"Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!"
Our preparation has a beautiful, frantic fragrance this week. We are running around arranging, buying, planning, and chasing details like one chases a beach ball across a lake on a windy day. One thing is for sure: God is completely sovereign. Even in the foibles, I can claim this as true. I thought some of you might be interested in reading through the short devotionals for each day this week. I've included the passage (taken from The Message Bible) and the few questions I've asked the kids to ponder. Pray with us as God humbles our hearts and uses broken vessels to reveal His great Light of salvation!
Throughout the week, students will be updating on my blog to give direction to your prayers/praises and most importantly to give God the glory for the overflow of love. So stay tuned this week!
MONDAY: “costly sacrifice”
Scripture: 2 Samuel 24:18-25, the Message 18-19 That same day Gad came to David and said, "Go and build an altar on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite." David did what Gad told him, what God commanded.
20-21 Araunah looked up and saw David and his men coming his way; he met them, bowing deeply, honoring the king and saying, "Why has my master the king come to see me?"
"To buy your threshing floor," said David, "so I can build an altar to God here and put an end to this disaster."
22-23 "Oh," said Araunah, "let my master the king take and sacrifice whatever he wants. Look, here's an ox for the burnt offering and threshing paddles and ox-yokes for fuel—Araunah gives it all to the king! And may God, your God, act in your favor."
24-25 But the king said to Araunah, "No. I've got to buy it from you for a good price; I'm not going to offer God, my God, sacrifices that cost me nothing."
So David bought the threshing floor and the ox, paying out fifty shekels of silver. He built an altar to God there and sacrificed burnt offerings and peace offerings. God was moved by the prayers and that was the end of the disaster.
Questions to Ponder:
- What are easy things you have given up this week? Was it hard to make the decision to give them up or go without?
- What are hard things you have given up for this week? How did you make the decision that it is worth it?
- What are things God is asking you to give up in your “normal” life, apart from this mission trip?
- David was told to build an altar because his people were suffereing great disaster. He was asked to worship the Lord in the midst of great trial. Even then he didn’t feel right worshipping without great sacrifice. Is there disaster in your life and God is asking you to worship still? How has he shown you that He will be faithful to bring you through it and even bring relief?
TUESDAY: “think of others as better”
Scripture: Philippians 2:1-4, the Message 1-4If you've gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don't push your way to the front; don't sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don't be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.
Questions to Ponder:
- Has the love of Christ made any difference in your life? Have you felt the power and comfort of community? Do you care about what God cares about? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then this passage is for you.
- Think about times when you agreed/disagreed with someone who is also a Christian ask yourself if your actions reflected the great love Christ has shown you. Can you give an example of a time when you did reflect Christ? And a time when you didn’t?
- How many times have you “pushed your way to the front” or “sweet-talked” to get ahead of everyone else? Can you think of a specific time?
- What can you do THIS week to “put yourself aside” and help OTHERS get ahead?
- Apart from this one week of service, how can you “forget yourself” to put others first?
WEDNESDAY: “who we are instead”
Scripture: Isaiah 58, the Message 1-3 "Shout! A full-throated shout! Hold nothing back—a trumpet-blast shout! Tell my people what's wrong with their lives, face my family Jacob with their sins!
They're busy, busy, busy at worship, and love studying all about me. To all appearances they're a nation of right-living people— law-abiding, God-honoring.
They ask me, 'What's the right thing to do?' and love having me on their side. But they also complain, 'Why do we fast and you don't look our way? Why do we humble ourselves and you don't even notice?' 3-5"Well, here's why: "The bottom line on your 'fast days' is profit. You drive your employees much too hard. You fast, but at the same time you bicker and fight. You fast, but you swing a mean fist.
The kind of fasting you do won't get your prayers off the ground. Do you think this is the kind of fast day I'm after: a day to show off humility? To put on a pious long face and parade around solemnly in black? Do you call that fasting, a fast day that I, God, would like?
6-9"This is the kind of fast day I'm after: to break the chains of injustice, get rid of exploitation in the workplace, free the oppressed, cancel debts.
What I'm interested in seeing you do is: sharing your food with the hungry, inviting the homeless poor into your homes, putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad, being available to your own families.
Do this and the lights will turn on, and your lives will turn around at once. Your righteousness will pave your way. The God of glory will secure your passage. Then when you pray, God will answer. You'll call out for help and I'll say, 'Here I am.'
9-12"If you get rid of unfair practices, quit blaming victims, quit gossiping about other people's sins. If you are generous with the hungry and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out, your lives will begin to glow in the darkness, your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight. I will always show you where to go.
I'll give you a full life in the emptiest of places—firm muscles, strong bones. You'll be like a well-watered garden, a gurgling spring that never runs dry. You'll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew, rebuild the foundations from out of your past.
You'll be known as those who can fix anything, restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate, make the community livable again.
13-14"If you watch your step on the Sabbath and don't use my holy day for personal advantage, If you treat the Sabbath as a day of joy, God's holy day as a celebration, If you honor it by refusing 'business as usual,' making money, running here and there—
Then you'll be free to enjoy God! Oh, I'll make you ride high and soar above it all.
I'll make you feast on the inheritance of your ancestor Jacob." Yes! God says so!
Questions to Ponder
- Read over the passage again, and this time think about what the people of Israel were doing and what God wanted them to do instead.
- In your life, what have you done to make it “appear” like you are a good Christian – have you acted like a Christian for the right people, but acted differently elsewhere? How and when?
- Right now, what do you feel God specifically calling you to stand up for or give up or do?
- How do you think God might use your life to “glow in the darkness” of your family, friends, school?
THURSDAY: “who is my neighbor?”
Scripture: Matthew 9:36-39, the Message 37-40Jesus said, "'Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.' This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: 'Love others as well as you love yourself.' These two commands are pegs; everything in God's Law and the Prophets hangs from them."
Questions to Ponder:
- What is the first on your list of things to love in life?
- If you are honest, do you love God with all your passion, prayer, and intelligence? In your own words, what does this look like?
- Can you remember a time in your life where you loved God in this way?
- What is a practical example in your life as a way you would love others as much (if not more) than you love yourself?
- Who are the “others” in your life? Is it next door, down the street, at the orphanage, on the street corner, in your classes, in your home? Who is your neighbor?
FRIDAY: “weary times and refreshment”
Scripture: 2 Samuel 16:5-14 5-8 When the king got to Bahurim, a man appeared who had connections with Saul's family. His name was Shimei son of Gera. As he followed along he shouted insults and threw rocks right and left at David and his company, servants and soldiers alike. To the accompaniment of curses he shouted, "Get lost, get lost, you butcher, you hellhound! God has paid you back for all your dirty work in the family of Saul and for stealing his kingdom. God has given the kingdom to your son Absalom. Look at you now—ruined! And good riddance, you pathetic old man!" 9 Abishai son of Zeruiah said, "This mangy dog can't insult my master the king this way—let me go over and cut off his head!"
10 But the king said, "Why are you sons of Zeruiah always interfering and getting in the way? If he's cursing, it's because Godtold him, 'Curse David.' So who dares raise questions?"
11-12 "Besides," continued David to Abishai and the rest of his servants, "my own son, my flesh and bone, is right now trying to kill me; compared to that this Benjaminite is small potatoes. Don't bother with him; let him curse; he's preaching God's word to me. And who knows, maybe God will see the trouble I'm in today and exchange the curses for something good."
13 David and his men went on down the road, while Shimei followed along on the ridge of the hill alongside, cursing, throwing stones down on them, and kicking up dirt. 14 By the time they reached the Jordan River, David and all the men of the company were exhausted. There they rested and were revived.
Questions to Ponder:
- Can you remember a time someone “kicked you while you were down”?
- How might your classmates “throw stones” when you return to “normal life?”
- What does God promise us after we pass through a time of trial or persecution in life? (vs. 14)
- What (evil) has God allowed in your life that, when you look back, you can see He used for good?
- Are there any times in your life where you remember being refreshed and revived by God?