“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)

Tags : , , , , ,

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)

Tags : , , , , ,

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)

Tags : , , , ,

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!

Tags : , , , , ,

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!

Tags : , , , , ,

The Kinsman-Redeemer!

Scripture reading for March 16: Ruth 1-4

The story of Ruth is set in the time of Judges between 40-100 years before the time of David (1000 BC).  This simple story unfolds as a famine forces  an Israelite family to leave Israel for Moab.  Elimelech, his wife Naomi, and their two sons, Mahlon and Kilion, stay in Moab.   Nothing good appears to happen to them there.  The husband dies. Both sons marry Moabite girls and then they die as well.  Naomi is left bitter and ready to return to her land and people. The daughters-in-law are left with a choice to make.

Naomi tells her daughters-in-law to go on back to their own people.  She is too old to have more sons for them to marry.  Orpah goes on back.  Ruth, the other daughter-in-law, clings to her mother-in-law and makes a beautiful confession of devotion and faith.  (Ruth 1:16-17)  Ruth is ready to follow Naomi and Naomi’s God until death!  What conviction and faith are exhibited by this descendant of Lot!

Choices have consequences.  In choosing to go to the land of Israel, Ruth would have been an alien and would not have had an inheritance or a people to take her in.  She would have had to rely on God’s grace and try to help her older mother-in-law to live.  There was no welfare or jobless benefits.  Those that did not work, did not eat.  Ruth began to glean fields.  The law in Israel left the corners of the fields and the grain that was dropped for the orphan and widow. (Deuteronomy 24:19)  She would work as she could and get food for her family.  God’s divine providence placed Ruth in the field of Boaz, a close relative of Naomi’s.  Boaz was also a descendant of Rahab, the harlot that hid the spies! 

Because of her hard work and humble spirit and her choice to stay with Naomi, Ruth’s good reputation was spread around.  Boaz heard about her and showered her with favor. (Ruth 2:11-12)   In Israel, the closest relative to a widow had the right to buy the widow’s property and also to take the widow and continue the family line.  Boaz was in that line.  He was a possible “kinsman redeemer”.  Boaz responded to Ruth’s humble appeal, purchased the field, and took her as his wife!  Both Boaz and Ruth are mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus Christ! (Matthew 1:5-6)

Jesus Christ is our “kinsman-redeemer”.  He is a “close relative” who has bought us back from slavery to sin.  When we humbly appeal to Him in faith, He will surely make the transaction for us as well!  Ruth is a type of Gentile bride for Jesus Christ.  When we closely read this beautiful story, we get a glimpse into the heart of God and Jesus Christ!  Thank the Lord for being our “Kinsman-Redeemer”!

“Who are you?” he asked.  “I am your servant Ruth,” she said.  “Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a kinsman-redeemer.” (Ruth 3:9)

Tags : , , , , , ,

Sunday Rest and Reflection–Religion in 2009!

“In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.” Judges 21:25

As we have read through this book of Judges, I am impressed with how much this book describes our contemporary culture and the world view of secular humanism that is so prevalent.  When people have no king or supreme authority in their life, they end up being the authority themselves.  The result is catastrophic!  Society becomes full of sin, immorality, and rebellion.  That’s all that is in the human heart apart from God’s grace!  Let’s think about these records from history we have just read.

First, without strong leadership to keep the people focused on the Lord and His Word, people always drift into evil and rebellion.  Our land has lacked leadership morally.  Men have forsaken their job of training children and mentoring younger men. Women have had to take leadership and responsibility for providing for families because men are not stepping up and the children have suffered from lack of parenting.   The home is broken down and idolatry has replaced the family altar and accountable relationships in the family.  Each person is seeking self-fulfillment in ways that are harmful to godly relationships.  Our land has drifted into sexual immorality and personal spirituality that more often than not does not have a biblical base.  In Scripture, idolatry and immorality always go together! The parents end up letting the children choose what they want, thinking that this is best.  How can a sinner choose what is best when they have no “king” but self?

In the time of Judges, the ministry of the priesthood was also corrupt.  Ministers were often hirelings.  It is often true today that the same thing is true of ministry people. (John 10:11-13)  Many are in ministry just as a job.  They have positions and go through the motions, but are not really caring for the people.  They tickle ears and tell their people what they know that they want to hear.  (2nd Timothy 4:3-4)  There is also a group that have a love for money and use God’s people to line their own pockets.  We must be discerning of the same idolatry and religious scams in our world today!

God’s remedy for these conditions in religion has always been the same.  He listens for His people to cry out to Him in prayer!  When they do, He begins to act.  (Psalm 50:14-15)  He raises up a person who will walk with Him by faith and live and preach the Word of God.    When these people preach the uncompromising Word of God in the power of the Holy Spirit, then healing, restoration, and deliverance takes place.  (see Judges 4:1-11 for an example)  How God longs to be our King and lead us into doing what is right and a blessing for us and those we love!  Allow Him to touch your heart today!  God bless you and your family!  Pastor John

Tags : , , , ,

Contemporary Religion

Scripture Reading for March 14: Judges 17-21

Religion is man’s attempt to do something that makes him feel good about himself and his own relationship with God.  The problem is that there is nothing we can do to improve our relationship with God.  We are sinners.  God is holy and has set up a very narrow way of man coming to Him.  In the time of the judges, the nation of Israel had slipped away from the Word of God and each person was doing what was right in his own eyes.  (Judges 17:6; 21:25)  The nation had forgotten God and gotten lost in a self-directed religion of idolatry.

Judges 17 records the story of a man, Micah, from the tribe of Ephraim who had stolen money from his own mother.  He heard a curse pronounced by his mother and confessed his crime.  The mother forgave him and then took some of the silver he returned and has an idol made for her son!  Micah buil a tshrine, made an ephod, and installed one of his sons as a priest.  (Judges 17:1-6) This violated everything that God had established for His people in Israel.  Only the Levites could be priests and there were to be no idols.  God’s people were to go to the place God set to worship, not to any place they chose!  (Deuteronomy 12:1-9)

The next turn of events comes as a Levite stops in.  Micah hired him to be his “father and priest”. (Judges 17:10)  This was more in line with what God desired, but still far from obedience!  Everything seemed good until some spies from the tribe of Dan stopped by Micah’s house.  They inquired of the Lord through Micah’s Levite.  He gave them what they wanted to hear.  They soon returned and made this Levite a better deal.  Why not be a priest for a whole tribe, rather than a household?  The Levite accepted happily because the price was right!  Climbing the corporate ladder is not new!

What do we get from this bizarre story that can help us in our walk with Jesus today?  First, we must be aware that we can easily slip away from a true relationship with the Lord.  Micah and his mother were descendants of Ephraim, on of the sons of Joseph.  They had a rich heritage of faith and knew of the miraculous working of God.  They should have!  Life in the promised land can easily distract us from passing on the faith and teaching about God.  Prosperity can blind and distract us!

Second, notice how big a part money played in this story:  stolen money, money to buy an idol, money given to appease this rebellious son, money to hire the Levite, and more money to hire him away from Micah’s family!  Money seems to be the answer to every problem!  Priests here are for sale and God’s blessing can be bought!  What a lie from the Devil himself!  When you have no King, you end up in contemporary religion!  Watch out today!

Tags : , , , ,

Pastor’s Walk Podcast: Exodus Summary Part 3 (20-40)

In this podcast Pastor John concludes his summary of the book of Exodus. Pastor John’s primary focus is on chapters 20-40.

Tags : , , , , ,

Lost Potential–Samson

Scripture reading for March 13: Judges 13-16

The story of Samson is a mix of the supernatural power and anointing of God and the lowest of our carnal nature.  Samson was born by supernatural intervention to a couple who was childless.  His parents carefully listened to the instructions of an angel and raised this boy as a Nazarite, one set apart by God.  (Numbers 6:1-21) God’s Spirit began to stir Samson early in his life.  God was going to use him to deliver the Israelites from 40 years of bondage to the Philistines.  This bondage was a result of idolatry and evil in God’s sight. (Judges 13:1)

As Samson grew, he was attracted to a Philistine woman in the town of Timnah.  He asked his parents to get her for him.  The Bible states that this was from the Lord, although his parents did not understand and sought to direct him to get a bride from his own people. (Judges 14:3-4)   This is difficult to understand.  God specifically warns us not to intermarry with those outside the faith. (2nd Corinthians 6:14) In this instance, God used Samson’s carnal tendencies to accomplish His purposes in attacking the enemies of his people.  It is not meant to be a pattern at all!

Samson’s marriage to this woman never happened.  She was given to one of his friends in the bridal company!  This seemed to fill Samson with the desire for revenge.  His anger and impulsiveness moved him to get even.  God used this too, but how much better to follow the Lord by prayer and listening to His instructions!  Samson impulsively ate honey out of a lion’s carcass, a violation of the Nazerite vow.  He was attracted to prostitutes and carnal women.  These proved to be his downfall!  How often men of God are distracted by their flesh!  How the mighty have fallen!

At the end of his life, Samson was in captivity, both of his eyes gouged out.  There, he was mocked at a gathering of Philistine officials.  The first recorded prayer where Samson asks for God’s help is recorded here.  (Judges 16:28)  God faithfully answers the cry of this man who could have been such a mighty force to deliver.  He was once again given supernatural strength and God used him to destroy more of the Philistines in his death than in his life!

What can we learn today?  God chooses to use us in spite of our sinfulness and carnal nature but there are consequences.  What we sow we will reap.  God is never mocked! (Galatians 6:7)  We, however, can be deceived!   We must guard against the carnal nature.  It has the potential to blind us and take us to our death!  How much better to walk in the Spirit and humbly follow Jesus each day!  God bless you in doing that today!

Samson’s only recorded prayer: “O Sovereign Lord, remember me.  O God, please strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes.” (Judges 16:28)

Tags : , , , ,