Samuel Anoints David – 1 Samuel 16

Finally we get to the good stuff!

Reading about the disobedient Israelites and arrogant Saul brings me down! Enter David, son of Jesse…

Samuel is mourning Saul, but God tells him to get some oil and go anoint the next king. Samuel hesitates because the current king still lives! He would be risking his life. But Samuel trusts and heads to his next assignment, despite the risk.

It’s interesting that his own father does not consider David to be king-worthy. All Jesse’s sons are present for Samuel to evaluate – except David. Samuel asks Jesse if these are ALL his sons. I love Jesse’s answer:

“There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered. “He is tending the sheep.”

Jesse’s like, “Well, ya there’s one more, but it’s just David. Why would you even ask about him? He’s out there somewhere…” Wouldn’t you bring all your sons before Samuel if Samuel asked you to bring all your sons?

God judges the heart. He selects the weak for positions of honor. He does not consider height or appearance, but seeks hearts that are after Him.

So Samuel anoints David as the next king.

Wait…what about the current king? What are we to do about him?

Well, isn’t it a strange coincidence that King Saul somehow randomly recruits David to play the lyre for him? No coincidence. God is at work. His will is going to be accomplished. There’s nothing anyone can do about it.

Lastly, it’s noteworthy to point out something in verse 23. Did you catch it?

“Whenever the spirit from God came on Saul, David would take up his lyre and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him.”

In the first part of the verse, it says “the spirit from God” and in the last part, “the evil spirit would leave”.

Seems God is the one sending the evil spirit. Upon researching this a bit, you’ll find that it is inconsistent with God’s character to directly send evil spirits. Although He does punish people for their disobedience (and Saul is clearly disobedient to God), so some have suggested God simply allowed the evil spirit, not directly sent it.

I tend to think this is more a matter of linguistics. The word used for “evil spirit” here is the word rauch, which has a wide range of translations, including air (i.e., breath or wind); the vital principle of life or animating force; the rational mind where thinking and decision-making occurs; the Holy Spirit of God (Gesenius, 1847, pp. 760-761) and disposition of mind or attitude (Harris, et al., 1980, 2:836).

Furthermore, the word used for “evil” here is , which is translated “bad,” “unhappy,” or “sad of heart or mind” (Gesenius, p. 772).

Could it be that Saul was suffering from his own bad attitude? There have been many times I’ll sit and listen to music to chase away a bad mood.

The bottom line is this: God has intervened and suddenly David, a small shepherd boy whose own father considers him simply that, is now God’s anointed and finds himself somehow inexplicably in service as the king’s own armor-bearer.

Coincidence? I think not…

Stay tuned, it’s just starting to get good!

peace,

e

 

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“We Demand a King!” – 1 Samuel 8

Possibly one of the saddest of all chapters.

Up to this point, God was the King of the nation of Israel. God’s plan was to assign prophets to be the liaison between He and them. And that was working well through Samuel. Unfortunately, Samuel’s sons were selfish, greedy little perverts.

The nation of Israel did not like this arrangement, so they looked around at how other nations were doing it and demanded their own king.

To be honest, I don’t really get why they were in such a hurry to get into a situation where a king would recruit their children into the army, where they would be forced to labor for the king, where their own daughters would be taken from them to serve in the king’s kitchens and courts, etc.

Surely, it would not have been worse than a few bad-apple prophet sons.

But…

“But the people refused to listen to Samuel’s warning. “Even so, we still want a king,” they said. “We want to be like the nations around us. Our king will judge us and lead us into battle.” So Samuel repeated to the Lord what the people had said, and the Lord replied, “Do as they say, and give them a king.” Then Samuel agreed and sent the people home.

And so it begins…

Lord, I know I can be as selfish and short-sighted as these people. Forgive me when I get so fixed on what I want, when I want it, that I miss out on Your best plan for my life. Today, I choose to surrender. I choose Your way, not mine.

e

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Serving God by Assisting Eli – 1 Samuel 3

Okay a few cool things I noticed today in 1 Samuel chapter 3.

First was how Samuel served the Lord by assisting Eli. Verse 3 says: “Meanwhile, the boy Samuel served the Lord by assisting Eli.”

Later in this chapter, we find out that Samuel didn’t even know the Lord yet (see verse 7). Yet, he was “serving the Lord” by assisting Eli. I read this and thought to myself how complicated I try to make things. Sometimes serving the Lord is as simple as doing well what He’s asked us to do in the place He has put us. I’m sure being an assistant to a priest was not the most glamorous job in the day, but this is how Samuel served God.

The next thing I noticed is the fact that God called Samuel. While it’s true that God does use you and me to evangelize and spread the good news, there are a few times in scripture when God does the calling all by Himself.  Certainly, the story of the conversion of Saul to Paul is a great example. Paul thought he was doing God a favor by persecuting a little religious movement called The Way, but God had different ideas. Saul did not come to God on his own – God called him. Jesus called people during His time on earth, too. When the Son of God comes up to you and says, “Follow Me” that’s a pretty good example of God calling you directly.

Here, we see a kind of humorous calling from God to Samuel – late at night while he was sleeping. After the third time of being awakened in the night, Eli, being wise, finally recognized this as the calling of God and had to tell Samuel how to respond (because Samuel did not yet know God).

Which is is another cool thing I noticed in today’s chapter. We often need those older and wiser in the faith to point things out to us. That’s why it’s so important for each of us to have a Christian “sage” in your life.

I love the last part of this chapter. It’s encouraging to read how Samuel grew up with the Lord:

“As Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him, and everything Samuel said proved to be reliable. And all Israel, from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south, knew that Samuel was confirmed as a prophet of the Lord. The Lord continued to appear at Shiloh and gave messages to Samuel there at the Tabernacle.”

At first I was thinking about how cool it would have been to have been raised in the Temple with the priest, and how much I could have learned. However, I re-read this passage and see that Eli is not even mentioned – well, except for how he did not discipline his sons, and how God was going to reign down in judgement on him and his family. So, Samuel grew up and THE LORD was with him.

We can walk with God – every minute of every day. It’s what God wants for us. Yet, how simple is it to get distracted or busy and not spend the day with Him? I love John Eldredge’s book entitled, “Walking With God”. This book has some helpful insight into how to walk with God in really practical ways.

Lord, I want to serve you where you’ve put me – even though sometimes it seems like I could be doing something a bit more glamorous. Forgive my pride. Thank you that I have wise “sages” speaking life into me. And, today, I choose to walk with You.

peace,
e

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It’s not about me! (again) – 2 Corinthians 5

I have been thinking a lot lately about how I ended up where I’m at. I am so happy to be doing what I know God has wired me up to do. I still have struggles, but they’re much different than before. I think it all has to do with the fact that I’ve finally realized that trying to live by my own plan, my own desires and my own initiative – gets me nowhere.

I struggled with relationships. As a result, I’m 0 for 2 when it comes to marriages.

I struggled with careers. As a result, several times I’ve gone from entry level to executive, only to get laid off and right back in the same situation.

Financially, I’ve had jobs earning 6 figures and I’ve had jobs that paid just minimum wage. Yet, I’ve never lived extravagantly or in need.

So, when I read the following verses in 2 Corinthians today, it confirmed some things I’ve been thinking about:

11 Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. 12 We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart. 13 If we are “out of our mind,” as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

I realize it’s not about me. When I live that way, I go no where, I struggle with no reward, I suffer and end up right back at the same spot where I realize it’s not about me.

I may seem out of my right mind, but I want to live for him who died and was raised again, not for myself. How arrogant of me to think I have a better plan for my life than my creator!

Lord, forgive my selfish motives. I want to live for you and you alone. I trust the plan you have for my life.

peace,
e

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Changed Lives Are Our Credentials – 2 Corinthians 3

As I read this morning’s chapter, I was drawn to these verses:

Are we beginning to praise ourselves again? Are we like others, who need to bring you letters of recommendation, or who ask you to write such letters on their behalf? Surely not!  The only letter of recommendation we need is you yourselves. Your lives are a letter written in our hearts; everyone can read it and recognize our good work among you. Clearly, you are a letter from Christ showing the result of our ministry among you. This “letter” is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. It is carved not on tablets of stone, but on human hearts. 2 Corinthians 1-3 (NLT)

There are those that teach that the reason God granted the miraculous signs and wonders to the apostles that we read about in the book of Acts, was so that they would serve as a “letter of recommendation” to their apostolic ministry. If this were true, then it would make sense that the miracles and signs and wonders would cease with the apostles passing – because there would no longer be a need for their ministry. However, Paul clearly says it is miraculously changed lives that serve as his letter of recommendation – not any miraculous signs and wonders. This is significant.

Anybody can receive a certificate of ordination to be a pastor. Yet, it is the fruit of that person’s ministry that is the true credential – not a piece of paper.

If one thing is clear about Jesus’ teaching and constant rebuke of the religious establishment, it is that just because you call yourself a Christian, it’s the fruit of your ministry that is the true test.

Matthew 7:15-20 says this:

“Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit.  So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.”

Which, inevitably leads to the following passage. I think many who think they are Christians will be surprised on judgement day:

“Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in yoply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’” Matt 7:21-23 (NLT)

So – we are His ministers. Our credentials are not on paper, but in the changed lives of those we come in contact with today. We need to be caught doing the will of the Father when He returns.

Let’s do it!

peace,
e

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God Never Said He Will Not Give You More Than You Can Handle! – 2 Cor 1

I’m finally getting back into my daily reading routine! Ack, how easy it is for me to neglect the daily reading of God’s word.

Here’s what jumped out at me today:

8 We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. 9 In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead.”

It actually comes up quite often that people misquote 1 Corinthians 10:13, which says:

“No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”

This verse is all very affirming and everything, but it does not say that God will not “give you more than you can handle.” It’s talking about temptation only – that we will not be tempted beyond what we can endure.

And here’s the proof! As indicated by Paul’s writing in today’s reading, Paul and his companions WERE crushed and overwhelmed BEYOND their ability to endure. But, and here’s the good part, when they stopped trying to solve things on their own, and when they relied on God, He rescued them.

This is an important lesson to learn.

For people to think they are somehow protected by God from “too much” suffering is a dangerous, false teaching. In fact, He sometimes uses suffering to get our attention.

I have been at the place several times in my life, where I though I had been abandoned by God, left to fend for myself. But the truth is, God will never leave nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5-6). When I felt this way, I had gotten myself into the predicament, and I was arrogantly trying to do things without God’s help. The only way He could get my attention was through suffering. Typically, I respond to suffering first by trying harder in my own power – so the suffering intensifies until I realize the only way out is by putting my focus back on God and trusting Him. When will I learn?

The more we resist and try to do it on our own, the harder it can be. Until we are able to trust Him and allow the suffering to accomplish its task, we will continue to struggle – and sometimes it will be more than we can handle, regardless of what good-intentioned people will argue with you about scripture and how God will protect you.

That’s the whole point! We simply can’t do this on our own! It’s arrogant and it’s wrong to think that way.

Silly humans…

Today, I will try to rely on God for everything.

peace,
e

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Treated Like the World’s Garbage – 1 Corinthians 4

Wow again.

Paul is really bothered by these Corinthians. Their pride and arrogance really gets under his last nerve. But he’s to remain calm and kind. As a matter of fact, he pretty much lays out what it’s like to be a dedicated follower of Jesus Christ:

11 Even now we go hungry and thirsty, and we don’t have enough clothes to keep warm. We are often beaten and have no home. 12 We work wearily with our own hands to earn our living. We bless those who curse us. We are patient with those who abuse us. 13 We appeal gently when evil things are said about us. Yet we are treated like the world’s garbage, like everybody’s trash—right up to the present moment.

I’ve said it before – I guess things haven’t changed much. Being a true Christian in America today provides the same set of rewards (and it’s getting worse). But, as Paul says in verse 3: “As for me, it matters very little how I might be evaluated by you or by any human authority.” We are only to live as Christ directs us to, not the world.

I love how he warns those who are all talk and no action:

18 Some of you have become arrogant, thinking I will not visit you again. 19 But I will come—and soon—if the Lord lets me, and then I’ll find out whether these arrogant people just give pretentious speeches or whether they really have God’s power. 20 For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God’s power.

Lord, let me live out my life for the Kingdom of God today, not just in words. Fill me with Your power.

peace,

e

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Milking the Rewards – 1 Corinthians 3

What a smack. In 1 Corinthians chapter 3, Paul basically told this church they need to grow up.

The people of the church there were arguing about who to follow, Paul or Apollos. Truth is they both of them follow Jesus. Paul was admonishing them to quit quarreling and just follow Jesus. It doesn’t matter who brought them the message first, the message is what’s important.

Being a worship leader, I have worship services on my mind, so I thought this is very much like arguing over styles of music. Some in our church have voiced their opinion that church music should be only hymns and traditional music. Others have voiced their opinion that that “old music” is boring and the church will die if we keep holding on to them.

It doesn’t matter what type of music the message is in – it’s the message that’s important!

I guess some things never change. I wonder what Paul would write about today.

The foundation is laid, and that’s our relationship with Jesus Christ. How we build upon it, with things that last (gold, silver, jewels) or things that won’t (wood, hay, straw), is up to us.

I find it interesting that Paul continuously mentions “reward”. In verse 8, he talks about how he and Apollos will be rewarded:

“The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work.”

Then in verse 14, he shows us how we will be rewarded if we have built upon the foundation with things that will last:

“If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward.”

He talks about this in other places, too. Leaders in my past have discouraged this reward mentality when it comes to our Christianity. However, I believe it is something we must all be aware of. There are rewards for doing the right things. Paul mentions this over and over in his writings. I am particularly motivated by rewards. I think most people are. It gives me something to strive for – something to plan and do and win. I will meditate on this today.

Have a rewarding day!
e

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Freedom from the Powers of this World – Colossians 2

You can hear Paul’s concern and love for this church at Colossae.

It’s really not rocket science. I love how Paul puts it simply:

And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. (vs 6-7)

And, just like with Paul’s letters to other churches, this letter warns against false teaching and religious rules.

If God’s word says it once, we need to obey. But this whole idea of freedom in Christ is preached over and over and over again – especially by Paul. Afterall, he was once one of the most highly regarded of the religious establishment. Perhaps thats why he is so adamant about it.

Bottom line is: don’t waste time and effort following what man says – but rather focus on what God is telling you to do/not do. It’s not about looking righteous, it’s about spiritual battle. We need to focus on what will help us in conquering our evil desires and building our lives on Christ.

So what do we do that makes us feel righteous? Do we do things in order to appear religious? Do our thoughts during worship include “I wonder what people will think if I raise my hands during worship” or “look at that person over there, thinking they are so righteous by raising their hands during worship”? Do we care more about what others will think before we start to talk about Jesus or church with someone at work or in the grocery line? What things do we do hoping someone is watching so we will appear religious?

Do we have complete freedom or do we still try to follow socially or politically correct human rules? I like what Paul says in verses 20 – 23:

You have died with Christ, and he has set you free from the spiritual powers of this world. So why do you keep on following the rules of the world, such as, “Don’t handle! Don’t taste! Don’t touch!”? Such rules are mere human teachings about things that deteriorate as we use them. These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline. But they provide no help in conquering a person’s evil desires.

He has set us free from the powers of this world. That’s something to focus on today.

peace,
e

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Paul’s God-given Authority – Galatians 1

Paul’s letter to the church at Galatia.

Do you notice how Paul seems to be defending himself?

“I was not appointed by any group of people or any human authority, but by Jesus Christ himself and by God the Father, who raised Jesus from the dead.”

And then there’s “All the brothers and sisters here join me in sending this letter to the churches of Galatia.”

And then, later in the chapter, “Dear brothers and sisters, I want you to understand that the gospel message I preach is not based on mere human reasoning. I received my message from no human source, and no one taught me. Instead, I received it by direct revelation from Jesus Christ.”

Kinda sounds like Paul is defending his authority.

Well, that’s because in his absence, Jewish Christians had come in teaching that same old circumcision message we read about in Philippians. These people had a religious spirit that kept them in bondage to fleshly acts that lead to salvation – which is the exact opposite from Christ’s message of freedom from the flesh. These religious people began to try and discredit Paul as part of their message. That’s why Paul is defending his authority. I like his comment in verse 10, “Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.”

I like his style. And I agree with this statement for myself. Following Christ is not the way to win friends and influence people!

So – this letter has kind of a harsh tone. “I am shocked that you are turning away so soon from God…”

Do you know anybody who has turned away from Christ’s message of freedom ONLY through Jesus and exchanged it for some things they must do, at least in part, in order to be saved? Good works? Confession to a priest, perhaps? Holy days of obligation, anyone? I don’t mean to pick on the Catholic religion. There are other religions that also require these types of actions.

And – don’t hear me say that good works are wrong. James has a good message on this in his book. But, works without faith are simply worthless acts when it comes to salvation. We cannot be saved by fleshly circumcision – just like we cannot be saved by our own good works. If that was the case, Jesus Christ would not have had to die on the cross.

He did.

We win.

Go God!

peace,
e

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