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January 10, 2013 – Genesis 11

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babel2As you may have gathered from various other points throughout this site, Everyday Devotions is a little bit a stickler when it comes to what the Bible actually says (*coughretentivecough*).  Nothing gets a burr under the saddle quite like people misrepresenting the Bible text.  And before you get on your high llama about the pot calling the kettle black, we can all agree that today’s passage is one of the most misquoted in the entire Bible.  Put on your hip waders, my fellow Bible travelers, we’re going in.


The tower of Babel is one of the most famous of all stories in Genesis. Let’s sum up the popular conception.  Some naughty people were living in some place, and they decide to build a big ole honking tower to reach God. God apparently doesn’t like people dropping by unannounced, so instead of helping them with their lincoln-log project, He decides to punish their insolence by mixing up their languages so that they can’t understand each other. Satisfied with another fine day of divine wrath bringing, God watches the poor jabbering masses wander off into the sunset to become the languages that we know and love today. Or manana, if you’re Spanish. And it’s tomorrow.

Here comes the burr: that’s almost a complete fabrication of the story. If this story were in pants form, it would be completely aflame. However, rather than rant and jump about in frustration at the injustice of this interpretation, let’s look at what the text actually says so at least we’ll be in the right, even if everybody else is wrong.


Point numero uno: the Babel-ites do not build the tower to reach God; there were plenty of higher mountains around if they wanted to gain elevation. They build the tower so that a) they will be famous (“make a name for ourselves”) and b) to not be scattered over the whole earth. In other words, they want to be well known and to be in charge of everybody, instead of letting all those servants of theirs go wandering off all over the world.

Point numbero two-o:  nowhere in the text does it say that God cursed them. In fact, later on in Revelation we see that there are many languages in Heaven, therefore languages cannot be a symptom of sin or they would not be in heaven.

Point numero three-o: the point of confusing the languages was to get the people to fulfill God’s command from Genesis 1:28 to cover the whole earth. The people at Babel were purposely trying to avoid fulfilling God’s commands, and God merely gave them a little boost to help them get back on the right track. The point of the languages was not to punish, but rather to help people receive the full blessing (i.e. the whole world) that God had for them.

While there maybe Sunday School teachers rolling over in their blue-haired graves, it is very hard to sustain the traditional understanding of this passage. For one more confirmation, look at Acts 2; when the disciples are baptized in the Holy Spirit, they speak with “other tongues,” confirming that other languages are a gift from God, not a curse or punishment.

So celebrate those foreign languages. Eat some nachos and soy sauce whilst you drive around in your volkswagon on your way to the chateau. You’ll have all eternity to enjoy the blessing of Babel.

January 9, 2013 – Matthew 9

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optical-illusion-1In the words of one of the epic wise men of our time, many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our point of view. For instance, it’s undeniably true that a playoff system is far better for college football than the bowl system; unless of course you are a major college power, in which case the bowl system is better for your greedy, soul-less bowl promoters. Both cases are true, depending on your point of view and level of evilness. If point of view can change how we perceive life, the question naturally follows: what should our perspective be?


When you approach the “world,” i.e the people that don’t go to your church, what do you see? It seems that often we see “the others” as something less than friendly. Many of us are on various church email lists or facebook groups. In general, what kind of tone do these groups have about non-believers? Is the tone encouraging? Is it inviting? Or is it threatened? Is it talking about how God loves everyone, or about how some groups are destroying our heritage/culture/faith/country/etc.? What would Jesus think about these groups?

In our reading today, we see that when Jesus saw the “others” in the crowd, he “had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless.” Is that how you see people outside of your church? Do you have compassion on them? When you see people drinking at the local watering hole, do you say to yourself “man, I’m glad I’m not like those drunken sinners,” or do you say “God, how can I show these people your love?” Are you secretly glad when the stinky homeless guy who visits your church sits somewhere else, or does your heart break when you see him? When you see that woman with that revealing dress walk down the street, do you want help her see that God loves her no matter what, or do you think less complimentary thoughts about her attire?

One of the great challenges of the Christian life is to adjust our vision to see the world as Jesus sees it. It seems like we more often see non-christians as harassers rather than the harassed, or we are filled more with fear or disgust at the sight of the effects of sin rather being filled with compassion. How do we change our perspective?


Truth be told, it doesn’t seem like the Bible spells this one out, but Jesus does give us a couple of pointers that may help. He says “pray…to the Lord…because the workers are few.” It seems then that our first job is to pray; pray for God to change our vision and our hearts. We pray to the Lord; we must get to know Jesus or we will never see the world as he does.

Second, our beliefs must affect our actions. Though there are plenty of secular charities out there that do great work (i’m looking at you, Bono), the reality is that our relationship to Christ can greatly affect our compassion. The Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey reported that “the average annual giving among the religious is $2,210, whereas it is $642 among the secular. Similarly, religious people volunteer an average of 12 times per year, while secular people volunteer an average of 5.8 times.” If our focus is on Christ, our giving will reflect that.

Finally, we need to realize that the workers are few, so we need to get busy. We must realize that our work is needed, and that the most important thing we do is to just get started. Doing a little bit of something is far better than doing a whole lot of nothing. Often times once we start on the work, God reveals more of his vision to us, which leads us into more work, and more vision. We have to get started.

What will you see today?


January 8, 2013 – Acts 8

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gymWhy is it that the right thing is always so painful? Why do you have to work so hard to work out? Why is it better to save than to spend? Why is it better to think of others instead of ourselves? Why is it better to eat asparagus instead of a dozen snickerdoodles? One would think that God would make all the stuff that’s good for us also the easiest, wouldn’t one?

Well, today we get a little insight into God’s perspective on the whole pain thing. Let’s jump back just a bit to set the stage: in Acts 1, Jesus tells his disciples “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Sounds pretty good; a little talking, a little traveling, and it’s all good. But as Acts progresses, the disciples seem to be a little slow-going. We read how “every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts…and all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade.” The new believers enjoyed their new-found fellowship and joy, but they weren’t really doing what Jesus commanded.


So, now we come to Acts 8, and Saul (soon to be Paul) gets his Pharisee Posse together to round up them nasty believers. He goes from house to house and puts anyone he finds into prison. Thus “On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria…those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.” Sound familiar? The disciples had been reluctant to leave the comfort of Jerusalem and the home church and carry the Good News to the rest of the world; so God either sent or allowed persecution to come against them, in order to encourage them.  A little divine swat on the tushy, if you will.

Notice how many of the great stories of Acts come after this point. It was the persecution that laid the groundwork for the great things that God did in the future. Though it’s unlikely that the disciples appreciated the persecution at the time, there’s little doubt that the miracles and wonders came as a result of the disciples being “forced” to obey Jesus’ command to spread out. God used the pain of persecution to get the believers back into his will and to show them a fuller glory.


This is not to say that all pain in our lives is sent by God (after all, this world is not how God intended it thanks to Adam and the Evester), but Romans tells us that God works all things together for our good. Whether or not God is actually sending the pain is a matter of debate for the tweed-suit crowd, but we can trust that God is using that pain to advance his kingdom and bring us closer to himself. That means we should not necessarily be asking God to deliver us from pain or ask “Why are you doing this?” but rather we should be asking “How are you using this?” It’s not easy to change our perspective (actually, i’d rather have my toenails pulled out) but it’s important to understand that God’s desire is not necessarily for us to have an easy life, but rather a fulfilled life.

Now I have a choice to make: here sits my yogurt and my Hershey Kisses. Decisions are painful.