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Gideon at first says, “I will not rule over you, nor will my son. The LORD will rule over you!” and makes a golden ephod to determine God’s will. But instead of using it and worshiping God, they worship the tool as a trap for Gideon and his family. It turned out likely that it was Gideon and not God that led them and the Israelites soon forgot Gideon’s family and returned to worshiping Baal when his left.

Prayer is often a trap for Christians that worship it as a process instead of using it as a tool to get answers. The famous story of a man on his roof as the flood waters rose who prayed to God for salvation while ignoring the people God sent to save him reminds us that prayer alone can not provide salvation or solutions to our problems. In this particular example, an unbeliever, in fact, would have had a better chance for survival than the praying Christian. There are many choices one can make that are less than doing nothing. For example, if I feel poorly and I start to blame others and worry about what is going to happen, I am doing less than nothing and harming myself. If I take a systematic approach, however, to considering what type of health problems I am having to rationally decide what type of doctor to go to and use prayer to confirm (Nehemiah 1:4) that, say, I don’t understand my condition well enough in order to decide that I should go to a general MD for advice (and who to see), I am using prayer as a tool and using it as part of a healthy process.

As mentioned, blame can be less than nothing when used as a process but more than nothing when used as a tool in a healthy process. Too often we attack problems by only asking who is to blame and feel the resolution efforts are basically completed when a general consensus has been formed. Such as: this is wrong, let’s decide who is to blame, and then get rid of them. When we recognize ours sins, we often blame Christ, and kill Him. The movie Bowling for Columbine asked who is to blame for violence in America, decided it was guns (even when the data had to be fudged in order to support this conclusion), and then presented the solution as getting rid of guns. Moore’s efforts would have been far more useful if only he had instead asked, “How do you think you’ve contributed to the conditions that led to the incident at Columbine? Let me start, however, with how I think I have been a negative influence for violence.” Too often people do nothing (or less than nothing) when they pray about a particular problem. Really working to solve the problem is when people blow off steam with exercise or a small break from the problem with a hobby in order to come back with a fresh perspective, maintain a positive outlook by focusing on the positive encouragement of the Word with faith and a high commitment to tackling the problem, take into account various different points of view by seeking professional and social support, and use prayer for spiritual guidance every step of the way. In addition, “real” efforts will include journaling and process assessments in order to more honestly see ourselves and manage even better results the next time the same kind of problem arises (you can’t manage what you don’t measure).

Only Peter who has risked his life by leaving the boat and walked upon the water with Jesus ran to the tomb to check the women’s story of Christ’s missing body. The more we humble ourselves before God and take risks in the face of other’s opinions, the more we exalt Him. Wherever the disciples went, there were many that spoke against them. Thus, let us be reverent and courageous when we cry to the Lord for help (like Moses, Aaron, and Samuel). “Oh Lord our God, you answered them. You were a forgiving God, but you punished them when they were wrong.” (Psalms 99:8) The veil in the Temple was torn as there was no longer any separation between man and God. God is now directly accessible through faith in Jesus Christ. Even the Roman soldiers praised God and saw that Jesus was innocent and the crowd all went home in deep sorrow (realizing what they had done). We should remember that Judas’ mortal sin was not that he betrayed Christ for we have all done that many times, but that once he realized his sin that he could not accept God’s forgiveness and hung himself. Judas “raised the bar” too high to be saved. For example, Peter failed Christ three times over, but while both Peter and Judas were both remorseful that they had sinned, only Peter wept for forgiveness and returned to the apostles. God also protected Cain with his mark in order to give him time to think and to repent. The story of Cain is another story when sin, suffering, and un-repentance were met by continued love and mercy. Proverbs 14:9-10 reminds us that the godly acknowledge guilt and seek reconciliation. Christ said that only a person who believes that he or she has a poor relationship with God actually has a right one. In Luke 18:13, Christ suggested we should always pray, “God, be merciful to me, the sinner!”

Judges 8:18-9:21
In the passage about Gideon’s son, Abimelech, I see a warning about allowing someone whose only leadership qualification is either looking like you or being related. Abimelech’s folks elected him a man who was a seriel killer only because they were related to his mother that is a sorry state of affairs. Daily we make choices not based on principles and integrity of values and beliefs but based on who or what can benefit us by way of relationships.

The parable Abimelech’s half-brother, Jotham, shows what happens when there is a leadership vacuum. The olive tree doesn’t serve (spiritual leadership), the fig tree doesn’t step-up (political); the grapevine (I’m not sure who the vine represents) however, the bramble bush I believe represents “gang” or mob rule. Having a thorn bush as “king” will not bring any comfort. It has nothing to use to shade anyone from the sun and for those who gather under it, they will be stuck.

What kind of leadership should “Believers” elect to lead them, someone who looks like them or someone who hold spiritual and national authority?

Luke 23:44-24:12

Jesus told His followers everything that would happen to Him. They heard Him but didn’t hear Him. What are the memory triggers that make me remember the Word of the Lord. As I read the One-Year-Bible, how much do I take in and how much do I just “don’t get?” May the Holy Spirit bring all things to my remembrance?

Psalm 99:1-9
We are told to “Exalt the Lord our God” (Verse 5) and then given a listing of Old Testament saints who did just that. God doesn’t tell us just to do something without letting us see the great company we would be in if we obeyed God’s command
Proverbs 14:9-10

Mike’s asks if we acknowledge guilt. I would like to add when you feel guilty do you try to do lots of things, busy things, to num feelings of guilt by constantly being on the move (Doing good things trying to pay one’s way out of guilt)? That won’t work. Getting before God and “reconciling with God is the only way. Thanks Mike for the word in season.

Grace and peace,

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