Blind Guides

Bible:

And he called the people to him and said to them, “Hear and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” Then the disciples came and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” But Peter said to him, “Explain the parable to us.” And he said, “Are you also still without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.” Matthew 15:10-20 ESV

But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth—you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” Romans 2:17-24 ESV

Reflection:

When Linus was still a very little boy, his big sister Lucy would take him around the neighborhood and teach him things. She taught him that fire hydrants grew all over the place, and that nobody knew how people could get so much water out of such small objects. She taught him that the clouds in sky were what made the wind blow. She showed him a small tree and told him it was an elm tree and that he could tell how old it was by counting its leaves. Then she said that someday it would grow to be a mighty oak. Lucy really didn’t know anything about science, and she was only making things up to impress her little brother. She was like a blind person leading another blind person. Linus didn’t learn anything true or right from her.

When Jesus told the religious leaders that making up rules wouldn’t bring them closer to God, but that God cared about what was in their hearts and whether they truly obeyed his law, they were angry with him. Jesus warned his disciples that the religious leaders were blind guides. People who listened to them and learned from them would not learn what was true and right. They would be like blind people who were being led by other blind people–they would all fall into the ditch! Jesus also taught his disciples again that what they put into their mouths and ate wasn’t important to God, because what people eat doesn’t last. It’s what is in our hearts and comes out of our mouths and out into our lives that really matters. But this isn’t good news, because we are sinful people, and what comes out of our hearts is evil and wicked–having hateful and hurtful thoughts and behavior, sinning with our bodies, stealing, lying, and all kinds of sins.

Jesus came to save us from all the ways we disobey God’s law and from all the evil that we carry in our hearts. He obeyed God’s law perfectly and taught his followers the truth about God’s ways. He took all our sins to the cross with him and died for them there. Because of what Jesus did, all of our sins–even the secret sins in our hearts–are forgiven every day. Jesus sends us his Holy Spirit to help us trust in his forgiveness and to learn to follow God’s law in our lives.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for being our Teacher and our Savior. Help us to follow you and trust in you always. Amen.

Source:

Schulz, Charles M. The Complete Peanuts 1955-1956 Seattle: Fantagraphics Books, 2004, p. 166.

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Making up the Rules

Bible:

Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said:

“‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” Matthew 15:1-9 ESV

O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. Psalm 51:15-17 ESV

Reflection:

Do you wash your hands before you eat? It’s really a good idea to do that. There are many germs that get on your hands as you go through your day, and they can make you sick if you don’t wash them away. A teacher taught her students how important it was to wash their hands by doing an experiment in her class. She took three pieces of bread and three sandwich bags. She put the first piece of bread in one of the bags while she wore gloves, and the second piece of bread in another bag with clean hands that she had just washed. She put the third piece of bread in a third bag with dirty hands. After a few days, the first two pieces of bread were fine, but the third piece of bread was very disgusting. All the germs had grown on the bread and made it not good for anything except to throw away. No one would want to eat it!

The religious leaders of Jesus’ time didn’t know about germs, but they always washed their hands before they ate. This wasn’t God’s command, but just a rule they had made up. It helped them feel as if they were closer to God if they followed all kinds of extra rules. They wondered why Jesus’ disciples didn’t wash their hands before they ate. Jesus knew all about germs, of course, because he knows everything, but he also didn’t want the religious leaders to think that following the rules they had made up would win God’s favor. He talked to them about how they were breaking a very important commandment of God and teaching other people to do the same thing. The Lord commanded that everyone should honor their father and their mother, but the religious teachers taught that if people promised their money to God, they didn’t have to help and take care of their parents when they were old. The religious leaders used a made-up rule to set aside God’s commandment. That’s kind of like washing your hands carefully before you eat, and then eating some very disgusting, contaminated food.

The Lord isn’t interested in how carefully we obey the rules, especially the rules we make up for ourselves, but instead he is interested in what is in our hearts. But that’s not good news at all, because we all have sinful hearts that turn away from God and his ways. Jesus came to die on the cross, and his blood washes away all our sins. He gives us new hearts and sends us his Holy Spirit, who helps us to love and follow him and to obey God in ways that give him honor and help others.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for washing our sins away. Please help us to love and follow you always. Amen.

Source:

http://www.iflscience.com/chemistry/this-teachers-neat-but-extremely-gross-experiment-for-her-students-has-gone-viral/

God Gives the Growth

Bible:

And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. 

And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? The sower sows the word. And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.”

And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”Mark 4:10, 13-20, 26-29 ESV

So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building. I Corinthians 3:7-9 ESV

Reflection:

Seeds are small, sometimes very tiny, dry things that look dead, but there is the potential for the life of a new plant or tree in a seed. Many seeds come with an outer layer called a seed coat, which protects and gives food to the life inside the seed. A seed stays dormant, or sleeping, until it gets the right conditions–water, light, and a warm enough temperature. When this happens, a seed begins to grow. Roots push down into the soil to bring water and nutrients to the seed, and a shoot sprouts upward toward the sun. What happens to a seed seems almost magical, but it is all the plan of God. He is the one who creates seeds and gives them the ability to grow.

Jesus explained his story about the farmer who planted seeds and left them to grow. A farmer can’t make seeds grow. Only God can do that. All the farmer can do is plant his seeds in the field. Jesus said that the seeds in his story are a picture of God’s word. God’s word isn’t just another book, but instead God’s word brings new life. God the Holy Spirit works through the Word of God to give the gift of faith to people. We can spread God’s word, but it’s God that makes it grow in people’s hearts. Jesus said that people are like different kinds of soil. Some soil is good and some isn’t good. People with hearts that are hard and won’t hear God’s word are like the hard path. There is no chance for the word to take root before Satan takes the seed away the same way that birds eat seeds that fall on the ground. People who have stony hearts believe God’s word until trouble comes, but then they give up easily because his word never takes root deep in their hearts. People whose hearts are full of thorny weeds are so worried about things in this life that they don’t let God’s word grow strong.

This story of Jesus seems a little bit scary. How can we be good soil so that God’s word will take root and grow and not get taken away or shrivel in the hot sun or get choked with weeds? We want to keep hearing and learning and studying God’s word so that the Holy Spirit can help us grow. But just as it is God who makes the seed grow, he also is the one who makes our hearts good soil for him. We don’t have to put our trust in our efforts to grow and have good hearts. God loves us so much that he sent Jesus to die on the cross for us, and he forgives us for the times we are stony or weedy or hard. He sends us his Holy Spirit through his Word so that our hearts are softened and we grow strong and healthy in him.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your word of life to us. Please help us to grow and be strong for you. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Source:

http://citadel.sjfc.edu/students/scm03254/e-port/vsg/The%20plant%20life%20cycle.htm

Fulfilling the Law

Bible:

[Jesus said:] “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:17-20 ESV

Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 5:18-20 ESV

Reflection:

When Sam’s parents took him to the fair, he wanted to ride on the roller coaster. But when they looked more closely at the ride, they saw a sign that said, “You must be taller than this line to ride.” Sam stood next to the line, and the top of his head didn’t reach it. He wasn’t tall enough to ride the roller coaster, so he would have to wait until he grew a little taller.

Jesus said that no one will ever get into God’s kingdom if they aren’t more righteous than the religious leaders of his time. The scribes and the Pharisees worked very hard to understand and obey God’s law, but Jesus said that they weren’t good enough. He also said that people who taught others to obey God’s holy law would be great in God’s kingdom, but whoever taught others to disobey even a small rule would be at the bottom. God’s law demands perfect obedience all the time, and not only in behavior, but also with the heart.

This is all very worrying to think about. Sam will probably grow taller and be able to ride the roller coaster someday, but will we ever be able to keep God’s law so perfectly that we’ll be able to get into heaven? But Jesus said something else. He said that he had come to fulfill the law, and that not even the smallest part of the law will go away until he accomplished everything. We know that we’ll never be able to keep God’s law perfectly, and that we deserve God’s judgment for our disobedience. But Jesus kept the law perfectly for us. His heart was completely obedient to his Heavenly Father, and because of that, his righteousness covers all our disobedience. Jesus’ obedience took him all the way to the cross where he paid for all our sins, and we have God’s forgiveness every day through him. The Lord sends us his Holy Spirit to give us new hearts that want to serve and obey God, and he is with us every day with his comfort and strength and forgiveness.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for keeping God’s law perfectly for us, and for dying to pay for our sins. Amen.

A Piercing Sword

Bible:

And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” Luke 1:33-35 ESV

[Jesus said:] “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Matthew 10:34-36 ESV

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Hebrews 4:12-13 ESV

Reflection:

During the American Civil War, the United States was divided against itself, and the two sides fought against each other. Not only was the country split apart in a terrible way, but even some families were divided. There were two brothers from Maryland, Clifton and William Prentiss, and Clifton fought for the Union while William fought for the Confederacy. They fought against each other in a battle near Petersburg, Virginia, and were both wounded in that battle. Both brothers were to die of the wounds they received in the fighting that day.

After Simeon had thanked God for the promised Savior, he blessed Mary and Joseph and had some difficult words for Mary. He said that her Son would cause divisions among his people, and that some would rise because of him and others would fall. He also said that a sword would pierce through her own soul. He said that the baby Jesus would divide people from each other, and also reveal what was inside people’s hearts.

These are words of God’s judgment. Jesus brings division between people who believe in him and people who don’t, and sometimes these divisions are difficult and  hurtful. Also, the Lord knows the secret thoughts of our hearts, and even though we can hide our anger and jealousy and other bad thoughts from others, we can’t hide them from God. Mary’s secret heart was open to God. When she saw her Son dying on the cross, it was like a sword piercing her soul. It was very painful for her to watch as the Lord worked out his plan in this difficult way. We all struggle like Mary with hearts that fight against God’s will, and the division Jesus causes between people was also in Mary’s heart and is in our own. But God wants to separate us from our sinful rebellion against him, and that’s why Jesus died on the cross. He died to raise us from the death of sin to life with him and to turn our hearts to follow his ways, now and always.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, please forgive our sins and raise us to new life with you every day. Amen.

Source:

http://www.green-wood.com/2012/two-brothers-one-south-one-north/

Fasting with Bad Hearts

Bible:

“Why have we fasted, and you see it not?
Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?”
Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure,
and oppress all your workers.
Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight
and to hit with a wicked fist.
Fasting like yours this day
will not make your voice to be heard on high.
Is such the fast that I choose,
a day for a person to humble himself?
Is it to bow down his head like a reed,
and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him?
Will you call this a fast,
and a day acceptable to the Lord? Isaiah 58:3-5 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:

Patty and Violet were making mud pies together. They took a hose and added water to some dirt, then sloshed it around with their feet and mixed it around with their hands. Then they sat down in the mud and started working on their mud pies. When Charlie Brown walked by, Patty and Violet were very dirty. Their hair was messy, and their dresses and arms and legs and faces were all streaked with mud. Charlie Brown told them what a mess they were. “Wait until your mothers see you!” he warned them. But the girls couldn’t understand what the problem was. “Why? What’s wrong? We’ve got our aprons on!” they said.

God’s people were just as silly as Patty and Violet. They had turned away from God and sinned in many ways against him, but they thought that they were very righteous because they went without food and sat in ashes and wore rough, scratchy sackcloth against their skin. They seemed to be very religious when they did this, but even when they fasted they also were fighting and quarreling and even hitting each other with their fists! They were enjoying their solemn fasts and at the same time being unfair to their workers and taking advantage of them. They couldn’t understand why God spoke through the prophet Isaiah to warn them that they weren’t pleasing God with their fasting. Just as Patty and Violet thought their aprons would cover them and keep them clean from all the mud they were playing in, God’s people thought their fasting would keep them clean from sin and keep them right with God.

God doesn’t look at a few nice or religious things we do, but he looks inside, at our hearts. He looks for love and trust and obedience, and if he doesn’t see that, it doesn’t matter what we do to look righteous. The Lord will judge us as sinful and wrong based on what is in our hearts. This is a really scary thought, because we all have thoughts of anger and selfishness and rebellion against God inside ourselves. No one can ever be right with God in the heart. But Jesus came with a heart that was perfectly loving and obedient to his Heavenly Father. Jesus paid for all our sins, including the sins of our hearts, when he died for us on the cross. Because of Jesus, we are forgiven every day, and God sends us his Holy Spirit to give us new hearts of faith and trust.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Jesus to die for us so that all our sins could be forgiven. Please give us new and better hearts every day. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Source:

Schulz, Charles M. The Complete Peanuts 1953-1954 Seattle: Fantagraphics Books, 2004, p. 59.

Clean from Sin

Bible:

Who can say, “I have made my heart pure;
I am clean from my sin”? Proverbs 20:9 ESV

The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately sick;
who can understand it?
“I the Lord search the heart
and test the mind,
to give every man according to his ways,
according to the fruit of his deeds.” Jeremiah 17:9-10 ESV

Reflection:

Have you ever used dental disclosing tablets? After you brush and floss your teeth as best you can, you can take one of these little red pills and chew it up. After a moment, you look at your teeth, and every place that you didn’t get clean with your toothbrush and floss will be red. You might think you got your teeth really clean, but the dental disclosing tablets often show another story. It’s very hard to brush and floss your teeth perfectly without leaving any plaque behind.

It’s possible to do such a good job of brushing and flossing that there won’t be even one small spot of red left on your teeth. But there’s one way that the Bible says we can’t even begin to get clean no matter how hard we try. The Bible says that our hearts are sinful and that they also tell us lies. We might think we’ve done a pretty good job of obeying God’s law and pleasing him with our words and our thoughts and attitudes, but God can see deep into our hearts and see the sin that we can’t even see for ourselves.

God’s law threatens to punish us for even the most secret sin that we don’t remember or know about. Sin in our lives is like plaque that causes tooth decay. Sin causes decay in our lives and in our relationship with God. We would be hopeless if God left us on our own, but God loves us very much and sent Jesus to wash our sins away. Jesus gave his blood on the cross, and his blood turns our sinful hearts white with his forgiveness. Because of Jesus we are clean from sin, and our hearts are pure in God’s eyes.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Jesus to make us clean and pure from sin. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

The Hearts of Two Women

Bible:

Then two [women] came to the king and stood before him. The one woman said, “Oh, my lord, this woman and I live in the same house, and I gave birth to a child while she was in the house. Then on the third day after I gave birth, this woman also gave birth. And we were alone. There was no one else with us in the house; only we two were in the house. And this woman’s son died in the night, because she lay on him. And she arose at midnight and took my son from beside me, while your servant slept, and laid him at her breast, and laid her dead son at my breast. When I rose in the morning to nurse my child, behold, he was dead. But when I looked at him closely in the morning, behold, he was not the child that I had borne.” But the other woman said, “No, the living child is mine, and the dead child is yours.” The first said, “No, the dead child is yours, and the living child is mine.” Thus they spoke before the king.

Then the king said, “The one says, ‘This is my son that is alive, and your son is dead’; and the other says, ‘No; but your son is dead, and my son is the living one.’” And the king said, “Bring me a sword.” So a sword was brought before the king. And the king said, “Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one and half to the other.” Then the woman whose son was alive said to the king, because her heart yearned for her son, “Oh, my lord, give her the living child, and by no means put him to death.” But the other said, “He shall be neither mine nor yours; divide him.” Then the king answered and said, “Give the living child to the first woman, and by no means put him to death; she is his mother.” And all Israel heard of the judgment that the king had rendered, and they stood in awe of the king, because they perceived that the wisdom of God was in him to do justice. I Kings 3:16-28 ESV

The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately sick;
who can understand it?
“I the Lord search the heart
and test the mind,
to give every man according to his ways,
according to the fruit of his deeds.” Jeremiah 17:9-10 ESV

Reflection:

There’s a story about Solomon and his wisdom. There were three men who had been traveling together with some money, and one of them stole all the money from the others. They didn’t know which one was the thief, and they asked for Solomon’s help. Solomon told them this story: “There were a young man and woman who promised each other that they would never marry anyone else without the other one’s permission. But then the young woman met another man she wanted to marry instead. She went to ask the first man for his permission, and she took a lot of money to try to bribe him into giving her permission to marry someone else. But the young man set aside his own love for the woman and gave his permission without accepting any money. On the way home, a robber tried to steal the money from the girl. But she told him her story, and the robber was so touched by it that he let the young woman go free without taking her money.” Solomon asked the three men, “Which person in this story acted in the best way?” The first man said, “The young woman, because she kept her promise to ask permission before marrying someone else.” The second man said, “The young man, because he allowed the young woman to marry another man, even though it broke his heart.” The third man said, “The robber, because he kept his hands off the money.” Solomon then knew that the third man was the thief, because he thought the most about money.

This is only a story. But it’s a little like the true story from the Bible about the two women who each claimed that the same baby was hers. How could Solomon tell which one was lying? He would have to find out what was in each woman’s heart. No one can see into another person’s heart, but sometimes a person’s behavior can give us important clues. Solomon quickly thought up a test to get a peek into each woman’s heart, and then it was easy to figure out who the real mother was. One had love and concern for her son in her heart, but the other one only had bitterness and jealousy. God gave Solomon the wisdom to give fair judgments when situations like this one came up.

We can’t always see other people’s hearts, and sometimes we can’t even see our own hearts. We don’t always understand how sick our hearts are with sin, but God searches our hearts and tests our minds, and he knows everything that’s inside of us. This is very bad news for us, because our sin keeps us from God’s presence. We deserve his punishment for all the greed, anger, hate, and selfishness that we hide inside ourselves. But God loves us very much, and he sent Jesus to pay for all our sins, including the sins that we hide in our hearts. God forgives us for all our sins, and he sends us his Holy Spirit to give us new hearts that love and trust in God’s forgiveness and want to follow his ways.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for forgiving us for even our secret thoughts and feelings because of what Jesus did for us. Please give us new hearts that love and obey you. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Source:

Ginzberg, Louis Legends of the Bible Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1956.

God Knows All About Us

Bible:

O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it. Psalm 139:1-6 ESV

By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. I John 3:19-20 ESV

Reflection:

When you walk into a small store, you might see a surveillance camera. This camera records everything that happens, and if there is a robbery the police can see a film of the whole thing and maybe catch the criminal. Sometimes there might be a microphone to also catch the sounds. Sometimes law enforcement people might hide a surveillance camera and a microphone in a room and watch and listen to everything that happens. It’s also possible to listen to telephone conversations or watch what a person does on the internet. There are also devices that can track anywhere a car or a person goes.

It can be scary to think that there are ways people can watch and listen to us and even follow where we go. But there is one thing that no one can do, and that is read what we are thinking and see what is in our hearts. Only God can do that. God not only sees and hears everything we do, no matter where we go, but he can also see what is in our hearts and minds. Before we even say a word or do anything, he knows all about it, and this can also be scary. God sees all our bad thought and knows the mean words we want to say, even if we don’t say them. He sees when we have anger and hate in our hearts, even if we are nice and friendly on the outside.

When we realize that God knows our hearts, we realize how hopeless it is to try to be as good as God wants us to be all the time, every day. We know that without God’s love and forgiveness, we can never hope to please God or be his people. But God sent Jesus to take all our sins to the cross with him, and that includes even the sins that no one else knows about or can see. Jesus paid for all our sins, and we have God’s complete forgiveness because of Jesus. Even when we’re feeling bad about our angry and mean thoughts and feelings, we know that God’s love for us is much bigger than our hearts, and that his love for us will never end.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the love and forgiveness you give us in Jesus. In His Name, Amen.

A Horrible Way to Die

Bible:

Yet you are he who took me from the womb;
you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts.
On you was I cast from my birth,
and from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
Be not far from me,
for trouble is near,
and there is none to help.

Many bulls encompass me;
strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
they open wide their mouths at me,
like a ravening and roaring lion.

I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
it is melted within my breast;
my strength is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
you lay me in the dust of death.

For dogs encompass me;
a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and feet—
I can count all my bones—
they stare and gloat over me;
they divide my garments among them,
and for my clothing they cast lots. Psalm 22:9-18 ESV

When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.”

After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth.

But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.

Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” John 19:23-24a, 28-29, 33-34 20:24-27 ESV

Reflection:

Crucifixion, a horribly cruel form of punishment, was used by the Romans. Death was caused by the weight of the body hanging on a cross. Often the person’s shoulders and elbow were pulled out of joint. After awhile it got harder and harder to breathe. The rib cage was held in a tight position, and the person couldn’t exhale without pushing up with the legs and feet. But this hurt the legs and feet very much, and eventually the person became too tired to breathe, and died.

At the time this amazing psalm was written the Romans hadn’t come to power and crucifixion wasn’t used, yet it almost seems as if we are there while Jesus hangs on the cross when we read Psalm 22. We can see Jesus’ body, stretched on the cross while his bones are pulled out of joint. Jesus lost so much blood that he became thirsty, so thirsty that his tongue felt dry and sticky in his mouth. Sometimes the Romans used nails in the person’s hands and feet, and we know this happened to Jesus, because Thomas wouldn’t believe that the risen Jesus was real unless he saw these nail prints. The soldiers at the foot of the cross gambled for Jesus’ clothes. When Jesus had died, a soldier pierced his side with a spear, and blood and water came out. This makes doctors think that Jesus’ heart burst while he died on the cross. Psalm 22 says, “My heart . . . is melted within my breast.”

It’s really awful to think about how much pain and suffering Jesus went through when he died on the cross. Sometimes our mind just wants to push these thoughts away. But when we think of Jesus on the cross, it’s important to see much more than a man suffering a cruel and painful death. What we really need to see is that he did it for us. We are the ones who should have died, but Jesus died for us so that we could have life forever with God. Because of Jesus, our sins are forgiven, and we belong to God. That’s what we can see when we look at the cross.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for the terrible suffering and dying you did for me. Please forgive my sins and help me to live for you. Amen.

Source:

http://www.tribunesandtriumphs.org/roman-life/roman-crucifixion.htm