Silversmiths for Artemis

Bible:

About that time there arose no little disturbance concerning the Way. For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the craftsmen. These he gathered together, with the workmen in similar trades, and said, “Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth. And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost all of Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods. And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be counted as nothing, and that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the world worship.” Acts 19:23-27 ESV

The idols of the nations are silver and gold,
the work of human hands.
They have mouths, but do not speak;
they have eyes, but do not see;
they have ears, but do not hear,
nor is there any breath in their mouths.
Those who make them become like them,
so do all who trust in them. Psalm 135:15-18 ESV

Reflection:

Do you remember Daniel, a Jewish man who held a high position as a captive in Babylon? There’s a story that the Babylonians had a god named Bel, and every day the Babylonians fed it 12 bushels of fine flour, 40 sheep, and 50 gallons of wine. King Cyrus, the Persian, worshiped this god every day, and he couldn’t understand why Daniel wouldn’t worship a god that ate and drank so much all the time. Daniel just laughed and said that he would never worship a god made of clay and brass. So the king and Daniel agreed to test Bel. The king would set out the food and wine for the idol, and lock the doors of the temple. So they did that, but Daniel had dusted the floor around the idol with flour. The next day the king unlocked the door and showed Daniel that all the food and wine was gone, but Daniel pointed to many footprints in the flour on the floor. It turned out that the priests of Bel and their families had been coming in every night through a secret trapdoor and eating and drinking all the food and wine themselves! The priests of Bel served the idol because of the way it provided for them and their families.

This is only a story, but it’s a little like what happened in Ephesus after many people became Christians and burned their magic books. A silversmith named Demetrius called all the other silversmiths together and got them really angry with Paul. Demetrius said that if people stopped worshiping the goddess Artemis, then no one would buy their silver idols of Artemis anymore, and that would put them out of business. The temple of Artemis might also fall into disrepair and be abandoned. Did the silversmiths actually believe that Artemis was real? They might have, but what it seemed they were really worried about was losing money and losing their way of making a living. For them the goddess gave them a way of providing for their families even as their businesses led many people into the darkness of the false goddess.

Sometimes we’re also tempted to make a living in ways that bring dishonor to God. We might not make silver idols, but perhaps we do things that are dishonest or hurtful to others. We might try to justify ourselves by saying that we need the money to support ourselves and our families, but for God that’s not an excuse. It really shows that we don’t trust that he will take care of his people, but instead think it’s all up to us to provide for ourselves in any way we can. Jesus came to die on the cross to make us God’s children, and since our Heavenly Father provided Jesus for us, we can also trust him to provide him with everything else that we need. He forgives us for our greed and dishonesty, and gives us ways to work that serve the needs of ourselves and others and bring glory to him.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for providing us what we need, for giving us work to do, and for giving us Jesus, our Savior. In His Name, Amen.

Source:

Bel and the Dragon

The Gift of the Holy Spirit

Bible:

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit. I Corinthians 12:1-3 ESV

[Jesus said:] “What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11:11-13 ESV

Reflection:

In ancient Greece, there was a great temple to the god Apollo in a place called Delphi, where people could come to consult him and ask his advice. In the temple there was a woman who was called an oracle, and she would go into a trance and give answers to the questions people would bring her. People believed that while the oracle was in a trance the god Apollo spoke through her. However, the words of the oracles at Delphi didn’t always make sense, and they were never really clear, but instead could be interpreted in very different ways. For example, King Croesus once came to ask the oracle if he should go to war with the Persians, and the oracle said that if he did that, a great empire would fall. Croesus thought that this meant the Persians would fall, but when he went to war, his own empire was the one that fell! The oracle hadn’t lied, but she hadn’t been helpful to Croesus or clear in her message.

Paul talked about the days that many of the Corinthians had been pagans, and had believed in idols instead of in the true God. Paul said that these idols were mute, that is, that they couldn’t talk or help the people with their problems. Idols are just statues people make to represent a false god or goddess, and they can only sit silently in their place. The oracle at Delphi might have been making up her words, or she might have used drugs or the gases that came up from a crack in the earth to go into a trance. Apollo and the other gods and goddesses the Corinthians once believed in couldn’t do anything for them, but the Holy Spirit could. The Holy Spirit is the guide to truth and the one who gives us the gift of faith in Jesus. Paul said that no one could really believe in Jesus or say that he is Lord except in the Holy Spirit.

Our God isn’t like mute idols. He speaks to us through his Word, the Bible, and his words are clear and helpful to us. Most importantly, God came and spoke to us through Jesus. Jesus taught us the words of his Heavenly Father, and he showed us God’s will by dying on the cross to save us. Through Jesus we know that God wants us to be his own people, and that he loves us and forgives us every day. We hear the words of God through the Bible, and when we hear and learn what the Bible says, the Holy Spirit gives us the gift of faith and of life forever in Jesus.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for giving us your word and for Jesus, our Savior. Thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Source:

https://www.ancient.eu/delphi/

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 breathe 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:

Food Offered to Idols

Bible:

Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.”

However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble. I Corinthians 8:4, 7-13 ESV

We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” Romans 15:1-3 ESV

Reflection:

When Emily married Roger, she became the stepmother to his two sons. Their mother had died, and they missed her very much. Emily tried very hard to be friendly and kind to her two stepsons, Andy and Adrian, but it was hard. One day she made a special meal for the family. She made a delicious dish called shish kebobs, but when she served it, Adrian left the table and locked himself in his room. Andy tried to explain what the problem was, but he started to cry as he did. He said that his mother had made shish kebabs for the family the day she had died, and now this food reminded the boys of their mother and of her death. The problem wasn’t the shish kebobs, but rather the strong memories they brought back to Andy and Adrian.

The people in Corinth were having a similar problem. Some of them didn’t see why they couldn’t eat meat that had been sacrificed to idols. They knew that there was only one true God, and that idols were made-up lies. They knew that food that had been offered to idols couldn’t hurt them. But some others remembered the times when they had believed in these false gods and goddesses, and the celebrations and meals they had enjoyed back then. These people couldn’t even think of eating food that had been offered to idols, and it really hurt them to see their fellow Christians doing that. So the Corinthians asked Paul for his advice. Paul agreed that there was only one God, and that idols were nothing. But he said that people whose faith was strong needed to be kind to people with weak faith and not do anything that would hurt them or offend their consciences. There was a real danger that they might lose their weak brothers and sisters that way, and that would be terrible. Jesus had died for them, but just because someone ate some meat, they might wander away from the Lord. No meat is worth that, Paul said. He’d rather never eat meat again rather than hurt a brother or sister in Christ.

Jesus is our example in this. He is strong, but he sees how weak we are, and he acted for our good rather than for his own. He became a human person like us, and he let himself be hurt and killed for our sake. Because of what Jesus has done, we are God’s children for always. We have all of God’s people as our brothers and sisters, and the Lord means for us to treat them with kindness and love, and to think about their needs before we think of our own. He forgives us for the times we think and act selfishly, and he sends us his Holy Spirit to help us live in ways that help and bless our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the blessings of having brothers and sisters in Christ. Help us to treat them with love always. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Source:

Whitney, Phyllis A. Mystery of the Green Cat Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1957.

We are His Offspring

Bible:

So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for

“‘In him we live and move and have our being’;

as even some of your own poets have said,

“‘For we are indeed his offspring.’

Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” Acts 17:22-31 ESV

There is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. I Corinthians 8:6b

Reflection:

Have you ever heard of the phrase “hedge your bets”? This means to play things safe by leaving more than one option open. The phrase comes from a time when people would fence their land by planting a row of bushes or trees around the edge of their property, and these hedges would keep their land safe. Hedging your bets is often talked about in actual betting. For example, if you are betting on a horse race, you might put money on more than one horse. Then, whichever horse wins, you will get some money. You can hedge your bets when you make plans, too. For example, you might plan a picnic, but if it rains that day, you can have another plan ready, such as going to see a movie. That way, no matter how the weather turns out, you will have something fun to do.

The people of Athens had built an altar to an unknown god. They wanted to make sure they didn’t miss any god who might help them, so they were hedging their bets. No matter which god turned out to be true or good, they would have given that god some respect. Paul used that altar to introduce them to the one true God. He said that the true God couldn’t be seen, and couldn’t be an idol made with human hands. The true God, he said, doesn’t live in a temple we can build, and there’s nothing we can do to help him. In fact, it’s the other way around. God is the one who helps us. He is the one who made us and gives us life, and he is in control of the whole course of human history. Paul said that for a long time God allowed people to go their own way, but even so he was never far away from anyone. He is the Father of all people, because he made all people in his image. He now calls everyone to turn away from idols and from sins, and to believe in the true God, who will soon judge the whole earth through Jesus.

We can’t hedge our bets with God, because he is the only true God, and he calls us to put all of our trust in him. He calls us to turn away from sin and to follow his ways. This can be a scary thought sometimes. We want to play things safe and to save some of our faith for someone or something else. But our Heavenly Father has given us complete safety in Jesus, our Savior. Jesus took all our sins on himself, and he paid for them at the cross. When the final judgment comes, we can put all our trust in what Jesus has done for us. Our sins are forgiven every day, and we can look to the future with confidence that we are safe in God’s hands, now and always.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for taking us into the safety of your hands through Jesus, our Savior. In His Name, Amen.

Source:

https://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/hedge-your-bets.html

What’s New?

Bible:

Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, “What does this babbler wish to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.” Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new. Acts 17:16-21 ESV

Lord, you have been our dwelling place
in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth,
or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

You return man to dust
and say, “Return, O children of man!”
For a thousand years in your sight
are but as yesterday when it is past,
or as a watch in the night. Psalm 90:1-4 ESV

Reflection:

Over the years, the design of the way cars look has changed. In the 1910s, when cars first started being manufactured in large numbers, they looked very much like the horse-drawn buggies that many people still drove. By the 1920s, more smooth, paved roads were being laid, cars became longer and lower. By the 1940s, things like the running boards, headlights, and fenders became much more blended into the basic shape of the car. In the 1950s cars in the United States often had wide bodies, fins, and lots of chrome, but by the 1960s cars were becoming smaller and more compact. In the 1980s cars were simple and boxy in their design, but in the 1990s curves and contours returned. People who are interested in cars are always interested in finding out what’s new in their design and in their features, and every year brings new models with something different.

Paul was staying in Athens for awhile, and he found the city full of idols, which made him angry and upset. He preached about Jesus in the synagogues and also in the marketplace. There were many philosophers who liked to hang around the market and listen to the different ideas that they might hear, and so they listened to Paul’s preaching. Their whole lives seemed to be caught up in always hearing and talking about whatever was new and different, and what Paul was saying seemed very different to them. When he talked about Jesus and the resurrection, they thought he was talking about a new god and goddess, because the word “resurrection” in Greek is anastasi, which can also be a woman’s name. Paul’s ideas were new and interesting, and so they were more than willing to hear them, even though they didn’t realize how very important Paul’s teaching was. They just wanted to learn about the latest exciting thing to come their way.

We all like to see new and exciting things, but everything becomes old after awhile, and we get bored and want to move on to something else. God never changes, but he stays the same always, and that is good news for us. When we want someone we can count on to be with us and to help us, we want someone who will never change, no matter what. We can be sure that God loves us and will forgive our sins because he sent Jesus to die for us on the cross. He promises to love us forever because of Jesus, and even though our lives on earth are short, we know that we have eternal life in God’s heavenly kingdom.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for loving us and forgiving us and for keeping your promises to us now and always. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Source:

The Evolution of Car Design From 1910 to Now

Gamaliel’s Advice

Bible:

When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them. But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in honor by all the people, stood up and gave orders to put the men outside for a little while. And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men. For before these days Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. After him Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him. He too perished, and all who followed him were scattered. So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” So they took his advice, and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus. Acts 5:33-42 ESV

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,
for in you my soul takes refuge;
in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge,
till the storms of destruction pass by.
I cry out to God Most High,
to God who fulfills his purpose for me.
He will send from heaven and save me;
he will put to shame him who tramples on me. 
God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness! Psalm 57:1-3 ESV

Reflection:

There’s a story that when Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus fled to Egypt, they came to a city with a temple full of idols. The family came to the guest house of the temple, and when the baby Jesus was carried in by Mary all the idols in the temple fell on their faces. Then there was the son of the high priest of the temple who was possessed with many demons, but he came in while Mary was giving the baby Jesus a bath. He touched one of the strips of cloth that Mary used to wrap Jesus, and as soon as he did that the demons rushed out of him. When the governor of the city heard about these things he gathered his army and brought it to the temple. The priests thought the army would try to kill the little family, but instead the governor said that he remembered the story of what had happened to the Egyptians when Pharaoh had refused to listen to Moses, and he didn’t want that to happen to his city. Then he and his soldiers paid homage to Jesus, because they realized that Jesus was more powerful than all their gods.

This is only a story, but a wise rabbi named Gamaliel had a similar idea when the religious leaders were discussing what to do about the apostles and their message. Gamaliel reminded them about two different men who had gathered a following in the past, but in each case when the leader died, the followers drifted away, and their movements died out. Gamaliel said that if the followers of Jesus were simply following a man, their movement would fail, but if they were following God, then no one would be able to stop them. If they continued to try to fight the apostles, they might find that they were actually fighting God. Gamaliel’s advice was good. He helped the religious leaders remember the lessons of history and to avoid making the mistake of doing something that opposed God’s purposes.

God’s purposes for his people are clear. He sent Jesus, our Savior, to die on the cross for us so that we could be forgiven and have life with God forever. God wants his good news to spread to people all over the world, and he will accomplish his purposes in his way and time. He calls us to be part of his plan, and promises that he will be with us and help us. We can leave things in his hands and know that his purposes will always stand.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your plan to save us in Jesus and to bring people from all around the world into your family. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Source:

Gaer, Joseph The Lore of the New Testament Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1952, pp. 64-65.

Breaking Down Walls

Bible:

[Jesus] left Judea and departed again for Galilee. And he had to pass through Samaria. So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.

A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) John 4:3-9 ESV

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. Ephesians 2:13-18 ESV

Reflection:

Do you remember how long before the time of Jesus, the Northern Kingdom was taken captive by the Assyrian empire? They took the people away from their land and resettled other people from the empire there. These people brought all their false gods and goddesses with them, and God judged them by sending lions to kill some of them. Then the king of Assyria sent a priest who had been taken captive back to live among them and teach them about the God of Israel. They learned to worship the God of Israel, but they kept on worshiping their idols at the same time. Some years later, the Southern Kingdom was taken into captivity by the Babylonians, and when they returned from captivity and started to build their temple again, the people who had been living in the land wanted to help them, but the Jewish people wouldn’t let them help. So these people became enemies of the Jews and did all kinds of things to make trouble.

In the time of Jesus, the promised land was divided into three main parts under the Roman empire. In the south was Judea, where Jerusalem and Bethlehem were. In the north some Jewish people lived in Galilee, including Jesus for much of his life in the town of Nazareth. But between Galilee and Judea there was the land of Samaria, where these ancient enemies of the Jewish people lived. If Jews wanted to travel from Galilee to Judea, they might even take a long detour and go around Samaria rather than go through it! But Jesus traveled through Samaria, and one day he sat down by a well and asked a Samaritan woman for a drink. She could hardly believe that a Jewish man was talking to her in this friendly way!

Jesus was showing that his love was for all people, and not only Jewish people. He came to give his life on the cross so that the sins of all the people in the world could be forgiven. Jesus welcomes people who are among his chosen Jewish people, and he also welcomes those who have never heard of the true God or learned to live according to God’s ways. Jesus’ love is for all people, and we who belong to Jesus are happy to share that love with others. We see in everyone someone that the Lord loves and someone that Jesus died for, and we know that walls that divide people can come down because of the grace and love of Jesus.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for welcoming us into your family. Help us to share your love with others. Amen.

 

Keeping Pure

Bible:

Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the returned exiles were building a temple to the Lord, the God of Israel, they approached Zerubbabel and the heads of fathers’ houses and said to them, “Let us build with you, for we worship your God as you do, and we have been sacrificing to him ever since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assyria who brought us here.” But Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the rest of the heads of fathers’ houses in Israel said to them, “You have nothing to do with us in building a house to our God; but we alone will build to the Lord, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus the king of Persia has commanded us.”

Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah and made them afraid to build and bribed counselors against them to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia. Ezra 4:1-5 ESV

For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:3-7 ESV

Reflection:

One thing that can make people really sick is if their food becomes contaminated. This can happen in stores or warehouses, but it can also happen in homes. There are some important rules to follow to keep food from getting contaminated. You should use separate cutting boards for produce and for raw meat. You should use separate plates and utensils for raw and cooked foods. When you go shopping, keep raw meat and eggs separate from the other foods in your shopping cart. You should also keep them separate in your refrigerator at home. All of this separation keeps bacteria out of food and makes it safe to eat.

When the people of Judah started rebuilding their temple, the people who lived where the northern kingdom of Israel had been came and said they wanted to help. But the people of Judah said no, they would rebuild the temple themselves. This might seem unfriendly, but there was a good reason for their answer. The people who wanted to help were the descendants of people who had been settled in the land by the king of Assyria long ago. When the Assyrians had taken the northern kingdom away into captivity, they had settled other people in the land who worshiped false gods and goddesses. Because of this, God had sent lions among them, and they decided they needed to learn to worship the God of Israel. So they started to do that, but they also continued to worship idols at the same time. The people of Judah knew that it would be dangerous to cooperate with people who worshiped idols. They knew they or their children would be tempted to do the same thing, and so they decided to keep themselves pure and separate from the other people of the land. They didn’t want to let false gods contaminate them or their worship of the one true God.

We were all contaminated by our sin and rebellion against God, and there’s no way we could ever make or keep ourselves pure from sin. But God sent Jesus to die on the cross for us, and his death makes us completely clean and pure. When we are baptized, what Jesus did for us becomes our own, and our sins are washed away with the waters of baptism. God sends us his Holy Spirit to keep us faithful and true to him and to help us to stay away from the evil and sin around and in us that would lead us away from the Lord. God will be with us to help us every day and always.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for making us pure through Jesus. Please help us stay faithful to you always. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Source:

https://www.foodsafety.gov/keep/basics/separate/index.html

Not Learning from the Past

Bible:

Then Daniel answered and said before the king, “Let your gifts be for yourself, and give your rewards to another. Nevertheless, I will read the writing to the king and make known to him the interpretation. O king, the Most High God gave Nebuchadnezzar your father kingship and greatness and glory and majesty.  And because of the greatness that he gave him, all peoples, nations, and languages trembled and feared before him. Whom he would, he killed, and whom he would, he kept alive; whom he would, he raised up, and whom he would, he humbled. But when his heart was lifted up and his spirit was hardened so that he dealt proudly, he was brought down from his kingly throne, and his glory was taken from him. He was driven from among the children of mankind, and his mind was made like that of a beast, and his dwelling was with the wild donkeys. He was fed grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, until he knew that the Most High God rules the kingdom of mankind and sets over it whom he will. And you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this, but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven. And the vessels of his house have been brought in before you, and you and your lords, your wives, and your concubines have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored.” Daniel 5:17-23 ESV

[Paul writes:] I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service,  though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. I Timothy 1:12-16 ESV

Reflection:

There’s a song about a man who had a son, but he was always too busy to spend any time with him. He was away on a business trip when his son learned to walk. He gave his son a ball for his tenth birthday, but he was too busy to play with him or teach him how to throw. As his son grew up, he became like his father. He didn’t learn anything at all from his father’s mistakes. When he came home from college his dad wanted him to sit and talk with him for awhile, but all he wanted to do was borrow the car and go do something else. When the son got married and had a family, he never had any time to visit his dad or spend any time with him.

Belshazzar wasn’t actually Nebuchadnezzar’s son, but he ruled Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom, so Daniel talked to him as if Nebuchadnezzar had been his father. Nebuchadnezzar had learned a hard lesson about the true God when he became too proud. He became mentally ill and lived as an animal for awhile until he learned to give glory to the Lord of Heaven. Belshazzar knew about that, and he should have learned from Nebuchadnezzar’s mistakes, but he didn’t. He worshiped false gods and idols and made fun of the true God. Daniel scolded Belshazzar for his foolishness and his pride. He should have learned from the sins and mistakes of the past, but he didn’t. Because of that, God’s judgment would fall on him.

When we look to people to be our examples to follow, we might find good examples and bad examples, but we will never find perfect examples. That’s because everyone is a sinner. The Apostle Paul did many wonderful things for the Lord, but he never forgot the terrible things he had done before he came to believe in Jesus. He had hated Jesus and hurt many people who were Christians. We can learn from Paul’s bad example and not be like he was before he became a Christian, and we can also learn from his good example and the way he followed Jesus afterwards. But Paul said that the best example he could give was the example of the amazing love and grace of the Lord. From Paul’s example we can learn that because of Jesus’ death on the cross for us, we can know the forgiveness of all our sins. The best people to follow are people who believe in Jesus and trust in him to give them the eternal life Jesus came to bring.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for giving us Jesus, our Savior, and for people who show us how to follow him and believe in him. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Source:

Chapin, Harry. “Cat’s in the Cradle.” Verities and Balderdash. Electra, 1973. LP.