Tuesday, November 15, 2016

A Nation Divided

Let's face it; our nation is more divided than ever.  Races divided claim that each side is bigoted and exercising special privilege.  We hear sexism rants particularly from women who believe their path up the corporate ladder is thwarted by men who receive undue favor.  Men treat women and speak of women in demeaning ways.  Police are opposed in the neighborhoods and it is considered OK to resist arrest and expect no consequences.  Politics divide people all types of ways; guns, schools, right to life, same sex marriage, transgender identity, public programs and more.  The distance between us grows and grows.  But God divides our nation based on only one distinction; are you redeemed or not?

We have a lot more in common than we care to admit.  While God made each one of us unique and equipped us with a mind and special abilities to be used to benefit ourselves, our community and to glorify Him, we also have a sin nature that joins us together.  We all have within us the seeds of sin that can and do manifest themselves.  No matter how hard we try, we cannot shake this demon nature of ours and for that reason God sent the world a Savior named Jesus Christ.

When we look at our divisions, we more often than not are holding ourselves above another viewpoint claiming superior intellect and moral rightness.  Many of the divisions aren't issues for God at all.  God made all races and his son died for everyone who will accept the free gift of salvation.  God made the sexes man and woman each with their own characteristics and designed to work together functioning in marriage as one unit.  God formed the child in its mothers womb and loves that child even before it breathes its first breath.  It is only God who can claim moral rightness, our place is to fall in line with His declarations or stand against them.

We all like to believe that we are worthy of God, but in fact the Bible tells us that each of us has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  It tells us if we have sinned even just once we have made ourselves a reproach to God and unable to redeem ourselves no matter how much good we may do moving forward.  We are all deplorable sinners without any hope at all - until Jesus paid the price for our sin, we were all doomed to eternity away from God.  Now that Jesus has bridged the gap between men and God we do have a great hope for our nation.  We can all enjoy fellowship with God and have His Spirit reside in us if we will but admit our sin and agree with God that we have offended His laws, His plans and His purposes.  We can acknowledge that the only one who was perfect before God was Jesus alone and believe that His death and resurrection are sufficient to pay the price for our failures.  We can ask God to come inside us and clean house; chipping away at our character flaws and replacing our own nature with His.  Then we can receive that redemption promised.

With our nation divided it is clear more than ever that we need Jesus.  Some very passionate people hold views that are against God and may be standing on the edge of eternity without any hope.  Now more than ever the redeemed need to extend a hand of fellowship to those who are unsaved and offer them both friendship and encouragement.  There is a choice still to be made even though the president is selected - that choice is who will be King of your life?  Will we drift through life seeking our own will and pleasures or will we seek God's will and find eternal joy?  Our nation is divided, but we can be united once again; but only in Christ will we find true unity.

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him!

Monday, September 12, 2016

1 Samuel 18 - Serving Difficult Leaders

Have you ever found yourself doing a job for someone who had no appreciation for your contribution?  Has a boss expressed personal disdain for you making service difficult?   If so, you can identify with David in his service to King Saul. 

Saul became jealous of David after he killed Goliath the Philistine. David had become the nation's hero and it was clear God's favor and His spirit was upon David. Saul knew his reign was over but refused to relinquish authority under Samuel. He became paranoid about who would take his power from him and evil spirits plagued him. It was difficult for David to soothe Saul with the harp when he was seen as no threat; now David was seen by the king as an enemy. 

Note two traits David exhibited in his service to God under Saul's leadership:

1.  He did not become swayed by praise. As he returns to the palace with Saul, the women sing a tune giving credit to Saul for slaying thousands and to David for slaying tens of thousands, (1 Samuel 18:7). David did not let this praise go to his head. David had already been anointed King by Samuel, but he was content to wait for God's timing to assume his position as King. David knew that God's praise was more important than the people's. David simply continued to serve to the best of his ability. 

2.  David did not let Saul's hostility defeat him. David did not depend upon kind words or affirmations for his service.  God would reward him in due time if he conducted himself well. He didn't storm out of the kings palace and go his way. He continued in faithful service even as his work was despised by the King. What a difficult place to be, yet sometimes God may even call us to serve in difficult circumstances so that He may receive greater glory. 

Notice that God sends several special blessings in David's life. He is promoted (verse 5) and he has the companionship and deep affection of both Jonathan and Michal, Saul's son and daughter. Having good friends to support you as you face difficulty is a true blessing from God. Jonathan feels one in spirit with David not just brotherly love but a common service to God. So strong was the bond between them that they forged a covenant between them to watch over one another. Friendships like this are rare and should be treasured. 

While Saul did not work to David's best interest, David did not use this as an excuse to return animosity or to avoid the King. He continued to serve Saul with all his might and trusted the Lord for his protection. 

If you have been called to a place of difficult service, guard your mind that you do not become discouraged but commit yourself to serve the Lord well wherever he has placed you. Our reward is from the Lord and not from men. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

1 Samuel 17 - David or His Brothers

This is a familiar story from scripture that we have heard since our youth. The story of how David defeats Goliath. As I read through the story anew, I see there are applications for our faith and our stewardship that we can apply if we dare take the challenge. 

David is very busy running between his father's house caring for the flocks and Saul's palace soothing his tormented soul with the harp playing. His brothers join the Israelite army poised to defend against the threat of the Philistines. One of the characteristics of the nation Israel was that they were far too content to live peaceably among their enemies. They didn't attempt to confront generally unless they had a leader who was led by the spirit and emboldened by God to defeat surrounding enemies. 

In this case, the battle comes to Israel and the armies are assembled to play defense against a stronger force than themselves. Saul no longer had the advice of Samuel available to him and God's spirit had left him. Saul definitely was facing a losing battle. His men knew it too because as Goliath taunted, the three oldest brothers of David backed away in fear.  This did not look good. No human way possible to get out of this battle alive. 

David was told by his father to take provisions for his brothers to the front line and return word of their welfare to his father. David being a young boy would not be seen as a threat and would be granted access to the front. David overhears the taunts and is stirred in his heart. How could the men of Israel allow such offense, why would they not stand against such vulgarity?  David's brothers attempt to discourage him and even display a bit of disdain at David's arrogance that he would go up before Goliath as Israel's champion. 

David displays great faith and courage to confront the enemy who was clearly stronger, more experienced and better equipped than David. David didn't just abandon his skill and reason, but he applied them in faith depending on God to deliver both him and the nation from the threat of the enemy Philistines. David had been prepared for this battle by his prior experience with defending the flocks. Now the army stood in the place of sheep and David would be their shepherd. 

David give his purpose for going against Goliath. It isn't to secure their way of life or to win a victory to bolster his sense of self. His purpose is clear in verse 47, "All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord's, and he will give all of you into our hands."  God would receive the glory and it would bolster the faith of his own people and would stand as a lesson to those who opposed God and his people. No one would have to wonder about the reality of Gods existence or the power He had to overcome any threat. 

When David wins the victory against Goliath, the army is encouraged that God is on their side and they pursue the wnemy with great vigor and defeat them thoroughly. 

As I read this story, I see that we have a choice as we face overwhelming circumstances in our own lives. We can choose to be like David and use our thinking, our skill and our faith to confront the enemy head on and win a great victory for God. With our focus on the only one who can save against the trials we face hear and deliver us from our own sin and the sinful state we live in, we can do more than any human effort can accomplish. If God is for us, who can stand against us?  

Alternatively, we can be like David's brothers and the rest of the army, living in fear because of the great threat to their security and never turning to God for their help. We Christians belong to God, but often when confronted with a trial,  we act as if we are defeated already; knowing our own strength is insufficient. If we only engage in the battles we can win in our own strength, we never are elevated to see God's hand at work. We never can say that the battle is the Lord's because we never give it to Him. 

David did encourage the army to step out in faith because of the victory that God gave over Goliath. As a David in this world, we encourage other believers to trust in God even more than they have. But we must not give into the doubts about God's loving care for us. 

In our financial lives we live out our faith in God as out provider. Do you have an overwhelming debt or expenses way beyond your ability to overcome?  Turn to God for the battle is the Lord's and He is more than able to supply your needs. Don't turn off your intellect and skill however. God may use that even in giving you deliverance. Our skills have been developed by God through the past trials we have faced. Now is the moment hat God may show the world that He is very real and more than able to overcome any challenge. 

If you have in the past been timid in your faith like the Israelite army, take courage from the example of David and move in faith, bringing your trial to the Lord. Pray for his help and then act in the next right thing to do. 

This story gives us a reminder of the great God we serve and should strengthen us as we face conflict and trials. I hope you will take the challenge to stand for God in a world that has disdain and even hatred for God. We are his people and we are not forgotten. Our Lord reminds us that He I'll never leave us or forsake us. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

1 Samuel 16 - King or Servant

Saul has been deposed by God and is no longer God's chosen. Yet, he clings to his title even though the Spirit of God has left him and an evil spirit torments him. So strong is the power of the world over our souls. Even Samuel fears for his life if Saul knows of a new king being appointed. 

David is consecrated as King of Israel, yet does not boldly take the position from Saul, but joins his palace as a servant to soothe Saul when the evil spirits torment. 
David might have questioned God's plan. Did God really appoint him King?  How would this take place given that the former King still lives and claims authority?  

God ordered David's steps to place him in service to the King even as He he was ordering David's reign over Israel. Young David had a first hand view of Saul's operations to learn the good and the bad; the strengths and weaknesses.   He was planted inside Saul's domain to serve the one he had already deposed. When Jesus came here to earth, he was God made flesh, our King and our Lord, yet he took upon himself the form of a servant and humbled himself even unto death for our redemption. David is a living prototype of Jesus for the people of his day, demonstrating that greatness comes in humble service where God has placed you. 

When God orders our own careers, He doesn't remove all barriers to our success, but He may choose to place us right in the midst of the barriers so that we can learn and grow from them. It may have seemed odd to David that he would be placed into servitude even as he was appointed King, but God was there in the midst writing David's story; and so He is with us. Day by day, God writes the story of our lives keeping us in His care as we navigate the mire of life. 

One thing we can rest in is this. God has said, "For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future"  (Jer 29:11).   This message from God was given to His people years after David while they were in captivity. Yet God had not forgotten them as He had not forgotten David. And so it is for us that if we are of Christ, we are chosen out of this world to serve a Master the world cannot understand. He works through our obstacles to demonstrate His faithfulness so that the world around might see and believe and so that we might grow stronger in our own faith. 

Have you been commissioned by God to some purpose?  Know that God has ordered today just for you - to increase your skill and wisdom and to grow your faith in the one who provides everything we need for service. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

1 Samuel 15 - Removed from Service

God is over all, He sees all and He alone can raise up or remove people in authority. Saul as King over Israel had received a word from God to utterly destroy the enemy. Saul did most of what God commanded, but failed to destroy the enemy King and the choice animals of the flocks. God is grieved that He allowed Saul to become king, since he has twisted God's commands for his own pleasure. Furthermore Saul set up a monument not for God's glory, but for his own. 

God has all authority to raise up whom He deems fit for service and to remove authority from those who do not honor God. As I look at world leaders today, there are few anyone could call great. Leaders who look to God and who stand for right in a fallen world. But each of those leaders received their authority from God to rule their lands. God looks for them to govern justly and to bless their people. When they fail, God, the righteous judge, may remove them or He may reserve His judgement for a later date. In any case, we can be assured that God sees all. 

For as long as we have kings, presidents and rulers in our land, flawed people will hold positions of authority. As our world slides more and more to degradation, the leaders follow that same course until the day of the Lord's return. God's judgment is upon them. 

There is another lesson we can apply to our own lives. 90% obedience is the same as disobedience. We have to decide in our own minds that we will follow God full on. There should be no shadow of doubt or wavering. Yet we do waver and fall. God has provided us a means of forgiveness and restitution in our Savior Jesus Christ. This is not a license to sin, but a remedy should we  fail in our obedience. 

Our leaders come from sinful stock as do the people they lead. Our only hope is found in Christ. In the case of Saul the Lord appointed a new leader and returned Saul to his humble beginnings. 

When we acknowledge that God is the source of our position, our wealth and our power, we have a different perspective about how each should be used. God looks for our gratitude and obedience. Let's commit to live full on for the Lord and thank Him for His generous provision. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Monday, August 15, 2016

1 Samuel 14 - Following the Master

This chapter details an interesting battle where Jonathan, Sauls son gains victory (with God's favor) over the Philistines and ends up out if favor with his father, King Saul. This chapter is a wonderful depiction of a man who seeks and follows the Lord even though he stands alone. Jonathan and his armor bearer scouted out the enemy and determined they would follow the signs to determine if they should engage in battle. His father Saul continued sitting in his position of safety. The sign was given by God to Jonathan and there was a great victory as he killed 20 Philistines. God killed even more as confusion descended on the camp and the Philistines slaughtered each other. 

Saul after learning of the battle seeks direction of God through the priest. He surely knew that he should engage the enemy, and take the land. God had done the fighting for him. Saul then declares a fast among his army to the point they were faint from hunger. Jonathan didn't know of the fast and ate honey along the way. 

After Saul builds an altar and inquires of God what to do next, he gets no reply from God. He assumes it is because someone broke the command of the  King. Upon learning it was Jonathan who broke the command he was willing to slay his own son except that the army stepped in to save Jonathan. 

Jonathan stepped out in faith and won a victory in God's power for the nation that was feeling defeated indeed.  Saul was the King but used his power to his own advantage rather than seeking the good of his people. Saul was a powerful man, but a coward. Jonathan became a hero though it meant standing in opposition to his father. 

I am so glad that the Lord records these stories of overcoming impossible situations and operating in faith. When we look at our own circumstances we may see conflict and opposition, but we can trust that we serve the God of Jonathan who is able to overcome. Note that in the operation of faith, he was not exempt from battle or conflict, but IN the conflict, God intervened to give a victory. 

Where is your conflict today?  Is it a need for finances, health, success, or unity?  God is able to supply our needs according to His riches in glory.  We must be careful to place our trust in Him and not in our own devices. We also must be careful to use our devices for God's glory as Jonathan did. We may see conflict arise because we have not gone the way of the masses. We may even see earthly leadership opposition. We don't seek out the opposition, but with the armor God provides we stand in the midst of conflict allowing God to get the glory. 

Jonathan gave a model we can follow. Seek God's plan, act on it, and stand firm. God gets they glory and we see God's  hand at work for His people.

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

1 Samuel 13 - Fatal Error of the King

As we are positioned to choose our next president in 2016, I am reminded by this chapter that the Lord sets people in positions of power, but if they will not honor Him from that position, God may remove them and place another in that role. Our own places have been given to us by God and if we will honor Him, He will remember us as well. 

Let's take a moment to consider Saul's situation. He was confident on his ability to go to war with the Philistines - didn't ask for the Lord's help in battle there. But when he saw the size of the Philistine army coming against them, his men fled and hid themselves for safety. They were quaking in fear. It was then that it seemed right to offer a burnt offering asking for the Lord's favor. 

Since Samuel the priest wasn't there, Saul decided to take matters into his own hands. Just as the offering was made, Samuel arrived. Saul's excuses held no weight with Samuel or with God. Saul's days were up as King and God would replace him. Sails army was down to 600 men and the Philistines had military and economic victory over Israel. 

Today our own nation stands in great jeopardy with threats internal and external. We have turned away from marriage, discarded our unborn, disenfranchised fathers, attacked our own people for their philosophies, their skin, and their jobs. We have embraced lawlessness and turned from God's call to obedience. We have external threats from terrorists and from enemy nations. We are in grave danger. We need a leader who is a man after God's own heart. If one is not elected we can be sure that God himself will call that leader to task for this nation just as He will the other nations of the world. 

We ourselves need to be pledging our alliegience to God and recognizing that we have sinned and are in great need of the salvation only God can provide. As for us individually we need to be seeking God in prayer and yielding to His direction for our lives. We have no other hope. The moral compass has gone from our nation and we are utterly devastated by the sins we have committed. May God intervene and quick. 

This chapter ends on a sad note with the nation disarmed and vulnerable, yet God still had a future plan for Israel, and He has a plan for you too if you will turn to Hom and make God your passion. Consider 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NKJV) 14 "if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land."

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Monday, June 20, 2016

1 Samuel 12 - Worthless Idols

Samuel in his parting word to the nation of Israel reminds them of how the Lord has preserved the nation time after time in spite of its failures. He reminds the nation that even now, they have chosen a king like the nations around them instead of being content to have God Himself as their King. He pleads with them to serve the Lord and not follow after idols as the other nations do. 

God has chosen his people and will guard them. But when the people turn away from God and follow after pagan pleasures and worship idols with no power, then the Lord must also turn away from the country. Samuel warns that if the nation persists in doing evil then both they and their king will be swept away. 

Open the pages of any newspaper and you see how evil is all around in our own nation. Much of it brought about by the rejection of God and the pursuit of selfish pleasure. Our nation has been sliding away from God and He has allowed the evil we have pursued to run its course. The enemy cheers when the nation runs amok. 

One compromise after another. Each going deeper than the last until we are so enveloped in empty pursuits there is no hope left. Our idolatry can take a number of forms. It may be idle time spent in from of television or Internet. I may be games, vacations, pursuit of riches or fame. It may be drink or entertainment, but all lead to the same end if we allow these pursuits to replace our passion for God. They are empty and worthless. 

It is wise to consider our passions and be careful to serve the Lord. Our passions which being temporary pleasure can be the very things that bind us and enslave if we do not guard our hearts. I would venture that many of the wicked players of our day began with a single compromise - a choice they believed was just momentary. Before long one choice leads to another. Wrong thinking begets more wrong thinking. Bad acting leads to even more. 

As stewards of the resources entrusted by God, we should be careful to not waste them on our temporary pleasure but to use them for our needs and to build a strong testimony for the Lord. We live in days that are evil. God would be right to sweep away the people and the king, but so far he has not. The Christians of this land stand in the gap pleading with the nation to return to God and find redemption. 

Let's not confuse temporary pleasure with eternal purpose. God has placed you where you are to serve Him and to encourage others to place their trust in Him. As the days grow darker, Christ's people shine brighter. Shine for the Lord and stand out so that people may turn from evil and find the Lord and enjoy forgiveness. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Monday, June 13, 2016

1 Samuel 11 - Save Us!

After living in compromise for years the people of Jabesh Gilead find themselves overpowered by a ruthless enemy. In an effort to negotiate with the enemy they offer a treaty to become slaves, but the enemy requires their bodies to be mutilated. The men from Jabesh-Gilead ask for 7 days to consider the terms of surrender. 

If ever there was a people in need of a savior, it was them.  Nahash is a picture of our own enemy, sin. Far too often we compromise and allow sin to coexist in our lives and don't stand against it. The Israelites were willing to become slaves to Nahash and serve him all their days. But Nahash, like sin, takes them a little deeper than they ever wanted to go. He wanted to maim them and leave a visible testimony of his mastery over them. 

The people send word to Saul who gathers forces and delivers the people. He was overcome by the Spirit of God and anger for the enemy and the humiliation of his brothers burned in him. He must go save them. 

Saul is a picture of Christ for us. When we were mired down deep in sin and had no hope of deliverance, Jesus came and stood in the gap. He did battle with Satan and paid a ransom for us with his own blood. He deserves our loyalty and our worship. It is God's power at work that gives us a hope of eternity in Heaven and allows us to stand against sin here. 

We too are that representation of Chrits on the world. There are people all around bound in sin and are crying out for hope. We have the power within us to come to their aid if only we would have that same hatred of the enemy that Saul did in this passage. We can bring that message of salvation. Our neighbors, relatives and friends can have the hope that Jesus blood is all sufficient to cover their sins too. 

Don't compromise with sin, but put on the full armor of God that you may stand against the enemy's tactics. While you are at it, protect your lost loved ones and encourage them to trust Jesus for themselves. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Monday, June 6, 2016

1 Samuel 10 - Selected, Changed, Honored and Despised.

Saul is appointed King over the Lord's inheritance to lead the nation of Israel. Saul was revealed to Samuel as God's appointed man. He certainly looked the part; he was strong and tall, yet he was still ill-equipped for the job of King. God delights in calling the unlikely candidates to service and then by His power changing them so that they can fulfill their appointment. 

Saul is changed in his heart as he leaves this meeting with Saul. (1 Samuel 10:9) God may select someone while they are in the midst of their own weakness and failure, but He doesn't leave anyone unchanged. If you belong to the Lord, He  has changed you. He has given you a new heart to love Him and to follow in His ways.  But WAIT there's more!  Salvation is just the very beginning; that is your appointment as a child of God. God then will continue to grow and transform you into the character of Jesus using conflict and blessing together to mold you. This transformation is ongoing. 

Finally, as we go out into the world to join with God in service, we will find there are two different kinds of people we encounter. There are those who have been touched by God (our fellow Christians) who will work together with us to achieve God's purposes and there are troublemakers  who do nothing to help and despise us.   

We live in a world that is hostile toward God. The world promotes sin and calls it "normal".  Peter calls these "terrible times" (2 Peter 3:1-9). We who live in these last days should not be surprised by the headlines around us - they were foretold. But note Saul's response. he did not retaliate as he surely could have being King; but he kept silent. When the world comes against us can we commit justice to God and not take vengeance ourselves?  God is more than able to defend and care for us. Trust Him with your situation today. 

As with Saul, so we go out into the world  having been appointed, changed and knowing we will find fellowship among believers and opposition in the world. As we go into last days, it seems that we need to spend time seeking God and fellowship ping with our fellow believers drawing strength for the purpose God has called us to. We have a job to do that God is equipping and changing us for. Let's seek God and join together with him in His work here. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

1 Samuel 9 - God's Appointment

When we go through the everyday frustrations of life whether they be traffic, conflict at work or home or the stresses of stretching a dollar to fund your life we can be sure that God can use each situation for His purposes. Only God knows the plans He has for you. Take for example Saul in the 9th chapter of 1 Samuel; he began his day in search of lost donkeys and found himself in the presence of Samuel the judge who would appoint him king over Israel. 

Saul was from a very small tribe of Israel, from a family without prominence, yet he was tall and strong. Saul was a formidable man. He didn't have a lot, but by the next day, Saul would have power and fame unequalled. He would be Israel's first king and forever people would study his life for principles of leadership. 

How did Samuel select him?  Well Samuel didn't, God did. In 1 Sam 9:16, God tells Samuel that a Benjamites would come and he should anoint him leader over God's people. There were no elections...just God giving the people what they demanded; a king like the rest of the nations. Saul didn't have the preparation to be king, yet God drew Saul to Samuel for this appointment. 

Saul thought he was searching for donkeys, but in reality God was guiding his steps to accomplish his purposes. It reminds me that even in the busyness of our day God is at work and we do need His wisdom to carry out our daily tasks for what I may believe is my intended goal may be dramatically different from God's plan. I should never be too busy to take time to seek God's will for my day. Fellowship with the Lord will help me to rest in the assurance that my day is on His hands. 

Furthermore, we need the assurance that our position wherever we are is appointed.  If we have menial jobs, they are appointed by God. If we are promoted it is from God's hand and not our own. We are far too quick to blame unpleasant tasks on some external power; a boss or perhaps even the devil himself. We are also far too quick to inflate our own egos when we have a promotion or special blessing. We convince ourselves that it is deserved and right. In both cases, God uses our station in life to place us right where He needs us to serve. As with Saul, if God chose to promote us He certainly could through no doing of our own. 

As we go about our day today, can we find God's purpose in our tasks or at least trust God for the purpose and know that our days are in His hands?  With our live hidden in God there is no telling what He might do with them. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Saturday, May 14, 2016

1 Samuel 8 - The People Demand A King

In their chapter, Samuel is growing older and assigns some leadership responsibilities to his sons. They judge Israel for a time, but like  Eli's sons, Samuel's sons do not honor God and serve themselves. Corrupt leadership drives the people to confront Samuel and demand a king like the other nations have. 

God had intended that He would rule over Israel and that judges would seek Him in administering the governance of the nation. Samuel felt the rejection, but God reminds Samuel it is really the leadership of God they reject. They have consistently rebelled against God's leadership and envied what other nations had. 

God has Samuel warn the people what life will be like under a king. That man will serve himself rather than the nation and all that is dear might be confiscated for the king's purposes. Yet the people won't hear the warnings and are bent on having their own way - the way of the heathen nations around them which God has helped them to defeat. 

Our nation in 2016 is about to choose a new leader. Much of the same rationale is offer today as was given when Israel wanted a king. We want a change from the status quo because of their abuses. The people are angry and they are looking for leaders who will reflect their anger in government. When the elections are over and the new President is in place, they may find that they have merely exchanges one form of corruption for another. 

May God help our nation if we get what we ask for. We often don't know what we really need because we can't see into the future, but we need to depend on God to reveal the character of the candidates. Even then, we will learn that they too are sinners in need of a Savior. The best we can hope for is a leader who will seek God and humble himself/herself before our Maker and seek wisdom from above. 

Unfortunately, it appears that the candidates we have running appear to have found their own solutions to the nations problems and hold their own wisdom high. Our nation is getting what it asked for, but is it really best?  Our best bet is for individuals and congregations to band together and in true humility seek God again. If we will pledge ourselves to seek God first, He may hear our cries and perhaps spare us. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Friday, April 22, 2016

1 Samuel 7 - When Things Are Not Right

Today as we look at news unfolding all around us, I think I can truly say our nation is not right with God. We embrace all kinds of sin and justify our acts. We have gone so far as a nation to call the things that God calls evil; to call them good and acceptable. Our players for leadership of our nation are truly suspect and may even drive our nation further from God. We are not right with God. 

Likewise, in 1 Samuel 7 the nation mourned because they were not right with God. The Philistines had captured a good portion of Israel territory, the ark had been returned to the nation, but it spent 20 years out of its rightful place. The Philistines were still a threat but God didn't seem to be on their side. They prayed, but did not hear the voice of God. 

Samuel spoke to the nation in much the way the United States needs a leader to speak. If you want restoration between the nation and the Lord, then the people must repent and get rid of all the false Gods that have taken the rightful place of Jehovah (I Samuel 7:3-4). We must commit ourselves to serve only God and then the Lord may return to the nation. In the case of Israel they needed to get rid of the Baals and Ashtoreth.  

The United States doesn't have enough bins for all the trash that should be removed. As you read this, I know you have a list in your head so I don't need to go on with mine. Here's the thing, if we can only see the idols we have nothing to do with, then we are probably not looking deep enough. It is easy to point fingers at others without truly examining our own hearts. Look in there and destroy any idol that keeps you from serving God alone. Examine your entertainment, your hobbies, your pass times and see if there are ungodly influences in your own life and then let's clean them together as God reveals them. 

Samuel interceded on behalf of the nation, (1 Samuel 7:5) and we as God's people should do the same for our own country. We should pray for those who are plagued with sin and don't know the Savior who can save us from our wickedness within. We should reach out to a neighbor with the love of Christ that they may have a glimpse of what could be theirs. The people asked for Samuel to pray and the Lord answered and did battle for the nation against the Philistines. The Lord himself returned the lands taken by the Philistines and restored the nation. 

As Samuel said, "Thus far the Lord has helped us". We too can look back and see the reverence our nation once had and see that the Lord honored that commitment. All is not lost.  We still have opportunity to return to the Lord while we have breath. The Lord may return any day; let's be about serving Him until His return. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

1 Samuel 6 - God Returns

After seven months of absolute misery the Philistines determine that holding the Ark of the Covenant is the cause of their troubles and the only way to find relief is to return the Ark to Israel. So they seek out the priests of Philistine to determine how to properly hand back the Ark to the people of Israel. The priests devise that there must be a guilt offering accompanying the Ark fashioned after the afflictions they had endured. 

They made a cart pulled by milk cows that had never been yoked and sent them on their way. If the cows found their way into Israel's territory then they would know their affliction was really from God and not chance. 

Unbelievers will use every excuse not to believe in a Creator God who is sovereign in all events. They will attribute their success to their own hands and their failures to someone else. Affliction could in their mind just be a natural course of events for which there may be no antidote. The Philistines could at any time have recognized that they were in the presence of their Creator and bowed down to worship Him, but for seven months they resisted God and wore the battle scars for it. It is futile to fight against God, but God does not force alliegience. He longs for the created man to love Him and honor Him.  

Upon return to Israel, the people were overjoyed to see the Ark returned. They removed the Ark and sacrificed the cows who brought it. Israel had been given strict procedures for handling the Ark and they violated God's command almost immediately.  God killed the men who treated the Ark so casually. We who belong to God have a responsibility to show Him the honor He deserves and not follow the world's pattern. 

We too are waiting for the Lord's return and we have our marching orders to carry on with the Lord's work until the day of His appearing. Luke 12:35-37 "Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like men waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet so that when he comes and knocks they can immediate open the door for him."  While the Lord has not yet returned, our lives should be preparing for Him so that we can welcome Him. We are to manage the Lord's work here until He returns. That servant who knows the master's will and does not do it will be judged when the Master returns. 

As I look around at events all around, I see that the day for the Lord's return is nearer than ever before. Dear Christian, keep an upward look as you go through your daily tasks and be watchful and prepared for the Lord's return. I pray He will find us ready and doing His will here. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Thursday, March 3, 2016

1 Samuel 5 - Choosing an Inferior God

The Philistines captured the ark of God and brought their victory trophy to sit beside their god, Dagon. If one God was good wouldn't two be better?  After all, the God of Israel didn't save them in battle. Just the same, if the Philistines have the ark, then Israel is weakened. 

The Philistines were soon to learn that the holy things of God are not set with other idols, but set apart from them. Dagon just could not stand before the ark of God. This replica of their imagined god falls down before the ark. The next day, after the Philistines had righted the statue, they find it once again toppled and now broken. The Philistines were clear about who was the power behind the toppling of Dagon and the subsequent tumors they endured. The God of Israel was more powerful than they could stand against. 

Now, you would think that having a more powerful God in their midst and knowing what that God had done for the nation of Israel that they might embrace the Lord and serve Him rather than Dagon. In the logical human mind, they might become the most powerful nation with God's help.  Of course God had other plans to defend His own name and to demonstrate His power. 

Rather than just shipping the ark of God back to Israel after enduring such affliction, they thought, "let's send it over to the next Philistine city". Talk about a gift that keeps on giving!  So they move the ark to the next city. The residents there received the tumors so the ark was sent on to the next city. You see, rather than turning toward God and submitting to Him they chose to stand firm in their thinking placing God as an enemy much the same way that Pharaoh did when he saw the manifestations of God's power. They chose the lesser god. 

As I read this passage it occurred to me that even Christians may have some idols that they set alongside God thinking that they can live with both. If we do an examination of our time and money, you can see we invest in what is important to us. Any person or activity can become an idol if they are stepping into an equal or higher place than God in our lives. The activities may not be corrupt, but they redirect our thinking to worldly and temporal pleasures. There is pleasure in serving God, but if our feet are firmly entrenched in the world, we will not be able to enjoy them. We will end up trying to satisfy ourselves with a lesser god. 

Family, friends, leisure time, games, feasts, and wealth are not bad. We just need to critically look at the role they assume in our lives. Do they take a place that God should have?  Then our thinking needs to be realigned and our hearts need to be retuned to hearing God speak in our lives. God cannot be second in our lives. He loved us so much He gave His one and only son that we should have eternal fellowship with Him here and one day in Heaven. Jesus has gone ahead of us to prepare a place for us as His bride, we have been treasures and blessed abundantly by God. Let's embrace Him back and give Him first place in our hearts. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

1 Samuel 4 - The End of Days

Phineas and Hopni had probably grown so accustomed to carrying out their activity before the Lord without any judgment coming to them that they gave no thought to the call for the Ark of the Lord coming to them in their place of battle. Logically, they thought that with the Lord at their side that no enemy would be able to stand. Certainly the enemy thought that and had to be prompted to take the Israelites on in battle for they were certain that God would do for Israel as He had in the past. 

But Eli's sons had treated the Lord's things as if they were their own and judgment had been promised, not once, but twice from messengers of God. This would be the day the Lord removed them from the earth. 

Because their leaders were corrupt and deserving of God's judgment, many soldiers would also die in battle that day. Their faith is never written, but I am sure they had newfound confidence that the Lord would be with them. None really believed it was their last day on earth except the Philistines. 

We don't know the number of our days, but we can be assured that at the end of them there is eternity. We have only this life to decide to either follow or disregard the Lord. One thing is certain, the day is nearer now than it ever has been. 

There are innocent lives that may perish at the judgment of the wicked because of their corruption and their disdain of the Lord. Those innocent lives will live on in the presence of the Lord if they have looked to Him for their salvation. They suffer only for a while here and then eternal joy in the presence of God himself.  There are also those who went to battle that day that likely did not trust the Lord, but like Phineas and Hopni, thought that the Lord would not defend His name. They will stand before the Lord to give an account and He will measure out His justice for them. 

We don't know what the result of the battles we face will be. Some like the Philistines may be facing what seems to be a sure death and find that they are given another day to turn from their wickedness and find that the Lord accepts even those who have strayed. They had another opportunity to believe in the Lord and to embrace Him for themselves. 

One thing we can know is that the Lord knows the hairs on our heads and the number of our days. He knows our hearts and if our faith is placed in Him we can have the assurance that no matter what the day begins we will be inHis  presence and under His care. 

The activities here can take our attention off eternity, but is we could see our circumstances from God's eyes we would be more thoughtful about our worship here. God cannot be disregarded and put aside in the busyness of life, but should be placed first. We have the promise of God that if we will seek Him and His righteousness, every thing else will find its proper place. 

We live among a corrupt world and we doc it know the number of our days. But right here, right now we can choose to put the Lord in His proper place, worship Him, enjoy His fellowship and see His answer our prayers as we place our days in His hands.  

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him!

Monday, February 15, 2016

1 Samuel 3 - Fired

As a child in Sunday School we were taught the story of Samuel as a boy having God speak to him in the night. Often the story is lifted up as a prelude to the calling of Samuel to the Lord's service and his humble beginnings. But in this same story, we see the judgement God executes against Eli and his sons. No longer would they be chosen to serve God in the administration of offerings and other priestly duties. God would no longer use them. They were cut off...fired from service. 

Eli was aware of his sons mistreatment of the offering. He did counsel them but as a priest he had within his power to stop the young men and didn't. God warned him through an unnamed prophet, but Eli didn't take action. He stood by while his boys made a mockery of God. Now God was bringing judgment to his house. He would not speak directly to him but through the boy Samuel. 

In his favor, he did not argue or rail against God's judgment. He acknowledges it was the Lord's discretion to do as He saw fit. What a sad day for Eli who had been the messenger of God to Hannah and had even begun to train Samuel in the ways of the Lord. Prior acts of obedience cannot undo current disregard for God's warnings. Eli knew it. 

Samuel had the unsavory task of bearing the news of judgment to his mentor/boss/caretaker. I don't know how many of us would be up to the task. Yet that is a task we are called to as Christians. How many family, friends, coworkers and neighbors live a life that is out of fellowship with the Lord and we say nothing?  We have the Lord living within us, can we share Him with those in our circle?  Will we be bold like Samuel and warn those who are outside the fellowship of coming judgment?

The more I look at the condition of our world the more convinced I am the the Lord's return is soon.  Time is short.  I don't want my loved ones to suffer judgement but will not telling them save them from it? I confess that I don't want to come off as a lunatic and I know that God's plan is strange to someone outside the fold. If I can only love them and look of the open doors to share the gospel they need so much.  I don't want to miss my opportunity though. 

We have a treasure hidden in these jars of clay. Our Maker has charged us to share this treasure.  Invest in those around us and see how the treasure grows. We don't want to have our purpose taken from us like Eli because we were not faithful in carrying out our calling. Be like Samuel: humble yet courageous. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him.  

Monday, February 1, 2016

1 Samuel 2 - Worship, Wickedness and Warning

This chapter is a character study of three types of people. We have Hannah, Eli's wicked sons, and Eli himself all approaching God with differing attitudes. As you read this chapter can you see where you fit?

Hannah is a model of full reliance on God for her provision. Her heart's desire was to have a child to remove the shame she felt in barrenness. She promised God that she would dedicate this child to the Lord for His service and as she brings him in dedication she offers a beautiful prayer giving glory to God. She acknowledges God's omnipotence and His lovingkindness toward those who look to Him. She also is aware of the judgement in store for those who hold themselves against God and depend on their own strength and wisdom. It is such a beautiful prayer full of content, we could spend several posts just on it. If you have not read Hannah's prayer, you can find it in 1 Samuel 2:1-10. 

Eli's wicked sons are a stark contrast to Hannah. They are charged with serving the Lord and despise their position. They abuse their powers and defy God's instructions. They treated the offerings brought by the people with great contempt. They also defiled their own bodies taking the women who served at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. These young men refused correction human or Divine and brought judgment upon themselves. 

Eli questioned his sons and rebuked their actions but did nothing to prevent their sins. Eli receives a warning from a prophet chastising him for his failure to keep there offering to the Lord holy and using it to benefit his family rather than to worship the Lord. Eli allowed his sons to treat God with contempt. Though he counseled them he did nothing to stop the display of contempt and being both the father of these wicked boys and the High  priest he had a double responsibility for their conduct. Those in authority who will not assume responsibility, are just as guilty as those who engage in misconduct under their authority. 

In the midst of each of these stories, there is an interjection that Samuel the boy is growing both physically and spiritually.  He is being raised up for God's purpose which we will see in future chapters. 

While I would like to say I am like Hannah, I know that far too often my faith has failed and I have not looked to the Lord for my provision. While I would like to say I am not like the wicked sons, I know my holy times with the Lord in prayer and study are far too often neglected or not had my full attention. While I would like to say that I don't turn a blind eye to sin as Eli did, I know I live in a wicked world in which sin regularly transpires all around me and I have failed to give warning or to guard against the creeping influences in my life. I read this chapter and realize that I do love the Lord, but far too often my actions fail to show His place in my life. My witness is hindered when I don't try to intervene against sin in my life or in the lives of those who are given to me by God for witness. The thing is, I can't even change myself for the better. It is humbling, but I must recognize daily that I am a poor and needy sinner and I desperately need God's help. 

I want to run this race of life well and be a good and faithful servant. Today I begin by asking for a measure of the Lord's strength and wisdom for the day. I ask Hom to go before me and to lead me as I serve Him. Will you join me in looking to the Lord for our provision, turning away from sin in our lives and to witness well of the Lord's lovingkindness to those who are in our sphere of influence?  

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Sunday, January 3, 2016

1 Samuel 1 - All on the Altar

Have you ever longed for something year after year and not seen it come to you?  Have you ever so committed your petitions to God that you would offer even that one thing you have been longing for?  That's exactly where we meet Hannah in this chapter. She had been burdened by childlessness (a shameful condition) and aggravated by her husband's other wife. Day after day her condition was thrown in her face in a heartless act of confrontation. What misery!  Yet Hannah turns to the Lord for her hope. Consider what she lays on the altar:

Her Burden:  she brings before the Lord her desire for a child of her own. A son that would show her life was not utterly cursed. 

Her Misery:  the conflict between the two wife's had added to the misery of her condition. Yet she brings her misery to the Lord asking Him to look kindly upon her. 

Her Reputation:  Hannah risks her reputation by praying silently before the Lord leaving the priest to wonder if she were drunk. It didn't matter what others thought of her; she was passionate in her pleas to God. 

Her Child: if God would grant her a child she would dedicate him to the Lord's service all the days of his life. She would not be there for so many of the firsts in his life. She would not have the pleasure of raising him. She would give even her greatest desire to the Lord. 

When we are faced with conflict and despair, we are told to bring them to the Lord and leave them there. I confess O have not always left my burden in the Lord's hand. There have been times O have brought it to the altar and then picked it up again as I left. We can follow Hannah's example and completely trust God with our most intimate requests knowing that He hears our prayers. The name Samuel in fact means "heard of God". 

Hannah is also a reminder of the all that was placed on the altar for our salvation. "God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son". We are God's desire. As we place our faith in Him, we like Samuel become consecrated to the Lord all the days of our life. In serving we learn more of God's character and grow in His likeness. We show our love in return by living for God's pleasure (and He gives us great joy on return). 

If you all has not been placed on the altar, take a moment today to share your longings and your burdens with Him. He loves you so much and hears our prayers as we place our trust in Him. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Friday, January 1, 2016

Ruth 4 - A Real Man

With the decline of the family and strong marriages, many women long to find a real man; a man who will care for them and provide for their current and future security. We all long to be thoroughly loved and provided for. That complete love is fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ, our kinsman-redeemer. Boaz in this chapter redeems Ruth and lifts her out of poverty, gives her the love she desires and together Boaz and Ruth have a son who would be a forefather of Jesus     .  

Boaz loved Ruth and wanted to redeem her, but there was a closer relative (unnamed) who had first rights. Boaz publicly offers the rights to the land to him, but when it is revealed that Ruth the Moabitess would be part of the package and that he would be expected to father a child to Ruth so that her husbands name would not be eliminated altogether the offer was less attractive and hence refused. Boaz then gets exactly what he wanted, to redeem the land and to marry Ruth. 

Boaz was a man of honor. He didn't take the rights from the nearer relative. He honored his responsibility to care for the family and to provide for them. I am sure that he also made an incredible father to the boy in his older years. A man who honors his wife and provides for her financially and emotionally is the full package. A real man that any girl would be blessed to find. 

It is important that as we women seek our mates for life that we look for a man with great character and continue to encourage him to take on the role of leadership of true home all the days of his life. 

It is also important to note that Boaz is a shining example of what Jesus has done for us in redeeming is from our own pit of sin and despair to offer us new hope and a promise of eternal security with Him. No mere man can offer this to us, it is only found in relationship with Jesus. You can have that live in your life if you will only trust Him. Don't miss out; do it today. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him.