Thursday, June 30, 2016

A Special Place...

Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come. And when I arrive, I will send those whom you accredit by letter to carry your gift to Jerusalem. If it seems advisable that I should go also, they will accompany me.
(1 Corinthians 16:1-4 ESV)
This is what things look like at Clay County High School in recent days.  Itself being hard hit by flooding, it has now become the place residents can come get the basics of life to get back on their feet.  It also serves as the home base for the SERVE team as they minister there annually in July. It is a very special place indeed!  You might not think it is where you want to visit for vacation, but those who have gone will tell you there are a lifetime of memories and lots of life-changing ministries that go on there.  And it's only a few hours away!  Listen for ways you can be a part there or back here.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Special People...

I John 3:5 Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers, strangers as they are, who testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God. For they have gone out for the sake of the name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth

Ever since the establishment of our church, there has been a relationship with Dale Taggart. She and her husband Harold(killed by a drunk driver) served in Kayenta establishing the church there. She still reaches out in any way possible to the Navajo people, while Dan and Beth are the new generation of servant-leaders, ministering to a number of churches on the reservation.  They are our connection to the work there, and we enjoy every moment we can spend with them.  A new generation is also at work in our church re-establishing and strengthening that relationship. Even Danielle helps us connect!  Come, get to know them - whether it be at Kayenta or in Flagstaff. Special, special people.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

A Call to Attention!

You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.
(2 Timothy 2:1-3 ESV)

Yes, when I go out with a team, I do tend to push everyone to work hard!  But I was not calling the team to attention here (Fall 2013)  As you can see, the ladies are paying no attention to me at all!  But this was a great group that worked really hard. Since then we have really begun to try to develop a deeper relationship with our fellow believers in Kayenta.  Want to go along?  Opportunities soon!

Monday, June 27, 2016

A Team on a Mission...

What a Team!  That's what it takes to do it well.

After this, Paul stayed many days longer and then took leave of the brothers and set sail for Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila. At Cenchreae he had cut his hair, for he was under a vow.
(Acts 18:18 ESV)
In a few weeks a handful of our people will join a hundred others in returning to Clay County, WV for a week of serving the Lord and the people there.  It is an almost picture perfect demonstration of teamwork in God's work.  When Paul went out on his journeys, there was almost no time at which he was alone. Even when in prison, other believers followed him there.  Here's to teams!  If you have never been a part of one, I challenge you now: join in.  It helps you understand what we're to be doing back home day in and out, year after year.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

When someone won't listen...

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. Only fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you. But if you still do wickedly, you shall be swept away, both you and your king.”
(1 Samuel 12:23-25 ESV)
Samuel had tried every way possible to convince the people of Israel that having a King was not the solution to their problems.  They would not listen to him.  That's hard when it's your job to do so.  There is a twinge of personal rejection. What do you do with that?  Like Samuel here, we must continue to love and pray for them.  We must continue to lovingly speak the truth and challenge them to live by it. We must point them to the reasons they have to respond in obedience - out of gratitude and love. And we must lovingly remind them of the consequences of not listening to God.  Samuel chose well, and continued to influence Israel despite losing his position.  May we do likewise.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Remembering to Repent and Refocus

And all the people said to Samuel, “Pray for your servants to the LORD your God, that we may not die, for we have added to all our sins this evil, to ask for ourselves a king.” And Samuel said to the people, “Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil. Yet do not turn aside from following the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart. And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty. 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 12:19-22 ESV)
God deserves our reverence and wants our obedience.  But there is more to the story. He realizes that we do sin and disobey, and He wants us to know He is ready and waiting to forgive.  Once we do so, He wants us back on the path of serving Him with all our heart. That positive focus is what will keep us from turning aside towards those empty pursuits that distract us.  But what really motivates us is knowing that He is pleased when we act like His people, and He will never turn His back on us.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Think about the Thunder...

Now therefore stand still and see this great thing that the LORD will do before your eyes. Is it not wheat harvest today? I will call upon the LORD, that he may send thunder and rain. And you shall know and see that your wickedness is great, which you have done in the sight of the LORD, in asking for yourselves a king.” So Samuel called upon the LORD, and the LORD sent thunder and rain that day, and all the people greatly feared the LORD and Samuel.
(1 Samuel 12:16-18 ESV)
This is the third mention of thunder in Samuel.  Each time it is mentioned it is intended to point us back to God.  It is not an attribute, but an action of God where He is seeking to get the attention of His people so they will listen to Him.  When God thundered against Israel's enemy in battle, it was more for their sake than to show the enemies something.  Here God gives Samuel the authority to make the call - not to attract attention to Samuel, but to give authority to the words he was saying. When we disobey, God deserves and wants to be feared.  But there is more than that He wants. He has our attention; He has our reverence... tomorrow we'll see what else He is looking for... Meanwhile, when you hear the thunder, turn your heart and ear to the Sovereign LORD, and listen.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

But if...

But if you will not obey the voice of the LORD, but rebel against the commandment of the LORD, then the hand of the LORD will be against you and your king.
(1 Samuel 12:15 ESV)
At this covenant renewal ceremony during the coronation of King Saul, Samuel takes time to give a word of warning. On the positive side, he said if the people AND the king did what was right in the sight of the Lord, all would be well.  This is the flip side of the coin.  If they disobeyed (or the king) they both would experience opposition from the hand of God.  There was greater room for error. They would not be able to blame the king if things went south (like they had so often blamed God); they would be responsible.  How often we blame God, or the government, or anyone else with whom we choose to side on a sunny day, but prove to be fair-weather friends when we disobey.  The road of unwise choices is wide indeed, but full of potholes and diverse diversions. Listen for His voice. Obey His voice. Let it be greater than any other voice, including political promises.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Double "if"

And now behold the king whom you have chosen, for whom you have asked; behold, the LORD has set a king over you. If you will fear the LORD and serve him and obey his voice and not rebel against the commandment of the LORD, and if both you and the king who reigns over you will follow the LORD your God, it will be well. (1 Samuel 12:13-14 ESV)
"Life is going to get a whole lot more complicated." That's what God was telling Israel. Because they put their hope in a king to lead them they would have more than twice the potential for trouble. Not only did they need to fear God and obey His commands; the king had to do so also. As history proved, that was rarely the case - that either or both would do so. Troubles increase geometrically when we through someone or something in between us and God - someone we trust and obey more than Him. The more other "kings" we turn to, the greater the opportunity for error and disaster. Let's keep life simple. "The LORD, He is God. The LORD is our King."

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

A History with God...

And Samuel said to the people, “The LORD is witness, who appointed Moses and Aaron and brought your fathers up out of the land of Egypt. Now therefore stand still that I may plead with you before the LORD concerning all the righteous deeds of the LORD that he performed for you and for your fathers. When Jacob went into Egypt, and the Egyptians oppressed them, then your fathers cried out to the LORD and the LORD sent Moses and Aaron, who brought your fathers out of Egypt and made them dwell in this place. But they forgot the LORD their God. And he sold them into the hand of Sisera, commander of the army of Hazor, and into the hand of the Philistines, and into the hand of the king of Moab. And they fought against them. And they cried out to the LORD and said, ‘We have sinned, because we have forsaken the LORD and have served the Baals and the Ashtaroth. But now deliver us out of the hand of our enemies, that we may serve you.’ And the LORD sent Jerubbaal and Barak and Jephthah and Samuel and delivered you out of the hand of your enemies on every side, and you lived in safety. And when you saw that Nahash the king of the Ammonites came against you, you said to me, ‘No, but a king shall reign over us,’ when the LORD your God was your king.
(1 Samuel 12:6-12 ESV)
As Samuel begins his challenge to recommitment, He reminds the people of their history with God. He is faithful and delivers; we forget and rebel and get in a mess. He hears and is faithful and delivers. Repeat Process over and over again.  What conclusion should we reach? Should we think that we do not need God as King?  Our decisions are not based on our History with God.  We are the proverbial ones who must repeat it over and over again, because we have not learned from history. Let us "stand still" as Samuel says, and consider "all the righteous deeds of the LORD for us, and all who have gone before.

Monday, June 20, 2016

For the Sake of the Message

And Samuel said to all Israel, “Behold, I have obeyed your voice in all that you have said to me and have made a king over you. And now, behold, the king walks before you, and I am old and gray; and behold, my sons are with you. I have walked before you from my youth until this day. Here I am; testify against me before the LORD and before his anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Or whose donkey have I taken? Or whom have I defrauded? Whom have I oppressed? Or from whose hand have I taken a bribe to blind my eyes with it? Testify against me and I will restore it to you.” They said, “You have not defrauded us or oppressed us or taken anything from any man's hand.” And he said to them, “The LORD is witness against you, and his anointed is witness this day, that you have not found anything in my hand.” And they said, “He is witness.
(1 Samuel 12:1-5 ESV)
Samuel does something rare here. It is something that we see Paul do on rare occasions as well: he defends his life as a servant and spokesman for God.  As a general rule, these men and other prophets and apostles did not flout their lives and say "look at me!" But in situations like this, there was a reason: people were not listening to the message of the messenger.  Samuel and Paul did not care so much about what people thought about them as the messenger as the did about a serious message God was sending that seemed to be ignored.  God had been telling them through Samuel that is was a grave mistake to think that a king could do a better job of leading and delivering them than God had. But it seemed like Samuel was wasting his words on deaf ears.  It is hard to be ignored as one who speaks the Word of the Lord to the hearers peril.  It makes the speaker ask: "What is it about this messenger that causes you to ignore the message he brings? Ultimately, these people admit what is so often true of us: it's not the messenger; it's the message we refuse to accept, and the One who sent it.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Standing Up to Silence the Nay-Sayers...

Then Nahash the Ammonite went up and besieged Jabesh-gilead, and all the men of Jabesh said to Nahash, “Make a treaty with us, and we will serve you.” But Nahash the Ammonite said to them, “On this condition I will make a treaty with you, that I gouge out all your right eyes, and thus bring disgrace on all Israel.” The elders of Jabesh said to him, “Give us seven days' respite that we may send messengers through all the territory of Israel. Then, if there is no one to save us, we will give ourselves up to you.” When the messengers came to Gibeah of Saul, they reported the matter in the ears of the people, and all the people wept aloud.
Now, behold, Saul was coming from the field behind the oxen. And Saul said, “What is wrong with the people, that they are weeping?” So they told him the news of the men of Jabesh. And the Spirit of God rushed upon Saul when he heard these words, and his anger was greatly kindled. He took a yoke of oxen and cut them in pieces and sent them throughout all the territory of Israel by the hand of the messengers, saying, “Whoever does not come out after Saul and Samuel, so shall it be done to his oxen!” Then the dread of the LORD fell upon the people, and they came out as one man. When he mustered them at Bezek, the people of Israel were three hundred thousand, and the men of Judah thirty thousand. And they said to the messengers who had come, “Thus shall you say to the men of Jabesh-gilead: ‘Tomorrow, by the time the sun is hot, you shall have salvation.’” When the messengers came and told the men of Jabesh, they were glad. Therefore the men of Jabesh said, “Tomorrow we will give ourselves up to you, and you may do to us whatever seems good to you.” And the next day Saul put the people in three companies. And they came into the midst of the camp in the morning watch and struck down the Ammonites until the heat of the day. And those who survived were scattered, so that no two of them were left together.
Then the people said to Samuel, “Who is it that said, ‘Shall Saul reign over us?’ Bring the men, that we may put them to death.” But Saul said, “Not a man shall be put to death this day, for today the LORD has worked salvation in Israel.” Then Samuel said to the people, “Come, let us go to Gilgal and there renew the kingdom.” So all the people went to Gilgal, and there they made Saul king before the LORD in Gilgal. There they sacrificed peace offerings before the LORD, and there Saul and all the men of Israel rejoiced greatly.
(1 Samuel 11 ESV) Israel had wanted a king.  God gave them one. Some were not happy with the one He gave them.  So God provided an opportunity for them to be silenced.  Often we think we need to stand up for ourselves.  What we really need to do is stand up for those who are vulnerable, and God will make a way to show we are being true to Him and His will.  What a unique thought in the world in which we live..May we live as if God really is in control.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

The Non-Unanimous Vote...

Now Samuel called the people together to the LORD at Mizpah. And he said to the people of Israel, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘I brought up Israel out of Egypt, and I delivered you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the hand of all the kingdoms that were oppressing you.’ But today you have rejected your God, who saves you from all your calamities and your distresses, and you have said to him, ‘Set a king over us.’ Now therefore present yourselves before the LORD by your tribes and by your thousands.”
Then Samuel brought all the tribes of Israel near, and the tribe of Benjamin was taken by lot. He brought the tribe of Benjamin near by its clans, and the clan of the Matrites was taken by lot; and Saul the son of Kish was taken by lot. But when they sought him, he could not be found. So they inquired again of the LORD, “Is there a man still to come?” and the LORD said, “Behold, he has hidden himself among the baggage.” Then they ran and took him from there. And when he stood among the people, he was taller than any of the people from his shoulders upward. And Samuel said to all the people, “Do you see him whom the LORD has chosen? There is none like him among all the people.” And all the people shouted, “Long live the king!”
Then Samuel told the people the rights and duties of the kingship, and he wrote them in a book and laid it up before the LORD. Then Samuel sent all the people away, each one to his home. Saul also went to his home at Gibeah, and with him went men of valor whose hearts God had touched. But some worthless fellows said, “How can this man save us?” And they despised him and brought him no present. But he held his peace.
(1 Samuel 10:17-27 ESV)
Everyone wanted a king. Everyone did not want Saul.  Samuel reminds the people of Israel that God had done a perfectly fine job of leading Israel and winning her battles; they had not done such a fine job of following Him and obeying His commands.  Nonetheless, he was going them a king. What they should not do is expect their king to please all of them all of the time. Not going to happen. It took no time at all for the point to be proven; some sons of Belial, "worthless men" extremely evil disobedient men, despised Saul.  And to this day, such things continue.  God gives us what we want or deserve (or both), and we despise him.  Discontentment spreads, until God does something about it... stay tuned...

Friday, June 17, 2016

Sure Signs...

When he turned his back to leave Samuel, God gave him another heart. And all these signs came to pass that day. When they came to Gibeah, behold, a group of prophets met him, and the Spirit of God rushed upon him, and he prophesied among them. And when all who knew him previously saw how he prophesied with the prophets, the people said to one another, “What has come over the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?” And a man of the place answered, “And who is their father?” Therefore it became a proverb, “Is Saul also among the prophets?” When he had finished prophesying, he came to the high place. Saul's uncle said to him and to his servant, “Where did you go?” And he said, “To seek the donkeys. And when we saw they were not to be found, we went to Samuel.” And Saul's uncle said, “Please tell me what Samuel said to you.” And Saul said to his uncle, “He told us plainly that the donkeys had been found.” But about the matter of the kingdom, of which Samuel had spoken, he did not tell him anything. (1 Samuel 10:9-16 ESV)
When Samuel informed Saul that he would be the first King of Israel, he gave him three signs to confirm that promise, which would give Saul confidence of it's truth.  The first two built a case, but the third one was what really made it pronounced.  God was not giving Saul the strength of Samson or the wisdom of Solomon (both of which would have been handy in fighting the Philistines.) He was giving Him the privilege of speaking and singing the word of God, which is always true. This act of prophesying was at times done with music, helping us to understand a little more clearly God's call to us: Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3:16 ESV) Whatever challenges God is laying before us, individually or as a fellowship of believers, Sharing the truth of God's Word is the best builder of confidence, wisdom and strength we can have. Let us share freely.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Step by Step

And when they came down from the high place into the city, a bed was spread for Saul on the roof, and he lay down to sleep. Then at the break of dawn Samuel called to Saul on the roof, “Up, that I may send you on your way.” So Saul arose, and both he and Samuel went out into the street.
As they were going down to the outskirts of the city, Samuel said to Saul, “Tell the servant to pass on before us, and when he has passed on, stop here yourself for a while, that I may make known to you the word of God.”
Then Samuel took a flask of oil and poured it on his head and kissed him and said, “Has not the LORD anointed you to be prince over his people Israel? And you shall reign over the people of the LORD and you will save them from the hand of their surrounding enemies. And this shall be the sign to you that the LORD has anointed you to be prince over his heritage. When you depart from me today, you will meet two men by Rachel's tomb in the territory of Benjamin at Zelzah, and they will say to you, ‘The donkeys that you went to seek are found, and now your father has ceased to care about the donkeys and is anxious about you, saying, “What shall I do about my son?”’ Then you shall go on from there farther and come to the oak of Tabor. Three men going up to God at Bethel will meet you there, one carrying three young goats, another carrying three loaves of bread, and another carrying a skin of wine. And they will greet you and give you two loaves of bread, which you shall accept from their hand. After that you shall come to Gibeath-elohim, where there is a garrison of the Philistines. And there, as soon as you come to the city, you will meet a group of prophets coming down from the high place with harp, tambourine, flute, and lyre before them, prophesying. Then the Spirit of the LORD will rush upon you, and you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man. Now when these signs meet you, do what your hand finds to do, for God is with you. Then go down before me to Gilgal. And behold, I am coming down to you to offer burnt offerings and to sacrifice peace offerings. Seven days you shall wait, until I come to you and show you what you shall do.”
(1 Samuel 9:25-10:8 ESV)
Saul was overwhelmed by what Samuel was telling him - that he was to become king.  That's a lot more than we often have to swallow in a day.  First, he had to wait and sleep on it. Then God gives him a few signs, a few steps, to know that it is true. Then he must wait again.  If we are to know God;s will for us, and know that it is His will, then we must be willing to do the same - receive one step at a time, and wait.  Sometimes information comes like a rush - others involve a lot of waiting in between. But in the end we can look back and see a steady line of God leading us along. We must wait, listen, wait, listen, obey and trust.  Are we listening? Are we waiting?  Are we trusting that God does have such a plan?

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Appointed times and people...

Now the day before Saul came, the LORD had revealed to Samuel: “Tomorrow about this time I will send to you a man from the land of Benjamin, and you shall anoint him to be prince over my people Israel. He shall save my people from the hand of the Philistines. For I have seen my people, because their cry has come to me.” When Samuel saw Saul, the LORD told him, “Here is the man of whom I spoke to you! He it is who shall restrain my people.” Then Saul approached Samuel in the gate and said, “Tell me where is the house of the seer?” Samuel answered Saul, “I am the seer. Go up before me to the high place, for today you shall eat with me, and in the morning I will let you go and will tell you all that is on your mind. As for your donkeys that were lost three days ago, do not set your mind on them, for they have been found. And for whom is all that is desirable in Israel? Is it not for you and for all your father's house?” Saul answered, “Am I not a Benjaminite, from the least of the tribes of Israel? And is not my clan the humblest of all the clans of the tribe of Benjamin? Why then have you spoken to me in this way?”
Then Samuel took Saul and his young man and brought them into the hall and gave them a place at the head of those who had been invited, who were about thirty persons. And Samuel said to the cook, “Bring the portion I gave you, of which I said to you, ‘Put it aside.’” So the cook took up the leg and what was on it and set them before Saul. And Samuel said, “See, what was kept is set before you. Eat, because it was kept for you until the hour appointed, that you might eat with the guests.”
So Saul ate with Samuel that day.
(1 Samuel 9:15-24 ESV)
As we saw yesterday, there are no coincidences with God.  Saul was there with Samuel at the right time for this special event.  To find ourselves there, we must have this same humble sense he did.  I know our tendency is to flash forward to what we know about Saul later, but make no mistake - he was speaking with sincere humility in his response at the honors being shown for him. He respected Samuel and reverenced God.  What happened later happened, but in the flow of history, we do not know that yet.  To become king, he needed an almost "clueless" humility, which made him willing to listen to Samuel and follow his instructions.  We will never know where God might take us if we are not willing to do the same: reverence God, respect those who speak for Him, look for His will in the every day, and take the simple steps He gives when He gives them.  What is He prodding you to do?

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Land of No Coincidences...

When they came to the land of Zuph, Saul said to his servant who was with him, “Come, let us go back, lest my father cease to care about the donkeys and become anxious about us.” But he said to him, “Behold, there is a man of God in this city, and he is a man who is held in honor; all that he says comes true. So now let us go there. Perhaps he can tell us the way we should go.” Then Saul said to his servant, “But if we go, what can we bring the man? For the bread in our sacks is gone, and there is no present to bring to the man of God. What do we have?” The servant answered Saul again, “Here, I have with me a quarter of a shekel of silver, and I will give it to the man of God to tell us our way.” (Formerly in Israel, when a man went to inquire of God, he said, “Come, let us go to the seer,” for today's “prophet” was formerly called a seer.) And Saul said to his servant, “Well said; come, let us go.” So they went to the city where the man of God was.
As they went up the hill to the city, they met young women coming out to draw water and said to them, “Is the seer here?” They answered, “He is; behold, he is just ahead of you. Hurry. He has come just now to the city, because the people have a sacrifice today on the high place. As soon as you enter the city you will find him, before he goes up to the high place to eat. For the people will not eat till he comes, since he must bless the sacrifice; afterward those who are invited will eat. Now go up, for you will meet him immediately.” So they went up to the city. As they were entering the city, they saw Samuel coming out toward them on his way up to the high place.
(1 Samuel 9:5-14 ESV)
Israel wanted, and was promised, a king.  How do you get a king when you've never had one before? God has a plan for everything; He writes a fascinating story line.  Saul just "happened" to be in the area searching for lost sheep, a good ways from home. His servant just "happened" to remember talk of some prophet in the area who gave wise advice.  They just "happened" to come at the very hour of a very special sacred sacrifice.  Just by chance?  God doesn't work that way.  His providence is amazing.  What is amazing is that we do not realize it more often. What is startling is how often God puts the answers -and the possibilities - right in front of us, and we ignore them, and Him.  May we see and stand in awe of the God of no coincidences.  

Monday, June 13, 2016

Taking Responsibility...

There was a man of Benjamin whose name was Kish, the son of Abiel, son of Zeror, son of Becorath, son of Aphiah, a Benjaminite, a man of wealth. And he had a son whose name was Saul, a handsome young man. There was not a man among the people of Israel more handsome than he. From his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people.
Now the donkeys of Kish, Saul's father, were lost. So Kish said to Saul his son, “Take one of the young men with you, and arise, go and look for the donkeys.” And he passed through the hill country of Ephraim and passed through the land of Shalishah, but they did not find them. And they passed through the land of Shaalim, but they were not there. Then they passed through the land of Benjamin, but did not find them.
(1 Samuel 9:1-4 ESV)
When I say "King Saul", what immediately jumps to your mind? I'm sure it's probably negative. Yet, we find that Saul the First did seem like a good choice for a number of reasons, the first being that his father could trust him with responsibility.  When the donkeys were lost, he sent Saul, who was intent on completing his task. He acted responsibly.  Many of us could never be king for that very reason: We are not willing to take responsibility for ourselves, let alone anyone or any thing belonging to someone else.  We would rather sit back, complain, and point the finger at their failures, than to take up responsibility and attempt something at which we may fail.  Let us step up and willingly take responsibility for our words, actions and decisions, and then be willing to step up and lead, even if at times we fail.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

The words of wise women...

She opens her mouth with wisdom,
and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
(Proverbs 31:26 ESV)
As I have been anticipating the reports of our two young women today, I looked back over the years to see where they have come.  When young, both women were extremely shy and quiet. If you spoke to them the question was not what they would say, but if they would say anything! How far the Lord has brought them.  God has given them knowledge, wisdom and experience to share. Both are still quiet in a sense, but not afraid to stand up and testify to God's great faithfulness, and to approach those to whom they minister with voices filled with love and grace.  Let us listen; they both have something to say and to share.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Known for loving and serving...

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace:
(1 Peter 4:8-10 ESV)
As I have continued to think about what it is that makes these two young ladies so impressive-besides all the things I've mentioned this week, I have watched them interact with their parents, siblings, and nieces and nephews.  Both have demonstrated sacrificial love over and over again.  Having received grace from God (the context of I Peter 4), they give and give and give - gifts and time and themselves - to babysit, assist and listen to others share the frustrations of life, especially their families. Thank you, young ladies, for all you do, and for being you.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Amazing women with an amazing message...

Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive.
(Luke 24:22-23 ESV)
The apostles were simple men who simply followed Christ. He used them to establish the Church. But often it was a few women who first pioneered their adventures, like on resurrection day. These men were amazed at the message they brought, and I think, humbled that they women were the ones who went first. That same tendency still often shows itself in the church.  As I look at the lives of these two young women who will share Sunday, amazing is an appropriate word.  They have gone places, invested in lives, and demonstrated the love of Christ all over the world.  They live as if Christ really is alive (and He is!)

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Two are better than one!

Greet those workers in the Lord, Tryphaena and Tryphosa. (Romans 16:12a ESV)
In this conclusion to his letter to the Roman church, Paul gives a long list of greetings for those with whom he had had the privilege to labor together for the Lord. Nestled in the middle of this list are these two women, possibly twins or sisters, who had been co-workers for Christ along the way.
Besides always wanting to name twin daughters these names if we ever had any (though not approved by my wife...) this pair has always stuck out to me from the list.  Such are the two young ladies who we will hear from this week.  I have had the privilege of serving with both of them on short-term stateside missions trips, and have seen them work together, going as far as Bangladesh in serving Christ. Besides both being very courageous, they are team players- willing to go anywhere, do anything, and work with anyone for the cause of Christ.  If we only had many more such twins!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Two courageous women...

And Deborah said to Barak, “Up! For this is the day in which the LORD has given Sisera into your hand. Does not the LORD go out before you?” So Barak went down from Mount Tabor with 10,000 men following him. And the LORD routed Sisera and all his chariots and all his army before Barak by the edge of the sword. And Sisera got down from his chariot and fled away on foot. And Barak pursued the chariots and the army to Harosheth-hagoyim, and all the army of Sisera fell by the edge of the sword; not a man was left.
But Sisera fled away on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, for there was peace between Jabin the king of Hazor and the house of Heber the Kenite. And Jael came out to meet Sisera and said to him, “Turn aside, my lord; turn aside to me; do not be afraid.” So he turned aside to her into the tent, and she covered him with a rug. And he said to her, “Please give me a little water to drink, for I am thirsty.” So she opened a skin of milk and gave him a drink and covered him. And he said to her, “Stand at the opening of the tent, and if any man comes and asks you, ‘Is anyone here?’ say, ‘No.’” But Jael the wife of Heber took a tent peg, and took a hammer in her hand. Then she went softly to him and drove the peg into his temple until it went down into the ground while he was lying fast asleep from weariness. So he died. And behold, as Barak was pursuing Sisera, Jael went out to meet him and said to him, “Come, and I will show you the man whom you are seeking.” So he went in to her tent, and there lay Sisera dead, with the tent peg in his temple.
(Judges 4:14-22 ESV)
The book of Judges has been a long time favorite of mine.  It's exciting history where we see God doing unique and amazing things.  In this episode, we find two courageous women winning the day. Barak was afraid to go out to battle without Deborah going out with him.  Jael was not afraid to take on the most feared enemy of the day.  These women stepped up, knowing they were putting themselves in harm's way, yet understanding that God could and would do great things through them. That s why this week is so exciting!  We will be able to witness two young women who repeatedly have acted courageously- much more than most men I know - to go to the neediest parts of the world and show the love of Christ.  Here's to the praise of godly, courageous young women!

Monday, June 6, 2016

In praise of young women: Godliness and good works...

likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.
(1 Timothy 2:9-10 ESV)
It has been my privilege to watch two young women grow by leaps and bounds in serving the Lord. In their honor, and in preparation for having them speak this coming Sunday and share their ministries, I am dedicating this blog this week to them.  The description above fits them well.  They are not given to self-indulgence, but to sacrifice and service to God and all those to whom He takes them.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

No Surprises to God...

“When you come to the land that the LORD your God is giving you, and you possess it and dwell in it and then say, ‘I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are around me,’ you may indeed set a king over you whom the LORD your God will choose. One from among your brothers you shall set as king over you. You may not put a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. Only he must not acquire many horses for himself or cause the people to return to Egypt in order to acquire many horses, since the LORD has said to you, ‘You shall never return that way again.’ And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold.
“And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests. And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel.
(Deuteronomy 17:14-20 ESV)
In I Samuel 8, when the people of Israel demanded from Samuel that he appoint a king, this action came as no surprise to God.  Hundreds of years before, in His final instructions to them, before Moses passes off the scene, God gave them instructions for how they should choose a king, and how the king should conduct himself.  He even hints at one of the reasons they would want to do so: "like all the nations that are around me." A king was to be had with caution.  When the people pressed Samuel to do so, it was not so much that they did that was discouraging, but how and why they did. As God put it so plainly to Samuel: 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.
(1 Samuel 8:7-8 ESV) Many times it is not that God does not want to give us things; it is why and how we want them.  We want them instead of Him.  We are discontented with Him. We act like He is not enough.  But He is. He is all we need.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Go Home...

And the LORD said to Samuel, “Obey their voice and make them a king.” Samuel then said to the men of Israel, “Go every man to his city.”
(1 Samuel 8:22 ESV)
God, Samuel, and the people of Israel have been involved in this three-way conversation about their desire for a King.  They brought their request to Samuel. He took it to God.  God gave them all the reasons NOT to want a King.  Samuel told them in detail.  They kept on persisting and pestering Samuel. Samuel goes to God and tells Him all about hit.  God now tells Samuel to go ahead and give them what they want.  Those, however, are not the words recorded for Samuel's response.  He says: "Go home; God has given you what you want; He's done arguing with you. We're done here"  There is no turning back.  When we continue to go against God's wisdom, word and will long enough, He will let us reap the rewards of that disobedience.  How have we learned that lesson the hard way?

Friday, June 3, 2016

Completing the Conversation...

And when Samuel had heard all the words of the people, he repeated them in the ears of the LORD.
(1 Samuel 8:21 ESV)
This simple statement takes me back.  Really, Samuel?!?!  Do you think the LORD did not hear what they said?  Moses did the same thing - telling God the people's complaints.  Elijah complained to God about what the people had said and done to him, as if God do not see and hear.  Why did these men tell God? Did they think He missed something?!? I don't think so.  They had a high view of God. They understand their part in completing the conversation.  They spoke for God,  but they also listened for Him.  Samuel was stuck in the middle, going back and forth, and without this repeating what He said and they said, he would be an uninvolved party.  But He was very much involved, helping this be a conversation, and not just an announcement.  When God uses us to share his truth with others, it is not just beating them with our Bibles; it is bringing them into the conversation God wants to have with us, taking in what everyone is saying, bringing the parties together, making sure each understands the other.  Let us listen, and speak well.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Digging our heels into the sand...

But the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel. And they said, “No! But there shall be a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.”
(1 Samuel 8:19-20 ESV)
More than once this historian has recorded that everyone, all over Israel, knew that the LORD spoke through Samuel.  In essence, what he said when "on the job" was what God said.  Samuel warned them that what they wanted was not the best, and why they wanted it was even worse.  But they refused to accept his wise words on God's behalf, dug in their heels, and moved their faith from their Ebenezer, their Rock of Hope, to sinking sand. They no longer wanted Samuel to be their judge, and they no longer wanted God to be their General.  The sand is fine for a vacation on the beach, but no place to live or build our hopes.  Any human leader demands our respect, but is no replacement for the true and living God.  Who do we really, practically, believe and obey? How deep have we sunk in the sand?

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

What Government Gives and Gets...

So Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking for a king from him. He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots. And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men and your donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the LORD will not answer you in that day.
(1 Samuel 8:10-18 ESV)
So, Israel had asked for a King.  They wanted one to fight their battles and give them wisdom.  Scary thought when we look at some of the candidates today.  In essence, they wanted someone they could see to do it for them.  But had they counted the cost?  Would that king truly fight their battles, or simply watch their sons fight them? And who would make the decision to go into battle? Who was wise enough, besides God? It would also cost them taxes and resources - the best of what they had. They would give up the choice to do these things - their freedoms. They would give up a lot more than they would get.  Most of all, they would be shifting their allegiance from God to government, and develop a dependence that robbed their relationship with Him.  Have we done the same? What has been the price?  Does it seem that he will not answer in the day of trouble? What choices have we made that have gotten us in trouble?