Back To School
1.  Time To Go Back School

Sometimes I try to focus on a devotional theme that correlates with the time of year or holiday that is approaching.  As I looked ahead to the next few weeks, I thought about all the children that will be going back to school.  I never felt ready for our children to start the new school year, but we made it through and the time finally came for each graduation.  We may think of school as being a modern idea, but we can find the idea of school way back in early Bible days.  I hope to look at some of these scripture references, and also some of the things we choose to go back to.

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2.  Count The Days

When my children started kindergarten one of the daily activities they did was take a straw from one cup and put it in another cup to count the days.  After ten days the teacher would tie the straws together and the children learned that when they had ten groups of ten they would have been in school one hundred days and have a big celebration.  Each child took a collection of one hundred items for show and tell and they had a big party.  Just as they counted down the days of school, they also counted down the years of school with each passing grade.  And just as some are counting the days until school starts back again, we also count days until Christmas, or summer vacation and we count the years of our birthdays.  Moses recognized the importance of counting our days, as we see in his prayer in Psalms 90:12  "So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom."  In this Psalm he talks about how God is "from everlasting to everlasting" and we "spend our years as a tale that is told."  The older we get, the more important it is to count our days, and even more important that we make every day count.

"1  <<A Prayer of Moses the man of God.>> Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations.
2  Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.
4  For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.
5  Thou carriest them away as with a flood; they are as a sleep: in the morning they are like grass which groweth up.
6  In the morning it flourisheth, and groweth up; in the evening it is cut down, and withereth.
9  ...we spend our years as a tale that is told.
10  The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.
12  So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.
14  O satisfy us early with thy mercy; that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
17  And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it."  (Psalms 90)

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3.  The First Teacher

Who would you say was the first teacher?  I think we must go back to the first man to find the answer. 

"26  And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
27  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
28  And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
29  And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat."  (Genesis 1:26-29)

I believe that God taught Adam and Eve as He walked with them in the garden. Many believe the book of Job was the first book written in our Bible and there we see that man knew that God was his Creator, and also that God taught mankind more than the animals.  "But none saith, Where is God my maker, who giveth songs in the night;  Who teacheth us more than the beasts of the earth, and maketh us wiser than the fowls of heaven?"  (Job 35:10-11)  God taught Adam and Eve how to dress the garden and keep it.  He also taught them right from wrong, but they did not listen.  "And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.  And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:  But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die."  (Genesis 2:15-17) 

God told Moses that He would teach him what to say to Pharaoh.  And later God told Moses that He would teach him the law, and Moses would in turn teach the people.  "Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say."  (Exodus 4:12)  "And thou shalt teach them ordinances and laws, and shalt shew them the way wherein they must walk, and the work that they must do."  (Exodus 18:20)  "And the LORD said unto Moses, Come up to me into the mount, and be there: and I will give thee tables of stone, and a law, and commandments which I have written; that thou mayest teach them."  (Exodus 24:12)  And still today, if we seek wisdom, we need to turn to God.  "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him."  (James 1:5) 

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4.  The Call To Teach

Most children are asked the question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?"  Well, I wanted to teach children to read.  I did not have any books when I was young, and it was so special to me when the bookmobile came to our neighborhood and we could choose a book to keep for a week.  I wanted to pass along the joy I found in hearing new stories and learning new things.  I did not become a teacher, but I did find joy in teaching my children how to read.  Some have a special calling to be teachers, but I think parents are the best teachers of their youngsters' early years.  Moses told the Children of Israel to teach their children and their grandchildren all that God had done for them.  "Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons' sons;"  (Deuteronomy 4:9)  And as they wandered in the wilderness they may have not had schools as we know them today, but the parents were to spend all their time teaching their children the commandments of God.

"4  Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD:
5  And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.
6  And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:
7  And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
8  And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.
9  And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates."  (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)

As the world grows darker many parents I know are deciding to home school their children.  And even though this seems like a new idea to many, this was the way God said it was to be done in the beginning.  Whether we set out to home school our children or not, we can be sure that we are teaching our children.  They learn from the things we say and the way we live.  Be careful what you say.  Be careful what you do.  Be careful where you go.  Little eyes are watching and little ears are listening.

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5.  Schools Of The Past

I saw a very interesting story last week about some carpenters who were replacing the old chalkboards at Emerson High School in Oklahoma City and as they pulled them down they found another set of chalkboards underneath with a chalk drawn calendar which dated back to December 1917.  (You can find these pictures on the internet by searching Chalkboards of 1917.)  There were several chalk colored pictures representing Thanksgiving with pilgrims and turkeys, as well as math and other school lessons.  Everyone was surprised by the find and they are trying to decide how to preserve the boards which have given us a glimpse of school life 100 years ago.  I think it would be so exciting to find something like this from the past. 

Today we are looking back to the time of the kings of Judah, about 400 years after King Solomon built the temple.  Josiah was only eight years old when he was made king over Judah.  His father, Amon, had been a wicked king, and his grandfather was wicked King Manasseh, serving idols and the host of heaven instead of God.  There must have been some positive influences in his young life because "he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD."  (II Kings 22:2)  He had carpenters and masons bring in stone and timber to repair the temple and in doing so they found the book of the law given by God to Moses.  He sent the priests and scribes to inquire of the Lord, so they went to Huldah the prophetess.  "So Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam, and Achbor, and Shaphan, and Asahiah, went unto Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe; (now she dwelt in Jerusalem in the college;) and they communed with her."  (II Kings 22:14)  The king and people humbled their hearts and turned back to God, and destroyed all the high places and vessels used for idol worship.  Because King Josiah turned to God, He did not bring His judgment until after the death of King Josiah.  Today we are blessed to have God's Word.  It has not been hidden away for a hundred years like the chalkboard lessons, but there are probably many homes where it is hidden away in grandma's trunk in the attic or collecting dust on the shelves.  What a difference it would make in our country today if people would read the Bible and humble their hearts to God. 

Since we are talking about going "Back To School" I also want to mention that Huldah the prophetess "dwelt in Jerusalem in the college".  There was a college in Jerusalem some 2,600 years ago.  In chapter 6 of II Kings the sons of the prophets were building a place to dwell when one of them lost the borrowed ax head in the water.  Their building, a place to live and study, could have been a college during the days of the prophet Elisha.  Of course, schools and colleges could have been around since the time of Moses in Egypt, as Stephen described in Acts 7:22, "And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds." 

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6.  Going Off To School

I think beginning a new school year can make most students, and maybe teachers, apprehensive.  Starting college may mean moving to a new town, meeting new people, and leaving the comfort and familiarity of home behind.  For many it is the first experience of being on their own, away from Mom and Dad.  Some stay true to the standards and convictions by which they were raised, and some stray away and follow the crowd.  Today I want to look at four young boys who stood firm in their beliefs and stayed true to the living God.  Daniel and his three friends, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, (also known as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego,) were carried away captive to Babylon.  They were separated from their parents, who were most likely carried away into captivity or killed in battle.  They were taken to a foreign land, forced to leave their homes and all their belongings, and be schooled in the king's palace.  They were of royal seed and very smart, as we read in Daniel 1:3-5.

"3  And the king spake unto Ashpenaz the master of his eunuchs, that he should bring certain of the children of Israel, and of the king's seed, and of the princes;
4  Children in whom was no blemish, but well favoured, and skilful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king's palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans.
5  And the king appointed them a daily provision of the king's meat, and of the wine which he drank: so nourishing them three years, that at the end thereof they might stand before the king."

The Babylonians worshiped other gods and their faith was tested, but I like Daniel 1:8.  "But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself."  He stayed faithful to God and was delivered out of the den of lions in chapter 6.  His friends also stood their ground and refused to bow to the golden image of King Nebuchadnezzar.

"13  Then Nebuchadnezzar in his rage and fury commanded to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Then they brought these men before the king.
14  Nebuchadnezzar spake and said unto them, Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, do not ye serve my gods, nor worship the golden image which I have set up?
15  Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the image which I have made; well: but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?
16  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter.
17  If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.
18  But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up."  (Daniel 3:13-18)

No matter how dark the day may be, our God can see us through.  Purpose in your heart to stay faithful to the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  

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7.  Requirements

When middle school students start their registration for high school they are usually given a list of classes required to graduate.  I remember that it began something like this... four English classes, three math classes, three science classes, two social studies, one physical education/health class, etc.  The required classes for each course come first, then the electives, like band, or computers.  Did you know that God's Word gives us requirements?  I am very familiar with Micah 6:8, "He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?"   As I was reading in Deuteronomy this week God showed me more of His requirements.  At this point God has already told Moses that he will not be able to go in the Promised Land because he disobeyed by striking the rock.  In the book of Deuteronomy Moses is reminding the people of all that God has done for them.  Then he tells them what God has required from them.  He reviews the law and poses this question in Deuteronomy 10:12-13.  "And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, To keep the commandments of the LORD, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good?"  Micah begins by saying that God has shown us what is good, and Moses ends also telling us it is for our good.  As His children, God our heavenly Father, has given us requirements to follow for our good.  I think we can see this illustrated beautifully in the first Psalm.

"1  Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
2  But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
3  And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.
4  The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.
5  Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
6  For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish."  (Psalms 1:1-6)

Parents used to tell their children to "Eat it, it's good for you" or "If you know what's good for you, you'll do it."  God has given us His Word, and if we know what's good for us, we will follow it, and grow, and bear fruit for His glory.

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8.  The Golden Rule

We learned "The Golden Rule" in our early grades at school.  Any problems between the children were solved by the teacher explaining that we were to "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."  Jesus taught this in the Sermon on the Mount as found in Matthew 7:12, "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets." In going back to the law we see the concept of loving one another in Leviticus 19:18, "... thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD."  Jesus placed great importance loving one another.  When asked, "Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."  (Matthew 22:36-39)  If these principles were taught in our homes it would take care of a lot of the problems at school.  Bullies would not dominate the halls if they had love and respect for others.  Students would not destroy or steal another person's belongings if they had the love of God in their hearts and loved one another.  We need God in our schools.  We need God in our homes.  We need God in our communities. 

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9.  The Law Of Kindness

As I taught my children memory verses we talked about their importance and tried to put them into practice.  One, in particular, stands out in my mind.  "And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you."  (Ephesians 4:32)   Many little problems between our children were solved by repeating this verse and reminding them that Jesus wants us to be kind to each other.  As we worked on that verse, my Bible reading was in Proverbs.  As I was reading about being a virtuous woman in chapter 31, verse 26 really stood out in my mind.  "She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness."  The Lord spoke to me and showed me that it was just as important, maybe even more so, that I was kind to my children.  Did I discipline them in anger, or with kindness?  If my son started running across a parking lot, I yelled, loud and quick, to teach him the danger of not looking for moving cars.  But for the most part, I learned that I could teach them most things with love and kindness and a little patience.  I learned that my morning attitude often set the pace for the day.  If I was grouchy in the morning, my children would be irritable and fussy most of the day.  If I showed them extra love and kindness with an attitude of joy when they got up in the morning, they were happy and played together.  As parents and teachers we want our children to do well, and we expect them to listen and learn and grow.  In leading me to these verses those many years ago, God taught me that I also needed to study and practice God's Word to learn and grow.  He has taught me many things from His Word through the years.  We are never too old to learn from God's Word and we can have a strong Christian influence to others when we practice the law of kindness. 

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10.  Be Followers Of God

Michael asked me to help him with a Bible Bulletin Board for starting back to school so I used the verses from one of the first devotionals I did, "Be Followers Of God".  Ephesians 5:1 was the beginning text, "Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children;"  I know several Moms who are home schooling their children and thought this would be a good way to incorporate Bible verses into their daily teaching.  Print a portion of the verse with the reference on colorful pieces of paper and add a new one to the board each day as you read and discuss the verse.  Yesterday we looked at Ephesians 4:32 which tells us to "Be Kind."  I used honey bees on his school bulletin board.  I made the honeycomb for the center by painting bubble wrap yellow and gold and pressing down on poster board. When I pulled the bubble wrap back I was surprised at how much it looked like a honeycomb.  If you prefer owls, which are associated with being wise, you could begin with Proverbs 8:33, "Hear instruction, and be wise, and refuse it not."  Another idea is to focus on Psalms 118:24, "This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it."  You could add happy photos to your board, such as the first day of school and special classes or field trips, anything to "be glad" about.

You can follow these links for more information...

Be Bulletin Board
Be In The Word - list of Bible Verses
Be Followers Of God - daily devotionals for each verse
Be Find A Word - puzzle

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11.  Jesus Was More Than A Teacher

Many know the familiar John 3:16, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."  Let's look back at the setting of that verse.

"1  There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:
2  The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.
3  Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
4  Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?
5  Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
6  That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
7  Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again."  (John 3:1-7)

In verse 2 we see that Nicodemus admitted that Jesus was a "teacher come from God" but Jesus explained that He was more than just a teacher.  He was the "only begotten Son" who gave His life to save us from sin.  I saw a list of entertainers, actors, and people in sports who believe in God.  Some of the people confessed that Jesus was their Savior and they looked to Him for direction in their lives.  But some of the quotes were simple statements that they believe in God.  Jesus said, "Ye must be born again."  Some are like Nicodemus and believe that Jesus was a good teacher.  And there are many religions that believe that there is a god.  But, there is only one way to have the assurance of salvation and eternal life in heaven.  We read in John 14:6, "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." Have you asked Jesus to be your Lord and Savior?

"For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;"  (Romans 3:23)
"For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."  (Romans 6:23)
"That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.  For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation... For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved."  (Romans 10:9, 10, & 13)

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12.  Wisdom Is The Main Thing

When we had a house full of teenagers, I was glad that they would come and talk to us.  It was usually just after we had gone to bed, and they would come and sit in a chair by the bed, or lay across the foot of the bed and get us in these long discussions about things that happened that day, or something they learned in school, or problems they needed help with.  I can still hear one of them say, "Now, here's the thing..."  Well, I can almost hear King Solomon tell his sons this in Proverbs 4:7, "Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding."  That's good advice.  Not just for those going back to school, but for all of us.  I had not been around babies when we had our first child.  I did not even know how to change a diaper.  We had to use cloth diapers and I was so afraid I would stick him with the pins.  I realized that I needed to know more than how to feed and clothe him.  I needed to know how to bring him up with spiritual values and teach him the things of God.  I knew I lacked wisdom but I also knew that in James 1:5 the Bible says, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him" so I prayed for wisdom.  I think I prayed for wisdom everyday.  Now my prayer is that my children will seek after the things of God and find knowledge and wisdom.  Because wisdom is the main thing.

"1  My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee;
2  So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding;
3  Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding;
4  If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures;
5  Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God.
6  For the LORD giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding." Proverbs 2:1-6 

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13.  Can You Go Back Home Again?

I never read the book by Thomas Wolfe, "You Can't Go Home Again", published posthumously in 1940, but I think we did discuss the idea in one of my high school social studies classes.  In this devotional series we have been talking about going back to school, and today I want to expand our theme and begin looking at some people in the Bible who went back... back home, back to God, and even the thought of backsliding away from God.  Let's look at these words of Jesus found in Luke 15:1-24

"11  And he said, A certain man had two sons:
12  And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living.
13  And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.
14  And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.
15  And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.
16  And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.
17  And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!
18  I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,
19  And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.
20  And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.
21  And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.
22  But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:
23  And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:
24  For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry."

The Father had compassion and rejoiced to see that his son returned back home.  If you continue with the story you will find that the older brother was angry.  The sad part of the story is that he focused his anger toward the Father for welcoming his brother back home.  (verses 28-29)  Our heavenly Father wants us to come back to Him when we stray away.  But that is not always the case with our earthly friends and families.  Some may rejoice and be glad to see us, but others may show feelings of anger if they were hurt that we left.  Many times in our society the roles have been reversed and it was a parent who left.  I have seen stories about people who had been adopted and they were glad to find their birth parents.  But I have also seen examples where children were so hurt by parents who left them when they were young, they kept that anger deep within all their lives.  Can you go back home again?  If you have strayed away from God, let me assure you that you can turn back to Him.  He will welcome you with open arms.

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14.  Three Women Who Went Back

When I think about people that went back home I quickly think about Naomi.  She and her husband, Elimelech went from Bethlehemjudah (which means "house of bread") to Moab (which is called "washpot" in Psalms 60:8) during a time of famine.  Their two sons married Ruth and Orpah.  Elimelech and the two sons died, and Naomi decided to go back home and she kissed her daughters-in-law goodbye.  After hearing a sermon recently by Pastor Jack Tripp, I realized that Naomi wasn't the only one who went back. 

"14  And they lifted up their voice, and wept again: and Orpah kissed her mother in law; but Ruth clave unto her.
15  And she said, Behold, thy sister in law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods: return thou after thy sister in law."  (Ruth 1:14-15)

First, let's looks at Orpah.  She went back to her people and her gods.  Maybe she never came to know the God whom Naomi served.  Her life with this Israelite family was temporary.  There are some who marry into a Christian family or try to be part of a Christian church or group, but they never really come to know God.  If they don't accept the Lord's gift of salvation it will be hard for them to stay with the true followers of God.  They may go back to their old life style and old friends.

Now, we see Naomi.  Her name meant "pleasant" but after living in a foreign land she was a changed person.  She went back so broken and down hearted her people hardly knew who she was.

"19  So they two went until they came to Bethlehem. And it came to pass, when they were come to Bethlehem, that all the city was moved about them, and they said, Is this Naomi?
20  And she said unto them, Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me.
21  I went out full, and the LORD hath brought me home again empty: why then call ye me Naomi, seeing the LORD hath testified against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted me?"  (Ruth 2:19-21)

Finally we come to Ruth.  She had seen something in Naomi and her God that made her stay with Naomi.  Though her trials had left her feeling empty, the influence Naomi had on Ruth was strong and good.  Look at the kind words of Ruth and hear the love she has for Naomi and the trust she has found in her God.

"16  And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God:
17  Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me."  (Ruth 1:16-17)

The little book of Ruth has a very happy ending.  Boaz was the kinsman redeemer and he and Ruth had a son named Obed, who was the grandfather of King David.  (Ruth 4:17) 

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15.  Only One Went Back To Say, "Thank You"

In just a few more days we will be leaving August behind with the steamy days of summer and welcoming September and the cooler weather.  The falling leaves and crisp air always reminds me of Thanksgiving.  I can see it already in the brown corn stalks standing in my small garden.  Thanksgiving was always special in our home when I was growing up.  It was my Dad's favorite day of the year and he insisted on having Thanksgiving lunch at home.  My sisters and I would watch the parades on television, between helping peel potatoes, breaking up bread for stuffing, or whatever help Mom needed.  I can almost smell the turkey in the oven just thinking about it.  The older I get, the more I have to be thankful for, and the more I understand Dad's special feelings for Thanksgiving.  I am blessed!  God has been so good to me.  Since the first day of January this year I began each entry of my devotional journal giving God thanks for something.  On some days it was something big in my life, like helping me avoid an accident on the road.  There were many days that I was reminded to give Him thanks for something I usually take for granted, like hot water for a shower on a cold day.  Big or small, God has blessed me and I have had something to thank Him for everyday.  Taking time to write these things down each day has made me more thankful and appreciative of God's love and care for me.  We serve such a mighty, awesome God you might think, "Does God even notice whether we give thanks or not?"  Yes, He does.  We see this in Luke 17:11-19.

"11  And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee.
12  And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off:
13  And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.
14  And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed.
15  And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God,
16  And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan.
17  And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?
18  There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.
19  And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole."

Only one in ten went back to give thanks.  I want to be that one!  Don't wait for a Thursday in November to give God thanks.  Serve the Lord everyday with an attitude of gratitude.

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16.  Back To Bethel

Jacob cheated Esau out of his birthright and also his blessing, and had to flee for his life.  As the sun set he placed stones for a pillow and went to sleep. 

"12  And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.
13  And, behold, the LORD stood above it, and said, I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed;
14  And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.
15  And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.
16  And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not.
17  And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.
18  And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it.
19  And he called the name of that place Bethel: but the name of that city was called Luz at the first."  (Genesis 28:12-19)

Jacob served Laban for twenty years and then God spoke to Jacob and told him to go back to Bethel. 

"1  And God said unto Jacob, Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there: and make there an altar unto God, that appeared unto thee when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy brother.
2  Then Jacob said unto his household, and to all that were with him, Put away the strange gods that are among you, and be clean, and change your garments:
3  And let us arise, and go up to Bethel; and I will make there an altar unto God, who answered me in the day of my distress, and was with me in the way which I went."  (Genesis 35:1-3)

"9  And God appeared unto Jacob again, when he came out of Padanaram, and blessed him.
10  And God said unto him, Thy name is Jacob: thy name shall not be called any more Jacob, but Israel shall be thy name: and he called his name Israel.
11  And God said unto him, I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins;
12  And the land which I gave Abraham and Isaac, to thee I will give it, and to thy seed after thee will I give the land.
13  And God went up from him in the place where he talked with him.
14  And Jacob set up a pillar in the place where he talked with him, even a pillar of stone: and he poured a drink offering thereon, and he poured oil thereon.
15  And Jacob called the name of the place where God spake with him, Bethel."  (Genesis 35:9-15)

Jacob lived a life full of trouble, but when he went back to where he met God, God blessed Him.  We have troubles in our lives.  The world can knock us off our feet.  But we can find help from the Lord when we go back to Bethel, or our place of worship.  Has life got you down?  Look up.  God is in heaven waiting for you to come back to Him.  Put away all the idols that have come between you and the Lord.  Go back in your mind to where you first met the Lord, your own special "gate of heaven" where you accepted the Lord as your Savior.  As Jacob's family changed their garments, put away your filthy rags and be clothed in the righteousness of the Lord.  Today is the Lord's day.  What a great day to go "Back To Bethel."

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17.  Lot's Wife Looked Back

I used to wonder why the angel told Lot and his family not to look back on Sodom and Gomorrah and why Lot's wife turned into a pillar of salt when she did.  I did not understand why it would have been so bad to look at God's destruction on the wicked cities.  I have found that as I spend more time reading God's Word, He opens my eyes of understanding and shows me more from His Word.  We see in Genesis that Lot and his family lingered and the angels had to practically pull them from the oncoming destruction of God's judgment.

"12  And the men said unto Lot, Hast thou here any besides? son in law, and thy sons, and thy daughters, and whatsoever thou hast in the city, bring them out of this place:
13  For we will destroy this place, because the cry of them is waxen great before the face of the LORD; and the LORD hath sent us to destroy it.
14  And Lot went out, and spake unto his sons in law, which married his daughters, and said, Up, get you out of this place; for the LORD will destroy this city. But he seemed as one that mocked unto his sons in law.
15  And when the morning arose, then the angels hastened Lot, saying, Arise, take thy wife, and thy two daughters, which are here; lest thou be consumed in the iniquity of the city.
16  And while he lingered, the men laid hold upon his hand, and upon the hand of his wife, and upon the hand of his two daughters; the LORD being merciful unto him: and they brought him forth, and set him without the city.
17  And it came to pass, when they had brought them forth abroad, that he said, Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed."  (Genesis 19:12-17)

God told Lot to hurry and leave the sinful place and not take time to even look back.  When we are saved the Lord wants us to leave our sins behind and put our trust in Him and follow in the new path He has prepared for us.  I believe that God is telling us not to look back, or dwell, in the past.  I have heard preachers tell about their sinful lives before they were saved, in a way that almost sounded like they missed the old life.  I would rather hear what God is doing in the lives of His children after they are saved, than hear people dwell on the sins of their past.  Many times it is hard to leave our old lives behind and become a new creature in Christ.  Let's continue with the story of Lot.

"24  Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven;
25  And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground.
26  But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt."  (Genesis 19:24-26)

As Lot and part of his family escaped, his wife looked back.  She looked back to the home and possessions she was leaving behind.  She looked back to the way of life to which she was accustomed.  Maybe, most of all, she looked back to the daughters and family she was leaving behind.  We can learn more about this when we read the words of our Lord in Luke 17:28-33.

"28  Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded;
29  But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all.
30  Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed.
31  In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back.
32  Remember Lot's wife.
33  Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it."

The people of Sodom were living day by day, not looking for God's judgment on their sin.  Many people who are living in sin today don't believe in a God of judgment.  It is so important for Christians to live a separated life and point others to Christ.  Lot tried to warn his family, "But he seemed as one that mocked unto his sons in law."  He had become a part of the wicked city and had lost his testimony.  God calls us to go forward on the good path, and not look back on the things of the past.  "And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God."  (Luke 9:62)  Let's keep on moving ahead for the Lord.

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18.  "Many Of His Disciples Went Back, And Walked No More With Him"

The sixth chapter of John opens with Jesus feeding the 5,000 men (plus women and children) with five barley loaves and two small fish.  The next day the people went across the sea searching for Jesus. "Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled." (John 6:26)  Jesus then began to tell them that He was the Bread of Life.

"32  Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven.
33  For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.
34  Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread.
35  And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.
36  But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not.
37  All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.
38  For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me." (John 6:32-38)

Many of His followers did not want the Bread of Life.  They only wanted what would help fill them in the "here and now", the loaves and fishes.

"66  From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.
67  Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?
68  Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.
69  And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God."  (John 6:66-69)

Have things changed much in 2,000 years?  Multitudes may pray to Jesus for healing and things to satisfy their wants, but how many turn their back on the Bread of Life, the living Word of God?

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19.  When The Sun Went Backward

Man is intrigued with time travel.  There are many stories and movies about someone inventing a time machine and going backward or forward in time.  These are all just imaginative stories that could not be true.  But, there was a time during the days of the prophet Isaiah when the sun went backward 10 degrees.  I don't know how much time was gained that day.  We don't know how the increments were marked on the sun dial and without that information there is no way to be sure.  There are many miracles recorded in the Bible, but most of them took place during three periods of time.  The plagues on Egypt and other miracles during the days of Moses and Joshua.  In fact, time stood still for almost a whole day in Joshua 10:13.  There were also miracles performed by the prophets, Elijah, Elisha, and Isaiah.  And there there were many miracles by Jesus and His followers.  God still answers prayer, and we see miracles of healing and needs supplied even in our day, but we don't see the grand scale of miracles as did the men and women in the Bible when the Red Sea stood on end for thousands to pass through on dry ground, when the walls of Jericho fell down flat, and when thousands were fed with just two little fish and five loaves of bread.  We may not see time go backward, but God's Word tells us in the book of Revelation that there will be even greater miracles to come, and when the Lord reigns as King of Kings time will be no more.

"1  In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz came to him, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live.
2  Then he turned his face to the wall, and prayed unto the LORD, saying,
3  I beseech thee, O LORD, remember now how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore.
4  And it came to pass, afore Isaiah was gone out into the middle court, that the word of the LORD came to him, saying,
5  Turn again, and tell Hezekiah the captain of my people, Thus saith the LORD, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal thee: on the third day thou shalt go up unto the house of the LORD.
6  And I will add unto thy days fifteen years; and I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for mine own sake, and for my servant David's sake.
7  And Isaiah said, Take a lump of figs. And they took and laid it on the boil, and he recovered.
8  And Hezekiah said unto Isaiah, What shall be the sign that the LORD will heal me, and that I shall go up into the house of the LORD the third day?
9  And Isaiah said, This sign shalt thou have of the LORD, that the LORD will do the thing that he hath spoken: shall the shadow go forward ten degrees, or go back ten degrees?
10  And Hezekiah answered, It is a light thing for the shadow to go down ten degrees: nay, but let the shadow return backward ten degrees.
11  And Isaiah the prophet cried unto the LORD: and he brought the shadow ten degrees backward, by which it had gone down in the dial of Ahaz."  (II Kings 20:1-11)

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20.  We Need Some To Go Back And Take Their Place

I was raised in a good Christian home where my Mom and Dad always took us to church.  I was blessed to be born in a Christian community where I heard God's Word preached in churches, camp meetings, on street corners, under tents, and in prayer meetings in the homes of dear friends.  So, I have heard some good "old timey" preachers in my time.  I could name many that were well known who have gone on to glory.  Today we are looking at the time when Elijah went to heaven in a chariot of fire and Elisha was to follow in his footsteps and he asked "Where is the LORD God of Elijah?" as he went back and became the prophet to take Elijah's place.  Today I want to ask, "Where are the Elijah's of the Lord God?"  As the older generation of preachers pass on we need the next generation to pick up the mantles left behind and come back preaching the Word of God.  I am thankful for the Youth Jubilee we have in July each year.  It is a great opportunity for the youth to not only see the Lord work, but be a part of the Lord's work.  Young preachers are encouraged during their week here, and hopefully inspired to go back home and become the next generation to carry on.

"1  And it came to pass, when the LORD would take up Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal.
2  And Elijah said unto Elisha, Tarry here, I pray thee; for the LORD hath sent me to Bethel. And Elisha said unto him, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So they went down to Bethel.
3  And the sons of the prophets that were at Bethel came forth to Elisha, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the LORD will take away thy master from thy head to day? And he said, Yea, I know it; hold ye your peace.
4  And Elijah said unto him, Elisha, tarry here, I pray thee; for the LORD hath sent me to Jericho. And he said, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So they came to Jericho.
5  And the sons of the prophets that were at Jericho came to Elisha, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the LORD will take away thy master from thy head to day? And he answered, Yea, I know it; hold ye your peace.
6  And Elijah said unto him, Tarry, I pray thee, here; for the LORD hath sent me to Jordan. And he said, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. And they two went on.
7  And fifty men of the sons of the prophets went, and stood to view afar off: and they two stood by Jordan.
8  And Elijah took his mantle, and wrapped it together, and smote the waters, and they were divided hither and thither, so that they two went over on dry ground.
9  And it came to pass, when they were gone over, that Elijah said unto Elisha, Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee. And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me.
10  And he said, Thou hast asked a hard thing: nevertheless, if thou see me when I am taken from thee, it shall be so unto thee; but if not, it shall not be so.
11  And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.
12  And Elisha saw it, and he cried, My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof. And he saw him no more: and he took hold of his own clothes, and rent them in two pieces.
13  He took up also the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and went back, and stood by the bank of Jordan;
14  And he took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and smote the waters, and said, Where is the LORD God of Elijah? and when he also had smitten the waters, they parted hither and thither: and Elisha went over.
15  And when the sons of the prophets which were to view at Jericho saw him, they said, The spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha. And they came to meet him, and bowed themselves to the ground before him."  (II Kings 2:1-15)

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21.  If You Can't Sense The Presence Of The Lord, Go Back Where You Left Him

I have had nightmares where I lost one of my children and I woke up in a panic, relieved that it was just a bad dream.  When Mary and Joseph returned home from Jerusalem with twelve year old Jesus they traveled a day's journey and did not realize that He was not with them.  They searched for Jesus for three days before they found Him in the temple.  Our thought today is simple.  Sometimes we can't sense the Lord's presence.  It may be that our troubles and trials have burdened us so much we can't see through the dark clouds.  Other times sin may darken our lives so much we can't see the Light.  When Job was going through his bitter trial he sought the Lord.  "Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him:  On the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him: he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him:"  (Job 23:8-9)   This is the only story we have of Jesus as a boy.  Just as Mary and Joseph found Jesus in the temple, we can go back to our place of worship and find the Lord, even when the light is dim and we cannot see the way.  Keep the faith like Job, who went on to say in the next verse, "But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold."  (Job 23:10)

"41  Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover.
42  And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast.
43  And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it.
44  But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day's journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance.
45  And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him.
46  And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.
47  And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.
48  And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.
49  And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?
50  And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them.
51  And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart.
52  And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man."  (Luke 2:41-52)

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22.  When We Turn Our Back On God

My final entry in our "Back To School" theme is a sad one for me to write.  In the book of Jeremiah the Lord pleads with His people to leave their sinful living behind and return to Him.  But, sadly He says, "And they have turned unto me the back, and not the face: though I taught them, rising up early and teaching them, yet they have not hearkened to receive instruction."  (Jeremiah 32:33)  When I see verses like this, where God sent His prophets to remind His children of how He had led them, and cared for them, and fought their battles for them to give them a good land, I think of my own country.  God blessed America.  And there are many who still say, "God bless America."  When I think of how our nation has turned its back on God, I pray that God will send revival to His people, and pray God will send conviction to the lost, but I can't pray to God to bless America.  When God told Amos how He was going to destroy His people Amos pleaded with God, saying, "O Lord GOD, forgive, I beseech thee: by whom shall Jacob arise? for he is small."  (Amos 7:2).  Then God showed Amos just how far Israel and Judah had strayed.  "Thus he shewed me: and, behold, the Lord stood upon a wall made by a plumbline, with a plumbline in his hand.  And the LORD said unto me, Amos, what seest thou? And I said, A plumbline. Then said the Lord, Behold, I will set a plumbline in the midst of my people Israel: I will not again pass by them any more:"  (Amos 7:2-3)  A plumbline is a string with a heavy object on the bottom end.  The law of gravity holds the plumbline straight.  After Amos saw how far his people had gone away from God's law, he saw it the way God saw it.  When we look into God's Word, our Holy Bible, we can see just how far our country has strayed away from God.  Our people have turned their backs on God, and God will surely judge America.  We need to fall on our knees and pray for our country.  We need to pray that God will give us leaders who will seek the Lord for guidance.  After God told Jeremiah that His people had turned their backs to Him, He then gives one of the greatest invitations that we find in God's Word.  "Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not."  (Jeremiah 33:3)  Also in Revelation 3:19-20 the Lord speaks to His church. "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.  Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me."  If we want healing in our land, we must turn back to God.

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