WEEK 17 — April 29, 2015



week 17


Rebekah and the Old Man


Rebekah walked past Abraham’s servant, then went over to the well, and filled her water jar. When she started back, Abraham’s servant ran to her and said, “Please let me have a drink of water.” “I’ll be glad to,” she answered. Then she quickly took the jar from her shoulder and held it while he drank. Genesis 24:16b-18, CEV

He was about ten years old, and his coal-black hair lay close to his head like a cap. Just ahead of us as we were leaving church, he held open the two double doors for members of his family. Then with a perky smile he waited to hold them again for us. We appreciated this courtesy more than he realized, for there were two visually impaired people we needed to steer toward the sidewalk.

Perhaps no other youngster in all of human history has ever been so richly rewarded for courtesy shown to an elder as Rebekah was. Do you remember the story?

Isaac, the son of promise, had reached marriageable age. His mother Sarah was already dead. His father Abraham wanted Isaac to marry someone of his own kindred, not a girl from the idol-worshiping Canaanite tribes all around. Therefore he sent his oldest servant on a dangerous and difficult mission: all the way across the desert from Palestine to Mesopotamia, to find a wife for Isaac and bring her back again.

Genesis chapter 24 gives us the story in remarkable detail, but it doesn’t give us the old servant’s name; Genesis 15:2 suggests that he might have been known as Eliezer of Damascus. Whoever he was, this trusted old man made the long, hard trip and reached the area from which Abraham and his family had come. Resting beside a desert well, he prayed that God would send a girl to give him a drink, and that she would also be willing to water all of his camels. Furthermore, he prayed that this girl would be Isaac’s intended bride.

Read the rest of the story in the following Bible-based poetic meditation, written from the viewpoint of young Rebekah. And . . . don’t forget to teach children to show courtesy toward their elders!

The old man looked harmless.
He asked for a drink.
I did what he asked without stopping to think.

His camels looked thirsty.
I lowered my jar
and watered that caravan traveling far.

The old man looked happy.
He gave me a ring.
I ran home to show off this beautiful thing.

My brother then asked me,
“Where is the man now?
Not standing outside like a sheep or a cow!”

My brother moved quickly.
He called the man in
and welcomed him, treated him like long-lost kin.

The old man said “Thank you.”
He lodged in our tent.
Before we could eat, he declared his intent.

“My master has sent me,”
the old man began.
“His one son will someday be chief of the clan.

“A wife for young Isaac –
that’s who I must pick.
God says, ‘Choose the maiden who gave you a drink.’

Do I want to marry?
I’m still very young.
There are games to be played; there are songs to be sung.

But soon he’ll be master!
I’ll sit by his side.
To be the clan mother should give cause for pride.

The old man said “Hurry.”
We left the next day.
We crossed the wide desert, a long weary way.

The years have passed quickly, . . .
and now, I have twins!
Be sure to be kind; that way, everyone wins.

God of the old and God of the young, help us all to love and respect one another. Amen.

Copyright © 2014 by Perry Thomas

WEEK 16 — April 22, 2015



week 16


A Slave-Maid in Damascus


One day while the Syrian troops were raiding Israel, they captured a girl, and she became a servant of Naaman’s wife. Some time later the girl said, “If your husband Naaman would go to the prophet in Samaria, he would be cured of his leprosy.” 2 Kings 5:2-3, CEV

Perhaps some people who ponder these Scriptural meditations about “Family and Friends” may be asking themselves, “Where do I fit in with these devotionals?” They may feel that they have little in common with the parents, children, spouses, siblings, and others whose family relationships are described in these pages. For whatever reason, they may consider themselves to be far removed from family and friends.

Geography, controversy, turmoil, sorrow, deliberate life choices — all of these can separate a person from anyone else whom she or he truly considers to be a friend or a member of the family. If you happen to be such a person, keep on reading; perhaps this devotional message is for you.

Consider: Here is a young girl, perhaps in the vulnerable years of her early teens, who has suddenly been wrenched away from mother and father, sisters and brothers, from her home, her culture, her language. She has been plopped down in the midst of a bustling foreign city, where she has been put on the block and sold in the slave market.

If you had been this little slave-maid in Damascus, how would you have described your feelings toward the alien people who now claimed to own you, body and soul? Hate? Bitterness? Contempt?

No doubt such emotions struggled in the consciousness of that bewildered young girl who had been so violently wrenched from her home in the land of Israel. Yet somehow she found it in her heart to wish good things for her foreign master and mistress.

The little slave-maid in Damascus knew (or at least knew about) the most prominent prophet of her time: Elisha. The Bible-based poetic meditation that follows assumes that she must have heard about (or possibly even witnessed) some of Elisha’s notable miracles of healing, providing food, even raising the dead.

Fortunately this young servant-girl did not let her own troubles blind her to the needs of others. She could see how Naaman, general of the Syrian army, was suffering. His seemingly incurable skin disease must have cast a pall over the entire household.

The slave-maid of Damascus had been forcibly removed from all of her own kinfolks. Yet she found it in her heart to do something good for the people among whom she had been so unwillingly placed. Do you suppose that in doing so she might have discovered a new family in place of her old one? Do you suppose she joined in the general rejoicing when Naaman came home cured? Do you suppose she finally realized why she had had to suffer kidnapping, slavery, and loneliness?

Think about those possibilities as you prayerfully read the following Bible-based poetic meditation. Then note the Scriptural words (quoted from Matthew 19:12a, 12c, CEV) in the prayer that follows the poem:

          They stole me from my native land,
                     those raiders dark and grave;
           they brought me to Damascus, and
                     they sold me as a slave.

          Folks say I should feel fortunate
                     in Naaman’s wife’s employ;
           it’s true she treats me kindly, but
                     our household knows no joy.

          Though Naaman’s captain of the host,
                     he rarely leaves his room:
           His skin is white as any ghost
                     or apple-tree in bloom.

          This leprosy will be his end,
                     a plague to be endured . . .
           but then I thought of where to send,
                     with hopes he might be cured.

          The prophet in Samaria –
                     Elisha is his name –
           is known throughout the area;
                     his deeds have brought him fame.

          He helped a barren woman bear
                     a little son; and when
          the laddie died, he soon came there
                     and brought new life again.

          He multiplied the loaves of bread
                     from one to full five score;
           a hundred hungry mouths were fed,
                     with food still left for more.

          I told my mistress what I’d heard;
                     she told my master, so
           my master took me at my word
                     and soon prepared to go.

          We waited many days until
                     my master came back well.
           I realized then: God’s sovereign will
                     has brought me here to tell!

O loving Lord Jesus, we remember your strange-sounding words: “Some people are unable to marry . . . . Others stay single in order to serve God better.” Help us joyfully to welcome the singles and the solitaries into your family of faith! Amen.

Copyright © 2014 by Perry Thomas

WEEK 15 — April 15, 2015



week 14


“In the Beginning God”


In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
Genesis 1:1

Such a clear and simple verse to cause such a lot of controversy!
Why would a devotional series about “Family and Friends” include a meditation on this first verse in the Bible?

• Because God the Father, our Creator, has deigned to call us members of his family: “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty” (2 Corinthians 6:18). Furthermore, it is God’s will that Jesus should become “the firstborn among many brothers” (Romans 8:29).

• Because God the Son, our Redeemer, has deigned to call us his friends. Jesus said, “You are my friends if you do what I command. . . . I have called you friends” (John 15:14-15).

Arguments can damage relationships among family and friends. Through the years, through the centuries, how many friends have exchanged bitter words that have stretched or snapped the ties that bind them together? How many families have been split apart when the patriarch or matriarch has died, and after that the descendants have quarreled about their inheritance?

Arguments can cause trouble even in the family of faith. Differences of opinion in Biblical interpretation can cast a shadow over Christian fellowship.

Certainly as Christians we should try our best to understand everything we read in the Bible. If we don’t, we are failing to follow “the first and greatest commandment” as given by our Master: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37-38).

However, we must recognize the fact that not every follower of Christ is going to interpret every part of the Bible in exactly the same way we do. And perhaps no part of the Bible has given rise to more differing interpretations than Genesis 1:1, along with the verses that immediately follow it.

What should we do about this?

Should we insist that our own way of interpretation is the only right way?

Should we gird up our loins to argue every time we hear a differing view?

There may be a time to argue for our own understanding of the Bible. Some of us grew up hearing preachers trumpet such texts as: “Earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude verse 3, King James Version).

But when we are reading the Bible, when we are meditating on how much it means to us, . . . that is not a time to argue. At such times – instead of arguing, instead of worrying about false teaching – we ought to be quieting our souls. We ought to be letting the truths of Scripture sink deep into our innermost being. We ought to be recognizing the fact that neither we nor anybody else knows all there is to know about God . . . or about the inspired Word of God.

In such an attitude of humility, then, in a spirit set free from controversy or worry about differences of interpretation, let us view this series of online devotional messages.

Read prayerfully the following Bible-based poetic meditation, which includes brief quotations from Genesis 1:1 and John 3:16:

          “In the beginning God.”
                     Can we agree on that?
           In the beginning God . . .
                     but what comes after that?

           In the beginning God
                     made stars and hung them high,
           made everything there is,
                     made earth and sea and sky.

           But how did God do this?
                     He’s never told a soul.
           We only see in part;
                     we’ve never seen the whole.

           God looked at all he’d made;
                     God saw that it was good.
           Does goodness rule the world?
                     We’ve never understood.

           In God’s time, through God’s space
                     the universe was hurled.
           “In the beginning God . . .
                     for God so loved the world.”

O Father God, help me to remember that above all I must love and obey Your Holy Word, rather than being in too much of a hurry to defend it against those in the family of faith who may perhaps interpret it differently from myself. Amen.

Copyright © 2014 by Perry Thomas

WEEK 14 — April 8, 2015



week 15


Doubting Thomas,” So I’m Called


Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.”
John 20:24-25

Unsavory descriptions have a way of sticking like plastic wrap to public figures who have been thus labeled.

In recent American political history, do you still remember “Tricky Dick”? “Slick Willie”? Further back in time there were also “Bloody Mary,” “Ethelred the Unready,” even “Ivan the Terrible.”

Did these historical figures deserve the negative nicknames with which they have been saddled? You be the judge. But when we come to “Doubting Thomas,” there’s no doubt about it: Thomas doesn’t deserve that uncomplimentary epithet.

A case could be made that Thomas, far from being a doubting waverer, had stronger faith than any other among the Twelve. Remember, it was he who spoke up upon hearing the fateful news that Jesus was going back again to dangerous Judea: “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (John 11:16). Certainly after the risen Christ had showed himself to Thomas, the disciple’s bravery became far more evident than the disciple’s doubt.

The Scriptures tell us next to nothing about Thomas’s apostolic ministry. Yet there are strong extra-Biblical traditions. To this day there is more than one Christian denomination in India that claims him as their founder and honors him in their name. These “Thomas Christians” can probably trace their spiritual heritage farther back than any of us!

Let Thomas speak for himself, in the words of the following Bible-based poetic meditation:

            “Doubting Thomas,” so I’m called.
                     Is it right to call me so?
           Three long years I walked with him,
                     Everywhere my Lord would go.

          Even when Judea meant
                     danger if my Lord went there,
           “Let us follow him,” said I.
                     “To the death with him we dare!”

          When one night my Master said,
                     “Where and how I go, you know,”
           I cried, “Lord, where is the way?
                     How can we know where you go?”

          Then . . . I saw my Master dead —
                     dead and buried, dead and gone.
           What if women thought they saw
                     misty shadows in the dawn?

          Closest comrades can be fooled;
                     wishful thinking might deceive.
           “Let me hold his hands,” said I,
                     “touch his side, then I’ll believe.”

          Ah! My loving Lord and God
                     came to me as friend to friend.
           “Doubting Thomas” one short week;
                     “Faithful Thomas” to the end.

O my Lord and my God, I remember that there have been great souls before me in the family of faith — Martin Luther, Mother Teresa — who have suffered through the dark night of doubt. Help me to know that You are always present and always loving. Make me as bold and as faithful as Thomas was! Amen.

Copyright © 2014 by Perry Thomas


WEEK 13 — April 1, 2015



week 13


My Life Was Like a Garden: Mary Magdalene


The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out . . . and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.
Luke 8:1c-2, 3bc

Through the years, a succession of books and films has shown an unhealthy fascination with the New Testament character known as Mary Magdalene. Many have wondered whether Mary herself showed an unhealthy fascination with the human Jesus. Some have even blasphemously suggested that Mary was Jesus’ mistress, and that they had children together.

Who was Mary?

First of all, she was a Galilean. Magdala, like Nazareth, is (or used to be) a town in rural Galilee. Just as Jesus was called the Nazarene because of where he hailed from, so Mary was called the Magdalene because of her hometown.

From ancient times some Bible interpreters have identified Mary Magdalene with the sinful woman described in Luke chapter 7 – the woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. Yet the Bible itself is totally silent on this point.

It is clear that Mary was at one time cursed with demon-possession. Her case must have been a particularly difficult one, as suggested by the statement that Jesus had to cast out of her no less than seven demons or devils or evil spirits.

Apparently Mary Magdalene was a woman of means. Luke chapter 8 lists her, along with several other women, as those who accompanied Jesus and the Twelve on their travels, purchasing food and lodging for the group. (MIDWEEK MEDITATIONS also includes a devotional thought about “The Ministering Women”; see week 78.)

Mary was one of those who stood near the cross when Jesus was dying. She was one of those who went to the tomb with spices to anoint his dead body. And because of that, she was the one who experienced a unique encounter with her risen Lord.

Read the original account of this deeply moving story, in John 20:1-18. Then read the following Bible-based poetic meditation that imaginatively reconstructs something of the undying love and gratitude which surely must have surged through the heart and mind of Mary Magdalene:

My life was like a garden, . . .
a garden filled with weeds.
I never knew which shoots were lusts
and which were wholesome needs.
My life was like a garden, . . .
a garden choked with thorn.
It pierced my person, scratched my soul;
it left me scarred and torn.
My life was like a garden, . . .
a garden rank and wild,
till Galilee’s sweet Gardener
pronounced me God’s dear child.

They seized him in a garden
where moonlight filtered down.
They mocked him, stripped him, beat him, pierced
his head with thorny crown.
They laid him in a garden
where none had lain before.
They sealed the tomb and left him there,
a stone before the door.
I met him in a garden
as dawn was breaking red:
The Gardener of Galilee
has risen from the dead!

O Jesus of Galilee, after two millennia there are still demons at large in our world today. Cast them out and heal us, we pray. Amen.

Copyright © 2014 by Perry Thomas