mine.  I ask for this today, that you would always be on the forefront of my mind; when I’m tempted, when I’m angry, when I share your Gospel, or when I have the opportunity to just do something good for someone.  If you are at the forefront of my mind then you will be at the forefront of my words and my actions; stopping me when I should stop and pushing me when I should go.  May you be glorified, Lord, and not forgotten.  Amen.

Prayer Focus: Cameroon

Bible Reading: Judges 6-9

Scripture

The LORD said to Gideon, “You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, ‘My own strength  has saved me.’ (Judges 7:2)

Observation

Gideon began with an army of 32,000 warriors. God whittled it down to 300 after repeatedly telling Gideon that he had too many men. Why? Clearly God wanted to get the credit. One plus God equals a majority!

Application

It was ridiculous to think that Gideon could win with 32,000 men, much less 300, but God didn’t want Gideon or his soldiers to take credit for the victory. The battle belongs to the LORD! This is still true today. When we are weak, He is strong and receives the credit. If He calls us to do something that we are capable of doing, it’s probably not the LORD! He has a habit of asking us to do the impossible, of calling us out of our comfort zones into something truly exciting, dangerous, and beyond our abilities…so that we fully rely on Him and allow Him to get the glory.

Prayer

Awesome God, You are truly awesome. There is none like You. The demonstration of Your presence and power is clear throughout the pages of Scripture, including this remarkable story of Gideon. Help me get beyond my own limitations and excuses and give me the faith and courage to boldly pursue whatever vision You put before me, regardless of conventional wisdom. I specifically pray, LORD, that You would use the modest numbers at Scio Community Church to “send disciples to bless the nations,” making an impact around the globe for Your glory. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Prayer Focus: Cambodia

Bible Reading: Judges 2-5

Scripture –   Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time.  She held court under the Palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went up to her to have their disputes decided. (Judges 4:4-5)

Observation-  With the death of Joshua, the people of Israel began a series of sinning against God, being subdued by the enemies that were around them, repenting and crying out for help, God bringing about a Judge to deliver them and bring them back to him, only to have the cycle repeated again.  In the fourth chapter we have a prophet named Deborah that shared a message of the Lord that the tribes of Naphtali and Zebulun should ready for battle against the Moabites.  As in other battles in the Old Testament, most of the work was done by God before the armies ever clashed.  Indeed many of the enemy fled before the battle had begun.

Application – God shows infinite patience with Israel, time and time again, rescuing them from their falling off.  I often marvel that he kept coming to their aid when they repented and called on his name.  I’m also very thankful that he did continue to love them and care for them, because that means he will continue to love and care for me, no matter how often I sin and fall away, he will still forgive me and welcome me into his goodness.  The flip side of this is that God judged their nation and when they failed to obey and follow him, bad things occurred.  I see this as an alarm bell sounding, and a call to our nation to come back to God.  He didn’t go anywhere, the Israelites moved away from him.  He hasn’t gone anywhere now, but as a nation, we have moved away from him.

Prayer – Dear Lord and Father, Help us to draw close to you and to do your will.  Help us to know your will and give us the heart to abide with you.  Bless our church, our county, our state, our country and our world. Help in our weakness to hear your word and obey.

Prayer Focus: Burundi

Bible Reading: Joshua 23-24; Judges 1

Scripture

Adoni-bezek fled, but they chased him and caught him, and cut off his thumbs and big toes.

Then Adoni-bezek said, “Seventy kings with their thumbs and big toes cut off have picked up scraps under my table. Now God has paid me back  for what I did to them.” They brought him to Jerusalem, and he died there. (Judges 1:6-7)

Observation

The removal of thumbs and big toes sounds unusual in our culture, but it was a common way to make a prisoner of war incapable of military service. What is amazing to me is not that Adoni-bezek is cut, but that he recognizes it is God’s just payback for how he treated others.

Application

These two short and peculiar verses remind me of God’s justice. He will one day right every wrong. We will all be judged. In addition, there are often earthly consequences to our actions. The old expression “what goes around comes around” is frequently true.

Prayer

Awesome God, I am so grateful for Your grace. I would be hopeless if You truly “paid me back” for everything I have done in thought, word and deed to others. I realize my actions have ramifications for my present life, but I’m glad Jesus paid for my sins and reconciled me to the Father. I love grace! In Jesus’ Name, amen.

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