Sunday, July 31, 2016

Flying Solo...

Then Samuel went to Ramah, and Saul went up to his house in Gibeah of Saul. And Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death, but Samuel grieved over Saul. And the LORD regretted that he had made Saul king over Israel.
(1 Samuel 15:34-35 ESV)
Saul, by his words and actions demonstrated that he really believed that he did not need God, or Samuel, or anyone else who would not go along with his ways. He thought they held him back.  His repeated rejection and disobedience of God's word got him what he wanted - alone. Saul would remain king for a number of years yet, but when the times would come when he realized he really needed a word from God and some wisdom from Samuel, he would find himself alone.  They say "It's lonely at the top," but it doesn't have to be. God was there the whole time; Samuel kept trying to intercede. Saul kept rejecting them both. Who am I rejecting that God has sent my way?  Am I looking to His commands and His Spirit for the Wisdom that I need today? Or am I flying solo?

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Sweet Little Man, or Notorious Killer?

Then Samuel said, “Bring here to me Agag the king of the Amalekites.” And Agag came to him cheerfully. Agag said, “Surely the bitterness of death is past.” And Samuel said, “As your sword has made women childless, so shall your mother be childless among women.” And Samuel hacked Agag to pieces before the LORD in Gilgal.
(1 Samuel 15:32-33 ESV)
Agag was no innocent man. He was from a long line of descendants from Esau who were bent on exterminating Israel as God's people.  They tried to get rid of them even before the got to the promised land, and had tried again as recently as the times of the Judges. They were looking for opportunity then, and would soon again against David. Worse yet, a descendant of Agag would try during the time of Esther.  Agag and the Amalekites had set their heart against God and His people.  Samuel could not allow Saul to do what so many professing followers of sin do -let evil in, welcome it, be defeated by it.  That temptation you're struggling with is no small thing; it's a vicious enemy out to destroy you and everyone you are responsible for. Don't let it in.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Saving Face or Sincere Sorrow?

Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice. Now therefore, please pardon my sin and return with me that I may bow before the LORD.” And Samuel said to Saul, “I will not return with you. For you have rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD has rejected you from being king over Israel.” As Samuel turned to go away, Saul seized the skirt of his robe, and it tore. And Samuel said to him, “The LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you this day and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you. And also the Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for he is not a man, that he should have regret.” Then he said, “I have sinned; yet honor me now before the elders of my people and before Israel, and return with me, that I may bow before the LORD your God.” So Samuel turned back after Saul, and Saul bowed before the LORD.
(1 Samuel 15:24-31 ESV)
Finally, after hearing the consequences of his persistent pride, Saul admits that he has disobeyed the commandment of God through Samuel.  But he still blames the people in a backhanded way.  And he is concerned with appearances more than a change of heart. Something sad is happening indeed, as when Saul first makes the request, he refers to bowing "before the LORD," but the second time it is "before the LORD your God."  Samuel agrees to go with Saul, not to help him save face, but to make sure the people see Saul bowing before the LORD as king. That's what the whole issue is: "am I bowing before God as King? Or am I stuck on being king?"  Am I concerned more about consequences or cleansing? Do I want to save face or serve God?

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Same Old Song and Dance... New Verse...

And Samuel said, “Though you are little in your own eyes, are you not the head of the tribes of Israel? The LORD anointed you king over Israel. And the LORD sent you on a mission and said, ‘Go, devote to destruction the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.’ Why then did you not obey the voice of the LORD? Why did you pounce on the spoil and do what was evil in the sight of the LORD?” And Saul said to Samuel, “I have obeyed the voice of the LORD. I have gone on the mission on which the LORD sent me. I have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and I have devoted the Amalekites to destruction. But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the best of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the LORD your God in Gilgal.” 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 15:17-23 ESV)
Saul has been confronted with his sin, yet continues to act as if he has done nothing wrong, is above rebuke, and has not idea what Samuel is talking about. He continues to blame everyone else: the people, Samuel, and YOUR God. As the text shows, Samuel's response is almost like something we would hear sung in the dramatic scene from an opera. They are memorable and tragic words: "God wants obedience; your sacrifice is a hollow ritual; you are worshiping yourself; you are no longer going to be king." Rejected.  The word we all fear. This is a whole new twist for the king who keeps leading the people to victory. We want to be popular, accepted, adored.  Only The KING is to be adored. It's time we change our tune, before the sad verse is added.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016


The word of the LORD came to Samuel: “I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following me and has not performed my commandments.” And Samuel was angry, and he cried to the LORD all night. And Samuel rose early to meet Saul in the morning. And it was told Samuel, “Saul came to Carmel, and behold, he set up a monument for himself and turned and passed on and went down to Gilgal.” And Samuel came to Saul, and Saul said to him, “Blessed be you to the LORD. I have performed the commandment of the LORD.” And Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears and the lowing of the oxen that I hear?” Saul said, “They have brought them from the Amalekites, for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen to sacrifice to the LORD your God, and the rest we have devoted to destruction.” Then Samuel said to Saul, “Stop! I will tell you what the LORD said to me this night.” And he said to him, “Speak.”
(1 Samuel 15:10-16 ESV)
Saul had done something we should all beware of: coming to think that he was always right, above rebuke, and actually doing evil when he thought he was doing good.  He had seared his conscience by lying to himself over and over again. Samuel couldn't take it anymore. After spending the whole night grieving with God over what Saul had done, he tracked him down to confront him, hearing a whole set of lies and excuses.  Speaking for God, he said: "STOP! Enough!"  It was time for Saul to shut up and listen to the truth. Would he be ready to receive it? Would I? Would you? Have we allowed ourselves to come to think of our self-driven lives as true, and right and good?

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

What part of all don't you understand?

So Saul summoned the people and numbered them in Telaim, two hundred thousand men on foot, and ten thousand men of Judah. And Saul came to the city of Amalek and lay in wait in the valley. Then Saul said to the Kenites, “Go, depart; go down from among the Amalekites, lest I destroy you with them. For you showed kindness to all the people of Israel when they came up out of Egypt.” So the Kenites departed from among the Amalekites. And Saul defeated the Amalekites from Havilah as far as Shur, which is east of Egypt. And he took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive and devoted to destruction all the people with the edge of the sword. But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep and of the oxen and of the fattened calves and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them. All that was despised and worthless they devoted to destruction. (1 Samuel 15:4-9 ESV)
Saul has been given another opportunity to obey God. And he does, kind of.  He totally destroys all the men, women and children, while letting the fat guy and the fat animals live.  But notice Saul was not alone in this.  He was most guilty as the leader who had received the instructions, but the people joined in NOT fully obeying God's command.  It was just as Samuel had said: the king and the people would stand, or fall, together.  What reasons do we give for not fully obeying? What do we value more than pleasing God with our obedience? How much obedience is enough to make us settle for less than all?

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Whole story...

And Samuel said to Saul, “The LORD sent me to anoint you king over his people Israel; now therefore listen to the words of the LORD. Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘I have noted what Amalek did to Israel in opposing them on the way when they came up out of Egypt. Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’”
(1 Samuel 15:1-3 ESV)
This is one of those passages that people point to and say: "What a terrible God! Why would he kill all of those innocent people?!"  But there is a lot behind this command we do not see at quick glance, and a lot about ourselves we are unaware of.  The Amalekites, decendents of Esau, had a long history of brutally trying to eliminate God's people, because the were God's people. And they will do so again.  God could see at that time they were planning to do so again, and that Israel was very vulnerable.  He wanted it to stop once and for all. What we also do not see in this story is something about ourselves.  We are such an individualistic, self-centered culture that we think only in terms of individual lives, and not societies or peoples.  This was not so then, or even in many parts of the world today.  God sees the big picture, and we will see the Amalekites come back again in Biblical history trying to eliminate God's people.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Give or Take?

When Saul had taken the kingship over Israel, he fought against all his enemies on every side, against Moab, against the Ammonites, against Edom, against the kings of Zobah, and against the Philistines. Wherever he turned he routed them. And he did valiantly and struck the Amalekites and delivered Israel out of the hands of those who plundered them.
Now the sons of Saul were Jonathan, Ishvi, and Malchi-shua. And the names of his two daughters were these: the name of the firstborn was Merab, and the name of the younger Michal. And the name of Saul's wife was Ahinoam the daughter of Ahimaaz. And the name of the commander of his army was Abner the son of Ner, Saul's uncle. Kish was the father of Saul, and Ner the father of Abner was the son of Abiel.
There was hard fighting against the Philistines all the days of Saul. And when Saul saw any strong man, or any valiant man, he attached him to himself.
(1 Samuel 14:47-52 ESV)
A few things strike me about this summary of Saul's reign as King over Israel. The very first just hit me.  Saul took the kingship. He forgot he had been given it, and that God was to remain King. When we forget all God gives to us, and begin to see ourselves as king, we're headed for trouble. Secondly, though Saul is just starting his reign, there is already a summary. In other words, he is so far off track that God is looking for someone else. That is confirmed by the introduction here of key players in the transition of power to the next king. Finally, Saul never had peace in his life; it was always war. As a fearful man he surrounded himself with fighters. He never had peace. We can have all the power in the world, but not have peace.  Which do we really need and want?

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Totally nuts!

Then Saul said to Jonathan, “Tell me what you have done.” And Jonathan told him, “I tasted a little honey with the tip of the staff that was in my hand. Here I am; I will die.” And Saul said, “God do so to me and more also; you shall surely die, Jonathan.” Then the people said to Saul, “Shall Jonathan die, who has worked this great salvation in Israel? Far from it! As the LORD lives, there shall not one hair of his head fall to the ground, for he has worked with God this day.” So the people ransomed Jonathan, so that he did not die. Then Saul went up from pursuing the Philistines, and the Philistines went to their own place.
(1 Samuel 14:43-46 ESV)
This is what happens when we get wrapped up in ourselves, thinking we are always right. We say and do rash things, causing harm even to those we say we love the most.  What a contrast! Jonathan freely admits his "guilt", and is willing to face the consequences, despite his innocence (by not knowing of the vow.) But Saul must be vindicated and be proven in full power. He will not back down. Before, when Saul had said: "Let's go out to battle," everyone was behind him. But now, even the easily deluded public realizes how nuts this whole idea is, and they come to Jonathan's aid, somehow providing a ransom for his life. The last statement is telling.  The mission was not accomplished. Life went on. Nothing changed.  Saul stayed king; the Philistines were still a problem. There was no lasting victory.  There never is when I have to always be right.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Who do you think is in charge here?

Then Saul said, “Let us go down after the Philistines by night and plunder them until the morning light; let us not leave a man of them.” And they said, “Do whatever seems good to you.” But the priest said, “Let us draw near to God here.” And Saul inquired of God, “Shall I go down after the Philistines? Will you give them into the hand of Israel?” But he did not answer him that day. And Saul said, “Come here, all you leaders of the people, and know and see how this sin has arisen today. For as the LORD lives who saves Israel, though it be in Jonathan my son, he shall surely die.” But there was not a man among all the people who answered him. Then he said to all Israel, “You shall be on one side, and I and Jonathan my son will be on the other side.” And the people said to Saul, “Do what seems good to you.” Therefore Saul said, “O LORD God of Israel, why have you not answered your servant this day? If this guilt is in me or in Jonathan my son, O LORD, God of Israel, give Urim. But if this guilt is in your people Israel, give Thummim.” And Jonathan and Saul were taken, but the people escaped. Then Saul said, “Cast the lot between me and my son Jonathan.” And Jonathan was taken. (1 Samuel 14:36-42 ESV)
After jumping on the bandwagon of Jonathan's success, Saul takes charge and starts barking orders. He foolishly forbids anyone to eat until they take they capture the fleeing Philistines, leading to a less than glorious victory. Now he commands his army to attack them. Has he learned anything? He again forgets and fails to seek God, until rebuked by the priest. When God will not answer, he tries to tell God what to do and how to do it. He proudly proclaims that he has done nothing wrong, again. Though Jonathan rightly draws the short straw as the one who has "disobeyed," he is not the problem. Saul is king, but he has forgotten God is KING. As we make decisions, give instructions, and take actions today, who do we think we are? May we be servants in the hands of the Living God.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Totally Backwards...

I Samuel 14:32 They struck down the Philistines that day fromeMichmash to fAijalon. And the people were very dfaint.32 The people gpounced on the spoil and took sheep and oxen and calves and slaughtered them on the ground. And the people ate them hwith the blood. 33 Then they told Saul, “Behold, the people are sinning against the Lord by eating hwith the blood.” And he said, “You have dealt treacherously; roll a great stone to me here.”8 34 And Saul said, “Disperse yourselves among the people and say to them, ‘Let every man bring his ox or his sheep and slaughter them here and eat, and do not sin against the Lord by eating with the blood.’” So every one of the people brought his ox with him that night and they slaughtered them there. 35 And Saul ibuilt an altar to the Lord; it was the first altar that he built to the Lord.
In this whole event of Jonathan courageously seeking God and setting out to drive out the Philistines, while Saul sits waiting for his opportunity, God seems like a second thought to him. Everything is backwards.  Act first, ask God later.  Ask who was missing, then pursue the fleeing Philistines. Drive the people to lustfully eat food with blood in it, then build an altar so they can sacrifice properly.  But even in these afterthoughts they seem so half-hearted. Saul is only following the crowd, and the altar is referred to as his altar.  Does that describe us in any way? Acting spiritually when those around us are, making a public show of it, because it's more about how I look than who HE is?  Something drastic needs to happen - 180 degree drastic, totally upside down change. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Not so Great...

I Samuel 14:24: And the men of Israel had been hard pressed that day, bso Saul had laid an oath on the people, saying, “Cursed be the man who eats food until it is evening and I am avenged on my enemies.” So none of the people had tasted food. 25 Now when all the people7 came to the forest, behold, there was honey on the ground. 26 And when the people entered the forest, behold, the honey was dropping, but no one put his hand to his mouth, for the people feared the oath. 27 But Jonathan had not heard his father charge the people with the oath, cso he put out the tip of the staff that was in his hand and dipped it in the honeycomb and put his hand to his mouth, and his eyes became bright. 28 Then one of the people said, “Your father strictly charged the people with an oath, saying, ‘Cursed be the man who eats food this day.’” And the people were dfaint. 29 Then Jonathan said, “My father has troubled the land. See how my eyes have become bright because I tasted a little of this honey. 30 How much better if the people had eaten freely today of the spoil of their enemies that they found. For now the defeat among the Philistines has not been great.
Saul had failed to lead the people in driving out the Philistines. He had waited for his time, his way, while ignoring God's waiting for him to ask for guidance.  Jonathan stepped out in faith and routed the enemy.  After further hesitation, Saul jumps on the bandwagon and wants to take over.  This rash vow was totally self-focused. He was in a sense saying "follow me, and down't let me down." This left the army totally sapped of strength, unable to pursue the enemy and have a decisive victory.  In Jonathan's words, it was "not great." It was a great disappointment to lay his life on the line, get the momentum going, and have his father's foolishness blow it. He leaves his fellow soldiers asking the question: "How much better?" 
I'm sure you can look at times in your life that leave you asking the same question: "How much better things would have been, if I only would (or would not) have done..."  Our foolish, selfish actions affect many others - not just ourselves, as they did that day.  Let's remember: It's not about me; it's about God's glory and what's best for others. Let's allow God to do something great, much better than we had in mind.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

What was I waiting for???

And the watchmen of Saul in Gibeah of Benjamin looked, and behold, the multitude was dispersing here and there. Then Saul said to the people who were with him, “Count and see who has gone from us.” And when they had counted, behold, Jonathan and his armor-bearer were not there. So Saul said to Ahijah, “Bring the ark of God here.” For the ark of God went at that time with the people of Israel. Now while Saul was talking to the priest, the tumult in the camp of the Philistines increased more and more. So Saul said to the priest, “Withdraw your hand.” Then Saul and all the people who were with him rallied and went into the battle. And behold, every Philistine's sword was against his fellow, and there was very great confusion. Now the Hebrews who had been with the Philistines before that time and who had gone up with them into the camp, even they also turned to be with the Israelites who were with Saul and Jonathan. Likewise, when all the men of Israel who had hidden themselves in the hill country of Ephraim heard that the Philistines were fleeing, they too followed hard after them in the battle. So the LORD saved Israel that day. And the battle passed beyond Beth-aven.
(1 Samuel 14:16-23 ESV)
While Saul was sitting around deciding what to do, Jonathan had steppe out in faith, sought a sign from God, and startled the Philistines into retreat.  Saul's first move is not to rally the troops or ask God if he should. He first finds out who was missing. Wasted time.  The then calls for God's word on the issue - too little too late, and another waste of time.  When he does so, God immediately indicates that it was His will - even the slightest attention paid to God has an effect. Everyone could see it was the Hand of God and joined in.  The question is: Why did Saul wait so long? To seek God's will, to join in the pursuit, to find the victory?  What holds us back?  Does it have to be our plan? Our time? Our glory?

Monday, July 18, 2016

Sitting around surrounded or stepping out and striking?

One day Jonathan the son of Saul said to the young man who carried his armor, “Come, let us go over to the Philistine garrison on the other side.” But he did not tell his father. Saul was staying in the outskirts of Gibeah in the pomegranate cave at Migron. The people who were with him were about six hundred men, including Ahijah the son of Ahitub, Ichabod's brother, son of Phinehas, son of Eli, the priest of the LORD in Shiloh, wearing an ephod. And the people did not know that Jonathan had gone. Within the passes, by which Jonathan sought to go over to the Philistine garrison, there was a rocky crag on the one side and a rocky crag on the other side. The name of the one was Bozez, and the name of the other Seneh. The one crag rose on the north in front of Michmash, and the other on the south in front of Geba.
Jonathan said to the young man who carried his armor, “Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised. It may be that the LORD will work for us, for nothing can hinder the LORD from saving by many or by few.” And his armor-bearer said to him, “Do all that is in your heart. Do as you wish. Behold, I am with you heart and soul.” Then Jonathan said, “Behold, we will cross over to the men, and we will show ourselves to them. If they say to us, ‘Wait until we come to you,’ then we will stand still in our place, and we will not go up to them. But if they say, ‘Come up to us,’ then we will go up, for the LORD has given them into our hand. And this shall be the sign to us.” So both of them showed themselves to the garrison of the Philistines. And the Philistines said, “Look, Hebrews are coming out of the holes where they have hidden themselves.” And the men of the garrison hailed Jonathan and his armor-bearer and said, “Come up to us, and we will show you a thing.” And Jonathan said to his armor-bearer, “Come up after me, for the LORD has given them into the hand of Israel.” Then Jonathan climbed up on his hands and feet, and his armor-bearer after him. And they fell before Jonathan, and his armor-bearer killed them after him. And that first strike, which Jonathan and his armor-bearer made, killed about twenty men within as it were half a furrow's length in an acre of land. And there was a panic in the camp, in the field, and among all the people. The garrison and even the raiders trembled, the earth quaked, and it became a very great panic.
(1 Samuel 14:1-15 ESV)
Chapter 13 left us with Saul and his army surrounded on every side, trembling in panic.  He is hiding in a cave with the Priest, who has the ephod of God on - the appointed means of seeking God's will. And Saul... does nothing.  Meanwhile, Jonathan sets out on a dangerous path to test the waters, and God's will.  That contrast makes all the difference, as Jonathan is shown by God, and invited by the Philistines, to come and defeat them.  Now, it is the Philistines who are trembling in fear.  Which do we find ourselves doing today? Sitting, waiting, and coming up with our own plan? Or stepping out and seeking God.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

The Worthwhile Word.

Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things;
and give me life in your ways.
(Psalm 119:37 ESV)

How much eyesight do we waste on worthless things?  The idea is more than just them being a waste of time - they actually devalue us, take life away from us.  We live for what is not worth living for. Now, how little time do we spend in His Word, which does not only lead to life, but give life? This is a sincere, earnest prayer: "Turn my eyes away; help my focus on what really matters; cure my spiritual HDAD."  Let's really look and really listen to Someone and His worthwhile Word today. 

Saturday, July 16, 2016

The Security of God's Word

You are my hiding place and my shield;
I hope in your word.
Depart from me, you evildoers,
that I may keep the commandments of my God.
(Psalm 119:114-115 ESV)

A Hiding Place - not of fear, but the exact opposite - of knowing you are safe.  That's where God's Word can put us.  It brings us to the Truth. It gives us confidence we are in the right place doing the right thing.  It keeps us from second guessing our decisions and even motives. It digs deep till it hits rock and gives us a solid place to stand.  It not only protects from temptation, it gives us strength to say "no" to tempters.  God's Word. Don't leave home, or bed, without it. 

Friday, July 15, 2016

God's Word as a Reservoir...

I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. (Psalm 119:11 ESV)

Powerless. That describes so much of what I see in people's lives. Powerlessness over sin. Why? One root cause is the way we approach God's Word. We view it as a book to be studied, as a source of inspiration, as a band-aid for our souls. We view it as fairly powerless. How far our view falls short of reality. God's word is sharp and powerful, able to change us from the inside out, able to be used to fight off attacks from the enemy, extremely use and potent to put out the fiery darts of temptation. Reading, reflecting on, and memorizing God's Word as a reservoir to put out such attacks - be they flickering flames or forest fires, is so much of what God intends. He has revealed Himself to us to lead us to salvation, and give us victory in the battle. Let's store some up today, because it's not a matter of if, but when we'll need it.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Established in Eternity

Forever, O LORD, your word
is firmly fixed in the heavens.
Your faithfulness endures to all generations;
you have established the earth, and it stands fast.
(Psalm 119:89-90 ESV)

Notice the non-English order of words here. The first word is "Forever", eternal.  Why do we make such a big deal about spending time in God's Word? It establishes us in eternity. It anchors us in the Almighty. It gives us something most dependable to stand on, hold onto, look to, and trust. Nothing else lasts like that: jobs, homes, even the most dear of human relationships can come to an end. But God is eternal, established, enduring.  So, how can I even endure today, with all of its challenges, struggles and uncertainties? By starting it here, with Him, in His Word.  Let's get Established. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Suddenly, the light comes on...

The unfolding of your words gives light;
it imparts understanding to the simple.
(Psalm 119:130 ESV)

Lord, show us the way today. Open Your Book, our eyes, our hearts.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Treasure Hunt...

Princes persecute me without cause,
but my heart stands in awe of your words.
I rejoice at your word
like one who finds great spoil.
(Psalm 119:161-162 ESV)
Do we look at God's Word for what it truly is - a Treasure.  God has revealed Himself and His plan to us.  The except in the picture is enough, but when you look at the two full verses, it becomes even more pronounced.  No matter what happens around me or to me, God's revelation is a treasure chest we can dig into to find not only what we need, but more.  We find wisdom to make decisions, hope to carry on, and glorious glimpses of God that helps even trials make sense.  Write yourself a song, with the truth of these verses as its theme, and sing it in your heart today.  Better yet. Do some treasure hunting of your own in God's Word, maybe His songbook of the Psalms, and find some awesome truth.

Monday, July 11, 2016

A Delightful Time Deer Hunting...

Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
(Psalm 1:1-2 ESV)
Who doesn't want to be blessed?  To have true satisfaction and contentment despite trials and troubles in life? To have one's life in order (though not "perfect') To know you are on the right path, even if it is rough at times? It's one thing to know you are not on the wrong path of wickedness, sin, and outright rebellion against God.  But to know you are on the right path?  That takes having a delightful experience.  For a sophisticated young lady, that may mean a tea party with dainty napkins and lots of dressed up friends sharing teacakes.  But the word delight here designates a desire that drives you, like a guy going hunting or fishing, or at least finding the best price he can on a car.  So how can we be blessed? Have this adventuresome life? Did deep in God's Word.  There we will find what we need to know we are on the right path.We can answer questions like "How can I know I have eternal life?" Have a delightful day.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Short on swords...

Now there was no blacksmith to be found throughout all the land of Israel, for the Philistines said, “Lest the Hebrews make themselves swords or spears.” But every one of the Israelites went down to the Philistines to sharpen his plowshare, his mattock, his axe, or his sickle, and the charge was two-thirds of a shekel for the plowshares and for the mattocks, and a third of a shekel for sharpening the axes and for setting the goads. So on the day of the battle there was neither sword nor spear found in the hand of any of the people with Saul and Jonathan, but Saul and Jonathan his son had them. And the garrison of the Philistines went out to the pass of Michmash. (1 Samuel 13:19-23 ESV)
The people of Israel had become so accustomed to peace under Samuel's rule that they did not have swords or spears for battle. But Saul had stirred up the Philistines to surround them and set out to attack them. When a count was made, two swords were to be found - in the hands of Saul and his son. Saul was living up to his political billing - he would go out in battle before his people - with a greater advantage. There are a lot of problems with this picture here, but he overwhelming attribute of Saul is that he now thinks of himself as different than his people. He is above rebuke, more important, and really sees himself as the center. Israel is short on swords; their king is short on character. We have all the goods in the world. Do we have any character?

Saturday, July 9, 2016

When surrounded, where do you look?

And Saul and Jonathan his son and the people who were present with them stayed in Geba of Benjamin, but the Philistines encamped in Michmash. And raiders came out of the camp of the Philistines in three companies. One company turned toward Ophrah, to the land of Shual; another company turned toward Beth-horon; and another company turned toward the border that looks down on the Valley of Zeboim toward the wilderness.
(1 Samuel 13:16-18 ESV)
Saul had been rebuked by Samuel for trusting in himself and following his own plans instead of God's. He self-righteously refused to listen and let Samuel go a different direction.  Though his support was dwindling, he stayed with his plan.  Now he is surrounded on all sides, outnumbered by the enemy. He continues in his self-reliance.  When surrounded, he looks within, not up.  What does it take for you to finally look up, fall down on your knees, and call out to God?

Friday, July 8, 2016

Short Sighted...

And Samuel said to Saul, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the command of the LORD your God, with which he commanded you. For then the LORD would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom shall not continue. The LORD has sought out a man after his own heart, and the LORD has commanded him to be prince over his people, because you have not kept what the LORD commanded you.” And Samuel arose and went up from Gilgal. The rest of the people went up after Saul to meet the army; they went up from Gilgal to Gibeah of Benjamin.
And Saul numbered the people who were present with him, about six hundred men.
(1 Samuel 13:13-15 ESV)
Saul had chosen unwisely.  He could not wait to offer sacrifice so he could get on to the battle so he could prove what a great king he was.  In his hurry to do the immediate, he lost view of the big picture; his descendants would not carry on the kingdom.  That is part of "being a man after God's own heart" - being able to wait for what you cannot see and trust the only One who can see it." Saul and Samuel went in opposite directions; they could travel together no more; they were on different paths.  What will I choose when the error of my way, my path is pointed out? Will I change course? Head a different direction? Or head down the highway to destruction?

Thursday, July 7, 2016

On the defensive...

As soon as he had finished offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came. And Saul went out to meet him and greet him. Samuel said, “What have you done?” And Saul said, “When I saw that the people were scattering from me, and that you did not come within the days appointed, and that the Philistines had mustered at Michmash, I said, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the favor of the LORD.’ So I forced myself, and offered the burnt offering.”  (1 Samuel 13:10-12 ESV)
Saul had been caught in the act.  He had disobeyed God's command through Samuel and was caught with the smoking altar.  He tried to act like nothing was wrong, justifying his actions, blaming the people for their peer pressure  - even blaming Samuel for not being on time. It was even the Philistines' fault! Everyone but him.  When confronted with wrongdoing, what is your first response? Do you take responsibility, or like Saul, recoil into finger-pointing mode.  This is is the first step in a downward spiral.  The second is to dwell on what we have done right: he offered sacrifice, even forced himself to do so. He said he knew that he had to offer sacrifice to receive God's favor. The fact is, God wants us to give because we have received His favor. It is an act of love, not a lever to pull.  So there it is.  How will I respond? Defensively, blaming everyone else and trying to convince God and myself that I did right? If I swallow those lies, I'm bound to fall for anything.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Taking over Everything...

He waited seven days, the time appointed by Samuel. But Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and the people were scattering from him. So Saul said, “Bring the burnt offering here to me, and the peace offerings.” And he offered the burnt offering.
(1 Samuel 13:8-9 ESV)
Power that corrupts.  We think we are exempt.  Saul had demonstrated such innocence and humility at his selection, even hiding from the limelight.  But when the pressure was on, he wanted full control. He did not want to be dependent or interdependent on anyone. "Here, I'll do it!"  Sometimes you have to take charge when no one else will do what needs to be done, but here there was someone; it was a matter of pride: "I'm the king; I can do what I want."  We see it all the time in others. Do we see it in ourselves?"  The only remedy is to let Jesus be Lord of All and assign us our parts, willingly obeying His commands.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Losing Confidence Fast...

And the Philistines mustered to fight with Israel, thirty thousand chariots and six thousand horsemen and troops like the sand on the seashore in multitude. They came up and encamped in Michmash, to the east of Beth-aven. When the men of Israel saw that they were in trouble (for the people were hard pressed), the people hid themselves in caves and in holes and in rocks and in tombs and in cisterns, and some Hebrews crossed the fords of the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead. Saul was still at Gilgal, and all the people followed him trembling.
(1 Samuel 13:5-7 ESV)
After an initial surge in popularity and power, King Saul started to lose influence when he called for an attack on the Philistines.  Not only did he take credit for his son Jonathan's victory, he also stirred up the Philistines, who had been kept in check during the days of Samuel.  Now they are back with a vengeance, and though the people of Israel were "behind" him", literally, they were not very confident in Saul's ability to lead them to victory.  Saul's polls were slipping fast, and rightfully so. Sometimes, in order to make a name for ourselves, get our way, or defend our position, we will push our agenda and seem to succeed, only to bring a backlash of reaction.  We lose credibility, and, as we will see, end up having to try to find someone else to blame.  May we do a better job of counting the cost and seeking God's will first, so people have a reason to support us. And may we choose our leaders on the same basis.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Look at me! Look at me!

Saul lived for one year and then became king, and when he had reigned for two years over Israel, Saul chose three thousand men of Israel. Two thousand were with Saul in Michmash and the hill country of Bethel, and a thousand were with Jonathan in Gibeah of Benjamin. The rest of the people he sent home, every man to his tent. Jonathan defeated the garrison of the Philistines that was at Geba, and the Philistines heard of it. And Saul blew the trumpet throughout all the land, saying, “Let the Hebrews hear.” And all Israel heard it said that Saul had defeated the garrison of the Philistines, and also that Israel had become a stench to the Philistines. And the people were called out to join Saul at Gilgal.  (1 Samuel 13:1-4 ESV)
At his appointment and anointment, Saeul seemed in all ways humble, seemingly sincerely asking why someone of such slight significance would be honored to become Israel's first king.  After initial success in battle, a change appears. Saul selects his chosen warriors and sends the rest home. He is in charge. His son defeats the Philistines and he spins the news to say that he did it.  He then demands everyone to travel back to Gilgal at his beckon call.  It is a picture repeated a thousand times over in the history of kings, generals, presidents and other governmental and military leaders. Power goes to their heads.  And we point the finger and act as if we are immune, saying "If I were king..." All we need to do is watch ourselves in a typical "-day-in-the-life-of-me" to see that it might not be much different at all.  I always rise to the top of my priorities.  News about me is spun to sound the best. The world does spin around me, does it not? Reality check. Humility check. And beware getting proud about your humility.  "Lord, help me to keep perspective."

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Higher than the rooftops!

Your righteousness, O God,
reaches the high heavens.
You who have done great things,
O God, who is like you?
(Psalm 71:19 ESV)
When you go on a missions trip, you get to experience some great mountaintops. Whether it is in the airplane traveling together, looking over the wonders of God's creation, or working side by side with other believers and worshiping with those of a different part of the world, God does amazing things. The only way you'll ever know is to go.  Don't let missing out be one of your life's regrets. Sign on.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Up on a Roof...

The next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray. And he became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth. In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. And there came a voice to him: “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” This happened three times, and the thing was taken up at once to heaven.
Now while Peter was inwardly perplexed as to what the vision that he had seen might mean, behold, the men who were sent by Cornelius, having made inquiry for Simon's house, stood at the gate and called out to ask whether Simon who was called Peter was lodging there.
(Acts 10:9-18 ESV)
A lot of things can happen up on a roof.  In Peter's case, he was receiving instruction while praying about where the Lord wanted him to go.  In Clay, our teams have had a lot of roofing projects, where not only do much needed repairs take place, but friendships with fellow followers of Christ are formed with the other workers and with the families being served.  Of course, you don't have to go up on the roof.  You can serve in so many ways and places.  But are you up on the roof asking?

Friday, July 1, 2016

Hard at work...

For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers.
(1 Thessalonians 2:9-10 ESV)
Make no mistake about it: going on a missions trip involves work.  But it is by no means boring. It is rewarding and fulfilling, as you work along with fellow believers.  This is the storehouse in Flagstaff, where gifts are sorted, stored, and then stuffed in bags to hand out at Christmas Gospel events on the reservation.  Our teams go there, building upon years of preparation and organization, taking along the gifts our people send, then joining right in the process.  This is just one of many activities you could be a part of, including building projects, ministry at churches and nursing homes, and coming along side our missionaries there.  Get your ticket! (note: date on picture is incorrect.  Oct. 2013)