Friday, April 30, 2021

The Army of Light in Retreat: What went Wrong? Where do we go from Here?

I sense timidity, exhaustion. Why do you look so tired? Why do you look so stretched? You appear as one who lacks hope. 

Have you no hope? Have you lost it somewhere? Has hope run off and hid itself? Is it running from you, just out of reach?  

Many walk in a trance, rigid, furled brows, obsequious, dystopian, resigned. But resigned to what? To defeat? To the end?  

The end has not yet come.  We are not at the end of the story yet.  We may near the end of the 6th day, but it's not yet.  You do not have permission to resign yourself to the bunker yet faithful one.

The battle has been fierce.  The battle has raged the last 20 years and more.  The battle has raged, and many feel as though we've lost.  

 We've retreated to the broom trees, to take cover, and dig deep entrenchments, and huddle in the fox holes, mouths parched, eyes half-closed, tormented by the evil of our time.  It is a great evil.

We've retreated, despite our many prayers and staunch fights. We gather at our bastions, behind friendly lines, huddled around camp fires, quiet, bandages wrapped, eyes fixed on the flames.  The word around the fires is one of quiet reflection: "What went wrong? This was our moment. We were surging forward. We had all the momentum. How could this have happened?"

The truth is, we did lose a battle.  But it wasn't the battle out there.  That battle always belonged to the Creator. The battle that we lost was the battle within ourselves.

In The Legend (1985) Jack finds himself covered in snow, in a season of death, when they had only just been in a beautiful garden.  He met a mysterious oracle, around the camp fire and asked him, "Why is it like this now? Why is it winter?"  

We are asking ourselves the same questions.  Why is it like this now?  Why is there this great increase in wickedness? Did it have to be this way?  Was it always meant to play out like this?

No, no it wasn't.  

The truth is, that we failed.  But not in the way that we think.  We didn't fail because our defenses weren't strong enough.  We didn't fail because our fighting spirit wasn't vigorous enough. We didn't fail because our prayers weren't taut enough. I'm quite assured of that.  All this was bathed in much prayer and hard work.  

No.  We failed for one simple reason: Within ourselves, in our hearts, we were double-minded.  We failed to expunge the sin from ourselves, in the Holy Spirit. We failed to deal with the perversity in our own camp. We ignored our own sin, while fighting it outside ourselves.  And I am the chief double-minded one.  For at the conclusion of 2020 and the march into 2021, I had a great fall, a great disaster, which I walked into. I dove into sin. I played as if God wouldn't mind.

I failed.  We failed.  At the critical moment, we found ourselves double-minded.  And so we've found ourselves now smitten by the Lord.  Not abandoned. But it seems now an increase of wickedness must take place.  And it didn't have to be that way. No it didn't.  But at the critical moment, we were tripped up by temptation, sin, death, and the demonic.  It was not that we failed to fight the war around ourselves well enough.  We did fight and pray fiercely. But we hadn't embraced the cleansing of the Spirit, to make us mature and full in Christ.

Now we find ourselves in the fallenness of those choices.  But just as soon as this new turn took place, God's plan continued at just the same pace, to accomplish his work within us.  

You may have found yourself in recent weeks and months to be going through all sorts of fiery trials. I have found myself in the most intense time of testing, ever, in my life, in the past few months.  The Lord has not given up on us.  He has not walked away from us.  He has doubled down, to purify us and cleanse us of all sin, all double-mindedness, all lukewarmness in these critical hours, so that we are fully prepared for the final end times harvest...  The fourth great awakening... The billion soul harvest. 

So my word for you today is this: Embrace the cleansing process. Yes, it is very painful.  Doubly so right now.  We were double-minded at the critical juncture.  Now we face a rising tide of evil. It is a mirror's reflection for us.  It is a reminder of what we allowed in ourselves.  Yet God is walking us through the fire.  I've felt the burning of it, as the furnace burns away the dross, purifying the gold. I've felt it in my soul lately, a burning. This is our time of training, building, and cleansing.  These years will prepare us for the great call we have at the end: The final great awakening. Then comes the calling up of the church, and the rise of the anti-Christ.  

We weren't ready.  Now, God is preparing us through trials and struggles. And we will endure a great growth of evil during this time.  But we will also see a rising tide of Spirit-filled movements.  Spirit fires and dragon fires, bursting back and forth in the streets and the cities of the world.  Darkness growing, and light growing, back and forth, back and forth, it comes.  Then we will be ready. Then we will be the church, the ones prepared, refined through the fire, tested and purified, then ready, completely ready, to lead a great awakening so fabulous none could've imagined it's glory.  All for Jesus Christ, authored by Him, for Him, through Him, through us, His body on the Earth. Glory to God alone. Burn friends, burn in the process of purification, so you will burn twice as brightly in the last valley of decision for our world.  

Monday, April 26, 2021

Is there any evidence for God?

Has anyone ever told you, "If there were evidence for God I would believe in Him?"  It's a reasonable statement I think.  If you want me to believe something, show me the evidence.  Sure, there is an element of faith in all of it. But it can start with a reasonable inquiry, can't it? Yes it can.  

So if someone asks you, "Is there any evidence for God" you could reference them to read some books, like Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis or the Reason for God by Tim Keller or Reasonable Faith by William Lane Craig, but the problem is a lot of people in our ADHD society struggle to read an entire book cover to cover.  So sometimes it's much easier to point to a video someone can watch.  If they can't even do that much, they weren't really interested in an answer to the question anyway.

So I'd like to reference the following YouTube playlist for viewing, for those who seek evidence for the existence of God.  It contains 12 videos by noted Christian PHDs and philosophers and scientific minds on the evidence for God's existence.   

(feel free to share it)

These are the documentaries/videos contained in the playlist: 

God of Wonders the documentary

The Fine Tuning of the Universe - Reasonable Faith Ministries

The Life of Jesus movie 

The Kalam Cosmological Argument - Reasonable Faith Ministries

The Atheist Delusion movie - Ray Comfort

Evidence for God - William Lane Craig

The Language of God - Dr. Francis Collins

Evolution vs. God - Ray Comfort

Science Confirms the Bible - Ken Ham

Bill Nye debates Ken Ham - Answers in Genesis

The Privileged Planet - The Discovery Institute

Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed - Ben Stein 

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Hope deferred makes the Heart Sick

“I am not a connoisseur of great art, but from time to time a painting or picture will really speak a clear, strong message to me. Some time ago I saw a picture of an old burned-out mountain shack. All that remained was the chimney...the charred debris of what had been that family's sole possession. In front of this destroyed home stood an old grandfather-looking man dressed only in his underclothes with a small boy clutching a pair of patched overalls. It was evident that the child was crying. Beneath the picture were the words which the artist felt the old man was speaking to the boy. They were simple words, yet they presented a profound theology and philosophy of life. Those words were, "Hush child, God ain't dead!"

That vivid picture of that burned-out mountain shack, that old man, the weeping child, and those words "God ain't dead" keep returning to my mind. Instead of it being a reminder of the despair of life, it has come to be a reminder of hope! I need reminders that there is hope in this world. In the midst of all of life's troubles and failures, I need mental pictures to remind me that all is not lost as long as God is alive and in control of His world. “
-James DeLoach, associate pastor of the Second Baptist Church of Houston

How many of you struggled with hopelessness during the last year? How many of you felt burnt out over the last year? How many of you struggled with anxiety or depression in the last year?

A lot of us struggle with these things.

Hope is so incredibly important to our lives. To simply have hope that things can be better is a game-changer. There have been times in my own life where I’ve lost hope. And you just start to give up inside. Have you ever given up inside?

Have you been totally overwhelmed by what’s going on around you? Maybe family drama? Maybe your neighbors are a problem? Drugs, or alcohol, or some addiction? A family member dies? Chronic pain that won’t go away?

Over years those burdens unchanged, we lose hope that things can be better.

But in the turmoil, in the shaky hands, in the tears, crying yourself to sleep, there is one who loves us and speaks to us some simple words:

“Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off.” -Proverb 23:18

Again in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 ESV “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

An unseen God, sees us in our turmoil and pain. And he cares enough to call us out of that darkness.

Psalm 31:24 says, “Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord!”

And again it says in Hebrews 10:23 “Let us hold on firmly to the hope we profess, because we can trust God to keep his promise.”

God is faithful. The promises that God has made to us in his word remain true. They don’t change. They don’t shift or disappear. They are permanent, fixed, and eternal. They await us. Trust in God, as a child trusts a parent. Unconditional, total trust. Cling to the Father God of heavenly lights.

There’s a simple yet profound scripture and it says this, Proverb 13:12, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” In other words, hope delayed, hope in waiting, makes the heart sick.

Many of us here I’m sure have been praying for solutions to problems and healing and salvation for people and ourselves for many years, and many of us I’m sure have become sick in the heart because of “hope deferred.” As our answer is delayed and delayed, our hope begins to fade and our hearts become sick with something called bitterness. Bitterness is when we succumb to discouragement and sorrow, over the decline of hope inside us.

Last week, I was away at a conference in White Cloud, Michigan. I was studying about hope deferred. And I made a list of all the hopes in my life, all the desires of my heart and prayer requests that the Lord has not fulfilled in many years. I made a list about 10 items long. 

They were things that I struggle with every day. Things like losing weight, anxiety, sleep problems, family members getting saved, depression, a friend getting saved, getting married, having a family, and so on and so forth. And I became very angry with the Lord when I looked at the list. I thought to myself, no wonder I sometimes face discouragement in life, the list of hopes deferred is long. And it’s hard to keep waiting on the Lord and hoping in the Lord, when you face the daily grind of life. It’s not easy.

But then the Lord, in his still small voice, quietly guided me to write down the hopes that he had fulfilled in my life so far.

And I began writing… I wrote, I got saved in 2013. Got free from alcohol and drugs in 2012. Free from cigarettes in 2013. Called into the ministry in 2014. Graduated from college in 2016, Got out of consumer debt in 2016, Graduated seminary in 2019. Ordained as an officer and assigned my first church in 2019. Every one of those things I had prayed and prayed for, and God answered those prayers. And I know he will answer my future hopes as well.

God is trustworthy my friends. We can really, really trust God with all our hopes and dreams. But if you’re struggling with discouragement, with regret, with broken dreams, with hopes deferred, with hopes that have been crushed, I want to challenge you, put that stuff down on paper. I got a notebook, over the last week and wrote down page after page of my resentments, regrets, past hurts, and traumas. I wrote it down and shared it all with someone I trust. And it helped to bring a lot of healing forward.

When we lock the pain inside, it manifests as discouragement, hopelessness, pain, anxiety, and depression. But when we write it down, and think about it, and share it with someone else, it’s brought into the light. It’s cleared out. And this makes way for fresh hope, fresh encouragement, and fresh strength from God to take over within us.

Write down some of those hopes deferred in your past. Then write down some of the hopes God has already fulfilled. You’ll be amazed by what god shows you. Then remind yourselves some of the promises from God's word, such as: 

Lamentations 3:24 ESV “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”

Psalm 119:114 ESV "You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word."

Proverbs 13:12 ESV "Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.”

Take some fresh hope in the Lord today. I know the struggle is real. But if you have Jesus as your savior, then God is with you in the struggle. And He is saying to you today that He loves you, and He’s always available to speak to in prayer. He calls you to dig into his word the Bible. He’s calling you to take great hope and strength in Jesus today. And keep fighting the good fight. Process the pain and you’ll find healing and growth.

I pray today, Lord, that you would bless each person reading these words with a fresh anointing of hope in the struggles of life. May they find a new inspiration in life: New goals, new dreams, and new plans to be led by you Lord into a bright future. In Jesus name, amen.

The Latter Years of King David: Victories, Lust, Betrayal, & Hope

"How the mighty have fallen!"

David cried out in tears and bitter pain and sorrow, as he must’ve looked upon the bodies of Saul and his son Jonathan. David composed a great song of regret and sorrow at the loss of these great men, despite the fact that David had been so severely persecuted and hated by Saul.

David begins by ruling from a city called Hebron. Then he slowly gains control of the tribe of Judah’s land. Slowly he is fighting off the remnants of Saul’s forces, led by Abner. But Abner betrayed the false king, a descendant of Saul, turned to help David, but was later killed by one of David's men.

Eventually David won control of the entire nation of Israel. And David’s first act as King was to conquer the city of Jerusalem, which would become the capital of Israel. To this very day, Jerusalem remains the capital of Israel.

From 2nd Samuel chapter 5:6-7,9-10, “The king and his men marched to Jerusalem to attack the Jebusites, who lived there. The Jebusites said to David, “You will not get in here; even the blind and the lame can ward you off.” They thought, “David cannot get in here.” Nevertheless, David captured the fortress of Zion—which is the City of David. David then took up residence in the fortress and called it the City of David. He built up the area around it, from the terraces inward. And he became more and more powerful, because the Lord God Almighty was with him.”

Finally, at last, after all that nonsense, all the trouble! All the chaos! After having to hide in caves, and dodge javelins being thrown at him, and battles and betrayals, finally, David becomes king, as he was meant to be, the leader of the nation of Israel, the leader of God’s special nation.

God’s will is done. And it’s done in our lives. But we have to remind ourselves that it often takes time, and patience, and trusting in God day in and day out, having a rock solid faith that can’t be shaken.

Do you have that faith in your life? Not only on the good days, but when your upset, hurting, struggling, do you simply trust and have a faith in God, that no matter what, no matter how your emotions are right now, God remains with you, and you can trust Him.

We have to walk through the pain. But we can have a solid faith, an anchor in the storm, that keeps us steady, calm, firm, unmovable, brave, bold, courageous.

David has learned so much during his many trials. He’s been kept humble. He knows he must seek the Lord in everything he does. Every decision, big and small must be connected to God.

As soon as David is named King in Zion, the Philistines hear about it, and they are very worried. So they come and prepare for battle against Israel.

It says in 2nd Samuel 5:18-20, 22-25, "Now the Philistines had come and spread out in the Valley of Rephaim; so David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I go and attack the Philistines? Will you deliver them into my hands?”

The Lord answered him, “Go, for I will surely deliver the Philistines into your hands.” So David went to Baal Perazim, and there he defeated them.

Once more the Philistines came up and spread out in the Valley of Rephaim; so David inquired of the Lord, and he answered, “Do not go straight up, but circle around behind them and attack them in front of the poplar trees. As soon as you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the poplar trees, move quickly, because that will mean the Lord has gone out in front of you to strike the Philistine army.” So David did as the Lord commanded him, and he struck down the Philistines…”

So David is victorious in once again driving back and defeating the enemy of Israel.

Next we see David bring the ark of the covenant, which contains the ten commandments given by God, into Jerusalem. And David dances with all his might before the ark as they bring the ark into the city, and it’s an amazingly beautiful scene of David’s political victory, but also his spiritual victory. God has done it all, he is victorious and they celebrate by bringing the ark into the new capital city.

It says in 2nd Samuel chapter 6:16-23 “As the ark of the Lord was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart.

They brought the ark of the Lord and set it in its place inside the tent that David had pitched for it, and David sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings before the Lord. After he had finished sacrificing the burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord Almighty. Then he gave a loaf of bread, a cake of dates and a cake of raisins to each person in the whole crowd of Israelites, both men and women. And all the people went to their homes.

When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, going around half-naked in full view of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!”

David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.” And Michal daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death.”

So we see this great celebration, but Michal David’s wife gets upset and jealous and yells at him a bit here. And then we see Michal is really not blessed as a result. In any case David is king, all is well, their enemies are defeated, and David begins to consider something. In his heart he wants to build a temple for God. And he inquires of the prophet Nathan, who is serving as an advisory to him at this point. And Nathan reports back what God says.

From 2nd Samuel 7:8-16: “Now then, tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: I took you from the pasture, from tending the flock, and appointed you ruler over my people Israel. I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. Now I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men on earth. And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. Wicked people will not oppress them anymore, as they did at the beginning 11 and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders[a] over my people Israel. I will also give you rest from all your enemies.

“‘The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you: When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded by men, with floggings inflicted by human hands. But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me[b]; your throne will be established forever.’”

So David will not be the one to build this temple that God is planning to bring about. But it will be David’s son who does this. Very interesting. And we also see a hinting here toward the one who would come in the future. We see that David’s line will be established forever. And eventually one will come in the line of David who will rule over all the Earth. 2nd Samuel 7 is very important, because God points David forward to see the coming of the messiah who would save the world from their sins, Jesus Christ.

We see in the next few chapters that David continues to have victories against his enemies, and does great things. But then we come to 2nd Samuel chapter 11. Israel is at war during this time with the ammonites. Normally the king would be out leading the army, but instead David sends his military advisory Joab to lead the army.

David stays at the capital, Jerusalem. And it says this, 2nd Samuel 11:2-5 “One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her. (Now she was purifying herself from her monthly uncleanness.) Then she went back home. The woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, “I am pregnant.””

What... Just... Happened!?

Have you ever asked yourself that question? You’re doing great. Life is good. Maybe you start to get a bit complacent, a bit lazy, and then wham, the enemy sends a temptation. And in this case, David fell for the temptation.

He saw this beautiful woman from the roof of the palace. He starts getting all excited. He tries to find out about her. And he finds out she's married. That’s the moment when you say, oops, alright, moving on. But honestly, even before that, David is already married himself! So what is he doing here? If I see a beautiful woman and I want to find out more about her, ok, I’m single, no big deal. But if I find out she's married, game over. Time to move on. But David doesn’t move on. He brings her to the palace, probably impresses her with all his wealth and wisdom, and then takes her to bed.

Then he sends her back home. So he doesn’t try to keep her around. Just sends her out. End of story right? Wrong. She sends him a note, hey, uhm, I’m pregnant. Uh oh. Not so easy to cover up your mistake now is it?

Big problem. What do you do now? Say alright, I sinned, I messed up, come forward about it? That’s what he should do.

But instead he calls for Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband. He brings Uriah in and spends some time with him and tells him to go home. Then he can sleep with his wife, and no one will know the difference when Bathsheba is pregnant. But Uriah is too honorable a guy, he won’t go home, he sleeps on the steps of the palace. So David keeps him another night, gets him drunk this time and tries to send him home to his wife, but again he doesn’t go home. He doesn’t want to spend time with his wife when none of the other soldiers can in the war.

So David tries something else. This is the guy who for so long never made a mistake, right? Crazy isn’t it, how sex and romantic relationships can get us into so much trouble?

So Uriah goes back to the army. And David sends a message to the army commander and says attack the walls, with Uriah, and then pull back while Uriah is fighting. And they obey the orders of King David, and Uriah is killed during the battle.

And it says at the end of 1st Samuel 11:26-27, "When Uriah’s wife heard that her husband was dead, she mourned for him. After the time of mourning was over, David had her brought to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing David had done displeased the Lord.”

Now here is an epic mic drop moment. Nathan goes to visit David, Nathan is the prophet, the sort of “voice of God” to the kings. From 2nd Samuel 12:1-10: "When he came to him, he said, “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, 3 but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.

“Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.”

David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”

Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’”

So David laments and cries out for mercy, and God does forgive him. Nathan tells him that. But he also says, the child is going to die. And you’re going to have lots of struggles in the future because of this.

And indeed, the child shortly after did die. But later Bathsheba became pregnant again, and she gave birth to Solomon, who would one day be the one who would become king of Israel.

David has many other children with his various wives. Why he had more than one escapes me. But it was culturally practiced at this time in history. And we see how destructive it is for him. But in any case, he has other children. And many years go by. And he has this child named Absalom. And Absalom slowly begins to rebel against David’s leadership. He starts to pull people aside and have secret conversations with them, saying he can help them instead of David. And he whispers against David’s leadership and criticizes him, and begins influencing more and more people to believe Absalom should be king of Israel instead of David.

David doesn’t really notice at first. He’s too busy ruling the kingdom. But Absalom after many years has gathered many followers. And they actually raise an army and attempt to overthrow David. The rebellion goes so out of control that David and his leaders have to flee the capital of Jerusalem. But David rallies his forces, and they attack Absalom’s troops. David loves Absalom despite his betrayal and he tries very hard to prevent Absalom from being hurt in the fighting. But never-the-less Absalom is killed in the combat. David reclaims the throne. And Absalom dies. David mourns the death of Absalom bitterly. Despite his betrayal, he loved him deeply.

So David grew old and eventually died. And we’ll see next week how Solomon his son would become an even greater king that David was.

Before we close I want to draw a 3 way comparison. Consider the three prime figures we see here. We saw Saul, who was a king who fell short of what God called him to. We saw David, the king who had a heart like God’s own heart, even though he made serious mistakes, he was victorious. Then we see Absalom, the disenchanted son of David who rebelled against the king.

And I believe we can end up being one of these three people in our lives. We can be the Saul. In the case of Saul, we start off doing well, but we aren’t able to finish. We end up becoming increasingly disobedient to the Lord. We end up being the leader who fails his or her people, by failing God. Don’t be a Saul.

We can also be an Absalom. We’re very intelligent. Very likeable. We’re part of a blessed family. We are a leader. But pride becomes our downfall. We start to rebel against the leaders God has placed over us. We try to make our destiny bigger than it’s supposed to be. Despite having the best intentions, in the end we end up as a rebel who was turned against God. Don’t be an Absalom.

Hopefully each of us can end up being a David. He avoids both the pitfalls of Saul and Absalom. David never rebels outright against Saul. He recognizes that Saul is King, and Saul is a bad king, but never-the-less David recognizes he was put there by God, and he would be sinning by trying to tear him down before the appropriate time which God would make it happen.

David doesn’t rebel. He submits to his leader, over and over, even to have a spear thrown at him numerous times. He was under a corrupt leader, but God let it play out His way, and he didn’t try to force it to happen before it’s time. David also avoided the pitfall of Saul not being able to finish. David did commit some terrible sins, we all do, but the difference between David and Saul is that David was corrected and he listened, and repented in tears and sorrow for what he had done. Saul did not. He refused to repent, and went into worse and worse sins as a result.

We can be the David of our story, the hero, the one after God’s own heart, by refusing to rebel against the authorities over us, even if they are corrupt, and allow God to work it out, and we can be a David by repenting quickly when we sin, and changing our behavior, instead of continuing forward in evil.

Take some time to consider your life, and the journey ahead of you. Avoid the sin of pride, avoid the sin of rebellion, be a humble hero like David, though he made grave mistakes, he came out victorious in the end.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Four Gospel Pictures from the Parables of Jesus

"Kenneth Clark, internationally know for his television series Civilization, lived and died without faith in Jesus Christ. He admitted in his autobiography that while visiting a beautiful church he had what he believed to be an overwhelming religious experience. "My whole being," Clark wrote, "was irradiated by a kind of heavenly joy far more intense than anything I had known before." But the "gloom of grace," as he described it, created a problem. If he allowed himself to be influenced by it, he knew he would have to change, his family might think he had lost his mind, and maybe that intense joy would prove to be an illusion. So he concluded, "I was too deeply embedded in the world to change course."
-Our Daily Bread, February 15, 1994.

Many of us here at dinner church I'm sure have felt the power of God's Spirit in this room, in this wonderful dining room at The Salvation Army Owosso.  We've felt God's presence! We've been swept up into a powerful experience of His love. 

But did we allow that consuming power of God's love reshape our lives?  Did we make a decision to give our whole lives to Jesus Christ the savior of all? That is the question I want you to ask yourself today.  

Often we know God is real. We've experienced Him here. But we don't want our friends and family to think we're crazy.  We don't want to have to change our lives. We don't want to have to become a new person.  But I want to tell you day just how much it's worth it to make that decision, and commit to a whole new way of life.  

So today I want to look at four parables that Jesus taught, that give pictures of what it means to make a decision for Jesus and follow Him. 

First, the parable of The Two Sons - Matthew 21:28-32

“There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’

“‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.

“Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.

“Which of the two did what his father wanted?”

“The first,” they answered."

Our Lord is like a father who calls his sons to work on his property. Anyone here ever worked on a farm? It's kinda like that. God is our father and says go work on my farm.  And as followers of Jesus, either we go and do the work of leading people to Jesus, or we don't.  And it's interesting, it doesn't matter what we say. We can say "oh sure i'll go do that Father!"  But then we don't.  And we can say at one time "no i wont go."  But then later we change our mind and we do it.  And it's so important that we do it. We go live it.  If we don't, then God won't accept us, plain and simple.  And even if we reject God at some point, we can always come again later and agree to go work in his field.  And he accepts us. 

The second parable, the classic Prodigal Son parable - Luke 15:11-32

Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate."

Many of us have gone off in our own direction. Just like the son who spoiled his inheritance. And we're afraid to come back to God, because we're afraid he'll be mad and punish us.  But God is so good, that when he sees us coming home to him, he runs out into the road to welcome him back.

Did anyone in here have a very strict and harsh father? A dad during the time when the parable was spoken would've been very strict. The idea of welcoming home a son who had squandered his inheritance was unthinkable.  But God is like the loving father who celebrates are return to Him and gives us great blessings and restores us as his children. 

The third parable, The Pharisee and The Tax Collector - Luke 18:9-14

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Sometimes when we follow Jesus we can get puffed up and start to look down on others.  We start to think we're better than everyone else.  But Jesus reminds us that this is not so.  The Pharisee prayed to God and bragged about all the good stuff he did.  And God despised that prayer. But the tax collector cried out to God for mercy and forgiveness for sin.  And God loved that prayer.  Coming to Jesus is about throwing ourselves at the mercy of God, and seeking God's forgiveness for our many sins.  

Finally, the parable of  The Ten Virgins - Matthew 25:1-13

“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

“At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’

“Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’

“‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’

“But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.

“Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’

“But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour."

Ten virgins, they basically represent the church. Christians at the time of the end.  And they've walked with Jesus. But as they live day by day, they start to fall asleep, and stop watching for Jesus. They get lazy as Christians.  And as a result, they lose their inheritance in the kingdom.  
Following Jesus is about continuing with Jesus through your whole life.  Continuing to walk with Him and serve Him always.  That's a big commitment.  And that's why we attend church every Sunday, and pray, and read the Bible every day. 

Alright, tune in with me, listen very closely. What exactly must I believe, and what must I do, to make a decision for Jesus Christ?  
You must believe that Jesus Christ is really who He said He was. God come in human form.  You must believe that Jesus died on the cross. And that on the cross Jesus took your punishment, for your sins. And removed your sins from you.  Confess your sins to Him, in your mind, to Him.  How have you sinned? Ask him for forgiveness for the times that you told lies.  Ask him for forgiveness for times that you stole.  Ask him for forgiveness for sexual immorality.  Ask him for forgiveness for times you swore and spoke his name as a curse word.  Ask forgiveness for the times you mistreated others, and the times you didn't keep God first in your heart.  

As you reflect on that in your mind, recognize, these sins mean that you are guilty before God, and will be sent to hell, to a place of darkness and horror when you die.  You stand guilty before God, and the wrath of God is against you. 

But if you will believe that Jesus Christ was crucified to remove those sins from you, then you will be saved.  Jesus Christ went to the cross for you, to take all those sins you just thought about, off of you, and onto himself on the cross. So he died in your place.  Took the penalty you deserved for your sins.  

And we believe that Jesus Christ on the 3rd day rose again, we believe Jesus is alive right now. We serve a living God, not a dead god. 

That is what you must believe.  And what you must do is repent, turn away from all your past sins, those things you were just reflecting on. Commit in Christ to not do those things anymore.  

And now you must follow Jesus the rest of your life, endeavoring to win people around you to Jesus. 

Basically you're committing to put your whole life under the authority of Jesus, and committing to serve Jesus, put your full allegiance to Jesus, today, and always.

So if you're feeling God call you to do that right now, would you pray with me.

Dear Lord Jesus, we consider every time we rejected you God, every time we lied, stole, cheated, misused drugs and alcohol, committed adultery, fornicated, used your name as a curse word, when we failed to keep your first God, and we repent, we turn away from those past sins, and we trust now in our hearts, that Jesus Christ died on the cross to set us free from the penalty for those sins, which is hell. We believe our sins are forgiven in Christ. We have a clean slate.  We receive the Holy Spirit within us, to guide us on our walk with Christ always.  We commit our whole lives to you Jesus.  Amen. 

The Intense Trials of David's Early Life: Victory, Persecution, Battle & Patience

The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you go on grieving over Saul? I have rejected him as king of Israel. But now get some olive oil and go to Bethlehem, to a man named Jesse, because I have chosen one of his sons to be king.” -1st Samuel 16:1-2

“So Jesse sent for him. He was a handsome, healthy young man, and his eyes sparkled. The Lord said to Samuel, “This is the one—anoint him!” 13 Samuel took the olive oil and anointed David in front of his brothers. Immediately the spirit of the Lord took control of David and was with him from that day on.” -1st Samuel 16:12-13

David is anointed king of Israel, even while Saul is still king. Very interesting. So David would be a sort of “king in exile” for quite a while. But the Lord is at work, slowly leading him toward the throne, for years and years.

The life of David is so incredibly important, because it’s a picture for us of the Christian life, the difficulties, the challenges, the growth, the victories and so on. It’s extremely important in the Bible. Study the life of David, and how he lived. 1st and 2nd Samuel are the books where it’s at.

David is viewed as a man after God’s own heart. So David’s heart, his approach to life is how God wants us to approach life. His mindset, his faith, his decisions, his judgments, his mercy, it all points us to how we ought to live as believers in Jesus.

Study the life of David! Read it and reread it. Very, very powerful saga.

David is anointed as king, but he’s still just a young shepherd caring for his flock. But God is at work, setting up divine connections.

King Saul at his palace, is very sad. The spirit of God has left him and it says in the word that a tormenting spirit from God was sent to him. And Saul felt terrible. So he asked his advisors for someone who could come play music for him to calm him down.

18 One of his attendants said, “Jesse of the town of Bethlehem has a son who is a good musician. He is also a brave and handsome man, a good soldier, and an able speaker. The Lord is with him.” -1st Samuel 16:18

So David came and played music for King Saul. And when David played from the harp, Saul would feel at peace again.

Alright, huge moment of Israel’s history. I’m sure we’ve all heard about it. At this time we know Israel was at war with the Philistines. They gathered on opposite sides of Elah Valley in Israel. And yes, the famous warrior, Goliath, the giant, stood on the side of the philistines, mocking the Israelite army for 40 days and nights.

It says in 1st Samuel 17:8-11 8 “Goliath stood and shouted at the Israelites, “What are you doing there, lined up for battle? I am a Philistine, you slaves of Saul! Choose one of your men to fight me. 9 If he wins and kills me, we will be your slaves; but if I win and kill him, you will be our slaves. 10 Here and now I challenge the Israelite army. I dare you to pick someone to fight me!” 11 When Saul and his men heard this, they were terrified.”

Meanwhile David was going back and forth between serving Saul in his court and taking care of the sheep in Bethlehem for his family. David comes to bring supplies for his brothers, and he sees what’s going on with Goliath mocking the Israelite army. And he says he will fight Goliath.

Then it says in 1st Samuel 17:31-51 31 Some men heard what David had said, and they told Saul, who sent for him. 32 David said to Saul, “Your Majesty, no one should be afraid of this Philistine! I will go and fight him.”

33 “No,” answered Saul. “How could you fight him? You're just a boy, and he has been a soldier all his life!”

34 “Your Majesty,” David said, “I take care of my father's sheep. Any time a lion or a bear carries off a lamb, 35 I go after it, attack it, and rescue the lamb. And if the lion or bear turns on me, I grab it by the throat and beat it to death. 36 I have killed lions and bears, and I will do the same to this heathen Philistine, who has defied the army of the living God. 37 The Lord has saved me from lions and bears; he will save me from this Philistine.”

“All right,” Saul answered. “Go, and the Lord be with you.” 38 He gave his own armor to David for him to wear: a bronze helmet, which he put on David's head, and a coat of armor. 39 David strapped Saul's sword over the armor and tried to walk, but he couldn't, because he wasn't used to wearing them. “I can't fight with all this,” he said to Saul. “I'm not used to it.” So he took it all off. 40 He took his shepherd's stick and then picked up five smooth stones from the stream and put them in his bag. With his sling ready, he went out to meet Goliath.

41 The Philistine started walking toward David, with his shield bearer walking in front of him. He kept coming closer, 42 and when he got a good look at David, he was filled with scorn for him because he was just a nice, good-looking boy. 43 He said to David, “What's that stick for? Do you think I'm a dog?” And he called down curses from his god on David. 44 “Come on,” he challenged David, “and I will give your body to the birds and animals to eat.”

45 David answered, “You are coming against me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the Israelite armies, which you have defied. 46 This very day the Lord will put you in my power; I will defeat you and cut off your head. And I will give the bodies of the Philistine soldiers to the birds and animals to eat. Then the whole world will know that Israel has a God, 47 and everyone here will see that the Lord does not need swords or spears to save his people. He is victorious in battle, and he will put all of you in our power.”

48 Goliath started walking toward David again, and David ran quickly toward the Philistine battle line to fight him. 49 He reached into his bag and took out a stone, which he slung at Goliath. It hit him on the forehead and broke his skull, and Goliath fell face downward on the ground. 50 And so, without a sword, David defeated and killed Goliath with a sling and a stone! 51 He ran to him, stood over him, took Goliath's sword out of its sheath, and cut off his head and killed him.”

Theme of this historical account, God speaks to us today saying no matter who is standing against you, in Christ, in faith, we can have the victory, if the Lord is with us.

David becomes extremely famous because of this great victory. He is taken into the family of King Saul. He marries King Saul’s daughter Michal. And Saul’s son Jonathan becomes close friends with David.

These are really the three things that probably everyone in this room really wants: a good job with a great company, in this case David is a leader in Saul’s army. He get’s married. And he even has a best friend. So everything is going really good. He’s coming into the blessed time of his life. But not all is well.

Saul sends David out on many missions to lead his armies against the forces of the philistines. And David is victorious in every mission he’s sent us. And eventually David is extremely famous, because he wins so many victories. The crowds cheer on David. And as King Saul watches all this happening, he becomes increasingly jealous of David. He becomes it says, David’s enemy for the rest of his life.

We should never be jealous when others do well. Instead we should be like Jonathan, cheering on someone who is doing well. It’s a good thing. We should want everyone to have great victories. No jealousy.

So Saul begins to persecute David. The Philistines attack again, but David leads Israel’s army to victory. One evening David is playing the harp for Saul, and Saul is so angry and jealous with David that he picks up his spear and throws it at David, but David dodges it and escapes.

From 1st Samuel 19:1-2 “Saul told his son Jonathan and all his officials that he planned to kill[a] David. But Jonathan was very fond of David, 2 and so he told him, “My father is trying to kill you. Please be careful tomorrow morning; hide in some secret place and stay there.”

So Jonathan is protecting David. David stops in to see his wife Michal, and Saul’s soldiers show up, so Michal helps David escape by lowering him down through a window.

Several different encounters happen during these years of David fleeing from King Saul. But always Jonathan is helping him. He has a truly blessed friend in Jonathan. Have you ever had a friend like that? I don’t think I ever have myself. Hopefully someday I will. And I hope you will too. But maybe the best way to have that friend is to be that friend for someone. Next time you have a friend in need, be there for them. Protect them. Help them. Love them deeply. I dare you!

David flees and encounters prophets of the Lord, at one point. He flees again and begins using Goliath’s old sword as his own, while being assisted by priests of the Lord. Later King Saul has the priests who helped David slaughtered, all of them. In this Saul sinned of course. At one point when Jonathan is arguing with his dad Saul about David, and saying, look David hasn’t even done anything against you why do you hate him so much, Saul throws a spear at his own son! (1st Samuel 20:32-33).

He’s gone crazy with jealousy, with revenge and with hatred for the one he knows will one day replace him. Sometimes, we can also get on the wrong side of a situation. And pretty soon we’re fighting against the people that love us so much. We’re doing evil. But we’re so filled with emotion, with a pride in our own ideas, that we can’t possibly see the other persons perspective. And that happens with Saul here. He’s in the wrong. But he thinks he’s right. And no one can tell him otherwise, because of pride.

That’s why it’s so important to stay humble. Very quickly, with pride, we can find ourselves fighting against that which God has ordained. And we won’t even realize it, because pride is the ultimate blind spot.

So for a while David is fleeing here to there, and eventually he ends up living out in a cave somewhere.

Some might think, God is against David! Look at his situation. But that’s not the case. God is with him 100% in that cave.

It says in 1st Samuel 22:1-2 “David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. When his brothers and his father’s household heard about it, they went down to him there. 2 All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their commander. About four hundred men were with him.”

So David lives in this cave, and basically all the outcasts gather around David. The outcasts, those in debt, discontented, the hurting and so on, and he forms them into little group in the wilderness. About 400 of them. Almost like Robin Hood in the woods, with his band of merry men. David becomes the king of the outcasts. Quite an amazing saga David’s life is, isn’t it?

But many of us in here have similarly insane stories, with twists and turns and crazy events, don’t we?

So God calls on David and his outcast gang to help a city that is under attack by Philistines. David takes him men and drives the Philistines out of the city. But King Saul hears about this and takes his army, and chases after David’s group. So at one point David’s men are running on one side of a mountain, and on the other side Saul’s army is chasing them. But they manage to escape with the Lord’s help.

But then Saul learns where David’s group is hiding. So he goes with 3000 men to locate them. As Saul’s men comb the country side, Saul goes into a cave to use the rest room, it says. Little did Saul know David and his men were hiding deep inside those caves.

David hears someone in the cave. And he sneaks over and sees Saul is in there. And he has the opportunity to kill Saul. But instead, David sneaks right over to Saul and cuts a corner of his robe off. Then David disappears. Later he calls out to Saul and shows him the cut corner of the robe, and Saul is amazed that David spared his life. And Saul leaves the area with his troops, because David spared his life.

What a strange decision right? He has an opportunity to kill Saul while his back is turned. But he refuses to do it. Why? He shows great mercy. And he doesn’t want to kill the one God still has established as king. David is very patient. He’s not willing to steal the throne by stabbing Saul in the back. He’s going to wait for God’s plan to unfold. A very important challenge for us today. Don’t take over and try to force it to happen. Let God’s plan play itself out. And it takes time. A lot of time. Look at all David is going through as he waits on the Lord. It’s terrible. But it’s Gods way. He’s preparing David to be king through all this. A good king, not a bad king. We need the waiting and trials, or the good times would turn us into prideful jerks, sadly.

Despite David’s mercy on Saul, Saul keeps trying to kill him. And a second time, David has the opportunity to kill Saul. At night, David and Abishai sneak into Saul’s camp, and find Saul sleeping.

It says 1st Samuel 26:8-11,”8 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.”

9 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.”

So they don’t do it. But they take the spear and the water jug, so Saul knows that once again David spared his life. They return the spear and water jug. And Saul is amazed. From 1st Samuel 26:21-25 “21 Then Saul said, “I have sinned. Come back, David my son. Because you considered my life precious today, I will not try to harm you again. Surely I have acted like a fool and have been terribly wrong.”

22 “Here is the king’s spear,” David answered. “Let one of your young men come over and get it. 23 The Lord rewards everyone for their righteousness and faithfulness. The Lord delivered you into my hands today, but I would not lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed. 24 As surely as I valued your life today, so may the Lord value my life and deliver me from all trouble.”

25 Then Saul said to David, “May you be blessed, David my son; you will do great things and surely triumph.”

So David went on his way, and Saul returned home.”

In chapters 27 and 28 we see David fleeing and living amongst the Philistines for a while, as Saul continues to try to destroy him. In chapter 28 we see Saul consulting with a witch to try to discover if he can have victory against the Philistines who are once again attacking Israel.

He consults with a witch. What is he doing? He’s completely lost his mind. But obviously this doesn’t go well at all. He tries to conjur the undead spirit of Samuel and he gets rebuked by the spirit that appears that the witch calls us. Just some crazy stuff, black magic kind of stuff.

So the Philistines invade Israel. And Saul is on the run with his army and his sons. From 1st Samuel chapter 31:1-6: “Now the Philistines fought against Israel; the Israelites fled before them, and many fell dead on Mount Gilboa. 2 The Philistines were in hot pursuit of Saul and his sons, and they killed his sons Jonathan, Abinadab and Malki-Shua. 3 The fighting grew fierce around Saul, and when the archers overtook him, they wounded him critically.

4 Saul said to his armor-bearer, “Draw your sword and run me through, or these uncircumcised fellows will come and run me through and abuse me.”

But his armor-bearer was terrified and would not do it; so Saul took his own sword and fell on it.”

And that is how the saga concludes today. King Saul dies, he kills himself at the end, after seeing his sons killed in combat. There would be an ongoing struggle for control of the empire, with some of the left over forces of Sauls army trying to stop David from becoming king, but eventually David would become king of Hebron, then over the region of Judah, and finally over the entire nation of Israel.

Simply astonishing isn’t it? All that David had to go through, to go from being a shepherd boy, watching over his flock, to one day becoming the king of Israel. It was a long and perilous journey for David. And many times he had the opportunity to mess it up and sin, and go his own way. But he didn’t. He was so patient. So sensitive to God’s leading, that he stayed right with God through all of it. And I’m sure it was very painful. But finally, he became king, just as God had called him to be.

In conclusion today, reflect on this in your own life. As a Christian, there are going to be a lot of twists and turns, and battles, and victories and defeats and struggles and persecutions, and people mistreating you. There will be many opportunities to turn back. Horrible things will happen. But God will guide you through all of it. You’ll be in a lot of pain. David wept terribly many times through this journey. He saw himself pursued by his former friend. He saw people who helped him get murdered. Our Christian journey is not going to be the way we want it to be. It’s going to be the way God wants it to be. And it’s best now if we today simply and fully surrender to that reality. It’s not going to go the way I want it to go. It’s going to go the way God wants it to go.

So right now as we transition into our time of response. I want to challenge you today, to talk to God right now, come forward to the altars, or stay at your seat, and surrender to God’s often difficult, wild plan for your life. Let go of your picture of how it’s going to go, and embrace a simple total faith and trust in God, a childlike faith, that God is in charge, I’m not, I let go of control, whatever comes, May God’s will be done.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

The Life of the Prophet Samuel, the coming of King Saul

Last week we talked about the faith of Ruth and Naomi. They lived in the time of the judges, if you recall. And Israel had often been caught in the repeating cycle of sin and repentance. Before that we saw Moses and Aaron lead the Israelites out of Egypt, and Joshua later led them into the promised land. It’s all one, big story.

So this week we see the time of the judges coming to an end. And instead we have God’s speaking and leading the Israelites through a prophet.

But what is a prophet? A prophet is one who hears from God, and then speaks what God says to them to the people of Israel. Even today, in the church we have people with the gift of being a prophet, where they speak things that God tells them. I wonder if anyone here has that gifting? God will reveal it to you, if you do.

You can turn in your Bibles to 1st Samuel, chapter 1.

So this journey, of God’s prophet, who would help guide Israel, began with a woman named Hannah. She was married, but unable to have children. Isn’t it interesting that God works through people who have such difficulties? God likes to work through people who have serious problems. But Hannah goes to the temple, and prays to God, asking for a son. And there is a man there named Eli, who overhears Hannah praying. So Eli said to her, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.”

God then allows Hannah to give birth to a son, and she names him Samuel. She had vowed that if God would give her a son, she would give him over to the service of the Lord. So this blessed child, Samuel, would be raised in the temple, under the care of Eli, and would grow up to be the first great prophet of God.

But during this time it was very rare for anyone to hear a word from the Lord. One night Samuel heard someone call his name. He thought it was Eli so he went to Eli, several times asking him what he wanted. But Eli said he didn’t call him. But the 3rd time Eli realized he was hearing the Lord call his name. So he told Samuel to listen for the Lord.

And God gave Samuel a prophecy about Eli’s family. That his children were corrupt and his house would be cursed. So Samuel, young guy at this point is afraid to tell Eli the prophecy, because it’s obviously not a good word, its judgment. But Eli insists to know. And so Samuel speaks it to him.

Meanwhile during this time Israel was again fighting against the Philistines, an enemy nation. And they are not doing well. So they bring out the ark of the covenant, that contains the ten commandments, the two tablets. And they bring it out with their army, because they’re hoping if they have the ark with them, then they’ll be sure to win the battle. But God is not amused with this. They aren’t obeying God, they’re just trying to use the ark as a tool to win the battle. So they lose the battle, and the philistines end up capturing the ark of the covenant. This is a nightmare really. The enemy has captured this holy ark, where God resided with the people. And it’s gone. The enemy has it.

Eli is so shocked that he falls out of his chair and breaks his neck and dies. Eli had led Israel for 40 years.

So then Samuel takes over as prophet of the Lord. And he calls the people to repentance once again saying, ““If you are returning to the Lord with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.”

And Israel did repent again and turned to the Lord. So the Lord granted Israel victory against the Philistines, and they were driven back and defeated.

Samuel served the Lord faithfully many, many years. But eventually as Samuel grew older in age, he planned for who would replace him.

It says in 1st Samuel 8:1-22, “When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as Israel’s leaders. 2 The name of his firstborn was Joel and the name of his second was Abijah, and they served at Beersheba. 3 But his sons did not follow his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice.

4 So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. 5 They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead[b] us, such as all the other nations have.”

6 But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. 7 And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. 8 As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. 9 Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.”

10 Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. 11 He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. 12 Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. 16 Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle[c] and donkeys he will take for his own use. 17 He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. 18 When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”

19 But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. 20 Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.”

21 When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before the Lord. 22 The Lord answered, “Listen to them and give them a king.”

So the people demand a king to rule over them. And the Lord is not pleased with this. Because they are basically rejecting God as their king and wanting a human ruler. But God allows them to have a king over them. But warns them of what it will mean.

In any case Samuel seeks the Lord and the Lord reveals to him, he will meet the man soon.

1st Samuel 9:15-17 "Now the day before Saul came, the Lord had revealed this to Samuel: “About this time tomorrow I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin. Anoint him ruler over my people Israel; he will deliver them from the hand of the Philistines. I have looked on my people, for their cry has reached me.” When Samuel caught sight of Saul, the Lord said to him, “This is the man I spoke to you about; he will govern my people.”

So Samuel runs into Saul, and reveals to him that he is the chosen one who will become king. There are no coincidences. God ensures that we find ourselves at the right time in the right moment for His will to be done, as long as we are following Him.

1st Samuel 10:1-8 says, "Then Samuel took a flask of olive oil and poured it on Saul’s head and kissed him, saying, “Has not the Lord anointed you ruler over his inheritance?[a] 2 When you leave me today, you will meet two men near Rachel’s tomb, at Zelzah on the border of Benjamin. They will say to you, ‘The donkeys you set out to look for have been found. And now your father has stopped thinking about them and is worried about you. He is asking, “What shall I do about my son?”’

3 “Then you will go on from there until you reach the great tree of Tabor. Three men going up to worship God at Bethel will meet you there. One will be carrying three young goats, another three loaves of bread, and another a skin of wine. 4 They will greet you and offer you two loaves of bread, which you will accept from them.

5 “After that you will go to Gibeah of God, where there is a Philistine outpost. As you approach the town, you will meet a procession of prophets coming down from the high place with lyres, timbrels, pipes and harps being played before them, and they will be prophesying. 6 The Spirit of the Lord will come powerfully upon you, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person. 7 Once these signs are fulfilled, do whatever your hand finds to do, for God is with you.

8 “Go down ahead of me to Gilgal. I will surely come down to you to sacrifice burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, but you must wait seven days until I come to you and tell you what you are to do.”

Then it says this in 1st Samuel chapter 10:9-27: "As Saul turned to leave Samuel, God changed Saul’s heart, and all these signs were fulfilled that day. 10 When he and his servant arrived at Gibeah, a procession of prophets met him; the Spirit of God came powerfully upon him, and he joined in their prophesying. 11 When all those who had formerly known him saw him prophesying with the prophets, they asked each other, “What is this that has happened to the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?”

12 A man who lived there answered, “And who is their father?” So it became a saying: “Is Saul also among the prophets?” 13 After Saul stopped prophesying, he went to the high place.

14 Now Saul’s uncle asked him and his servant, “Where have you been?”

“Looking for the donkeys,” he said. “But when we saw they were not to be found, we went to Samuel.”

15 Saul’s uncle said, “Tell me what Samuel said to you.”

16 Saul replied, “He assured us that the donkeys had been found.” But he did not tell his uncle what Samuel had said about the kingship.

17 Samuel summoned the people of Israel to the Lord at Mizpah 18 and said to them, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I brought Israel up out of Egypt, and I delivered you from the power of Egypt and all the kingdoms that oppressed you.’ 19 But you have now rejected your God, who saves you out of all your disasters and calamities. And you have said, ‘No, appoint a king over us.’ So now present yourselves before the Lord by your tribes and clans.”

20 When Samuel had all Israel come forward by tribes, the tribe of Benjamin was taken by lot. 21 Then he brought forward the tribe of Benjamin, clan by clan, and Matri’s clan was taken. Finally Saul son of Kish was taken. But when they looked for him, he was not to be found. 22 So they inquired further of the Lord, “Has the man come here yet?”

And the Lord said, “Yes, he has hidden himself among the supplies.”

23 They ran and brought him out, and as he stood among the people he was a head taller than any of the others. 24 Samuel said to all the people, “Do you see the man the Lord has chosen? There is no one like him among all the people.”

Then the people shouted, “Long live the king!”

25 Samuel explained to the people the rights and duties of kingship. He wrote them down on a scroll and deposited it before the Lord. Then Samuel dismissed the people to go to their own homes.

26 Saul also went to his home in Gibeah, accompanied by valiant men whose hearts God had touched. 27 But some scoundrels said, “How can this fellow save us?” They despised him and brought him no gifts. But Saul kept silent.”

In chapter 11 we see that Saul leads a battle against the Ammonites, a rival nation who attack Israel and besiege the city of Jabesh. The Lord is with King Saul, and he gathers an army of 330,000 men. Saul breaks them into 3 groups and they attack the ammonites during the night, and they totally defeat them.

So the haters who didn’t want Saul as king are proven wrong. And it says this in 1st Samuel 11:12-15, “The people then said to Samuel, “Who was it that asked, ‘Shall Saul reign over us?’ Turn these men over to us so that we may put them to death.”

13 But Saul said, “No one will be put to death today, for this day the Lord has rescued Israel.”

14 Then Samuel said to the people, “Come, let us go to Gilgal and there renew the kingship.” 15 So all the people went to Gilgal and made Saul king in the presence of the Lord. There they sacrificed fellowship offerings before the Lord, and Saul and all the Israelites held a great celebration.”

In 1st Samuel 12, we see Samuel’s final speech to the Israelites before he retires from being the prophet. He says a great deal to Israel and really calls out Israel for the evil of asking for a king. And how bad that was to do. Because it was really rejecting God and asking for a human ruler. The people confess their sin and ask Samuel to pray for them.

This is how he responded:

“Do not be afraid,” Samuel replied. “You have done all this evil; yet do not turn away from the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. 21 Do not turn away after useless idols. They can do you no good, nor can they rescue you, because they are useless. 22 For the sake of his great name the Lord will not reject his people, because the Lord was pleased to make you his own. 23 As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right. 24 But be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you. 25 Yet if you persist in doing evil, both you and your king will perish.”

The point here, is that even if we mess up, I mean mess up big time. The best thing to do is to turn again to the Lord, with all your heart. That’s key, our whole heart, focus in on God once again. God is pleased to make us his own. That’s the whole point is for God to bring us back to himself. Lots of great advice from Samuel. Fear the Lord. Serve Him faithfully. Think about things he’s done in your life in the past. But there’s also a warning here, verse 25, if you persist in evil, you will perish. Same thing today, if we persist in evil, we’ll get further and further from God, until we lose everything.

So now Saul is King, and he attacks the Philistines once again. He assembles two small forces, one led by him one led by his son Jonathan. And they attack. But this angers the philistines. We aren’t really sure, but it seems like Saul impulsively attacked the philistines with small forces. And then it says, “5 The Philistines assembled to fight Israel, with three thousand[c] chariots, six thousand charioteers, and soldiers as numerous as the sand on the seashore. They went up and camped at Mikmash, east of Beth Aven. 6 When the Israelites saw that their situation was critical and that their army was hard pressed, they hid in caves and thickets, among the rocks, and in pits and cisterns. 7 Some Hebrews even crossed the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead.

Saul remained at Gilgal, and all the troops with him were quaking with fear. 8 He waited seven days, the time set by Samuel; but Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and Saul’s men began to scatter. 9 So he said, “Bring me the burnt offering and the fellowship offerings.” And Saul offered up the burnt offering. 10 Just as he finished making the offering, Samuel arrived, and Saul went out to greet him.

11 “What have you done?” asked Samuel.

Saul replied, “When I saw that the men were scattering, and that you did not come at the set time, and that the Philistines were assembling at Mikmash, 12 I thought, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the Lord’s favor.’ So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering.”

13 “You have done a foolish thing,” Samuel said. “You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. 14 But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.””

So for many years King Saul is constantly at war with the philistines, and it’s bitter and brutal fighting. Finally, they do win a great victory, with the help of his son Jonathan. But Saul disobeys God again, when God said to destroy the Amalekites and their king, and don’t take any of their produce or cattle or sheep, instead Saul did the opposite, sparing their king and taking their produce and cattle for his troops. So again, Samuel comes and rebukes Saul. And Saul is very upset and argues with Samuel.

Samuel goes before the Lord, and the Lord says that he regrets having put Saul as king, and indicates that another will have to replace Saul as king eventually.

This is an important reminder that we ought to always obey God. If he’s calling us to do something, or lead something, or be part of something, we ought to simply obey God. The worst place to be is outside God’s will for your life and the best place in the universe to be is at the center of God’s will for your life. I know this from experience.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Spiritual Journey: The Journey Home

A quote from business insider newspaper, “At approximately 9:28 a.m. on September 11, 2001, United Flight 93 was hijacked by four al Qaeda terrorists. After the terrorists had stabbed the pilot and a flight attendant, the passengers were told that a bomb was onboard and the plane was heading back to the airport.

But this was after two planes had already hit the World Trade Center, and the passengers on United 93 — huddled in the back of the plane — were beginning to find out what the real plan was. Beginning at 9:30 a.m., several passengers made phone calls to their loved ones.

"Tom, they are hijacking planes all up and down the east coast," Deena Burnett told her husband Tom, a passenger on United 93, in a cell phone call at 9:34 a.m. "They are taking them and hitting designated targets. They've already hit both towers of the World Trade Center." In another phone call, Tom learned from his wife that another plane had hit the Pentagon.

"We have to do something," Burnett told his wife at 9:45 a.m. "I'm putting a plan together." Other passengers, including Mark Bingham, Jeremy Glick, and Todd Beamer, were learning similar details in their own phone calls, as the plane was barreling towards Washington, DC.

The passengers voted on whether to fight back against the hijackers. Led by the four man group, the passengers then rushed the cockpit, with Beamer rallying them in his last words: "You ready? Okay, let's roll."”

So, a pastor and a homosexual man united a group of passengers to retake the plane. Interesting isn’t it? When we stop fighting each other, and unite together, we can do great things. All 44 passengers lost their lives that day. That was the end of their journey. But they did something special by stopping a terrorist hijacked plane that was headed for the united states capitol.

And today, we’re talking about the end of the journey. We’ve gone through our spiritual journey series, and eventually, yes, the journey does come to an end, at least, in this world.

The heroes journey which we’ve been examining breaks the journey into three parts, departure, initiation, and return. Today we go through the various subjects of the 3rd part, the return.

We’ve gone through the road of trials, the union with the lover, the temptation, atonement with the father, apotheosis, and the ultimate blessing. Now, the return home from the journey.

Refusal of the Return – we don’t want to return to our old life or our old ways. We embrace the new calling, as part of the body of Christ, in the army of God. We never return to the old ways.

Rescue from Without – We continue to face our battles in the Christian life, and more and more we continue to realize God swoops in and rescues us, time and again, to do in us what we can’t do ourselves.

The Magic Flight – Time and again we find ourselves in the magic flight, under attack and in persecution as Christians, and time and again, God delivers us on the magic carpet, the flight at night, among the stars, and we rest, realizing God is doing it in us,.

Master of the Two Worlds – We come to the point where we’ve mastered both worlds. You might call this “entire sanctification” we come to the point where we truly have come to understand the spiritual realm. And we’ve learned to apply the spiritual truths of the Bible to the real world. So our life in this world is fully transformed. Thus we are master of two worlds, the spiritual realm in prayer and time with God, and the physical world, how we live as Christians in this gritty real world.

Freedom to Live – Then we come to the Freedom to live. Having come to master the two worlds, we have the knowledge we need, so we learn to share the message of Christ with the world. We share with people we mentor, we share it with strangers and friends, and we become teachers, when we used to be only learners. Now we are teachers of the truth.

Crossing of the Return Threshold – Eventually, as we grow old, we come to the end of the journey, and we die. We pass on to the next world. That is the true conclusion of the journey.

Ecclesiastes 12:1-7 (ERV)12 Remember your Creator while you are young, before the bad times come—before the years come when you say, “I have wasted my life.” 2 Remember your Creator while you are young, before the time comes when the sun and the moon and the stars become dark to you—before problems come again and again like one storm after another.

3 At that time your arms will lose their strength. Your legs will become weak and bent. Your teeth will fall out, and you will not be able to chew your food. Your eyes will not see clearly. 4 You will become hard of hearing. You will not hear the noise in the streets. Even the stone grinding your grain will seem quiet to you. You will not be able to hear the women singing. But even the sound of a bird singing will wake you early in the morning because you will not be able to sleep.

5 You will be afraid of high places. You will be afraid of tripping over every small thing in your path. Your hair will become white like the flowers on an almond tree. You will drag yourself along like a grasshopper when you walk. You will lose your desire,[b] and then you will go to your eternal home. The mourners will gather in the streets as they carry your body to the grave.

Remember your Creator while you are young, before the silver rope snaps and the golden bowl is crushed like a jar broken at the well, like a stone cover on a well that breaks and falls in. Your body came from the earth. And when you die, it will return to the earth. But your spirit came from God, and when you die, it will return to him.