Take Heed!

Bible:

Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. I Corinthians 10:6-13 ESV

Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,
as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,
when your fathers put me to the test
and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.
For forty years I loathed that generation
and said, “They are a people who go astray in their heart,
and they have not known my ways.”
Therefore I swore in my wrath,
“They shall not enter my rest.” Psalm 95:7b-11 ESV

Reflection:

Smoking cigarettes is very bad for your health, and there are many commercials that try to encourage people not to start smoking, or to quit if they have started. A few years ago there were commercials of people who were smokers showing some of the problems smoking caused them. One of the commercials showed a man who had had throat cancer and now had to breath through a hole in his throat, called a stoma. He had to cover the stoma with his finger to speak, and he had a gravelly voice. He could only eat soft foods, and he had to be very careful to protect the stoma while in the shower or when he was outside. Another commercial showed a mother whose baby was born early and had to be in an incubator. She couldn’t hold her baby, but only talk to it through a hole in the incubator. This made her very sad, and she cried a little in the commercial.

Paul told the Corinthians to look at what had happened to the people of Israel in the past. He listed the ways they had sinned against God, such as by worshiping idols, grumbling, and testing the Lord, and the ways God’s judgment fell on them. Paul reminded them of the fiery serpents and the plague of death. These things were written down as an example for us, Paul said. We should take heed and not fall into sin the way the people of Israel did. We shouldn’t think that we are stronger or smarter or better than they were. It is so easy to fall into sin, and that’s why we need to keep watch over ourselves. But then Paul spoke some words of comfort. He said that God will never tempt us more than we can stand. He will help us and give us a way out, so that we never have to feel that we have no choice but to do something sinful and wrong.

We know how weak we are, and how we sin all the time, but we also know that we always have forgiveness from God because of what Jesus has done for us on the cross. We can not only go to him for forgiveness, but also for help any time we are tempted. Jesus understands what we are going through, because he also was tempted when he was on earth. He overcame sin and the devil for us, and we know that they can never overpower us as long as we trust in Jesus. He sends us his Holy Spirit to help us keep our faith strong, to trust in him for help and forgiveness, and to struggle with temptation.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Jesus to win our forgiveness and to overcome temptation for us. Help us to stay close to you always. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Source:

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Breaking Down the Idols

Bible:

In the third year of Hoshea son of Elah, king of Israel, Hezekiah the son of Ahaz, king of Judah, began to reign. . . . And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, according to all that David his father had done. He removed the high places and broke the pillars and cut down the Asherah. And he broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had made offerings to it (it was called Nehushtan). He trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel, so that there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him. For he held fast to the Lord. He did not depart from following him, but kept the commandments that the Lord commanded Moses. And the Lord was with him; wherever he went out, he prospered. He rebelled against the king of Assyria and would not serve him. He struck down the Philistines as far as Gaza and its territory, from watchtower to fortified city. II Kings 18:1, 3-8 ESV

O Lord, in your strength the king rejoices,
and in your salvation how greatly he exults!
You have given him his heart’s desire
and have not withheld the request of his lips.
For you meet him with rich blessings;
you set a crown of fine gold upon his head.
He asked life of you; you gave it to him,
length of days forever and ever.
His glory is great through your salvation;
splendor and majesty you bestow on him.
For you make him most blessed forever;
you make him glad with the joy of your presence.
For the king trusts in the Lord,
and through the steadfast love of the Most High he shall not be moved. Psalm 21:1-7 ESV

Reflection:

A long time a Christian woman named Helena wanted to find the cross that Jesus had died on, so she traveled to the Holy Land. It had been almost 300 years since Jesus had died, but according to the story, she found three crosses. She didn’t know which one had belonged to Jesus, so she took the three crosses to the body of a dead man. When two of the crosses touched him, nothing happened, but when the third cross did he rose from the dead! Helena then knew she had found the true cross. Pieces of this cross can be found in many different places today, and there are a lot of stories about people being healed of their sicknesses or even of rising from the dead when they come close to a piece of the cross. But these are only stories. We really don’t know if Helena found the true cross, and even if she did, it is Jesus who heals and helps people, and not pieces of wood. A church father named Ambrose said, “Let us adore Christ our King, who hung upon the wood, and not the wood.”

King Hezekiah became the king of Judah after his father Ahaz. Ahaz had been a wicked king, and he had led the people in worshiping false gods and goddesses. But Hezekiah loved and trusted the Lord, and he did everything he could to get rid of the idols that the people had been worshiping. He even took the bronze serpent that Moses had made and broke it into pieces. God had told Moses to make this serpent when the people of Israel were being attacked by fiery serpents. They were dying because of their poisonous bites, but when they looked up at the bronze serpent on the pole, they were healed and didn’t die. But after many years, the people had given this bronze serpent a name, Nehushtan, and were making offerings to it. Something God had used to save his people became something the people ended up worshiping as an idol.

It can be easy to take a good thing that God has used to help us and turn it into a kind of good luck charm. Wearing some jewelry shaped like a cross can be a good way to remember Jesus and to show others we believe in him, for example, but if we think that wearing a cross will protect us from bad things, we have made it into a good luck charm, and even an idol. God gives us things to help us remember him, and he comes to us through the water of baptism and the bread and wine of communion. It’s not wrong to be thankful for these things and to treat them with respect, but we should always remember that it is God who works through them to help us. In Jesus he became a human person that others could see and touch, and Jesus died on the cross to bring us back to our Heavenly Father. We can trust Jesus completely for everything that we need.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for coming to be our Savior. Please help us to always trust in you. Amen.

Source:

http://www.thecross-photo.com/The_True_Cross_by_Ron_Loeffler.htm

Snake on a Pole

Bible:

From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom. And the people became impatient on the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live. Numbers 21:4-9 ESV

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. John 3:14-15 ESV

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. II Corinthians 5:21 ESV

Reflection:

Do you have to get shots sometimes? They hurt, but doctors give them for a good reason. Shots are also called immunizations, and they keep you from getting sick with some bad diseases like measles or mumps or polio. The way an immunization works is interesting. The shot actually has a little bit of the germ that causes the sickness in it. The germ might be dead, or it might be very weak. Your body is able to fight off the actual illness because it’s already had to fight off a little bit of the germ. That’s how the shot protects you from getting the sickness.

Something similar happened to God’s people. They grumbled once again about being tired of manna and about not having any water. God punished them for their sin by sending snakes with poisonous bites that hurt like fire. Many people died of the snakebites, and then they were sorry and asked God for help. God told Moses to make a snake out of bronze and put it high up on a pole. If anyone got bitten by a snake, he or she could look at the snake on the pole and not die from the snakebite. Looking at a statue of what was causing their trouble saved them from their trouble.

Of course, the poisonous snakes weren’t the real cause of the people trouble. The real cause was their sin. We have the same trouble they did. We sin against God and deserve his punishment. The Bible says that God made the holy and perfect Jesus to be sin for us. When we look at Jesus on the cross, we are actually looking at sin, because God put all the sins of the world on Jesus. The snake on the pole was a picture of Jesus. He was lifted up on the cross to die for our sins, and when we look at him in faith our sins are taken away, now and forever.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for taking all our sins on you. Help us always to look to you in faith for the forgiveness of our sins. Amen.