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“Snowball Effect”

Matthew 27: 20, 22: “But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the multitudes to ask for Barabbas, and to put Jesus to death … Pilate said to them, ‘Then what shall I do with Jesus Who is called Christ?’ They all said, ‘Let Him be crucified!” Here’s what happens when we stop listening to the true judge. The deception of wrong judgment started with one man, the high priest. It spread from him to the whole council (Matthew 27: 1), now we see it fill the people, and then the heart of Pilate. What a malicious oak a simple seed of rebellion can mature into! Now do we understand why Achan had to be treated as he was? (See Monday’s memo)

“Judicial Teamwork”

Joshua 10: 12, 13: “Then Joshua spoke to the Lord in the day when the Lord delivered up the Amorites before the sons of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, ‘O sun, stand still at Gibeon, and O moon in the valley of Aijalon.’ So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, until the nation avenged themselves of their enemies.” Just as the Lord resists those who resist His judgeship, He works with those who honor it. Here Joshua sees God judging the unrighteous and, noting the chance of some of the enemy escaping into the impending darkness, asks Him for a unique solution. Impossible? No, not when we work together in agreement with the righteous judge!

“Here Comes the Judge!”

Psalm 50:5, 6: “’Gather My godly ones to Me, those who have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice.’ And the heavens declare His righteousness, for God Himself is judge.” Yet again today we see God declared as the righteous judge. In this psalm He judges an Israel whose covenant is based only on sacrifice rather than relationship. In love the righteous judge reaches out to them, longing to raise their worship to the level of thanksgiving and honor. To those so inclined, their Judge becomes their Savior (v. 23)!

“Judging the Judge”

Matthew 26: 64: “Jesus said to him. ‘You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Having maintained silence before Caiaphas up to this time (for not even the high priest had the authority to judge the Christ), Jesus now makes a declaration that should have brought the entire hall, Caiaphas included, to its knees. Instead, in arrogance far eclipsing that of Achan (see Monday’s memo), the unrighteous judge challenges and condemns the righteous judge. Forty years later everyone knew the gravity of that erroneous judgment!

“Bended Knee”

Romans 14: 10-11b: “But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, do you judge your brother with contempt? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written, ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me.’” In the context of our ungodly habit of elevating ourselves to the place of judging each other, St. Paul quotes Isaiah 45: 23, a passage used in Philippians to exalt and praise Christ. But here he uses it as Isaiah did, as a reminder that God alone is judge, and sooner or later every one of us will bow before His righteous judgment. Jesus alone is Lord (and Judge) of us all.

“Under the Ban”

Joshua 7: 13b: “Thus the Lord, the God of Israel, has said, ‘There are things under the ban in your midst, O Israel. You cannot stand before your enemies until you have removed the things under the ban from your midst.” Israel has just lost a battle for the first time in forty years; it is the first defeat for this generation of soldiers. Why? For the sake of a hoodie, a little silver, and a little gold (v. 21). But that’s the surface issue, the real problem was that Achan was testing God’s righteous judgment. Pride, greed, and arrogance are still under the ban for His children, and when allowed to fester, they will still make us fall before our enemies. The only remedy is to extingui

Purity of Compassion

To give or not to give is less a matter of circumstance than it is a matter of attitude. In today’s gospel, Jesus set an example of putting the good of others above that of self and inspired His disciples to give in the midst of their own justifiable need. He made them realize that compassion coupled with selflessness opens the arms and heart to receive what God wants us to have the most - His joy.

The Rhythm Of The Christian Life

William Barclay makes this statement: “The rhythm of the Christian life is the alternate meeting with God in the secret place and serving people in the market place.” The essence of the Christian life is the flow of moving into the presence of God, from the busyness of life, and then returning to involvement with people, enriched by our spiritual renewal. How can we do God’s work without some time to practice the presence of God in our lives? But prayer and devotion that does not lead to practical action for good is simply self-indulgence. In today’s Gospel, Saint Mark continues his story of Jesus’ response to the return of the disciples from their first missionary journey in the countryside

“Priests and People”

Joshua 6: 5: “And it shall be that when the priests make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when you hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city will fall down flat, and the people will go up every man straight ahead.” Are you one of those believers who let the leaders do all the work, both in worship and in other types of service? We should learn from this passage: Jericho’s walls didn’t just fall at the sound of the priests blowing trumpets alone, all the people had to shout, too. Priest’s trumpets plus people’s war cry equaled success. It’s no different today, so make some noise, people!

“Love Chapter”

Romans 12: 9: “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.” Commonly known as “The Love Chapter”, the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians is often read (and misquoted) in weddings and similar occasions. But it is not alone. This twelfth chapter of Romans is also a tremendous insight on love, although the word itself only occurs twice. The entire chapter is a description of what love looks like and how it acts. Next time you get married, or better yet, before, give it a careful read and learn what true love is really all about.

“In Good Measure”

Romans 12: 3: “For through the grace given to me I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.” We can all get pretty proud of ourselves sometimes, can’t we? Especially in the midst of a victory, we develop shoulder strains from patting ourselves on the back so much. Just remember: The faith God gave to you, He gave to everyone; it is His gift, something we neither earn nor create on our own. All glory goes to Him!

“Crossing Ahead”

Joshua 3: 11: “Behold, the ark of the Covenant of the Lord of all the earth is crossing over ahead of you into the Jordan.” After four hundred years of slavery and forty years in the wilderness, the Israelites are at the cusp of the Promised Land. One obstacle remains: the Jordan River at flood stage. Uncrossable, just like the Red Sea blocking their exit from Egypt. But just like the Red Sea, the mighty Jordan is no deterrent when the presence of the Lord of all the earth is crossing over ahead of them. Whatever Jordan is blocking you from your divine promise, know that the Lord is standing in the middle of it, too!

“Full of Bribes”

Psalm 26: 9-10: “Do not take my soul away along with sinners, nor my life with men of bloodshed, in whose hands is a wicked scheme, and whose right hand is full of bribes.” Things have changed. Whereas before people acknowledged the unrighteousness of the bribery system (either giving or receiving), in many businesses today, as well as in politics and the legal system, bribes and kickbacks are an accepted part of the landscape. But God states a different opinion on the matter, here and in other scriptures (i.e., Psalm 15: 5b). If your right hand – your strength, your go-to strategy – is full of bribe money, either in payout or payback, it is time to wash your hands in innocence, and repent

“The Long Haul”

Matthew 25: 5: “Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep.” For many of us, we turn to the Lord because we are expecting an eminent event – His return, for example. When it doesn’t happen right away we get drowsy and listless. But God’s agenda includes much more than just the second coming of Christ. Otherwise, He would have waited to call you until it was ready to happen. Find out what He wants you to do now, and stay awake!

Purify of Mission

A house that is not vertically perfect will collapse easily when an external force is applied to the side opposite of the inclined wall. It requires a device called a plumb line to check for this condition. In our first reading in Amos 7: 8, the prophet Amos had a vision that the Lord God was standing by a vertical wall with a plumb line in His hand and told Amos that He would put a plumb line in the midst of Israel. In this passage, we see God’s concern to all His people, including the unfaithful king and the priest (Amos 7:10). These whom He expected to follow His commandments were no longer fulfilling their respective responsibilities. In an ultimate act of humility God lowered Himself

“Goodbye, Hello”

Deuteronomy 34: 8-9: “So the sons of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab for thirty days; then the days of weeping and mourning for Moses came to an end. Now Joshua the son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hand on him; and the sons of Israel listened to him and did as the Lord had commanded Moses.” Moses had been the heart and soul of the people for forty years, truly one of a kind, and deserving of all the mourning of the people at his passing. But it came to an end, because there was a Promised Land to take, and God had a man ready to take the reins. As we have seen every day this week, “Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes

“Heart’s Desire/God’s Desire”

Romans 10: 1: “Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation.” St. Paul has already expressed his sorrow and grief over the state of his kinsmen (Romans 9: 2-3), and here states his heart’s desire for them. As he works out this issue over the course of the next three chapters he realizes there is no need for sadness, but joy, even laughter, for his desire is God’s desire, and all Israel (all God’s people, both Jews and Gentiles) will be saved (Romans 11: 25). From mourning to dancing! (Psalm 30: 11)

“It’s in Your Hands”

Matthew 24: 13-14: “But the one who endures to the end, he shall be saved. And this Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached to the whole world for a witness to all the nations, and then the end shall come.” There is always the danger of misunderstanding the subject of predestination (Romans 8: 29; Ephesians 1: 4-5; etc.), taking the passive attitude that everything is already decided and done. Matthew puts an end to that thinking! In the midst of wars, natural disasters, persecution, lawlessness we need not mourn as those who have no hope. Rejoice, even laugh, people of God, for our endurance is in our hands, and it is our witness of this Kingdom that will bring it to earth.

“Multiplication by Subtraction”

Deuteronomy 1: 10: “The Lord your God has multiplied you, and behold, you are this day as the stars of heaven for multitude.” When Israel refused to take the Promised Land at Kadesh Barnea (Numbers 24: 19), they were told that everyone among them above the age of twenty must die before the nation could try again to enter, and the people mourned greatly. You’d think that the killing off of a whole generation would lessen their number. But Israel needn’t mourn over that; forty years in the wilderness didn’t subtract from them, but multiplied them. Laugh, people of God! In the midst of subtraction, the Lord your God increases you!

“No Cause for Alarm”

Romans 8: 31b, 33: “If God is for us, who is against us? … Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the One Who justifies.” Imagine how frustrating it would be: You’re bringing a charge against someone, only to find out the judge is the accused’s father, and he’s already paid in advance any penalty incurred. Your case has no chance to succeed! But the good news is, you are not the accuser, you are the accused, and God Himself is the judge acting for you. Again, relax, and when the accuser comes, laugh!

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