Friday, May 24, 2019

Trust and Obey...

"And he said to him, “I also am a prophet as you are, and an angel spoke to me by the word of the Lord, saying, ‘Bring him back with you into your house that he may eat bread and drink water.’ ” But he lied to him. So he went back with him and ate bread in his house and drank water." - 1 Kings 13:18-19
We see it every day in the business world. People lie to get ahead. They have their own agenda and they really don't care who they hurt. There are also entire cultures that practice a lifestyle of constant deceit. They can't see any other way to succeed. In a world of such falsehood, who can we really trust?
The man of God had received a message from God and clear instructions to follow. He proved faithful in delivering the message and obedient in the early stages of of his mission. But, the moment of temptation arrived. The real difficulty was where the prodding came from to disobey. An old prophet lied to the man of God, which ultimately led to his death. If you can't trust an old prophet, who can you really trust?
The lesson is reasonably clear. The only one who knows the will of God for you... Is you. Many wise and well experienced people can enter your life with proposals that go contrary to God's will for you. They may be incredibly insightful and trustworthy. But, you are not accountable to their directions in life. You answer to God alone. And, in a world of many well meaning, but often misleading friends, who can you really trust? The leading of God! 

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Truth is always true...

"So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and did not wholly follow the Lord, as David his father had done. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem. And so he did for all his foreign wives, who made offerings and sacrificed to their gods." - 1 Kings 11:6-8
Do you remember being told as a child not to touch the hot stove or you'd get burned? What happened when you touched the hot stove? You got burned. No matter how much you believed it wouldn't burn, you got burned. You can doubt all you want, but truth is always true.
Solomon was warned in Deuteronomy 7:3-4. If he married any woman from the pagan nations they would turn him away ..."from following me, to serve other gods."  What happened? No matter how much Solomon believed it wouldn't happen to him, it did. He could doubt all he wanted, but truth is always true. 
The principle is timeless my friend. Paul the apostle revisited this in 2 Corinthians 6:14..."Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?" The creative idea of "marriage evangelism" just doesn't work. There is no fellowship between light and darkness. You can doubt all you want, but truth is always true. 




Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Be Overwhelmed...

"And she said to the king, “The report was true that I heard in my own land of your words and of your wisdom, but I did not believe the reports until I came and my own eyes had seen it. And behold, the half was not told me. Your wisdom and prosperity surpass the report that I heard. Happy are your men! Happy are your servants, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom!" - 1 Kings 10:6-8
A number of years ago a friend from Illinois came to visit me at my home on Long Island, NY. He drove through New York City at four in morning and then seventy-five miles east to our home. As he reached the heavily wooded area of Suffolk County he wondered if he had made a wrong turn somewhere.  When he finally arrived, he was overwhelmed with the rural beauty that surrounded us. Apparently the half had not been told him.
The Queen of Sheba was greatly impressed with Solomon's wealth and wisdom. She had heard many reports and elaborate stories, but she didn't believe them, because It all sounded far too amazing. When she finally saw everything firsthand, it literally took her breath away. And behold, the half was not told her.
One day, every believer will finally experience the glory of Heaven. "And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass. And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb." - Revelation 21:21-23... And behold, the half will not have been told.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

True Love ...

"And King Solomon and all the congregation of Israel, who had assembled before him, were with him before the ark, sacrificing so many sheep and oxen that they could not be counted or numbered." - 1 Kings 8:5
Do you ever wonder who gives their husband or wife a brand new high end automobile for a Christmas or birthday gift? It could be a very wealthy family, or just someone that loves their mate so much that they would sacrifice anything for their happiness. True love has a way of bringing the best out of us.
As I wrote yesterday, Solomon enjoyed putting God first in his life. He didn't feel an obligation to worship and serve the Lord. He felt a loving devotion that drove him to honor God with overwhelming sacrifices. Solomon was totally committed to bringing joy and pleasure to the Lord's heart. True love had a way of bringing the best out of him.
When you enter the church next Sunday, what will you bring to the Lord? Will your gifts reflect obligation or love? Will you come with an excuse for giving so little in the offering plate? Or will you be so overwhelmed with God's saving grace in your life that no sacrifice will be enough to express your love and gratitude? True love has way of bringing the best out of us. 

Monday, May 20, 2019

First things first...

"And in the eleventh year, in the month of Bul, which is the eighth month, the house was finished in all its parts, and according to all its specifications. He was seven years in building it...  Solomon was building his own house thirteen years, and he finished his entire house. " - 1 Kings 6:38,; 7:1
When we have a choice, many of us will do what we enjoy first and then what needs to be done later. Usually when we do this, we tend to run out of time to do the necessary work. Wouldn't it be great if we enjoyed doing the necessary? 
Solomon certainly had the choice to build his own house first. After all, his palace compound was very complex and required a great deal more effort. It would have been nice to have a comfortable place to live while he built the temple. Could it be that he actually enjoyed doing what was necessary? 
"Do first things first" is an age old thought. We might follow the counsel because wisdom tells us that it's the best way to go. But, is it possible for "first things" to also be "enjoyable things". When we love the Lord, serving Him in any way is just that...both "first" and "enjoyable"... After all, Jesus said in Matthew 11:30 - "My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” 


Sunday, May 19, 2019

God speaks ...

"The Spirit of the Lord speaks by me; his word is on my tongue." - 2 Samuel 23:2
During the 70s and 80s one well known stock firm became even more popular with the following commercial ... "When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen". When information comes our way, we tend to listen more carefully when we trust the source. The messenger is just that... a messenger. But, the one who sends the message makes all the difference. When God speaks, people should listen.
The words of David are quite revealing. He never saw himself as the original source of his writings. He understood the work of God's Spirit in his life and his work. When we read the psalms we hear the voice of God speaking to our hearts. This is the same with every book of the BIble. Whether it be David, Moses, Samuel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul or Peter, they were all sent by God to speak and write God's message. So, when the pages of Scripture are opened and read, God speaks and we should listen.
During the early years of my pastoral ministry, the former editor of Christianity Today, Harold Lindsell, wrote the book "The Battle for The Bible". In the years that followed many more books were written defending the veracity of the Scriptures, in a time of doubt and unbelief. While all these books have been a great help, the above verse says all we need to know about the Bible ... God speaks, and people should listen.



  

Saturday, May 18, 2019

IF...

"Now the word of the Lord came to Solomon, “Concerning this house that you are building, if you will walk in my statutes and obey my rules and keep all my commandments and walk in them, then I will establish my word with you, which I spoke to David your father. And I will dwell among the children of Israel and will not forsake my people Israel.” - 1 Kings 6:11-13
There are different kinds of guarantees. The unconditional guarantee covers everything in everyway. Take a quality hammer... you can beat it, drop it, kick it, or slam it, and it's unconditionally guaranteed not to break. Then there's the quality laptop... It's guaranteed, but you better not beat it, drop it, kick it, or slam it, because it's conditionally guaranteed not to break. You need to look for the "if" .
God's promises are much the same as above. The unconditional promise is all God's work. We can stumble, fumble, foul up or mess up, and God's unconditional promise will never fail. Then there's the conditional promise... you better not fumble, stumble, foul up, mess up, because conditional promises depend on our faith and faithfulness. The word of the Lord came to Solomon with... "if you will walk, obey and keep... then", so you need to look for the "if". 
From the first step of salvation, we are given many conditional promises. “...if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." - Romans 10:9... or If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." - 1 John 1:9... or "If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you." - John 15:7 You see, not all promises are unconditional, so you need to look for the "if". 



Friday, May 17, 2019

A Great Ask...

"It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. And God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you." - 1 Kings 3:10-12
People all around the world desire great wealth in the easiest way possible. Whether they be treasure hunters, gamblers, or common thieves, they are driven by the" big score". On occasion they succeed in getting a huge windfall. But, as covered in the recent Business Insider article entitled "20 Lottery winners who lost every penny", they just as often lose it all. It's best to seek what you cannot lose.
At the very beginning of Solomon's reign, he was given the opportunity of a lifetime... "At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night, and God said, 'Ask what I shall give you.'" (1 Kings 3:5) This was no "Genie in the bottle" offer, it was the real deal from God Almighty, the Creator of the Universe. The King could have asked for anything, but chose a "wise and discerning heart", and as a result, he got it all, plus. It's best to seek what you cannot lose. 
What are you searching for in life my friend? Where do you invest your time and talents? What is your request from the Lord in response to John 15:7? ... "ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you." Solomon was concerned about governing a great people... we should be concerned about governing great lives for God. Ask for a "wise and discerning heart" and you will seek, and FIND, what you cannot lose. 

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Greater than you...

"And the king swore, saying, “As the Lord lives, who has redeemed my soul out of every adversity, as I swore to you by the Lord, the God of Israel, saying, ‘Solomon your son shall reign after me, and he shall sit on my throne in my place,’ even so will I do this day.”... "As the Lord has been with my lord the king, even so may he be with Solomon, and make his throne greater than the throne of my lord King David.” - 1 Kings 1:29-30,37
We live in an incredibly self absorbed world... "Be all that YOU can be", "YOU deserve a break today". Then there are those unending "SELFIES" or the constant cries for "👍". In addition, parents drive their children to succeed, most often for bragging rights, so they can put a "My child is smarter than yours" bumper sticker on the car. It comes down to everything in life being all about ME. When will we give it all up and live for others, so the next generation will be greater than we ever were?
David gave his heart and time so his son would walk with God. Solomon remembered well... "When I was a son with my father, tender, the only one in the sight of my mother, he taught me and said to me, “Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments, and live." (Proverbs 4:3-4) In the end, he became a greater king than his father. David lived for others, so the next generation would be greater than he was. 
Years ago I made a decision and refocused my life. I passed up on pursuing higher degrees, bigger churches, and prominent positions. My personal goal for the last thirty-five years has been to raise, teach, mentor and send out two young men into the world to be greater men of God than I have ever been. As a result, I believe that my life has been well spent, and quite successful. If you are a parent or grandparent today... I encourage you to direct your focus on others, so the next generation will be greater than you have ever been. 




Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Our Hero...

"In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I called. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry came to his ears... He sent from on high, he took me; he drew me out of many waters. He rescued me from my strong enemy, from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me." - 2 Samuel 22:7, 17-18
I grew up with Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, John Wayne and Clayton Moore (the Lone Ranger). These were the hero cowboys that thrilled the hearts and imaginations of young boys like myself through the 1950s. The story line was always the same... just in the nick of time, when the enemy was too mighty, the cowboy hero would show up and save the day.
David's life wasn't a movie script. There weren't cowboy heros waiting in the wings to cry out "hi ho silver and away". He lived much earlier than the days of "blazing six guns". In his distress he had only one option... he called upon the Lord. And just in the nick of time, when his enemy was too mighty, his Divine Hero (El Gibbor / The Mighty God -  Isaiah 9:6) would show up and save the day.
Charles Spurgeon, the prince of preachers, once said... "I have learned to kiss the waves that that slam me into the Rock of Ages". Every distress or enemy that is too mighty for us, that sends us to our knees, is good for us. We're not in a movie, but we too have a Hero, who always shows up in the nick of time to save the day!


Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Hope for a promise kept...

"But the king spared Mephibosheth, the son of Saul’s son Jonathan, because of the oath of the Lord that was between them, between David and Jonathan the son of Saul." - 2 Samuel 21:7
Over a period of 93 years, 1778-1871, the United States government broke or violated over 500 treaties made with Native American tribes. Over the last 17 years the annual number of divorces or annulments has ranged between 750,000 to 950,000. In 2018, there were 755,182 bankruptcy filings in the United States. Promises, promises and more promises broken. Is there any hope for a promise kept?
Saul broke a national promise and after many years had passed, a debt was owed. In the same setting, David remembered that he had made a promise to Jonathan many years earlier. The promise was under fire now and he remained true to his word by protecting Mephibosheth from the gallows. David knew the value of a promise because he  had experienced the Lord's promised faithfulness over and over again. With God, there is always hope for a promise kept.
According to the Dictionary of Bible Themes, there are 5,467 divine promises in the Bible. God always keeps His word and expects us to keep ours. While we depend on the Lord's faithfulness to us, how faithful are we to Him and others? By His grace we enjoy God's promises and by His power we can keep ours. With God, there is always hope for a promise kept.


Monday, May 13, 2019

His broken heart...

"And the king was deeply moved and went up to the chamber over the gate and wept. And as he went, he said, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!” - 2 Samuel 18:33
Over the years of pastoral ministry, I've performed more funerals than I could count. Grief over the death of a loved one is difficult to watch and more so to experience. I believe that the greatest broken hearts were for two young men. One was seventeen, who died from pneumonia and the other was twenty-one, who died in a jet ski accident. There is no broken heart like that of a grieving parent.
The scene before us is somewhat a wonder. David's son Absalom, had been nothing but a heartache to his father for years. In a fit of bitter revenge he murdered his brother and later led a coup, claiming the throne for himself. As a result, David was chased out  of Jerusalem and forced into mortal combat. The final outcome was the death of his son, and David wept...there is no broken heart like that of a grieving parent.
This story gives us a snapshot of the broken heart of our heavenly Father. Much like the father of the prodigal son in Luke 15:20. Consider Luke19:41... "And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it," and Romans 5:8... "but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." No matter how much we have rebelled, no matter how much we have failed Him, our heavenly Father still loves us and grieves over a lost son or daughter... there is no broken heart like His. 



Sunday, May 12, 2019

Ride it out...

"And David lived in the stronghold and called it the city of David. And David built the city all around from the Millo inward. And David became greater and greater, for the LORD, the God of hosts, was with him ... But David went up the ascent of the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went, barefoot and with his head covered. And all the people who were with him covered their heads, and they went up, weeping as they went." - 2 Samuel 5:9-10; 15:30
Life is full of ups and downs, isn't it? Everything is going superbly. Everything you touch, seems to turn to gold. Success follows you at every turn. If you were any happier, there would be two of you. Then, in a moment, without much warning, everything goes dark. The dominoes fall faster than you can keep up. How could this be happening, you wonder. But, once you're on the roller-coaster, you've got to ride it out... to the end.
David had waited a very long time for the promises about him to come true. He went through one valley after another, before he reached the mountain top. Life was good, and only getting better day by day. Then, sin entered the picture, and slowly destroyed his every happiness. Finally, the pace increased and he was chased out of town on a rail. Though he was on a wild roller-coaster, God was riding with him, and he was going to ride it out... to a good end. 
During the stormy days of the 1960s, Rev. Malcolm Boyd wrote a book of prayers entitled, "Are You Running With Me Jesus?". This is a good question when you're on the roller-coaster of life. Whether as a result of sin or trials, you really need to know that the Lord is running, or in this case riding with you. No matter how high or low the ride takes you, when God is riding with, you can ride it out... to a good end. 




Saturday, May 11, 2019

Whatever ...

"Then the king said to Zadok, “Carry the ark of God back into the city. If I find favor in the eyes of the Lord, he will bring me back and let me see both it and his dwelling place. But if he says, ‘I have no pleasure in you,’ behold, here I am, let him do to me what seems good to him.” - 2 Samuel 15:25-26
Making plans when we are overcome with trouble is always a good idea. In addition, it's also wise to have a "back-up" plan. Some refer to plan A and plan B, while others speak of a contingency plan. Whatever you call it, considering all the possibilities will prepare you for the unexpected. But, when we have everything well laid out or considered every "in case", are we ready and willing to accept "whatever"?
When David was chased into the wilderness, the future was a great unknown. Yet, he was confident that the Lord would guide him along the way. It wasn't clear whether he would ever return to Jerusalem again, but he left ark in the city, just in case. This was David's "back-up" plan, or in other words, his "bring back" plan. The most important part of the plan was "let him do to me what seems good to him". With God, David was always ready and willing to accept "whatever".
Are you in the midst of trouble my friend? Having a plan is both wise and prudent. But, if it's only "your" plan, without any "back-up", you may be quite unprepared and very disappointed with the outcome. Rather than trust in your own wisdom, make God your guide and your "back-up" plan, and you too will be ready and willing to accept "whatever". 

   

Friday, May 10, 2019

Still contagious...

"So Absalom fled and went to Geshur, and was there three years. And the spirit of the king longed to go out to Absalom, because he was comforted about Amnon, since he was dead." - 2 Samuel 13:38–39
Influenza is a highly contagious viral infection of the respiratory passages, historically spreading to epidemic proportions. Few remember the Spanish flu of 1918-1920, that claimed 50 to 100 million lives worldwide. Others might recall the Hong Kong flu of 1968, that led to 500,000 deaths in Hong Kong and 33,800 deaths in the United States. Today, improved vaccines have brought Influenza into check to some degree, but the virus is still contagious.
Sin, much like Influenza is highly contagious. While we are all born with a sin nature, the influence of others makes things much worse. David's long and complex conduct of sin clearly infected the rest of his family. The chapters before us today record the unfolding of one gross sin after another. The sins of the father visited the children over and over again. David had dealt with his sin through confession and repentance (Psalm 51, 32), but his sinful past was still contagious.
The public ad about smoking that most lingers in my mind is the clip that shows a five year old boy picking up a cigarette butt that his father had just dropped. He wanted to be just like good old Dad. Our conduct will always influence the next generation. Just as Influenza killed multitudes, sin kills even more. Don't let a "Davidic lifestyle" infect your family my friend, because... sin is still contagious.


Thursday, May 9, 2019

Reaping and sowing...

"And when the mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord." - 2 Samuel 11:27
The other day we wrote about decisions. When we make the right decision, at the right time, in the right way, it's all good. But, when we make the wrong decision, life becomes complicated. It's a known fact that you can't go back. So, we try to redirect the outcome of wrong decisions, rather than admit our failure. The problem is, that no matter how much we try to avoid it... we reap what we sow.
The entire eleventh chapter of 2 Samuel records one wrong decision after another. David should have led his troops in battle, as did the other kings. (vs. 1). He should not have sent for another man's wife to lay with her. He should not have orchestrated her husband's death on the battle field. Every step of the way, David tried to redirect the outcome of a wrong decision. But, no matter how much he tried, he displeased the Lord and... he reaped what he sowed.
Wrong decisions come when we fail to inquire of the Lord. Wrong decisions make us vulnerable to outright sin. We all make mistakes, but how do we deal with the outcome? When a lie or deceitful manipulation is our choice, it all takes a turn for the worse. You can't go back my friend, but we serve the God of the second chance. On another occasion, the prophet Jonah asked forgiveness for his wrong decision ... "Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time... " (Jonah 3:1) You see, we can confess, repent and begin again or... we reap what we sow. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Character...

"Then King David went in and sat before the Lord and said, “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far? And yet this was a small thing in your eyes, O Lord God. You have spoken also of your servant’s house for a great while to come, and this is instruction for mankind, O Lord God! And what more can David say to you? For you know your servant, O Lord God! Because of your promise, and according to your own heart, you have brought about all this greatness, to make your servant know it. Therefore you are great, O Lord God. For there is none like you, and there is no God besides you, according to all that we have heard with our ears." 2 Samuel 7:18-22
Character... Why do you respect or admire someone, over and above others? What is it that stands out about that person. I suggest that it is character. They are secure in who they are, with a sober minded understanding of who they aren't. They have a humility that traces their wisdom and strength to the Lord, and to those who have gone before. They see their life as a stewardship to bring glory to God and blessing to others. Such is the person of character.
I have always marveled at David. A youth, called out of the sheep fold to be a king. He never thought too much of himself, and he always thought more than words could express of his Lord. When God established a covenant relationship with him, his response was simple... "Who am I?" He attributed everything that he was or had, to the promise and heart of his God. He lived his life for the glory of the Lord and benefit of Israel. David was a person of character.
Now to the question... Is character your goal in life? Are you secure in who you are, with a sober minded understanding of who you aren't? Do you see your life as a God given stewardship to bring glory to God and blessing to others? If not, why not? We are told in 2 Peter 1:3 that... "His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence." So, be all that you can be... Be a person of character.


Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Decisions...

"And David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I go up against the Philistines? Will you give them into my hand?” And the Lord said to David, “Go up, for I will certainly give the Philistines into your hand.” - 2 Samuel 5:19
 Opportunities and challenges come our way everyday. Decisions are required, so what do we do? Some people jump right into the deep end without hesitation. Others sit on the situation for weeks until the situation disappears or devastates. Decisions can be made far too quickly or far too late. No matter how you look at it, at the right time and in the right way... Decisions are necessary.
David was in a state of blessed euphoria. He was finally established as King over all Israel and grew greater every day, for the God of hosts was with him. Then he was faced with a serious challenge... the Philistines came in search of him. What was he to do? It was decision time. He was certainly ready to act, but he needed to know if it was the right time and right way. David inquired of the Lord, and THEN went up, because he knew... Decisions were necessary.
The above encounter was a regular practice for David. He was a man of decision, only AFTER he inquired of the Lord. He didn't sit on challenges, but he waited on the Lord to guide his every move. The words of Psalm 27:14 come from David's strong, courageous and decisive heart... "Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!" Inquire of the Lord FIRST my friend, and THEN move out at the right time, and the right way, because... Decisions are necessary. 



Monday, May 6, 2019

Look for the good ...

“Saul and Jonathan, beloved and lovely! In life and in death they were not divided; they were swifter than eagles; they were stronger than lions." - 2 Samuel 1:23
It has been said ... "If you can't say something good about someone, don't say anything at all". But, what about taking the time to find something good to say?  The story is told about two notoriously nasty brothers. One died and the other one told the pastor if he would say something good about his brother there would be a $10,000 gift to the church. The pastor was almost at a loss, but at the funeral he came through with the following ... "The deceased was a horrible, insensitive, and mean individual ... yet, not nearly as much so as his brother." It may take time, but ...  Look for the good.
Saul was more than David's enemy. He was a heartache, headache and backache all rolled up in one. As a King he was misled by his impatience, as a father-in-law he was deceptive at every turn and as a Israelite he was as disobedient as they came. He chased David down like a dog, lied to him and tried to turn the entire nation against him. If he couldn't kill David himself, he hoped that the Philistines would do the job for him. Yet, in the end, David spoke of Saul with kindness and honor ... It took time, but he ... Looked for the good.
Do you have people in your life that are more than a nightmare? Are they a constant thorn in your side? After all that you have done to help them improve, have they simply ignored your efforts? Well, Paul gives us a word of counsel in Romans 12:20-21 ... "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."  Be a David by taking the time and ... Look for the good.


Sunday, May 5, 2019

In His Time...

"And he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy and had beautiful eyes and was handsome. And the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him, for this is he.” Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David from that day forward. And Samuel rose up and went to Ramah." 1 Samuel 16:12-13
"What do you want to be when you grow up?" Do you remember being asked that question when you were young? You may have had an answer, or maybe it was just a dream. If you achieved your goal, I'm sure that you didn't get there overnight. It has been aptly said..."Rome wasn't built in a day"
As we traveled with David this week, it began with a call and anointing from God. The above passage carried the promise of a lifetime. David would grow up to be the King of Israel. But, the hills and valleys ahead would press his faith to the limit. Then again, "Rome wasn't built in a day." 
What lies ahead of you in the coming years my friend? What are your hopes and dreams? For what do you believe God is preparing you? Be patient and take a lesson from David's experience. As his own son Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 3:11..."He has made everything beautiful in its time."... After all, "Rome wasn't built in a day".



Saturday, May 4, 2019

You and Him ...

"And David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because all the people were bitter in soul, each for his sons and daughters. But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God." - 1 Samuel 30:6 
Kenny Ascher and Paul Williams wrote their first song together in 1974. The song began as a gag song, but by September of that year it reached # 9 on the charts, being sung by Helen Reddy. One may wonder what it is that makes a song popular, but in this case, it just might be the simple message that many people related to ... "You and Me Against the World."
David had every reason to be greatly distressed. The city was burned with fire and everyone's family was carried off, including David's. Not only was the situation devastating, but David's own men placed the blame on him and were ready to stone him. If there ever was a time that life seemed hopeless, this was it. Where could he turn? If the troops turned against him what could he do? I imagine, as David found strength in the LORD, he too thought, it's ... "You and Me Against the World".
You won't pass through this life without experiencing more than one occasion like David's. No, you might not suffer from Amalekites raiding your home and running off with your family, but it might feel like it. You will, most likely feel hopeless and helpless. I know some strong believers who were so weighed down with grief that they didn't know what to do. But, after the dust settles, there is always Someone to strengthen you ... the LORD your God. When all else fails, don't give up, because... it's "You and Him against the World."


Friday, May 3, 2019

Lost Tempers...

"And David said to Abigail, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me! Blessed be your discretion, and blessed be you, who have kept me this day from bloodguilt and from working salvation with my own hand! For as surely as the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, who has restrained me from hurting you, unless you had hurried and come to meet me, truly by morning there had not been left to Nabal so much as one male.” - 1 Samuel 25:32-34
True confession... I grew up in a home of lost tempers. There were more broken dishes, toys, tools and various portable items than one could count. Thankfully, no one was ever murdered. By God's grace, I steadily matured and developed a modicum of self-control as I left home and grew spiritually. As I look back to those early days, I often marvel at the monetary cost and many messes that had to be cleaned up due to anger. The truth is ... when you lose your temper, you lose a lot more.
David faced a great many enemies over his lifetime. His life was threatened more often than not and going to battle was an unavoidable necessity. But, in the case of Nabal, going to war wasn't one of those occasions. Yes, within the local culture Nabal owed David and his men a certain kindness for their voluntary protection. As offensive as his conduct was, if David had taken his life, he would have had unnecessary blood on his hands. He had forgotten the song of Moses in Deuteronomy 32:35-36 ... "Vengeance is mine ... For the LORD will vindicate his people" When David lost his temper, he could have lost a lot more.
I was an expert in field of lost tempers and I have recognized far too many believers who are still experts in the field. They give way to their emotions and are always trying to work out their anger with their own hand, just like David. They have forgotten the words of Paul in Ephesians 4:26 ... "Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger" and Romans 12:18-19 ... "If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” Remember, when you lose your temper, you lose a lot more.


Thursday, May 2, 2019

The Lord's Anointed ...

"And afterward David’s heart struck him, because he had cut off a corner of Saul’s robe. He said to his men, “The LORD forbid that I should do this thing to my lord, the LORD’s anointed, to put out my hand against him, seeing he is the LORD’s anointed.”  So David persuaded his men with these words and did not permit them to attack Saul. And Saul rose up and left the cave and went on his way." - 1 Samuel 24:5-7
God intended the nuclear family to be a place for teaching order and respect. Where this fails, the next generation enters society without any intention to recognize authority or accountability. The result becomes sobering when families must visit their young men and women in jail or prison. On the other hand, when respect and honor is woven into the fiber of one's character, it will turn even the heart of a wicked king.
David's heart struck him with guilt. He had been raised to respect and honor the Lord's anointed. Basically, David resisted the opportunity to gain vengeance and an easy victory over his enemy. He realized that the LORD would hold him accountable if he took the life of the King. So, in the end, David proved to be a far better man than Saul. The showing of such a character quality may have puzzled his men, but it successfully rebuffed and impressed a wicked King.
What rules your actions toward authority my friend? Are there those in leadership that you vehemently disagree with and oppose? Have you ever considered the following passage in Romans 13:1-2? ... "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment." To show respect and honor to authority pleases the LORD and sets a worthy example for the next generation.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Our Friend is Our King ...

"If I am still alive, show me the steadfast love of the LORD, that I may not die; and do not cut off your steadfast love from my house forever, when the LORD cuts off every one of the enemies of David from the face of the earth.” And Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, “May the LORD take vengeance on David’s enemies.” And Jonathan made David swear again by his love for him, for he loved him as he loved his own soul." - 1 Samuel 2014-17 
The story of Brian Piccolo and Gale Sayers is legendary. Brian worked very hard to be a star running back for the Chicago Bears. But, his dream was most challenged by another incredibly gifted athlete by the name of Gale Sayers. In the ninth game of 1968, Sayers ruptured the cartilage in his knee and tore two ligaments. While the door was then opened for Piccolo to excel, he worked tirelessly to help Sayers return to the field. When Sayers returned, Piccolo was demoted to backup. His devotion to friendship surpassed his dream for success.
The years of Jonathan's faithful support and protection of David mirrored a similar pattern. Jonathan was the rightful heir to the throne. His future would include being the second king of Israel with great power. But, he saw something very special in David. The LORD had chosen David and anointed him to become King of Israel one day. Jonathan grew to love David as a friend and as His future king. He placed himself under the leadership and care of David promising him a lifetime of allegiance. His devotion to friendship surpassed his dream for success.
Everyone has plans and hopes for their future. The greatest battle comes when we realize that there is to be another King of our lives. We may fight it for a time, but in the end we find out that our competitor for the throne of our lives is none other than Someone who laid his life for his friends. (John 15:13) We can claim the throne for ourselves and push him aside, but we eventually learn that Jesus our friend has been chosen and anointed to reign in our hearts. He alone is worthy of our deepest love and total allegiance. May your devotion to friendship surpass your dream for success.


    

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Our Winning Advantage ...

"And David had success in all his undertakings, for the LORD was with him. And when Saul saw that he had great success, he stood in fearful awe of him. But all Israel and Judah loved David, for he went out and came in before them." - 1 Samuel 18:14-16 
The "Seahawks" is a National Football Team located in Seattle. Seahawk fans are nationally known as the loudest in the league. They have such an influence at home games that they are referred to as the 12the man. I am personally bothered by this phenomenon, since it has made it very difficult for my football team to win in Seattle. This is a team that has a winning advantage, and fans love it, opponents fear it ... but the Coach is pleased.
David was a young warrior, with little experience, but incredibly successful. Why? Because he had a winning advantage. The LORD was with him and he "had more success than all the servants of Saul, so that his name was highly esteemed." (18:30) As a result, all Israel and Judah loved David, but Saul grew fearful of his success. At the end of the day, no matter who loved him or feared him, the most important fact was ... the LORD was pleased.
Do you have a 12th man my friend? Do you have a winning advantage in life? If you know the Lord and walk with him you most certainly do. Jesus said in John 15:5 ...  "I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing." And Paul said in Philippians 4:13 ... "I can do all things through him (Christ)  who strengthens me." Jesus is our winning advantage, and no matter what others think of us, all that matters is ... that HE is pleased.


Monday, April 29, 2019

A Matter of the Heart...

"But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” - 1 Samuel 16:7
And then there's the wisdom of the age ... "Dress for Success.", "You are what you wear", or "You are what you drive". Many a well equipped and qualified individual has been turned down by employers due to their appearance. Credibility is often lost within the first five seconds of walking into an interview. Why? "Because "Clothes Make the man." It's a timeless, Biblical truth ... "Man looks on the outward appearance."
Eliab must have appeared to be quite the man when he entered the room. Samuel was sure that he had found God's choice for king. Why? Because he was focused on the outer appearance. Apparently,  Samuel had forgotten all about Samson...strong on the outside but weak on the inside. After all the brothers had passed by, God's choice puzzled everyone. The LORD looked on the inside and found a man after His own heart.
Before we judge too quickly, take the time to listen to another's heart. The outer appearance may be striking, but is there a heart for God? Then again, how do you dress for success? Do you spend hours in the gym, choose the right clothes and drive the coolest car? Or, have you chosen to grow a deep inner life that mirrors the heart of God? Don't be so concerned about impressing others and fail to honor the Lord.


Sunday, April 28, 2019

Trust His Heart ...

"For the LORD will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake, because it has pleased the LORD to make you a people for himself." - 1 Samuel 12:22 
Our understanding of the Lord is often skewed by our own life experiences. There are some people who give up their children for adoption, some pass them off to relatives, and others just abandon them. Such cases confuse and harden the heart toward any future promise of love and care. When a birth mother and father have no concern for their own child it creates serious doubt toward our Heavenly Father's love.
The time period of the Judges was a harsh and troubling time for Israel. While the dark days came due to their own rebellion and idolatry, it was still a roller coaster experience. Now, as they rejected the Kingship of the LORD, future grace and blessing came into question. Would they be abandoned? Would they actually be destroyed by their many enemies? The above promise places their hope right on the LORD Himself. They were His people, loved for His name's sake and chosen for His purposes.
Take heart my friend. When you feel like you've failed the LORD far too often, and believe that He will cast you aside, STOP. Jesus said...  "You did not choose me, but I chose you" (John 15:16) and Paul wrote ... "In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will" (Ephesians 1:4-5) ... then Peter wrote ... "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." (1 Peter 2:9) You are chosen, loved and adopted for His purpose. It's all about Him...Trust His Heart.


Saturday, April 27, 2019

Rebellion ...

"And Samuel said, “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has also rejected you from being king.” -  1 Samuel 15:22-23
I grew up in the sixties. Those years made such phrases as "Question Authority" quite popular. From the same era we heard such lyrics as "Born to be Wild". And then there was the interesting quip, "If it feels good, do it". These thoughts, and many others, were expressed by a generation totally resistant to rules or obedience. While they thought they invented this philosophy, it was as old as the garden of eden... rebellion.
The Lord blessed Saul with great opportunities and privileges. Victories were beginning to develop and the people were trusting his leadership. Then, pride came into the picture and Saul started to do things his own way. He began to question authority and did what he felt was good. He started to lead on the wild side. But, the time came for accountability and it became quite clear that he had given way to the sin of eden... rebellion.
The words are more sobering than we would like..."For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry."  There is nothing new or exciting about rejecting the Word of the LORD. It may be enticing at first, but in the end it bites like the serpent it is. God delights in the obedient heart, not in our own ingenuity. Ultimately, there are only two choices ... His way or our way... Choose wisely. 


Friday, April 26, 2019

Hold the Rope ...

"Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and the right way." - 1 Samuel 12:23 
When William Carey, who was best known as the “father of the modern missionary movement,” died in 1834 at 73, he had seen the Scriptures translated and printed into forty languages, the mission he founded train 30 missionaries, 40 native teachers, establish 45 stations and substations, and approximately 600 souls converted to Christ. But, before Carey left for India, he asked his close friend Andrew Fuller for support and prayer... “Well, I will go down, if you will hold the rope.”  
Samuel was saying farewell to the people he had led for man years. The people were moving into the future with pleas for prayer. They knew their sin had been great and they feared God's judgment. But, Samuel assured them that if they followed the Lord with their whole heart, they would do well. Last of all, he promised to pray for them. They would go forward, but he would hold the rope.
We send missionaries out to parts unknown every year. Our own church has a number of missionaries that we support. They are located in various places of service, faithfully and sacrificially giving of themselves to reach the unreached. They aren't fearful like the Israelites, but they do face great danger, physically and spiritually. Will they succeed in their calling? Will there be great fruit for their labor? Well, they have gone down, and now it's up to us to hold the rope



Thursday, April 25, 2019

Less or Best?


"And the LORD said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them.  According to all the deeds that they have done, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you. 
Now then, obey their voice; only you shall solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.”  - 1 Samuel 8:7-9
Imagine that you're in the hospital with a serious condition. Your doctor prescribes a treatment that may be a little uncomfortable. So, you ask the orderly for his opinion, and you follow that advice rather than your doctor's. How do you think that will work out for you? Obviously, the one with greater knowledge and skill will provide better help. Why settle for less when you can have the best?
Israel had traveled for years with the LORD at the helm. They went through seasons of rebellion, but when they repented and cried out, deliverance came. God had never failed them, and always blessed them with abundant care. Now, they decided to ask for a king to reign over them, rather than the LORD. How would that work out for them? They were clearly warned, but made the choice ... to settle for less when they had the best!
Where do you turn first when you need direction, counsel, provision, or any number of needs met? Think about it ... what do you do first when you lose your job? Do you go to the want ads or unemployment? What do you do first when your old clunker won't run anymore? Do you call a local car dealer? These and many other situations come your way every day. But, where do you turn first? The Lord has the greatest knowledge and skill to meet your every need, if you will only ask.  So, why settle for less when you can have the best?

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Yesterday, today and forever ...

"Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, “Till now the Lord has helped us.” - 1 Samuel 7:12
Two Scrolls with Chinese characters graced the mantel of Hudson Taylor’s (1832–1905) home. The Chinese calligraphy depicted two names that reminded the founder of China Inland Mission of God’s faithful provision: Ebenezer and Jehovah-Jireh. Taylor wanted to be reminded that God's help had been there thus far, and was yet to be given... Yesterday, today, and forever.
After twenty long years, Israel had finally returned to the Lord in repentance. But, the enemy was waiting to attack, and the call went out for Samuel to pray for God's help. In response, the Lord threw the enemy into confusion, which led to their ultimate defeat. Samuel set up a stone of remembrance and called it Ebenezer, which means "Till now the LORD has helped us". Israel needed to always remember that the LORD would be their help...Yesterday, today and forever. 
How are you doing today my friend? Has the Lord been your help thus far? Do you believe that He will be there for you today and tomorrow? Take a moment to reflect on the following lyrics from the old hymn "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing"... "Here I raise my Ebenezer, Here there by Thy great help I've come, And I hope, by Thy good pleasure, Safely to arrive at home". Remember, Jehovah-Jireh will be YOUR provider... yesterday, today and forever.