Embarrassing Worship…

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Luke 9:25-26  What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

Have you ever been embarrassed by God? or by worship of God?  embarrassed to talk about God to someone?  Embarrassed by someone who wants to talk about God to you?

For most people, the answer to that question would probably be yes, that at some time in their lives they have been embarrassed regarding God.  It isn’t that they don’t like God, but most of the time it is that many people do not want to be considered “wacky, way out there, uncool, outside of the world’s norm”, or just really don’t know enough about who God is in their own life to be able to relay that to someone else comfortably.

I remember when I was a teenager in high school having an experience where I wanted to run away from this woman who was right up in my face saying “HAVE YOU BEEN BORN AGAIN?!!! BECAUSE IF YOU HAVEN’T BEEN BORN AGAIN..YOU CANNOT GET INTO HEAVEN!”  Here I was a normal, but very shy teenage girl, at a car wash fund raiser for the band trip and this woman who was having her car washed pretty much attacked me with those words out of the blue.  I found her to be down right scary!

Now, back then I very much believed in God and prayed and already had taken Jesus into my heart, but I really didn’t have the relationship with God that I have now, and I expect that my relationship with God will continue to deepen and grow the rest of my life.  However, I was largely unchurched at that point…didn’t really start going regularly until I was an adult…we moved a lot and neither of my parents were church goers then.  I had never at that point even heard about this “born again thing”…all I knew was that I was relying on God to get me through my life with prayer…I really only knew Bible stories from the Children’s Bible which I had read several times…it was very comforting.  The thing is,  a Bible written to Children is just that, and does not have the depth of the complete Word of God.  However, the Bible tells us to have the faith of a child and at that point I certainly did…it was very simple…God said it..I believed it.

That is still what God wants from us today…just like a child we are to believe him.  The thing is that as we get deeper into scripture our understanding of God grows and so does our relationship with him so that as we mature we go from this feeling of wanting to run away from people who talk about him…to the feeling of deep joy whenever we are with someone who loves God and wants to talk about God with us.

I will tell you that from my perspective now, I still feel that the “attack” method is the wrong method to approach and share your faith with someone.  It makes the person feel inadequate, embarrassed, and defensive…they are definitely not going to want to listen to anything that is said to them!

Usually, when you tell someone that if they don’t “do” something they cannot get into heaven, then the person you are talking to gets the mistaken impression that there is something they can “do” to get into heaven.  The truth is that we can only get there by the grace of God, through belief in the saving power of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  God is the one who “gets us there”…faith is what “gets us there”…as my Pastor is fond of reminding us, “there is nothing you can do that will make God love your more…or less.”

The “attack” method leaves people believing that God is mad at them…whether that is intended or not…that is usually the result.

I have been to a variety of churches over the course of my life, and the ones I dislike the most are when the minister is preaching in a very dogmatic, and loud, voice…it is in an “attack” mode…”you are a sinner” type of voice.  Now, for some people, that is what they are used to and they respond to this…for myself, I believe that if as the Bible says God talks to us in a “still, small voice” then why is it okay for ministers who are representing God to be yelling at his people?

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1Kings 19:11-13  

11 And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake:

12 And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.

13 And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?

 

Now, when we look at this story of King David, he took 30,000 men with him to move the Ark of God back to Jerusalem..they were celebrating greatly…we have all seen that many people celebrating something…most sports stadiums hold about that number of people and we see people doing all sorts of strange things in celebration of their teams…embarrassing things…painting their bodies weirdly, jumping, yelling and screaming for their teams….so put that picture in your head and think about David and his 30,000 men doing that in celebration that God is going back to the “City of David” with them…in the form of the Ark of the Covenant.  They are almost there and then something happens…one of the oxen pulling the cart stumbles…someone unthinking of the rules for dealing with God reverently grabs the ark and it kills them.  Now, if you have ever seen the movie the “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and watched the scene toward the end where the evil guy opened the ark and it killed everyone who looked at it…it may give you an idea of the power of the Ark of God…it had real power because God had designated it as the place he would reside when he was with the Israelites…keep in mind there was no temple built yet…so touching it was an irreverent thing to do!  God had laid out rules about who could approach him back in Leviticus and how they could approach him. Anyway, looking at this fellow dying from touching the Ark scared David a lot….it stopped the celebration in its tracks.  David decided that it was too risky to bring that Ark into the city, so he left it in the care of Obed-Edom the Gittite for 3 months.  When he heard how blessed this guy became and that he wasn’t killed, David decided to go and get the Ark after all.

imageNow, we come to some more extreme celebrating…it tells us that David was dancing in the streets as he came into the city…he was only wearing an ephod on the top half of his body…that is basically a vest….he is unashamedly celebrating the return of his God to the city.

Now, his wife, who was Saul’s daughter, Michal…was extremely embarrassed by the sight of her husband, the King of Israel, dancing  wildly and jumping about in the streets, half dressed.  She tells him so as soon as he gets home….in 2Samuel 6:21-22

David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the Lord. 22 I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.”

(Now we are told that Michal had no children to the day of her death…I am guessing that this is because David was no longer interested in someone who held him in disgust and disrespected his love of God like she did….I don’t read into that some “punishment from God that he closed her womb”…just that she didn’t have children before that and had no opportunity to become pregnant after that.)

 

 Read 2 Samuel Chapter 6 and John 13:1-17

Samuel Chapter 6   New International Version (NIV)

The Ark Brought to Jerusalem

David again brought together all the able young men of Israel—thirty thousand. He and all his men went to Baalah[a] in Judah to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the Name,[b] the name of the Lord Almighty, who is enthroned between the cherubim on the ark. They set the ark of God on a new cart and brought it from the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, sons of Abinadab, were guiding the new cart with the ark of God on it,[c] and Ahio was walking in front of it. David and all Israel were celebrating with all their might before the Lord, with castanets,[d] harps, lyres, timbrels, sistrums and cymbals.

When they came to the threshing floor of Nakon, Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. The Lord’s anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down, and he died there beside the ark of God.

Then David was angry because the Lord’s wrath had broken out against Uzzah, and to this day that place is called Perez Uzzah.[e]

David was afraid of the Lord that day and said, “How can the ark of the Lord ever come to me?” 10 He was not willing to take the ark of the Lord to be with him in the City of David. Instead, he took it to the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite. 11 The ark of the Lord remained in the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite for three months, and the Lord blessed him and his entire household.

12 Now King David was told, “The Lord has blessed the household of Obed-Edom and everything he has, because of the ark of God.” So David went to bring up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with rejoicing. 13 When those who were carrying the ark of the Lord had taken six steps, he sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf.14 Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, 15 while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets.

16 As the ark of the Lord was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart.

17 They brought the ark of the Lord and set it in its place inside the tent that David had pitched for it, and David sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings before the Lord.18 After he had finished sacrificing the burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, he blessedthe people in the name of the Lord Almighty. 19 Then he gave a loaf of bread, a cake of dates and a cake of raisins to each person in the whole crowd of Israelites, both men and women. And all the people went to their homes.

20 When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, going around half-naked in full view of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!”

21 David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the Lord. 22 I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.”

23 And Michal daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death.

Footnotes:

  1. 2 Samuel 6:2 That is, Kiriath Jearim (see 1 Chron. 13:6)
  2. 2 Samuel 6:2 Hebrew; Septuagint and Vulgate do not have the Name.
  3. 2 Samuel 6:4 Dead Sea Scrolls and some Septuagint manuscripts; Masoretic Text cart and they brought it with the ark of God from the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill
  4. 2 Samuel 6:5 Masoretic Text; Dead Sea Scrolls and Septuagint (see also 1 Chron. 13:8) songs
  5. 2 Samuel 6:8 Perez Uzzah means outbreak against Uzzah.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

John 13 New International Version (NIV)

Jesus Washes His Disciples’ Feet

13 It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”

10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.

12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

 

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I find Peter to be very endearing here…in this story, his behavior is one of childish enthusiasm toward Jesus….he doesn’t want to miss out on whatever Jesus is offering…so he responds in an “over the top” statement of  “don’t just wash my feet then, but wash all the other limbs as well…make sure I am all clean from head to toe – I don’t want to miss out on any part of whatever you are offering us…give me a double portion of it!” (Paraphrase of verse 9)  I really appreciate how enthusiastic Peter is toward receiving Jesus.  Jesus simply tells him that he only needs his feet to be cleaned in order to be completely clean.  (Now there are a lot of Jewish traditions and understandings regarding this that goes a lot deeper about the washing of the feet and the different traditional methods of ceremonial cleansing, but I am focused on Peter’s enthusiasm, not on the cleaning right now.)

The point here is that we need to be enthusiastic in expressing our love of God and our worship of God to others.  We need to Glorify God for what he does in our lives.  Whenever, we find ourselves excited we should express it, even if we may be embarrassed to do so.  I find it to be very peculiar that we have so many Christians who would go to a ball game, or a concert, and cheer loudly and scream and do all manner of things in that set of circumstances, but whenever they are faced with worshipping or praising God the same people would sit in the pews, or stand up like a stick and never make a sound.  Isn’t God much more exciting and worthy of screaming and yelling and cheering in excitement of worship than a sports team or a music group?  If you are a Christian and you don’t think so, then maybe a little re-examination of who God is in your life is in order…just who is God…to you? Ask yourself… “how do I glorify and worship God?  Is God embarrassing for me to talk about?”

 

 

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Meaningless things

IMG_5655Ecclesiastes 1:2  “Meaningless!  Meaningless!”says the Teacher.  “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” (NIV)

Read: Ecclesiastes Chapters 1 and 2  The book of Ecclesiastes is thought to have been written by King Solomon and when you see verse one of Chapter one it seems to bear that thought out…as we also know that Solomon prayed for wisdom from God.  When I first read these two chapters I thought, “Well, how depressing can you get?  Solomon must have really been having a bad time of it when he wrote this.”  Then as I thought of it more there is a lot of truth in this.  We do all live and we all die..no matter how we live our lives…either foolishly, miserably, happily, contentedly, in anger, or in love…we all have a limited life span, and a physical death to look forward to in the end.  For some of us, the end comes sooner, and some much later, but we all have that ending to this physical life.

IMG_0996Also, it is true that we are generally forgotten once everyone who knew us is also dead.  We become just a name on an ancestral chart, or if you are one of those people who actually change the lives of a lot of other people your name may appear in a history book to torment students for many generations to come as to who you are and what you did…when you think of it that is pretty funny.  Names like Marie Curie, Sister Teresa, Jonas Salk…then there are other names that are more infamous…Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini we only wish we could forget those last three…unfortunately if we forget them, then we may not learn the lesson about humanity’s cruelty to humanity that we should remember and be aware of so we can guard against it and others who may appear who are like them.  So, as the writer of Ecclesiastes says, is it all meaningless?  Well it might seem to be if you leave out the most important thing in life….your Creator, God!

The thing is that in 1:15 Solomon tells us that 15 What is crooked cannot be straightened; what is lacking cannot be counted.”  Now, if we are looking at our ability to straighten things and count what is not there, then this is absolutely true.  However, God can see what is not there in a person, and also has the power to straighten up crooked things.  Only the power of God can do that.  God sees the potential in a person that is not readily visible to others.

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Ecclesiastes 1:18 18 For with much wisdom comes much sorrow;
the more knowledge, the more grief.

Ecclesiastes 1:18 also gives us a bit of truth…as we age we generally can look back and see what we did wrong, and then when we see a young person making the same mistake and cannot influence them with the wisdom we have acquired it does cause sorrow to us.  However, it is good if we can remember that we got through our unwise state and in many ways we are still unwise in our thoughts and actions.  Yet we can take comfort in knowing that God is also working on that youngster’s path in life, as he does on ours. We need to turn our griefs over to God and let him help us through them.  Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

 

Ecclesiastes 1 New International Version (NIV)

Everything Is Meaningless

The words of the Teacher,[a] son of David, king in Jerusalem:

“Meaningless! Meaningless!”
    says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless!
    Everything is meaningless.”

What do people gain from all their labors
    at which they toil under the sun?
Generations come and generations go,
    but the earth remains forever.
The sun rises and the sun sets,
    and hurries back to where it rises.
The wind blows to the south
    and turns to the north;
round and round it goes,
    ever returning on its course.
All streams flow into the sea,
    yet the sea is never full.
To the place the streams come from,
    there they return again.
All things are wearisome,
    more than one can say.
The eye never has enough of seeing,
    nor the ear its fill of hearing.
What has been will be again,
    what has been done will be done again;
    there is nothing new under the sun.
10 Is there anything of which one can say,
    “Look! This is something new”?
It was here already, long ago;
    it was here before our time.
11 No one remembers the former generations,
    and even those yet to come
will not be remembered
    by those who follow them.

Wisdom Is Meaningless

12 I, the Teacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13 I applied my mind to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under the heavens. What a heavy burden God has laid on mankind! 14 I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

15 What is crooked cannot be straightened;
    what is lacking cannot be counted.

16 I said to myself, “Look, I have increased in wisdom more than anyone who has ruled over Jerusalem before me; I have experienced much of wisdom and knowledge.” 17 Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom, and also of madness and folly, but I learned that this, too, is a chasing after the wind.

18 For with much wisdom comes much sorrow;
    the more knowledge, the more grief.

Footnotes:

  1. Ecclesiastes 1:1Or the leader of the assembly; also in verses 2 and 12

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In Ecclesiastes 2 Solomon starts talking about how meaningless Pleasure and work are in life.  He tells us that he thinks that laughter is madness and what does pleasure accomplish?

Well, as far as I am concerned…I think that Solomon may have forgotten that God invented laughter and pleasure and work.  God knows that laughter is good for us and wants us to have pleasure in the things in life, and have meaning in our work.

After all, God gave Adam a job right away in the Garden of Eden…he was told to name the animals, and care for the Garden.

Genesis 2:15  The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.

Genesis 2:20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals. But for Adam no suitable helper was found.

God tells us to have some rest and worship on the Sabbath Day…so God knows that rest is important to the renewing of ourselves to continue the work he has given us.

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The thing is that Solomon tells us a few things about his pursuit of pleasure and work and it is pretty plain that he was not including God in his pursuit of pleasure or in his work.  That is why he came to the conclusion that it was all meaningless.

When we get down to the end of Ecclesiastes 2 we find that Solomon ended up with this very same conclusion…if you do everything in service to God, then God rewards that service with a sense of satisfaction in life.

Not so, for the person who is not serving God…they continue to run through life like a rat on an exercise wheel…until life runs out on them.

Solomon’s thoughts in 2:24-26 may be hard for some to accept, especially if they are running away from God.  It just comes down to one thing…either a person can have a fulfilling and meaningful life with God….or they can choose to run their own life…without God..which means that there is no more life after life…all that person has is the here and now and whatever satisfaction they can find in it.

Personally, I am happy that I have chosen not to live life without the inclusion of the Almighty God, my creator….because this means that not only do I have an after life to faithfully look forward to, but I can also share in God’s joy here on earth by doing the work he has given me to do.  I have assurance that there is meaning to life!

I am hoping and praying that all of you have that assurance also…that is how we all share in God’s joy…the joy of a sinner saved, and the joy of fellowship with God and with fellow believers.

Ecclesiastes 2:24-26

24 A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, 25 for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? 26 To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

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Ecclesiastes 2 New International Version (NIV)

Pleasures Are Meaningless

I said to myself, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.” But that also proved to be meaningless. “Laughter,” I said, “is madness. And what does pleasure accomplish?” I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly—my mind still guiding me with wisdom. I wanted to see what was good for people to do under the heavens during the few days of their lives.

I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired male and female singers, and a harem[a] as well—the delights of a man’s heart.I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me.

10 I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;
    I refused my heart no pleasure.
My heart took delight in all my labor,
    and this was the reward for all my toil.
11 Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
    and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;
    nothing was gained under the sun.

Wisdom and Folly Are Meaningless

12 Then I turned my thoughts to consider wisdom,
    and also madness and folly.
What more can the king’s successor do
    than what has already been done?
13 I saw that wisdom is better than folly,
    just as light is better than darkness.
14 The wise have eyes in their heads,
    while the fool walks in the darkness;
but I came to realize
    that the same fate overtakes them both.

15 Then I said to myself,

“The fate of the fool will overtake me also.
    What then do I gain by being wise?”
I said to myself,
    “This too is meaningless.”
16 For the wise, like the fool, will not be long remembered;
    the days have already come when both have been forgotten.
Like the fool, the wise too must die!

Toil Is Meaningless

17 So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. 18 I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. 19 And who knows whether that person will be wise or foolish? Yet they will have control over all the fruit of my toil into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaningless.20 So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labor under the sun. 21 For a person may labor with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then they must leave all they own to another who has not toiled for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune. 22 What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun? 23 All their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest. This too is meaningless.

24 A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, 25 for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? 26 To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

Footnotes:

  1. Ecclesiastes 2:8 The meaning of the Hebrew for this phrase is uncertain.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

God’s Attitude Adjustment

Psalm 18:27  You save the humble, but bring low those whose eyes are haughty.

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Read 1 Samuel 10:1 through 11:15.  This is the story of Saul being anointed as king of Israel, and being rejected by the men of Jabesh.  The Leaders of Jabesh had an attitude of why should you be king of us?  They were in effect rejecting God’s choice of leadership over them.  The next thing they knew they were embracing Saul as their king and rescuer.  Saul showed mercy to them and spared their lives because he didn’t want anyone’s death to take away from God’s Glorious Rescue.  This event did in fact result in Israel as a whole recognizing Saul’s kingship.

The back ground for this story is that Israel decided that they wanted a king so that they could “be like other nations.”  God told Samuel to go and anoint Saul as the first king of Israel.  Then Samuel prophecies to Saul about what will be happening shortly after his anointing as King.  Now Samuel was a well known and respected prophet of God, so it is not really surprising that God give Saul an experience of himself by having the Spirit of the Lord come upon him as he meets up with the prophets and becomes a person who is prophesying himself….Samuel tells him that he will “become a different person”.  Isn’t that the goal of all of us whenever we have the Holy Spirit dwell in us?

The funny thing is that Saul, even with this experience of God, did not seem to really accept the anointing.  After all, actions speak stronger than words, and Saul went home having had this magnificent experience of God and when his Uncle asked him what Samuel had said, he just mentioned the donkeys that they had been looking for, and never said a word about the anointing of himself as king.  Also when Samuel called all the tribes together to announce that God had chosen a king for them…Saul hid behind the supplies.  He had to be brought out…then a lot of the people were “Long live the King!”  Then Saul went on back home to work in the field as usual.  A few brave men inspired by God followed him.

Now in Saul’s defense…Israel had never had a king so it was probably a bit hard to accept.  I mean, how do you go about telling people that God made you king of them?  He certainly had some difficulty ahead.  Also we should keep in mind that a king in Saul’s time and area of the world was very different from a king in the European mindset that we all have.  It would probably be more appropriate to picture a Sheik at this point.  No grand palace was built, yet.  That had not come about.

Now, as we read, not everyone was accepting of Saul’s anointing.  It seems that some were quite skeptical of his ability to lead…after all, who is impressed with someone who just goes and hides when they are called upon?  They probably thought he was timid, and they were looking for someone to take care of business for them.  Even though Saul was the tallest most impressive person in looks…but his attitude was not what they were expecting.  As usual, there were some who were “scoundrels” who were not going to just follow along with God..they thought they knew better than God how things should be and they despised the person that God selected…and refused to bring him gifts as a show of recognition and acceptance of him as their anointed king.

Next thing you know, there is a problem with the city of Jabesh…it is besieged by a guy called Nahash the Ammonite.  Jabesh offers to become the subject of Nahash, but he doesn’t want that…he says only if he can gouge out their right eye as part of the treaty.  So the men of Jabesh stall Nahash, and send for help.  Now we get to see that Saul has what it takes to be king…the Spirit of the Lord comes upon him and he slaughters his oxen and uses them in a method that we might see as rather like something out of the movie “The Godfather”…by sending parts to every tribe in Israel with a threat…”Follow me or else!”   (This will be done to your oxen too!)  What a brutal attention getter, right?  The thing is that this is what it took to get all the people to rally around him as their king and go to war for their fellow Israelites well being.

Now there is an interesting parallel in this, at least to me, in Joel 3: 9-10.

9Proclaim this among the nations: Prepare a war; rouse the mighty men! Let all the soldiers draw near, let them come up! 10Beat your plowshares into swords And your pruning hooks into spears; Let the weak say, “I am a mighty man.”  (Bible Hub NIV)

swords_to_ploughshares_2This business of Saul ridding himself of his Oxen which were the tools of his farming life, and sending them off to threaten the “farming life” that all of the people of Israel embraced…it was necessary because Nahash was threatening the peace and life styles of all of Israel…he probably wouldn’t have stopped at just the city of Jabesh.  Saul was announcing that it was a “time of war”.  War is brutal and shocking…Saul wanted to make sure he made that clear to start with, but that in this case it was necessary to defend their people.  Suddenly, the “timid” “quiet man” who was a farmer was awakened as a “warrior king”.  Israel’s response is amazing and also gives us some numbers to think of:  330,000 men come in response to Saul’s call.  They go against Nahash and they succeed in rescuing Jabesh.

Suddenly, Israel is all, “Hey those men who were being against Our King Saul we need to find them and kill them! Look how great Our King Saul  is and how mighty a warrior he is..he can take care of business for us!”  Note that there is no thought of God in them, but all thoughts of Saul.

Saul is the one who admirably brings them back around to thinking about God…he says “No, there won’t be any killing today..this would take away from the Glory of the Lord who has given us victory today.”

So Samuel tells them that they should go and “renew” the kingship of Saul.

Now, this is really interesting because that is exactly what God wants from us…when we have rejected him, or his way of doing things, and we have been given an attitude adjustment in our thinking and we have come to see that God’s ideas and plans are superior to anything we could come up with…God wants us to go back to him and apologize and appreciate God and his love for us, and most importantly….Renew God’s kingship over our lives!  That is what God’s attitude adjustment is all about…renewing our relationship with him!

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1 Samuel 10

1Then Samuel took a flask of olive oil and poured it on Saul’s head and kissed him, saying, “Has not the Lord anointed you ruler over his inheritance?[a] When you leave me today, you will meet two men near Rachel’s tomb, at Zelzah on the border of Benjamin. They will say to you, ‘The donkeys you set out to look for have been found. And now your father has stopped thinking about them and is worried about you. He is asking, “What shall I do about my son?”’

“Then you will go on from there until you reach the great tree of Tabor. Three men going up to worship God at Bethel will meet you there. One will be carrying three young goats, another three loaves of bread, and another a skin of wine. They will greet you and offer you two loaves of bread, which you will accept from them.

“After that you will go to Gibeah of God, where there is a Philistine outpost. As you approach the town, you will meet a procession of prophets coming down from the high place with lyres, timbrels, pipes and harps being played before them, and they will be prophesying. The Spirit of the Lord will come powerfully upon you, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person. Once these signs are fulfilled, do whatever your hand finds to do, for God is with you.

“Go down ahead of me to Gilgal. I will surely come down to you to sacrifice burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, but you must wait seven days until I come to you and tell you what you are to do.”

Saul Made King

As Saul turned to leave Samuel, God changed Saul’s heart, and all these signs were fulfilled that day. 10 When he and his servant arrived at Gibeah, a procession of prophets met him; the Spirit of God came powerfully upon him, and he joined in their prophesying.11 When all those who had formerly known him saw him prophesying with the prophets, they asked each other, “What is this that has happened to the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?”

12 A man who lived there answered, “And who is their father?” So it became a saying: “Is Saul also among the prophets?” 13 After Saul stopped prophesying, he went to the high place.

14 Now Saul’s uncle asked him and his servant, “Where have you been?”

“Looking for the donkeys,” he said. “But when we saw they were not to be found, we went to Samuel.”

15 Saul’s uncle said, “Tell me what Samuel said to you.”

16 Saul replied, “He assured us that the donkeys had been found.” But he did not tell his uncle what Samuel had said about the kingship.

17 Samuel summoned the people of Israel to the Lord at Mizpah 18 and said to them, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I brought Israel up out of Egypt, and I delivered you from the power of Egypt and all the kingdoms that oppressed you.’ 19 But you have now rejected your God, who saves you out of all your disasters and calamities. And you have said, ‘No, appoint a king over us.’ So now present yourselves before the Lord by your tribes and clans.”

20 When Samuel had all Israel come forward by tribes, the tribe of Benjamin was taken by lot. 21 Then he brought forward the tribe of Benjamin, clan by clan, and Matri’s clan was taken. Finally Saul son of Kish was taken. But when they looked for him, he was not to be found. 22 So they inquired further of the Lord, “Has the man come here yet?”

And the Lord said, “Yes, he has hidden himself among the supplies.”

23 They ran and brought him out, and as he stood among the people he was a head taller than any of the others. 24 Samuel said to all the people, “Do you see the man the Lord has chosen? There is no one like him among all the people.”

Then the people shouted, “Long live the king!”

25 Samuel explained to the people the rights and duties of kingship. He wrote them down on a scroll and deposited it before the Lord. Then Samuel dismissed the people to go to their own homes.

26 Saul also went to his home in Gibeah, accompanied by valiant men whose hearts God had touched. 27 But some scoundrels said, “How can this fellow save us?” They despised him and brought him no gifts. But Saul kept silent.

Saul Rescues the City of Jabesh

11 Nahash[a] the Ammonite went up and besieged Jabesh Gilead. And all the men of Jabesh said to him, “Make a treaty with us, and we will be subject to you.”

But Nahash the Ammonite replied, “I will make a treaty with you only on the condition that I gouge out the right eye of every one of you and so bring disgrace on all Israel.”

The elders of Jabesh said to him, “Give us seven days so we can send messengers throughout Israel; if no one comes to rescue us, we will surrender to you.”

When the messengers came to Gibeah of Saul and reported these terms to the people, they all wept aloud. Just then Saul was returning from the fields, behind his oxen, and he asked, “What is wrong with everyone? Why are they weeping?” Then they repeated to him what the men of Jabesh had said.

When Saul heard their words, the Spirit of God came powerfully upon him, and he burned with anger. He took a pair of oxen, cut them into pieces, and sent the pieces by messengers throughout Israel, proclaiming, “This is what will be done to the oxen of anyone who does not follow Saul and Samuel.” Then the terror of the Lord fell on the people, and they came out together as one. When Saul mustered them at Bezek, the men of Israel numbered three hundred thousand and those of Judah thirty thousand.

They told the messengers who had come, “Say to the men of Jabesh Gilead, ‘By the time the sun is hot tomorrow, you will be rescued.’” When the messengers went and reported this to the men of Jabesh, they were elated. 10 They said to the Ammonites, “Tomorrow we will surrender to you, and you can do to us whatever you like.”

11 The next day Saul separated his men into three divisions; during the last watch of the night they broke into the camp of the Ammonites and slaughtered them until the heat of the day. Those who survived were scattered, so that no two of them were left together.

Saul Confirmed as King

12 The people then said to Samuel, “Who was it that asked, ‘Shall Saul reign over us?’ Turn these men over to us so that we may put them to death.”

13 But Saul said, “No one will be put to death today, for this day the Lord has rescued Israel.”

14 Then Samuel said to the people, “Come, let us go to Gilgal and there renew the kingship.” 15 So all the people went to Gilgal and made Saul king in the presence of the Lord. There they sacrificed fellowship offerings before the Lord, and Saul and all the Israelites held a great celebration.

Footnotes:
  1. 1 Samuel 10:1 Hebrew; Septuagint and Vulgate over his people Israel? You will reign over the Lord’s people and save them from the power of their enemies round about. And this will be a sign to you that the Lord has anointed you ruler over his inheritance.
  2. 1 Samuel 11:1 Masoretic Text; Dead Sea Scrolls gifts. Now Nahash king of the Ammonites oppressed the Gadites and Reubenites severely. He gouged out all their right eyes and struck terror and dread in Israel. Not a man remained among the Israelites beyond the Jordan whose right eye was not gouged out by Nahash king of the Ammonites, except that seven thousand men fled from the Ammonites and entered Jabesh Gilead. About a month later, Nahash

    New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Silver or Gold I do not have…

Isaiah 35:6 Then the lame will leap like a deer, And the tongue of the mute will shout for joy For waters will break forth in the wilderness And streams in the Arabah.

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Act3 and 2Samuel 9 are two stories about people who are lame. One story is from the New Testament, and one from the Old Testament.  They are very different stories, but both stories have something in common.  A person who was looked down upon was raised up.

In the story of Mephibosheth (Meh-fib-o-sheth is how I pronounce it) King David is looking for any survivor of King Saul’s household so that he can honor them with the blessing of God.  It turns out that the only one left other than a few servants is his friend Jonathon’s son, Mephibosheth.  You may recall that Jonathon was David’s best friend, and the son of King Saul.  So you can imagine how happy David must have been when finding that his friend’s son was the one who had survived from King Saul’s household.  Mephibosheth is different from the lame beggar in Acts 3 in that his lameness came from an accident.  At the time that Mephibosheth was 5 years old and his Grandfather King Saul, and his father, Jonathon were slain – well, his nurse grabbed him and went to run away with him to save his life.  Unfortunately, we are told that Mephibosheth fell and was lame from then onward for the rest of his life.  Now, most of us would probably decide that when he fell he broke his foot or leg and it wasn’t set properly and healed up wrong.  At least that is what I am getting from this story.  Anyway, to sum up what happened here, King David, was very happy that Mephibosheth was alive, and decided to restore to him all of King Saul’s lands, servants, etc.  He also declared that Mephibosheth would eat regularly at the King’s table.  In other words, he bestowed a great honor and wealth on Mephibosheth and also made it so that he could enjoy the company of his friend’s son on a regular basis. You can be sure that Mephibosheth was looked down upon prior to that because he was King Saul’s grandson, and also because of his lameness.  So King David, although he could not heal the lame, physically, (as Peter and John were able to do through the gift of the Holy Spirit)was able to heal the heart of Mephibosheth through his kindness and showing love toward him.

Now in the story in Acts Chapter 3 We see an actual physical healing of a man who had been lame from birth.  He was so lame, that he had to be carried from place to place.  It tells us that he was carried by people every day to the temple gate called Beautiful so that he could beg from those going into the temple courts.  Now there are a lot of gates into the city during Jesus’ time and they are all named.  The Beautiful Gate is the gate that is in front of the Temple…it leads to God’s house.  So this lame beggar had a pretty good spot for begging…after all, wouldn’t people be the most generous when they are going in to stand and worship God?  He also apparently had some family or friends who made sure he got to that place every day to do the work of begging for money so that he could eat.

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What I find fascinating about this story is that the beggar had apparently asked Peter and John for money, but then he must have discounted them right away as being unable to give him anything.  We know that Jesus told his Disciples to not worry about how they were dressed, (Luke 12), and not to act grandly with self importance, but to be humble. (Matthew 6) So we can, probably, safely believe that neither Peter nor John were richly dressed.  The reason I think this is that we read in verse 4 that Peter and John both looked straight at the beggar and then Peter tells the beggar “Look at us!”  This causes the beggar to look back at them, with expectation of receiving money.  In actual fact, it seems that Peter and John showed the beggar more respect than he gave them.

This is rather peculiar, as in our world today the person who is shown the least respect is the person who is homeless, who is reduced to begging in order to survive.  People tend, generally, to look past them, or through them, anything, but making eye contact with them.  Usually they are ignored by the larger percentage of those who are going by them.  I am wondering when reading this story if it was the same in the days of Jesus.

We know that it wasn’t this way with Peter and John, but they were Disciples of Jesus.  God had provision in the old testament for widows and orphans, the poor and the helpless. Below are a couple of verses showing the attitude that God wanted his people to have toward the poor.

Proverbs 22:9 The generous will themselves be blessed,
    for they share their food with the poor.

Daniel 4:27 (ESV) “Therefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you: break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed [poor], that there may perhaps be a lengthening of your prosperity.”

851-yeshua-handSo let’s go back to the story…here is this man looking at these two men whom it was obvious he expected to receive nothing from to start with and now he has an expectation from them…because of their attitude…imagine how he felt at Peter’s next words:  Peter says, while looking this guy straight in the eyes…I don’t have any silver or gold, but I will give you what I do have.  Now this beggar was probably expecting Peter and John to give him a piece of bread or something like that, right?  I mean, that is what I would be expecting if I were him.  Instead, Peter reaches down and takes this beggar by the hand and helps him up, instantly this man’s feet and ankles (which had never known how to hold weight in an entire lifetime) were strengthened and he was able to stand. He was not only able to stand, but the man was suddenly able to dance and jump around.  He went in to worship God, walking, jumping and praising God with all his heart!  What a sight that must have been.  How glad this man was at this very unexpected healing in his life.  I am thinking that the Beautiful gate had never been a place more beautiful to him than right then.  Peter and John look at all the astonished people and ask them why they are so surprised…then go on to use this healing as a way to glorify God and talk about who Jesus really was and what his purpose was in walking the earth.  They turned this monumental occasion in the man’s life into an opportunity to glorify God and share who God is with their fellow Jews.

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They literally did the same thing that Jesus did as he was illustrating who God was…they met the needs of the people first, in order to show the love of God, then they told them clearly who God was and how much he loved them.  How much he wanted them to have a restored relationship with him.  

Note:  I know that we see a lot of people who have signs and some of them may not actually need the help they claim to need, but that is between them and God, not between us and them.  We need to remember that and not let it keep us from following God’s leading when it comes to helping people in need.

Read Acts 3

 1One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.

Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

Peter Speaks to the Onlookers

11 While the man held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon’s Colonnade. 12 When Peter saw this, he said to them: “Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? 13 The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. 14 You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you.15 You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this.16 By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.

17 “Now, fellow Israelites, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. 18 But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Messiah would suffer. 19 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, 20 and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus. 21 Heaven must receive him until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. 22 For Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you. 23 Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from their people.’[a]

24 “Indeed, beginning with Samuel, all the prophets who have spoken have foretold these days. 25 And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, ‘Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.’[b] 26 When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.”

Footnotes:

  1. Acts 3:23 Deut. 18:15,18,19
  2. Acts 3:25 Gen. 22:18; 26:4

 

Read 2 Samuel 9 (NIV)

David and Mephibosheth

David asked, “Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?”

Now there was a servant of Saul’s household named Ziba. They summoned him to appear before David, and the king said to him, “Are you Ziba?”

“At your service,” he replied.

The king asked, “Is there no one still alive from the house of Saul to whom I can show God’s kindness?”

Ziba answered the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is lame in both feet.”

“Where is he?” the king asked.

Ziba answered, “He is at the house of Makir son of Ammiel in Lo Debar.”

So King David had him brought from Lo Debar, from the house of Makir son of Ammiel.

When Mephibosheth son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, came to David, he bowed down to pay him honor.

David said, “Mephibosheth!”

“At your service,” he replied.

“Don’t be afraid,” David said to him, “for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table.”

Mephibosheth bowed down and said, “What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me?”

Then the king summoned Ziba, Saul’s steward, and said to him, “I have given your master’s grandson everything that belonged to Saul and his family. 10 You and your sons and your servants are to farm the land for him and bring in the crops, so that your master’s grandson may be provided for. And Mephibosheth, grandson of your master, will always eat at my table.” (Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants.)

11 Then Ziba said to the king, “Your servant will do whatever my lord the king commands his servant to do.” So Mephibosheth ate at David’s[a] table like one of the king’s sons.

12 Mephibosheth had a young son named Mika, and all the members of Ziba’s household were servants of Mephibosheth. 13 And Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, because he always ate at the king’s table; he was lame in both feet.

Footnotes:

  1. 2 Samuel 9:11 Septuagint; Hebrew my
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Sinning in Ignorance

highpriestHebrews 5:1-2  Every high priest is selected from among men and is appointed to represent them in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.  He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness.

Read: 1 Samuel 14:1- 46  This is the story of Jonathon breaking a law in innocence, he didn’t know that there was a law, and God protected him from injustice. 

1Samuel 14: One day Jonathan son of Saul said to his young armor-bearer, “Come, let’s go over to the Philistine outpost on the other side.” But he did not tell his father.

Saul was staying on the outskirts of Gibeah under a pomegranate tree in Migron. With him were about six hundred men, among whom was Ahijah, who was wearing an ephod. He was a son of Ichabod’s brother Ahitub son of Phinehas, the son of Eli, the Lord’s priest in Shiloh. No one was aware that Jonathan had left.

On each side of the pass that Jonathan intended to cross to reach the Philistine outpost was a cliff; one was called Bozez and the other Seneh. One cliff stood to the north toward Mikmash, the other to the south toward Geba.

Jonathan said to his young armor-bearer, “Come, let’s go over to the outpost of those uncircumcised men. Perhaps the Lord will act in our behalf. Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few.”

“Do all that you have in mind,” his armor-bearer said. “Go ahead; I am with you heart and soul.”

Jonathan said, “Come on, then; we will cross over toward them and let them see us. If they say to us, ‘Wait there until we come to you,’ we will stay where we are and not go up to them. 10 But if they say, ‘Come up to us,’ we will climb up, because that will be our signthat the Lord has given them into our hands.”

11 So both of them showed themselves to the Philistine outpost. “Look!” said the Philistines. “The Hebrews are crawling out of the holes they were hiding in.” 12 The men of the outpost shouted to Jonathan and his armor-bearer, “Come up to us and we’ll teach you a lesson.”

So Jonathan said to his armor-bearer, “Climb up after me; the Lord has given them into the hand of Israel.”

13 Jonathan climbed up, using his hands and feet, with his armor-bearer right behind him. The Philistines fell before Jonathan, and his armor-bearer followed and killed behind him.14 In that first attack Jonathan and his armor-bearer killed some twenty men in an area of about half an acre.

Israel Routs the Philistines

15 Then panic struck the whole army—those in the camp and field, and those in the outposts and raiding parties—and the ground shook. It was a panic sent by God.[a]

16 Saul’s lookouts at Gibeah in Benjamin saw the army melting away in all directions.17 Then Saul said to the men who were with him, “Muster the forces and see who has left us.” When they did, it was Jonathan and his armor-bearer who were not there.

18 Saul said to Ahijah, “Bring the ark of God.” (At that time it was with the Israelites.)[b]19 While Saul was talking to the priest, the tumult in the Philistine camp increased more and more. So Saul said to the priest, “Withdraw your hand.”

20 Then Saul and all his men assembled and went to the battle. They found the Philistines in total confusion, striking each other with their swords. 21 Those Hebrews who had previously been with the Philistines and had gone up with them to their camp went over to the Israelites who were with Saul and Jonathan. 22 When all the Israelites who had hiddenin the hill country of Ephraim heard that the Philistines were on the run, they joined the battle in hot pursuit. 23 So on that day the Lord saved Israel, and the battle moved on beyond Beth Aven.

Jonathan Eats Honey

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24 Now the Israelites were in distress that day, because Saul had bound the people under an oath, saying, “Cursed be anyone who eats food before evening comes, before I have avenged myself on my enemies!” So none of the troops tasted food.

25 The entire army entered the woods, and there was honey on the ground. 26 When they went into the woods, they saw the honey oozing out; yet no one put his hand to his mouth, because they feared the oath. 27 But Jonathan had not heard that his father had bound the people with the oath, so he reached out the end of the staff that was in his hand and dipped it into the honeycomb. He raised his hand to his mouth, and his eyes brightened.[c]28 Then one of the soldiers told him, “Your father bound the army under a strict oath, saying, ‘Cursed be anyone who eats food today!’ That is why the men are faint.”

29 Jonathan said, “My father has made trouble for the country. See how my eyes brightened when I tasted a little of this honey. 30 How much better it would have been if the men had eaten today some of the plunder they took from their enemies. Would not the slaughter of the Philistines have been even greater?”

31 That day, after the Israelites had struck down the Philistines from Mikmash to Aijalon,they were exhausted. 32 They pounced on the plunder and, taking sheep, cattle and calves, they butchered them on the ground and ate them, together with the blood. 33 Then someone said to Saul, “Look, the men are sinning against the Lord by eating meat that has blood in it.”

“You have broken faith,” he said. “Roll a large stone over here at once.” 34 Then he said, “Go out among the men and tell them, ‘Each of you bring me your cattle and sheep, and slaughter them here and eat them. Do not sin against the Lord by eating meat with blood still in it.’”

So everyone brought his ox that night and slaughtered it there. 35 Then Saul built an altar to the Lord; it was the first time he had done this.

36 Saul said, “Let us go down and pursue the Philistines by night and plunder them till dawn, and let us not leave one of them alive.”

“Do whatever seems best to you,” they replied.

But the priest said, “Let us inquire of God here.”

37 So Saul asked God, “Shall I go down and pursue the Philistines? Will you give them into Israel’s hand?” But God did not answer him that day.

38 Saul therefore said, “Come here, all you who are leaders of the army, and let us find out what sin has been committed today. 39 As surely as the Lord who rescues Israel lives, even if the guilt lies with my son Jonathan, he must die.” But not one of them said a word.

40 Saul then said to all the Israelites, “You stand over there; I and Jonathan my son will stand over here.”

“Do what seems best to you,” they replied.

41 Then Saul prayed to the Lord, the God of Israel, “Why have you not answered your servant today? If the fault is in me or my son Jonathan, respond with Urim, but if the men of Israel are at fault,[d] respond with Thummim.” Jonathan and Saul were taken by lot, and the men were cleared. 42 Saul said, “Cast the lot between me and Jonathan my son.” And Jonathan was taken.

43 Then Saul said to Jonathan, “Tell me what you have done.”

So Jonathan told him, “I tasted a little honey with the end of my staff. And now I must die!”

44 Saul said, “May God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if you do not die, Jonathan.”

45 But the men said to Saul, “Should Jonathan die—he who has brought about this great deliverance in Israel? Never! As surely as the Lord lives, not a hair of his head will fall to the ground, for he did this today with God’s help.” So the men rescued Jonathan, and he was not put to death.

46 Then Saul stopped pursuing the Philistines, and they withdrew to their own land.

Footnotes:

  1. 1 Samuel 14:15 Or a terrible panic
  2. 1 Samuel 14:18 Hebrew; Septuagint “Bring the ephod.” (At that time he wore the ephod before the Israelites.)
  3. 1 Samuel 14:27 Or his strength was renewed; similarly in verse 29
  4. 1 Samuel 14:41 Septuagint; Hebrew does not have “Why … at fault.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

I really like this story because it shows a lot about the character of Saul and of the character of Jonathon, his son, but most importantly it is a great illustration of the character of God.  We see many times when reading about Saul that he is actually more interested in what men think of him and how to get what he wants than he is in finding out what God wants.  In this story, the Priest had to remind him that they should seek God’s will in what they were doing.  Saul didn’t punish his men for breaking God’s law, (eating meat with blood still in it)but he was going to put his son to death for breaking an oath that he forced on his men…to fast until evening.  Yet, if you look at that oath Saul demanded of his men, he was asking them to expend a lot of physical energy and yet not be “fueled” physically for the job.  Saul’s temperament was very much that of an “in the moment” type of person…rapid decisions on the spot without taking God into account most of the time until after the fact.  Personally, I find that King Saul’s character was very harsh, seems like he would be an uncomfortable person to be around.

Jonathon, on the other hand in all the readings about him, seems to have been a very sweet, and contemplative person…who was steadfast toward his friends and toward his father.  A person of action, but actions that he considered beforehand, and  looked to God for his answers.  Even when we find that God has made David the anointed future King of Israel…Jonathon does not complain…he simply accepts what his God has ordained…he states that he knows that he will be “second in command”.  Imagine that kind of faith?  Jonathon knows that whatever God ordains will come to pass, and that it will be best for everyone.  He trusted God.  He was even ready to die for eating a bit of honey if that is what God ordained.  God did not so ordain and used the men around Jonathon to open Saul’s eyes that God had used his son that day in order to give them victory over the Philistines. The glory always belongs to God.

1Samuel 23:17  

17 “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “My father Saul will not lay a hand on you. You will be king over Israel, and I will be second to you. Even my father Saul knows this.” (NIV)

 

We need to always remember to seek God first…if our intention is to seek God and live the way that God wishes us to live, then we can be confident that God will understand our mistakes.  God knows who we are, and what our intentions toward him are in our lives.  If we commit a sin, and we don’t really understand that it is a sin, then God is a God of justice.  If a person is truly seeking the Lord, then he will eventually find a way to open that person’s eyes to their sin.  Even the unknown ones.

Imagine how hard it would be if we all in seeking God were suddenly faced with ALL of our wrong doings in life…ALL of the things that we were sinful in doing, AND expected to FIX them all immediately before being drawn into a relationship with God?

It would not just be hard, it would be impossible!  If that were the requirement then none of us would be able to draw close to God…ever!  Thankfully, we have a loving God who has provided a way for us, through Jesus the Christ, to turn away from our sins and draw closer to him.  God is merciful and allows us to be helped by him in working through our sinful issues one by one as we go through life.  It is an amazing thing to me…when I first really started actively drawing closer to God I had a mental list of what my sins were…now I can laugh at the small number of them (though I thought at the time they the number was large enough…after all one is too many…that is why we need Jesus!).

The thing is that we all have sins that we don’t even recognize yet…it takes time with God for him to reveal them to us.  It is his love for you and me that he does this for us.   As we are able to set aside and grow away from our sins one by one we can grow closer to God and grow into the peace of heart, mind and soul that God wishes us to have in our life.

We are just like babies in dealing with our sins and in dealing with God.  Babies don’t understand the concepts of friendship or sharing, but usually by the time they are, say, 10 years old, hopefully their parents have taught to understand how to be a good friend, and that people share things, and selfishness is wrong.

It is really important to remember that God loves us even when we are sinning, but that our sins separate us from God.  So as soon as we recognize a sin, we should ask God to forgive us, and help us to turn away from that sin.  Remember John 3:16

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

God does not  want anyone to perish!  God loves us…he is not mad at us…he wants what is best for us…and following is plan for our life is what is best, but in order to come to know that plan….we have to seek God out with all of our hearts!

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Something to think about:   Are there times when you have done the wrong thing for what you think are the right reasons, but then you find out that you cannot justify doing the wrong thing for any reason?  

Is there a time  when you have unknowingly done the wrong thing?  For instance, you try to patch up some friends who are disagreeing and they get mad at you because of your methods.  Perhaps you tricked them into being in the same place at the same time, or you lied to them to get them to make up.  What happened when the lie came out? 

Perhaps you ate a piece of cake not knowing that the cake was supposed to go to a bake sale, and not be eaten at home.  You didn’t intentionally do the wrong thing, but it turned out that you had done the wrong thing.

God sees these kinds of things and realizes what we are doing…even if we think that no one sees us…God knows what is going on all of the time.  God sees things through the eyes of love!  

IMG_0971
This is my dog, Leia.  She is getting old now, but she is always happy to see me and just wants to be with me. I really appreciate  how God supplied me with pets who let me see such a simple and straight forward happiness. 

God is a Stronghold

IMG_03862 Samuel 22:2  The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer

Read 2 Samuel 22:1-3 and 1 Samuel Chapter 23, then Psalm 18

This is the story of David hiding in the wilderness in strongholds, and God keeping Saul from finding him.

A stronghold or fortress is a place to hide in times of trouble.  Usually made up of rock, or some similar solid material, or many times a cave.   If you read Psalm 18 David clearly expresses his trust in God as his personal stronghold, fortress and solid rock in times of trouble.  We can have that same faith ourselves…there is nothing in the Bible that ever says that we won’t have trouble if we trust God.  God promises that he will strengthen us in our times of trouble and he will be with us, if we just trust him.  David expresses an interesting thing about his enemies in Psalm 18…he tells us that his enemies come trembling from their strongholds. They knew that their strongholds were not strong enough to withstand David’s God.  

The thing is that Psalm 18 is a complete song of praise for what God has done for David…the only credit David takes for himself is that he is faithful and righteous, without sin (meaning that he kept God’s law and followed God to the best of his ability – not meaning that he was a perfect person).  We need to remember to be thankful and give God praise also.

God is our savior…our stronghold.  Whenever trouble comes we are to lose ourselves in Him, and rely on him to protect us and get us through our troubles.  Because there is sin in the world and we human beings are born with an attitude and nature that leads us to selfishness and being judgmental of others…an attitude of sin.  Due to this we will have trouble in our lives, either we will make trouble for ourselves through our own decisions or we will encounter trouble caused by the decisions of others….for the most part both cases are true for all of us as we go through life.  

Job 5:7 Yet man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward.

IMG_3393In David’s case in 1Samuel 23 We see that David and his men are sent to save a town and they achieve it by acting with courage (it plainly states that they were afraid) and following what God tells them to do. The funny thing is that the next thing we read is that Saul was coming to get David in Keilah, the town David and his men had just rescued from the Philistines…and God lets David know that he and his men would be turned over to King Saul by the town…so after saving them they had to leave to escape Saul.  God used David and his men to save Keilah, then saved David and his men from Saul.  We get this fabulous word picture of David and his men creeping along one side of a hill while Saul and his men are marching along the other…God used the hills and caves and rocks to hide David and his men from Saul.  They were more effective than if David had built a giant fortress to hide in.  That is how God works when we trust him…he uses every day things and people to help us get through your trouble…he gives us peace of heart and shields us from many things that we never even realize we are being shielded from.  I really love the verse below…In their distress they turned to God and then God was found by them.  Isn’t that amazing….how much better to turn to God before we are distressed and enjoy his company every day of our lives, not just when we are distressed.

2 Chronicles 15:4 But in their distress they turned to the Lord, the God of Israel and he was found by them.

 Applicable Bible Verses:

2Samuel 22:1-3 (NIV)

David sang to the Lord the words of this song when the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul. He said:

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
    my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
    my shield[a] and the horn[b] of my salvation.
He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior—
    from violent people you save me.

1 Samuel 23 (NIV)

David Saves Keilah

23 When David was told, “Look, the Philistines are fighting against Keilah and are looting the threshing floors,” he inquired of the Lord, saying, “Shall I go and attack these Philistines?”

The Lord answered him, “Go, attack the Philistines and save Keilah.”

But David’s men said to him, “Here in Judah we are afraid. How much more, then, if we go to Keilah against the Philistine forces!”

Once again David inquired of the Lord, and the Lord answered him, “Go down to Keilah, for I am going to give the Philistines into your hand.” So David and his men went to Keilah, fought the Philistines and carried off their livestock. He inflicted heavy losses on the Philistines and saved the people of Keilah. (Now Abiathar son of Ahimelek had brought the ephod down with him when he fled to David at Keilah.)

Saul Pursues David

Saul was told that David had gone to Keilah, and he said, “God has delivered him into my hands, for David has imprisoned himself by entering a town with gates and bars.” And Saul called up all his forces for battle, to go down to Keilah to besiege David and his men.

When David learned that Saul was plotting against him, he said to Abiathar the priest, “Bring the ephod.” 10 David said, “Lord, God of Israel, your servant has heard definitely that Saul plans to come to Keilah and destroy the town on account of me. 11 Will the citizens of Keilah surrender me to him? Will Saul come down, as your servant has heard? Lord, God of Israel, tell your servant.”

And the Lord said, “He will.”

12 Again David asked, “Will the citizens of Keilah surrender me and my men to Saul?”

And the Lord said, “They will.”

13 So David and his men, about six hundred in number, left Keilah and kept moving from place to place. When Saul was told that David had escaped from Keilah, he did not go there.

14 David stayed in the wilderness strongholds and in the hills of the Desert of Ziph. Day after day Saul searched for him, but God did not give David into his hands.

15 While David was at Horesh in the Desert of Ziph, he learned that[a] Saul had come out to take his life. 16 And Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God. 17 “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “My father Saul will not lay a hand on you. You will be king over Israel, and I will be second to you. Even my father Saul knows this.”18 The two of them made a covenant before the Lord. Then Jonathan went home, but David remained at Horesh.

19 The Ziphites went up to Saul at Gibeah and said, “Is not David hiding among us in the strongholds at Horesh, on the hill of Hakilah, south of Jeshimon? 20 Now, Your Majesty, come down whenever it pleases you to do so, and we will be responsible for giving him into your hands.”

21 Saul replied, “The Lord bless you for your concern for me. 22 Go and get more information. Find out where David usually goes and who has seen him there. They tell me he is very crafty. 23 Find out about all the hiding places he uses and come back to me with definite information. Then I will go with you; if he is in the area, I will track him down among all the clans of Judah.”

24 So they set out and went to Ziph ahead of Saul. Now David and his men were in the Desert of Maon, in the Arabah south of Jeshimon. 25 Saul and his men began the search, and when David was told about it, he went down to the rock and stayed in the Desert of Maon. When Saul heard this, he went into the Desert of Maon in pursuit of David.

26 Saul was going along one side of the mountain, and David and his men were on the other side, hurrying to get away from Saul. As Saul and his forces were closing in on David and his men to capture them, 27 a messenger came to Saul, saying, “Come quickly! The Philistines are raiding the land.” 28 Then Saul broke off his pursuit of David and went to meet the Philistines. That is why they call this place Sela Hammahlekoth.[b] 29 And David went up from there and lived in the strongholds of En Gedi.[c]

Footnotes:

  1. 1 Samuel 23:15 Or he was afraid because
  2. 1 Samuel 23:28 Sela Hammahlekoth means rock of parting.
  3. 1 Samuel 23:29 In Hebrew texts this verse (23:29) is numbered 24:1.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Psalm 18New International Version (NIV)

Psalm 18[a]

For the director of music. Of David the servant of the Lord. He sang to the Lord the words of this song when the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul. He said:

I love you, Lord, my strength.

The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
    my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
    my shield[b] and the horn[c] of my salvation, my stronghold.

I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise,
    and I have been saved from my enemies.
The cords of death entangled me;
    the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.
The cords of the grave coiled around me;
    the snares of death confronted me.

In my distress I called to the Lord;
    I cried to my God for help.
From his temple he heard my voice;
    my cry came before him, into his ears.
The earth trembled and quaked,
    and the foundations of the mountains shook;
    they trembled because he was angry.
Smoke rose from his nostrils;
    consuming fire came from his mouth,
    burning coals blazed out of it.
He parted the heavens and came down;
    dark clouds were under his feet.
10 He mounted the cherubim and flew;
    he soared on the wings of the wind.
11 He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him—
    the dark rain clouds of the sky.
12 Out of the brightness of his presence clouds advanced,
    with hailstones and bolts of lightning.
13 The Lord thundered from heaven;
    the voice of the Most High resounded.[d]
14 He shot his arrows and scattered the enemy,
    with great bolts of lightning he routed them.
15 The valleys of the sea were exposed
    and the foundations of the earth laid bare
at your rebuke, Lord,
    at the blast of breath from your nostrils.

16 He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
    he drew me out of deep waters.
17 He rescued me from my powerful enemy,
    from my foes, who were too strong for me.
18 They confronted me in the day of my disaster,
    but the Lord was my support.
19 He brought me out into a spacious place;
    he rescued me because he delighted in me.

20 The Lord has dealt with me according to my righteousness;
    according to the cleanness of my hands he has rewarded me.
21 For I have kept the ways of the Lord;
    I am not guilty of turning from my God.
22 All his laws are before me;
    I have not turned away from his decrees.
23 I have been blameless before him
    and have kept myself from sin.
24 The Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness,
    according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight.

25 To the faithful you show yourself faithful,
    to the blameless you show yourself blameless,
26 to the pure you show yourself pure,
    but to the devious you show yourself shrewd.
27 You save the humble
    but bring low those whose eyes are haughty.
28 You, Lord, keep my lamp burning;
    my God turns my darkness into light.
29 With your help I can advance against a troop[e];
    with my God I can scale a wall.

30 As for God, his way is perfect:
    The Lord’s word is flawless;
    he shields all who take refuge in him.
31 For who is God besides the Lord?
    And who is the Rock except our God?
32 It is God who arms me with strength
    and keeps my way secure.
33 He makes my feet like the feet of a deer;
    he causes me to stand on the heights.
34 He trains my hands for battle;
    my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
35 You make your saving help my shield,
    and your right hand sustains me;
    your help has made me great.
36 You provide a broad path for my feet,
    so that my ankles do not give way.

37 I pursued my enemies and overtook them;
    I did not turn back till they were destroyed.
38 I crushed them so that they could not rise;
    they fell beneath my feet.
39 You armed me with strength for battle;
    you humbled my adversaries before me.
40 You made my enemies turn their backs in flight,
    and I destroyed my foes.
41 They cried for help, but there was no one to save them—
    to the Lord, but he did not answer.
42 I beat them as fine as windblown dust;
    I trampled them[f] like mud in the streets.
43 You have delivered me from the attacks of the people;
    you have made me the head of nations.
People I did not know now serve me,
44     foreigners cower before me;
    as soon as they hear of me, they obey me.
45 They all lose heart;
    they come trembling from their strongholds.

46 The Lord lives! Praise be to my Rock!
    Exalted be God my Savior!
47 He is the God who avenges me,
    who subdues nations under me,
48     who saves me from my enemies.
You exalted me above my foes;
    from a violent man you rescued me.
49 Therefore I will praise you, Lord, among the nations;
    I will sing the praises of your name.

50 He gives his king great victories;
    he shows unfailing love to his anointed,
    to David and to his descendants forever.

Footnotes:

  1. Psalm 18:1 In Hebrew texts 18:1-50 is numbered 18:2-51.
  2. Psalm 18:2 Or sovereign
  3. Psalm 18:2 Horn here symbolizes strength.
  4. Psalm 18:13 Some Hebrew manuscripts and Septuagint (see also 2 Samuel 22:14); most Hebrew manuscripts resounded, / amid hailstones and bolts of lightning
  5. Psalm 18:29 Or can run through a barricade
  6. Psalm 18:42 Many Hebrew manuscripts, Septuagint, Syriac and Targum (see also 2 Samuel 22:43); Masoretic Text I poured them out
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

The Devourer’s of Widow’s houses

IMG_2256Luke 20:45-47 45 Then, in the hearing of all the people, He said to His disciples, 46 “Beware of the scribes, who desire to go around in long robes, love greetings in the marketplaces, the best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts, 47 who devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation.”

Luke 21:1-4 And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites. So He said, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.”

I was having a conversation with my Mother last week and she mentioned the widow’s mite and I felt compelled to go and reread it.  Many times I have heard people quote this story as if it were another of Jesus’ parables and say things like  “The Widow was more blessed than all the rest because she gave everything she had to God!”  I have heard this story used to say that we should give our all to God.

While it is true that we should give ourselves fully over to God I don’t believe that it is in God’s nature, nor is it in scripture that God would like people to starve in order to pay tithe.  In fact, if you look at Luke 20:45-47, it is pretty obvious that Jesus is condemning the scribes for “devouring the widow’s houses”.  Now, I look at that along with Luke 21:1-4 where Jesus is standing there and observing this woman put in all she had to live on and it seems that Jesus is saying that the scribes are actually at fault for making this poor woman believe that in order to be accepted by God she needs to give everything she has to live on…even if it means she must starve.

Now there are other places that we can go in scripture to back up the idea that God takes care of his people and he puts the people and their well being above following the law.

For instance:  Mark 2:23-27 

23 And it came to pass, that he went through the corn fields on the sabbath day; and his disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears of corn.

24 And the Pharisees said unto him, Behold, why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful?

25 And he said unto them, Have ye never read what David did, when he had need, and was an hungered, he, and they that were with him?

26 How he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and did eat the shewbread, which is not lawful to eat but for the priests, and gave also to them which were with him?

27 And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath:

(1Samuel 21:7 for the scripture about David and his men.)

When we look at Matthew 5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Many times you will hear folks say, “Blessed are the Poor” and then leave it at that…the complete statement is Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Now that is a completely different idea…there is nothing in the Sermon on the Mount which is talking about wealth or poverty of material goods.  Everything is talking about attitude toward God and toward others in life.

When I read the idea of the Poor in Spirit…I think it is about being selfless in your attitude in life.  You are always looking toward the needs of others, and what God wants you to do…not always yelling about yourself and your rights in this world.  That is what it means to me when I read the “poor in spirit” statement.

God continually condemns self centered people who walk all over or manipulate others for their own gain!  There is a lot of misconception about wealth in the world of Christianity.  The reason misconception continues is that there are many Christians who do not read the Word of God for themselves and study it.  Relying solely on someone in the pulpit to tell you how to be a Christian is a huge error!  There are a lot of folks who take things out of context and support their beliefs instead of taking it in the context in which it was written and finding out what God is really like.

There are very sincere Christians in all walks of life..both wealthy and poor…God has no problem with the level of your pocket book….only if you love your wealth more than you love him and those around you is there a problem.  The Bible says, “Love of money is the root of all evil”, not: “money is the root of all evil.”

1Timothy 6:10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

This is why the scribes were condemned…it was love of themselves and love of money to the point where they actually “devoured widow’s houses”.  They were hypocrites in the worst way, they gave “some” of their wealth, but made the widow feel that she had to give “all” of her goods in order to measure up.

Have you ever done that?  Seen that someone was giving a lot and so felt the need to put more in than you could really afford…more than you had previously decided on because the amount you were able to give seemed “insignificant” by comparison to what you knew the other person was giving?!! God says that he loves a cheerful giver…he wants you to give what you feel you can… to honor him.  He does not want you comparing yourself with the person next to you.  He wants your love and trust in him. That is why it is best if all giving is done quietly and personally.

I went to a large church as a visitor with someone once, and that person told me that whenever they went to their church they felt that they should always bring the “checkbook”; when I attended with them I understood why they felt that way…the buckets (literally) were passed about 5 times down the aisles during their worship!  Now some folks who are new or unsure of their Christianity would feel pressured to always put something in each time it was passed in order to not be “embarrassed”…I wonder what Jesus would think of his followers treating his sheep like that in his name?!!  Well, we don’t have far to look…looking again at the verses in Luke 20 and Luke 21 above it seems clear how Jesus would feel about these things.

The Bible is very clear on the status of widows and orphans from Old Testament through New Testament the attitude is the same.  Those who are most vulnerable in society should be protected and cared for either by their relatives or by the church if there are no relatives to care for them.

Exodus 22:22-23King James Version (KJV)

22 Ye shall not afflict any widow, or fatherless child.

23 If thou afflict them in any wise, and they cry at all unto me, I will surely hear their cry;

For more from the apostle Paul on the care of widows and orphans look at 1Timothy 5.

Great is your Reward

IMG_49481Corinthians 2:9  However, as it is written: What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived — the things God has prepared for those who love him.

I find it to be interesting that the focus of many sermons is the rewards of following God…how we will be rewarded for our behavior or our faith when we get to heaven.  As if anyone who genuinely choses to follow Jesus Christ is doing so for the “rewards” that they might get!  Jesus called his Disciples his friends….now I don’t know about you, but I don’t approach my friends with any thought of what “reward” I can get from them.  The friendship is reward enough.

There are many many verses in the Bible that speak of God giving rewards to people, and we have many many pastors out there preaching about rewards.  This verse in 1Cor. 2:9 tells us that we cannot fathom all that God has prepared for us who love him.

That means that when we think of rewards we can probably cross off things of an earthly nature, from our thinking.  Not that God doesn’t care about those things that you need and desire in your life..he does.  However, face the facts…not every devoted Christian becomes endowed with worldly wealth.  My personal thinking is that if you need it to accomplish the purpose God has for your life, then he will provide it.  The main thing is to understand that having wealth is not a sin, but misusing it, or not recognizing that it is a gift (Even if you work for it, the abilities that allow you to attain it come from God… they are a gift…there are many people who work for it and yet never have it.)

So, lets look at this reward idea from another perspective instead of the material goods perspective.

What is the reward of being a Christian?  I know one of the first things we all think of is that we have been purified and salvation is ours.  While that is true, I don’t think of this as a reward.  Generally, we refer to that as a “gift” that Jesus gave us.  A reward implies something that we worked to earn in some way.  We all know that we cannot “earn” salvation, though there are many people that still try.

Proverbs 3:3-4  Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
bind them around your neck,
write them on the tablet of your heart.
Then you will win favor and a good name
in the sight of God and man.

So looking at Proverbs 3:3-4 we can see that one of the rewards of following God is that you win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.

Another way to put this is that you are viewed as a Godly, righteous person, both in the sight of God and in the sight of the people around you.  By living in love and faithfulness you become what Jesus told his Disciples to be….followers of Jesus…Fishers of Men…representing the loving nature of God to those around you…living witnesses to the message of the Kingdom of God.

Luke 6:38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

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Luke 6:38 is many times taken out of context, but the good measure spoken of here is connected to verse 37 which speaks about being judgmental and condemning of others.  We can just as well paraphrase this verse to say…”Give forgiveness, and love generously to others.”

Those who cook can understand the idea of a “good measure”…it means not to be skimpy in your measurement of an ingredient because it effects the outcome of the thing you are cooking.  So being generous in our measure of forgiveness to others and in our loving of others will effect how they respond to us as people…it effects how they respond to your claim of Christianity also.  God is telling us that we should be quick to forgive and generous in doing so.  Looking at this from a reward perspective…the reward for this is that God will judge your misdeeds with the same measure that you judge others.  If you judge others harshly then you can expect the same from God.  So the benefit of being loving and forgiving toward others is that God is the same to you, and also your earthly benefit is that you will have many more friends and loved ones, and when you tell someone that you are a Christian then they will be apt to believe you and perhaps wish to find out more about your Christianity.

Face it! There is no one who has ever been hated into loving God!

Jesus is the only one qualified to say where a person is going to end up.  He is the only judge.  The pressure is off! You and I are not required to fix the world by standing in judgement on others!  I think, what a relief!  What a reward!  God’s requirement for us is to love the person and show them who God is in our lives by the way we live and love others, and love God.

Please don’t confuse being the type of judgment spoken of here, (which is being condemning) and using good judgement in dealing with others.  

Another reward we have from following God is to be at peace with God, and to have God’s peace in our lives.  Gaining this peace comes from turning our lives over to God and submitting to him.  Part of that submission which leads to earthly peace is to learn to have a habit of forgiving others.  Forgiveness is like that…the more you do it…the easier it becomes…it is habit forming!  The more you forgive the more peace you have in your heart.

God tells us to forgive, not for the person who has done wrong’s benefit, but for our own benefit.  A horrible thing happens to us when we do not forgive….we have anger that moves through us at the thought of that person…until we are consumed with bitterness.  This is unhealthy and usually doesn’t make the other person feel bad at all.  We are not to wait for the person to ask us for forgiveness….we need to be working on it as soon as we have been wronged so that if they ever do ask, then we can be the person who can smile peacefully and sincerely tell that person that we already forgave them for that a while back!  I can tell you that this is a wonderful feeling to have because you don’t need to worry about your expression or anything…it is a feeling of freedom to be able to forgive people readily.  That is quite a reward….it leads to a peace that surpasses any worldly understanding.  A peace of heart.cb9abd0f57c415832936240661835956

Hebrews 11:6  And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

I really have no idea what reward God may have for his believers in heaven, but I can tell you that for myself, I have found that living in relationship with God on a daily basis is reward enough.  It is a great reward to go through life and enjoy the pleasure of God’s company through good times and bad..to know that you are truly never alone…and also to be able to celebrate the salvation of another person as they learn and get excited to follow God..to watch their life of faith begin and continue…to be part of a larger family…as Jesus tells us in Matthew 12:48   48 He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

The reward that God gives us in this life is relationship…with him and with others around us.  There are many small gifts along the way  that God may give you (he is good to do that), but relationship is to my way of thinking the primary “reward” for following God.  In short, God’s idea of a reward does not correspond to the earthly ideas of position in society, lording it over others, or monetary rewards…his idea of a reward is relationship with him and with those around you…more love in your life!

I think the reward that most of us who are Christians want from God is said very well in Matthew 25:21

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

 

 

King Jesus

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Zechariah 9:9 Rejoice Greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee:  he is just, and having salvation; lowly and riding upon a donkey, and upon the colt of a donkey.

Read Zechariah 9:9-17 This is about the coming of Jesus and his Kingdom. 

Read Matthew 5:17-20 Here Jesus refers to the Kingdom of Heaven.

Read 1 Samuel 8: 5-22  Here the Israelites demand a King for themselves.

Notes:  God gives the Israelites a king when they asked for one, after warning them that kings are human and tend to be demanding.  Then in Zechariah God promises the coming of Jesus as a king who is just and has salvation.  Then in Matthew Jesus refers to His Kingdom as the Kingdom of Heaven.

As you can see from these verses the Hebrews were expecting another earthly king, but one who was more perfect, and less demanding than their other earthly kings.  They could not conceive of the idea of a heavenly king coming to earth.  There are many verses in the New Testament in which we get the idea that the disciples and the people did not understand the idea of a heavenly kingdom.  They believed that the Messiah would be an earthly king!  There are many verses and parables where Jesus attempts to enlighten them, but many people do not have the ears to hear or the eyes to see God’s word.

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Think about some of these questions:  If you were to create a kingdom how would it be? How are you going to govern?  How are you going to protect?  How much freedom are you going to allow?  Can there be too much freedom?  What happens if there is too little freedom?  You must make your subjects happy and content and well fed.  How are you going to do that?  Think about the problems involved…what if someone is unhappy? or disagrees with how you are planning to do things?  

When we look at what Jesus says about the Kingdom of Heaven we don’t see him talking a lot about government at all.  He really spends time telling us about God who is loving, and that those who wish to be the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven should strive to be servants.  Jesus tells us in Matthew 5 right after the Sermon on the Mount that “unless a person’s righteousness surpasses that of the pharisees and the teachers of the law they cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” Now, that is a real problem for most of us if we are depending on our keeping the law to get us into the kingdom of heaven.  Thankfully, God’s idea of righteousness is different from our worldly view of righteousness.  Righteousness is not about being a perfect person.  It is about loving God faithfully, and pursuing him and trusting that he is a God who keeps the promises he makes…or the very basic idea of righteousness is to have faith in God…not just to believe that God exists.

When God tells us in Zechariah 9 that the King will come riding on a donkey, and then we read that this is exactly what Jesus did…Jesus fulfilled every single prophecy about the Messiah that God gave to the people of Israel through his prophets.  There is not a single one that he did not fulfill!

Jesus is the heavenly King come to earth…to bring forth the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.  We cannot simply be Christians who treat the Kingdom of Heaven as some place that you go to when you die.  As I recently heard someone state, “We cannot treat our Christianity as simply a life insurance policy for the hereafter!”  If we do that then we are only experiencing a very small part of what God has for us.  As Jesus states in Matthew 22:32, Mark 12:27 and Luke 20:38 God is a God of the living, not a God of the dead!  I like Luke’s version, he adds “for to Him all are alive!”

I don’t know about you, but I want Jesus to be my King and the Lord of my life while I am still alive…I don’t want to wait to meet him and spend time with him until I am dead!  There are so many things in life to experience, and it is much better to experience them with Christ as your King, than looking for a human King or president to “save” you…if you look at the record of the world leaders today, they are the same types as those listed in the Old Testament…the same types as God warned the people of Israel about.  The Kings/leaders of today, are takers…they are not givers.  God is a giver!  He gives and gives and gives and takes pleasure in giving to us.

Now, don’t go thinking that if you follow God you will be gifted with great amounts of material wealth…that is not what I am talking about.  God will give you what you need to bring about his plan for your life!  What God gives us is not always a tangible material good, sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t.  The gift of salvation and freedom from the things that weigh us down emotionally…the freedom to love others the way they should be loved!  Not to be loving them for their status in this world, or for their physical beauty, or for what they can do for you!  To simply love people for who they are, as they are  “warts and all”…the way that God loves them!  God loves people from the point of understanding everything about them and loving them anyway!  This is how he wants us to love them also!  These gifts of salvation and freedom are only a couple of the gifts that God gives to his believers.  There are many other gifts listed in the Bible that he gives to his people in order to allow them to use those gifts to glorify Him.  img_0552

The Mighty God

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Deuteronomy 10:17 For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. 

Read Deuteronomy Chapter 10.  Note that the tablets talked about are the replacements for the 10 commandments which were broken over the Golden Calf idol worship.  This chapter gives instructions on how we are to relate to God and to others.  God is a mighty and awesome God. 

Think about what it means to be “mighty”…that is not a word that is really used a lot anymore, but when I was a kid usually it was used in connection with someone being “mighty” pleased, or “mighty” upset…so that gives us a bit of a basis for the idea.  It gives the sense of something that is “as pleased as you can possibly be” or “as upset as you can possibly be”…the key is that it is as “much as you can possibly be”…that is to say extreme or excessive..this is the most common usage…but there is another usage.

mighty_mouse_using_pop_art_style_by_duceduc-d561xzj2There used to be a cartoon when I was younger called “Mighty Mouse”…well, Mighty Mouse was a very strong mouse…super hero category…I always felt that the use of a mouse as a character to be “Mighty” was an interesting thing.  When you look at mice there is nothing about them that is strong or mighty…they are unnoticeable, except in their capacity to get into bins and such and places that you think are secure and eat your stuff.  However, they do have a “mighty” capacity for doing that type of thing for sure.

In the Old Testament we read of the use of the word “Mighty” in connection to King David and his “Mighty Men”.  (2Samuel 23:8-39)   When we read these verses we see that the Bible uses the term “mighty” in the same capacity as the use of “Mighty Mouse”  to mean excessively strong and powerful – over and above the average person.  Super Hero quality strength.  Think of God in light of that definition.

There are many stories in the Bible about God’s activities which are amazing, so amazing that if we were not talking about God they would be unbelievable…funny thing is that when you look at King David, he was not at all “mighty” to start with, he was a young man who watched over the family sheep!  When he was anointed King, Samuel looked at all his brothers, and kept asking God, “How about this one?  Is he the one?”  God just kept saying, “No, that’s not the one.”  Samuel even thought he had run out of Jesse’s sons when God had rejected them all, but come to find out it was the youngest, the least “mighty” of them all whom God chose.  If you ask yourself, why?  Well the answer is that God uses the “mice” of this world the most often because then His Glory and His Mightiness shows through to us..that way there is no mistake in our minds about who is doing this great thing…God or the person he chose to empower to act for His Glory.

If a person is all “look at me!  See how strong  am!  Look what can do!”  Then who is taking the credit?  Well, that person is obviously taking the credit for the gifts that God Almighty has given to them in the way of talents and abilities…they are not giving God the glory.  In Exodus Chapter 20 God lays down his basic laws of behavior to the Israelites and also to us who are Christians…(now keep in mind that the law does not save you..no one gets salvation through the law!)

If you look at verse 5 God tells us that he is a jealous God…he is a God of love, but also a God of judgement.  Then look down at verses 18-21…it tells us that the people of Israel trembled and feared the bit of God that they saw…they were so in “awe” of God’s “mighty” power that they were afraid to approach or even talk to God…they told Moses, “You go talk to him, then come back and tell us what he says!”

If we were faced with the same situation today…would we be doing the same thing?  Would we be standing in fear and asking someone else to talk to God for us?  That is not what God wants…he wanted, even then, to have a relationship with his people, but relationships require trust, and time to build.  God recognizes this and is patient with us.  The more “mighty” the person, the harder we feel it is to get close to them…many people are still putting God at a distance…or disregarding him altogether…until they need that “Mighty and Awesome God” to help them through tough times in their lives.  God is always there for us, he is ready and willing to let us lean on his “mightiness” and recognize that he is worthy of our “awe.”

Our reverence…

….our worship.

God, “the Mighty and Awesome God” loves us without reservation, even knowing everything about us … good and bad!

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Exodus Chapter 20

Then God spoke all these words, saying,

      2“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

      3“You shall have no other gods before Me.

      4“You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. 5“You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

      7“You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.

      8“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9“Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you.11“For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.

      12“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you.

      13“You shall not murder.

      14“You shall not commit adultery.

      15“You shall not steal.

      16“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

      17“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

      18All the people perceived the thunder and the lightning flashes and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood at a distance. 19Then they said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die.”20Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin.” 21So the people stood at a distance, while Moses approached the thick cloud where God was.

      22Then the LORD said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘You yourselves have seen that I have spoken to you from heaven. 23‘You shall not make other gods besides Me; gods of silver or gods of gold, you shall not make for yourselves. 24‘You shall make an altar of earth for Me, and you shall sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen; in every place where I cause My name to be remembered, I will come to you and bless you. 25‘If you make an altar of stone for Me, you shall not build it of cut stones, for if you wield your tool on it, you will profane it. 26‘And you shall not go up by steps to My altar, so that your nakedness will not be exposed on it.’