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Devotions from Pastor Glen - the week of 7/19/20

Ecclesiastes 3:5 a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
What on earth is this passage from Ecclesiastes 3 talking about? It’s talking about boundaries. First some background. Hebrew poetry is not rhyming the way our modern poetry often is. The two lines often say the same thing in different ways. So it is with these lines of verse 5.
But what is the meaning of the stones? Stones were used as property markers. If you wanted to mark a piece of property in the land, you’d gather a bunch of stones together and put them in a pile. That way a person who saw them would think, “this is somebody’s land” and know not to settle there. There were other times when boundaries were not needed, like when a person was leaving permanently to go to another place.
To embrace and hold back in the next line is the same thing. To embrace is not to keep a boundary. To hold back is to keep one.
So you see the two lines are really saying more or less the same thing. There need to be limits in law, and in relationships. Sometimes it’s good not to have boundaries and sometimes it is. It’s no good grazing your sheep on some else’s land or trying to raise crops there. But if you marry into the family, and your herds are merged into the family’s, maybe those land markers don’t have to be there. There are times when it’s appropriate to show physical affection and sometimes not. King Solomon, who wrote Ecclesiastes, knew that. Are there places in your life you need to set limits? Are there places you can get rid of limits?
Limitless God, help me to set limits when I need to, and cast them aside when I don’t need them anymore. Amen.





July 23, 2020

Proverbs 22:6 – 12 Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray.


There is an old proverb I know, not quite as old as the one above, that says, “We grow too soon old, too late smart.” And it’s true, most of us don’t really learn God’s lessons quickly, and some of us (or all of us sometimes) learn only when we are forced to by circumstance. In other words, when we learn the hard way. A few of us need to learn that same lesson again and again before it sinks in.
These days, I find myself reflecting back on the lessons my parents taught me 50 years ago. If I had followed most of my parents’ suggestions early on, I would have had an easier life. Now, at nearly 60, I get it.
That’s what Proverb 22:6 says: when they (children) are old, they will not stray. It doesn’t say what happens when the children aren’t old. There’s a significant gap between instruction and having things really sink in and learned. A very few people learn the lesson without bad experience, more people learn if they see someone else have a bad experience (I learned a lot from the neighbor children). Most have to hear it and experience it, while some people (sadly) never learn.
With the help of the Spirit, when we experience a bad result from our sin, we can say, “Oh THAT’S what my parents were talking about!” And we learn. God bless our parents for what they tried to do.

Teacher God, help us and our children to learn sooner rather than later. Amen.
7/22/20

Proverbs 14:12 There is a way that seems right to a person, but its end is the way to death.

All of us have been caught by sin, and caught up into sin. So instead of writing a story of sin, I will let you write one yourself. What was a bad sin you ended up in? How did you get that way? I’ll bet it was because the sin was an evil masquerading as a good. How was it for you, in your sin? I’ll bet you found out that sin was pretending to be a good, but it turned out not to be. That’s what evil does. It takes a good and says, “if some is good, more is better.” We all know that’s not true, with something as simple as candy (too much candy will make you sick). You see, usually a sin is a short-term gain at the expense of a long-term loss. Companies sometimes have terrible customer service, because customer service is expensive, and doesn’t make much profit. But customer service also provides customer satisfaction, and long-term it builds a great company and great profits. Bad customer service seems good for the company, but it hurts people. In the end it hurts the company. It feels great to sit down and rest, and we need to rest, but if we rest too long, we get little done, and our bodies get weak. Short-term gain, long-term loss. That’s a deadly sin called “sloth,” or extreme laziness. It’s no coincidence that the animal sloth does little work. That’s probably why it was named “sloth.” Examining your sins in detail is not fun, but it can teach you to recognize temptation and sin more easily. And keep us from sinning the next time.

God of Discernment, help us to see the evil behind our temptations. Strengthen us to be good. Amen.

July 21, 2020

Job 5:17 - 17 “Blessed is the one whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.”

Here is another of Job’s “friends” who tells Job that Job is being disciplined by God. This “friend” is later denounced by God for speaking something untrue. The message of Job is that not all bad things are a direct punishment from God.

But if that’s so, why does God allow us to suffer in this world? Because God is good, God would only allow suffering if greater good would come out of it. Jesus suffered to reconnect us with God the father. Then God allows suffering because greater good can come out of it. If in the presence of evil we grow in wisdom, we become more godly. Without that evil, we might not mature at all, we might not have ever thought of good and bad. If something feels unfair in life, then we think about a place where nothing bad happens. We think of heaven.

Another point is, when do we grow, spiritually and otherwise? When something we accomplish is hard. The presence of evil in the world makes it harder to be good. So with evil in the world, we have the chance to grow more. When random bad things happen, we have to have more faith in God, because faith is harder.

God only allows earth and its pain because God knows that we will soon be in a place beyond pain. We will soon be in heaven where our lives in this world are like the blink of an eye compared to eternity. If life were perfect, it would be all too easy not to pay attention to God at all. We are much more likely to turn to God when bad things happen: God simply made us that way. Our suffering on earth has a purpose: it grows us up, if we let it.

God, Wisdom of Ages, when we encounter evil in this world, help us to draw even closer to you. Amen.
7/20/20

Job 4:7-10 Part 2 “Consider now: Who, being innocent, has ever perished? Where were the upright ever destroyed? 8 As I have observed, those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it. 9 At the breath of God they perish; at the blast of his anger they are no more.

Job’s friend says in verse 8 people who are evil always get theirs in the end. I agree with that statement if you put in “almost” before the always. Yesterday I said that the easiest answer to the problem of evil is to trust God for the rest. But that answer is not always satisfying. A way that may be better is simply to understand we don’t know everything. Evil people in the news seem to prosper, but maybe it’s all a front. They are struggling to keep out of jail or their bad habits are causing them stress. Perhaps their life is hell, and they just don’t show it. Or maybe they are about to get nailed. Other people’s evil can affect good people too. Put poison into medicine and good people will die. “Natural” disasters like coastal homes being wiped out by hurricanes may simply be that people are building homes too close to the shore. But let’s consider the opposite scenario. Life is perfect. No evil, no bad choices possible. Would we ever grow up? I believe God creates in us a yearning for perfection and perfection is impossible in this world. God is, ever so gently, pointing us toward heaven. Only in heaven will things be perfect. Only in heaven will we know God fully. Only in heaven will the consequences of bad choices be so obvious that nobody will even make them. The more we grow as Christians, the closer we get to God the more evil, the more imperfection, we see in the world. The more dissatisfied we are with the world, the more we yearn for heaven. Our hearts longing for perfection will be restless until they fully rest in God.

Perfectly Good God, help us to endure the evil we must, and draw closer to you each day. Amen
7/20/20

Job 4:7-10 Part 2 “Consider now: Who, being innocent, has ever perished? Where were the upright ever destroyed? 8 As I have observed, those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it. 9 At the breath of God they perish; at the blast of his anger they are no more.

Job’s friend says in verse 8 people who are evil always get theirs in the end. I agree with that statement if you put in “almost” before the always. Yesterday I said that the easiest answer to the problem of evil is to trust God for the rest. But that answer is not always satisfying. A way that may be better is simply to understand we don’t know everything. Evil people in the news seem to prosper, but maybe it’s all a front. They are struggling to keep out of jail or their bad habits are causing them stress. Perhaps their life is hell, and they just don’t show it. Or maybe they are about to get nailed. Other people’s evil can affect good people too. Put poison into medicine and good people will die. “Natural” disasters like coastal homes being wiped out by hurricanes may simply be that people are building homes too close to the shore. But let’s consider the opposite scenario. Life is perfect. No evil, no bad choices possible. Would we ever grow up? I believe God creates in us a yearning for perfection and perfection is impossible in this world. God is, ever so gently, pointing us toward heaven. Only in heaven will things be perfect. Only in heaven will we know God fully. Only in heaven will the consequences of bad choices be so obvious that nobody will even make them. The more we grow as Christians, the closer we get to God the more evil, the more imperfection, we see in the world. The more dissatisfied we are with the world, the more we yearn for heaven. Our hearts longing for perfection will be restless until they fully rest in God.

Perfectly Good God, help us to endure the evil we must, and draw closer to you each day. Amen
7/19/20

Job 4:7-10 part 1 “Consider now: Who, being innocent, has ever perished? Where were the upright ever destroyed? 8 As I have observed, those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it. 9 At the breath of God they perish; at the blast of his anger they are no more.

This is one of Job’s “friends” telling Job that because he is suffering he must have done something wrong. But the point of the entire Book of Job is that sometimes bad things just seem to happen in this world, even to good people. An accident can happen to the most careful driver. Sometimes even a good driver can be inattentive, but even the best driver can be caught unaware by a deer leaping into their path, leaving them little or no time to react. And what about tornadoes, tsunamis, pandemics? Christians have struggled with this issue since the beginning. How can a good God allow evil? Natural consequences are often seen as the wrath of God, as Job’s friend does. Most times, if we very stupid, like painting in our best clothes, we will suffer consequences. But sometimes we don’t: we can paint a house in a tuxedo and keep it clean, and that’s hard for us to understand. Sometimes bad people seem to get away with things and good people get nailed out of nowhere. Here is the simplest answer to the problem of evil:

God, help us to figure out the things we can understand and trust you for the rest. Amen. Part 2 tomorrow
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