Posts Tagged ‘Teaching’

Scripture: (1 Sam 13:19-22 NKJV)  Now there was no blacksmith to be found throughout all the land of Israel, for the Philistines said, “Lest the Hebrews make swords or spears.” {20} But all the Israelites would go down to the Philistines to sharpen each man’s plowshare, his mattock, his ax, and his sickle; {21} and the charge for a sharpening was a pim for the plowshares, the mattocks, the forks, and the axes, and to set the points of the goads. {22} So it came about, on the day of battle, that there was neither sword nor spear found in the hand of any of the people who were with Saul and Jonathan. But they were found with Saul and Jonathan his son.

Observation: Saul’s reign was not peaceful as he battled the Philistines and other nations that surrounded Israel.  And while his beginning was promising, prophesying and making the right choices, little by little he began to decline in spirituality, in the respect that the people had for him, and in power.
The Philistines exerted enough control over the nations around them, including Israel, that they would not even allow them to have their own silversmiths so they would not make their own weapons; obviously, this was a problem for the Israelites as they tried to defend themselves.

Application: I read this story and immediately thought of what today’s world is doing in our homes by creating a thousand and one distractions so that we don’t spend any time “sharpening our swords,” that is, studying the Bible.  I’m particularly concerned with parents who believe that sending their children to non-Adventist or even public schools is a good choice and will not affect their children adversely.  It is as if the world has disarmed parents so when the battle for their children’s lives comes parents are  totally unprepared for it.
I don’t want to take this image too far, but the reality is that unless we are studying God’s word, for ourselves, daily, as the battle lines are drawn and we’re called to fight the enemy of souls, we are in peril of losing the only battle that really matters and carrying our children to the same fate.  Spend time each day with God’s Word, treasure it in your heart and mind, and see that your children enjoy the benefits of your study so they may follow your example and have their own swords sharpened and ready for the ultimate battle, the battle for their souls.

Prayer: Father, thank You for Your Word, the weapon You have given us to battle the forces of evil.  Help us to keep it sharp and ready by studying it every day.

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Scripture: (Judg 7:20 NKJV)  Then the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the pitchers; they held the torches in their left hands and the trumpets in their right hands for blowing; and they cried, “The sword of the LORD and of Gideon!”

Observation: Gideon’s large army had been pruned down to a very small number, particularly when compared with the army of the Midianites.  Then, they surrounded the Midianites and at the right moment they broke the pitchers, blew the trumpets, and lifted the torches at the same time as they shouted, “The sword of the Lord…”  To the half-asleep Midianite army, the noise, sights, the lights must have seemed like millions, and that caused great panic and confusion which led to their great defeat.  While on my last visit to Israel, several years ago, I remember our guide telling us that during the war with Syria over the Golan Heights, one lone Israeli tank operator did a very heroic feat.  He would drive up to the ridge and fire against the Syrians, then drive down, move to another location, drive up the ridge, fire, and repeated the same action from several locations.  Down below, on the Syrian side, they could see tanks going up and down and firing upon them and they though it was an entire combat unit, and those actions slowed down just enough for the Israeli army to come to the Golan Heights to defend that strategic site.  I imagine something similar took place during the battle when Gideon led the Israelites against the Midianites. . . who knows, maybe the Israeli tank soldier remembered this battle and knew that even a few can win a battle over the most.  Then again, it was God fighting on the side of Gideon and his army, not just the military tactics they employed.

Application: Today we’re enjoying family togetherness as our younger daughter, who studies at Andrews University in Michigan, is home for spring break.  Our older daughter, who lives nearby, is joinging us, and the four of us plan to spend the day together.  Those opportunities don’t come by too often nowadays, so we praise and than God for it.  As I think of the battle of Gideon’s army, I can’t help but think of the battles we as parents have to fight for our children.  The enemies of our children are great and many and at times we are overwhelmed and shaken to think of these seemly insurmountable foes.  But maybe that’s why this story is here, to remind us as parents that we may be small and seemly powerless, but if we blow the trumpet and lift up the torch (God’s word), victory will be ours and our children’s.  I would like to liken blowing the trumpet to our living testimony, and lifting the torch to studying the Bible – I suppose if you want to take the analogy further, you could say that breaking the pitchers is eliminating those negative influences that threaten to enslave us and our children.  But we do know and must be fully convinced of is that the Battle is the Lord and we need to commit ourselves and our children to Him if we’re to gain the final victory.
I know the following passages are not directly related to what I just concluded, but they are very inspiring nonetheless.
“The leader whom God chose to overthrow the Midianites occupied no prominent position in Israel. He was not a ruler, a priest, or a Levite. He thought himself the least in his father’s house. But God saw in him a man of courage and integrity. He was distrustful of himself and willing to follow the guidance of the Lord. God does not always choose for His work men of the greatest talents, but He selects those whom He can best use. “Before honor is humility.” Proverbs 15:33. The Lord can work most effectually through those who are most sensible of their own insufficiency, and who will rely upon Him as their leader and source of strength. He will make them strong by uniting their weakness to His might, and wise by connecting their ignorance with His wisdom.
If they would cherish true humility, the Lord could do much more for His people; but there are few who can be trusted with any large measure of responsibility or success without becoming self-confident and forgetful of their dependence upon God. This is why, in choosing the instruments for His work, the Lord passes by those whom the world honors as great, talented, and brilliant. They are too often proud and self-sufficient. They feel competent to act without counsel from God.”  {Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 553}
“The Lord is willing to do great things for us. We shall not gain the victory through numbers, but through the full surrender of the soul to Jesus. We are to go forward in His strength, trusting in the mighty God of Israel. There is a lesson for us in the story of Gideon’s army. . . . The Lord is just as willing to work through human efforts now, and to accomplish great things through weak instrumentalities.  {Ellen G. White, Conflict and Courage, p. 127}

Prayer: Father, give the courage to go through this conflict and win the final battle against your foe.  But also give us the victory with and for our children that we together may enjoy the rewards of eternal life together.

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Scripture: (Judg 2:10 NKJV)  When all that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the LORD nor the work which He had done for Israel.

Observation: After the death of Joshua and the people of his generation had passed away, things changed very quickly in Israel, but not for the best.  The rapid decline in their spirituality reflects the rapid abandonment of God’s will for them.  First of all, the Israelites stopped their conquest of the Promised Land from going as far as God intended it should.  Secondly, they left entire cities, and their inhabitants, alive and established relationships with them.  And finally, they began to worship the Baals of the people of the land.  This rapid decline is what God had tried to prevent by commanding them to destroy the people of the land, but in just one generation they went from following God to worshipping Baal.

Application: I can attest to how fast things change, in one generation, when you abandon God.  My mother’s parents were the first Seventh-day Adventist converts in the city of Bucaramanga, where we were born, in the country of Colombia, South America.  When my mother was a young girl, her mother died leaving her husband to raise five young children by himself; my grandfather never remarried.  Weighed down with the heavy responsibility and with a large hospital bill after his wife’s death, my grandfather, a very responsible man, made whatever payments he could on that hospital bill but in the process he didn’t return God’s tithe faithfully; shortly after that, he stopped going to church altogether.  Eventually all but one of the children, including my mother, ended up out of the church (one died at a young age, still believing and living his faith).  As a young lady, about to graduate from high school, my mother met my father, who together with his family  was Roman Catholic.  In order for my mother to be able to marry my father she “converted” to Catholicism; in her own words, while she did everything in her power to accept, believe, and practice her new religion, she confessed to me many years later that she never really could come to believe it because the seeds of Bible truth remained deeply ingrained in her heart.  Nevertheless, she raised her children as Catholics, attending church every Sunday, and performing the rituals, or “sacraments,” required by the church such like infant baptism, “the First Communion,” “Confirmation,” etc.
As a young boy, after my first communion, I became quite active in the church and was chosen to be one of the altar boys in the church near to where we lived and where we worshiped regularly for many years.  I remember as a young boy wearing my bath robe and standing before the kitchen sink, with a slice of bread, dipping a piece of it in a glass of orange juice mixed with some water, role-playing what I saw the priest do on the altar during mass – by the way, my own “mass” was not the best as the juice was too watered down, and the bread soaked in this mixture tasted horrible.  If the priest had seen me doing this he probably would have said that even at an early age I demonstrated a vocation for the priesthood; I might say that even in the darkness was already beginning to show me a glimpse of the ministerial career I would one day follow.
In my family, all of us grew up catholic, and faithfully did the things required of good Catholics like repeating the prescribed prayers to Mary and to bow down before the many images found in churches, cathedrals, and even road side shrines.  While my mother’s brother and his family were Adventists, we never completely understood what they were or why they lived like they did; we only knew they did strange things like not watch TV on Friday nights and Saturdays, or not eating what we considered to be delicacies and which now I myself find distasteful, even disgusting.  It was only after the death of my father, and our move to the United States, that my mother returned to the Adventist faith and she and I were baptized the same day in a church in Silver Spring, Maryland.
As we reflect on our portion of the Scriptures for today, some may wonder how quickly the Israelites abandoned the faith of their fathers after all the powerful miracles He worked on their behalf.  I witnessed how easy it is to do so as with my mother’s departure from the faith as in just a few short years she went from being a Sabbath-keeping, second-coming-expecting Christian, to a Sunday-keeping, idol worshipping Catholic, and as a result, with the birth of each of her children, we were one by one introduced to the worship of these idols  and it became a simple part of our lives.
If we as parents can see how easily and quickly children learn, we would be so much more careful with our actions and words.  I am amazed at parents who don’t bring their young children to church or those who have told me that they don’t want to force them to believe as they do but want to give their children the freedom to choose what to believe only to see how quickly their children abandon the faith their parents wish they would hold as their own.  I’d like to encourage every parent to hold dear their faith and live it and teach it to their children from the time they are born that they may grow up in it from their earliest days; if we as parents don’t live our faith, we will quickly loose our children and many generations to come.

Prayer: Father, help us to live daily our faith and may we transmit it faithfully to our children and for generations to come.

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Scripture: (Josh 24:14-15 NKJV)  “Now therefore, fear the LORD, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the LORD! {15} “And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”

Observation: This is one of those well-known passages in the Bible and it comes in the latter part of Joshua’s life, as he recounts for the Israelites what God has done for them and again reminds them to not enter into relationships with the people of the land lest they “become a snare” for them.  Here he challenges them with his own personal example.  If, after all God has done for them, they still choose to worship other gods, so be it.  Crazy as it seems, so be it.  But as for me and my family, God forbid that I’d leave Him to worship worthless pieces of wood, stone, or metal.  We will serve the Lord.  It is his own example that leads the people to respond the way they did: (Josh 24:16-18 NKJV)  So the people answered and said: “Far be it from us that we should forsake the LORD to serve other gods; {17} “for the LORD our God is He who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, who did those great signs in our sight, and preserved us in all the way that we went and among all the people through whom we passed. {18} “And the LORD drove out from before us all the people, including the Amorites who dwelt in the land. We also will serve the LORD, for He is our God.”

Application: We can never underestimate the power of our decisions on what other people, particularly our family, do.  Joshua understood that, which is why, at the dusk of his life he challenged the children of Israel with the words of our text.  We can challenge our children as often as we want to, but if our actions don’t match our words, the challenge will not only go unheeded, it could well drive them to make the opposite choice of what we would have wanted for them.  That’s that mean that if we live correctly all the time (or at least most of the time), that our children will follow our steps all the time (or most of the time) as well?   I wish I could tell you that is the case.  The reality is that everyone has the same freedom of choice and even the most godly parents have experienced the pain of seeing their children leave the faith in which they were brought up and the God to whom they were dedicated as babies.  As parents, however, we must consider that without a good example on our part the chances that they will choice a different path increase greatly.  From our part, then, we must dedicate ourselves and our family to God, live uprightly with God’s help, pray for and with them daily, and then leave the rest to them and to God expecting that ultimately His grace will be sufficient for them, as it is for us.

Prayer: Father, in Your goodness you allow us to make our own choices.  This day, we choose You as our God and Savior and ask that You come close to our children, that they may sense Your presence in their lives, and that they, too, choose You this day as their God, their Savior, and Lord of their lives.

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Scripture: There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded which Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel, with the women, the little ones, and the strangers who were living among them.  (Joshua 8:35 NKJV)

Observation: After the defeat at Ai, Joshua discovered and had to deal with Achan’s sin lest all of Israel would hear about it and learn to disregard God’s specific instructions concerning the people and the nations they were supposed to conquer and destroy.
In order to have a new beginning, Joshua read again the covenant God established with Israel.  Today’s text makes it clear that these words were read before all, but it specifically mentions women, children (little ones) and foreigners.  Passages like these should show us that God intended equal treatment to all.

Application: One of my favorite short stories, which eventually was made into a movie with Barbara Streisand, is Yentl, The yeshiva Boy, originally written by Issac Bashevis Singer.  The story centers on a young girl who defies tradition by discussing and debating Jewish law and theology with her rabbi father. When he dies, she cuts her hair, dresses as a young man, and sets out to find a yeshiva where she can continue to study Talmud and live secretly as a male named Anshel.   She has such hunger for learning that she sacrifices her female role, and even her love for her study partner, just so she can learn all she can from the wisdom of bible and other Jewish scholars.
I’m glad we have come such a long way from the days when women were relegated to a second place, some even farther back.  I have had the privilege of meeting and learning from some very bright women and feel my life has been enriched by their knowledge, their wisdom, and their experience.  Without those interactions, my life, my ministry, my future would have been cheated of many valuables treasures.  I count  my wife as one of the brightest, most talented, women and have seen how so many others, including me, have benefitted from her keen insights and talented guidance.  I have worked with and known lady pastors whose ministry and learning has proved to be a great blessing to their husbands ministry and to their churches.  I have sat in classrooms where lady teachers have shared true pearls of wisdom I have then shared with many others.  What a shame, if all these ladies had had to be relegated to the role of servants, quietly going about  menial tasks, never allowed to express their opinions or to teach or lead others, simply because society or culture dictated they had to or they couldn’t be as smart or learned as men!
Joshua taught the Bible (Moses’ words) to women, children, and foreigners, because before God we all are equal and must be treated thus.  I pray for the day, soon I hope, when we will all learn to treat each other and give each other equal opportunities to learn and teach, follow and lead, listen and preach, serve and be served, as God intended; we all be the ones to be benefitted and blessed as a result.

Prayer: Father, You are the God of equality and fairness, righteousness and justice.  Father, may we set aside the societal and cultural barriers that keep us from enjoying Your gifts through men and women for the benefit of Your people.  And may we achieve, with your help, the equality with which You created us as male and female for it will ultimately be for our benefit and for Your honor and glory.

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