Monday, August 31, 2009

The Good Qualities of a Leader

Then the Ephraimites said to him, "What have you done to us, not to call us when you went to fight against the Midianites? And they upbraided him violently. So he said to them "What have I done now in comparison with you? Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the vineyards of Abiezer? God has given into your hands the captains of Median, Oreb and Zeeb. what have I been able to do in comparison with you?" When he said this, their anger against him subsided. Judges 8: 1-3 NRSV

I think Gideon has the gift of gab. I think he got it from his father (see August 26 devotional). Joash was able to defuse his neighbors' anger. Gideon is able to defuse the anger of an entire tribe.
Not sure if this is a great trait for a politician but it is definitely a good trait for a leader.

Gideon is honest yet flattering: Your tribe produces award winning wines every year, yet my tribe is lucky to be consumed by those with little money. Your tribe captured and beheaded the captains of the enemy. What have I or my people done in comparison to yours?

Is this just politics? Perhaps.

It is definitely a good trait for a leader.

Finding ways to defuse anger, being honest, admitting your faults and not responding in an emotional manner are all essential leadership qualities.

Do you have these qualities?

I'm still working on mine!

God, thank you for the leaders in our lives and your call on some of us to be leaders in church and community. May all leaders share essential qualities of negotiation, honesty, self-realization and emotional health. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Question of the day: Do you see yourself as a leader? Why or why not?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Is the Victor God or Trickery?

So Gideon and the hundred who were with him came to the outskirts of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, when they had just set the watch; and they blew the trumpets and smashed the jars that were in their hands. So the three companies blew the trumpets and bloke the jars, holding in their left hands the torches, and their right hands the trumpets to blow; and they cried, "A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!" Every man stood in his place all around the camp, and all the men in camp ran; they cried out and fled. Judges 7:19-21 NRSV

Gideon really gives the enemies a good scare that ultimately leads to their victory.

Imagine the scene: It is in the middle of the night. The sentries have just changed places. Gideon separates his troops into three groups. Every man carries a torch covered with a jar in their left hand and a trumpet in their right. Quietly, they sneak up on the enemy. The three groups surround the enemy camp. Suddenly, at Gideon's signal, everyone breaks their jar and blows their trumpet, following this with a cry of war.

Can you imagine what the enemy must have thought? They are asleep in their tents, trusting their night watch to keep them safe. Suddenly they are surrounded by lights, the sound of trumpets pierces their ear and war cries are sung out close by. No wonder they fled in panic - right into the arms of Gideon's men.

I guess the question might remain with us: is God the victor here or is trickery?

I am not a real trickery kind of gal. I am more disposed to confront someone head-on (usually with a good bit of anger and not much forethought). I guess that trickery does involve complex understanding of the situation, planning and strategy. I would not make a good general. I also would make a lousy Gideon.

Probably also a good thing I'm not God.

Good thing that, whether by trickery or miracles, God is going to come out the winner.

God, all the glory and praise belongs to you! In Jesus' name. Amen.

Question of the day: When have you used complex means or trickery to resolve a conflict?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Saturday, August 29, 2009

God Provides

That same night the Lord said to him, "Get up, attack the camp; for I have given it into your hand. But if you fear to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah; and you shall hear what they say, and afterward your hands shall be strengthened to attack the camp." Judges 7: 9-11a NRSV

After dealing with Gideon's penchant for testing God repeatedly, God accepts Gideon's nature and provides a way to build up his confidence and trust. Gideon is going to sneak down into the camp and overhear the enemy's dream and its interpretation of a victory for the Israelites. That seems to be the last motivating factor for getting Gideon moving.

God really is amazing. God's patience is incredible. God's understanding is so holy. God knows what is needed and God provides.

And I am not talking about Gideon here but about the rest of us.

God provides the proof, the assurance, and the help we need when things seem utterly against us. God comes through even when we have our back up to the wall of impossible odds. God nurses our trust to new life and outstanding levels of confidence.

God knows and understands.

God provides.

God builds up.

Thank you, God! Amen.

Question of the day: How has God built up your confidence in the last month? Or are you still resisting?

Copyright Amelia G. Sims

Friday, August 28, 2009

God's Victory

The Lord said to Gideon, "The troops with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand. Israel would only take the credit away from me, saying, 'My own hand has delivered me.'" Judges 7:2 NRSV

Thus begins a gleaning process that rivals any reality television show on the market.

God doesn't want the people to take credit for their victory. So, he finds some ways to eliminate the contestants.

First, anyone who is afraid can go home.

This leaves 10,000.

Next, anyone who used their hands rather than lapping the water like a dog (!) was also dismissed.

This left 300.

A goodly amount to give God the credit.

What things in my life is God eliminating so that I will give God the glory rather than myself? How can I claim God's eliminating tactics as a good thing for my faith? What victory is God wanting to give to me?

God, help us to hold on when you keep eliminating things we see as strengths in our lives. The victory will be yours. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Question of the day: When have you claimed the victory when it should have been God's?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Testing God

Then Gideon said to God, "Do not let your anger burn against me, let me speak one more time: let me, please, make trial with the fleece just once more; let it be dry only on the fleece, and on all the ground let there be dew." And God did so that night. It was dry on the fleece only, and on all the ground there was dew. Judges 6:39-40 NRSV

The story of Gideon and the fleece my be the one part of his story that you remember from Bible school as a child.

In reading his story, I think I can understand his continued testing of God.

Gideon was asked to destroy the altar of Baal and the sacred pole. He did it after he was sure it was God instructing him to do so. As a result of what happened, Gideon was almost killed by his neighbors and friends. Now God is asking Gideon to lead troops from four of the tribes of Israel against the Midianites and the Amalekites. God has upped the ante, so to speak. No wonder Gideon tests and re-tests God's power and might!

Gideon wants proof that God will give them victory by laying out a fleece on the ground and seeing if the dew will only fall on the fleece with the surrounding ground remaining dry. This is an impossible natural occurrence. Only God could make this happen.

Although this happens, Gideon still wants to make sure this wasn't some type of fluke. He asks God to leave the fleece dry and have the ground to be wet. In the morning: viola! Truly God is behind this and will give them victory.

In the meantime, Gideon has cleverly put off actually carrying out the battle by two days.


God, we are really good at testing you and putting off what you ask of us. Thank you for your patience. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Question of the day: What have you been putting off by testing God?

Copyright Amelia G. Sims

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


So they said to one another, "Who has done this?" After searching and inquiring, they were told, "Gideon son of Joash did it." Then the townspeople said to Joash, "Bring out your son, so that he may die, for he has pulled down the altar of Baal and cut down the sacred pole beside it." But Joash said to all who were arrayed against him, "Will you contend for Baal? Or will you defend his cause? whoever contends for him shall be put to death by morning. If he is a god, let him contend for himself because his altar has been pulled down." Therefore on that day Gideon was called Jerubbaal, that is to say, "Let Baal contend against him, " because he pulled down his altar. Judges 6:29-32 NRSV

On the one hand, this part of Gideon's story is rather humorous. However, it really points to how unfaithful the people of God have become.

You have to chuckle when Gideon's Dad defends him by asking the people why they were so upset on Baal's behalf. "If Baal is such an important deity, why are you having to be so angry on his behalf?" says Joash. "Why don't you let Baal stand up for himself if he is so great!" Then the people seem to get it because they give Gideon a nickname: he who contends with Baal. The really funny thing for the rest of us is that Gideon spends most of his time "contending" with Yahweh!

But the people have truly become unfaithful to Yahweh. According to Deuteronomy 12 and 13, the people of God are instructed to tear down all the pagan shrines and to stone to death anyone who tries to worship other gods. Yet, God's people built this shrine and the pole and are worshipping these other gods. When Gideon, under the cover of darkness, actually carries out God's instructions (from Deuteronomy 12 and in person) the people are mad at Gideon. The truth of the matter is that Gideon should be killing them! What is sad is that his father also has lost God's directive in terms of how to handle other gods and their shrines. He neglects to remind the people of what God really wants and makes a joke instead (this may have also defused a bad situation so perhaps we shouldn't be too hard on Joash).

Have we, too, lost the point?

Have we tried to make it into a joke?

How often do we contend with God when we should be contending with "other gods?"

God, it isn't funny when we lose sight of who you call us to be and what you call us to do. Help us to truly worship you with everything we are and everything we have. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Question for the day: What things in your life could you label "other gods?"

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Whom Shall You Fear?

Then Gideon perceived that it was the angel of the Lord; and Gideon said, "Help me, Lord God! For I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face." But the Lord said to him, "Peace be to you; do not fear, you shall not die...." So Gideon took ten of his servants, and did as the Lord had told him; but because he was too afraid of his family and the townspeople to do it by day, he did it by night. Judges 6: 22 & 27 NRSV

The more I study Gideon, the more I realize that I share some similar traits - more than I would like to!

Gideon finally figures out that it really has been God speaking to him all along through one of God's angels. Now Gideon is worried - not that he has challenged God or not believed what God has told him - but that he has seen God's messenger and now is going to die. After some assurance, he is given instructions on what God wants him to do to destroy his hometown's altar to Baal.

Because Gideon is afraid of his family, he chooses to do this deed at night.

Afraid of his family? This is the same man who has spoken with an angel of the Lord! This is the same man who has been given affirmation by God! This is the same man who has been given a task directly from God!

Yet in carrying out God's will, he wants to do it in secret.

Gideon's fear is very real but he seems to fear the wrong party. It is God he should fear, not his family!

Yet, how many times have I been just like that? I fear the consequences of obeying God because of what others may think of me or do to me.

Why can't I fear the consequences of not obeying God?

God, you ask us to carry out your will in the world but we so often let our fears of the world get in the way. Fill us with courage to carry out your will. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Question of the day: Are you obeying God or other people?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Monday, August 24, 2009

Here's Your Sign

Then he said to him, "If now I have found favor with you, then show me a sign that it is you who speak with me. Do not depart from here until I come to you, and bring out my present and set it before you." And he said, "I will stay until you return." Judges 6: 17-18 NRSV

Gideon, Gideon, always looking for a sign and needing confirmation or affirmation that God really is who God says and will do what God says God will do.

I mean, just what does Gideon need for proof?

Gideon is saying, "Well, God, I need you to show me a sign besides sending your own angel to come and speak with me about this. I need further proof that it is really you and that you are really with me and you really see me as a mighty warrior."

For Gideon, being visited by the angel of the Lord is not enough. He needs more.

How often does God have to show up through other people in our lives for us to know how much God really loves us?

Do we need more than these seeming coincidences happening all around us as proof that God has a purpose for us?

What more do we need in order to respond: "Yes, God, I will do as you ask me to do."

God, you have sent your messenger, told us of your love, and give us a task. Please remove from us our stubbornness and unbelief. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Question of the day: What sign from God do I think I need today?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Sunday, August 23, 2009

What's Your Excuse?

Then the Lord turned to him and said, "Go in this might of yours and deliver Israel from the hand of Midian; I hereby commission you." He responded, "But sir, how can I deliver Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh and I am the least in my family." The Lord said to him, "But I will be with you, and you shall strike down the Midianites, every one of them." Then he said to him, "If now I have found favor with you, then show me a sign that it is you who speak with me." Judges 6: 14-18a NRSV

Are you good at making excuses?

I am. I can make the most elaborate and emotion-laden excuses for either doing or not doing an activity.

But we just can't compete with Gideon. These verses just scratch the surface of excuses Gideon is capable of giving. He reminds me a bit of Moses who keeps trying to throw up roadblocks on the road God is asking him to travel.

First Gideon says he is the least and the weakest of anyone God could choose to carry out this task. God fires back that with God's presence, anything is possible. Then Gideon wants proof that this really is God speaking to him and promising him victory. He will receive that proof in the next few verses.

Makes me wonder how often I try to give excuses for the things that God wants me to do. The problem is that I end up thinking God doesn't really want me to do whatever it is. I convince myself that it is only my imagination or something.

But with God's presence, all things are possible. Why can't I believe it?

God, with you all things are possible, even incredible victories. Help our unbelief! In Jesus' name. Amen.

Question of the day: What's your excuse?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Saturday, August 22, 2009

If Only We Would Listen

Now the angel of the Lord came and sat under the oak at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, as his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the wine press to hide it from the Midianites. The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, "The Lord is with you, you mighty warrior." Gideon answered him, "But sir, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our ancestors recounted to us, saying 'Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?' But now the Lord has cast us off, and given us into the hand of Midian." Judges 6: 11-13 NRSV

Gideon can't hear.

The angel of the Lord appears to him and says that God is with Gideon and that Gideon is a fine warrior.

But Gideon turns that around to ask where God is with the people. Here he is beating the wheat in the wine press in order to hide from the enemies who have been terrorizing the Israelites. Now a prophet had recently told the Israelites that they had been abandoned because they had abandoned God. God pointedly says they have worshipped other gods "...but have not given heed to my voice." Judges 6:10b

The angel has said God is with Gideon but Gideon doesn't hear that. He is less focused on God's presence in his life and more focused on the absence of God in the lives of his people.

Hello, Gideon!

An angel of the Lord has appeared to him!

The angel has told him God is with him!

God pronounces that Gideon is a great warrior!

This conversation is beginning to remind me of one in the Gospel of Luke where the angel of the Lord appears to Zechariah in the temple.

How often does the angel of the Lord appear to us and we can't hear what is said? Or we deny what is said? Or we don't believe God's pronouncement?

Instead, we have a major argument with God about a whole bunch of other issues. If we just listened and obeyed, perhaps what God is saying to us will actually impact all those other things.

If only we would listen.

God, give us ears to hear! In Jesus' Holy name. Amen.

Question of the day: What is God saying to you that you are ignoring?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Friday, August 21, 2009

Song of Victory

Tell of it, you who ride on white donkeys, you who sit on rich carpets and you who walk by the way. To the sound of musicians at the watering places, there they repeat the triumphs of the Lord, the triumphs of his peasantry in Israel. Then down to the gates marched the people of the Lord. "Awake, awake, Deborah! Awake, awake utter a song!" Judges 5:10-12a NRSV

This is a song of victory. But it is a song of victory for the little people. The rich - those who sit on white (?) donkeys and rich carpets - tell the song but it is the regular people who actually carried out God's victory. Two women - Deborah and Jael- and all the peasants of Israel have done the hard work. Now the rich people get to sing about it.

Isn't that just like today? Our favorite sports team may do the actual winning but we all act like it is our victory! We are the ones yelling, high-fiving and screaming "Number one!" Praising and singing about a victory - even if we had little to do about it - comes to us quite naturally.

Too bad we don't have equal enthusiasm for God like we do for our teams.

In our church, football season is about to become the priority in folks' lives. Many will choose not to come to worship, participate in Bible classes, nor commit themselves for any long-term project. The victory song for the football team will take precedent over the victory song for God's team.

Yet, God wants our song for God's sake.

God, you want your team to be number one in our lives. But you know how caught up we are going be with football this fall. Open our hearts to put you first in all things. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Question for the day: What victory song can you sing this day in God's honor?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Turn aside and have no fear!

Now Sisera had fled away on foot to the tent of Jael wife of Heber the Kenite; for these was peace between King Jabin of Hazor and the clan of Heber the Kenite . Jael came out to meet Sisera, and said to him, "Turn aside, my lord, turn aside to me; have no fear." So he turned aside to her into the tent, and she covered him with a rug. Then he said to her, "Please give me a little water to drink; for I am thirsty." So she opened a skin of milk and gave him a drink and covered him. He said to her, "Stand at the entrance of the tent, and if anybody comes and asks you, 'Is anyone here?' say, 'No.' " But Jael wife of Heber took a tent peg, and took a hammer in her hand, and went softly to him and drove the peg into his temple, until it went down into the ground- he was lying fast asleep from weariness- and he died. Then, as Barak came in pursuit of Sisera, Jael went out to meet him, and said to him, "Come and I will show you the man whom you are seeking." So he went into her tent; there was Sisera lying dead, with the tent peg in his temple. Judges 4:17-22 NRSV

Deborah has already informed Barak that General Sisera is going to be given into the hands of a woman, yet Jael does end up surprising us and having us wonder at her motivations for what she does.

To begin with, she invites the General into her tent. This almost seems like an invitation to a seduction - maybe that is why Sisera doesn't think twice. I have a feeling that few men would be invited into a woman's own tent.

In addition, there is peace between their two clans but Jael's actions really do seem to be premeditated. Sure she is the hand of God in this story but what has made her willing to commit murder in a fight that isn't her own?

Jael acts like she is protecting Sisera. But in reality she is actually keeping him blind and captive. She brings him in the tent, then covers him with a rug. He can't see what she is doing and he can't really go anywhere without being exposed.

Then Sisera asks for some water. Jael gives him a "skin of milk" - really this would be like buttermilk. Surely he would have been clued in that something is up! I know I wouldn't want buttermilk when I was thirsty!

But Jael must know what she is doing: the milk has made him sleepy. He is not only blind but now helpless. Jael takes a hammer and a tent peg and murders Sisera. Maybe she is a bit squeamish as she leaves the rug over him during the murder.

The final act is to call Barak to come see the body, obviously killed by Jael. Not only has God placed the general into the hands of a woman, but it isn't even an act of war. Sisera has been killed by trickery by someone who is not even known to be his enemy.

As much as I like to see the woman winning, I don't like the way in which it was done. I don't think anyone wins in this situation.

God, sometimes we are faced with situations in which the outcome is great but the means make us uncomfortable. We are left confused, uncertain and sad. Just be with us and sustain us during these times. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Question of the day: When have you had to resort to trickery in order to do what you feel God calling you to do?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Going Where God Calls

She sent and summoned Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali, and said to him, "The Lord, the God of Israel, commands you, 'Go, take position at Mount Tabor, bringing ten thousand from the tribe of Naphtali and the tribe of Zebulun. I will draw out Sisera, the general of Jabin's army, to meet you by the Wadi Kishon with his chariots and his troops; and I will give him into your hand.' " Barak said to her, "If you will go with me, I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go." And she said, "I will surely go with you; nevertheless, the road on which you are going will not lead to your glory, for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman." Judges 4: 6-9 NRSV

Barak: I don't care who you are, I don't really believe you are a prophetess, I doubt God is speaking through you. You are probably just trying to get rid of me. So, I want you to go with me.

Deborah: Fine, whatever, I will go with you. But just know that your doubt has caused you to lose out on getting the glory in this battle. In fact, because you have doubted the words of a woman, it will be a woman who will defeat Sisera.

God: Sigh. Not sure if I should laugh or cry.

Us: I don't care what you say or how Spirit-filled you seem. I don't believe that God could really do all that. Hold my hand each step of the way - I cannot possibly do as you ask by myself.

Spiritual Leader/Mentor: I will hold your hand. But you are going to lose out on the special things God had in store for you.

God: Sigh. Will they never learn?

God, you are calling us to impossible tasks. We are scared. We want someone to go with us. Our doubts and fears are making us lose out on your favor, aren't they? We aren't sure at this point if we can overcome these but we will give it our best effort. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Question of the day: What is it God is instructing you to do?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Biggest Surprise

The Israelites again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, after Ehud died. So the Lord sold them into the hand of King Jabin of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor; the commander of this army was Sisera, who lived in Harosheth-ha-golim. Then the Israelites cried out to the Lord for help; for he had nine hundred chariots of iron, and had oppressed the Israelites cruelly twenty years. At that time Deborah, a prophetess, wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel. Judges 4: 1-4 NRSV

You just cannot second-guess what God is going to do next or through whom God will do it. You think a left-handed man in a public bathroom was a bit much? You were surprised by the use of a farm tool for a massive offense? Ha! You haven't seen anything yet! God is going to use a woman to save Israel!

We just have no concept of how surprising all this would have been for the Israelites. I guess it would be like an Hispanic gay man who ran an abortion clinic leading America back to true worship and following of God through the efforts of his atheist friends. That would only happen if that person showed how bad they were and that got people back to God, right? What if God used that person instead? What if that person became God's instrument rather than the object of God's wrath?


Not gonna happen.

No way.

Just like God called a woman to be a judge in Israel.

Just like God using Deborah to lead the Israelites to freedom.

Just like God doing something right now with the person who is least expected.


God, use me for your work in the world. Amen.

Question of the day: How is God using you for God's work in the world?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Monday, August 17, 2009

A Most Unusual Weapon

So Moab was subdued that day under the hand of Israel. And the land had rest eighty years. After him came Shamgar son of Anath, who killed six hundred of the Philistines with an oxgoad. He too delivered Israel. Judges 3:30-31 NRSV

An oxgoad is a big stick that you use to get your oxen to move. In other words, you are "goading" your cattle to plow and pull. I think it might have been sharp or heavy or both.

But the oxgoad is a farm implement. It is not a weapon.

The Bible tells us something about turning swords into plowshares but here is the exact opposite: turning farming tools into mighty weapons!

Obviously, God has got to be behind this as much as we don't like to think about God as a killer.

But how many people could a normal person kill with a big stick? One? Three? A dozen?

We are told he killed 600!! This is superhero status. And his efforts saved Israel from the Philistines. They probably tried to take advantage after the Moabites were defeated. God was making sure Israel stayed safe. Even if God had to use a simple farmer and an everyday object.

God, we keep looking for big miracles to save us and give us hope. Help us to see when you use simple things for superhero purposes. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Question for the day: Will you allow God to use your everyday work implements to do great things? What do you think God will use?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Real Throne Room

Ehud came to him, while he was sitting alone in his cool roof chamber, and said, "I have a message from God for you." So he rose from his seat. Then Ehud reached with his left hand, took the sword from his right thigh, and thrust it into Eglon's belly; the hilt also went in after the blade, and the fat closed over the blade, for he did not draw the sword out of his belly; and the dirt came out. Then Ehud went out into the vestibule, and closed the doors of the roof chamber on him, and locked them. After he had gone, the servants came. When they saw that the doors of the roof chamber were locked, they thought, "He must be relieving himself in the cool chamber." So they waited until they were embarrassed. When he still did not open the doors of the roof chamber, they took the key and opened them. There was their lord lying dead on the floor. Judges 3: 20-25 NRSV

Okay, this is a pretty gross bible passage so why not stick with the theme?

We tend to think of "doing our business" in the bathroom as a private time. Just you and the commode. However, in ancient times, privacy was really not known.* In fact, in Greek society, the commodes were places of socializing, sharing gossip and spending time with your friends. The picture for today is actually one such social commode in Ephesus.

Perhaps if you were king, what better place to speak to a messenger alone?

Ehud has snuck in a sword where no one will suspect - under his clothes on the "wrong" side of his body (left-handed swordsmen were virtually unaccepted). And he claims to have a message from God. Now he gets his chance while the Moabite king is on his throne (ha ha ha). This also gives him some time to make his get-away as the servants wait for the king until they are embarrassed.

God's people are freed from the bathroom.

Okay, God, this is pretty gross!

God, you don't mind being gross, funny or even unusual to save your loved ones. Thank you for saving us! In Jesus' name. Amen.

Question for the day: Have you ever tried to trick someone in order to help someone else?

*Thanks to my son for thinking of this! He also took the picture.

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Unexpected Means of Salvation

But when the Israelites cried out to the Lord, the Lord raised up for them a deliverer, Ehud son of Gera, the Benjaminite, a left-handed man. Judges 3: 15 NRSV

Let's get a realistic picture of these people in the book of judges. These judges are not the best-looking, most popular and respected people. They will not be following the rules. They will be quite devious and tricky. They will be attempting things with labels that say: "Do not try these things at home." In fact, it soon will become evident that these judges really are not the nicest people. You will wonder what God saw in them in the first place. Then you will be in awe that these victories even happened.

It will eventually become obvious that this is all about God not the judges.

God seems to be trying to get the Israelites to be impressed by God's power and might. But they really don't seem to get it because they keep on back-sliding.

Makes me wonder about things that are happening in our lives right now. Is God at work and we don't see it because it isn't being done through celebrities? Is God making wondrous things happen in the world outside of the church and we are blind to it? Does God still use tricksters and devious means to save us?

God, we are often crying out to you. Are you using the least-obvious means to save us? Give us eyes to see so that we will turn and worship you! In Jesus' name. Amen.

Question of the day: Looking back on the last month, where do you see God at work using unexpected means?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Friday, August 14, 2009

Deliverance Comes from God

But when the Israelites cried out to the Lord, the Lord raised up a deliverer for the Israelites, who delivered them, Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother. The spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he judged Israel; he went out to war, and the Lord gave King Cushan-rishathaim of Aram into his hand; and his hand prevailed over Cushan-rishathaim. So the land had rest forty years. Then Othniel son of Kenaz died. Judges 3: 9-11 NRSV

Besides the pattern of the relationship between God and the Israelites, there is also something to be observed about the relationship between God and each judge.

God raises up the judge as deliverer.

The spirit of the Lord comes upon the judge.

God gives the judge victory.

Because of God's intervention, the land has a period of peace.

So often I take things on without waiting for God's nudge, spirit or blessing. Why wait for God's help when I am capable of handling things myself?

But if I look at Judges, the outcome is so much better for longer periods of time if I wait upon God's call, God's direction, God's Spirit and God's intervention.

Only God can give true, lasting victory.

God, help me to wait for you. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Question of the day: Do you wait for God or go ahead and do it yourself?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Thursday, August 13, 2009

God's Anger and Mercy

Then the Lord raised up judges, who delivered them out of the power of those who plundered them. Yet they did not listen even to their judges: for they lusted after other gods and bowed down to them. They soon turned aside from the way in which their ancestors had walked, who had obeyed the commandments of the Lord; they did not follow their example. Whenever the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge, and he delivered them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge; for the Lord would be moved to pity by their groaning because of those who persecuted and oppressed them. But whenever the judge died, they would relapse and behave worse than their ancestors, following other gods, worshipping them and bowing down to them. They would not drop any of their practices or their stubborn ways. So the anger of the Lord was kindled against them.... Judges 2:16-20a NRSV

Here is the pattern of the book of judges:

The people of God stray. This causes them to get into trouble. Then they complain to God. God calls a judge and guides that person. The judge saves the people for a period of time. Then the judge dies. And the people stray again. God gets angry and refuses to drive out anymore people from the promised lands....until God's people start whining again.

I am not sure who is more frustrating in this book: the people of God or God. The people should be incredibly grateful and follow God's laws. Yet they are constantly rebellious. God keeps getting angry...yet seems to forget all their sins when they really get into trouble.

Sounds like some parent/child relationships I know.

I can't stay too upset with God, however. This is because I know that I too get into a similar pattern of straying then crying out to God.

Thank you, God, that your anger is not as prevalent as your mercy and salvation! Amen.

Question for the day: What kind of pattern do you see in your relationship with God?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Your Opinions Welcome

Grace to you and peace.... Ephesus 1: 2a NRSV

I have enjoyed journeying through Ephesians with you. I know many of you have left comments on Facebook but few on these pages. I hope that you will give me feedback, ask questions, come up with a counter argument or just enter the discussion whenever you have the time. These devotionals are my own opinion and I am not afraid of discussing any of the points I make.

I am going to turn to the book of Judges and look at a few interesting stories and people in that book beginning tomorrow. However, if you would like me to look at other scripture in the future, please let me know.

I hope to hear from you soon!

God, I ask your blessings on each person who is reading this devotional today. May this brief time enrich their life with You. In Jesus' holy name, Amen.

Question of the day: What scripture would you like to see in One Minute Devotional?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Prayed For

Pray also for me, so that when I speak, a message may be given to me to make know with boldness the mystery of the gospel for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it boldly, as I must speak. Ephesians 6: 18-20 NRSV

Paul has prayed for the church, instructed the church and now asks for prayers in return.

How do you feel about being prayed for?

I am so uplifted when people pray for me. It is just such a humble feeling yet gives me such energy and affirmation. I find that I need to especially be prayed for before leading worship and/or preaching. In fact, being prayed for by a lay person is one of the most powerful experiences I know.

Now Paul knows good and well that God is going to bring him a message to preach. He doesn't need prayers in order to be filled with the Spirit. He does not seem to have needed prayers for boldness, either.

But Paul also knows the power of praying for someone else and the power of knowing someone else is praying for you. Although you are communicating with God, praying for and being prayed for strengthens your relationship with that other person.

This isn't about getting God to do something. These prayers are about strengthening relationships in the name of Christ.

God, I lift up my preacher to you. I pray that he/she may be given a message that you want to be heard by the congregation. May they preach with boldness the mystery of the gospel. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Question of the day: Who are you praying for? Who is praying for you?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Full Armor of God

Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:14-17 NRSV

I put on the full armor of God every day during my devotional time. But for me, it isn't just a bit of metal or even a safety harness. Each part of this armor not only protects but also demands something from me at the same time.

It means that I have to stick to the truth even when it hurts.

I am committed to being in right relationship with God.

I move with the intent of sharing the gospel of peace rather than repentance.

I place around me a shield, knowing that people will say and do things to hurt me but I will remain steadfast in who I am - I won't be wounded and I won't strike out in anger.

I acknowledge God's claim on me as God's child.

And I have a weapon that is sharp yet brings new life to all whom it pierces.

I stand firm with God's help while also being accountable to God's holy power in my daily life.

God, place on me your full armor: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, whatever will help my feet share the message of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit. In Christ's name. Amen.

Question of the day: Will you take up the full armor of God everyday?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Sunday, August 9, 2009

You need help!

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything to stand firm. Ephesians 6: 10-13 NRSV

I can do it myself.

Those of us with small children have probably heard this often. Those of us with even older children may not hear this but see it in action on a daily basis.

And I am truly guilty of trying to do it (all) myself.

I would rather get it done my way, in my time without having to ask for any help. Also, I like doing it without appearing weak or helpless.

But Paul point us in the right direction: toward God and God's power.

This is not a battle you can fight on your own, with your own strength. No matter how physically fit you are, you will need God's power and God's protection to withstand what is truly dangerous. You may possibly not put much stock in the devil's power. Nevertheless, we all need God's strength to be the people whom God calls to carry out God's mission and message in the world.

Don't try doing this on your own.

You need help: God's help.

God, we need your strength, your full armor and your power. We cannot do this on our own. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Question of the day: What battles do you need help with right now?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Been There, Done That: Learn from My Mistakes

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. "Honor your father and mother" - this is the first commandment with a promise: "so that it may be well with you, and you may live long on the earth." And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:1-4 NRSV

Paul is nothing if not fair. He doesn't lecture one group but gives advice to both sides: wives and husbands, children and fathers, slaves and masters. By the way, I don't believe Paul is encouraging slavery just as he isn't encouraging marriage. He is addressing the society around him.

I am beginning to wonder about Paul's own childhood - is he speaking from experience, realizing what he (or his family's household) should have done? Or is he addressing actual problems happening in a church?

Although this is the book of Ephesus, we really aren't sure if Paul was writing to that church. This may have been an open to letter to all churches, highlighting the issues Paul encountered at various stops in his ministry.

Either way, Paul speaks from experience.

What, if anything, have your learned from your life experience? What advice could you give a married couple? Teenagers? Recent retirees? How would your understanding of God, Christ, the Church and life in the Spirit help you in showing others appropriate behavior and commitment?

God, help us to see our lives, our actions, our thoughts in the light of Christ and his church. In his name, Amen.

Question of the day: What advice to you have the life experience to give?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Friday, August 7, 2009

Marital Advice Part II

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, in order to make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the word, so as to present the church to himself in splendor, that she may be holy and without blemish. In the same way, husbands should love their wives as they do their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one every hates his own body, but he nourishes and tenderly cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, because we are members of this body. "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. " This is a great mystery, and I am applying it to Christ and the church. Each of you, however, should love his wife as himself, and a wife should respect her husband. Ephesians 5:25-33 NRSV

As I said yesterday, the understanding of these verses must include Christ's love for the church, which becomes a husbands' love for his wife. We talk about being Christ's body when we speak of being the church. Therefore the husband should treat his wife as he does his own body, caring for her with consistent tenderness. Christ loves the church as a husband loves his wife.

What I find really interesting is that Paul never mentions the love a wife should have for the husband. Paul says the wife should be subject to her husband and respect the husband but only the husband is instructed to love his wife. And he spends a lot more time instructing husbands than he does wives!!!

As a wife, I understand that sometimes respecting your spouse is harder than loving your spouse. Any married people out their agree with me on this? My understanding is that contempt for one's spouse can be the decisive emotion on the road to divorce. Paul seems to have a good grasp of that making me wonder about his parent's own marriage....

Paul asks husbands to love their wives as they do their own bodies. Paul asks wives to subject themselves to and respect their husbands. But Paul does this within the understanding of what it means to be the Church, the Body of Christ. Self-sacrifice is involved for both marriage partners. This is not an imarriage or a me-marriage. This is about being one.

God, you ask a lot of us in our marriages and in the church. We really are struggling with these things, Lord. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Question for today (and for yesterday, which I forgot): After thinking of what Paul is trying to say about marriage, do you agree? Does your own marriage or your parents' marriage fit the model of Christ and his Church?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Marital Advice Part I

Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church, the body of which he is the Savior. Just as the church is subject to Christ, so also wives ought to be, in everything, to their husbands. Ephesians 5:21-24 NRSV

As far as we know, Paul was never married. He did understand what it was to be a member of the church. So, he takes church metaphors and applies it to marriage. He begins with a general direction: everyone should be subject to everyone else. That is, we are to be servants to one another.

He goes on to give specific advice to wives. Now, this scripture has been used for a great deal of abuse for many years and will probably continue to be used as excuse for abuse. We must tread carefully here while hearing what Paul was trying to get across.

Paul asks wives to be servants to their husbands as they are to be to Jesus. In fact, they are asked to be subject to their husbands in every regard (in other words not just at church). Usually folks stop there when they hear this verse. It makes it sound like Paul tells women to be slaves to their husbands. True, Paul is telling them to completely surrender themselves to their husbands just as we are to surrender ourselves to Christ. The deeper understanding is that Paul says the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the SAVIOR of the church.

As the savior of the church, Christ has died for the sake of the church! Christ's purpose was for the church to begin and thrive. Christ wants the best for the church. Christ is not a heavy-handed task-master although he does sometimes ask much of us. Christ loves us. Christ upholds us. Christ hears our prayers and intercedes for us.

That is not abuse but love.

God, help us not to take scripture and twist so that it seems to uphold injustice, cruelty and abuse. Let us have clearer understanding so that we may truly be the church you call us to be.
In Christ's name. Amen.

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Proper Behavior in Worship

Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5: 18-20 NRSV

At this point, I realize that what Paul has been preaching on this whole time is not really proper behavior in life (although much of what he said and we've been looking at can be applied that way). What Paul is complaining about is worship behavior.

People are getting drunk in worship, most likely during communion. I am also guessing that they are then NOT singing appropriate worship songs.

In many of our protestant denominations, we forget that communion did not include grape juice but wine. Obviously, several parishioners in First Church of Ephesus are trying to make sure that they get lots of grace by imbibing a great deal of wine during the Lord's Supper. Paul says to stop getting drunk, but instead be filled with the Holy Spirit! Sing if you have to keep your mouth busy (this would also avoid all that evil talk he mentioned earlier)! Sing to yourself, in your heart. Don't know what to sing about? How about your thankfulness to God for everything in the name of Jesus!

Perhaps this kind of behavior is not as possible in today's churches - even those that serve wine only allow a small sip. But we are liable to misuse other things in worship. I think we could all focus much better in worship if we sung songs of thanksgiving in our hearts while opening ourselves up to the Holy Spirit in church.


Question for the day: Can you think of one song you could sing in your heart with thanksgiving in worship this week?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Do Not Be Foolish

Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Ephesians 5: 15-17 NRSV

Are you careful how you live?

Would you say you live wisely or unwisely?

Do you make the most of the time you have?

Are you foolish?

Do you try to understand what the will of the Lord is?

Yes, I know we must be fools for Christ. But that is different from living foolishly.

I've been listening to Dave Ramsey lately and have come to the realization that many of us in America use our money foolishly. In fact, many of us are embarrassingly in debt. Instead of wisely counting the blessings that God has given, we foolishly want/think we deserve more. So, instead of thankful living we spend our time working for the dollar, complaining and whining the whole time.

And our folly doesn't stop with money. It also includes our time, gifts, talents and abilities. If we wisely looked to what God wants from us, we would realize we've been wasting precious time on the ridiculous.

God wants us to live fruitfully. But, fools that we are, we resist time and time again.

God, what is your will for my life? Amen.

Question for the day: In what areas of your life have you been wise and fruitful, following God's will?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Monday, August 3, 2009

Christ will shine in you!

Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what such people do secretly; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, "Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you." Ephesians 5: 10-14 NRSV

In every church that I have been a part of, I have also been aware of the reality of secrets people keep deep down in their souls. Sometimes they tell me about them, other times they do not. Often their smiles, love, kind words and actions really do hide dirty laundry. Sometimes it is the only way for them to cope.

But Paul seems to suggest that we should bring these things to light.

I really struggle with this.

As a pastor on our Conference Ministerial Integrity Team, I hear stories of abuse by both members and pastors. This doesn't even begin to cover issues of addictions, spousal abuse, stealing, illegal business practices and criminal activities of those sitting there in the pews (and the pulpit!).

Paul is a bit vague here in these verses - we aren't supposed to mention these things but we are to expose them. I think what he is really saying is perhaps we should begin with ourselves. Try to find out first what God wants me to do. If that means exposing my own secrets and sins, then do it. This is because we have all died to our sins, our secrets, our shameful deeds and we arise resurrected in the new life of Christ. We should no longer take part in these things but do what is pleasing to God in Christ.

Christ will then truly shine in us.

God, thank you that we can die to all the secrets in our lives and rise to new life in Christ. Amen.

Question for the day: Are there any secrets in my own personal life that need to be exposed?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Avoiding Vulgar Talk and Deceptive People

But fornication and impurity of any kind, or greed, must not even be mentioned among you, as is proper among saints. Entirely out of place is obscene, silly and vulgar talk; but instead, let there be thanksgiving. Be sure of this, that no fornicator or impure person, or one who is greedy (that is an idolater), has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore, do not be associated with them. Ephesians 5: 3-7 NRSV

Wow! I am beginning to get a really good picture of what this church at Ephesus must have been like! They must have been standing around discussing (possibly bragging) of all the unchristian behavior they had been a part of during the week. Dirty jokes and sexist comments must have been the order of the day. Folks were putting each other down, saying hurtful things, participating in clicks and trying to get something (money, food, advice, business) for nothing.

Anyone out there seeing a familiar scene?

Paul comes down hard on them, too.

He says those kinds of people who participated in all that kind of vulgar talk were in the wrong place. In fact, the ones who were doing evil things and the ones who were talking about them were all facing the wrath of God.

Paul tells folks to be giving thanksgiving instead. And to not be deceived by empty words. In fact, they should not even associate with any of those vulgar people.

God, we give you thanks for this day and the opportunity we have to worship you. May we not be deceived but live lives worthy of you. In Jesus' Holy name, Amen.

Question of the day: Who will you have to avoid during church today in order to follow Paul's instructions?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Saturday, August 1, 2009

As God has done for you

"...and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. " Ephesians 4: 32 NRSV

Paul is in the middle of his sermon and we begin to see that the church at Ephesus was not a very happy place to be. Obviously, the worshippers there were not being kind to one another. The members were being hardhearted. Then they would refuse to forgive each other even though God had forgiven them.

Being kind and forgiving is hard to do. It means letting yourself be open and vulnerable to people who may or may not do the same to you.

Kind of like Jesus.

Jesus allowed himself to be thoroughly abandoned by those who supposedly loved him and executed by those who were tools of evil. However, he forgave all of those involved, including us. Jesus is the ultimate in what it means to be open and vulnerable.

This is probably why we don't do it because we don't want to be left by our friends and killed by those who hate us. In other words, we don't want to be hurt.

Recently I did a sermon series on forgiveness and one of my parishioners afterwards spoke of a family member that he is really having trouble forgiving. Being hurt by loved ones - from family members to church members- is the worst and takes the most out of ourselves to forgive.

But that is what Paul, and God, want us to do.

God, help us to be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Question of the day: Can you think of a time when someone else was kind, tenderhearted and forgiving of you?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims