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Timeless truth in a changing world

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Devotional

The Golden Calf in Your Life

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The story of the Israelites and the Golden Calf is a ridiculous one, isn’t it? C’mon, people. Just a few weeks after God performed ten miraculous plagues, led you through the Red Sea on dry ground but drowned Pharaoh’s army after you, and fed you with manna and quail, you forget all this and make an idol to worship? After all God has done for you, this is your response? It’s laughable, really. This golden calf that Aaron made in front of your eyes is the one who led you out of Egypt? Lame. And yet, all too familiar. Because we are no different today.

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Obsessed with Death

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A visitor to church might have wondered what was going on yesterday. All Saints Sunday is somewhat of an unusual one, as we remember with joy the deaths of those saints who have gone before us. In churches around the world, we took time to list the names of church members who have died within the past year. We even sing in gory detail about the deaths of the saints of old:

They have come from tribulation And have washed their robes in blood,
Washed them in the blood of Jesus; Tried they were, and firm they stood.
Mocked, imprisoned, stoned, tormented, Sawn asunder, slain with sword…
(TLH 471, v 3)

A glorious band, the chosen few, On whom the Spirit came,
Twelve valiant saints—their hope they knew And mocked the cross and flame.
They met the tyrant’s brandished steel, The lion’s gory mane;
They bowed their necks their death to feel—Who follows in their train?
(LSB 661, v 3)

Nice thing to be singing about with the kids, isn’t it? Being stoned, sawn in half, eaten by lions, burned to death, beheaded… Yep. Nothing to see here, folks. Just an ordinary church service, singing about various ways to die. What is it about Christians, that we’re so obsessed with death?

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A Modern-Day Good Samaritan Story

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I groaned as I saw the flashing construction vehicles and the line of red brake lights ahead of me. I was taking my son to school, and we hadn’t left early enough to allow for delays like this. Some cars were already doing U-turns, presumably to go another route. But our detour option was a much longer way, so I decided to wait a few minutes before making a knee-jerk reaction. Sure enough, a minute later the cars ahead of me slowly started inching forward. Whew. But as I approached the cause of the backup, I could see this wasn’t just construction. There was a car with a smashed front end sitting in the middle of the four-lane road, and there was a man lying on the ground next to the driver’s side, two construction workers kneeling beside him. Clearly, the accident had happened very recently, since the emergency workers hadn’t yet shown up. It was a horrifying feeling to pass right by the man on the ground, not knowing his condition or even if he was alive. My son and I prayed for him and for the others involved in the accident, and we were fairly silent the rest of the drive, until my son said, “You know, Mr. Smith would have stopped to see if he could help.” It was an innocent observation; he didn’t mean it as a guilt trip, but I was convicted nonetheless. I should have stopped, but I didn’t. It was a modern-day parable of the Good Samaritan, and I was the priest passing by on the other side.

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Foolish Giving

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An adult never would have done it. It wasn’t logical. In fact, it was downright embarrassing to offer such a small amount for such a large crowd. And besides, it made more sense to keep it for oneself for the journey ahead. Yet the boy didn’t think about any of that. He just knew he had some food and other people needed it. So he found Andrew and told him he had five loaves of barley bread and two fish. Perhaps the people around him snickered at how naive this child was. But Andrew brought the food to Jesus, who multiplied it to feed over 5,000 men, plus women and children.  The leftovers alone were astounding. But in order to multiply the food, first the boy had to give it away.

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McDonald’s Evangelism

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I was sitting in McDonald’s with an hour to get some work done. I had my large coffee, my iPad was open and ready, and my Bible sat next to me on the table. I relished the opportunity to be alone and work without distractions. Only…wait. That guy over there. He’s looking at me. He looks like he wants something. Shoot. Look down, Ruth. Act busy. You shouldn’t have made eye contact. Drat. Now he’s coming over, limping slightly as he walks. It’s cold and rainy outside, and he has an umbrella he’s sort of using as a cane. Okay. Sigh. He’s at my table. Here we go.

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A Perfect Rescue

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It was the perfect rescue story. We found a stray cat nearby, looking dirty, hungry, scared, and overall pretty pathetic. We didn’t want to commit to another indoor cat, but we figured she could be an outdoor cat if she so chose. So we took her home, fed her, brushed the burrs out of her fur, and the kids gave her lots of love. They made a little bed for her inside a box, and she curled up in it rather cozily to spend the night. The next morning we couldn’t find her right away, so the kids went looking for her. They found her in a hole the dogs had dug in the backyard. This hole goes underneath the patio, and the dogs slide under there to stay cool in the hot Texas sun. We tried coaxing the cat out, to no avail. We bribed her with food. Nothing. So my oldest son volunteered to slither down as far as he could to reach her. I had visions of him pulling her to safety her while she purred gratefully, glad to have been rescued. Only it didn’t work out that way at all.

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In the Presence of the King

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This was a matter of life and death. The rule in the royal court was that anyone who approached the king without being summoned was to be put to death. There was but one exception. If the king held out his golden scepter, the person who dared approach him uninvited would live. Queen Esther knew this rule applied even to her, and when she agreed to plead with the king on behalf of the Jews, she knew she could be walking to her own death. Mordecai had tricked King Ahasuerus into signing a death edict for the Jewish people, and Esther knew it was up to her to save them, provided she didn’t get killed first. But she didn’t just run to the throne room. She told Mordecai to gather as many Jews as he could and fast and pray for her for three days before she would dare to approach the king. This was too serious a matter to attempt without proper preparation.

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Perfect Timing

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Timing is everything in music. No one wants to be the one who miscounts the measures of rest and comes in at the wrong time. Take the iconic ending of G.F. Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus,” for example. The music is climaxing with the singers repeating, “Forever and ever! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!” (Dramatic pause) “Hal-le-lu-jah!” It’s that rest right before the last “Hallelujah” that makes the ending. If the singers ignored that final rest or sang one too many “hallelujahs,” it would ruin it. Like I said, timing is everything.

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Lost in the Fog

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Driving in heavy fog is very unsettling. Yesterday morning I had to drive to church in such conditions, and although it’s a road I’ve taken dozens of times before, everything looked different in the fog. Each turn seemed unfamiliar, large trees weren’t visible until we were practically next to them, and cars coming from the opposite direction didn’t emerge from the fog until they were pretty close to us, which was startling and a bit scary. I was on edge the entire time, not knowing if a deer would suddenly leap out in front of me or a car would pull out without being able to see me coming. I felt disoriented, but I was not lost. I may not have been able to see a hundred yards ahead of me, but I knew I was on the right road, and I knew that road was going to get me to my destination.

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