August 19

2 Chronicles 28:9-11 (NIV) 9But a prophet of the LORD named Oded was there, and he went out to meet the army when it returned to Samaria. He said to them, "Because the LORD, the God of your fathers, was angry with Judah, he gave them into your hand. But you have slaughtered them in a rage that reaches to heaven. 10And now you intend to make the men and women of Judah and Jerusalem your slaves. But aren't you also guilty of sins against the LORD your God? 11Now listen to me! Send back your fellow countrymen you have taken as prisoners, for the LORD's fierce anger rests on you."

After Jotham died, his son Ahaz reigned. God gave the people a king that they deserved so that hardship would turn them back to Him. Ahaz' army was defeated by the Arameans. Their treasures were robbed, and many of the people went into captivity. Then the Northern Tribes inflicted heavy casualties and took two hundred thousand women and children captive and a great deal of plunder.

As the army of the Northern Tribes returned to their capitol Samaria, a prophet of God named Obed met them. The message from God was that their victory was due to God's anger against Judah, but they had gone overboard in executing it. God's question to them was this, "Aren't you also guilty of sins against the LORD your God?"

There are times when we find ourselves with the upper hand over those who oppose us, but we take it to the extreme. We should consider that it may not be so much that God is favoring us as God punishing them. God's justice is always tempered with mercy, but man's justice rarely is. We should consider that we could be in their shoes, and that we are to apply the Golden Rule. If we desire mercy, then we will act with a great deal more mercy. Aren't we also guilty of sins? The Northern Tribes showed great wisdom and fear of God when they listened to the prophet and returned the captives along with the spoils of war.

Remember: How you act gives permission for others to act the same way toward you. God says, "To those who show mercy, I will be merciful." (Matthew 5:7; James 2:13)

August 19

Romans 12:1-2 (NIV) 1Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. 2Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Whenever you see the word "therefore", you should read before it to find out what it is "there for". In the case of our passage for this evening, Paul has been expressing the wonder of God's grace in the world drawing both Jews and Gentiles to Himself. Because God is so very gracious and merciful, the only appropriate response from us is to present ourselves like the Jews presented a sacrificial animal. We give our physical bodies to be laid upon the altar of God for Him to do with as He pleases. This means we no longer claim the right to do as we please.

Unlike the animal sacrifices, we remain living and functioning at God's direction. It is wonderful to become God's tool for His use, but the problem with being a living sacrifice is that we can climb off that altar.

The sacrifice is holy. In the Old Testament, the altar was most holy and sanctified the gift. We cannot pollute God when we are surrendered; He sanctifies us. That means He makes us completely His and only for His use. This process is pleasing to God.

Since we are to be for His use alone, we should not conform to the ungodly pattern of the world. The process of being sanctified begins with the transformation of our minds. As our way of thinking is renewed, we begin to see life in a different light. We see ourselves as servants and not masters. We see fulfillment in serving God and not in serving self. Only when our minds are renewed are we then able to test and approve of God's will. Before that we think our own will must be God's will. Once our minds are transformed by His Spirit and Word, we can discern His good, pleasing and perfect will. Then we truly begin to live life as He meant us to live it.

Consider: Are you on the altar?