Incredible Blessings

Bible:

“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord,
“when the plowman shall overtake the reaper
and the treader of grapes him who sows the seed;
the mountains shall drip sweet wine,
and all the hills shall flow with it.
I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel,
and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them;
they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine,
and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit.
I will plant them on their land,
and they shall never again be uprooted
out of the land that I have given them,”
says the Lord your God. Amos 9:13-15

Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the clouds.
Your righteousness is like the mountains of God;
your judgments are like the great deep;
man and beast you save, O Lord.

How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house,
and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light do we see light. Psalm 36:5-9 ESV

Reflection:

Paul Bunyan, a giant woodsman and hero, moved to the Rocky Mountain Country of the United States many years ago. When he saw how good the soil was he planted a kernel of corn, and it sprouted five minutes later! It grew so fast that his friend, Ole the Big Swede, started to climb it so that he could cut off the top and make it branch out. But the cornstalk grew so fast that Ole was soon out of sight, and when he tried to slide down, the cornstalk grew faster than he could slide. Paul Bunyan and his friends tried to saw and cut the cornstalk down, but the saw was jerked out of their hands, and after they made one cut with an ax the mark of the cut grew up with the cornstalk before they could make the second cut! Paul Bunyan finally choked the cornstalk by bending one of the iron shoes of his blue ox, Babe, around the stalk, and it finally stopped growing. After the cornstalk was chopped down, it took three hours for it to fall, and when it hit the ground it caused cyclones as far away as the Mississippi Valley.

Paul Bunyan stories are tall tales. The Bible reading from Amos sounds a little bit like a tall tale, too, doesn’t it? It gives a picture of a wonderful time in the future when God blesses his people. The harvest will be so incredible that the reapers will still be at work bringing in the crop when it’s time to plant a new one in the spring! They will still be smashing the grapes to make wine when it’s time to plant new grapes, and there will be so much wine that the mountains and hills will drip and flow with sweet wine! This is a picture of God’s coming kingdom, a picture of having much more than enough of every good thing from the fields and farms. Amos talked about rebuilding the cities that would soon be ruined in battle, and about all the people living safely on their own land again.

Jesus came to bring God’s heavenly kingdom to us. He died for us to make us part of God’s people, and he gives us his blessings of love and forgiveness every day. There’s more than enough love to go around and to share with others. We look forward to the day when Jesus brings us to his heavenly kingdom, a kingdom that will last forever. The picture of amazing harvests and safe homes and cities is one way the Bible pictures God’s kingdom of heaven. We don’t completely know what it will be like, but we know it will be more wonderful than we could ever imagine.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Jesus to bring us into your kingdom, and for the promise of all the blessings it has for us, now and forever. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Source:

McCormick, Dell J. Paul Bunyan Swings His Axe Caldwell, Idaho: The Caxton Printers, Ltd., 1936.

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Starving for God’s Word

Bible:

“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord God,
“when I will send a famine on the land—
not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water,
but of hearing the words of the Lord.
They shall wander from sea to sea,
and from north to east;
they shall run to and fro, to seek the word of the Lord,
but they shall not find it. Amos 8:11-12

The law of the Lord is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is clean,
enduring forever;
the rules of the Lord are true,
and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward. Psalm 19:7-11 ESV

Reflection:

From April to June in 1974, there was very heavy rainfall in the country of Bangladesh, and it caused floods along the Brahmaputra River. About 40% of the country was under water during these floods, which destroyed many rice crops. The price of rice had already been rising, and many people couldn’t work to earn the money to buy food because the rice fields they worked in had been destroyed. The government of Bangladesh didn’t have enough money to bring food in from other countries, and they had disagreements with the United States which delayed the aid from the U. S. until it was much too late. Rich people hoarded food, and many poor people starved. One and half million people died in the famine, one of the worst famines in the history of the world.

Famine is a terrible thing, and it can have many different causes such as droughts, floods, and political problems. The prophet Amos warned the people of Israel that God was going to send them a famine, but it wouldn’t be a famine of food. It would be a famine of the words of the Lord. The people of Israel had prophets that God sent to them to tell them his words, but there would come a time when God would no longer send them prophets. They might go from one end of the land to the other, but there wouldn’t find a prophet to speak God’s words to them. This was the Lord’s judgment on them for not listening to the prophets he was sending to warn them to turn away from their sins and to turn back to God.

God sent his people many prophets, but in the end he sent Jesus, his own Son. Jesus taught us God’s ways, and he also was God’s true Way back to our Heavenly Father. He died for us so that we could be God’s people, now and always. We have God’s word, the Bible, to teach us God’s law and also about the love he has for us in Jesus. God’s word to us is such a wonderful gift that Christians want to share it with others, people close to us and also people far away, who don’t know yet about the love God has for them in Jesus. Christians are concerned and want to help people in the world who are starving for food, and the also want to share God’s word. That’s the most important famine relief there is.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your word, the Bible, and for your Son, Jesus, who brought us back to you. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Source:

http://www.londoni.co/index.php/history-of-bangladesh?id=23

A Bitter Day of Mourning

Bible:

“And on that day,” declares the Lord God,
“I will make the sun go down at noon
and darken the earth in broad daylight.
I will turn your feasts into mourning
and all your songs into lamentation;
I will bring sackcloth on every waist
and baldness on every head;
I will make it like the mourning for an only son
and the end of it like a bitter day.” Amos 8:9-10

As [Jesus] drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was with her. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Luke 7:12-15 ESV

And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Mark 15:33-34 ESV

Reflection:

In Bible times, and even today in some cultures, a son is very important to his parents, because he is the one who will take care of them when they get old. They will usually live with their son in the same house, and the son will give his parents the best food and whatever else they need to be happy and comfortable. If parents have only one son, he is all they have to make sure they will have someone to help them in their old age, and it is a terrible sadness if they lose him. When Jesus came to a city where a woman’s only son had just died, he felt very sorry for her, because she had already lost her husband and would now be all alone with no one to take care of her. He brought her son back from the dead and gave him back to his mother.

The prophet Amos talked about the Day of the Lord, a day of judgment and punishment for sins. He talked about darkness coming at noon, and terrible sadness coming to the people. They would stop their festivals and sing mournful songs and wear scratchy sackcloth, which people wore to show they were sorry for their sins. The Day of the Lord was going to be a day of bitter mourning, like the sadness of parents who lose their only son. Someday God’s people would be defeated in battle and taken away from the promised land to live in a country far away, and that would be a day of judgment and of grief for them.

The most awesome Day of the Lord, the day when God poured out his judgment against sin, came when Jesus died on the cross. The light of the sun failed and it became very dark at noon. God’s only Son died on the cross in our place, to take the punishment for our sins. Because of what Jesus did for us, we have God’s forgiveness. We don’t have to be afraid of the final Day of the Lord, when Jesus comes again to judge the whole world. For everyone who believes in Jesus, it will be a day of rising from the dead and living in God’s Heavenly Kingdom forever.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for sending your only Son to die for us and bring us into your kingdom. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Hypocrites!

Bible:

Hear this, you who trample on the needy
and bring the poor of the land to an end,
saying, “When will the new moon be over,
that we may sell grain?
And the Sabbath,
that we may offer wheat for sale,
that we may make the ephah small and the shekel great
and deal deceitfully with false balances,
that we may buy the poor for silver
and the needy for a pair of sandals
and sell the chaff of the wheat?”

The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob:
“Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.” Amos 8:4-7 ESV

[Jesus said:] “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” Matthew 23:23-28 ESV

Reflection:

Uriah Heep worked for David Copperfield’s friend, Mr. Wickfield. He always pretended to be humble and devoted to his employer, and acted like a good worker who did all of his work well. But inside, Uriah Heep was very different. He didn’t care about his employer at all. Instead, he was greedy for money, so he used his job to get the advantage over Mr. Wickfield. He got more and more power over him and cheated him out of a lot of money. People who seem to be good on the outside but are bad on the inside are called hypocrites, and Uriah Heep, in the story of David Copperfield, is a good example of a hypocrite.

God spoke to the people of Israel through his prophet Amos, because they also were hypocrites. They observed the Sabbath laws, and they might have looked as if they were good people who loved and served the Lord. But actually they were very different inside. They wished they didn’t have to bother with the Sabbath day. They couldn’t wait for it to be over, so they could back to their business of making money. They weren’t honest in the way they made money, either. They cheated people by using dishonest weights and scales, and they took advantage of the poor people. God judged them for this behavior and warned them of the punishment they would get. He could see past their good Sabbath behavior into their hearts, and knew what secrets were hiding there.

The religious leaders in Jesus’ time were also hypocrites. They looked as if they loved God and were good at keeping his laws, but Jesus saw into their hearts and saw all the sin that was there. They obeyed many of God’s rules, but they didn’t follow God’s ways by showing people mercy and justice. Jesus can see into our hearts as well. He sees all our mean and selfish thoughts and the ways we are greedy or want to hurt others. We might act as if we are good and nice, but inside we hide many things from other people. Yet even though God sees what’s inside us, he loves us. That’s why Jesus came. He died on the cross to pay for all our sins, even the secret ones no one else knows about. Jesus gives us his forgiveness, and sends us his Holy Spirit to give us new lives and hearts that follow and love him.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, please forgive all our sins and help us to follow your ways. Amen.

Source:

Dickens, Charles David Copperfield London: Bradbury and Evans, 1850.

Too Comfortable to Care

Bible:

“Woe to those who lie on beds of ivory
and stretch themselves out on their couches,
and eat lambs from the flock
and calves from the midst of the stall,
who sing idle songs to the sound of the harp
and like David invent for themselves instruments of music,
who drink wine in bowls
and anoint themselves with the finest oils,
but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph!
Therefore they shall now be the first of those who go into exile,
and the revelry of those who stretch themselves out shall pass away.” Amos 6:4-7 ESV

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:4-8 ESV

Reflection:

World War II was a very difficult time for people all over the world. Many men fought in battles and died or were injured. Bombs fell in Europe, which caused death and suffering. The American people did everything they could to support the war effort, even though they often didn’t suffer as much as people in Europe and other places. When Christmas came, many people were worried about loved ones who were overseas fighting. They still celebrated Christmas, but it was a smaller celebration. Many people couldn’t get real Christmas trees because there weren’t many young men left in the country to cut trees down, so some people had artificial trees. They used paper, string, pine cones, and nuts to make tree decorations, because aluminum and tin were being used in the war effort. Gas was rationed, so people weren’t always able to visit family and friends who lived far away. Christmas was a time of hope, but most people kept in mind the suffering of their country and world.

At the time of Amos, disaster hadn’t yet come to their country. God warned them through prophets like Amos that his judgment was coming, but the people didn’t care at all. They kept celebrating and enjoying the best food and happy music and beautiful homes, and felt that they were secure and would always be happy. They weren’t at all concerned about the troubles that were going to come to their country, and this didn’t please God. He wanted them to see the ways they were turning against him and to change. He wanted them to be concerned about their country and not just live for themselves and their own interests.

It’s easy to be happy when life is comfortable and safe. When God blesses us with good things, we can enjoy them and be thankful, but he calls us to look beyond our good gifts to the needs and problems of other people. God’s blessings aren’t always a sign that everything is right and good, because sometimes we take the good things God gives us and love them more than we love God. He is always calling us to be ready to turn away from the sin in our lives, and also to look beyond our own interests and care about the needs of others . Jesus didn’t only care about himself. He put aside everything he enjoyed as God’s equal, and was born as a human person like us on the first Christmas. He went all the way to the cross, suffering and dying for our sins. Because of Jesus, we have God’s best blessings of all. God forgives our sins and makes us his people now and forever.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the blessings you give us, and help us to care about the ways we turn away from you and for the needs of others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Source:

http://www.nationalww2museum.org/learn/education/for-students/ww2-history/at-a-glance/christmas-on-the-home-front.html

God’s Festivals

Bible:

“I hate, I despise your feasts,
and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them;
and the peace offerings of your fattened animals,
I will not look upon them.
Take away from me the noise of your songs;
to the melody of your harps I will not listen.
But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” Amos 5:21-24 ESV

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,

“Hallelujah!
For the Lord our God
the Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and exult
and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and his Bride has made herself ready;
it was granted her to clothe herself
with fine linen, bright and pure”—

for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” Revelation 19:6-9 ESV

Reflection:

Celebrations and festivals are usually wonderful times that everyone looks forward to. There are good things to eat and times with family and friends. But sometimes a celebration becomes empty, because everyone forgets the reason for the festival. This happens a lot at Christmas. There are parties, and decorating, and baking, and dinners, and presents, and singing, and Santa Claus, and so many things, that people forget that Christmas is all about the birth of Jesus. When people forget Jesus, the celebration of his birth becomes empty and doesn’t honor God at all. God has no reason to be pleased when he is left out of a celebration.

The people of Israel were having all their celebrations and festivals, and even times of gathering in God’s Name, without really thinking about the Lord and following his ways. They were offering God the sacrifices he required without giving him their lives and hearts first. They were living in ways that didn’t honor him, and especially in not caring for the poor and giving them justice. The Lord spoke some harsh words through the prophet Amos. He said that he hated their festivals and celebrations, and that their sacrifices didn’t mean anything to him. He wanted them to stop singing their songs of celebration and instead to live in the right ways of justice and love.

We can never completely follow God’s ways and earn his pleasure with what we do for him, and that leaves us in trouble. But God sent Jesus to us that first Christmas so that he could bring us back to God. Jesus died on the cross to pay for our sins, and we are forgiven and free before God. Any good things we do to help others and to follow God’s laws, and any times that we celebrate in God’s Name, we do because of the love God gave us first. Because of his love for us, someday we will be brought into God’s heavenly kingdom. The Bible sometimes pictures this as a very happy wedding celebration and feast, and it’s a party that will last forever.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your love for us. Help us to live and celebrate in ways that honor you. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Trampling the Poor

Bible:

They hate him who reproves in the gate,
and they abhor him who speaks the truth.
Therefore because you trample on the poor
and you exact taxes of grain from him,
you have built houses of hewn stone,
but you shall not dwell in them;
you have planted pleasant vineyards,
but you shall not drink their wine.
For I know how many are your transgressions
and how great are your sins—
you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe,
and turn aside the needy in the gate.
Therefore he who is prudent will keep silent in such a time,
for it is an evil time. Amos 5:10-13 ESV

The soul of the wicked desires evil;
his neighbor finds no mercy in his eyes.
When a scoffer is punished, the simple becomes wise;
when a wise man is instructed, he gains knowledge.
The Righteous One observes the house of the wicked;
he throws the wicked down to ruin.
Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor
will himself call out and not be answered. Proverbs 21:10-13 ESV

Reflection:

After the American Civil War, African American slaves were freed from their slavery, but that didn’t end the hard times they faced. A system of farming in the American South called sharecropping was started. White people who owned land rented small shares of land to black farmers. These farmers grew crops on their share of land and paid a portion of these crops to the owner of the land as their rent. The problem with sharecropping was that sometimes the farmers renting the land had to also rent tools and supplies for working the land, and because they were poor and sometimes also because the landowners used threats and violence against them, they had to pay large and very unfair amounts of money to stay on the land. They sometimes ended up with huge debts that they could never hope to repay.

In Israel when Amos was a prophet similar kinds of things were happening. Poor people were forced to pay unfair taxes, and when people spoke up for justice no one would listen to them. Poor people who needed help were turned away, and when they went to court rich people were able to pay the judges to get cases turned their way. Rich people were able to have beautiful stone houses and lovely vineyards, but the Lord spoke through Amos telling the people that he would judge them for the injustice and unkindness they were showing the poor of the land. Even though many people had wealth and good lives, Amos said that it was an evil time, and that God’s punishment was coming.

Greediness and selfishness causes us to sin and to show unkindness to others, especially those who need help. We don’t want to bother with the needs of the poor or the weak. If we are stronger or have more money than others, we might start to think that we deserve it. We don’t realize that everything we have is a gift from God, and we stop feeling thankful for all of God’s blessings to us. This often makes us not willing to help and share with others. Jesus died on the cross for these sins, too.  We might work and put in some effort for the blessings God gives us on this earth, but there’s nothing at all we could ever do to earn the blessings of God’s love and forgiveness. Jesus gives it all to us as a free gift, and he sends his Holy Spirit to help us be thankful to him for all his blessings and to give us hearts ready to share and to help.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for the love and forgiveness you give us every day. Please help us be willing to share all the blessings you give us with others. Amen.

Source:

http://www.history.com/topics/black-history/sharecropping

 

God’s Sadness

Bible:

Hear this word that I take up over you in lamentation, O house of Israel:

“Fallen, no more to rise,
is the virgin Israel;
forsaken on her land,
with none to raise her up.”

For thus says the Lord God:

“The city that went out a thousand
shall have a hundred left,
and that which went out a hundred
shall have ten left
to the house of Israel.” Amos 5:1-3 ESV

[Jesus said:] “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” Matthew 23:37-39 ESV

Reflection:

Jessica’s mom had promised to take her out for ice cream on Saturday for a special treat. Jessica and her mom were both looking forward to the ice cream and to spending time together. But then Jessica started behaving in bad ways. She disobeyed her mom and didn’t come home from her friend’s house when she was supposed to. She didn’t take care of her chores to make her bed and load the dishwasher. Her mother warned her that their treat wouldn’t happen if Jessica didn’t improve her behavior, but Jessica ignored her mother’s warning. She played games on her computer when she was supposed to be in bed, and she argued with and spoke disrespectfully to her mom. Finally Jessica’s mother cancelled their treat for Saturday. She needed to teach Jessica that her behavior had consequences, and she knew that their time together wouldn’t be fun when Jessica was being so disrespectful. Jessica was upset to lose her treat, and her mother was too. Her mother had really wanted that special time together, and it made her sad that it didn’t happen.

The prophet Amos spoke words of sadness because of the bad things that were going to happen to God’s people Israel. He spoke about many of the men going out to battle and being killed, and not many of them coming back. He spoke of the land being left alone, with few people to tend it or plant crops. He called these words a “lamentation,” which means that they are words of sorrow and mourning. Amos spoke for God, and talked about God’s sadness over the sin that stood between his people and him. It wasn’t what God wanted. He wanted his people to love him and serve him and live in peace and safety.

When God came to us in Jesus, he showed us the same kind of sorrow. The city of Jerusalem rejected their promised Savior, and the time would come when they would also be defeated in a terrible battle. Jesus was very sad about the way the people of Jerusalem had turned away from him. He said that so often he had wanted to gather all the people to himself the way a mother hen gathers her baby chicks under her wings, but they wouldn’t let him. But something amazing would happen just outside the city of Jerusalem. Jesus was put to death outside that city to pay for all the sins of the whole world. When he died on the cross, he gathered all the people who would believe in him under his wings of forgiveness and love. God sends his Holy Spirit to give us faith in Jesus and bring us to him, now and for all time.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for loving us and gathering us to you. Please keep us with you forever. Amen.

Sorrow and Repenting

Bible:

“I struck you with blight and mildew;
your many gardens and your vineyards,
your fig trees and your olive trees the locust devoured;
yet you did not return to me,”
declares the Lord.

“I sent among you a pestilence after the manner of Egypt;
I killed your young men with the sword,
and carried away your horses,
and I made the stench of your camp go up into your nostrils;
yet you did not return to me,”
declares the Lord. Amos 4:9-10 ESV

As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us.

For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. II Corinthians 7:9-10 ESV

Reflection:

Leprosy is a disease that is often mentioned in the Bible, although sometimes when the Bible talks about leprosy it might be talking about other kinds of skin diseases. Leprosy can be a terrible disease. It can cause blindness, serious damage to the face and nose, and kidney failure. The worst damage that leprosy can cause, though, is to the nervous system. Leprosy can cause a dangerous loss of feeling, especially to the hands, feet, and legs. A person with leprosy might not even feel it if he or she is cut or bruised or burned. Thankfully, nowadays there is effective treatment for leprosy. Before this treatment was developed, a person with leprosy might lose their fingers or hands or feet because they wouldn’t feel the pain when they were hurt. They might burn their fingers on the stove and not even notice, for example.

No one likes to feel pain, but actually pain is a warning that something in the body is wrong and needs attention. Other kinds of pain and suffering can also be a warning. The Lord spoke through the prophet Amos to remind his people of the suffering he had caused them. He talked about the blight and mildew and the locusts that had caused damage to their grapes and olives and figs. He also talked about how many people had died, some of plagues and diseases and some in battles. God didn’t send them this suffering because he enjoyed hurting them. He hoped that they would learn from their troubles that something was wrong. God’s purpose was that they would return to him, but sadly, they didn’t.

Sometimes God allows us to know sadness and hurt. We can’t always know why God lets things happen the way they do, but sometimes it might be that God wants us to return to him. If our sadness brings us closer to God and causes us to turn away from sins that are hurting us, that is a good thing that will last us forever. God loves us and wants us to be his children no matter what happens. He sent Jesus to die on the cross for us so that all our sins could be forgiven and we could have life forever with him. No matter what happens, God is with us and cares about us. He promises to work through everything to do good things for us and to keep us close to him.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, please help us and comfort us when sad things hurt us, and keep us close to you no matter what. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Source:

http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/guide/leprosy-symptoms-treatments-history#1

Houses of Ivory

Bible:

“Hear, and testify against the house of Jacob,”
declares the Lord God, the God of hosts,
“that on the day I punish Israel for his transgressions,
I will punish the altars of Bethel,
and the horns of the altar shall be cut off
and fall to the ground.
I will strike the winter house along with the summer house,
and the houses of ivory shall perish,
and the great houses shall come to an end,”
declares the Lord. Amos 3:13-15 ESV

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten.Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you. James 5:1-6 ESV

Reflection:

In the United States after the Civil War, there were many very fast changes in society. Many new inventions came about in the decades following the Civil War, such as the phonograph, the telephone, and the radio. There were new ways to travel such as the automobile and electric trains and trolleys. There were businesses that grew into huge corporations at this time, and some people became very rich and lived in great luxury. There were also many immigrants who came to the United States . They lived in terrible conditions in the big cities and worked long hours in factories that were not safe. They were paid very little for their work. This period of time is sometimes called the Gilded Age. The rich people lived in beautiful homes, and there was a lot of wealth, but this covered up the problems of the poor people, just like painting something with gold paint might cover up something very ugly.

The same kind of thing was happening in Israel when Amos was a prophet. The poor people in the country were not being treated fairly in court, and laws meant to protect and help them were not being followed. The rich people lived in beautiful, big houses, some of them decorated with ivory. They were able to have both summer and winter houses, and to go and live wherever the weather was nicest. In the meantime the poor people were being crushed. This was happening because people were forgetting the Lord and his laws. They were worshiping the golden calves instead of the true God, and also other false gods and goddesses. Amos warned the people that God was going to punish them for this behavior.

It is very easy to trust in money and riches instead of in God. When we have money, we forget the Lord who gives us all our gifts, and we start to pay more attention to the gift of money. When we start trusting too much in money, we might forget to love and help people who are poor. Sometimes we might even do things that hurt the poor so that we can get more money for ourselves. But no matter how much money we have, we can never buy God’s love and forgiveness. Jesus died on the cross for us so that our sins could be forgiven, and God’s love for us is a free gift. We might lose our money, but God’s love for us in Jesus is ours now and always.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, help us to trust in your love and forgiveness and to use your gift of money in ways that please you. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Source:

http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/era.cfm?eraID=9&smtid=1