25.12.12

Advent Meditation for Kids - Day 25 - God Comes to His Temple Again

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21 On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived. 22 When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, "Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord" ), 24 and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: "a pair of doves or two young pigeons." 25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Christ. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: 29 "Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. 30 For my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the sight of all people, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel." 33 The child's father and mother marveled at what was said about him. (Luke 2:21-33 NASB)
Remember when they rebuilt the temple of God in Jerusalem? The temple was supposed to be God's house, where he lived with his people, and they went to meet with him. Only, God hadn't been in his temple for almost 400 years.

Then Mary and Joseph take their baby son to the temple to dedicate him to God, he was probably between 1 and 2 months old, and Simeon, an old prophet who has been waiting to see the sign of God's forgiveness picks up the child and says, "At last. He is come. Now I can die in peace."

Hundreds of people were probably there that day. Only 2 of them noticed the salvation of God entering the temple. Simeon, and an old woman named Anna, also full of God's spirit. Those two noticed. Those two saw. Those two spent their days looking, and all their time listening to God.

God's promise was fulfilled. He lived with his people again.

All that most people that day saw was a little baby, with 2 very poor parents, coming through the temple as thousands had done before.

It's a lot different from the cloud and thunder and fire of the first time isn't it?

Why do you suppose that is?

Why did Jesus come in secret, so only those who were looking could see him?

Do you remember what God told the prophet Samuel, when he was looking at David's brothers and thinking they must be the ones God had chosen, since they were handsome. He said, "Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."

God was after hearts. He always has been. I think that has something to do with it.
When Isaiah the prophet talked about the one who was to come, the promised deliverer, he said this. "1 Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? 2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted." (Isaiah 53:1-4 NASB)
God came, and very few knew him, because their hearts were not looking. "9 The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him." (John 1:9-11 NASB)

But Jesus did what he came to do anyway. He kept the promise. He acted out God's forgiveness here, in the history of our world. And because of him, you, me, everyone can have the breath of Life in them again if they say yes to it. As always, it didn't look anything like they expected it to. Do you know what happened?

Is your heart looking for Jesus? Do you see where God is working all around you? Have you tried listening and watching to see?

24.12.12

Advent Meditation for Kids - Day 24 - Great Joy, For All People

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1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to his own town to register. 4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." 15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about." 16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. (Luke 2:1-20 NASB) 

 Joseph and Mary traveled all the way to Bethelehem, Mary heavy with child. They probably walked the whole way. Maybe there was a donkey. The Bible doesn't say. But because of the decree of a Roman ruler, who also ruled over Israel, they were forced to make the long journey to the land of their ancestors. The town of David, the king of Israel, the land settled by Ephraim, great, great-grandson of Abraham, the home of Ruth and Boaz. They were forced to come here, the place all the promises had spoken of, for the promised child to be born.

They didn't have anywhere fancy to stay. There wasn't room for them in an inn or house. They stayed where the animals stayed. The great king who would draw all of the world back to God, would bring forgiveness of sins to his people, who was the light of the world, his first bed was a feeding trough for animals.

God, who always told Israel how much he cared about the poor, came as a poor child, to poor parents.

The first people he told about his coming were not kings, not rulers, not anyone important at all. They were shepherds. Men staying out in the dark taking care of their flocks, just as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had done, long ago.

But these shepherds were also descendants of Abraham. Do you think they knew about the promises, to Abraham and his descendants, the promises to them?

They probably did. They would have understood the importance of a baby being born in the town of David, the king. They would have known what all that meant.

They were terrified when they saw the angel, but the angel told them that he brought "Good news, of great joy, for all people." Not just important people, not even just the descendants of Abraham, but for all people. A savior has been born. The promise has been fulfilled. God is once again living with his people!

This child Jesus will grow up and be the promised blessing to the entire world.

Do you know how?

23.12.12

Advent Meditation for Kids - Day 23 - For ALL nations

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5 And now the LORD says-- he who formed me in the womb to be his servant to bring Jacob back to him and gather Israel to himself, for I am honored in the eyes of the LORD and my God has been my strength-- 6 he says: "It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth." 7 This is what the LORD says-- the Redeemer and Holy One of Israel-- to him who was despised and abhorred by the nation, to the servant of rulers: "Kings will see you and rise up, princes will see and bow down, because of the LORD, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you." (Isaiah 49:5-7 NASB)

Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him." 3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. 5 "In Bethlehem in Judea," they replied, "for this is what the prophet has written: 6 " 'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.' " (Matthew 2:1b-6 NASB)
The people of Israel have been waiting for the sign of God's forgiveness. Perhaps that's why Joseph, as we read yesterday, was able to believe the angel in his dream about the baby in Mary's belly. The angel said he would "Save his people from their sins."

But Israel has only been thinking of themselves. Remember back when we read about how Israel was supposed to be a nation of priests, who would show the rest of the world what God was like? Well, since they returned from exile they have been thinking mostly about how to be free to rule themselves the way they like and not be burdened by all these other nations who won't leave them alone. Being a light to the nations is the farthest thing from their minds.

But when the prophet Isaiah was talking about the coming redemption, after exile, that's one of the main things he talks about. He talks about Israel being the place the other nations come to meet with God.

God's salvation, his new promises to Israel that he has made aren't just for them, they are for everyone, to the ends of the earth.

And now, as Israel's redeemer is born to Mary and Joseph, far from any palace. When his birth goes almost completely unnoticed by almost everyone in Israel, Magi, gentiles from the east, see a sign in the heavens and make the long journey to see the one who will bring salvation to the whole earth.

God's salvation, it was always for everyone. When Israel didn't show the earth the light of God, he came himself, as a little tiny baby, to get the job done. The light of the world was contained in the body of a girl, making a long journey, to a place foretold by prophets hundreds and hundreds of years ago, all the way back to Jacob as he lay dying and gave Joseph's son Ephraim the greater blessing, even though he was younger. For Bethlehem is in Ephraim, the land settled by Ephriam's descendants and named after him, after their tribe.

All those promises, all those prophecies are looking forward to this moment, this child, and what he will do when he becomes a man.

Do you know who he is yet?

Do you know what it is he did?

22.12.12

Advent Meditation for Kids - Day 22 - God With Us

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18 This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"--which means, "God with us." 24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
 Imagine poor Joseph. You are getting ready to marry a girl and you find out that she is pregnant, with somebody else's baby.

It looked bad for Mary. It looked like she had broken her promises to Joseph.  Girl's like her, who broke their marriage promises, they were often killed.

Joseph didn't want anyone to hurt Mary. He didn't want to be her husband anymore either, but he didn't want to tell everyone and see her hurt.

He was trying to find a kind way to deal with this uncomfortable situation that freed him from his promises to Mary, since she hadn't kept her promises to him, and that kept her from getting hurt.

He wanted to act rightly, according to God's law, which is what it means to be righteous.

Then he had a dream, and all that changed.

"Don't be afraid to take Mary as your wife."

Why do you think he would be afraid?

Well, if Mary was already pregnant, before they were properly married, and he married her anyway, everyone would thing that he broke his promises too, and did something dishonorable. they would think he had disrespected her, and himself. He would lose a lot of respect, from his friends, his family, and his community.

Not only that, imagine being the guy who is raising the child who is from God, and who will save his people from their sins. That's a lot of pressure.

But Joseph believed the angel, he trusted God that this child was a sign that God was with his people again, and he took Mary as his wife.

Do you think you could be as brave as Joseph was?

21.12.12

Advent Meditation for Kids - Day 21 - The Son of God

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26 In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you." 29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 31 You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end." 34 "How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?" 35 The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. 37 For nothing is impossible with God." 38 "I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." Then the angel left her.
Considering all the other babies in this long story of God's, perhaps it isn't that much of a surprise that this part also involves a baby.

But the people of Israel were looking for a warrior king, someone to rule over them and lead them into battles. they were looking for the kind of king they had had before. Even though God had promised them a better king.

They were also looking for someone who would free them from the Romans. For Israel was part of the Roman empire now. They paid taxes to the Roman ruler, soldiers were everywhere, watching for signs of rebellion, and punishing those who tried to make trouble. Israel may have been hoping that the sign of God's forgiveness looked more like a warrior to lead a rebellion and drive Rome out than anything else.

But the angel came to a poor girl, named Mary, a descendant of King David, who was to be married to a descendant of King David. The kings in Israel that Rome set up were not the descendants of David's line. They were there to make it look like Israel was freer than it was, and to help Rome keep the people in line.

The angel tells her she will become pregnant with the Son of God, and that God will give this child the throne of his father David, and he would rule over all of Israel forever and ever.

Imagine if were Mary, and an angel just told you that

1. You would get pregnant before being married.
2. Your baby would be the son of God.
3. Your baby would be the true King of Israel, the heir of David.
4. His kingdom would never end.

Those are some pretty fantastic things to believe.

I wonder how she felt. What do you think?

In the end, she simply said, "May it be."

She probably knew how much this baby would mess things up for her, and change her life. But she believed the promises, and said yes anyway.

What would you have done?

After years of waiting, the true king is about to arrive, and it's not what anyone expected it to be.

PHFR - Christmas in Thailand at an Orphanage

Last Thursday I dropped my husband and son off at the airport. I will pick them up New Year's Eve. They are spending Christmas in Thailand. Helping out at The Charis Project's orphanage in Tak Province, meeting the people Aaron needs to meet this trip, and continuing to lay the ground work for our self sustaining orphan care community in Mae Sot. It's the Boy's first overseas trip.



The girls have been under the weather ever since, so we have just been spending very quiet days at home. Though also celebrating Little's birthday in a small way. (The party for both girls is later on once the boys get home.)

So I figured I would steal photos from Aaron's facebook page and show you their adventures for this installment of PHFR. It will make for a much more interesting post.

Pretty

They helped out with a Christmas Party in Bangkok for kids from the slum neighborhoods.

Here are some photos of these gorgeous kids.




Ok I have to stop now, there are just so many. To see them all go here.


Happy

My kid, having adventures with his dad, trying new things.
Tasting fresh killed jungle cat, and liking it. (The Lahu are hunters.)
chase games don't require translation
Sledding on a banana stalk
Pop the balloon game.

Funny



Aaron is supposed to be hitting that can way to the left of him. He sort of missed.

monkey faces


Sleep walker in waiting

After 23 hours of travel they arrived in the Bangkok airport in the middle of the night and tried to sleep for a while until morning. Aaron and I were chatting on facebook before he tried to sleep too and he said, "The Boy just got up and started walking out of the airport, only he wouldn't talk to me, just went in a straight line. I had to work hard to get him to lie back down again. I don't think he was awake."

This is one of those moments when you realize that, while you have talked about certain things with your spouse, you may have neglected to emphasize some important details. Like, you may have mentioned your son has a sleep disorder, without really thinking to remind him that this means he sometimes wanders at night. I've told him about the times I followed him as he accidentally pees in the trash can, or a child trying to open the front door to find the bathroom, but I don't think it's registered that this equals sleep walker. I've had him sleep across the door of our tent when we're camping, because we have 2 night wanderers, but may not have mentioned specifically that it was more to keep them in than to keep anyone out... Sometimes things are so normal that you don't think of mentioning them in particular. Oops. In my defense, it's been awhile.

"Oh yeah, he sometimes does that, especially in unfamiliar places. You probably shouldn't go to sleep unless you're on top of him or tied to him or something so you wake up when he gets up."

The Boy did get up several more times in his sleep. Aaron didn't sleep at all. But he did record video of the kid walking around, and all the Thai people were confused until he explained that he was asleep, and then they thought it was terribly funny. It is, since he didn't actually walk out the front door and wake up later in some strange part of Bangkok.

We have a macabre sense of humor like that.

Anyway.

Real

chores at the orphanage

He got homesick the other day, and walked away to sit under a banana tree for a while. Some of the other boys followed him and just sat with him, because they could see that he was sad.

When he went to his room they sat outside his door, just so he wouldn't feel alone. They don't speak enough of the same language to be able to do anything other than sit, so they sat with him.

Sometimes I wonder how the kids at the orphanage are doing emotionally. Orphanages are so much harder to grow up in than healthy families, detachment disorders are common. That these boys had so much compassion and empathy for my son makes me feel very good about what is happening there. I think it's a testimony to how good of a job our house parents are doing to see such well adjusted kids who are capable of kindness. Especially considering the situations they came from. My heart is glad to see it.



round button chicken

20.12.12

Advent Meditation for Kids - Day 20 - Return to the Land

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1 In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and to put it in writing: 2 "This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: " 'The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. 3 Anyone of his people among you--may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the LORD, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem. 4 And the people of any place where survivors may now be living are to provide him with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with freewill offerings for the temple of God in Jerusalem.' " 5 Then the family heads of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and Levites--everyone whose heart God had moved--prepared to go up and build the house of the LORD in Jerusalem. 6 All their neighbors assisted them with articles of silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with valuable gifts, in addition to all the freewill offerings. 7 Moreover, King Cyrus brought out the articles belonging to the temple of the LORD, which Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from Jerusalem and had placed in the temple of his god.

God kept his promise. The first part of it anyway. After 70 years the exiles were allowed to return home.

Not everyone chose to return though. Many, many people stayed in Babylon. They were comfortable there, they had good lives now. They didn't want to return to a ruined city and rebuild it and the temple of God.

But a remnant returned. God moved some of the people who had been faithful to him while they were gone to return.

That in itself is amazing! Think about it. The most of the time Israel was in the land they worshiped other gods and disobeyed God's rules. But during the exile there were many stories of people who remained faithful to God, and trusted him and refused to worship the God's of Babylon and Persia. There were people who loved God and wanted to be faithful.

Those people went back to the land once they could.

They rebuilt the temple, and the wall. They settled their with their families. They worked hard to keep all God's laws.

They settled in to wait for the rest of the promise. They waited and watched for the sign of God's forgiveness to come. They looked for the sign of God's blessing, God's presence. They dedicated the temple. Nothing happened. Well, no cloud of smoke and pillar of fire like when they had dedicated the first temple.

Still they waited.

When would God come to live with them again, to show them they were forgiven, and bring the promise to write his law on their hearts and make them his people again?

They would wait hundreds of years.

Do you know what the sign will be?

19.12.12

Advent Meditation or Kids - Day 19 - The New Covenant

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"The time is coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them, " declares the LORD. 33 "This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time," declares the LORD. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest," declares the LORD. "For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more." (Jeremiah 31:31-34 NASB)
this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: 37 I will surely gather them from all the lands where I banish them in my furious anger and great wrath; I will bring them back to this place and let them live in safety. 38 They will be my people, and I will be their God. 39 I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me for their own good and the good of their children after them. 40 I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them, and I will inspire them to fear me, so that they will never turn away from me. (Jeremiah 32:37-40 NASB)
14 " 'The days are coming,' declares the LORD, 'when I will fulfill the gracious promise I made to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah. 15 " 'In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David's line; he will do what is just and right in the land. 16 In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. This is the name by which it will be called: The LORD Our Righteousness.' 17 For this is what the LORD says: 'David will never fail to have a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel, 18 nor will the priests, who are Levites, ever fail to have a man to stand before me continually to offer burnt offerings, to burn grain offerings and to present sacrifices.' " (Jeremiah 33:14-18 NASB)
In the years leading up to Israel's ruin, and their captivity in Babylon, God sent them prophets, many of them, to warn them, and to try and help them see what they were doing wrong so they could change in time.

Not many listened to them. Jeremiah was told by God to tell the King of Judah that destruction was coming. The king didn't like that much, so he had Jeremiah arrested instead of turning back to God.

But among all of the terrible things God gave Jeremiah to say, all of the dire predictions about the coming destruction, all of which came to pass, he also gave him these words of comfort.

Here are promises that God made to his people, in the time before they went back into exile, about a time when he would bring them back to the land he gave to their forefathers, and when he would make a new covenant with them.

He would write his law in their hearts and minds. They would know God personally and not need anyone else, prophet or otherwise, to tell them what God wanted, they would just know. He would give them singleness of heart and action, so that the things they want to do, to obey, to keep God's laws, they would now have the strength to do them.

Does it remind you of anything?

When was the last time people had God's law in their hearts, and just knew God?

How about in the Garden of Eden, with Adam and Eve, when they had the Breath of Life in them?

God has promised to forgive all their sin and forget their wickedness. It would be the same as it had been in the beginning. Maybe even better.

Some people in Babylon remembered these promises, and held onto them. They looked long and hard for evidence of God's forgiveness, and his breath, or spirit, (the words are almost exactly the same in Hebrew) coming back to them.

Several hundred years after Jeremiah there would still be people looking for the evidence of God's forgiveness. They would find it in the most unexpected of places, and in the most unexpected of ways.

18.12.12

Advent Meditation for Kids - Day 18 - The kings, and the people, reject God

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2 Jehoahaz was twenty-three years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem three months. 3 The king of Egypt dethroned him in Jerusalem and imposed on Judah a levy of a hundred talents of silver and a talent of gold. 4 The king of Egypt made Eliakim, a brother of Jehoahaz, king over Judah and Jerusalem and changed Eliakim's name to Jehoiakim. But Neco took Eliakim's brother Jehoahaz and carried him off to Egypt.
5 Jehoiakim was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eleven years. He did evil in the eyes of the LORD his God. 6 Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon attacked him and bound him with bronze shackles to take him to Babylon. 7 Nebuchadnezzar also took to Babylon articles from the temple of the LORD and put them in his temple there. 8 The other events of Jehoiakim's reign, the detestable things he did and all that was found against him, are written in the book of the kings of Israel and Judah. And Jehoiachin his son succeeded him as king.
9 Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem three months and ten days. He did evil in the eyes of the LORD. 10 In the spring, King Nebuchadnezzar sent for him and brought him to Babylon, together with articles of value from the temple of the LORD, and he made Jehoiachin's uncle, Zedekiah, king over Judah and Jerusalem.
11 Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eleven years. 12 He did evil in the eyes of the LORD his God and did not humble himself before Jeremiah the prophet, who spoke the word of the LORD. 13 He also rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar, who had made him take an oath in God's name. He became stiff-necked and hardened his heart and would not turn to the LORD, the God of Israel. 14 Furthermore, all the leaders of the priests and the people became more and more unfaithful, following all the detestable practices of the nations and defiling the temple of the LORD, which he had consecrated in Jerusalem.
15 The LORD, the God of their fathers, sent word to them through his messengers again and again, because he had pity on his people and on his dwelling place. 16 But they mocked God's messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the LORD was aroused against his people and there was no remedy. 17 He brought up against them the king of the Babylonians, who killed their young men with the sword in the sanctuary, and spared neither young man nor young woman, old man or aged. God handed all of them over to Nebuchadnezzar. 18 He carried to Babylon all the articles from the temple of God, both large and small, and the treasures of the LORD's temple and the treasures of the king and his officials. 19 They set fire to God's temple and broke down the wall of Jerusalem; they burned all the palaces and destroyed everything of value there. 20 He carried into exile to Babylon the remnant, who escaped from the sword, and they became servants to him and his sons until the kingdom of Persia came to power. 21 The land enjoyed its sabbath rests; all the time of its desolation it rested, until the seventy years were completed in fulfillment of the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah. (2 Chronicles 361-21 NASB)
It's been hundreds of years since David became king of Israel. Not very long after, most of the tribes of Israel rejected David's grandson as king and set up their own king. The land of Israel was split into 2 kingdoms, north and south. The north kingdom so quickly abandoned God that by the time of what we just read, they had all been carried off into captivity by other countries and were no longer a country. Only Judah remained.

But Judah's kings, and priests, and people had become increasingly evil, and proud, and foolish. They angered foreign kings, they angered God by worshiping other gods. God sent prophet after prophet to warn them of what would happen if they didn't change their ways and obey God again, but they wouldn't listen.

So God stopped protecting them.

All of them were carried off, out of the promised land, into exile in Babylon. They served the king of Babylon now, and it's people. The kingdoms of Judah and Israel were no more. They had completely failed to be the people who showed God to the world. They had become exactly like the rest of the world instead.

It seems like this is the end. How is Israel to be a blessing to the nations now? How is God going to bring his promised blessing now?

There is nothing left.

Or is there?

The people aren't dead, at least, not all of them. Do you think God will abandon them completely? Or does he still have a plan for them?

17.12.12

Advent Meditation for Kids - Day 17 - A King with God's Heart

candle

1 Now the LORD said to Samuel, "How long will you grieve over Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel ? Fill your horn with oil and go ; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have selected a king for Myself among his sons." 2 But Samuel said, "How can I go ? When Saul hears of it, he will kill me." And the LORD said, "Take a heifer with you and say, 'I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.' 3 "You shall invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do ; and you shall anoint for Me the one whom I designate to you." 4 So Samuel did what the LORD said, and came to Bethlehem. And the elders of the city came trembling to meet him and said, "Do you come in peace ?" 5 He said, "In peace ; I have come to sacrifice to the LORD. Consecrate yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice." He also consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice. 6 When they entered, he looked at Eliab and thought, "Surely the LORD'S anointed is before Him." 7 But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." 8 Then Jesse called Abinadab and made him pass before Samuel. And he said, "The LORD has not chosen this one either." 9 Next Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, "The LORD has not chosen this one either." 10 Thus Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. But Samuel said to Jesse, "The LORD has not chosen these." 11 And Samuel said to Jesse, "Are these all the children ?" And he said, "There remains yet the youngest, and behold, he is tending the sheep." Then Samuel said to Jesse, "Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here." David Anointed 12 So he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with beautiful eyes and a handsome appearance. And the LORD said, "Arise, anoint him; for this is he." 13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers ; and the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon David from that day forward. And Samuel arose and went to Ramah. (1 Samuel 16:1-13 NASB)
When God gave Israel a king, he first chose Saul. But Saul became proud and overstepped his position and God was displeased with him. So God chose himself a new king, and he sent Samuel to anoint him. It would take years before David would actually become the king of Israel. He would have to wait for Saul to die, and Saul would make his life miserable for a long time before then.

But God chose David, and God's spirit was very strong with him, and David was a mostly good man. He acted as God would want him to act.

There was this one time, he did something very wrong, and he and all the people suffered as a result. But even then, he turned to God, and God forgave him.

David was, in a lot of ways, the kind of king God wanted for Israel to have, even though he was human, and still made mistakes. His heart was the kind of heart God looks for.

It is the descendants of David that God establishes on the throne of of Israel. It is descendants of David who are considered by Israel to be the true kings. It will be a descendant of David who will bring deliverance.

1 Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, And a branch from his roots will bear fruit. 2 The Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him, The spirit of wisdom and understanding, The spirit of counsel and strength, The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. 3 And He will delight in the fear of the LORD, And He will not judge by what His eyes see, Nor make a decision by what His ears hear ; 4 But with righteousness He will judge the poor, And decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth ... 9 They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain, For the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD As the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:1-4, 9 NASB)
 Who was Jesse again? That's right, David's father.

In a dark, dark time, when all in Israel think hope is lost, God sends this promise, that there will be a king again, a righteous king with God's spirit in him. This is the hope they cling to when it seems all is lost. This is the hope we all cling to when it seems all is lost, that God will still keep his promise that he made, so long ago.


16.12.12

On Being a Broken People

Thursday morning I drove to the airport in L.A. where Aaron and the Boy boarded their flight to Thailand. They are spending Christmas holiday helping out at the orphanage, among many other things.

We were listening to the BBC radio broadcast, World Have Your Say, in the car on the way. The conversation was about Syria, and they had some munitions experts describing the types of weapons being used in the Syrian conflict. They talked about missiles and rockets and guns and cluster bombs. Cluster bombs are being dropped into civilian populations that contain incendiary devices with chemicals that stick to your skin and burst into flame. Weapons of mass warfare are being used on regular people who are stuck in the wrong place at the wrong time. The worst part about these bombs is that not all the incendiary devices explode on contact. Many remain dormant until they are disturbed. They are painted in bright attractive looking colors, and most often the people who pick them up to look at them are children, which sets them off and coats these little kids with flaming liquid that they can't extinguish. If they do survive such a things their injuries are horrific, and debilitating.
It was horrifying to listen to, to realize that this is happening, right now, every day. People are deliberately harming others, innocents, in horrific ways.

Friday morning came reports from Sandy Hook, of children murdered in classrooms by deliberate premeditated action.

Right after that I learned of the man in China who attacked 22 school children with a knife.

I was again horrified, and tears flowed as the story came in. Then I watched as facebook erupted into hundreds of comments and opinions and expressions of sadness and disbelief and anger, and all the things we experience when something like this happens. But then people started to point blame fingers, in one direction or another, grasping to make sense of what is so very senseless.

I know that it is so very present, a tragedy, when you can read the names, and see the faces, of the victims and when it happened to people just like us, in a town just like ours, in a school very much like the kind many drop their own children off at every morning. We don't see the faces, or know the names of the children, mothers, fathers, and teachers who died in Syria this morning.

We don’t have the news channel mercilessly show us footage of what happens in Burma when children are used as minesweepers in rice fields, over and over again. How they run, with armed soldiers behind them guns aimed. How a foot disturbs a buried bomb and a tiny body is torn apart in mid air and the others gape in horror but they keep running because of the guns pointed from behind. They don’t play that in front of us that way they play footage of ambulances, weeping children, police sweeps and candlelit vigils in Connecticut. Perhaps if they did it would be easier to care as much about the evil that happens so much farther away from our own doorstep.

The world is no more ugly today than it was on Thursday. People are not more broken than they always have been. It is just harder to ignore today. Today we are reminded that evil lives with us, and near to our children, not just far away, where it threatens other children, children that we do care about, in principle, but don’t think of very often.

So today, as people continue to point fingers one way, or another, trying to distance ourselves from tragedy, trying to explain evil to ourselves, trying to insulate our own families from the possibilities, I beg you not to. Let your heart be torn open, as it should be. Not just for the victims of Sandy Hook but for all of us, who live in a broken world, for all the children who go to bed at night with gunshots ringing in their heads, and have personally known evil in ways that no one ever should.

If we must point fingers somewhere, let us point them at our own hearts, that are capable of knowing of such atrocities and yet of moving on with our own lives as though they aren’t happening. Our hearts that cling to comfortable delusions of security in an incomplete creation, and are shocked every time we realize how false those delusions are. Our hearts that care more about making our corner of this earth a comfortable place for us to pass the time until we die, rather than embrace our calling to bring redemption and hope to the places where the darkness is the thickest.

You may or may not have read the meditations for kids that I write, on Advent, or Lent. If you did you wouldn’t know that the main point of all of this that we celebrate this season, of God coming in the flesh, to dwell with us, is to get his Breath of Life back into us. To equip us once again to have the power to carry out our first mandate, finish the creation, mend the brokenness, bind up the brokenhearted and to bring, through our obedience, the actual will of God here and now. Which is that none should perish, that all are healed, that we live in peace with each other.

I firmly believe we all are given something to do to bring healing and restoration. It’s always something that we can do right now, right where we are, and it’s right in front of us, though often scary to begin.

So I ask you to listen, to lay your heart bare, and to make yourself willing to do whatever it is that you hear God telling you that you can do. We are none of us helpless, for He gives us the strength to be His presence here on earth, his hands and feet, to do the work of healing and redemption. It could be as simple as choosing today to forgive someone you have been angry at for so long, or a gunman who now lies dead, to love someone who is hard to love, to bring joy to someone who takes time to bring joy to. It could be choosing to endure something hard with kindness, and love and as peacefully as possible. “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.” Mother Theresa

You and I, we are part of the problem. We are also part of the solution. We get to participate in redemption this week. If we say yes to the opportunity in front of us. Will you?

Advent Meditation for Kids - Day 16 - Give us a King!

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1 And it came about when Samuel was old that he appointed his sons judges over Israel. 2 Now the name of his firstborn was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah ; they were judging in Beersheba. 3 His sons, however, did not walk in his ways, but turned aside after dishonest gain and took bribes and perverted justice. 4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah ; 5 and they said to him, "Behold, you have grown old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint a king for us to judge us like all the nations." 6 But the thing was displeasing in the sight of Samuel when they said, "Give us a king to judge us." And Samuel prayed to the LORD. 7 The LORD said to Samuel, "Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them. 8 "Like all the deeds which they have done since the day that I brought them up from Egypt even to this day -in that they have forsaken Me and served other gods -so they are doing to you also. 9 "Now then, listen to their voice ; however, you shall solemnly warn them and tell them of the procedure of the king who will reign over them."

 10 So Samuel spoke all the words of the LORD to the people who had asked of him a king. 11 He said, "This will be the procedure of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and place them for himself in his chariots and among his horsemen and they will run before his chariots. 12 "He will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and of fifties, and some to do his plowing and to reap his harvest and to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13 "He will also take your daughters for perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 "He will take the best of your fields and your vineyards and your olive groves and give them to his servants. 15 "He will take a tenth of your seed and of your vineyards and give to his officers and to his servants. 16 "He will also take your male servants and your female servants and your best young men and your donkeys and use them for his work. 17 "He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his servants. 18 "Then you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the LORD will not answer you in that day." 19 Nevertheless, the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel, and they said, "No, but there shall be a king over us, 20 that we also may be like all the nations, that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles." 21 Now after Samuel had heard all the words of the people, he repeated them in the LORD'S hearing. 22 The LORD said to Samuel, "Listen to their voice and appoint them a king." So Samuel said to the men of Israel, "Go every man to his city." (1 Samuel 8:1-22 NASB)
The people of Israel want to be like all the other nations around them. Instead of waiting for God to raise up a just judge, such as Samuel, they want a king. They want someone to be their judge and fight their battles and they want to be like all of the nations around them.

Do you think God wants for them to be like everyone else around them?

Wasn't God supposed to be their king?

Why do you think that God tells Samuel to give them what they want?

There are lots of things God gives people when they insist on having them. Sometimes the only way to learn that what you want isn't always the best thing for you to have you need to experience it for yourself. Israel will get what they want, and then they will be forced to serve these kings they have asked for, and it will go badly for them. Especially when those kings don't act righteously, which, most of them won't.

Giving Israel a human king to rule over them is not God's first plan.

The last several hundred years of our history here on earth has consisted of people finally getting rid of kings that ruled over them whom they were forced to serve. It has consisted of more nations having governments that give them a say in what happens to them, and where the people are in charge of themselves. Israel had that in the beginning, but they didn't want it. They gave it away so they could be like all the other nations around them, and not have to think for themselves about what was right and wrong.

But God can work with this change of plan, even if it's not what he wanted. For through these human kings, he will lead them, after a long, long time, to the true king, to God being their king once more.

15.12.12

Advent Meditation for Kids - Day 15 - God's Prophet

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1 Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the LORD before Eli. And word from the LORD was rare in those days, visions were infrequent . 2 It happened at that time as Eli was lying down in his place (now his eyesight had begun to grow dim and he could not see well), 3 and the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the LORD where the ark of God was, 4 that the LORD called Samuel ; and he said, "Here I am." 5 Then he ran to Eli and said, "Here I am, for you called me." But he said, "I did not call, lie down again." So he went and lay down. 6 The LORD called yet again, "Samuel !" So Samuel arose and went to Eli and said, "Here I am, for you called me." But he answered, "I did not call, my son, lie down again." 7 Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, nor had the word of the LORD yet been revealed to him. 8 So the LORD called Samuel again for the third time. And he arose and went to Eli and said, "Here I am, for you called me." Then Eli discerned that the LORD was calling the boy. 9 And Eli said to Samuel, "Go lie down, and it shall be if He calls you, that you shall say, 'Speak, LORD, for Your servant is listening.' " So Samuel went and lay down in his place. 10 Then the LORD came and stood and called as at other times, "Samuel ! Samuel !" And Samuel said, "Speak, for Your servant is listening." 11 The LORD said to Samuel, "Behold, I am about to do a thing in Israel at which both ears of everyone who hears it will tingle. .... 19 Thus Samuel grew and the LORD was with him and let none of his words fail . 20 All Israel from Dan even to Beersheba knew that Samuel was confirmed as a prophet of the LORD. 21 And the LORD appeared again at Shiloh, because the LORD revealed Himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the LORD.
"The word of the LORD was rare in those days, visions were infrequent."

Think about all the interesting things that sentence tells us. Can you think of them?

God talked to people. Sometimes more than others. This time in Israel not very many people heard from God. But it also tells us that this wasn't always the case. In other times people heard from God more often.

People had visions. God talked to His people through visions. At least, some people, and they told the others what they saw and heard.

But right now, not many people heard from God. Until Samuel. Samuel was a prophet. God chose him to speak to the people for him. Remember when Moses spoke to the people for God? God was still finding ways to speak to the people. He called Judges to free the people, and he called prophets to speak to the people for him.

Samuel was also a child given to a woman who couldn't have children, after she prayed to God. God seems to like to do that doesn't He? He likes to give women who ask him the children they haven't been able to have. In Samuel's case, his mother dedicated him to God's service out of gratitude, and God calls him as a prophet when he is very small. He is a very important part of Israel's story at this point. The blessing that is to come through Israel has much to do with what Samuel hears from God and how he obeys.

More on that tomorrow.

14.12.12

Advent Meditation for Kids - Day 14 - Ruth and Boaz Remember God

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1 Now it came about in the days when the judges governed, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the land of Moab with his wife and his two sons. 2 The name of the man was Elimelech, and the name of his wife, Naomi ; and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites of Bethlehem in Judah. Now they entered the land of Moab and remained there. 3 Then Elimelech, Naomi's husband, died ; and she was left with her two sons. 4 They took for themselves Moabite women as wives ; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. And they lived there about ten years. 5 Then both Mahlon and Chilion also died, and the woman was bereft of her two children and her husband. 6 Then she arose with her daughters-in-law that she might return from the land of Moab, for she had heard in the land of Moab that the LORD had visited His people in giving them food. 7 So she departed from the place where she was, and her two daughters-in-law with her; and they went on the way to return to the land of Judah. 8 And Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, "Go, return each of you to her mother's house. May the LORD deal kindly with you as you have dealt with the dead and with me. 9 "May the LORD grant that you may find rest, each in the house of her husband." Then she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept. 10 And they said to her, "No, but we will surely return with you to your people." 11 But Naomi said, "Return, my daughters. Why should you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands ? 12 "Return, my daughters ! Go, for I am too old to have a husband. If I said I have hope, if I should even have a husband tonight and also bear sons, 13 would you therefore wait until they were grown ? Would you therefore refrain from marrying ? No, my daughters ; for it is harder for me than for you, for the hand of the LORD has gone forth against me."
14 And they lifted up their voices and wept again ; and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her. 15 Then she said, "Behold, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and her gods ; return after your sister-in-law." 16 But Ruth said, "Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. 17 "Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the LORD do to me, and worse , if anything but death parts you and me." 18 When she saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her. 19 So they both went until they came to Bethlehem. (Ruth 1:1-19 NASB)

1 Now Naomi had a kinsman of her husband, a man of great wealth, of the family of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz. 2 And Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, "Please let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after one in whose sight I may find favor." And she said to her, "Go, my daughter." 3 So she departed and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers ; and she happened to come to the portion of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech. 4 Now behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem and said to the reapers, "May the LORD be with you." And they said to him, "May the LORD bless you." 5 Then Boaz said to his servant who was in charge of the reapers, "Whose young woman is this ?" 6 The servant in charge of the reapers replied, "She is the young Moabite woman who returned with Naomi from the land of Moab. 7 "And she said, 'Please let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves.' Thus she came and has remained from the morning until now ; she has been sitting in the house for a little while." 8 Then Boaz said to Ruth, "Listen carefully, my daughter. Do not go to glean in another field ; furthermore, do not go on from this one, but stay here with my maids. 9 "Let your eyes be on the field which they reap, and go after them. Indeed, I have commanded the servants not to touch you. When you are thirsty, go to the water jars and drink from what the servants draw." 10 Then she fell on her face, bowing to the ground and said to him, "Why have I found favor in your sight that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner ?" 11 Boaz replied to her, "All that you have done for your mother-in-law after the death of your husband has been fully reported to me, and how you left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and came to a people that you did not previously know. 12 "May the LORD reward your work, and your wages be full from the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to seek refuge."(Ruth 2:1-12)
You may have heard this story before. Can you tell me how it ends for Ruth?

Boaz marries her, and God give her a son, and Naomi is happy, and that son turns out to be the great, great grandfather of a king! (Guess who Boaz's great great grandmother was? She used to live in Jericho. Boaz and Ruth are the continuation of her story, just as they are the continuation of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob's story of promise.)

This story takes place in the time of the judges, when much of Israel was forgetting to obey God and doing wicked, wicked things to each other. But here we have Ruth, who isn't even from Israel, choosing to stay with her old mother in law and take care of her because she has no one left who will. Even though she doesn't have to. We also have Boaz, who has remembered God's law, and allows the poor in the community to go after his laborers and pick up the grain that they miss. Do you remember when we talked about how God commanded them to take care of the poor like that?

So Boaz is keeping God's law, and Ruth is caring for her old mother in law who is poor and has nothing left. These 2 people see each other and care about each other right away. Boaz likes Ruth, not just because she's probably pretty, but because she has the kind of character and heart that care about others. Ruth likes Boaz because he is kind to her, and protects her and takes care of her and Naomi. It works out very well then that the law puts Boaz in a position where he can marry Ruth, and redeem what was lost to Naomi by raising up a family in honor of her lost husband and sons.

The children of these 2 people will remember to follow God. These 2 people will have grandsons and great grandsons who obey God and know him as they do.

God blesses them, because they remember Him. The promised blessing will come through them as well.

13.12.12

Advent Meditation for Kids - Day 13 - Righteousness Is Hard without the Breath of Life

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6 When Joshua had dismissed the people, the sons of Israel went each to his inheritance to possess the land. 7 The people served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who survived Joshua, who had seen all the great work of the LORD which He had done for Israel. 8 Then Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died at the age of one hundred and ten. 9 And they buried him in the territory of his inheritance in Timnath-heres, in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash. 10 All that generation also were gathered to their fathers ; and there arose another generation after them who did not know the LORD, nor yet the work which He had done for Israel. Israel Serves Baals 11 Then the sons of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Baals, 12 and they forsook the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed themselves down to them; thus they provoked the LORD to anger. 13 So they forsook the LORD and served Baal and the Ashtaroth. 14 The anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and He gave them into the hands of plunderers who plundered them; and He sold them into the hands of their enemies around them, so that they could no longer stand before their enemies. 15 Wherever they went, the hand of the LORD was against them for evil, as the LORD had spoken and as the LORD had sworn to them, so that they were severely distressed. 16 Then the LORD raised up judges who delivered them from the hands of those who plundered them. 17 Yet they did not listen to their judges, for they played the harlot after other gods and bowed themselves down to them. They turned aside quickly from the way in which their fathers had walked in obeying the commandments of the LORD ; they did not do as their fathers. 18 When the LORD raised up judges for them, the LORD was with the judge and delivered them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge ; for the LORD was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who oppressed and afflicted them. 19 But it came about when the judge died, that they would turn back and act more corruptly than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them and bow down to them; they did not abandon their practices or their stubborn ways. 20 So the anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and He said, "Because this nation has transgressed My covenant which I commanded their fathers and has not listened to My voice, 21 I also will no longer drive out before them any of the nations which Joshua left when he died, 22 in order to test Israel by them, whether they will keep the way of the LORD to walk in it as their fathers did, or not." (Judges 2:6-22 NASB)
As God promised, the people of Israel do live in the land of Canaan. For as long as those who walked with God in the wilderness lived, the people remembered God, and remembered to do all that He had commanded them. But then those people died, and their children and grandchildren did not know God as they had done, and they did not obey God's commands.

You see, there was a complication. There were still other people living in the land of Canaan. They had conquered it, but they had not gotten rid of everyone. Those people worshiped different gods and had different customs and to the children of the Israelites those gods seemed pretty cool and tehy worshiped them and forgot the ways of God.

So God allowed them to be oppressed and defeated by the people groups around them. When they stopped obeying God he stopped protecting them. It's funny how when things get hard we remember how God helped people before, in ways that are harder to remember when things are easy.

So God stopped protecting them, and it got very hard, and then God raised up a judge. There were men and women that God raised up and called to free his people and bring them back to God again. As long as those people lived, Israel remembered to worship and obey God.  But when they died Israel went right back to doing whatever they wanted and suffered for it. Over, and over, and over, and over again.

Have you ever done something you weren't supposed to, and felt really bad about it when something bad happened to you because of it, but as soon as it was alright again you forgot and did that thing all over again? Maybe you didn't bring a sweater somewhere when your mom told you to, so you were really, really cold. But then once you got home and got warm you forgot all about it and the next time your mom said to bring a sweater you still didn't bring one, and you were cold all over again until your mom felt sorry for  you and let your wear hers, or your little sister's, but you still can't seem to remember to bring a sweater? One of my children keeps doing that these days.

Israel just wouldn't learn from their mistakes. They seemed to do a pretty bad job of teaching their children to learn from their mistakes too, because the next generation was always making the same mistakes their parents had.

Do you remember when we talked about how Adam and Eve, and all of us, lost the Breath of Life in the garden when they disobeyed God? Without the Breath of Life, without God's spirit in us, obeying him was so incredibly hard. We just didn't have the power to do it without him constantly there reminding us to do it. This was a problem. It wasn't just a problem for Israel, it was a problem for everyone. We just didn't have the power to be good, to do the good things God told us on his own. We needed help. The Israelites still needed the Breath of Life back in them. But it's going to be a while before that happens. They are going to learn some pretty hard lessons along the way.

12.12.12

Advent Meditation for Kids - Day 12 - How Rahab Becomes Part of God's Story

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4 But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them, and she said, "Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from. 5 "It came about when it was time to shut the gate at dark, that the men went out; I do not know where the men went. Pursue them quickly, for you will overtake them." 6 But she had brought them up to the roof and hidden them in the stalks of flax which she had laid in order on the roof. 7 So the men pursued them on the road to the Jordan to the fords ; and as soon as those who were pursuing them had gone out, they shut the gate. 8 Now before they lay down, she came up to them on the roof, 9 and said to the men, "I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land have melted away before you. 10 "For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. 11 "When we heard it, our hearts melted and no courage remained in any man any longer because of you; for the LORD your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath . 12 "Now therefore, please swear to me by the LORD, since I have dealt kindly with you, that you also will deal kindly with my father's household, and give me a pledge of truth, 13 and spare my father and my mother and my brothers and my sisters, with all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death." 14 So the men said to her, "Our life for yours if you do not tell this business of ours; and it shall come about when the LORD gives us the land that we will deal kindly and faithfully with you."

Rahab was not what the Israelites would have called a respectable woman. She was one of the enemy, the people who were in the land that God had promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob so many, many years ago. But God wasn't just giving the land to the Israelites. He was on their side and helping them, but he wanted them to fight for it, to make them strong.

Rahab, even though she was the enemy, helped the two men that Joshua, the new leader of the Israelites, sent to spy out the land. Joshua wanted to know what they were up against. She told them how everyone was afraid of them, because they had heard how God fought for them, and did many wonders, and how they had defeated everyone who got in their way. She was sure they were going to win the coming fight, and she wanted to be on their side.

She chose to protect them and asked them to help her in return. The men promised that they would help her, and they did.

Rahab joined Israel. She married an Israelite, and God chose her, the children who came through her, to be part of the the line of people through whom His promised blessing would come. Just like Abraham, and Sarah, and Isaac, and Rebekah, the children of this woman, who wasn't good enough in the eyes of a lot of people would be how He brought this promise to the world.

Rahab chose God's side, and He blessed her for it.

Sometimes it's not as clear which side God is on, or what we should do. Do you ever wonder what they right thing to do in a situation is? How do you figure it out?

11.12.12

Advent Meditation for Kids - Day 11 - God's Jubilee

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10 'You shall thus consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim a release through the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, and each of you shall return to his own property, and each of you shall return to his family. 11 'You shall have the fiftieth year as a jubilee ; you shall not sow, nor reap its aftergrowth, nor gather in from its untrimmed vines. 12 'For it is a jubilee ; it shall be holy to you. You shall eat its crops out of the field. 13 'On this year of jubilee each of you shall return to his own property. 14 'If you make a sale, moreover, to your friend or buy from your friend's hand, you shall not wrong one another. 15 'Corresponding to the number of years after the jubilee, you shall buy from your friend ; he is to sell to you according to the number of years of crops. 16 'In proportion to the extent of the years you shall increase its price, and in proportion to the fewness of the years you shall diminish its price, for it is a number of crops he is selling to you. 17 'So you shall not wrong one another, but you shall fear your God ; for I am the LORD your God. 18 'You shall thus observe My statutes and keep My judgments, so as to carry them out, that you may live securely on the land. 19 'Then the land will yield its produce, so that you can eat your fill and live securely on it. 20 'But if you say, "What are we going to eat on the seventh year if we do not sow or gather in our crops ?" 21 then I will so order My blessing for you in the sixth year that it will bring forth the crop for three years. 22 'When you are sowing the eighth year, you can still eat old things from the crop, eating the old until the ninth year when its crop comes in.

 23 'The land, moreover, shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are but aliens and sojourners with Me. 24 'Thus for every piece of your property, you are to provide for the redemption of the land. 25 'If a fellow countryman of yours becomes so poor he has to sell part of his property, then his nearest kinsman is to come and buy back what his relative has sold. 26 'Or in case a man has no kinsman, but so recovers his means as to find sufficient for its redemption, 27 then he shall calculate the years since its sale and refund the balance to the man to whom he sold it, and so return to his property. 28 'But if he has not found sufficient means to get it back for himself, then what he has sold shall remain in the hands of its purchaser until the year of jubilee ; but at the jubilee it shall revert, that he may return to his property. (Leviticus 25:10-28 NASB)

35 'Now in case a countryman of yours becomes poor and his means with regard to you falter, then you are to sustain him, like a stranger or a sojourner, that he may live with you. 36 'Do not take usurious interest from him, but revere your God, that your countryman may live with you. 37 'You shall not give him your silver at interest, nor your food for gain. 38 'I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan and to be your God. 39 'If a countryman of yours becomes so poor with regard to you that he sells himself to you, you shall not subject him to a slave's service. 40 'He shall be with you as a hired man, as if he were a sojourner ; he shall serve with you until the year of jubilee. 41 'He shall then go out from you, he and his sons with him, and shall go back to his family, that he may return to the property of his forefathers. 42 'For they are My servants whom I brought out from the land of Egypt ; they are not to be sold in a slave sale. 43 'You shall not rule over him with severity, but are to revere your God. (Leviticus 25:35-43 NASB)
Did any of what we just read make sense to you? It might have seemed kind of boring. But once you understand what it's saying it's really, really amazing.

One of the the things that happens a lot in this world, is that some people have enough money or resources at the right time to own a lot of stuff, land, or factories, or things that have a lot of value, because people need them to survive. What happens is that those people who own everything can hire other people to work for them, and they get richer, and richer, while other people end up with less, and less. All over the world today you can see examples of really poor people living on land they don't own, paying so much of what they make to the person who does own the land they are farming, or the tools they need to work to make a living, or the place they need to go and work in, and they have to pay so much of what they make to the person who owns everything that they barely have enough for their family to eat and survive. The person who owns everything gets richer, and richer from other people's hard work, and those people get poorer and poorer because it is so hard for them to survive. They can't plan ahead or save anything for emergencies and so when someone gets sick or they need money they have to borrow it from someone else, and then sometimes that person makes them or one of their children work for them for free until they can pay back the money.

God told Israel to do things differently. He said that once every 50 years everything went back to the original owners. People who were working for someone else to pay off a debt got to go back to their families. And if you owed anyone a lot of money and couldn't pay it back your debt was cancelled.

That's amazing!

Have you ever sold or lost something that was important to you? Would you like it if there was a way you could get it back and start over?
Doing it God's way makes it so that no one can really get to the point where they own everything and everyone works for them. The people who were having hard times, they get to start over again. They get everything back and they get a second chance.

Imagine if that were to happen today in your country. I bet you know at least one person, you may not know this about them, who owes a lot of money to someone else. A lot of people in the US have been having very hard times because they owed someone money and couldn't pay because times got hard. Lots of people have lost their houses, their jobs.

God wanted Israel to be a different sort of place. A place where they took care of each other and didn't get rich off of someone's hardship.

If someone runs out of money, they were to take care of them, to help them, to let them live with them and help them through hard times. God reminded them over and over that they all belonged to Him.

If someone is God's person, you should probably take care of them. And if the land you are using is God's land, and he's just letting you use it, then you should probably take care of it like he tells you to.

He tells them to even let the land rest. Every farmer today knows that you need to let soil rest every so often in order for it to be able to keep producing crops. The Israelites didn't know that. But if they obeyed God about letting the land rest, they would have good soil for good crops anyway.

This was another way that Israel would be different from all the nations around it. It would be one more way that they shone the light of God's love and justice to the people who were paying attention. This is part of God's plan to bless all of the world.

10.12.12

Advent Meditation for Kids - Day 10 - How God Treats the Poor

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5 'Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; 6 and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' (Exodus 19:5-6)

22 'When you reap the harvest of your land, moreover, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field nor gather the gleaning of your harvest ; you are to leave them for the needy and the alien. I am the LORD your God.' " (Leviticus 23:22 NASB)

12 "Now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require from you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to keep the LORD'S commandments and His statutes which I am commanding you today for your good ? 14 "Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the highest heavens, the earth and all that is in it. 15 "Yet on your fathers did the LORD set His affection to love them, and He chose their descendants after them, even you above all peoples, as it is this day. 16 "So circumcise your heart, and stiffen your neck no longer. 17 "For the LORD your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality nor take a bribe. 18 "He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing. 19 "So show your love for the alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. 20 "You shall fear the LORD your God ; you shall serve Him and cling to Him, and you shall swear by His name. 21 "He is your praise and He is your God, who has done these great and awesome things for you which your eyes have seen. 22 "Your fathers went down to Egypt seventy persons in all, and now the LORD your God has made you as numerous as the stars of heaven. (Deuteronomy 10:12-21 NASB)

"At the end of every third year you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in that year, and shall deposit it in your town. 29 "The Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance among you, and the alien, the orphan and the widow who are in your town, shall come and eat and be satisfied, in order that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do. (Deuteronomy 14:28-29 NASB)

15 "You shall not hand over to his master a slave who has escaped from his master to you. 16 "He shall live with you in your midst, in the place which he shall choose in one of your towns where it pleases him; you shall not mistreat him. (Deuteronomy 23:15-16 NASB)

10 "When you make your neighbor a loan of any sort, you shall not enter his house to take his pledge. 11 "You shall remain outside, and the man to whom you make the loan shall bring the pledge out to you. 12 "If he is a poor man, you shall not sleep with his pledge. 13 "When the sun goes down you shall surely return the pledge to him, that he may sleep in his cloak and bless you; and it will be righteousness for you before the LORD your God. 14 "You shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy, whether he is one of your countrymen or one of your aliens who is in your land in your towns. 15 "You shall give him his wages on his day before the sun sets, for he is poor and sets his heart on it; so that he will not cry against you to the LORD and it become sin in you. 16 "Fathers shall not be put to death for their sons, nor shall sons be put to death for their fathers ; everyone shall be put to death for his own sin. 17 "You shall not pervert the justice due an alien or an orphan, nor take a widow's garment in pledge. 18 "But you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and that the LORD your God redeemed you from there ; therefore I am commanding you to do this thing. 19 "When you reap your harvest in your field and have forgotten a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow, in order that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. 20 "When you beat your olive tree, you shall not go over the boughs again ; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow. 21 "When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not go over it again ; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow. 22 "You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt ; therefore I am commanding you to do this thing. (Deuteronomy 24:10-22 NASB)

Yesterday we talked about how God met the people of Israel on Mount Sinai. There he told Moses his plans for Israel, what it was that he wanted. He said that he would make them a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation.

What do you think that means?

Do you know what it is that priests do?

Priests are the people that go between everyone else, and the God they worship. In the time of Moses people worshiped all sorts of gods in many different kinds of temples. Most of these gods were represented by statues made of metal or wood and the priests would tell the people what the gods wanted from them, and help the people to ask for favors from the gods.

What God wanted for Israel is that all of them would know him, would know how to tell people what he was like and what he wanted, and be able to go to God on the behalf of others. If the whole nation was full of priests, and holy to God, who would they show God to, if everyone in Israel already knew Him? Any guesses?

If you guessed the rest of the world, you got it right. God wants Israel to display what He is like to the rest of the world.

As Moses talks to God on the mountain God starts to tell him about how he wants the Israelites to behave, in order to be the kind of people that show the world what God is like.

God cares about justice, about the poor, and the needy, and the oppressed, the woman who is all alone, the children who have no food, the stranger in a strange land. God cares about how those people are treated. He tells the Israelites to make sure they have food, that they are treated fairly, that they are helped. Because that's what God is like, he cares about the people in need.

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