Thoughts: Benediction is a familiar word to church-goers. It signals the end of the service. The Latin roots of benediction remind us that the word means “to say good.”
We treasure compliments, when other people say good things about us. What a perfect way to end our church services – with a benediction!
Today’s scripture ends with an exquisite benediction.
“Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.”
Discussion: What is your understanding of “according to the power that worketh in us”?
Activity: Memorize this benediction.
“Oh, better than the minting of a gold-crowned king is the safe-kept memory of a lovely thing!” - Teasdale
Thoughts: The Sermon on the Mount begins with the Beatitudes, individual gems. There are sermons in each one.
The Beatitudes would seem to be a tough act to follow, but the next verses have gems of their own.
“Ye are the light of the world.”
“Let your light so shine before men . . .”
“. . . one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law . . . “
Discussion: What part of your life do you want not to be changed even by a jot or tittle?
Activity: Show a family member that your love for him or her has not diminished by a jot or a tittle.
Thoughts: Job has suffered almost every possible loss – his children, his health, and his property.
Four “friends” have come to “comfort” him. Their idea of comforting consisted of sharp questioning and accusations of wrong-doing, until Job exclaimed, “Miserable comforters are ye all!”
Now in chapter 38, God speaks directly to Job.
“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?”
And Job replies humbly, “I have uttered that I understood not, things too wonderful for me which I knew not.”
Discussion: What do we discuss that we know not?
Activity: Dazzle people by knowing the names of Job’s three daughters, who were the fairest in the land. John Wesley’s youngest sister was named for one of them.
Thoughts: Infirmity – reproach – necessity – persecution – distress. Are these words similar in meaning?
Persecution sounds dire. Infirmity is likewise threatening. Distress and reproach are far from desirable. Necessity is neutral.
Paul writes that he takes pleasure in all of them. This is hard to believe. But the Lord has assured Paul that “My grace is sufficient for thee, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”
We have so much to learn – and so much to understand.
Discussion: What five words would you choose to follow “I take pleasure in ________, _______, ________, ________, and ________?
Activity: This week, take pleasure in writing a note of thanks or sympathy.”
Thoughts: Andrea del Sarto was a successful painter – successful, but not exciting. As he admitted, “All is silver gray - placid and perfect with my art: the worse!”
He is married to a beautiful, much younger woman, who often goes out to meet her “cousin.”
Andrea admires his wife’s physical perfections, concluding sadly, “But had you . . . with these the same, but brought a mind!”
Paul reminds the Corinthians that first, they need willing minds.
Discussion: What does your mind shrink from learning?
Activity: Learn one new word each day. You might start with “byzantine.”
Thoughts: A short, declarative sentence: “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.”
So our Bible begins. And so, with no doubts, no attempted explanations, but with complete faith, let us accept this statement.
“Oh Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder consider all the worlds Thy hands have made,
I see the stars; I hear the rolling thunder, Thy power throughout the universe displayed.” - Carl Boberg
Discussion: What other explanations have you heard for the creation of the world?
Activity: Every day this week, thank God for one particular beauty of the month of June.
Thoughts: One of Jesse’s sons is God’s choice for the second king of Israel. The prophet Samuel is directed to go to Jesse’s home in Bethlehem to anoint the new king. Samuel is not told which son God has chosen.
The Bible gives us the names of the first three sons – Eliab, Abindab, and Shammah – and the youngest son – David. We have invented names for the four unnamed sons and have endowed the first seven sons with distinctive characteristics.
The oldest son Eliab is tall and handsome.
Samuel: Surely this fine-looking first born is the son you have chosen to be king.
God: Do not look upon his appearance or the height of his stature, because…I do not see as mortals see; they look upon the outward appearance, but I look upon the heart.
The second son Abinadab is the father of twelve children.
Samuel: Abinadab is a kind and patient father – the very qualities a good king should have.
God: Samuel, never confuse the ability to sire children with the ability to govern a kingdom.
The third son Shammah is a dedicated scholar of the Jewish scriptures.
Samuel: this son must be the one you have chosen to be king – a man who knows the scriptures.
God: A good memory does not qualify a man to be king, Samuel. Move on.
The fourth son Lamech is an ardent politician – but his wife Adah wants equal power. Lamech and Adah scream at each other and rush off stage.
Samuel: I take it he’s not the one.
God: We have not seen the future king of Israel yet, Samuel.
The fifth son Zelophehad is a professional basketball player for the Bethlehem Bobcats.
Samuel: Everyone admires an athlete. This young man is energetic – popular –
God: A king needs to do more than bring the ball down the floor and set picks, Samuel.
The sixth son Nahum is a reporter for the Bethlehem Banner.
Samuel: How about Nahum, God? He concentrates – he has great command of the language – he could communicate well with the people.
God: We’re not looking for by-lines, Samuel. See the next son.
The seventh son Hadrach is an officer in Israel’s navy.
Samuel: A military man is organized, efficient, accustomed to giving orders – an excellent background for a king.
God: But Hadrach is not my choice.
So the youngest son David is called in from the field where he has been watching his father’s sheep.
God: Samuel, I have chosen David to be the next king of Israel. Rise and anoint him.
Discussion: What were Samuel’s thoughts when God told him to anoint David as the next king?
Activity: Reconsider your first opinion of a young person. Could he/she be chosen by God?
Thoughts: Jesus chose his twelve disciples. Then he went home.
It was not to be a restful visit. Crowds surrounded his mother’s home, the local people questioning his sanity, and the Jerusalem scribes accusing him of working with Satan to perform his miracles. Jesus told the crowd that a house divided against itself cannot stand.
More titles have been taken from the Bible than from any other written source. House Divided is the title for a novel set during the Civil War. A wealthy white Southern family discovered from family records that they were related to President Lincoln, whom they detested. One of their ancestors had fathered a child by a kitchen maid. This child was Nancy Hanks, who became the mother of Abraham Lincoln.
The Bible was one of the few books available to Lincoln while he was growing up, and he knew it very well. Indeed, he could quote long sections of the Bible from memory.
When Lincoln was nominated for the Senate in 1858, the country was dangerously divided on the subject of slavery. In his acceptance speech, Lincoln quoted Mark 3:25: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” This speech attracted national attention and helped elevate Lincoln to the Presidency.
Discussion: What unnecessary divisions arise in daily life?
Activity: Surprise someone with your sweet reasonableness when he/she disagrees with you.
Thoughts: Teeny’s Barber Stop was closed on Sundays. So was Violet’s Beauty Shop. Likewise closed were the Friesenhengst Dry Goods, Mac’s Grocery, the Ritz Movie Theatre, and Gibby’s Tavern.
Bun’s Filling Station and Harry’s Gas Station, both on State Highway 150, took turns staying open on Sundays.
All five churches – Pilgrim Holiness, Christian, Catholic, Church of Christ, and Methodist – were open for Sunday morning services and Sunday evening services.
Big Sunday dinners were prepared on Saturday, and usually there were guests for Sunday dinner. “Don’t worry about the dishes,” my mother would reassure the guests. “The girls will do them.” The girls had un-Christian thoughts.
Sunday afternoons were spent visiting, reading, writing letters, and playing Bible Lotto.
“. . . the heart of me weeps to belong to the old Sunday evenings at home . . . My manhood is cast down in a flood of remembrance. I weep like a child for the past.”
Discussion: How have your Sundays changed through the years?
Activity: Try recreating one part of your childhood Sundays.
Thoughts: When Isaiah went to the temple one day, he became part of a dramatic service. God was there, sitting on an elevated throne.
Above God were six seraphim, each one with six wings. (This is the only time in the Bible where seraphim are mentioned.)
The seraphim sang this chorus: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.”
The temple shook and filled with smoke.
Isaiah felt guilty and lamented, “I am a man of unclean lips. Yet now I have seen the Lord!”
A seraphim flew to Isaiah, holding a live coal which he placed upon Isaiah’s mouth, saying, “Your sin is purged.
God asked, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”
And Isaiah answered, “Here am I; send me.”
Discussion: Where do we not want to go?
Activity: “Keep thou … our lips from shame, that in thy house have called upon they name.”
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