Who is My King? (I Samuel 8:19-11:15)

April 9, 2021

19 But the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel. And they said, “No! But there shall be a king over us, 20 that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.”  I Samuel 8:19-20

A couple of days ago in our men’s early morning Bible Study, Pastor Cary made a very eye-opening observation as he taught. He said, “some men sell out with God part of the way and some men sell out all the way.” As soon as he said that I found myself asking myself, am I sold out all the way or part of the way?”

I believe the prophet of God, Samuel, was sold out all the way. It is not that we read that Samuel said he was sold out. It was others testimonies that said so. In chapter 9:6-7 a servant shared with Saul about Samuel. Here is what he said:

  • Samuel was a man of God.
  • Samuel was held in honor by all people.
  • Samuel spoke with a God-led accuracy. All that he said, came true.

As I look at those characteristics, I find those things are impossible for any person to achieve if he or she is only half-way sold out to God. It is only when God is king of a person’s life can the above happen. Consider the following:

  1. When God is your king you are God’s man or God’s woman.
  2. When God is your king you do honorable things because He only directs you to do honorable things.
  3. When God is your king you speak with accuracy because He is speaking into your life. God is all-truth!!!

Brothers and sisters, when I fail to be godly, honorable, and truthful, it is because I have chosen to be king instead of God.

In the chapters before us we are introduced to Saul who will be a man that God gives another spirit. But very quickly we will see him chose to walk in the spirit he was born with. When I think of Saul, I think about a man who became his own king. Every Christian must be aware that life is a daily decision to either have God as king or our old nature as king. Only when God is king can we live in the way He desires.

Two questions:

  1. Who is king in your life?
  2. In what ways is the king affecting your life?

Paul wrote about the impact King Jesus made in his life:

11 For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel.[c] 12 For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. 13 For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. 14 And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when he who had set me apart before I was born,[d] and who called me by his grace, 16 was pleased to reveal his Son to[e] me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone;[f] 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.

18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days. 19 But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother. 20 (In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!) 21 Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. 22 And I was still unknown in person to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23 They only were hearing it said, “He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they glorified God because of me. Gal. 1:11-21.

I want the world to know that a new king is in residence in my life!!!

Pay Attention (I Samuel 4-8)

April 8, 2021

Why should you harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts? After he had dealt severely with them, did they not send the people away, and they departed? I Samuel 6:6

It may surprise you to know that our day is a day filled with information that people seldom take the time to listen too. We each know how busy life is. I would suggest to you that the more busy we are the less likely we are to listen carefully to what goes on around us. James offers us the following wisdom:

19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. James 1:19-22

Question: Did you skim the verses above or did you take the time to really read them?

In the days of Samuel we have an example from pagan people of the importance of listening. These pagan people were the Philistines. These people had defeated the Hebrews in battle (I Samuel 4). They had captured the Ark of God which was the visual representation of God’s presence. The pagans carried the Ark into the temple of their dead god (Dagon) (I Sam. 5). The next day the statue of Dagon was lying before the Ark. The people sat the dead statue back up and on the next day they found the statue with its head and hands cut off. What happened next was the hand of God in plagues against the people.

In chapter 6 we see the decision of this people. They decided to send the ark back because they had listened to what God had done in the past in Egypt. They were not about to be stubborn like the Egyptians had been. These people had paid attention to what had happened several generations ago.

Are you and I paying attention to God’s work throughout history?

  • Our God does not change.
  • His Word and His ways are preserved for us in His Word and in the witness of others.

I want to encourage you to do three things for the rest of your life as a Christian:

  1. Listen to God’s Word.
  2. Receive God’s Word into your mind and heart.
  3. Carry out the directions of His Word.

2 Questions:

  1. What preoccupies the most time and energy in your daily life?
  2. How much do you retain at the end of each day?

A story of honor and dishonor (I Samuel 1-3)

April 7, 2021

 30 Therefore the Lord, the God of Israel, declares: ‘I promised that your house and the house of your father should go in and out before me forever,’ but now the Lord declares: ‘Far be it from me, for those who honor me I will honor, and those who despise me shall be lightly esteemed. I Samuel 2:30

Brothers and sisters, how can it be possible that when one is honored by God that he or she returns the honor with dishonor to God? Oh what a question for our day. You and I (if you are living in the USA) have been honored by God with the greatest blessings the world has ever known. But what are we doing with these blessings? We are doing the same things that the High Priest (Eli) sons were doing with God’s blessings, “we are kicking them in dishonor.”

Look back for a moment to those days when the period of the Judges was ending. The Bible said, “the Word of the Lord was rare in those days,” (3:1). The High Priest was old and his sons who served as priests under him were despising the Word of the Lord. A prophet would come and pronounce judgment on Eli’s house because he allowed his sons too lightly esteem God. They were figuratively and literally kicking God to the curb.

Brothers and sisters, how could this be?

But wait, there was also a story of honor in the period of the judges. There was a family whose goal was to honor the Lord. The husbands name was Elkanam who desires was for God’s will to be established (1:23). The wife’s name was Hannah who’s desire was to give birth to a son who would serve the Lord all the days of his life (1:11).

Brothers and sisters, God honors families that honor Him!!!

I believe this truth is vital to our day. Take a moment and examine how your family is living as you read this. Does your family honor God or dishonor God? This family in I Samuel would give birth to a son by the name of Samuel. He would be a man who helped turn his people back to God. But even greater, it would be one greater than Samuel who would come to turn the hearts of men and women in all nations back to God:

35 And I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who shall do according to what is in my heart and in my mind. And I will build him a sure house, and he shall go in and out before my anointed forever. I Samuel 2:35

2 question:

  1. What is your personal goal for your home?
  2. What will you have to give up for this goal to be accomplished?

Take heart, you may have family members who do not have the same goal as you have. Just keep on honoring God, it will bear fruit in its season (Gal. 6:9, I Peter 5:6-7). God always honors those who honor Him, John 13:24.

Impact (Ruth 1-4)

April 6, 2021

12 The Lord repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!

Yesterday we focused on the life of a certain Levite who negatively affected so many people because of his unrighteous choices in life. Today we consider the book of Ruth. Please take the time to read the entire book before you read the rest of the blog.

If you have read the book of Ruth the following will speak deeply to you about impact:

Elimelech negatively impacted his family as he walked away from the House of Bread (Bethlehem).

  • He left the land of covenant in search of a better economy.
  • He exposed his family to Moabite ways.
  • He incurred the judgment of God upon his family.
  • He left his wife alone to face the world.

Naomi struggled with impact because of her heartbreak.

In the midst of her hurt, God reached out and said, “Come home.”

In her sorrow, she was willing to send her daughters-in-laws back to the Moabite gods.

Her love of God so impressed her daughter-in-law that she said, “I love you, I love your people, and above all I love your God.” (1:17).

Ruth submitted to the redemption of God.

This precious woman recognized God’s hand of favor on her life. Ruth took refuge under God’s hand (2:12).

Boaz submitted to his role in the redemptive plan of God.

He said, “I will redeem her…”

At this point I must ask: Who is the hero in the book of Ruth? The answer is God! God was the one who extended grace to a family that left their covenant place of blessing. It was God who opened the eyes of Ruth to who He was. It was God who placed it in Boaz heart to fulfill his role in the redemptive plan of God.

It was and it still is all God. Because of what God did in the days of Ruth you and I have come to know one of her descendants as our personal redeemer. His name is Jesus (Matt. 1:1-18). It is Jesus who came to save us from our sins (Matt. 1:21).

Brothers and sisters, because of Jesus we can impact the world! I am so glad Ruth and Boaz were willing to be God’s agents of impact.

2 questions:

  1. Who are the people God has used in your life to impact you?
  2. How are you using God’s blessings to personally impact the world?

How Did This Ever Happen? (Judges 19-21)

April 5, 2021

 And the people of Israel said, “Tell us, how did this evil happen?” Judges 20:3

In my journeys as a Christian I have discovered many things about the human condition. For example, Paul’s summation of the condition of men is Romans 3:23 which says, “for all people have sinned and come short of God’s glory.” This days readings illustrates the human condition.

The 12 tribes of Israel were living life the way they wanted (20:1 “there was no king in their lives.”) God was not on the throne of the 12 tribes. The Scripture places a light on one man (a certain Levite) who has chosen to live his life outside of God’s call for his life. Here are the highlights from this certain Levite:

  • He was living in the wrong place away from where God called him to live.
  • He was shacking up with a woman that he did not value.
  • He without conscience threw away her life to the perverted men of Gibeath.
  • He purposely left out part of the story of why his concubine was violated.
  • He cost his nation thousands of lives.

If you have not already, please go back and read Judges 19-21. After reading these two chapters, 2 questions came to mind:

  1. How could one man cause so much damage? The Scripture is clear: There was no king in his life (21:25). When God is not our king then we are left to deal with the human condition. Here is how Paul described the human condition:

10 as it is written:

None is righteous, no, not one;
11     no one understands;
    no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
    no one does good,
    not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave;
    they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14     “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16     in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18     “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” Romans 3:10:19

2. What hope is there for the human condition?

Again here is how Paul answered this question: Romans 3:21-26

21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Brothers and sisters, a new birth is required for the human condition. The prophet Jeremiah spoke of this truth coming to be, Jeremiah 31:33-34. In Christ alone can we live in a new way, Rom. 6:12-14.

I praise God for Jesus being the answer for the human condition.

I also praise God for the reminder that I cannot trust my heart to know if my condition is right before God (Jer. 17:9).

Paul Tripp wrote so on point when we penned the following:

“It is a loving and always appropriate warning to us that it is possible for you to be fully convinced that you are in the center of what is right and true and honoring to God, when actually you are in the way of it.” Tripp, Paul. 40 day Journey to the Cross. Crossway Publishing, Pg. 210.

The Levite never once admitted quilt in any way. Brothers and sisters, there is too much on the line. We cannot leave the human condition to our own mind. We must submit ourselves daily to King Jesus!

What Did You Say? (Judges 10-12)

April 2, 2021

 35 And as soon as he saw her, he tore his clothes and said, “Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low, and you have become the cause of great trouble to me. For I have opened my mouth to the Lord, and I cannot take back my vow.” Judges 11:35

Brothers and sisters, let us draw ourselves close to God on this wonderful Good Friday, 2021. I sense that some who are reading this find yourself struggling to just move today. Still others may be in the position that you are emotionally stretched. Just know I am praying for you today.

Maybe you can get a cup of coffee or even better just lift your hands to the Heavens and ask God to fill you fresh with His power and His vision.

Travel with me back in time today to the period of the Judges. Chapter 11 introduces us to Jephthah. Here are the highlights from his story:

  • The Bible identifies Jephthah as a mighty warrior.
  • Jephthah is also identified as being the off-spring of a prophet.
  • As a young man his half-brothers run him out of town.
  • His hometown leaders call for him to come and lead them out of bondage to the Ammonites.
  • Jephthah was a straight shooter in making clear his intentions to lead if God favored his life.
  • Jephthah trusted in the Lord as the just one.
  • Jephthah was a passionate man who made a tragic vow.

As I consider the last highlight I realize how easy it is to get caught up in an emotional moment. In this moment as Jephthah was preparing for the battle, with the Spirit of God on him, he vowed to commit to God whoever that comes out of his house first when he returns from the battle.

I believe he had no clue to the extent that he was making a commitment. He never imagined that his daughter would be the first to come out. I see him standing there in shock when he realizes the sacrifice that his daughter would now make because of his vow. From this day forward she would be totally God’s. She would not marry and she would remain totally in God’s service.

According to Scripture singleness is a great thing if ordained by God. But this was her dads vow and not hers. In this moment I grasp how important it is to consider what we say. Solomon wrote about this:

When you vow a vow to God, do not delay paying it, for he has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you vow. It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay. Let not your mouth lead you[c] into sin, and do not say before the messenger[d] that it was a mistake. Why should God be angry at your voice and destroy the work of your hands?  Ecclesiastes 5:4-6

Here are some good rules to have in place before you speak to the Lord:

  1. Come before Him with praise and come before Him seeking to speak only what He desires.
  2. Consider the impact of your words before you make any vow to God.
  3. Consider the amount of sacrifice that is needed to accomplish your vows.
  4. Carry out your vows in confidence knowing that it is for love that you are vowing to God.

Before we close, I must remind you on this Good Friday that Jesus kept the vow that God made in Genesis 3:15. Jesus came to fulfill God’s vow out of love and obedience (John 3:16). I love how Paul reveals the depths of Jesus love in keeping God’s vow:

3He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things, Rom. 8:32

Two questions:

  1. What commitments have you made in the past?
  2. What commitments is God leading you to make today?

Abimelech’s Story (Judges 8-9)

April 1, 2021

Thus God returned the evil of Abimelech, which he committed against his father in killing his seventy brothers, Judges 9:56

According to Scripture Gideon was a mighty man of war (Judges 6-8). However when it came to his personal life Gideon was not so mighty. Gideon wanted to be honored by people (hence his making of an ephod). Gideon loved many women. He had 70 children by these women. He even had a concubine who gave birth to a son by the name of Abimelech.

This one son would come to adulthood with one goal. He wanted to rule his people. He knew in his sinful mind that he would have to get right of his half-brothers in-order to reach his goal. So through his cunning ways, he had his brothers, all but one who escaped, murdered.

For 3 years he ruled his people in peace, but there can be no lasting peace when there is sin being sown. After three years, one man rises up (9:23) who would lead in rebellion against Abimelech. But the rebellion would be crushed as Abimelech warriors were mighty.

All seemed to be well with this wicked man. Inside of him there must have been war in his heart as he then began to seek to conquer other cities. All was going well until that fatal day when he came to his sudden end as a woman threw a millstone down from a tower and crushed his skull (9:53).

The Bible records the incident as follows, “the Lord returned the evil back on this man.”

Question: What does it mean, “the Lord returned?”

I believe the Apostle Paul can answer this question:

Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Gal. 6:6-8

Abimelech was deceived into thinking that what he was doing was ok because God had not immediately judged him. The truth is, God had judged him but the reward came down the road. Here are three lessons we gain from his story:

  1. Every action will be rewarded according to the content of the action.
    1. If it is an evil action-judgment will come.
    2. If it is a righteous action-reward will come.

2. Every person must decide how he or she is going to conduct their lives.

Sinners make decisions with only the flesh to guide them.

Christians have the ability to decide between evil and righteous actions.

3. Wise people make the decision to follow Christ who always leads us to do what is right.

Two questions:

  1. What choices are before you today?
  2. Have you taken time to consider the outcome of your choices?

“The fruit of righteousness comes to those who show in peace,” James 3:18

Working Through Your Mess (Judges 6-7)

March 31, 2021

 10 And I said to you, ‘I am the Lord your God; you shall not fear the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell.’ But you have not obeyed my voice. Judges 6:10

A recent commercial for the new I-Phone depicts a guy in his kitchen preparing some type of special dish. As he prepares the dish he is reckless with everything. The kitchen quickly becomes a mess and the new I-phone is experiences terrible treatment. The point of the commercial is to advertise the durability of the I-phone.

When I see the commercial I think about how the mess in the kitchen is a reminder of how I am responsible for the messes in my own life. I wonder, do you ever create a mess in your life?

The entire book of Judges is a vivid reminder of how sin in one’s life creates a mess. In Judges 6 and 7 the Hebrew people are enduring a mess they created. The Bible records that the Midianites were so vicious that the Hebrew people were hiding in caves in the mountains. The people of Israel were struggling to survive(6:1-5).

The Bible records that God sent a prophet to tell the people that they had caused their own mess (6:6-9). Brothers and sisters, as I read this story, I find important reminders as we seek to work through our messes:

  1. I am often prone to blame others for my mess. Gideon blamed God (6:13).
  2. Only God can fix our mess. We need God in our mess (6:12).
  3. We dilute God’s power when we only focus on our ability (6:13-17).
  4. God is gracious and merciful in leading us to deeper faith (6:18-40).
  5. God works for His glory alone (7:1-8).

Brothers and sisters, I pray that you go back through the above six reminders. Take the time to read the text given beside the reminder.

Whenever I receive the above reminders, they always lead me to handle my personal messes in the following way:

  • I repent for the sin I have committed.
  • I worship God for all His mercy and grace extended into my life.
  • I move forward in His fellowship and power to overcome the messes in my life.

2 questions:

  1. What messes have recently popped up in your life?
  2. What steps do you need to take in order to work through your current messes?

A man came to Jesus with a mess. Here is what both Jesus and that man said:

23 And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” Mk. 9:23-24

The Road You are On (Judges 3-5)

March 30, 2021

 And she said, “I will surely go with you. Nevertheless, the road on which you are going will not lead to your glory, for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.” Judges 4:9

Early this morning I read a Facebook post from a friend who wrote with joy the following: “I am finally taking responsibility for my own health.” As I rejoiced, I continued to read. My friend wrote, “a friend came by and helped me to see my need to change the road I was on.” It is my prayer that God would use me in the same way as I write to you today.

Our focal text continues to be in the time of the Judges. I want to bring in your spiritual eyes very close in order to see two people. First I want you to see Deborah (4:4) who was a prophetess who was judging in Israel. Second, I want to see Barak (4:5) who God had personally called to take the road of leadership for his people.

Both these people were supposed to be on the same road, but one was not. Deborah was on the right road. She was using her gifts and talents to glorify God. However, Barak was not using his gifts and talents to lead. The Scripture does not tell us why he was not leading. At best we can only speculate. Some have written it was fear that had him on the wrong road. Still others wrote that it was open rebellion.

We really do not know. All that we know is that Deborah came to Barak and said, get on the right road. Praise be unto God, he listened.

I must ask, what is your current response to God’s roadway questions in your life?

My friend who posted this morning was in a yes response position with God. Still I know that much of the world is in a no response position with God. Others are in a position of saying, wait God. Finally there are those who are trying to figure it all out. I hope this blog finds you on the right rode.

At the end of chapter 5 we read the following:

“So may all your enemies perish, O Lord!
    But your friends be like the sun
 as he rises in his might.”

Brothers and sisters, there are two roads to travel in life. The road of rebellion leads to Hell. The road of obedience leads to Heaven. Everyone is on one of those roads. Here are the words of Jesus:

41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, 42 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. Mat. 13:41-43

Oh how I pray that you get on and stay on the right road!

2 questions:

  1. Are you on the road to Heaven? If so, rejoice in His grace and run hard for Jesus on the road that leads to Heaven.
  2. Are your loved ones on the road to Heaven? if not, lean into prayer and lean into showing them the end result of both roads.

What did you do over the weekend? (Judges 1-2)

March 29, 2021

16 Then the Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the hand of those who plundered them. Judges 2:16

Its Monday again. Its time to engage another work-week for the glory of God. Oh, by the way, what did you do over the weekend? I can tell you that I was very busy. Friday evening was spend with a family in the church celebrating our lives together in Christ. On Saturday we meet at church for clean up day and also we posted flyers for our upcoming Easter celebration at our sports fields. Then Sunday was busy in worship and in Community Groups.

As I stand before my computer I find myself asking, God what did I accomplish over the weekend that was eternal in its efforts? I guess the question is fresh on my mind because of what we read this morning. The Hebrew people are now being led by the second-generation of people to live in the Promised Land (2:10). Take a moment and gaze upon the text:

 10 And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel.

I wonder, why did the next generation not know the Lord or His marvelous works? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Maybe they rejected the Lord? This was truly one of the reasons (2:11-15).
  • Maybe their parents were so busy doing the work that they forgot to include their children.
  • Maybe their parents were so busy doing the work that they failed to instruct their children through worship and time together in the Word.
  • Maybe the parents were compromising already. Someone said, what we compromise in today will be fully embraced by the next generation.

I am deeply challenged in being reminded that I am called to reach the world beginning with my own home. In the book of Deuteronomy Moses (4:4-10) directed the people to teach and model their faith always before their families. In the book of Deuteronomy Moses (Chapter 28) instructed the people to drive out the enemy. But in Judges chapter 1 we discover a people who failed to drive out the enemy.

Because they would not drive out the enemy, the enemy began to pull them away from God (2:11-15). The result was a people broken-down by their sin. I find myself standing here before my computer asking God to fill me with the willpower to focus on things with eternal value.

Here is my prayer:

  1. God raise up Christians who will authentically worship You.
  2. God raise up Christians who will aggressively lead their families in serving You.
  3. God revive the church in America and around the world.
  4. God lead the church to be leaders in a great awakening in our day.

Two questions:

  1. What did you do over the weekend?
  2. Are there things you would do differently if you could have a redo?