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Archive for March, 2010

Then he waited seven days, according to the time set by Samuel. But Samuel did not come to Gilgal; and the people were scattered from him. So Saul said, “Bring a burnt offering and peace offerings here to me.” And he offered the burnt offering. Now it happened, as soon as he had finished presenting the burnt offering, that Samuel came; and Saul went out to meet him, that he might greet him. And Samuel said, “What have you done?…You have done foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, which He commanded you. For now the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever.” 1 Samuel 13:8-11a, 13

The title of the blog is fairly erroneous since God is always with us, but suffice it to say, not infrequently the Lord sets us in a position of expectancy so that He might determine our performance. This is what He did with Saul and when panic set in, Saul blew it; he grabbed the reins and took matters into his own hands. From the story we can glean that our loving Father allows us to wallow in expectation occasionally that we might advance and mature spiritually.

Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. James 1:2-4

God is not toying with us; He’s training us! God knows it’s our tendency to panic, which is precisely the reason why He has provided one example after another in the Bible so that we might learn from somebody else’s experience. Experience is the best teacher, but nowhere is it written that bad experiences must be personal experiences. Our Father loves us, therefore He warns us.

Charles Spurgeon once said, “By perseverance the snail reached the ark,” And God might add, “And please take notice that the ark did not sail without them.”

If I were in Noah’s sandals (recognizing my tendency to panic), I suspect I would have been the one standing in the doorway staring at my watch muttering, “Where are those stupid gastropods!” However I am slowly learning that God’s timing is absolutely perfect.

But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in Your hand… Psalm 31:14-15a

Patience has a perfect work towards an abundant existence. The question that remains is do we take God at His word; do we believe the Creator of the universe when He speaks to us? Can we hold out long enough for God to reveal to us that which He has promised? I am certainly no hero, but I appreciate the sentiment from this Ralph Waldo Emerson quote:

A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is brave five minutes longer.

If we have prayed for God to restore, reform, and reshape us, then it is implied that we have deemed it reasonable to stand in one spot long enough (spiritually speaking) for Him to complete the task. Saul’s selfish error was that he desired all of God’s blessings, but he was not submitted to the sanctification process. Am I? Are you?

It was not God’s plan to set Saul up for failure; that notion is inane. Therefore it stands to reason that it is not His plan for us to fail either. The reality is that God wants us to shine because in so doing it is a wonderful reflection on Him and His work in us. In like fashion, Ford does not put a new vehicle on the test track to have it fail, but to shine for the company, and yes, to work out the kinks.

The car has no choice in the matter. We do. We should choose wisely.

  • What does the passage say about God?
  • About us?
  • Accordingly, how should we pray?


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When thou art departed from me to day, then thou shalt find two men by Rachel’s sepulchre in the border of Benjamin at Zelzah; and they will say unto thee, The asses which thou wentest to seek are found: and, lo, thy father hath left the care of the asses, and sorroweth for you, saying, What shall I do for my son? 1 Samuel 10:2 KJV

What’s the thing on your mind today with which you are most concerned? A job? Your health? The bills? A wayward child? The Lord would say to you and I, “Give your concerns to me.”

What we must commit to memory is that God has allowed the problem, the situation, the concern to invade our space in order that we might bring ourselves to His space. It was never about the problem; it was always about Jesus! The Lord may have put that thing there personally or He may have allowed it to be put there by the adversary, but regardless, He wants it to be a summit point. Why? Think of it in these terms — if we have any grasp of Who God is, how can we be focused on a problem when in His presence?

Does this mean God will remove or remedy the situation? Not necessarily. There are countless episodes in the Bible where people met God in a problem and He brought them through and not out of it. What our Father really wants us to know is that in His eye, the problem is over ~and~ that He has much greater things lined up for us down the road. In a nutshell, this was His message to Saul and He used his predicament to commune with him and to effectively convey, “I’ve got this one under control Saul; do you trust Me?”

Do We Trust in God?

Our Father would never tell His children to ignore their problems. He simply invites us to bring them to Him and that He will meet us there. Does anybody want to talk about a silver lining, because in essence we’re being told our problems are invitations to sit before our King. It’s kind of like getting a parking summons and then being told by the issuing officer, “By the way, show that ticket to the Whitehouse guard and he’ll let you in to see the President of the United States.”

The Choice is Ours

I have got to tell you that I’m not particularly fond of the policies of our current President, but given the opportunity, “I’m goin to the Whitehouse to meet him!” How much more so would I be willing to bring whatever concerns me today before the Throne of God!

The fact of the matter is that Saul started strong, but finished weak. Why? Because he forgot about God. He forgot that he could bring every matter to Him. He forgot that all things are from God and belong to Him. As a result, Saul dies a man outside of God’s will—outside of the Meeting Place. How sad. Let us not make the same mistake as we remember to habitually bring everything to Him—our concerns, our praise, and our eternal gratitude—it’s the right of every born again believer.

 

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Now it came to pass when Samuel was old that he made his sons judges over Israel…But his sons did not walk in his ways; they turned aside after dishonest gain, took bribes, and perverted justice. Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, “Look, you are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.” But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” So Samuel prayed to the Lord. 7 And the Lord said to Samuel, “Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them. According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt, even to this day–with which they have forsaken Me and served other gods–so they are doing to you also. Now therefore, heed their voice. However, you shall solemnly forewarn them, and show them the behavior of the king who will reign over them.” 1 Samuel 8:1, 3-9

Many bible scholars make the point that because Samuel had become a circuit preacher of sorts, he had neglected his children which resulted in their turning from the Lord and succumbing to sin. We can read the passage and come away with that application, but I would not be dogmatic about whether or not Samuel was guilty of child neglect. One thing we can be certain about is that Samuel was likely broken hearted about his son’s spiritual condition.

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth. 3 John 1:4

The fact of the matter is that Samuel’s mentor Eli suffered the same thing—and he was a stay at home dad! His two sons, Hophni and Phinehas were similarly rotten, although their sin of choice was not greed (like Samuel’s boys) but covetousness towards women and food. Fact is the entire nation of Israel had succumb to perversity to the point where they favored a man’s leadership over God’s—a man who would be sympathetic to their fleshly cause.

Samuel’s Wisdom

…For the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. James 1:20

Samuel’s boys had gone astray and all of Israel was aware of it; Samuel’s old and everyone was talking about it. Israel had essentially told Samuel, “You and your boys are washed up and we want nothing to do with you. Now go find us a real leader!” Ouch. Old Sammy was angry, but he was also astute and we can glean from his wisdom—before his anger could morph into sin, he went to the Lord in prayer and in so doing God lets him in on a couple secrets.

“Sam, it’s not about you; it’s all about Me.”

Don’t we all need to be reminded of that regularly? God disclosed to Samuel that Israel had become perverse once again and in reality could not care less about him or his boys—they were nothing more that an excuse to plead their case. Israel did not want to be submissive to God, but to a man who might justify and allow their illicit behaviors. God effectively says “Warn them and then give them what they want.” Looking back at this event, the Lord through His prophet Hosea gives us some wonderful insight regarding this incident.

“O Israel, you are destroyed, But your help is from Me. I will be your King; Where is any other, That he may save you in all your cities? And your judges to whom you said, ‘Give me a king and princes’? I gave you a king in My anger, And took him away in My wrath. Hosea 13:9-11

Be Careful What You Ask For…

Because you just might get it! God demonstrated then and He still demonstrates today that in His anger He just might give us what we are asking for. It is for this reason we need to always seek God’s will (like Samuel) and pray accordingly. Israel’s first mistake was that they knew God’s will and ignored it. Their second mistake was believing that because they got what they wanted, God was with them. In time, they would learn the error of their ways. However, between the time they received their king and realized their blunder, they were positioned to mislead other believers. Every person who teaches a false prosperity doctrine today is perpetrating the same lie. Let us not make the same mistake.

 

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So it was that the ark remained in Kirjath Jearim a long time; it was there twenty years. And all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord. Then Samuel spoke to all the house of Israel, saying, “If you return to the Lord with all your hearts, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths from among you, and prepare your hearts for the Lord, and serve Him only; and He will deliver you from the hand of the Philistines.” 1 Samuel 9:2-3

The Lord truly spoke to my heart yesterday, essentially saying to me, “I can see into the future and beyond. That thing you are concerned with is done.”

The peace that came over me was magnificent. The particular thing that concerned me was not huge at all (quite trivial in actuality), but His words gave me the assurance that He has already viewed everything that’s going to happen (or not happen) to me in this life. My Father is positioned over me like the Good Year Blimp is above the Rose Bowl Parade. From my venue I only see what is in front of me with limited peripheral vision, but He sees the splendor of what’s to come and knows exactly where the entire procession is going to end up.

Yesterday’s encounter reminded me how easy it is to focus on a task or a problem rather then Jesus. The fact of the matter is that when we lose focus on Christ, the thing we’re focusing on becomes darkness—even if that thing is a God-given ministry or a mission. My assignment is to merely present myself to Him each day as an empty and willing vessel trusting that the real work to be done is His work. I am a hammer that needs to be in the Master’s tool box each morning not because He needs me, but because I need Him. If I’m not there God will use another instrument and as a result I will become dirty and rusty. Daily usage keeps a Christian clean.

This was in a sense Samuel’s message to Israel in the passage above. Their focus was everywhere but on God and as a result they were fearful of things not worthy of fear. The admonition Samuel gave to Israel then is appropriate for us today. Let us not focus on the problem, but on the problem solver; let us not curse the darkness, but turn on the Light.

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him! Oh, fear the Lord, you His saints! There is no want to those who fear Him. The young lions lack and suffer hunger; But those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing. Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. Who is the man who desires life, And loves many days, that he may see good? Keep your tongue from evil, And your lips from speaking deceit. Depart from evil and do good; Seek peace and pursue it. The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their cry. The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, To cut off the remembrance of them from the earth. The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, And delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the Lord delivers him out of them all. He guards all his bones; Not one of them is broken. Evil shall slay the wicked, And those who hate the righteous shall be condemned. The Lord redeems the soul of His servants, And none of those who trust in Him shall be condemned. Psalm 34:8-22


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And when the people had come into the camp, the elders of Israel said, “Why has the Lord defeated us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord from Shiloh to us, that when it comes among us it may save us from the hand of our enemies.” And when the ark of the covenant of the Lord came into the camp, all Israel shouted so loudly that the earth shook. 1 Samuel 4:3 + 5

God-in-a-box

To most of us, Israel’s mistake here is obvious; they formulate a plan of their own outside of the will of God employing the services of two false teachers (Hophni and Phinehas) and steal the Ark of the Covenant. It may have seemed right in their eyes, but the reality was that is was an evil plot. This plan was doomed to fail before it got off the ground.

“When it comes among us it may save us…”

God saves; its are powerless. To erroneously suppose that any eternal good can come out of plan or scheme devised outside of God’s will is ludicrous. That notion feeds into the lie that somehow salvation can accomplished by man’s efforts and the workings of our flesh. Any teaching that incorporates this type of work ethic is not of God and the one professing it should be avoided.

Unless the Lord builds the house, They labor in vain who build it; Unless the Lord guards the city, The watchman stays awake in vain. Psalm 127:1

Shouting and Jumping

Within today’s Bible passage there is another warning for the church. Notice as Israel rallied around their plan that they shouted loudly and jumped up and down so vigorously the ground shook. Most certainly there was a hint of godliness in what they were doing; after all they had two priests and they had the Ark of the Covenant in their midst. Perhaps because God did not fry them all on the spot, they incorrectly assumed they were operating in God’s will and with His blessing.

The fact of the matter is that all their hoopla was misguided—they were emotionally hyped about a program and a presentation, and nothing more. They might have been shouting ‘Amen!’ and ‘Hallelujah’, but God was having none of it. Oddly enough, the enemy overhearing the emotion-packed celebration thought these guys were onto something—these non-believers were buying into the hype too! Therein lies another danger.

Is There Any Meat on the Bone

There was no divine substance to what Israel was doing; therefore they were soundly defeated by their unbelieving adversary, giving them the impression that our One and true God is impotent and faithless towards His people. What an awful lie too broadcast to a lost world our Father wants to rescue. I am not saying it is wrong to shout and jump for joy before the Lord; what I am saying is that ‘God says’ it’s wrong to give any kind of honor or glory to something He is not a part of, for to do so is to misrepresent Him and lead people away from salvation.

Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; 2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night. 3 He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper. Psalm 1:1



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Then they rose early in the morning and worshiped before the Lord, and returned and came to their house at Ramah. And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the Lord remembered her. So it came to pass in the process of time that Hannah conceived and bore a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, “Because I have asked for him from the Lord.” 1 Samuel 1:19-20

Hannah’s Prayer

Elkanah had two wives and one of them, Hannah, was barren. Desperate and despondent, Hannah prays to the Lord essentially asking, “Give me a son and I will in turn give him back to You.” God answers Hannah’s genuine and sincere prayer.

Although the Bible doesn’t record it, I suspect this was not Hannah’s first prayer regarding this issue; we know she was a Godly women. The passage implies however that this was the first time she prayed in accordance with the Lord’s will. God had a plan for this child (Samuel) that would require His bringing the parents to a special place of prayerful submission. Hannah would have her son, but it would be on God’s terms. Therefore, it stands to reason that when we cannot seemingly come to terms with God, the answer might be, “When you change your heart, we’ll come back to this matter.”

The reality is that prayer changes us and we cannot change God. As we pray and as God answers (He does respond to every prayer a believer raises), we are conformed and our petitions begin to align themselves with His plan–it’s a process we must willingly submit ourselves to. It is then we are truly in prayerful-harmony with the Creator of the universe!

God Doesn’t Answer My Prayers

What stands out from today’s verse selection is that Hannah remembered what she prayed for and gave thanks. We might initially think, “Of course she remembered; this answered prayer was huge and miraculous,” but keep in mind the prayer request was over nine months old. As an application I would ask everyone (myself included), “Do we recall what we prayed for nine months ago?” If we don’t, then how do we know if our prayers are being addressed. Would it not be a shame if a prayer was answered and we forget to give thanks?

Should We Journal Our Prayers?

Journaling is a useful tool and could serve to prevent prayer-layering, the process of layering requests because we have forgotten what we previously have prayed for. An example of prayer layering might be, “Lord, I pray that I might learn to be fully dependant on You for all my needs,” and then praying six months later, “Lord, please move my boss to give me a raise.”

Forgetting and layering only serves to contradict and confuse. God’s answer to layered prayers might not be, “No,” but rather “slow down buddy, we’re still working through the first one!” It’s a trap we all fall into occasionally; I know I have.

I recently prayed for a sign from God before heading down to Haiti on a mission trip. What I had forgotten is that I had years previously told the Lord that I desired to walk by faith and not by sight and that I’d rather He didn’t give me signs before He moved me to do something. It was after going to Haiti by faith that the Lord reminded me of my earlier appeal and how He was abiding in my request.

As for journaling, I don’t as of yet, but that’s just because I have gotten into the habit of praying with others or telling others what I have been praying for. The point is that God does not ignore His children and if you are one who believes He does, you might need to begin jotting prayers down in order to discover the truth and faithfulness of God.


 

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Therefore wash yourself and anoint yourself, put on your best garment and go down to the threshing floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. Then it shall be, when he lies down, that you shall notice the place where he lies; and you shall go in, uncover his feet, and lie down; and he will tell you what you should do.” And she said to her, “All that you say to me I will do.” Ruth 3:3-5

Ask any mature Christian and they will rightly tell you that the book of Ruth, in addition to being an accurate account of a historical event, is a dramatic illustration of Christ’s redemptive work for His bride, the church. Ruth is of course a picture of the church and Boaz a picture of Jesus Christ – our Ga’al, or kinsmen redeemer. However, the spiritual similes do not stop there; each sentence of this glorious book provides application for the Christian towards the spirit-filled life found in Christ Jesus. Ruth 3:3-5 is in actuality a formula teaching us how to be in a position to receive from the Lord.. These are not legalistic steps that require completing, but rather a blueprint that should be embraced because the benefits outweigh the effort.

Wash Yourself

These words simply remind us that we should be in God’s word continually; every day if possible. It is both a reasonable and intelligent choice. We bathe daily if we are able; nobody has to make us do it–we want to. So should it be with our scripture reading. Come to realize the cleansing effect His word has as it washes over you. Becoming clean should never be seen as a chore, but a luxury we get to partake in. Do you see reading the Bible as the magnificent treat that it is?

He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word Ephesians 5:26

Anoint Yourself

Oil in the Bible speaks to the Holy Spirit. Have you prayed to receive the Holy Spirit for the purpose of empowerment; to be a witness for Jesus Christ? If you have not, you might be born-again, but you are not powered-up for service. Do you pray frequently to be re-filled with this anointing? If you don’t you’re like a fine automobile with an empty tank and a dead battery. When we’re told to anoint ourselves, it really means to pray to receive the blessings we need to function as Christians. If we have not it is because we asked not.

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him! Luke 11:13
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Put on Your Best

Ruth and Naomi came back to Bethlehem in their mourning clothes, but Naomi wisely realized it was time for a change. By God’s grace and mercy we have been saved, therefore what kind of testimony is it when we bemoan our past by outwardly appearing as we once were. Are we not new creations in Christ? We most certainly are and our countenance should always reflect that fact. Our attire, metaphorically speaking should be garments of praise and not pity.

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness Psalms 30:11

Go Down to the Threshing Floor

This part is huge. The threshing floor is a place of separation and refinement, and willingly going there speaks to both submission and sacrifice. This is not something that someone else can do for us. There is a price to be paid by every believer and the cost is reflected in our desire to submit ourselves to the sanctification process. Sadly, this is the place where many a Christian turn away. What we need to realize is that the threshing floor is where we get to shine for Jesus and where He tweaks us in order that we might perform our best.

Then the king said to Araunah, “No, but I will surely buy it from you for a price; nor will I offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God with that which costs me nothing.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver. 2 Samuel 24:24

Do Not Make Yourself Known

We’re talking humility here folks. There is no place for pride before the Throne of God. The reality is that the Bible teaches that self-importance always comes before destruction and must be shunned. The suggestion therefore would be that when we change our garments, we all leave pride in the pocket.

Do not exalt yourself in the presence of the king, And do not stand in the place of the great; For it is better that he say to you, “Come up here,” Than that you should be put lower in the presence of the prince, Whom your eyes have seen. Proverbs 25:6-7

Notice the Place Where He Lies

To me this speaks to Holy Communion; the act of remembering our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and what He did for us. Personally, I choose to remember His sacrifice and resurrection each time I eat a meal in addition to at church where we partake of the elements corporately. Whenever we go to see where He lies we cannot help but notice He is not there! For the Christian we notice for the purpose of sharing. “He is risen,” should not be something we keep to ourselves.

He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.” Matthew 28:6-7

Go in

Have you ever heard it said that Christianity is not about a religion, but a relationship with Jesus Christ? This is what go in speaks to me. Jesus desires nothing more than an intimate relationship with His brothers and sisters. Let us not be shy to go deeper with the One who gave His life to make this possible.

But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 19:14

Uncover His Feet and Lie Down

These words bring me back to the cross. As we uncover the feet of our Savior, the thing that will be most evident is the piercing place. Even as I write these words it is a sobering vision that leads me to worship. Because it is to easy for us to be consumed by the events of the day, we need to often reexamine the scars of His sacrifice. From this place we can both worship and listen.

Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. Luke 10:38-39

He Will Tell You What You Should Do

“I don’t hear God speaking to me,” is a commonly heard amongst Christians. The managing of that affliction has not changed and is recorded throughout the Bible in both the Old and New Testaments. If we regularly wash ourselves in the Word, we will better recognize His voice. If we ask and receive His Holy Spirit, we will comprehend what He is saying. If we come rejoicing rather than mourning, we won’t obscure the outpouring of His love. If we come humbly, we won’t stumble. If we submit to the process of sanctification, we will be changed. Our Lord said His yoke is easy and His burden is light, the question for us is do we believe Him.

All that you say to me I will do. Ruth 3:5

 

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