Foolish competition!

Scripture reading for March 26: 2nd Samuel 1-4

When a leader dies or passes from the scene, there is often a struggle for one to fill that place.  The Bible declares that it is God who raises up leaders and brings them down, too. (Psalm 75:6-7)  The flesh, however, harbors a spirit of competition.  It wants to exalt “self” and take over power, take over position, and have it’s own way.  This leads to factions, murder, and war.  A house divided against itself cannot stand! (Matthew 12:25)

In today’s reading, David becomes king over the house of Judah.  Years before, the Lord had anointed him to be king.  David sets up his kingship in Hebron as the Lord directed him.  (2nd Samuel 2:1-3)  David does not try and take over all of Israel or to destroy Saul’s house, either.  He is a man of character and knows that it will be God placing him where He desires.  Ish-Bosheth, son of Saul, was made king over the rest of Israel by Abner, the commander of Saul’s army.  There was competition between the two groups.  Each desired to have power.

This competition took a deadly turn as Joab, commander of David’s army and Abner, commander of Ish-Bosheth’s army met one day at the pool of Gibeon.  A contest of hand to hand fighting resulted in the deaths of 19 of David’s men and 360 of Abner’s men!  (2nd Samuel 2:30-31)  The war between these two factions went on for a long time.  David grew stronger and the house of Saul grew weaker and weaker.  (2nd Samuel 3:1)

Galatians 5:19-21 describes the works of the sinful nature. Some of these are dissensions, factions, envy, and selfish ambitions.  These sins cause competition and the resultant discord and evil.  When we center on self, as opposed to God’s will, trouble always results.  God’s will is usually plain, if we have ears to hear it.  In the case of David, he had already been anointed as king by Samuel.   Saul’s offspring, Ish-Bosheth, and the commander of Saul’s army, Abner, refused to listen or seek the Lord.  The result was war and discord that caused the death of innocent people and turmoil among God’s people.

Today, examine your own life for these works of the sinful nature.  Are you filled with envy over a person who seems to have a job, position, or relationship that you would like or feel you deserve?  Are you involved in factions and dissention every day?  Do you have desires for power or position that come from an inner need for recognition?  Give these to the Lord and allow Him to search your heart and bring peace.  Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace!  He is able to place us where we need to be to accomplish His plan for our lives!  (Galatians 5:22-26)

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The “Witch” way to Trouble!

Scripture reading for March 25: 1st Samuel 27-31

Have you ever been curious about what will happen in the future?  Our world is full of curious people and everyone would like to know about tomorrow.  If we had that information, we feel that we could get rich, save ourselves from disaster, or control the world.  God warns us not to seek any source other than Himself for this information! (Leviticus 19:31) He is the only source of Truth because He alone knows the things to come!  (Isaiah 42:9)

Saul, tormented by the evil spirit that came as a result of his rebellion, sought information about the future by disguising himself and going to visit a medium.  He had tried to seek the Lord first, but God didn’t speak through the priests or prophets. (1st Samuel 28:5-6)   He was terrified and desperate for direction.  He, himself, had banned all witches, mediums, and sorcerers from the land in accordance with the law of God.  His disobedience showed that obedience to God was still not a priority in his life.

This incident is very perplexing because it seems that God allows the spirit of Samuel to be brought up from the dead through this medium.  Samuel speaks prophetically to King Saul one last time, pronouncing his coming death the next day. (1st Samuel 28:16-19)  Again, God’s Word is true and truth about what happened and will happen comes from Him alone.  He can record our sin truthfully and still show mercy to us in the midst of our sin by speaking truth.  When we are in rebellion and under God’s judgment, truth is hard to face.  True repentance must be sought while the Lord may be found!  (Psalm 32:6-7)

True to the Word of Samuel, Saul and his sons die the next day.  Saul is wounded and asks his armor bearer to put him out of his misery.  The armor bearer was terrified and refused, so Saul fell on his own spear, taking his own life!  Even in his death, he took matters into his own hands! (1st Samuel 31:2-6)

The life and death of this first human king of Israel has much to teach us.  Saul’s anointing by Samuel to become king was a wonderful opportunity to rule and lead under God’s guidance.  Saul’s choices to disobey God’s clear instructions brought consequences that eventually lead to further rebellion and death by suicide.  Someone has said, “sin truly takes us further than we want to go, holds us longer that we want to stay, and exacts a price higher than we want to pay”.

If you are doing something in clear disobedience to the Word of God, take time right now to get down on your knees and ask the Lord for mercy!  God gives grace to the humble.  Repentance is more than just saying you are sorry, it is getting up to go a new direction of willing obedience! (2nd Corinthians 7:9-11) Without repentance, there is no forgiveness of sins!  “But if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1st John 1:9)

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Nabal, the fool!

Scripture reading for March 24: 1st Samuel 24-26

Have you ever known someone who was hard to get along with?  Not only that, they were rich and had lots of money and refused to help those who helped them?  Nabal was such a man whose record is written down for us to ponder.

Nabal was a “Calebite”, a descendant of Caleb, the faithful spy and conqueror of giants.  Nabal was described as being “surly and mean in his dealings”. (1st Samuel 25:3)  One of his own servants also described Nabal as a man who was “such a wicked man that no one could talk to him”. (1st Samuel 25:17)  He liked to party and alcohol was also a factor in his reputation.  (1st Samuel 25:36) If he were around today, he would fit in well with many men in our world: arrogance, alcohol, money, and beautiful women leading to a surly and mean disposition which most people find difficult to get along with. Looking at Nabal’s life is like watching one of today’s popular soap operas!

Nabal was married to a Abigail, a woman described as “intelligent and beautiful”.  It is interesting how God places people together.  Often our mate is the one who can help us with our own sins and weaknesses.  It was that way in this marriage. Hearing how arrogantly her husband had treated the servants of David, who had helped protect Nabal’s herds, she quickly took action to avert a disaster.  She was like the godly woman in Proverbs 31 who was working for her husband’s good.  Abigail took goods and met David and his men as they were coming to seek revenge.  She appealed to David, humbly asking for his favor.  David listened and relented.  Through his godly woman, he heard the voice of God and was spared the shedding of innocent blood.

Returning home, Abigail found her husband at a party, drunk.  She waited until morning to tell him what she had done.  When Nabal heard about her kindness, God struck him with what appears to be a stroke.  The scripture says that Nabal “became like a stone”.  When you are mean and surly and your heart gets hard, the consequences can be deadly. On the other hand, because of Abigail’s  kindness and good sense, David asked her to marry him.  What a turn of events!

What lessons can we learn for our lives today?  First, mean and surly people cause trouble.  Alcohol is a source of great trouble in families and costs individuals their health and often their soul!  Second, revenge belongs to God alone.  He can and will repay!  Sometimes God’s timing is not as precise as in our story today, but God knows what is best and needed.  He wants none to perish, but all to come to repentance if possible.  He gives each person a chance. Third, when we are humble, kind, and respect others, God will and does reward us.  Abigail was well taken care of.  She was a good wife to her mean and surly husband.  She could become a good wife to David, king of Israel!   You reap what you sow!

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True Friendship!

Scripture reading for March 23: 1st Samuel 20-23

When I was in school, I had a “best friend” named Kendal.  He and I were in the same class at the same school from kindergarten until our junior year of high school.  We tried to sit together and play together at recess.  His father was a farmer, like mine, and we had a lot in common.  We camped out during the summer and loved to hunt birds and fish.  We had a great time, and often shared our hearts with each other.  Kendal was drafted into the Army and went to Vietnam.  I had gone to college and had enlisted in the Iowa National Guard.  Kendal gave his life serving our country.  I had the privilege of being a pall-bearer at  his funeral!  Best friends are hard to find, and even harder to loose!

David and Jonathan were best friends.  The Scripture records their love for each other and how their hearts were knit together.  (1st Samuel 18:1-4) Jonathan was Saul’s son and the probable heir to the throne of Israel.  David was a shepherd and musician who God had selected to be the next king of Israel.  God placed David in Saul’s court to prepare him for his kingship.  Jonathan recognized the favor of the Lord on David and was drawn to him in a covenant love.  They became best friends and shared their hearts with each other.  They made a covenant that would bind them to help each other and even their extended families.

David’s anointing and the favor of the Lord did not bring love for him from King Saul, however.  King Saul was jealous of David’s reputation and was afraid of David’s anointing.  He was insecure and tormented by an “evil spirit from the Lord”.  (1st Samuel 17:14, 23)  David played his harp and the evil spirit would leave for a time.  The evil spirit would return and sometimes turn murderous towards David.  Saul tried to kill him on several occasions and David was forced to flee.  Jonathan always tried to patch things up or help his friend.  Real friends are there through thick and thin!

Finally, David realized that King Saul was going to kill him.  Jonathan tried one more time to patch things up, but was himself attacked with a spear by his own father!  Jonathan sent David away with tears and reaffirmation of their friendship. (1st Samuel 20:41-42)  When he could, Jonathan would slip away and meet with David.  He always encouraged him in the Lord!  (1st Samuel 23:15-18)  Jonathan maintained friendship even when he knew his own father was out to kill his best friend.

We have such a friend as Jonathan in our Lord Jesus Christ!  He is faithful and true to us, even when the going gets rough!  He provides encouragement and shares his armaments with us!  We can call on him at any time and he will come.  He will warn us of danger and help us to either face it or escape.  He is a friend by covenant and promises to help our descendants as well!  He is benevolent and can be trusted to do us good all of our lives!  Praise the Lord–He has called us friends!  (John 15:15-17)

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Sunday Rest and Reflection–Handling Goliath

Greetings in the Wonderful Name of the Lord!  Heaven and earth rejoice in His Glory!  His Spirit hovers over the earth and the hearts of His own to impart life and grace.  He rules in truth and justice!  He shows mercy to those who call on Him and punishes the wicked.  He jealously guards over his own Bride, the Church, providing for her every need and preparing Her for eternity with Him!  What awesome thoughts to ponder on this day of rest and reflection!

Yet as God’s people gather today to worship, study and fellowship, many huddle in fear because of some haunting, taunting giant in their lives!  The army of Israel was paralyzed for 40 days by Goliath, the Philistine giant.  He taunted them daily to send out a man!  The biggest man they had was their king, Saul.  (This was at least true until David came on the scene!)  The whole army was paralyzed because of walking by sight and the resulting intimidation.

Today is a day to live by faith!  Faith is what brought David the courage to step up and fight the giant.  Goliath’s size, strength, and armament was not the main consideration.  His 9 foot six frame would come crashing down in David’s way of looking at this problem.  The 15 pound spear-head would be useless against the Name of his God!  David had tackled the lion and the bear with the same faith and they fell easily!  What could this uncircumcised Philistine do to him?   God’s honor and reputation were being mocked and God would use David, a man of courage and faith, to deal a death blow to this mocking giant!

If you are facing a giant who is mocking you and your God today, why not handle the giant like David did!  He rejected Saul’s armor because it just did not fit either him or the situation.  He knelt at the brook–humbly seeking God’s favor and direction.  He selected the five smooth stones and got out the weapon he’d been using, his sling.  He went running toward the battle, coming in the Name of his God!  He did his part and God did the rest!  Down came the giant and off came his head!  A whole nation was motivated to faith and victory by the faith of one with courage to act!  Go in the strength you have and topple your giant!  May God bless you today with joy and peace in believing!  Love, Pastor John

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“God looks at the heart!”

Scripture reading for March 21st: 1st Samuel 16-19

Our culture prizes youth, beauty, intelligence, power, and money!  We tend to judge people by what we see or know about their life.  Where do they live?  What kind of car do they drive?  Are they handsome or beautiful?  What position do they hold?  Who are their friends?  I don’t believe it has been much different since the fall of man.  We are very driven by our senses and peer pressure.  But God sees things differently!

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance, or his height, for I have rejected him.  The Lord does not look at the things man looks at.  Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1st Samuel 16:7)

What does God see in our heart?  What is he looking for?  He is looking at the things we truly value. He is looking for a heart after God, a heart that will trust God and live by faith in His Word! (2nd Chronicles 16:9)  When we put God first, and not our “self”, He is pleased!   He is looking for a “humble and contrite” heart. (Isaiah 66:2)  He needs a heart that can be taught, corrected, and shaped for His habitation.  If a mere man is going to walk with God, he certainly must be humble and willing to learn.  I believe God is looking for a pure heart too.  Only those who are pure in heart can see God.  (Matthew 5:8)

How does a mere man measure up?  God Himself provided the way through a descendant of David, the man after God’s heart!  Jesus Christ had the perfect heart!  He was fully sold out to God, his Father.  He did only what he saw His Father do and said only what He heard His father say!(John 5:19-20)  Jesus was humble of heart–and wants to teach us the same!  (Matthew 11:28-32)  Jesus was pure of heart–completely without sin!  He offered His own life on our behalf!  If we confess our sins to Him, He will cleanse us of our sins and all unrighteousness!  (1st John 1:9)  We can have a pure heart too!  We can learn from Him by receiving the Holy Spirit of Truth.  We can live by faith in His Word!  The just shall live by faith!

Praise the Lord, God still looks at the heart!  Does He see Jesus Christ as Lord in your heart today?  If He is not your King, why not humble yourself and invite Him to live in your heart today!  You will be eternally grateful!

“The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in His hands.  Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.”  (John 3:35-36)

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Rebellion: Today’s “entertainment”!

Scripture reading for March 20th: 1st Samuel 13-15

When we think about witchcraft and the occult, we tend to think about men and women dressed in black, moonless nights, bats, curses, spells, and evil that is ugly.  It usually includes violence, blood and death.  Our modern culture has lots to say about the occult and many television shows and movies that highlight evil are watched by millions.  A popular series of children’s novels, “Harry Potter”, has sold millions and no one thinks much about it other that another form of entertainment.   When we imbibe of this evil, we are stubbornly rebelling against God’s command.  (Leviticus 19:26)

Saul was anointed and empowered to lead the nation.  He was the answer to the people’s cry for a king like the other nations.  But Saul was impatient.  Samuel, the prophet and judge, had told Saul to wait for him to come and sacrifice to the Lord and seek counsel.  Saul waited but grew impatient and decided to offer the sacrifice himself.  It was not his job or place, but he went ahead anyway.  Samuel returned just after Saul completed the offering, and rebuked him by telling him that God was not going to let him continue as king for all time.  (1st Samuel 13:13-14)  So the “good” thing that Saul had done, was not done in obedience to the Lord.  He had impatiently rationalized his action and fell under God’s disfavor. There was no repentance either.

Next, Saul’s son Jonathan acted in courage and faith to attack the Philistines.  He and his armor-bearer scaled a cliff and killed 20 men in a short time.  They had not been around when Saul had made the men swear not to eat anything until the enemy had been defeated.  Jonathan ate some honey to gain energy for the  ensuing fight.  One of the soldiers told Jonathan about the oath of his father, but he had already tasted the honey.  Saul acted impetuously with the vow and then wanted to execute his own son! (Remember Jephthah!)

The final account of Saul’s actions occurs in chapter 15.  Samuel tells Saul to attack the Amalekites and destroy everything as punishment from the Lord for their attacking Israel on their way from Egypt. (400 years earlier!)  Saul obeys–partially!  He kept back the best sheep and goats for sacrifice and let King Agag live.  The Word of the Lord came to Samuel: “I am grieved that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions.” (1st Samuel 15:10-11)  Partial obedience is not obedience!

God hates rebellion and stubbornness!  We can call it entertainment, but God still calls it sin!  Ask the Lord to show you if these sins are evident in your life and allow Jesus to deliver you!  These sins don’t entertain God and should not be entertained in your life or home!  Don’t give God a reason to reject you as his child!  Or worse yet, cause your children be rejected because of this evil!

“But Samuel replied: “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord?  To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.  For rebellion is like the sin of divination (witchcraft-KJV)  and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the Word of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.” (1st Samuel 15:22-23)

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We want a King!

Scripture reading for March 19: 1st Samuel 9-12

In yesterday’s reading, the Israelites had demanded a king like the other nations.  (1st Samuel 8:4-5)  God’s people already had a King with the Lord!  But they wanted a king like the other nations.  It was the latest fad!  They wanted a king they could see and follow.  God already knew this would happen.  He told Moses about it! (Deuteronomy 16:14-20)  God knows man’s deepest need is for a relationship Him.  He is always jealously working to bring about His purposes and sometimes lets us have what we want in order to give us what we really need.

God chose Saul, a person who stood above all the others, as Israel’s first king. (1st Samuel 10:23-24)  He chose one who looked the part.  As Samuel anointed him, the Spirit of the Lord came upon Saul and he began prophesying. (1st Samuel 10:1, 9-11)  Samuel introduced him to the nation and the people shouted,  “Long live the king!”  This king would not satisfy the people’s need, but would help them to learn that they needed the real King more than ever!  This first king would soon fail to obey and honor the Lord and fall under God’s judgment.  The people would suffer under his leadership!  We must be careful what we ask God for! Human “kings” almost always give us trouble and grief.

Today happens to be my 62nd birthday.  I lived for a few years without a King!  Then I invited the King to rule my life, but did not really let Him have complete say over everything.  I am thankful that my King was patient with me and compassionate towards me.  He drew me with His love and mercy.  I surrendered my life to Him and am so blessed!  My birthday request is that my family would all live under my King.  A further desire would be that all I have had the privilege of knowing and contacting would also know this King as Lord, Savior, and Friend!

Today, if you don’t have a King, please ask the Lord to be your King!  God hears the cry of your heart.  Confess to Him your sin and renounce any other idols in your life.  Believe in Jesus Christ as God’s Son and the only sacrifice for sin.  He died for our sins and rose again from the dead.  He is coming back as King of Kings!

“But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart.”  That is the word of faith that we are proclaiming: that if you confess with your mouth,”Jesus is Lord” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and with your mouth  that you confess and are saved. Anyone who trusts in Him will never be put to shame.” (Romans 10:8-11)

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God’s Presence–Blessing or Curse?

Scripture reading for March 18: 1st Samuel 4-8

I love the presence of the Lord.  I almost always have tears or sometimes feel all my senses are alive and awake and a sense of His Peace makes me want to wait quietly or kneel before Him.  God’s Presence is something that men and women of God have sought.  Moses would not move without God’s Presence going with him.  He knew how much he needed it.  We certainly need it ourselves!

In today’s reading, the Israelites presumptuously took the Ark of God into battle with them.  The Ark of God was the place where God’s Presence rested with the Israelites.  (1st Samuel 4:3-5)   They had just lost four thousand men in battle and were aware of a need for God’s presence and power.  When the Ark was brought into the camp by Hophni and Phinehas, Eli’s two wicked sons, the camp erupted in shouting!  They had a “pentecostal” service right there!  The enemy heard the commotion, and it ignited a desire to fight extra hard!  The Philistines whipped the Israelites and 30,000 more Israelites died in the ensuing battle!  Hophni and Phinehas were killed and the Ark of God was captured!  Eli died at this news and his daughter-in-law died in childbirth!  What a chain of events!  Where was God, anyway?  I thought that they had shouted because God was in the camp!  How could God let such a thing happen to His people?

First, God had warned Eli, Hophni, and Phinehas about their wickedness and about His coming judgment! (1st Samuel 2:16-22) Sin has consequences!  Treating God’s Presence as something to be used or manipulated for advantage is not allowed.  Hophni and Phinehas had been dishonoring God, their own father, and the nation by setting a bad example.  They had been eating the portion belonging to God–the fat!  They had been having sex with the women who served at the temple.  God will not be mocked!  (Galatians 6:7)

Using the symbol of God’s Holy Presence as a “good luck” charm is not wise!  Even all the noise and enthusiasm was not an indication of God’s presence with them!  We who are Pentecostal need to take note!  The loudest and wildest worship is not always a sign of God’s Presence or approval!  We can turn things that represent God’s Presence into an idol very easily!  We can also try to manipulate God!  Styles of worship, being slain in the Spirit, dancing before the Lord, and other manifestations are fine if genuine and a response to God’s Presence.  They are a curse if they are not in “Spirit and Truth”.  (John 4:24)

God’s Presence was not a blessing to the Philistines either!  Everywhere they took the Ark of God, panic, fear, tumors, death and confusion broke out!  God’s Presence is Holy and special.  He must be treated with honor and respect by those who know Him!  He brings death to those in sin and rebellion!

Take time today to thank Him for His Presence with you in the Holy Spirit!   His Spirit is a gift of the Father sent to bless His children!

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False accusations!

Scripture reading for March 17: 1st Samuel 1-3

Have you ever been falsely accused of doing something wicked?  How about a false accusation coming from a man or woman of God?   How would you feel about that person who represented God? The temptation would be strong to get angry at the person or worse yet, to get angry at God for allowing such a thing to happen!  Our story today has just such an opportunity!

Hannah was barren and sought God for a child .  Her husband, Elkanah, had two wives.  His other wife had children but Hannah cried out to God for a child.    The Scripture specifically states that “the Lord had closed her womb”.  (1st Samuel 1:6)  There are several issues here that can cause us to question.  First, why did this Israelite have two wives?  It seems that in the Old Testament, this issue was not dealt with often.  We do notice that there was rivalry and strife between the wives.  This happens in other instances too.  Think about Abraham and Sarah and her concubine Hagar!  God allows certain behavior, but does not say it is right.  Jesus pointed his followers to Genesis and the pattern of one man and one woman. (Mark 10:5-9)

Another issue is the Lord closing Hannah’s womb.  Why would God do that?  I thought that God was a life-giver and wanted to bless His people?  It seems that in several instances, people God used faced difficulties that forced them to deal with the only one who had an answer–God!  We can think of Abraham and Sarah or Isaac and Rebbecca as starters.  They had to go to God for an answer and God opened their wombs and brought forth a special child!   Both of these difficulties could bring accusations on the Lord.

Another accusation in this passage comes from Eli, the priest.   As Hannah is praying desperately for a child, weeping and crying out to the Lord, Eli thinks that she has had too much wine and is drunk!  He even tells her not to come drunk and to give up the wine! (1st Samuel 1:12-16) What a message for a pastor to give to a humble seeker of the Lord!  To her credit, she did not become angry or disrespect him.  She patiently explained her dilemma and Eli blessed her.   God answered her prayer and she got her child!  Not only that, she had three additional sons and two daughters!  God is truly good!

Our reading today should help us deal with false accusations.  It is easy to jump to conclusions when we read a passage of Scripture.  All Scripture is inspired by God and must be weighed by other passages and God’s heart and Spirit.  We must not make snap judgments!  May the Lord grant us all grace today to operate on the facts, not on speculation or false assumptions!

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