March 9, 2016

Deuteronomy 14-16
You are children of God, your God,..You only are a people holy to God, your God; God chose you out of all the people on Earth as his cherished personal treasure.  Don’t eat anything abominable... Make an offering of ten percent, a tithe, of all the produce which grows in your fields year after year. Bring this into the Presence of God, your God, at the place he designates for worship and there eat the tithe from your grain, wine, and oil and the firstborn from your herds and flocks. In this way you will learn to live in deep reverence before God, your God, as long as you live...

Meanwhile, don’t forget to take good care of the Levites who live in your towns; they won’t get any property or inheritance of their own as you will.  At the end of every third year, gather the tithe from all your produce of that year and put it aside in storage. Keep it in reserve for the Levite who won’t get any property or inheritance as you will, and for the foreigner, the orphan, and the widow who live in your neighborhood. That way they’ll have plenty to eat and God, your God, will bless you in all your work.

At the end of every seventh year, cancel all debts. This is the procedure: Everyone who has lent money to a neighbor writes it off. You must not press your neighbor or his brother for payment: All-Debts-Are-Canceled—God says so. You may collect payment from foreigners, but whatever you have lent to your fellow Israelite you must write off.

There must be no poor people among you because God is going to bless you lavishly in this land that God, your God, is giving you as an inheritance, your very own land. But only if you listen obediently to the Voice of God, your God, diligently observing every commandment that I command you today. Oh yes—God, your God, will bless you just as he promised. You will lend to many nations but won’t borrow from any; you’ll rule over many nations but none will rule over you.

When you happen on someone who’s in trouble or needs help among your people with whom you live in this land that God, your God, is giving you, don’t look the other way pretending you don’t see him. Don’t keep a tight grip on your purse. No. Look at him, open your purse, lend whatever and as much as he needs. Don’t count the cost. Don’t listen to that selfish voice saying, “It’s almost the seventh year, the year of All-Debts-Are-Canceled,” and turn aside and leave your needy neighbor in the lurch, refusing to help him. He’ll call God’s attention to you and your blatant sin.

Give freely and spontaneously. Don’t have a stingy heart. The way you handle matters like this triggers God, your God’s, blessing in everything you do, all your work and ventures. There are always going to be poor and needy people among you. So I command you: Always be generous, open purse and hands, give to your neighbors in trouble, your poor and hurting neighbors....

If a Hebrew man or Hebrew woman was sold to you and has served you for six years, in the seventh year you must set him or her free, released into a free life... Don’t for a minute forget that you were once slaves in Egypt and God, your God, redeemed you from that slave world...

Observe the month of Abib by celebrating the Passover to God, your God. It was in the month of Abib that God, your God, delivered you by night from Egypt... Don’t eat yeast bread with it; for seven days eat it with unraised bread, hard-times bread, because you left Egypt in a hurry—that bread will keep the memory fresh of how you left Egypt for as long as you live. There is to be no sign of yeast anywhere for seven days. And don’t let any of the meat that you sacrifice in the evening be left over until morning...Eat unraised bread for six days. Set aside the seventh day as a holiday; don’t do any work.

Starting from the day you put the sickle to the ripe grain, count out seven weeks. Celebrate the Feast-of-Weeks to God, your God, by bringing your Freewill-Offering—give as generously as God, your God, has blessed you. Rejoice in the Presence of God, your God: you, your son, your daughter, your servant, your maid, the Levite who lives in your neighborhood, the foreigner, the orphan and widow among you; rejoice at the place God, your God, will set aside to be worshiped.  Don’t forget that you were once a slave in Egypt. So be diligent in observing these regulations.

Observe the Feast-of-Booths for seven days when you gather the harvest from your threshing-floor and your wine-vat. Rejoice at your festival: you, your son, your daughter, your servant, your maid, the Levite, the foreigner, and the orphans and widows who live in your neighborhood. Celebrate the Feast to God, your God, for seven days at the place God designates. God, your God, has been blessing you in your harvest and in all your work, so make a day of it—really celebrate!

All your men must appear before God, your God, three times each year at the place he designates: at the Feast-of-Unraised-Bread (Passover), at the Feast-of-Weeks, and at the Feast-of-Booths. No one is to show up in the Presence of God empty-handed; each man must bring as much as he can manage, giving generously in response to the blessings of God, your God.

Appoint judges and officers, organized by tribes, in all the towns that God, your God, is giving you. They are to judge the people fairly and honestly. Don’t twist the law. Don’t play favorites. Don’t take a bribe—a bribe blinds even a wise person; it undermines the intentions of the best of people...

Romans 15
Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what  is most convenient for us.  Strength is for service, not status.  Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, “How can I help?”...God wants the combination of his steady constant calling and warm personal counsel in Scripture to come to characterize us, keeping us alert for whatever he will do next...So reach out and welcome one another to God’s glory.  Jesus did it; now you do it!... Oh!  May the God of green hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your believing lives, filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit, will brim over with hope!  

I am going to Jerusalem to deliver a relief offering to the followers of Jesus there.  The Greeks...decided they wanted to take up a collection for the poor among the believers in Jerusalem...Seeing that they got in on all the spiritual gifts that flowed out of the Jerusalem community so generously it is only right that they do what they can to relieve their poverty...I have one request, dear friends; Pray for me.  Pray strenuously with and for me--to God the Father, through the power of our Master Jesus, through the love of the Spirit--that I will be delivered from the lions’ den of unbelievers in Judea.