I Samuel 26 Part 1–Honoring God is Always the Right Answer

It was very simple. David was being protected by God as King. Saul, on the other hand, was being deceitful, murderous and acting in direct rebellion to God. No man would have ever blamed David for killing Saul. David gave Saul countless opportunities to stop the hunt and allow David to live his life in peace. Still, Saul persisted. Now David had Saul’s life in his hands once again…but, David again trusted God and let Saul live.  It was never easy, and I am sure it frustrated his men, but, God was leading David and David had grown to trust God at all cost.
In our lives, we are faced with trials and issues that make us want to take over and try to run our own show. The world encourages it and everyone else seems to be doing that very thing.  In our effort to remain faithful, it looks futile and even those we love, wonder why we would not simply take matters into our own hand.  Like David, we must stay the course and trust that God will prepare us, protect us and provide for us–no matter what the world does.   If we will do that, God will show himself to be faithful and true.  We can never lose hope in God’s faithfulness. If we will only trust him, He will make our lives full and meaningful–just as he promised.
God Bless You

The Ziphites went to Saul at Gibeah and said, “Is not David hiding on the hill of Hakilah, which faces Jeshimon?”

So Saul went down to the Desert of Ziph, with his three thousand select Israelite troops, to search there for David. Saul made his camp beside the road on the hill of Hakilah facing Jeshimon, but David stayed in the wilderness. When he saw that Saul had followed him there,he sent out scouts and learned that Saul had definitely arrived.

Then David set out and went to the place where Saul had camped. He saw where Saul and Abner son of Ner, the commander of the army, had lain down. Saul was lying inside the camp, with the army encamped around him.

David then asked Ahimelek the Hittite and Abishai son of Zeruiah, Joab’s brother, “Who will go down into the camp with me to Saul?”

“I’ll go with you,” said Abishai.

So David and Abishai went to the army by night, and there was Saul, lying asleep inside the camp with his spear stuck in the ground near his head. Abner and the soldiers were lying around him.

Abishai said to David, “Today God has delivered your enemy into your hands. Now let me pin him to the ground with one thrust of the spear; I won’t strike him twice.”

But David said to Abishai, “Don’t destroy him! Who can lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed and be guiltless? 10 As surely as the Lord lives,” he said, “the Lord himself will strike him, or his time will come and he will die, or he will go into battle and perish. 11 But the Lord forbid that I should lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed. Now get the spear and water jug that are near his head, and let’s go.”

I Samuel 3–Your Servant is Listening

The thing that made Samuel great, in a time when God had little impact on Israel, was that Samuel was ready to serve. The passage tells the story of Samuel hearing from God.  Since God had been quiet, Samuel had trouble understanding his call.  He ran to Eli, the priest.  Eli finally figured it out, and taught Samuel how to respond. Samuel obeyed, and that was the beginning of a revival in God’s chosen nation. 1st, God kept his promise as it related to Levi; and second, God began to prepare and Use Samuel to lead the people.  The Lord was with Samuel, and He did not allow any of Samuel’s words to fall to the ground–simply put, if Samuel said it, then it came true!!!
 
God wants nothing more than to bless His chosen.  If we will trust the Lord; if we will simply follow Him and do as He says–then He will honor and bless us.  Samuel was the first recorded prophet. He acted as a objective liaison between God and the priests and leaders of Israel. We are God’s chosen and like Samuel–we are to be the liaisons between Him and the chaotic Godless world in which we live.  In God’s word, we learn to hear Him. As we listen, He will reveal his truth and, like Samuel, our words will not fall to the ground.  Paul said it best in 2 Corinthians 5–As Christians, we are new creations. we are called, in vs. 20, to be His ambassadors in the world–but not of it.  If we will do that, we will enjoy an abundant, purposeful Christian life!
 
God Bless You

The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli. In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions.

One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the house of the Lord, where the ark of God was. Then the Lord called Samuel… v8 Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy. 9 So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.10 The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”

Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

11 And the Lord said to Samuel: “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears about it tingle. 12 At that time I will carry out against Eli everything I spoke against his family—from beginning to end. 13 For I told him that I would judge his family forever because of the sin he knew about; his sons blasphemed God,[a] and he failed to restrain them. 14 Therefore I swore to the house of Eli, ‘The guilt of Eli’s house will never be atoned for by sacrifice or offering.’”…v19 The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of Samuel’s words fall to the ground. 20 And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the Lord. 21 The Lord continued to appear at Shiloh, and there he revealed himself to Samuel through his word.

Raise the Dead??!!–Acts 20 Part 2

Paul was on a roll.  After 2 years of work, it was finally time to leave Ephesus.  So on the night before his parting, He spent the night giving final instruction and encouragement.  During the course of his emotional and final farewell, one of the young people fell asleep and then fell out of a window to his death.  Paul quickly went to the young man and raised him from the dead–then went back to his sermon…that carried on til dawn.  At the end, the people took the boy home alive, and were greatly comforted.
 
It is crazy that Paul’s raising of the dead barely raised an eyebrow. It was a tribute to Paul’s leadership, faith and God’s hand on the community.  Imagine, they went right back to the teaching.  They ate a midnight snack…No uproar, no media coverage–just business as usual.  If we trusted God to that level, imagine how the church would impact the world.  We, who trust God for life itself–would fear nothing or no one.  We would simply move forward with the mission knowing he would execute his plan.
 
In these chaotic times, God has not changed. The world really has not changed and the only moving part is our faith and our hearts.  We cannot control sin in the world.  We can cast our votes and pray without ceasing…but, at day’s end, God is still in charge.  and like the boy, we are in his hands–live or die, he brings life and works his plan.  We simply have to trust him to love us and complete his plan in our lives.  If we will, we will see life changing miracles.  Funny thing, however, we may become so used to them that they don’t even stop the sermon…!
 
God Bless You
On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight. There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting. Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead. 10 Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “He’s alive!” 11 Then he went upstairs again and broke bread and ate. After talking until daylight, he left. 12 The people took the young man home alive and were greatly comforted.

Paul’s Farewell to the Ephesian Elders

13 We went on ahead to the ship and sailed for Assos, where we were going to take Paul aboard. He had made this arrangement because he was going there on foot. 14 When he met us at Assos, we took him aboard and went on to Mitylene. 15 The next day we set sail from there and arrived off Chios. The day after that we crossed over to Samos, and on the following day arrived at Miletus. 16 Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus to avoid spending time in the province of Asia, for he was in a hurry to reach Jerusalem, if possible, by the day of Pentecost.

17 From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church. 18 When they arrived, he said to them: “You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia. 19 I served the Lord with great humility and with tears and in the midst of severe testing by the plots of my Jewish opponents. 20 You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. 21 I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.

When God Intervenes–Acts 12 Part 1

No way!! That is the common answer when something simply amazing happens.  That is the best reaction to the amazing miracle of Peter’s release from Herod’s prison.  Herod was always looking for ways to gain favor with the Jews that he ruled and the Romans that ruled him.  He found a common enemy—The Church.  He first killed John’s brother, James.  That was met with approval by both Rome and the Jews—So he arrested Peter.

Under heavy guard, Peter faced an imminent trial and execution.  Peter was then about to see God intervene.  God’s angel entered the jail, released Peter and led him out of the prison through the 16 guards charged with his security. Once free, Peter realized, for the first time, he was not truly dreaming. God did intervene to carry out his plan.

In our lives, we see God’s hand–day in and day out.  He rarely intervenes so dramatically, but, as with Peter, God assures that his plan will be completed.  As we walk with him, we continue to trust God with our future and the timing of our future. When we do, he will deliver us, provide for us and prepare us for our journey.

The most difficult part is initially trusting God. It is not nearly so difficult when life is easy, but when adding trials, traumas and temptation—our natural reaction is to take control and depend upon ourselves.  God has shown time and again that is not the best approach. Solomon said it best, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding, acknowledge him in all your ways and he will make your path straight!” Proverbs 3:5-6

God Bless You

It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. When he saw that this met with approval among the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Festival of Unleavened Bread. After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover.

So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.

The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists.

Then the angel said to him, “Put on your clothes and sandals.” And Peter did so. “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me,” the angel told him. Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision. 10 They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him.

11 Then Peter came to himself and said, “Now I know without a doubt that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches and from everything the Jewish people were hoping would happen.”

Missionary–Acts 11 Part 2

The greatest part of accepting that God holds the plan for our future and its timing is the discovery and recognition of the plan coming to fruition.  First, God brought the newly founded church to Jerusalem.  There he empowered it with His Spirit to start its growth.  Once its growth was established, he used various trials and tribulation to put a structure in the church and then spread the church throughout the region.

Now, as the church was growing out among other parts of the region, God used Antioch as the launching pad for European expansion—he prepared for a Mission.  God brought in a godly servant-hearted man named Barnabas (Son of encouragement).  Barnabas sought out that reactionary former Pharisee named Saul. He found Saul back in his home town.  He brought Saul back to Antioch and mentored him and prepared the two of them to begin the first “Christian” missionary journey–that was designed to primarily to collect food and funds for the new church to provide for a famine God was going to allow.

In these times, God is still in charge.  He is still executing his plan. While it seems we live in a time that is post-Christian and his impact diminished; truth is, he is preparing a new group to carry on his mission in these chaotic and difficult days.  We do not know who will be this generation’s Saul and Barnabas. But we do know that God has led for thousands of years, and his plan has worked every time.  We must continue to trust him, humbly follow and listen to his teaching.  We must also allow the trials and discipline he puts in our lives to prepare us for the days ahead.  It may be that we will be the next Paul and Barnabas.  It also may be that we are simply the structure God uses to prepare and send them out to change the world—either is fine, especially if we allow God to lead!

God Bless You

Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews. 20 Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. 21 The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.

22 News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. 24 He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.

25 Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.

27 During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.) 29 The disciples, as each one was able, decided to provide help for the brothers and sisters living in Judea. 30 This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.

Ananias, I Have a Job for You–Acts 9 Part 2

So, we pray that we are ready for whatever God has planned for us. We study his word, we walk the amazing journey laid out for us. To do that, we go to church, study the bible, help others and generally look for God’s will–but no matter how much effort we expend to be ready—invariably, life throws us a curve.  Such was the day for both Paul and Ananias. 

Paul had been sitting blind, had not eaten or drank for days and was at a complete loss for what was in store.  Meanwhile, Ananias was minding his own business and God told him to go meet up with the Jewish persecutor that applauded the vanquishing of Christians. Clearly Ananias was confused, scared but faithful. 

Ananias obeyed God, healed Paul and started a movement that forever  changed the world. Had Paul not obeyed God, had Ananias failed to follow through—what we take for granted may never have happened. It is critical for us to consider that when God allows us to receive curveballs in life, our obedience forever changes us and often impacts our world for Christ.  We do not have to like the assignment, we simply have to complete it.  It may hurt, it may make our march miserable, but compared to eternity, it is a very small part of a long and amazing journey.

God Bless You

In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”

“Yes, Lord,” he answered.

11 The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”

13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”

15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength.

Paul’s Come to Jesus Meeting–Acts 9 Part 1

There is no doubt Saul was on a mission.  He was rabid, but while Saul thought he had a great plan for his life, Paul was about to meet Jesus and be forever changed.  For Saul, attacking the Church was easy.  He had no personal stake in the church.  He was not close to the disciples and they were continuing to embarrass the leadership with their growth and community.

But, then Saul met Jesus personally. In a moment, God became real. Each of the persecuted were obviously right and Paul was an enemy of God.  He was killing and persecuting God’s chosen. In one felled swoop, he was really and completely converted to the God he said he worshipped his entire life.  There could only be one answer, Paul met Jesus.

In our lives, there are countless people that are extremely religious, completely devout—but, like Saul have simply not yet met Jesus.  We do not dare question their sincerity, but can spot their emptiness from miles out.  No amount of religion will ever replace simply coming to know Jesus.  He cannot help but, change your life.  He gives peace and purpose that lasts.  We have to surrender our control of the journey and simply accept his lordship and redemption.  It will change us forever. 

God Bless You

9 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.