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Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016 The Story - Judges 6:1- 40; TS pp. 107b - 109 We begin the story of Gideon, another judge, by reading that Gideon questioned God's call to him, and humbly sought confirmation of God's call. Sometimes we are afraid of answering God's call as it may take us into dangerous places. Other times, we may question whether or not we heard God correctly. It is okay to question our understanding of God's call. This helps us distinguish between what God wants us to do, and what we want. Where have you seen evidence of people who do not do this testing? Where have you sometime erred because you did not test? How can the community of faith help with testing? How can we listen to dissenting voices even within the community of faith to make sure the community of faith is not going astray?
Posted: October 26
Tuesday, October 2, 2016 The Story - Judges 4:1 - 5:31; TS pp. 105b - 107a The story of Judge Deborah is an interesting story. Deborah is introduced simply as the judge of Israel at the time. The leader of the army obviously respects Deborah's authority - declaring that he will not go into battle unless she goes with them. There is no mention of it being odd that a woman is a judge, or an instrument of God. Later, another woman, Jael, is given credit for the decisive moment in the battle - the death of the head of the opposing army. While this may simply have been a way to make it clear that God was in control, it also reminds us that we err when we try to limit the persons God chooses as instruments. How do we try to limit God's use of others, and of ourselves? How can we be more open to God's call?
Posted: October 25
Monday, October 24, 2016 The Story - Judges 1:1 - 3:11, TS p.. 103-105a Take time some day to read through the book of Judges from beginning to end all in one sitting. It isn't a long book. This first part of The Story's covering of Judges gives you a little of the feel of the pattern of falling away from God, God's chastisement, and then God's redemption. Reading about all twelve judges is even more powerful. We shake our heads in wonder about how a people could continually forget God's commandments. Yet, how quickly to we forget? Israel sometimes had forty or eighty years of peace between failings. Sometimes I find it hard to go 40 to 80 minutes before doing something less than what God desires or commands! Yet the hope in this book of the Bible comes from God's constant reaching out to bring the people back. God uses a variety of people, a variety of lessons, and a variety of ways of redemption. May God open our eyes to the faithful judges in our time, and open our hearts to be transformed by God's instruction!
Posted: October 24
Saturday, Oct. 22, 2016 The Story - Joshua 23:1 - 24:33; TS pp. 100-102 Like Moses before him, Joshua offers a challenge to the Israelites before he dies. He reminds them of God's covenant with them, especially of the responsibilities which this covenant demands from the people.He reminds them of the blessings they have received by God's grace, and charges them to continue to commit themselves to the Lord. The people promise to do so. Joshua raises a stone to be a witness to this commitment - and a reminder to the people should they break the promise. No doubt the people meant to keep the promise they made that day. Joshua told them to be strong and careful to obey. We hear that warning as well. Yet it is hard to be strong and courageous all the time. God does not expect that we can be if we rely on our own strength, but has promised to be with us if we turn to God and receive God's direction. What makes it hard for us to remember to do this all the time? What can encourage us to be faithful?
Posted: October 22
Friday, Oct. 21, 2016 The Story - Joshua 9:1 - 10:28; TS pp. 96b - 99 Joshua isn't the only one who can use deception to win. After the victory at Ai, a nearby city decides to negotiate with Joshua. Through deception they convince Joshua that they come from faraway and seek peace. Joshua does not check with God, and agrees, only to find out the city is quite close. Despite the deception, Joshua honors the peace agreement. Other nearby cities are not so fortunate. Five kings of the area come against the Israelites and are defeated. The kings are killed. Once again the odds are against the Israelites and again the Israelites prevail with God's help. Yet even within this violent taking of the land, Joshua and God, honor the peace treaty that was made under deceit. God keeps covenant with us even when we fail to keep covenant, even when we fudge the truth, even while God works to achieve God's ultimate purpose. In this mercy we may learn obedience, even as the Gibeonites became servants of the Israelites. The world oftens rallies and creates strange alliances to defeat God's purposes. Sometimes the world appears to pull the wool over God's eyes, but ultimately it is God who prevails. How might this knowledge direct our thoughts and ways in our daily lives?
Posted: October 21
Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016 The Story - Joshua 8:1- 35; TS 94b - 96a After Jericho, God directs Joshua to take the city of Ai. A new tactic is used this time - luring the soldiers out of the city, then ambushing the city. Again we hear a horrifying statistic - 12,000 men and women of Ai perished that day. We cannot overlook this fact. Yet more prominent in the story is God's power to overcome the odds, and Joshua's commitment to a new way of life by reading the words of God's law to those who would now inhabit this city. The Israelites were to create a new community - one filled with God's justice toward all. They were given a clean slate, as it were, to build a society which would show God's righteousness and justice to all the nations. The destruction may have been a warning of what happens when we fail to live into God's commands - even the covenant people might not be spared if they broke the covenant. How do we experience God's blessings? Do we assume others do not receive these blessings because they don't deserve them? Do we deserve them - or accept with gratitude and humility? How might we question our motives or express our gratitude?
Posted: October 20
Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016 The Story Joshua 6:1 - 7:26, TS pp. 92-94 Jericho is taken in a manner which declares it is God's victory, not military power. Rahab and her family are spared. However, the difficult part for us to read is that everyone else - men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep, and donkeys - all were slain. The silver and gold were put in the Lord's treasury. Only one man disobeyed and kept treasure for himself. His sin was found out, and he was killed. So much bloodshed. Such drastic measures for disobedience. It is hard to justify such things. We might begin to understand if we see these events in terms of God's long range plans - mercy for those who joined with this plan; swift justice against those who might contaminate the people with contrary visions. One thing seems clear - it is God who is to make the judgments. How do we seek God's guidance in making our decisions? What is our long range vision for God's creation? Are there any treasures we are withholding from God?
Posted: October 19
Tuesday, October 18, 2016 The Story - Joshua 2:1 - 5:15, TS pp. 90b-91 Joshua sends spies into Jericho to plan for the promised taking of that city. The spies find support from Rahab, and promise her safety for saving them. They report back that the city is good, but that it is ripe for the taking. People are afraid of the Israelites because they have heard what God has done for them. God chooses interesting people through whom to work. Why would the spies go to the house of a prostitute? Why would Rahab risk the anger of the king by hiding them? Can we see God's hand at work in this peculiar behavior? What do we miss when we only look for God's presence in places where we expect to find God?
Posted: October 18
Monday, Oct. 17, 2016 The Story - Joshua 1:1-18, TS pp. 89-90a It is always difficult to follow a long-time strong and respected leader. Joshua's role was made even more difficult as the people of Israel were almost immediately commanded by God to enter the Promised Land. God promises to be with Joshua as God was with Moses. Yet this promise also comes with warnings. Joshua must be strong and courageous, and faithful to God's commandments. Joshua must constantly remind himself of God's laws. The focus is to be on God's ways. This is hard to do. It takes courage to stand up to enemies or opponents. It takes even more courage to stand up to friends; and it takes the most courage of all to stand up to our own sinful inclinations. We cannot do this in our own strength. Like Joshua, we must turn to God, and be empowered by God's righteousness and justice. Let us hear God's promise given to us as it was given to Joshua. Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."
Posted: October 17
Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016 The Story - Numbers 27:12-22; Deuteronomy 1:1 - 11:32; 28:1-68; 31:1-8; 34: 1-12 (the chapters between the ones listed offer a number of specific laws) TS pp. 83b - 88 This part of The Story covers a lot of ground as God gives Moses lots of laws, rules, and instruction to share with the Israelites before Moses dies in Moab. Deuteronomy, which means Second Law, is really a collection of sermons. In these passages we begin to understand God's blessings among the rules and instructions. By describing the faithful way to live, God shows what true life is all about - love, compassion, caring for one another. These are the building blocks of a faithful community, not just rules for the sake of rules. What energy can you find in these passages? How can they revitalize individuals and communities? What strength and hope to you find in God's vision for humanity as seen in these passages?
Posted: October 15
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