Under Pressure

Message:  In 1 Samuel 25 David went from sparing Saul’s life to almost slaughtering  a man along with his family and servants to avenge himself because he was hangry. Fortunately, one of the servants reported to the man’s wife and she was able to speak to David out of wisdom. She was also smart enough to do that with an offering of food! I’ve read this story lots of times and the focus always seems to be on the wisdom of Abigail. What I really picked up on today was that David had been standing his ground, on the run and protecting other people. He was literally being hunted so he was more emotionally vulnerable than ever. We are vulnerable when we are in the fight and this was no ordinary fight! Sometimes we are so faithful and so careful about certain situations that we don’t realize how much the pressure is affecting other areas. When we feel out of control in one area, we often unknowingly take it out in another area. If we’re stressed about finances, we might take it out of the kids or kick the dog. If we’re stressed about work we might do really well in managing our behavior while at work but we might take it out on our spouse or even on a random stranger acting like a jerk. There was no question that the man David was about to kill was a jerk. The wife and the servant referred to him as “worthless” and said that nobody could speak to him. The request that David made was reasonable, but he was unwilling to listen. What I loved the most about this story is that Abigail talked him down by speaking to his future. She referred to him as if he were already king and took his mind back to the state it was in when he chose not to harm Saul. When David chose not to take matters in his own hands, God did something about it. The man had a seizure the next day and he died. God avenged David, and probably the wife and all of those servants. This reminds me of the importance of letting God fight my battles. It’s tempting to avenge ourselves when we feel we have been treated unfairly but God moves on our behalf when we leave it to him.

Godly Leaders Live at a Higher Standard

Message:  In 1 Samuel 24 Saul had learned of David’s location again so he took 3,000 of his best warriors and went looking for David and his men. Last we had read, David only had about 400 men with him so 3,000 seasoned warriors seems a bit excessive but it also testifies to the fact that David was a strong and very successful warrior. He was not to be tangled with! When Saul showed up to relieve himself in the very cave that David and his men were hiding in, it looked like an obvious confirmation that God was handing Saul over to David. In fact, the bible doesn’t tell us that he wasn’t handing Saul over.  I don’t believe David would have been wrong if he had killed Saul, but David was holding himself to a much higher standard. He wasn’t allowing Saul’s behavior to dictate his response. He certainly wasn’t timid or passive. He’s the same man that confronted a giant Philistine bully and took off his head for his irreverence to God. What made David exceptional is that he wasn’t fighting for himself. He was fully committed to the plan of God no matter what it was. He endured a lot of abuse and spent a lot of time fleeing from a man that he probably could have squashed like a bug. He respected and honored Saul even when he was out for his blood and acting like a lunatic simply because he recognized that Saul had been placed by God. Even though David knew that he had been chosen and anointed as king, he would not allow himself to act on that until God removed Saul himself. He was not about to make it happen by his own hand. Because of this standard, even Saul himself recognized that David was fit to be the king of Israel. Reading this made me think of times when I had an opportunity to capitalize on a situation. These aren’t always positional opportunities. Sometimes these opportunities are verbal arguments where I’m set up perfectly to take the upper hand, make someone look stupid or incompetent, or expose someone in their failure. Saul was pooping in a cave. It doesn’t get much more vulnerable than that! I’ve never faced that particular scenario before and I seriously doubt I ever will, but I have certainly had the opportunity to expose someone in their vulnerability. I haven’t always chosen the right response in the moment but I can see how David’s  higher standard and his humility shaped him as Israel’s most loved king and “the man after God’s own heart.” This is the kind of leader and influencer I want to be.

Loyalty In Opposition

Message:  In 1 Samuel 23 Saul’s instability spiraled out of control and his insecurity fed his paranoia into a tunnel vision obsession over David. David went to fight a battle in spite of being pursued by Saul, yet when Saul found out where he was his only concern was using the battle to kill David. He chased David all over the wilderness but God didn’t allow Saul to take him out. In the middle of all this Jonathan renewed his covenant with David again. As I thought about this I thought about the incredible friendship between them. David was clearly marked by God for big things, but he was going through tremendous opposition. The opposition was so strong that anyone would have been tempted to question the legitimacy of it all. While David seemed to be trying to continue doing what he always did, he was being constantly watched and pursued. Instead of going into permanent hiding, he protected his parents and continued on. When I read about the renewed covenant with Jonathan I thought about how powerful that was. We all need someone to stand with us during opposition and having a loyal friend like Jonathan would have been life breathing. As I read this I thought of someone in my own life who has walked with me through so much opposition. She encouraged me, pushed me, cried with me and supported me through some of the hardest things I ever had to go through. We all need someone like this in our lives, and we should all BE this to someone else. Today I thank the Lord for this incredible friend and I ask God to help me be that kind of friend.

Pride & Insecurity Brings Instability

Message:  In 1 Samuel 22 David fled to a cave after he tried to flee to Gath from Nod. In chapter 21 he quickly realized that the Philistines knew who he was and how successful he had been in battle so he pretended to be insane in front of the king.  Apparently, they believed that mentally incapacitated people were cursed and they were afraid to touch them and get it on them. I couldn’t help but laugh at David’s brilliance, but I also realized how desperate an act this was. Now he was completely alone in a cave but it didn’t long for his family to hear and they joined him. Then more people joined him until there were more than 400 people who were desperate, in debt or disgruntled all rallying around David and they made him their leader. Meanwhile, king Saul was full of jealousy and rage and it made him more and more irrational. In his attempts to control, he was losing his influence but instead of rebuilding it he made things worse by making more irrational assumptions. His negativity was compounding like a vicious cycle of more negativity and irrationality until Saul was completely unstable. He had just found out that his son Jonathan had made a covenant with David and this only fueled his suspicions when his servant told him that the priest had sheltered David. In his irrationality he refused to hear the priest and when he ordered his servants to kill the priest and all his family, they refused and only the one who snitched was willing to do it. Saul still had the position of king but he had lost the favor of God and the loyalty of the people. The more he tried to oppose David, the more favor David gained. Although David had been anointed king and was gaining favor, he was still on the run. As I processed all of this I thought about the danger of trying to control and manipulate. For Saul this all began with his pride when he took matters into his own hands and made the priestly sacrifice. Then he disobeyed God by taking spoils that God told him to destroy because of his fear of the people. Pride and insecurity go hand, in hand and this is what destroyed Saul. This challenges me to examine the areas of my life where I’m allowing pride and insecurity to drive. Saul was his own worst enemy and he caused the very things he was fighting so hard to avoid. Looking back at my own past experiences I can see this very same dynamic.

In the Right Place Physically But Not Spiritually

Message:  In 1 Samuel 21 David had run away after Jonathan confirmed Saul’s intent to kill him. He ran away to see the priest Ahimelech in the city of Nob. Ahimelech seemed surprised to see David and when he asked, David lied to him telling him that he was on a secret mission from the king. They were probably really hungry from running and traveling and they wouldn’t have provisions for them in this situation. David asked Ahimelech for bread so he allowed them to eat the bread of presence as long as they were ceremonially clean. At this point the scripture doesn’t indicate whether or not David was telling the truth here or not but he told Ahimelech that they were clean. As I read this I thought about how sad it was that David was smart enough to run to the temple for help, but instead of asking for help he lied to the priest. This is what a lot of us do when we go to church but refuse to be honest about what’s really going on in our lives. We might even partake in consecrated things but if we aren’t honest we will be in the right place but we won’t get the help so desperately need. I think it’s also telling that he asked for a sword. He told Ahimelech that the king’s mission was so urgent that he forgot his sword. This probably looked suspicious but Ahimelech cooperated and gave it to him. For me this represented the times when revert to things that were successful in the past and we assume they will work for us again.

Loyalty

Message:  In 1 Samuel 20 David was aware that Saul had intentions to kill him. David’s best friend was Saul’s son Jonathan and they swore a covenant with each other to protect each other. They had a bond unlike any other and the bible says that Jonathan loved David more than he loved himself. This sounds odd but this description is not a romantic kind of love. It was a loyal kind like brothers. Both men had a lot at stake. David’s life was in the balance but so was Jonathan’s because of his loyalty to David. In fact, Jonathan’s entire life would be easier without this covenant. Not just for the obvious reasons that he would no longer be in danger, but also because if he played the part right, as Saul’s son he could potentially be the next king. Jonathan’s loyalty was not only unselfish, it was detrimental to him because that’s what real love looks like. It’s self-sacrificing for the good of others. Jonathan wasn’t just sacrificing himself because he was co-dependent or timid. He was a strong warrior but he knew that the man he was protecting was honorable and he had to know that David carried the favor and promise of God on his life. When he met David he was a successful warrior. He gave up his weapon and armor and gave it to David. I thought about how this translates to my own life. Often times we aren’t looking out for the better of someone else because we’re too busy trying to build our own selves. What if we spent our energy supporting and building the vision that God has promised someone else instead of promoting ourselves? I wonder what would happen if we took the position of Jonathan and protected the honor of someone else. Not for their glory, but because we recognize the mark and the calling of God on them.

Blessing & Curses

Message: In 1 Samuel 19 Saul was being influenced by an “evil spirit from the Lord”. Let that one sink in. His jealousy enraged him and he ordered everyone to kill David. As king he had the power and authority to do it but David had the favor of God and of the people so even Saul’s own son and daughter worked against him. It’s a crazy story and it continued that the harder Saul was oppressed, the more favor and skill he received and the more skillful he became at many things.  You can look at this story and dwell on the hardships caused by a crazy man who wanted to kill him , or you can look at all of the favor and blessing that came from it. As this year progresses I have heard so many people curse the year 2020 for all of the hardships but we are receiving an outpouring of favor also. We have to pay attention and shift our focus to see that both are happening. I would rather have the favor of God any day!!

Favor In the Madness

Message: In 1 Samuel 18 David became a full-time servant to King Saul in the palace and Saul tried to offer David his daughters in marriage in the hopes of entrapping him. David didn’t carry an attitude of entitlement so Saul had to find other ways to try to kill him. He eventually put him in charge of 1000 men with the expectation he would be killed by the Philistines but literally everything Saul did to try to harm David came back to bite him because David not only excelled at everything he did, but he won the hearts and the favor of all the people and even Saul’s own son Jonathan loved him and made a covenant with him. The more Saul tried to harm him, the more God blessed him and gave him favor and success. David had been anointed king in secret but the favor of God was out in the open. He continued living a life of excellence and he won over the kingdom long before he officially took the throne. Not only that, he served the king that he would eventually replace with respect and honor even while Saul’s jealousy grew to hatred and he tried to kill David.

How does all of this apply to my life? For me the biggest take-away out of this is that David had every opportunity to get prideful and his pride would have destroyed him. Instead, David was humble and honorable no matter what Saul (literally) threw at him. He knew he would eventually take the throne, but he refused to look at Saul with disrespect and he honored him when nobody would have blamed him for retaliating. Because he chose not to take a position of entitlement, God was able to heap on the blessings. Most people probably didn’t know what kind of abuse David took from Saul, but God did and he gave him more favor and blessing than he could ever fathom. It’s so hard to do the right thing in the face of unjust behavior and abuse but God sees all of it. We are not honoring them for their abusive behavior, we choose to honor them because they are marked and chosen by God. When we really understand the power in this we won’t be able to mistreat them even when they mistreat us. David didn’t do this to earn the favor. He did it because it was right and God heaped on the favor.

Criticism Appeases Our Apathy

Message:  In 1 Samuel 17 David showed up at the battle where Goliath was challenging Israel by defying God. The army of Israel was stuck because they were intimidated and paralyzed with fear. When David showed up and started asking questions his brothers were angry, they accused him of being prideful and they belittled him. David was undeterred and he got done what nobody else was willing to do. His years of being a shepherd prepared him for the fight and the disrespectful speech of a “gentile giant” motivated him. As I read this I thought of the many messages I’ve heard from this story over the years and many different angles. I’ve definitely heard some powerful messages but today as I read this I thought about the attitudes of everyone around David. We all want to put ourselves in the position of David and think about all of the evil people that didn’t believe in him. Today I challenged myself to see myself from the perspective of all of the naysayers. David brought provisions to his brothers under the instruction of his father and his brothers didn’t seem to have any issues with him until he started asking questions. The questions he was asking provoked them because he was motivated and they were paralyzed in their fear. They weren’t moving and they were about to be shown up by their little brother. Belittling David probably made them feel better about the fact that they were not doing anything. They needed to be believe in was an impossible fight in order to save their pride and justify their refusal to move. This made me think about some of the areas of my life that I have gotten stuck and refused to move in. The lies I have chosen to believe in order to support my lack of movement, and my attitude towards other people who have chosen to look past the appearance of impossibility. When we are unproductive we become critical towards productive people because our hearts are convicted and we are left without a real excuse. If we belittle or criticize the motivation of others it appeases the apathy in ourselves. I have definitely related to David plenty of times, but today I want to challenge myself in the areas where I have acted more like his brothers.

Don’t Give Consolation Prizes

Message : In 1 Samuel15 Saul was given specific instructions to destroy the Amalekites for how they had treated Israel
when they came out of Egypt. God was very specific in what he told Saul to do and he wanted him to spare nothing and take nothing as spoil. Saul destroyed the Amalekites but he took King Agag captive instead of killing him. His troops took the best of all the cattle and spoils in the land but instead of telling them to destroy it all he said nothing. Samuel came to see Saul, but he was off making himself a tribute. When Samuel asked Paul if he had done what he was commanded Saul was dishonest and said that he had. When Samuel asked why he was hearing the sounds of livestock Saul changed his story and told him that he took the best of everything to give as a burnt offering and sacrifice to the Lord. He maintained his lie a few more times until he finally confessed that he was afraid of the people and chose not to appease the rather than to obey God. This is the moment that Saul lost the favor of God. As I thought about this I really felt conflicted at first because Saul had done most of what he was commanded. I wondered if it was a misunderstanding until I saw that he lied to cover his disobedience and then finally confessed that he caved because of his desire to gain the approval of his people. I thought about what that might look like in my own life. What areas have I been afraid to fully obey for fear of what friends, family and acquaintances might think. Samuel told Saul that his obedience was much more importance than a sacrifice and I wondered what “sacrifices” I had tried to offer in place of my obedience. This calls for hard examination and honesty. In order to stop lying to God Ialso have to stop lying to myself and stop offering God consolation prizes or “peace offerings” in place of my obedience.

Vows That Sabotage Our Future


Message: In 1 Samuel 14 Jonathan, the son of king Saul separated from the rest of the army and pursued the Philistines. He fully believed that God could deliver Israel with a few men or with many. He made a plan with his armor bearer and told him they would move according to the response from God. He watched and moved accordingly and sure enough, God not only gave the 2 men victory over the Philistine army, but they were completely destroyed and this caused fear and confusion to consume them so that they fought against each other. Some of Israel’s men who had previously gone MIA suddenly came out of hiding and joined the fight. Israel fought hard to the point of exhaustion but were unable to renew their energy because Saul had made them swear an oath that none of them would taste food until all of his enemies were destroyed. Jonathan had unknowingly broken the vow by eating some honey so they were no longer winning, his life was subject to the curse Saul had spoken and instead of having the strength they needed to finish the battle they were unable to continue.
I have definitely made some stupid vows in my life but as I read this I tried to think of it in different terms. Saul sabotaged himself and his army by making a rash oath. Oaths were not something to be broken because they carried a curse. We may not make oaths like that one but we definitely set internal and emotional vows when we feel vulnerable, and those vows often sabotage our lives and keep us from moving forward. Things like “I’ll never do THAT again” or “I’ll never trust these types of people” or “I’ll never get married”…There are so many things we promise internally out of pain and vulnerability and we may not put it all together when we repeatedly find ourselves exhausted and defeated but we are the ones who set ourselves up for failure. This chapter reminds me of the importance of my thought life and my attitude towards pain. We’re all tempted to think stupid vows in the heat of emotion, but we need to take thoughts like that and dismantle them so that they don’t take hold internally. No matter how angry, hurt or defeated we feel in the moment, we need to understand that our responses affect our ability to move forward in healthy ways. I can’t possibly remember every internal vow I’ve made in my life but I’m asking God to reveal to me the ones that I have allowed to sabotage my life and hold me back.

The Honor In Obedience

Message: In 1 Samuel 13 we read about the fall of Saul. Saul had a constant battle with the Philistines and despite the large military presence he had established they found themselves in trouble and Saul was losing men. Not because of battle but because circumstances looked different, their morale was low and they were fearful. Saul felt the pressure mount as his soldiers were abandoning him and when the prophet Samuel was taking longer than the appointed time to show up and make the sacrifice for God’s favor, Saul’s desperation made him impatient, and his impatience made him foolish. Every Israelite knew that only a Levite priest was allowed to make sacrifices, let alone go into the holy place, but Saul went in there himself and made the sacrifice. Just as he finished Samuel showed up and told him that this had cost him the blessing God would have given him to establish his throne permanently. As I thought about this I wondered how many decisions I have taken into my own hands because of fear and desperation. I can think of a handful of them both large and small, and I wonder how close I was on some of those challenges to see how God would have turned it. Obviously it’s not wise to dwell on that, but it does help to consider how that all worked out (or not) so that I don’t repeat foolish behavior. It’s also important to note that this was beyond impatience. Saul violated the holy place by placing himself where he didn’t belong and the irony was that he did in the hopes of gaining God’s favor. This is where we are tempted to overlook the disobedience in favor of the intended desire. I used to get frustrated watching Disney TV shows where a teenager deliberately disobeyed their parents, got into a bad situation but it eventually worked out and the disobedience was overlooked because they were trying to do something nice or helpful. Man excuses disobedience and glorifies emotional desires. We assume that because we see it that way God will too. This is why we so often hear people say “Well God knows my heart” as if God is on board with their disobedience in favor of their emotional decision. Reading this I am reminded that although I am thankful for the grace of God, I need to honor Him with my obedience.

Beauty From Ashes

Message:  In 1 Samuel 11 Samuel was letting the people know that requesting a king for themselves was evil in God’s sight. He reminded them of all the times God rescued them from Egypt and other bad situations. He reminded them how they strayed back into rebellion each time, but each time they would call on Him He would rescue them again. Samuel told the people that although this was not God’s intended choice for them that God will do as they requested but they needed to understand that the consequences of that decision will be theirs to endure. He told the that as long as the people followed after God, their leader would too, but if the people rebelled, their king would rebel also and his rebellion would cause them anguish. As I read this I thought of all the things in life that we can choose. If we choose those things over God they have the potential to cause us harm but if we choose things under God’s order and authority he will bless them. Some of us have done things out of proper order. Relationships resulted in children born outside of marriage, or even a spouse or a job chosen outside of the timing and direction of God. This chapter reminds us that though there will likely be some difficult consequences for those decisions, but when we surrender it all to him he will bless us as we follow after him. He can’t bless sin, but he picks us up where we are and makes something beautiful out of it in spite of our past misdirection. Some beautiful things came into my life that were literally born out of choices I made outside of God’s plan and he is so gracious to bless and flourish them.

Purpose Fulfilled

Message: In 1 Samuel 11 Saul has returned home after being anointed as king. He didn’t tell his uncle about his encounter and he had hidden himself when Samuel came to present him as king. He seemed to be trying to blend back in with his normal routine when an Ammonite man named Nahash came to threaten Israel. The people tried to negotiate with him and he agreed to let them discuss it for 7 days but his alternative plan wasn’t great. He gave them the choice to either let them kill Israel or gouge out one eye and live as their servants. When Saul caught wind of this the Spirit of God rose up in him and he gathered men and devised a strategic war plan. God was with them and they were successful so after that Saul felt confident leading, and those who had been skeptical accepted his leadership. What I took from this was that Saul didn’t know what to do with the anointing on his life until his path was filled with purpose. His confidence came in the very moment that it became necessary to take action for something bigger than himself. When he stepped out in confidence God was with him, when the people saw that God was with him they were with him too. I really believe this is how God confirms things in us too. We were all called to serve God’s purpose but if we don’t know what it is we will hide in the shadows. When we find ourselves in the middle of our purpose our confidence increases because we find ourselves fighting for something bigger than ourselves. When people see God working through us they begin to trust us too. The most important part is that we don’t ever stop our awe of fulfilling God’s purpose. As soon as we start trying to fulfill ourselves we run into trouble. Saul ran into trouble later on, but at this point he was humble before God and God was moving and working in him and through him.

Obedient Change

Message: In 1 Samuel 10 Saul was anointed as king and then given instructions to go to certain places. He was told what he would find and what to do when he found each thing. As he followed each of the instructions they led to the next thing he had been told and each thing came to pass exactly as Samuel had spoken. When he had fulfilled each of the instructions he began to prophesy with the prophets (also as Samuel had said he would) and God changed his heart. As I thought about this whole sequence of events I realized the significance of the fact that he took each step and walked it out in both faith and obedience. After he obeyed it all God changed his heart. Sometimes I think we are waiting on a heart change in order to obey God, but God is requiring our obedience. As we obey him our heart changes towards people and situations. I thought about this for a minute and kind of laughed at how true this has been in my life. Some of the hardest obedience moments happened when I was emotionally driven and extremely resistant. God has prompted me to obey him with an attitude change long before I felt like doing it. In fact, I felt myself kicking and screaming all the way through it until that beautiful moment where my heart finally followed after the act of obedience. In this story Saul was so changed that everyone who knew him took notice and heard about it. They asked “Is Saul among the prophets?”. He was doing things he had never done before and it was not unnoticed. In spite of all of this, Saul didn’t tell his uncle what was going on and when the prophet came to present him as king he was found hiding in the supplies. This is such another interesting statement. We don’t know why was hiding. We can only speculate but we really don’t know why he was hiding. Maybe he felt overwhelmed or underqualified. Whatever the reason, I think we can all relate to times we have hidden from the calling of God for any of those reasons. Fear of failure, fear of success, feeling unqualified, unprepared or inadequate, fear of what our families will think. Whatever the reason may be we can all relate to hiding.

Chosen In Obscurity


Message: In 1 Samuel God told the prophet that he was going to see the man he would anoint to be king at a particular time and place. A day later an
unassuming Saul of Kish (and his servant) had come into the city looking for some missing donkeys that belonged to his father. They had been gone long enough that he was now afraid that his father would lose concern for the
missing donkeys and instead start wondering what happened to them. Saul’s servant knew that there was a “seer” (prophet of God) who would be able to tell them where to go to locate the missing donkeys so they discussed what kind of gift would be appropriate to take the prophet and began to ask around about how to locate him. They had absolutely no clue that they were on a
divine assignment that would not only change Saul’s life but also the entire nation of Israel. As I read this I thought about all of the divine assignments we are walking out. Often times we have no idea what they are at the time. We may be busy in our regular routines, and like Saul, even distressed looking for something lost. When we look back later on we can sometimes connect the dots of events that seemed so ordinary at the time and appreciate the beauty of perfectly aligned moments where God was at work. As I read this I wondered what Saul’s demeanor was during his time of stress and I thought about how important it was that the servant he was with pointed him towards the prophet seeking God. Clearly God was not choosing Saul out of that very moment. God was watching his life. Although we will not likely be stumbling upon being anointed as king, we are definitely being called for kingdom purposes. Nothing is random and who we are during our normal mundane life
matters. God sees us when we don’t believe we are on the radar for anything special. He knows are character and he is making plans for us. Saul didn’t have any idea what he was being considered for. He was just doing life as usual. This challenges me to remain faithful even when our influence feels obscure and minimal. Not because we hope to be chosen for something as powerful as being anointed king, but because God is watching our lives and has plans in mind for us that we have never dreamed of.

Corrupt Authority

In first Samuel 8 the prophet Samuel was getting old so he appointed his sons to judge over Israel. They were not honorable men and were already taking bribes, perverting justice and abusing their power so Israel rejected this idea. They had definitely seen this scenario before with Eli and they decided they wanted to have their own king “like everyone else”. Samuel was displeased with this idea and he cried out to God about it. God advised him to give them what they want but make sure they understand that a king will take the best of everything they own and will be self-serving. God told Samuel that this was nothing new. Israel wasn’t rejecting him, they were rejecting God….again. As I read this I went back several times over because to me it didn’t seem terribly unreasonable for them to reject Samuel’s sons if they were corrupt. What hit me was that when God said they were rejecting Him and not Samuel I realized that their hearts were already turned away from God. They were all disobeying God too and maybe the corruption of Samuel’s sons was more of a product of the rebellion in the land. Their hearts weren’t turned toward God to cry out in repentance. They were rejecting the plan of God to lead them and instead of crying out for God to judge the authority over them they were taking matters into their own hands. Had their hearts been turned toward God he may have judged the corrupt leaders and led them with all of the blessings He had always intended for them. Instead they wanted to be like everyone else and allow a corrupt king to lead them. This also removed from them any responsiblity for being accountable to God. They could now rely fully on the king for their prosperity without having to answer to God about their lives in order to receive God’s favor and blessing. As I started to think about us as Americans and our desire to rely on and blame our government to handle what we should be relying on God for. Government can’t fix poverty and social justice problems but we are constantly blaming and spinning our wheels with our expectations of the government to do what God intended for the church to do. These are heart issues that laws and politicians don’t have the power to touch. It’s a work of the Holy Spirit to move in people, but we have rejected this and instead placed our government on the throne. Even those who have rejected the government have not turned to God for this. They have turned to yet another form of rebellion while claiming to honor God in their defiance. Change will not come until believers repent, surrender fully to God and allow Him to change our hearts. When we as a church are in a place of repentance and surrender, he will move in the hearts of those who lead us. God placed authorities in our lives and they will rule over us according to the way we are submitted to God. If we rebel against our leaders-even and especially the corrupt ones, we fail to acknowledge God’s authority. This is so difficult to understand, but if we will deal with our own hearts and hold ourselves accountable, he will judge those who are in authority and He will do it HIS way. We ought to know by now that his ways are not ours. We can’t possibly know or understand how he will accomplish this but if we are submitted to God we can trust that he will take care of us.

Don’t Flirt With the Devil

Message:  In Samuel 7 the Israelites began seeking God 20 years after the ark had been returned to them Samuel the prophet said “If you are returning to God with all your heart get rid of your foreign gods and the Ashtoreths that are among you. Dedicate yourself to the Lord and worship Him only, then he will rescue you from the hand of the Philistines.” They  removed those things and then Samuel called them to gather and they fasted and gave sacrifices. Even as they were gathering together the Philistines were watching and on the move to attack them. They may have observed that not much had changed with Israel in the past 20 years in spite of receiving the ark of the covenant back. The Philistines served foreign gods so they surely recognized the practices and the Ashtereth that were on display in Israel. Seeing that Israel was not being faithful to their God may have given the Philistines confidence that they could beat them as they had before.

What I really saw in this is that when we are dormant in our faith and allow ungodliness to come in we kind of blend in with the world and though the devil is trying to suck the life out of us and keep us dormant with our sin, he doesn’t pose a big obvious threat until we start to wake up and pursue God. Being awake is extremely important, but as Samuel called out to Israel, we have to get rid of the illegitimate gods and practices that we adopt in our lives when we are dormant in our faith. When we find ourselves asleep at the wheel.  It’s not enough to just add more of God to our lives. We have to remove everything else and allow God to consume us. When we do this God chases off our enemies even as they are actively pursuing and seeking to devour us. God steps in because he sees that we are fully His. It’s important to note that if we try to hang onto unholy things, it is also a display to the enemy that we are still marked as his. The only way to remove the authority of the enemy from our lives is to remove the things that mark us as his. He has no authority over us as long as we have renounced him and removed anything that would give him rights or access. We can’t play with sin and renounce it at the same time. We can’t play with sin and expect the devil to stay back because our behavior is inviting him in. On the contrary, when we completely belong to God we can stand in the confidence that he chases off the enemy on our behalf. Don’t flirt with the devil!

Holiness Requires My Respect

Message:  In 1 Samuel 6 the Philistines had possession of the ark of the covenant for 7 months. They had moved it from city to city to see if it would be accepted in their land somewhere because they were being tormented with painful tumor-like boils or wounds. The KJV tells us they were “emeroids in their secret parts” and some even died from it. The Philistines decided they needed to give it back but they wanted to make sure they did it properly so they consulted their leaders. The leaders advised them to send it back with a restitution offering. According to the footnotes in my bible a restitution offering was given when something holy had been defiled. Their restitution offering was 2 milk cows that had never been yoked before and they formed gold pieces shaped like the tumors they wanted to be healed from and the mice they wanted to be delivered from. They were pretty sure this was the hand of God against them and they wanted to be smarter than the Egyptians so they prepared all of this very carefully, placed the ark of the covenant on a cart and sent the cows to see if they would go to their land. This would be the sign if it really was God’s hand against them. Not only did the “cows come home” but they didn’t stray one way or the other. They walked directly up the hill and when the Israelites saw it they rejoiced and they chopped up the cart to sacrifice the cows. The Philistine leaders observed all of this and then left to go home. Then God struck down 70 men from the land Beth-she-mesh because they looked inside the ark of the covenant. The people mourned and said “who can stand in the presence of the Lord?”.

What I took from this is that even the Philistines who served other gods recognized the holiness of God enough to fear and treat the ark with reverence. They were very intentional in preparing their restitution offering even though this was not their god. They seemed to know what to do to honor and respect the ark, but it didn’t take long for the men in Israel to treat it with familiarity by looking inside. This was well known in Israel that only a priest who had been consecrated was able to see inside the ark and only Levites were permitted to touch it. Familiarity can be dangerous. It’s good to feel at home, deeply honest and comfortable with God and his ways, but if we allow our familiarity to allow us to treat God with disrespect we are in trouble. There should always be a tension between the God who calls us friend, and the God who requires our respect. I don’t believe that God is offended by the questions we have when they are honest and out of a humble heart desiring to understand. Where we become offensive is when we start to question the heart of God and demand answers. This is a prideful stance that elevates our flesh to assume we have a right to know the mind of God. We saw a touch of this in Job when God answered him “where were you when I formed the earth?”

My challenge to myself today is to ponder the things of God that have become familiar enough that I approach them with disrespect. We read a few days ago that we shouldn’t expect to stand in the presence of God while defiantly holding onto our sin because God is a holy God and his presence consumes everything and burns up that which is impure. If we are deliberately hanging onto impure things we will be scorched right with it. Today I remind myself that the God I serve and worship is holy and to be treated with the highest respect. I take nothing for granted knowing that the promises he gives are gifts I don’t deserve, not rights. I accept them with humility and thanksgiving knowing that I will receive what he has promised because of his faithfulness and not because I demand that he do so.

Consumed For Destruction

Message:  In 1 Samuel 4 God allowed the Philistines to defeat Israel. After the defeat they brought the ark of the covenant with them expecting that bringing the presence of God with them would bless them and ensure a victory. Not only were they defeated even worse, but the Philistines captured the ark of the covenant and took it with them. Eli’s 2 evil sons were killed in that defeat together as God said they would. When Eli received the news he fell backward out of his chair and broke his neck, and the wife of one of the sons gave birth prematurely and died in labor.

As I read this I thought about all of the times we have attempted to live with some sort of disobedience in our lives. God warns us to get rid of it like he did Eli, but we don’t. Life starts to defeat us due to our disobedience so instead of fixing the sin issue, we worship and get in God’s presence expecting him to turn it around for us. But He doesn’t move in our worship without our surrender and obedience. In fact, we can’t even authentically worship God without our surrender because worship IS surrender!

I find it interesting that Israel treated the ark like a good luck charm. They thought it would bring them good, but their destruction was even worse because there was still disobedience among them. In fact, the priest was allowing the disobedience to continue right in the house of God and it affected all of Israel. When the Philistines saw the ark they took it and tried to treat it like one of their other idols. They placed it next to their idol Dagon and found Dagon knocked over the first morning and broken the next. Everywhere that ark went it brought destruction because the presence of God is not a good luck charm. His presence will not bless or prosper sin.  It’s a pure and holy consuming fire that burns up and destroys anything that is unholy. When we come into the presence of God we should come with a sacrifice and expect that sin and unholiness will be destroyed in His presence. If we are not willing to sacrifice our sin, we will find ourselves destroyed along with it. My challenge today is to ask God what sin issue or matter of the heart that I’m still trying to hang onto and protect, and how has my lack of obedience been causing destruction in the presence of God?