Monthly Archives: July 2017

I Samuel 19; It Takes Two To Tango

Saul had one goal in life, and it totally consumed him. He wanted David dead more than anything. David, on the other hand, had nothing against Saul. If David had his way, the two would be friends.

Throughout their story we will see Saul do many means things to David. But we won’t see David return evil for evil.

I would say that during the 23 years I was a middle school counselor, the majority of my time was spent dealing with adolescent friendships. More than anything academic, relationships were far and away the number one thing on the minds of those children. Most of the time a child’s instinct was to strike back at someone who they felt wronged them.

“She started it.”

“He hit me first.”

“She said something about my mom.”

“He was talking about me.

And somehow, in their minds those things seemed to justify their own bad behavior. I would often quote Romans 12:21 to them:

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Most of the time they’d look at me like I had grown antlers or something.

Jesus tells us to love our enemies, to pray for those who are mean to us. (Matt 5:44) Easier said than done, because I don’t think revenge is a concept exclusive to adolescents.

Have you heard the phrase, “It takes two to tango”? It takes two of you to have a battle. If one of you refuse to fight back, it isn’t a fight.

Saul heard that David was in Naioth. So the king sent some of his men to go get David. But when Saul’s men got there, they walked into a church service instead of a battle. They joined the church service.

So Saul sent another band of thugs to capture David. And when these men observed David and the people praising God, they praised God, too

This must have been quite the church service because Saul sent a third group of men to do the deed. The third group of men? They dropped their weapons and raised their hands in worship, too.

“Ok. Enough of this,” Saul must have thought. “If you want something done right, you do it yourself.” So with every intention of taking care of David himself, he marched into Naioth, probably spitting nails.

Something happened to Saul, though, when he saw the Spirit of God moving among the people. At least for the time being, he forgot his mission of evil, and began prophesying too, by the Holy Spirit.

Saul had expected to go to battle with David. David refused to go to battle with Saul. And at least for the moment, good did overcome evil, and David’s life was spared.

Matthew Henry said David was delivered, not as he’d delivered his lambs by killing lions, but by turning lions into lambs.

I like that idea.

Do you want to get rid of an enemy? Start by being nice to him or her. You might even turn them into a friend.  It’s not impossible.

It’s Scriptural.

 

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I Samuel 18; Expect To Feel Miserable

Wow. I just had a wrestling match with Scripture. Have you ever questioned something you read in God’s Word that you could not get past? I had that experience in verse 10 of this chapter:

The next day an evil spirit from God came forcefully upon Saul.

I don’t know about you, but major questions come to mind when the Bible tells me anything evil came from God. Verses like I John 1:5, “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all,” and James 1:13, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone,” come to mind. But here it is in black and white. An evil, or distressing spirit FROM GOD was thrown at Saul.

I went to commentaries on my shelf and on the internet to try to makes sense of this. And  I’m glad I did.

Why would the Spirit of God come upon Saul in a distressing way? I was reminded that Saul had chosen sin over disobedience. He chose his own desires over repentance. And in doing so, the Spirit of God had left Him. (16:14)

Here is what I think God would have us consider today: When we disobey, when we choose sin over purity, and then when God removes Himself and His blessings from us, we should expect to feel crummy about it. We should never imagine that God is going to watch us walk away from Him and not convict us.

Saul was under major conviction. His soul was at war within him. Of course Saul was distressed.

Friend, God does not cause anyone to sin. He is Holy. But He is not going to sit back and watch you throw your life away. Expect conviction. Expect distress. Expect to feel uncomfortable, depressed, anxious, if you are harboring sin in your life.

Saul’s response to this great conviction from God was to pick up a spear and throw it at David. Saul held on to his jealousy and anger instead of repenting. As we read on, we’re going to find out this is not the last time God will send His convicting Spirit to Saul. God is never one and done. (I praise Him for being the God of second and third… chances)

God is working in the hearts of every person on this planet. Don’t think that doesn’t mean you. God loves you enough to make you feel miserable when you sin.

Expect it. Then repent and experience the joy that will follow, the sweet fellowship with the God of the Universe who loves you to death.

I Samuel 17; The Battle Is The Lord’s

You know the story. Little shepherd boy takes on the giant and wins. A boy armed only with a sling shot kills a warrior covered in armor and carrying an enormous sword. On paper, David had no chance. But we don’t live on paper.

It wasn’t that Goliath had been disrespecting the armies of Israel. David was upset that Goliath was dishonoring God. This wasn’t merely a confrontation between two warring nations. This was a spiritual battle at the core.

Saul wanted David to put on his armor and carry his sword to face Goliath. David just couldn’t do it. It wasn’t him. It didn’t feel right.

I was reading what J. Vernon McGee had to say about this in his “Thru The Bible Series Commentary” on First and Second Samuel. He suggests that sometimes we try to be something we’re not while serving God.

“Let’s not try to be something we are not, or try to do something we are really not called to do. If God has called you to use a sling shot, don’t try to use a sword.” (p. 98)

Oh sure, many of us would love to be that soloist whose voice is like an angel, or that teacher who has the ability to make God’s Word come alive, or that seamstress, that carpenter, that baker, that encourager, that hostess who shares God’s love through their abilities. And sometimes we decide we ARE that singer or that teacher, and often that can lead to failure.

David, empowered by God didn’t have to look like a soldier, or even use weapons that made sense to everyone else. I love what David told Goliath right before he threw that stone that killed the giant:

You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will hand you over to me, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.  (17:45-47)

Do you want to see victories as you serve your Savior? Then be the person God created you to be. Hear Him call you into service designed especially for you. And remember, it’s not about you. It’s about the God you serve.

The battle IS the Lord’s!

I Samuel 15-16; The Problem With Interior Decorating

Saul was King of Israel. Remember the handsome, tall young man who looked exactly how everyone thought a king should look? The Bible says no one was his equal. (9:2)

Even though this same hunk hid from Samuel because he was afraid. He still looked the part.

But when Saul had an encounter with God,  God changed Saul’s heart. No longer cowardly, Saul prophesied when the Spirit of God came upon him in power. (10:10) Saul became a fearless warrior, a formidable leader of the Jews.

Several times in Scripture we see where the Spirit of God came upon him, and Saul obeyed. But we also see evidence that the change in Saul didn’t go very deep. It didn’t overcome the temptation to feel self-sufficient, and we see Saul’s gradual decline from being God’s anointed king, to being a man who God will reject.

In chapter 15 we read where Saul is given the opportunity to repent of sin. Samuel confronts Saul with the evidence of his sin, but Saul only gives Samuel the lame excuse, “they made me do it.” Then Saul makes matters worse when he says, “I kind of disobeyed, but my intentions were good. I was going to give the best of the spoils to God.”

Neither excuse could balance the guilt of his sin. So Saul, knowing he’d blown it before God, says, “I have sinned. But please, Samuel, honor me in front of the people.”

Oh Saul. That was bad enough. But did you have to go on and say, “so that I may worship the Lord YOUR God”? Wasn’t He your God, too?

I’m going to try not to judge Saul’s heart except through the evidence we see in Scripture. Saul’s heart had been changed, even to the point where the Bible says he was changed into a different person. (10:6) God was with him in a very visible way. But by the end of chapter 13, God had rejected him, the kingdom taken away from Saul because of disobedience.

I like watching renovation shows on TV. Sometimes the changes in the remodeled homes is amazing. Run-down houses get a makeover that transforms them into modern, beautiful homes.

But as I watch these shows I realize that there is a difference between cosmetic and structural changes. You can put paint on rotting wood. It will make it look nicer. But it won’t fix the problem, and the rotting will continue beneath the paint.

Fixing the problem often means tearing down walls and rebuilding from the ground up.

If I can use this analogy in Saul’s life, it would appear that Saul allowed God to do a cosmetic change in his life. The change was real. It just didn’t go very deep. In the end, God turned His back on His anointed one. The Spirit of God left him. (16:14)

I pray that you have had an encounter with God that has changed your life. But I would ask you to consider how that change has effected you. Have you allowed God to get in there and tear down walls, to eliminate the rot, to fix the problem of sin in your life?

Or have you only submitted just enough to God so that you look better to other people?

I pray that all of us will turn ourselves over to God 100%. Because how we look on the outside is meaningless unless we have been changed from the inside. I don’t want God just to be my Interior Designer. I want a total rehab, overhauled, made brand new through the blood of His precious Son, Jesus Christ.

I Samuel 13-14; Follow The Leader

If your friend jumped off a cliff, would you jump, too?

Ever hear that one before? Maybe you’ve even said it to a young person you are concerned is following the wrong crowd. We all want our children to be leaders. But is there a time to teach them to follow?

My church had VBS this week. What a great time we had talking to kids about how much the Creator of the universe loves them, and how far that love goes to save them. We were Galactic Starveyors!

On our last night, when we were having our last practice before the closing program for parents, we had a visitor. An 11 year old boy came with his grandma, who was one of our teachers. I was in charge of music, and encouraged the youngster to practice the songs with us. I tried to assure him I’d help him learn the motions as quickly as possible.

“Just follow me,” I said.

Without skipping a beat the boy replied, “I’m not a follower. I’m a leader.”

I get that. He’s a good looking boy, a good student, a gifted athlete, and an all around nice guy. I hope he’s a leader in his school. I think his classmates would do well to follow his example.

But is there a time when even the best leaders should learn to be followers, too? I will tell you he got up there with the rest of the kids and did a crash course in song motions. Not an easy thing to do in front of peers who already knew what they were doing.

The Israelites and the Philistines were preparing to go to war. Not only was the Israeli army outnumbered by about a gazillion to one, on the day of the battle “not a soldier with Saul and Jonathan had a sword or a spear in his hand; only Saul and his son Jonathan had them.” (13:22)

Can you spell “defeat?”

So Jonathan told his armor bearer to follow him and together they’d sneak into the Philistine post. His armor bearer replied, “Do all that you have in mind… I am with you heart and soul.” (14:7)

If your friend jumped into the Philistine camp, would you jump, too?

How do you know when to lead, and when to follow someone else’s lead? In this case Jonathan asked for God’s direction, then followed the Lord into battle – just he and his armor bearer – and defeated all the men at the enemy outpost.

Who do you follow, and why? Maybe you’re a Type A person who feels you’re the only one who can do any job, so therefore people should follow you.

There are so many theologies preached by so many different preachers, so many programs touted by so many “experts,” so many opinions voiced by so many people. Who do you follow?

My prayer is that you will weigh everything and everyone according to Scripture plus nothing. Only that which is grounded in the Word of God is worth following.

Jonathon waited for God. We need to, too. Whether it’s a building campaign, a missions trip, a city project, a Sunday School curriculum, our leader should first and foremost be God.

If God is laying some position of leadership on your heart, go to Him. Test Him. Then obey Him.

And if God is raising up another to lead you, go to God. This might just be a case where God is calling you to follow with your “heart and soul.”

I Samuel 11-12; Convicted Again

I love God’s Word. I look at it as a personal letter written to me by the love of my life. Every day I hear Him encouraging me, directing me, reassuring me as I read these precious words. I open my Bible every day and expect God to speak to me. And He never fails.

But…

Sometimes I read what is on God’s heart, and find myself guilt ridden. I end my time with the Lord, and feel the sting of conviction. Today was one of those days that God thought I needed a good spanking instead of a pat on the head.

And what really bugs me about that is the thing He’s disciplining me for is something He’s disciplined me about before. Often.

How many times are you going to yell at me about this, God?

How many times are you going to ignore me, He seems to reply.

The subject is prayer. If you’ve been with me very long on this blogging journey, you’re probably aware that my prayer life can be lacking. It’s not that I don’t pray. I say grace before most meals, I offer sentence prayers to God throughout the day, thanking Him for things, praying a word or two on behalf of someone He brings to mind.

But so often in God’s Word I hear Him say He’d like me to be still, to spend time communicating with Him, that He longs for that kind of relationship with me.

Today He got down to business. Samuel, in talking to the Jews about the fact they were going to have to live with the consequences for the sin of asking for a human king, said these words that slapped me in the face:

As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you… (12:23)

So God, you’re saying that failing to pray is a SIN? Not just lack of discipline? Are You saying that when I promise to pray for someone and don’t, it’s not just forgetfulness? It’s a sin against the Lord?

Ok, God, I hear You. And I’m sorry. Please forgive me. I hear You tell me that entering Your throne room and laying my requests at Your feet isn’t just a suggestion. I understand prayer is a privilege. I’m seeing that not praying is a sin. There are so many people You’ve laid on my heart, so many illnesses and relationships that need healing. Forgive me for assuming that because You know everything anyway, You don’t need to hear it from me. Forgive me for sinning against the Lord when I don’t pray. I love You. I certainly don’t want to sin against You. Especially by neglecting something so amazing as talking toYou.

I Samuel 7-10; Changed and Busy

Often when I read Scripture, God impresses on me the importance of servanthood. We, as God’s people, are not just encouraged to be involved in the work of the church. We see example after example of people who hear God say, “Go,” and they go. People who hear God say, “Do,” and they do.

Saul had been anointed by God and Samuel to be Israel’s first human king. God changed Saul that day, and he prophesied, joining in the celebration to a point where people recognized the difference God had made in Saul.

Then Samuel told Saul, “…do whatever your hand finds to do, for God is with you.” (10:7b)

Have you allowed God to change you? Have you repented of sin, accepted Jesus as your Savior, and gone from sinner to saint by His precious blood? If you have, God will nudge you toward service. He’ll place in your heart a friend who needs to hear the Gospel. He’ll give you a desire to volunteer at church, to befriend a needy person, to make a phone call to reconnect with someone who has gone astray.

What a privilege we have to serve the One who loves us and gave Himself for us. What an honor to be God’s servant, to be His arms, legs, and voice to people who need Him.

When God plants a seed of service in your mind, don’t ignore it or talk yourself out of it. Don’t just think about getting involved. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it! Because God is with you.

Be blessed, and be a blessing to someone today. In Jesus’ name, and for His sake. Good things will happen when you and God get out there and get to work.