Monday, July 25, 2016

The Rich Fool

When I was growing up, I was forbidden to call someone "a fool".  My mother had a very literal interpretation of the Bible and there is a verse in the King James Bible that says "...whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire."  (Matt. 5:22)  So, if we called anyone a fool, we would get called onto the carpet and have to repent because it is there in plain red type (Jesus' very words) that anyone who calls someone else "a fool" is in danger of hell fire.  My mother wanted to be sure that I did not go to hell for the words I said so she was the word censor in our house.

I strayed away from her literal interpretation of the Bible and in modern times have occasionally used the word "fool" to describe someone.  I normally do not use that word directly to the fool I intend to label but behind his or her back as I talk about them to someone else (another sin I rack up).  The reference to someone as being a "fool" or "foolish" seems to describe someone's lack of common sense and misunderstanding of a situation or the world in general.  I think that if we use the word cautiously and do not do it to someone's face or hearing then perhaps the use of the word "fool" is acceptable in a non-King James' world.

Besides God, God's-self uses the word to describe a human in our Gospel lesson for next Sunday from Luke 12.  Jesus tells the parable about "The Rich Fool" (see there is it again, Jesus using the word this time) in response to a request from someone that Jesus order a brother to give another brother what he deserves from an inheritance.  Jesus does not do what the person requests but instead tells him a parable about a rich farmer who had so many possessions that he had nowhere to store them all so he decided to tear down his barns and build larger barns so as to store all he had.  Then, he congratulated himself on all he had and told himself to take it easy and eat, drink, and be merry.

God's voice is heard in the parable and God (again) calls the man a fool and says that he will face the judgment and then what will happen to all of his possessions.  Whose will they be after he is gone?

This parable is not about the danger of having riches.  It is not about being rich versus being poor.  It is about values and generosity and making right choices when it comes to possessions.  Jesus and the Early Church were supported by people of all income levels, rich and poor.  Sometimes, a wealthy person would host Jesus at a meal.  Sometimes wealthy people allowed Church services to be held in their homes as the Early Church emerged.  Jesus valued all persons and did not preach against people having wealth.  He taught against people being self-centered and not sharing with others who have little.

The rich farmer was a fool because he thought only of himself and never of anyone else.  He did not even think of those who worked for him who grew the crops and built the barns.  He most likely had slave labor and considered them his property also.  So, he thought all he had was because of his own doing and he could benefit from all of his possessions and take it easy on his forever retirement plan.  What he forgot was that he would not live forever.  He would one day die and then who would benefit from what he owned?

Giving away part of what we own is part of what it means to be a good steward of what we have.  We have all been abundantly blessed beyond our capabilities.  We have been given good health, strength in our bodies to accomplish our tasks, and a support group of friends and relatives to cheer us on to great things.  What we have accomplished is in part due to all these benefits so it is only natural to return part of what we have to bless others who have little.  We do this in many ways--through our church as we give our tithes and offerings, through charitable organizations, and through reaching out to those in need whom we recognize in the world around us.

Thank God for those who have generous hearts and who give so that others will be blessed.  When we keep all we have so that only we benefit from our blessings, we turn inward.  When we share what we have, we turn outward and toward God.

John Wesley urged his followers to "Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as you ever can."  Words to live by both in his time and in the world in which we live.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Why Bother to Pray?

That is a question many people ask as they try to sort out what prayer is and how prayer works and does prayer actually do anything for anyone.  Is God really concerned with what goes on in our lives or is God just the "watch-maker God" as some have said in the past, creating the product and then standing by to see what happens as it works?  That question has been pondered through the centuries and, as is true with many faith issues, it seems to be a matter of faith.  Do you believe in a God who cares about humans and desires to act on behalf of humans or do you not believe at all or believe that God is but God does not really care?

That is part of why the Gospel lection for this next Sunday is so important.  It contains the prayer that many of us say weekly in worship, the prayer we call "The Lord's Prayer".  It also contains a short teaching story, perhaps you can even call it a parable, and a teaching passage about the nature and character of God.

Jesus was involved in his own prayer time when his disciples asked him to "...teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples."  (Luke 11:1)  What follows through verse 4 is what we call The Lord's Prayer, containing all of it except the conclusion that was added later by the Church during its history.
Each phrase of The Lord's Prayer deserves its own sermon or posting but suffice it to say that many consider it to be a complete summation of the needs of the one doing the praying and an opening of one to God's will for one's life.  Praising God, asking for one's daily needs to be met, asking for forgiveness as one attempts to forgive others, and asking for God's guidance to avoid the many trials of life are petitions that touch each part of human life.  Then to pray the parts that are not found in Luke's Gospel add even more meaning to the pray we say together in worship weekly.  "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is done in heaven" opens the one praying to the completion of God's intent in both the life of the pray-er and the world in general.

Then Jesus tells a story about a man who has settled down for the night with his household when suddenly a friend knocks on his door asking for food.  The drowsy sleeper at first tries to tell the seeker to go away giving him the reason that everyone is already in bed.  The friend will not be deterred though, needing some bread to offer a guest so as not to be rude.  Jesus concludes that even if a person will not grant the request of a friend simply because one is a friend, the person will grant the request so as not to be bothered further.

Then, Jesus teaches his disciples to ask for what they need.  God will give them what they need because God is good, as earthly parents should be, giving good gifts to children such as fish or eggs and not bad things such as scorpions or snakes.  Jesus concludes that if earthly parents can give good gifts to their children, then why should humans think that God would not give good gifts to God's children.  He sums up the passage with idea that God is always willing to give what is needed through the action of the Holy Spirit in the lives of humans.

So, if one believes that God exists and one believes that God is good to humans and wants them to have what is good for them, then why shouldn't humans ask God for what they need, relying on God's wisdom to grant requests according to God's will and intent?  (Remember in the Lord's Prayer--"thy kingdom come, thy will be done...")  Prayer is the thing we do when we want to include God in our lives after we have done all we can do and seem to be at the end of our own resources, so we pray and ask God to intervene.  Perhaps Jesus is teaching that a relationship exists between humans and God much like the relationship between parent and child and that relationship includes the giving of good gifts between parent and child.  The relationship should be enough reason to talk to God even as we talk with humans with whom we have a relationship.

God does not promise to give humans everything they ask for.  God promises to give humans what they need for daily living.  What we think we need and what we actually need to survive creates a giant chasm that often blocks our relationship with God.  Even when we think what we needs is best for us or others for whom we pray, God seems to know best what we need.  Trusting God to act according to our needs may be the biggest test of faith in an invisible God for it involves giving control over to another and humans rarely like doing that.  

Monday, July 11, 2016

Keeping a Balance

"Marsha, Marsha, Marsha..."  Most of us remember that chant of a name from the television program The Brady Bunch.  Poor Marsha was always getting into a pickle and sometimes out of frustration someone would say her name repeatedly and with a certain tone.  It seems that when one's name is said in a certain fashion that it carries more meaning or weight, such as when a parent uses a child's first and middle name to call them.  That often means that someone is in hot water.

Jesus loved to visit with his friends, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.  They lived at Bethany, only a few miles down the road from Jerusalem, but it must have seemed light years away from the noise and confusion of the big city to Jesus.  He could simply be their friend and could sit with his feet up and enjoy socializing with people who accepted him for who he was.

The Gospel lesson for next Sunday from Luke 10 has a vignette of a visit from Jesus to the home of his friends.  The two sisters were in the house tending to the needs of Jesus and perhaps preparing a meal for him.  Lazarus is not mentioned in this story.  Perhaps he was gone on a journey or taking care of chores somewhere away from home.

The story says that Martha is busy with the many tasks that needed to be done so that Jesus could be properly entertained.  Perhaps she was cleaning or cooking a meal.  Her sister, Mary, however was simply sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening to him talk.  The text does not tell the content of the conversation.  Maybe he was telling her stories about his ministry or just talking about life in general as two friends often do.  Martha noticed that Mary was not helping her in the chores that needed to be done and complained to Jesus about it.

"Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself?  Tell her to help me."

Jesus, instead of coming to Martha's rescue, gently challenges her thinking.  Here comes the repeating of her name as he does it..."Martha, Martha..."  We do not know the tone of Jesus' voice but I can imagine that he is weary from his ministry and perhaps there is a slight weariness in the way he addresses her.  "...you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of one on thing.  Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her."  (Luke 10:41-42)

Jesus was trying to tell Martha that she had been busily working around the house making sure that everything was perfect for Jesus as the honored guest she thought he was.  She wanted to be sure that all of his needs were met and that everything was to his liking.  Jesus, however, wanted only one thing--to rest and sit and talk with his friends.  Whatever they ate and whatever the house looked like was not important to him.  His relationship with these friends and the opportunity to be with them was much more important than those extraneous factors.

Can't you just sense Martha's despair after hearing these words of Jesus?  She had expected him to come to her rescue and command Mary to get into high gear and help with the chores.  Instead, he defended what Mary had chosen to do and commended her for sitting with him and talking.  Mary was giving her full attention to her friend and also did not care about other factors.  She simply wanted to be with her friend whom she loved so much.

The example of the two sisters in this story are a metaphor for life for many of us.  We have to have a balanced life, full of activity to take care of the chores of life but also must include times of simply sitting and resting and meditating on what is needed to give us emotional and spiritual strength.  There is a reason we have a Sabbath built into our week each seven days.  God chose to be busy in the task of creation but then rested the final day to admire what he had created.  God commanded the people of Israel to follow the same pattern as they lived their lives.  To this day, devout Jews set aside the seventh day of the week as a day of rest and worship and being with family.  It is too bad that many Christians have decided that their Sabbath is not needed and instead they can spend it busily doing chores or activities that they can do any other day of the week.

Sunday is the day of rest for Christians because they honor the resurrection of Jesus and follow in the pattern of early Christians who met on the first day of the week instead of the seventh because Jesus rose from the day early on Sunday morning.  Sunday just has a different feel about it.  It is as if nature and even society are inviting all to pause and rest and worship on this day.  People need rest, and reflection and community...all these are found in gathering with others on the day of worship set aside by Christians.

Many in society today say they do not need to go to church in order to be Christians.  Even members of churches neglect to go to church because they do not feel the need to be with other Christians regularly on the day of worship.  Perhaps Jesus would say their name gently, wearily, admonishing them with love, the way he always does, guiding them into reconsidering so that they can be refreshed, renewed, and encouraged in spirit by being part of something much larger than themselves that they cannot find anywhere else in the world around them.

"Come to me, all you that are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest." (Matt. 11:28)

Monday, June 27, 2016

A Gentile is Healed

This Sunday's Old Testament lesson from II Kings contains an ancient story where the God of Israel grants a miracle to someone from outside the nation of Israel.  The prophet Elisha was on his own after his friend and mentor Elijah was taken up in a whirlwind to heaven so he began to travel through the countryside exhibiting the power of Yahweh to all.  This story concerns a man named Naaman, a commander of an army of Aram, a Gentile and foreigner to the people of Israel.  Even though he is in a position of authority, he has the disease of leprosy, which was feared by all in the ancient world.

A servant girl from the land of Israel who had been captured by the Arameans tells Naaman that the prophet Elisha may have the power to cure him of his leprosy.  So, he went to see Elisha, taking along with him an abundance of gifts to present to him as a token of his thanks for the healing that could come.  Naaman went to Elisha's house and Elisha sent a servant out to meet him with the the command, "Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean."  (II Kings 5:10)

Instead of immediately obeying the prophet, Naaman became angry and went away complaining about the command, thinking that the prophet should have at least come out and seen him personally and performed some kind of incantation to ward off the disease.  He also resented being told to wash in the Jordan River, thinking that the waters of his homeland were cleaner and better than this river in Israel.

Naaman's servant girl helped him come to his senses, however, by asking him if he would not have done something even more difficult than what he had been commanded to do if it would bring his healing.  So, he finally obeyed the word of Elisha and was miraculously made free from his disease.

The result of the miracle was that Naaman believed in the God of the nation of Israel, of whom he knew little.  "Now I know that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel..." (II Kings 5:15b)  When Naaman saw the result of his obedience to what the prophet had asked him to do, it changed his heart as well as his body.

This story speaks to us as well as to the ancient hearers to which it was addressed.  It spoke of Naaman's humility that he had to achieve in order to obey the word of the prophet.  Naaman had to put aside his own concerns and objections to washing in the Jordan and simply do what the prophet asked him to do so that he could receive his healing.  He had to yield his own ideas and accept those of another in order to gain what he desired so much.  We often have to act in humility also in order to achieve positive results in life.

After returning to Elisha, Naaman demonstrated his healing by returning in a state of submission and knelt before Elisha, identifying himself as a servant to both Elisha and Elisha's God.  He confessed his faith in the God of Israel.  His healing of body and spirit had been accomplished by his obedience to the word of the prophet.

The experience of healing in our own lives is an active process.  The progression from humility to a change of mind to submission and confession translates into a series of actions for our lives.  We must go down, turn around, kneel before and finally stand up before God's power and grace.

Do we have the ability to see and admit our own need, asking for God's presence in our lives?  Can we admit that we too need healing in our lives and are ready to take the steps to allow God to be present and active in our lives?  We believe in an all powerful, all knowing God, one who is aware of who we are and what happens in our lives.  We also believe in a God who cares for each of us and wants our lives to be complete and whole.  If God knows and cares, then perhaps God is ready for us to trust God for what God would provide for our lives so that we would be the most complete people we can be, ready to assist others in their own struggles in life.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Chariots of Fire

There are many supernatural, un-explainable, unbelievable stories in the ancient writings of the Bible.  The miraculous stories are just that...miracle stories that were never meant to be explained.  These stories were recorded in scripture to make a statement about humans and the interaction between God and humans.  The stories say something about the nature of God also.  God is present and involved in the lives of humans and has an overarching plan for all of humankind.  Perhaps the story from the book of II Kings that we have heard preached many times says something to us about God, humans, and the nature of God.

Elijah, the crusty old prophet of old, had done many miraculous things as God used him in ministry to and for the people called Israel.  Elijah represented the covenant that God had established with Israel through Moses in decades past.  The kings of Israel and Judah had imported strange gods into their lands and had encouraged worship to these idols.  Elijah railed against idol worship since it was forbidden by the first commandment given by God to the people of Israel.  Elijah used violence to combat the high priests of Baal and then retreated to the wilderness to hear the voice of God speak to him and reassure him that God was with him and would protect him.  God gave Elijah a coworker in the effort named Elisha and the two of them worked together to do what they felt God had called them to do in their efforts to bring righteousness into the land.

The day came, however, when Elijah's ministry had been completed and God would take him miraculously to the heavens to live with God.  Elisha had been warned at least twice by other prophets in the area that Elijah would soon be leaving.  Elisha could hardly bear the thought of his friend and companion no longer being with him so he tried to put it out of his mind but he was confronted by the reality again and again by others.

So, Elisha asked his friend if he could receive a special blessing to strengthen him once Elijah was no longer nearby.  "...if you see me as I am being taken from you," Elijah promised, "it will be granted you; if not, it will not." (II Kings 2:10b,c).  Elisha stuck close to Elijah the reminder of the day until suddenly a miraculous event occurred.  A chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared in the sky and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven.  Elisha saw it happen and the mantle that Elijah had been wearing fell to earth.  Elisha picked it up and used it to strike the Jordan River so that the water parted for him just as it had done for Elijah in days of old.  Elisha became the new Elijah that God would use in ministry with a hot and dusty people who needed to know of God's love for them.

This miraculous story says something about God's providential care for human beings.  God cares for all humans on the planet and wants to equip all with the tools to achieve and live a happy and productive life.  Unfortunately, not all humans are prepared to receive what God has provided in the planet and in human life so that they can live better lives.  The rejection of education and learning, the wastefulness and misuse of the resources of earth, and the failure to live in ways that would bring harmony into individual lives has caused some to not grasp the care that God would have for them.

God cared for Elijah as he performed the ministry tasks that God guided him to do.  God cared for Elijah also when it was time for him to leave the earth and go to heavenly places.  God had provided a co-worked for Elijah to assist him in his duties and when it was time for Elijah to leave, God equipped Elisha with the same tools that he needed in order to do ministry in the way that his friend had done.  Elisha received the spiritual energy necessary to work for God in the land and among the people of Israel.

God equips all who seek God and desire to be of service to God and humankind.  God provides all we need to find strength in our bodies and spirits so that we may help others to live in ways that will bring them joy and peace.  When we seek God and ask for God's blessings, God will always provide what we need in order to continue the ministry on behalf of others around us.

God's mantle of blessing falls upon all who seek a deeper understanding of God and how God can be involved in our daily lives.  As we pray and read God's Word and seek the guidance that God would give us in our lives, we will always receive what we need for our future and for that of others.  It does not take a chariot of fire streaking across the sky to open our eyes to God's miraculous universe.  If we look around us with eyes of wonder and curiosity, we will see God's Spirit in action wherever we may look.  It is enough to believe that God is, and that God is the rewarder of all who diligently seek God.  

Monday, June 13, 2016

God is Still Speaking, Quietly

The Old Testament lesson for next Sunday is the story from I Kings of Elijah the prophet running away from the wrath of the evil queen, Jezebel.  Elijah has displeased her by having a contest with the priest of Baal and then doing away with them.  So, Jezebel threatened revenge upon Elijah if she could catch him.  Elijah ran away to the distant wilderness area as most of us would have done also.  God miraculously provided food and water for Elijah while he was in the wilderness and then God is revealed to Elijah through the world around him.

Elijah figured that a God as mighty and powerful as YAHWEH would be revealed in the power of the world around him.  So, when an earthquake happened, Elijah thought God's voice would be heard in the earthquake but it did not happen that way.  Then a fire appeared and Elijah thought that surely God's voice could be heard in the fire but that was not the way it would work either.  After that there was nothing but sheer silence.  No noise at all, just a silence peaceful assurance that Elijah would be okay.

Elijah needed God's assurance that God would care for Elijah even in the midst of the threat that Jezebel had uttered against him.  He told God all that he had done to bring about righteousness in the land of Israel, despite the idolatry that Jezebel and Ahab had instituted in the land.  "I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away," Elijah told God.  (I Kings19:14c)

God listened to Elijah's complaint and, I believe, understood what Elijah needed in order to feel cared for by God.  He needed to know that God knew what he had gone through and that he was not alone.  God's word for Elijah in this instance was: ..."all the knees have not bowed to Baal..." (I Kings 19:18b)  Elijah was not alone in his quest to bring worship to the One God of Israel back in existence in Israel.  There were others who would assist Elijah if he needed them.

Sure enough as he went done the road toward Damascus he met the one who would be his helper, the prophet Elisha.  Elisha was plowing with oxen when Elijah met him and threw his mantle around him.  Then, after making peace with his family, he "set out and followed Elijah, and became his servant."  (I Kings 19:21c)

We all go through times of loneliness and despair.  Perhaps it is because of our ill health or due to circumstances that are beyond our control and we think that no one cares or understands what we are enduring.  We may even think that God does not care for us because we have not recognized God around us in a long time.  We may think that God may speak through something dramatic in our lives and expect it to happen in a thunderstorm as the lightning flashes or when the skies are threatening.  Those circumstances could speak to us but more often God speaks to us in the quiet moments of life when we have the time to really listen for God's voice.

God's voice is often heard in the quiet working out of history such as when the wall of Communism fell in 1989 and suddenly people who had been held captive by an oppressive society experienced personal freedom for the first time in many years.

God's voice is often heard in the daily lives of ordinary people as we are around them.  People quietly doing their jobs in the world often have something to say that encourages us and lifts our spirits, perhaps in the way they smile at us or say something cheerful to us.

God's voice may be heard in the birth of a child or a wedding or even at a funeral.  God is present in joy and in sorrow and there at times that those events make us slow down enough to listen for God to speak to us.

God is still speaking, even in the midst of tragedy.  I am writing this on the day after our country experienced the worst mass murder rampage by a gunman in our the history of our country.  Fifty persons going about their daily lives were murdered by a crazy, hateful person whose own life was taken in the conflict also.  God did not cause this event to happen but God wept for those whose lives were taken by this act of violence and hatred.  And in the midst of  the bloodshed and confusion, God was present and speaking through the actions of courage and bravery and love as humans helped other humans in need and as first responders worked diligently to save the lives of many who were wounded by this madman with a gun.

God still loves humanity and God still speaks even in the darkest of hours to reassure us that we are not alone.  God is with us.  Thanks be to God.

Monday, June 6, 2016

What is Yours is Mine

I was just finishing my seminary education at Perkins School of Theology in Dallas in 1994 when I heard the news that one of my fellows students, an older woman who was attending seminary also, had suffered a great tragedy.  She and her husband were returning home from dinner out, and as they pulled into their driveway, suddenly they were ambushed by three young men who surrounded their car and demanded the keys.  One of the young men shot this woman's husband and he fell to the ground.  She crawled under the car in hopes of saving her own life as he husband lay dying a few feet from her.  The bandits drove off in their Mercedes without harming the woman who had crouched under the car, and as they sped away, they ran off a curb and damaged the car so that it was soon not drive-able.

The police began looking for those who had committed the crime and soon the evidence led them to a small town in Texas not too far away from where the crime had happened.  The three young men who had committed the crime were arrested and soon two of them named the other as the trigger man in exchange for two less severe sentences.  The young man who had pulled the trigger and killed the owner of the car he wanted was only 17 years old.  He had been president of his senior class and was from a well respected family in his small town.

What would cause such a fine young man from an upstanding family in a small town, an athlete that many looked up to, to want to steal an expensive car and in the process murder the man who owned the car?  No one can really answer that question but even the man who committed the crime could not give an adequate answer.  He was interviewed by Texas Monthly prior to this execution in 2002 and all he could say was that it not only a heinous act, but a senseless one, a realization that came too late to save his own life or that of the man he had murdered.

The reading from I Kings 21 for this next Sunday is an ancient story that has a similar theme.  The story involves the current king of Israel, Ahab, and his wife Jezebel.  It also involves a man who is a neighbor to the king, and who owns a vineyard.  The man's name was Naboth.  Ahab wanted the land that Naboth owned upon which sat his vineyard.  Ahab talked with Naboth and offered to buy the land from him but Naboth did not want to sell his land for any price.  In fact, he claimed the land was an ancestral inheritance and he could not sell it because it had been given to him by his ancestors and they had received it from the Lord.

Ahab became resentful and sullen and went home and turned his face toward the wall as he lay on his bed.  His wife, Jezebel, asked him why he was depressed and he told her that he wanted Naboth's land and he would not sell it to him.  Jezebel had an answer to his dilemma.  "Get up, eat some food, and be cheeful; I will give you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite."  (I Kings 21:7)

Jezebel went about a plan to falsely accuse Naboth of cursing God and the King with false witnessed to make the case.  She carried out her plan and soon Naboth was stoned to death and Jezebel delivered the news to Ahab that the land and the vineyard now belonged to him.  Case closed.

But if you read a bit farther in the story, the case is not entirely closed.  It may have been a cold case until God got involved but soon God spoke to the prophet Elijah and told him the story that had happened and Elijah delivered the news to Ahab that God would soon judge and punish Ahab and Jezebel for the despicable thing they had done.

Ahab said to Elijah, "Have you found me, O my enemy?" (v.20)
He answered, "I have found you.  Because you have sold yourself to do what is evil in the sight of the Lord."
Then Elijah told Ahab the fate that would befall him and Jezebel because of their wicked deeds.
Ahab repented after hearing Elijah's stern warning and immediately put on sackcloth and fasted.  Because he humbled himself before God, God forgave him and did not bring disaster on him but did judge his house and bring disaster upon his son's reign.  Jezebel lived a while longer but she did not escape judgment.  In II Kings 9, her violent death is explained.

Ahab and Jezebel broke at least three of the Commandments given by God to the People of Israel.  Ahab coveted what Naboth owned and when Naboth refused to sell it to him, he and Jezebel brought false witness against him and had him murdered in order to take the land from him.  Ahab was involved in idol worship before and during his reign as king of Israel.  His reign is described as one of the most evil and wicked in the history of Israel.

This ancient story is contained in sacred scripture, I think, to continue to teach the lessons that we all need to continue to remember even in our modern age.  Ahab wanted what Naboth possessed and would stop at nothing to have it for himself.  The young man that I described in the opening story, only 17 years old, wanted a luxury car of his own.  He stopped at nothing to have it, either, resulting in the murder of another person.  Too many times, people become fixed upon an object or a person or a goal that they want to have as their own and they will not stop until they obtain it.  Their vision and sensibility are clouded by their desire to have as their own the thing they covet.  They see no need to stop at anything until they have achieved the goal they have set before them.  The news stations report such incidents on a daily basis in our country.

Ahab began his killing spree by dabbling in idolatry with his new wife Jezebel.  He was influenced by her to begin straying from the path of righteousness laid out in the Commandments given by Moses to his people.  Then, when he began to desire what his neighbor had, he again listened to what his wife would have him do and his common sense seemed obsolete.

We can all be swayed by what others say we should do, either as individuals or as part of a group.  We can listen to their arguments or advice and decide for ourselves whether or not it will be good for us as part of our lives.  Even someone close to us can send us in a wrong direction if their advice is not good advice, as Ahab learned.  Our need for prayerful consideration of what we do in life is made real as we consider both ancient and modern stories that serve as illustrations of what can go wrong in life when we make decisions that take us places where we do not need to go, either literally or in our thinking.  Perhaps Ahab's story is provided as a story of warning, helping us who live in this modern world with so many choices confronting us daily, that we need to involve God in our lives and in our decisions so that the choices we make will be good ones both for us as individuals and for the land in which we live.