Sunday, March 26, 2023

David spares Saul's Life a Second Time

Do you ever feel in your life like you’ve been tested in this area already? I know I’ve felt that way. Lord I went through this test already. I’ve given you my problems. I’ve given you my sins. But God says, I will test you again, and your faith will be proven.

David went from being a shepherd boy, alone with his sheep, trusted with only a little bit, and he showed himself faithful. His life shot into a new time after his courageous victory over Goliath. We saw him become a leader in Saul’s army. He won great victories. But then we saw Saul become jealous of David, and he even tried to kill him. David went on the run then, all by himself. But as he hid in the caves over the months many gathered around him, until he had 600 men around him. God was with him. And David spared Saul’s life in the cave, when he could’ve killed him.

Yet David will be tested again. It's the same with us today. We're tested once, then again. And we think to ourselves, "again Lord? Not again, can it be? I gave you my sin. I gave my struggles. I gave you my nightmares." But God says you’ve given me your struggles, your difficulties, you’ve sent away Hagar, but I want your heart, the things you love, you things you enjoy.

We gave him our sins. Now he wants our heart. He wants to take away the bad, yes, but he wants us to give up our hopes and our dreams to Him. Abraham gave up Hagar, and he must’ve thought this is enough, I’ve sent her and Ishmael away. But God says what about the apple of your eye, what about what you love? What about Isaac? Would you be willing to even give him up, for me?

David has already spared Saul’s life once, in a situation where he is running. Now there is a new situation, but the same life is in his hands, what will he do?

It says in verses 1-4, “Now some men from Ziph came to Saul at Gibeah to tell him, “David is hiding on the hill of Hakilah, which overlooks Jeshimon.”

2 So Saul took 3,000 of Israel’s elite troops and went to hunt him down in the wilderness of Ziph. 3 Saul camped along the road beside the hill of Hakilah, near Jeshimon, where David was hiding. When David learned that Saul had come after him into the wilderness, 4 he sent out spies to verify the report of Saul’s arrival.”

So many times now, Saul changes his mind. He realizes David isn’t his enemy. Alright David is my lovely friend again. Then he gets jealous again and throws a spear at him. Then David spares his life in the cave and he leaves him in peace and says we’re ok now. Then he changes his mind again and comes after him again.

First point today, stick to your decision. If you’ve chosen God’s way, stick to that decision. Don’t be double minded, constantly floating between two opinions. I had a friend like that, close friend, he could never up his mind, he would always float between two decisions. If you’ve come to God, you make a faith commitment. You keep that faith. You stick to your guns, you stick to your decision, even when it’s hard. That’s a fact of character.

And if you don’t, you’ll find in everything in life you’ll start to wobble. We don’t want to be wobbly people. We want to stand firm in Christ.

David had sent spies to view Saul’s camp. But now David himself goes with two of his closest friends.

It says in verses 5-8: David slipped over to Saul’s camp one night to look around. Saul and Abner son of Ner, the commander of his army, were sleeping inside a ring formed by the slumbering warriors. 6 “Who will volunteer to go in there with me?” David asked Ahimelech the Hittite and Abishai son of Zeruiah, Joab’s brother.

“I’ll go with you,” Abishai replied. 7 So David and Abishai went right into Saul’s camp and found him asleep, with his spear stuck in the ground beside his head. Abner and the soldiers were lying asleep around him.

“God has surely handed your enemy over to you this time!” Abishai whispered to David. “Let me pin him to the ground with one thrust of the spear; I won’t need to strike twice!”

Once again, the life of Saul is in the hands of David. They are in a deep sleep, and David can do as he pleases. What will he do?

Second point today, God will put you in a situation where you have a difficult choice to make. I’ve found that time and again in my life. Many things are not easy for a Christian. God tests and refines our hearts. That’s what I want you to see today: God is looking at the heart again and again. We can adjust the course of our heart toward good or evil by our choices. Our choices determine the course of our heart. But, only God can transform a heart. Only God can turn a heart of stone to flesh. Once our heart is flesh, we must then guard our heart (Proverb 4:23). 

Last time David stumbled upon Saul by accident in the cave. This time David goes to Saul and finds him. He could kill him right there. But the Holy Spirit is moving in David’s heart.

In verses 9-12: “No!” David said. “Don’t kill him. For who can remain innocent after attacking the Lord’s anointed one? 10 Surely the Lord will strike Saul down someday, or he will die of old age or in battle. 11 The Lord forbid that I should kill the one he has anointed! But take his spear and that jug of water beside his head, and then let’s get out of here!”

12 So David took the spear and jug of water that were near Saul’s head. Then he and Abishai got away without anyone seeing them or even waking up, because the Lord had put Saul’s men into a deep sleep.”

God has saved me from many temptations over the years. They simply don’t come. I’m sure that’s true for you as well. He’s protected you from temptations that would’ve destroyed you. From a man, a woman, a drug, a job, a toxic friendship, a food, a car, but, he will also bring a particular temptation in front of us, to test us, as well. God keeps Saul’s men asleep. Yes, to help David. But also to allow for this moment to play out.

David’s heart is again proven to be a godly heart, a man after God’s own heart.

Should I try to harm the one who is against me? No, certainly not. Should I speak up boldly about the truth? Yes, I certainly should. But who am I to harm the Lord’s anointed one? God has placed Saul in that position at that time. And eventually, Saul would fall, but David would again let God do that. It’s not his choice to make.

That’s our third point, let God orchestrate events in your life. Don’t take control. Let go of control.

But do your part. That’s the serenity prayer. Surrender to God what belongs to God, do your part in what you can change, and seek wisdom from God to know the difference between the two.

Let go of control. Let go, and let God. Stop trying to manipulate events and let God run your life. Surrender it to God.

Let’s see what happens next: (verses 13-20)

David climbed the hill opposite the camp until he was at a safe distance. 14 Then he shouted down to the soldiers and to Abner son of Ner, “Wake up, Abner!”

“Who is it?” Abner demanded.

15 “Well, Abner, you’re a great man, aren’t you?” David taunted. “Where in all Israel is there anyone as mighty? So why haven’t you guarded your master the king when someone came to kill him? 16 This isn’t good at all! I swear by the Lord that you and your men deserve to die, because you failed to protect your master, the Lord’s anointed! Look around! Where are the king’s spear and the jug of water that were beside his head?”

17 Saul recognized David’s voice and called out, “Is that you, my son David?”

Point number 4, show the proof. Take the evidence. If you’re going to do the right thing, also make sure you have the evidence that you did the right thing. Then no one can say it didn’t happen. David takes Saul’s spear and water jug. Disarms him. But doesn’t harm him. David could climb back up the hill and say I spared your life Saul, but if he didn't have proof, Saul could say, "you're lying!" So David takes the spear and the bottle of water as proof. Keep that principle in mind.

And David replied, “Yes, my lord the king. 18 Why are you chasing me? What have I done? What is my crime? 19 But now let my lord the king listen to his servant. If the Lord has stirred you up against me, then let him accept my offering. But if this is simply a human scheme, then may those involved be cursed by the Lord. For they have driven me from my home, so I can no longer live among the Lord’s people, and they have said, ‘Go, worship pagan gods.’ 20 Must I die on foreign soil, far from the presence of the Lord? Why has the king of Israel come out to search for a single flea? Why does he hunt me down like a partridge on the mountains?”

David calls out King Saul on his poor actions. 

Point number five, rebuke and correct one another. Call each other out. Correct each other in a loving way. We need to do that. Gently, with love, in the right spirit, bur do be bold in correcting each other. We all need that. We need someone to speak into our lives the truth when we are wrong.

And we must be willing to listen to that voice. Let me repeat that, we must be willing to listen. And realize in the moment it’s going to hurt. But when they speak directly to you, correcting you, your response should be to be impressed. Wow, that took guts to do, thank you. Thank you for that. I’m going to think about that. Don’t get angry and storm out. That’s a foolish attitude. Instead listen, and realize the love it took for them to do that. That’s a true friend, to call you out lovingly when you’re wrong.

David does that again for Saul, second time now, he calls him out.

Sau’s response is this, verse 21: Then Saul confessed, “I have sinned. Come back home, my son, and I will no longer try to harm you, for you valued my life today. I have been a fool and very, very wrong.”

Point six, just because you’ve made things right, doesn’t mean you need to move back in. Just because you’ve corrected someone, an ex-lover or friend, doesn’t meant you need to renew the friendship or get back together. David understands that. Saul probably isn’t going to change. Saul invites him back. But David has wisdom he knows Saul will probably change his mind again and try to kill him again later.

The whole incident ends like this, verses 22-25:

“Here is your spear, O king,” David replied. “Let one of your young men come over and get it. 23 The Lord gives his own reward for doing good and for being loyal, and I refused to kill you even when the Lord placed you in my power, for you are the Lord’s anointed one. 24 Now may the Lord value my life, even as I have valued yours today. May he rescue me from all my troubles.”

And Saul said to David, “Blessings on you, my son David. You will do many heroic deeds, and you will surely succeed.” Then David went away, and Saul returned home.”

Saul again makes nice with David. David knows it most likely won’t last.

But David is ultimately talking to God in this last conversation here. He says, “May the Lord rescue me from my troubles.” 

Point number 7, if we honor God he will protect us. And I think that’s biblical, to say, that when we honor God with our choices, when we serve Him, and when we care for the needs of the poor, he then helps us when we are in trouble. It’s not a give and take sort of thing. We are under grace. But, wise choices, submission to God, is going to lead to God protecting us in times of trouble. Similarly, if we don’t really follow God, and then get into trouble, then ask "God please get me outa this mess and I won’t do it again," it’s not likely that God will answer that prayer. Though maybe he will.

So in conclusion today, let’s review. Our main points, and the key is, how do we put them into action in our lives. That’s the real test. Anyone can sit here and listen, the hard part is applying it.

Main Points: 

1. Stick to your decision (to serve God)

2. God will lead you toward difficult choices (test you)

3. Let God control your life (let go and let God lead)

4. Show the evidence (disarm but don’t harm)

5. Correct each other with loving truth (rebuke your neighbor)

6. Don’t move back into a bad situation (set boundaries after forgiveness)

7. If we honor God, he protects us (protection in times of trouble)

King Jesus Christ the Lord of the Sabbath

My girlfriend and I went to the dog groomer yesterday, we took her dog Sam in. He was not at all happy when he realized where we were taking him. Sam does not like the groomer, because of the loud noises, and the strange environment. So Sam was shaking as the groomer worked. Sam was uncertain, afraid, but as it went on, the cleaning, the trimming, the washing, the drying, Sam kept his eyes on Chelsey. And when he did that he seemed to calm down just a little bit.

And I thought to myself, we need to learn from that example. As we face problems, stress, difficulties, depression, we should turn our eyes to Jesus our master.  If we do we will find success and relief, and peace, even joy, as we go through the grooming process of God, as he molds us like clay into vessels shaped into the image of Christ.

Last week we saw Jesus the Christ functioning as the Great Physician, miraculously healing those who had been living with debilitating diseases. This was shocking, as Jesus was doing something openly that was in the natural, completely impossible. 

People take notice and the growth of the Jesus movement blows up. No one in human history, has ever been able to heal someone just by touching them. People in Israel begin to realize Jesus is something special in the history of the universe. And they want to know more. We should still want to know more today. Who was this Jesus? Why did he do what he did?

Let’s go boatside as the next steps take place, recorded in Mark’s gospel, in verses 13-14:

“Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.”

Tax collectors were Jews who were working for the enemies of Israel. Israel had been conquered by Rome. And Rome recruited Jews to work for them, and they’d pay them well, and often the tax collectors would also take extra in taxes for themselves.

Tax collectors were hated. They were seen as traitors working for a foreign government. Like if you found out your neighbor was an informer for the nation of Iran, or the communist republic of China, or the Russian federation.

But Jesus again and again cut right threw those dividing lines in society. It would be like if you were with Jesus, and you saw him walk into a drug house or a bar, and call a drug dealer or a bartender to follow him.

I’m sure his disciples were shocked to see Levi joining them. But then again, Jesus had already called Mary Magdalene who had been a working woman, a prostitute.

But that’s how it is with following messiah Jesus. He doesn’t see those distinctions. He sees the heart. He sees that Levi is ready, broken, miserable, and he’s reached a point in his heart, where he is ready to give his entire life to serving the kingdom of God.

Jesus met each of us at that point in our lives. It was the point when we were finally ready to start following Him. Not everyone is at that point. Which is why when we talk to people, and invite people to church, often they aren’t ready yet. But hopefully we can be a link on that chain, as others witness to them, and pray for them. Then one day, God willing, they will reach that point when they can give it all over to Jesus Christ.

Levi is called to new service, after serving Rome all those years, now he will finally serve God. You are called to serve God too.

Later we see Jesus eating a meal with sinners. It says this in verses 15-17:

“While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

For Levi (aka Matthew) now is the time. Now is the time for hope. Now is the time to do the work of ministry. The same is true for Jesus. He’s waited his whole life for this moment.

Now is the time, and Jesus is hard at work, sitting and eating and talking with sinners. He’s with the worst of the worst. That should be our philosophy as well as Christians, I should be connecting with and befriending those that society has neglected. I should be talking with people who can give me nothing in return. I should be talking with people who are considered to be less than important. 

We’re cautious about that. We don’t put ourselves in dangerous or compromising situations. We guard against falling into sin ourselves. But Jesus called people who were broken, burned out, and lost in sin. He found them where they were. He changed them and they followed Him.

We do the same. And we see people’s lives change as a result, as we tell them about Jesus, bring them to church, read the Bible with them, and help them along in their journey with Christ.

If they aren’t ready yet. We make the offer. Maybe they go the other direction. That’s ok. We did our part. We keep spreading the message to new people. Maybe they will come around later when they’re ready. Maybe not. We will see.

So you have Jesus Christ traveling around with his disciples, eating and drinking with sinners and tax collectors. You also have John the Baptist in the wilderness, calling people to repentance from their sins. Then you have the Pharisees and the Sadducees, enforcing the old testament law of Moses, trying to make sure Israel honors God through the law.

Fasting was a common spiritual practice. Many practiced it. John's disciples fasted. The Pharisees and Sadducees fasted. So Jesus encounters a question from the Pharisees. It says in verse 18-20:

“Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came and asked Jesus, “How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?”

Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast.”

Again, Jesus says, now is the time. A new day has come.

I believe, in 2020, a change took place in the world. I believe the world is beginning to slowly come apart, as we move toward the end times, but I believe that this collapse will coincide with a great awakening, a great revival, where millions and millions will turn to Christ.

Now is the time. Not later, now. It's the same with Jesus in this situation. Can his disciples fast, not eat, cover themselves in ashes, while Jesus is still with them? Certainly not. They are celebrating, they are excited, they are at work. But Jesus says later, after he departs, then they will fast. Which is why we fast today, in the body of Christ. Jesus is not physically with us. The Holy Spirit is with us. But Jesus will come again. Until that time, we fast, we pray, we work.

Now is the time to evangelize. If you feel the Holy Spirit convicting you to go tell someone Jesus loves you, then go do it now. Now, not later. And if we know the good we’re supposed to do and we refuse to do it, that is sin to us. Fear God, take a deep breath, and go share the gospel with love with that person. Now is the time.

Mark includes one of Jesus’ gospels next, it says: (verses 21-22)

“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. Otherwise, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.”

I don’t want to get too deep into the parable at this point. Suffice to say, Jesus is the new cloth, the new wine, the new way, the true way, and can’t be forced into old patterns or mindsets.

We have a new way before us. The world has changed. And we need to embrace a new pattern. A new level of interaction. New spiritual gifts. New power. God is moving. It’s not like the old ways, we’re entering a new season. Every season is different. We have to be ready for what God is doing. 

Pray and ask God to equip you with every spiritual gift and all the spiritual power you need for this new season. 

First was the calling of Levi and the meal after, second, the question about fasting, and third, the incident in the grainfields.

In verses 23- 28: One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”

He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.”

Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

The disciples are walking through grain fields. A common practice according to the Old Testament law, was for farmers to leave some of their crop left over for the poor. Kind of like having a food pantry. You set aside some for people in need. And Jesus’ disciples are plucking heads of grain and eating them, in accordance with this practice. 

The Pharisees see this and they are shocked. The Pharisees were very strict about sabbath observance. On Saturdays you did no work. That’s still true today for orthodox Jews, if you meet them. They will not do any work on Saturdays. They will even set elevators to stop automatically at each floor on the sabbath. Why? Because pushing the button would be work.

But Jesus says that isn’t the right way. The sabbath was given by God for man to enjoy restful fellowship with God. The disciples are practicing proper sabbath, they are spending time with God, with Jesus Christ himself. But the Pharisees rebuke them.

Jesus reminds them of David and the priest who gave David the bread of the presence, even though it wasn’t normally bread you’d give to just anyone. And Jesus concludes by saying, the Son of Man is Lord of the sabbath as well.

Today, for our final point, we are called to serve the King of the sabbath, the king of this city, the king of this country, the king of the universe, and he is Lord of all. He does call us to sabbath rest. Yet he is also Lord even of the sabbath. So we should rest on the sabbath. But that rest is a gift, not a burden. 

We are called now to serve a King who has authority over us. Total authority. And he’s given us all we need for life and godliness from his riches of power and authority. God has gifted us with everything we need to live the Christian life successfully. He is Lord. Over everything. And we’re His. That means we just need to be bold, faithful, and loving, and we’re going to have victory. And Jesus is going to find us to be a grain field, a harvest of righteousness, bringing many people to glory with us. That is our goal.

Jesu is at work in Mark 2, and people are getting saved, people are changing, lives are changing, and he is asserting total authority in his teaching. And people either come into alignment with the authority of Christ, or they fight against him. Let's be people today who come into total alignment with the purposes of God. 

No in-between! Let's strive for total commitment, total submission, total alignment. Entire sanctification. Complete transformation. Crucified with Christ. Born again. New man. New woman. Completely yielded to King Jesus Christ, the undisputed leader and representative of humanity, now and always. Make that your goal in life. Total submission, complete love, all in, on fire for Christ! Imagine what you’ll accomplish in Jesus name!

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Abigail calms the wrath of David

In chapter 25 of 1st Samuel we see several turning points in the life of David. Many years ago David had been a young shepherd boy when he met a prophet of Israel named Samuel. But the story is about to shift radically.

It says in 1st Samuel 25:1: “Now Samuel died, and all Israel assembled and mourned for him; and they buried him at his home in Ramah. Then David moved down into the Desert of Paran.”

The prophet of God has now died. And David moves his men into the desert.

Samuel never saw David take the throne. He waited all those years, watching Saul squander everything. But Samuel believed. Even though he never saw it happen. He knew David would be king. I’m sure David mourned the loss, I wonder if he even attended the funeral in secret, watching with tearful eyes as they entombed Samuel the prophet of God.

David headed off into the desert I’m sure with a heavy heart mourning the loss, but the next phase of his journey was about to begin.

That's our first point for today: Be aware of turning points in your life. I've noticed this about God, he will give nudges that a turning point is near. A big shift happens, and the journey changes from one stage to the next. It's almost like leveling up in an RPG video game, your traits are adjusted, you've gained new skills, and you move forward to a new spiritual region. 

Next, we’re going to see an incident that occurs between David and a man named Nabal.

The scriptures say, 1st Samuel 25:2-3, “2 A certain man in Maon, who had property there at Carmel, was very wealthy. He had a thousand goats and three thousand sheep, which he was shearing in Carmel. 3 His name was Nabal and his wife’s name was Abigail. She was an intelligent and beautiful woman, but her husband was surly and mean in his dealings—he was a Calebite.”

Nabal and Abigail, Nabal is a mean guy, negative, harsh. We’ve all known men like that, gruff, intense, loud, sharp, mean-spirited, and just want to yell at you. But he’s married to this beautiful, intelligent woman named Abigail.

Nabal means “fool” it could’ve been a nickname, though perhaps by a twist a fate it was his actual given name. But he seems to fit the name well. He’s stubborn and doesn’t listen, as we’ll see in a moment.

David has been a help to Nabal in the past, it says in verse 4-6, “While David was in the wilderness, he heard that Nabal was shearing sheep. So he sent ten young men and said to them, “Go up to Nabal at Carmel and greet him in my name. Say to him: ‘Long life to you! Good health to you and your household! And good health to all that is yours!”

David orders his men to be very polite and respectful to Nabal in seeking his help. He sends messengers to connect with Nabal, to start things off on the right foot.

The message continues, verse 7-9: "Now I hear that it is sheep-shearing time. When your shepherds were with us, we did not mistreat them, and the whole time they were at Carmel nothing of theirs was missing. 8 Ask your own servants and they will tell you. Therefore be favorable toward my men, since we come at a festive time. Please give your servants and your son David whatever you can find for them.’” When David’s men arrived, they gave Nabal this message in David’s name. Then they waited.”

So David is looking for some supplies, some provisions, food, clothing, water, whatever Nabal can spare.

Let’s see Nabal’s response, verses 10-11:

Nabal answered David’s servants, “Who is this David? Who is this son of Jesse? Many servants are breaking away from their masters these days. Why should I take my bread and water, and the meat I have slaughtered for my shearers, and give it to men coming from who knows where?”

Nabal’s response is harsh, rude, he says, "who are you? I don’t know who you are. Many people are rebelling against their masters today, and why should I give my food and drink to random people anyway?" A very worldly response. I’m not helping anyone, what’s mine is mine and that’s all. If Nabal was wise, he would know, this is the coming king of Israel, if I help him, he will show me favor in the future. But Nabal is a fool, so he makes some smart remarks. He insults David and his men, and sends them away with nothing.

Let’s see what happened next. Verses 12-13, “David’s men turned around and went back. When they arrived, they reported every word. David said to his men, “Each of you strap on your sword!” So they did, and David strapped his on as well. About four hundred men went up with David, while two hundred stayed with the supplies.”

So here we see David is angry with Nabal’s response. He gathers his men, 400 of the 600, weapons ready, to go and deal with Nabal.

Our second point today is this: Watch your words carefully. Watch your tone of voice, in your dealings with people. You can make enemies very quickly by what you say. And by how you say it. Check your harsh words. Wait a minute before you speak. Be cautious how you speak. Your words have power. And be careful what you post on social media. Make sure it’s edifying, valuable, holy, good. Because your words can often come back to bite you, just like in this situation. 

Time and again in the book of Proverbs, it talks about watching your words, using wise words, and giving a timely word. Remember that our words have power. Use your voice wisely. 

Meanwhile the employees of Nabal saw how he mistreated David’s men. It says in verse 14-17: “One of the servants told Abigail, Nabal’s wife, “David sent messengers from the wilderness to give our master his greetings, but he hurled insults at them. Yet these men were very good to us. They did not mistreat us, and the whole time we were out in the fields near them nothing was missing. Night and day they were a wall around us the whole time we were herding our sheep near them. Now think it over and see what you can do, because disaster is hanging over our master and his whole household. He is such a wicked man that no one can talk to him.”

David’s men had apparently been protecting the flocks and employees of Nabal when they were in his region. And they never stole anything, or took anything for themselves. But Nabal has insulted David. And the servant can tell something bad is coming.

Have you ever been in a situation where you can sense that something is wrong? Fire is burning. Get out of the building. And you must act quickly! Critical moments are taking place. It’s moving fast. And we’ve got to act. I've had times like that in my life, I knew, I need to act quickly. 

Disaster is hanging over their heads. Let’s see what Abigail does next in verses 18-19:

“Abigail acted quickly. She took two hundred loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five dressed sheep, five seahs of roasted grain, a hundred cakes of raisins and two hundred cakes of pressed figs, and loaded them on donkeys. Then she told her servants, “Go on ahead; I’ll follow you.” But she did not tell her husband Nabal.”

Abigail springs into action. She’s going to somehow make things right with David and his men. She must know they’ll certainly be coming soon. So she heads in their direction on a donkey. She doesn’t come empty handed though, she brings huge amounts of food and drink. She’s coming with gifts. She’s a wise, godly, beautiful woman who is going to somehow make this right. I’m sure this isn’t the first time she’s had to deal with blowback from Nabal’s foolish behavior.

That’s our third point today, know when you need to spring into action. Take the required action. Step up in faith. And do so with wisdom. If you’ve got to settle a dispute, bring a gift along with you. It can help cool off the raging anger of those you’re trying to reach.

Same with us today, if we’re in sin, if we’ve wronged someone, we must spring into action, in Spirit and in truth, to turn away the wrath, to seek forgiveness and to find right standing once again. Abigail goes to work to make this right. 

Sometimes God will tell us to "Stand still" and watch as He works. Other times he'll tell us "get up and go" and get to work. That's why we have to be wise and discern what God is saying to do in our situation. Sometimes it's "stand still" other times it's "go and take action." 

Abigail heads out. In verses 20-30:

As she came riding her donkey into a mountain ravine, there were David and his men descending toward her, and she met them. David had just said, “It’s been useless—all my watching over this fellow’s property in the wilderness so that nothing of his was missing. He has paid me back evil for good. May God deal with David, be it ever so severely, if by morning I leave alive one male of all who belong to him!”

When Abigail saw David, she quickly got off her donkey and bowed down before David with her face to the ground. She fell at his feet and said: “Pardon your servant, my lord, and let me speak to you; hear what your servant has to say. Please pay no attention, my lord, to that wicked man Nabal. He is just like his name—his name means Fool, and folly goes with him. And as for me, your servant, I did not see the men my lord sent. And now, my lord, as surely as the Lord your God lives and as you live, since the Lord has kept you from bloodshed and from avenging yourself with your own hands, may your enemies and all who are intent on harming my lord be like Nabal. And let this gift, which your servant has brought to my lord, be given to the men who follow you.

“Please forgive your servant’s presumption. The Lord your God will certainly make a lasting dynasty for my lord, because you fight the Lord’s battles, and no wrongdoing will be found in you as long as you live. Even though someone is pursuing you to take your life, the life of my lord will be bound securely in the bundle of the living by the Lord your God, but the lives of your enemies he will hurl away as from the pocket of a sling. When the Lord has fulfilled for my lord every good thing he promised concerning him and has appointed him ruler over Israel, 31 my lord will not have on his conscience the staggering burden of needless bloodshed or of having avenged himself. And when the Lord your God has brought my lord success, remember your servant.”

Abigail’s gracious and humble words turn back David’s wrath. Abigail speaks truth, speaks life over David. She says what Nabal should’ve said. Her words are matched by the food and drink she brings as well. She humbly asks for mercy from David and his men.

Fourth point today, speak gracious words. Be humble. And you’ll find success. If you’re prideful or harsh, obviously it’s not going to turn out like this. But if you humble yourself, speak gracious words, and speak life, you’ll find reconciliation.

How does David respond? In verse 32-35 it says:

David said to Abigail, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, who has sent you today to meet me. May you be blessed for your good judgment and for keeping me from bloodshed this day and from avenging myself with my own hands. Otherwise, as surely as the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, who has kept me from harming you, if you had not come quickly to meet me, not one male belonging to Nabal would have been left alive by daybreak.”

Then David accepted from her hand what she had brought him and said, “Go home in peace. I have heard your words and granted your request.”

Point number five, David gives God the glory. Abigail did all the right things here. But it was ultimately God who gave the victory. Guess what, you can do all the right things, say all the right things, and it can still turn out bad. But, in this situation, God moves in David’s heart to have mercy on Abigail and her family.

Next, Abigail goes back to her husband to tell him what happened. In verses 36-39:

When Abigail went to Nabal, he was in the house holding a banquet like that of a king. He was in high spirits and very drunk. So she told him nothing at all until daybreak. Then in the morning, when Nabal was sober, his wife told him all these things, and his heart failed him and he became like a stone. About ten days later, the Lord struck Nabal and he died. 

When David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, “Praise be to the Lord, who has upheld my cause against Nabal for treating me with contempt. He has kept his servant from doing wrong and has brought Nabal’s wrongdoing down on his own head.”

Point number six, let God deal with your enemies. It’s not your job to deal with them. Since David left it to God, God dealt with Nabal quickly. And Nabal was struck by God and died.

The only problem now is Abigail doesn’t have a husband. Her foolish husband Nabal has been struck dead. In ancient times men were the landowners, women had to have a husband to be cared for. 

So, it says in verse 39-44: Then David sent word to Abigail, asking her to become his wife. His servants went to Carmel and said to Abigail, “David has sent us to you to take you to become his wife.”

She bowed down with her face to the ground and said, “I am your servant and am ready to serve you and wash the feet of my lord’s servants.” Abigail quickly got on a donkey and, attended by her five female servants, went with David’s messengers and became his wife. David had also married Ahinoam of Jezreel, and they both were his wives. But Saul had given his daughter Michal, David’s wife, to Paltiel son of Laish, who was from Gallim.”

Abigail goes from being saddled with Nabal, always having troubles, to taking a new course of action, and she now joins up with David’s army. She becomes his wife, and a blessing to his troops and men. She becomes an honored woman in his affairs.

Point seven today, God provides for those he loves. He provided two ways here, first, by providing the food and drink for David’s men through Abigail’s offering, and providing marriage for David and Abigail. God provides marriage to David, romance to David, through Abigail becoming his wife. I’m sure David was lonely as this leader in exile, with his fighting men in the wilderness, so God provides companionship through Abigail. Abigail is also now cared for, and not left alone to beg on the streets. God is our provider.

So how can we apply what we learned today from Abigail and David's conduct? Let's review our seven points: 

Point number one, be aware of turning points in your life, like the death of Samuel, it marked a turning point in the history of Israel, and in David’s life.

Point number two, watch your words, tone of voice, a gentle answer is wise, a harsh answer brings offense.

Point number three, jump into action when the moment calls for it. (Know when to stand still as well) 

Point number four, speak humble gracious words to turn away offense. Use wisdom.

Point number five, give God all the glory, he guides events, not our wisdom.

Point number six, let God deal with your enemies, he certainly will.

Point number seven, God provides for those he loves. Twofold in David's situation: food and drink, and romance/marriage.

A Rock Solid Faith in the God of the Impossible

I remember growing up there were always students at school who were excluded. Some of them were excluded because they were different, they were handicapped, and others were excluded because they were considered different, were considered “losers” and sat at the “loser table.”

What does it feel like to be different? What does it feel like to be excluded? It feels pretty painful. It feels isolating. It makes you wonder, “Is there something wrong with me?”

To my shame, I was at times one of the students who made fun of those who were different. I’m sure some of us did the same when we were kids. At other times, we were the one who reached out to the ones who were different, and helped make them feel welcome.

I made fun of a kid who was in a wheelchair when I was in 7th grade. I was also bullied by other students, shoved, punched, and so on. But I had done it too. And had it done to me.

Then there was a time a new student came to our school and I made him feel welcome. And as Christians we want to be those who make people who are excluded feel loved and welcome. We want to help them find a place in our community.

This was Jesus’ attitude as well. And as followers of Jesus, we want to emulate his activity.

It’s recorded that in Mark chapter one a man with leprosy came to ask Jesus for help. Leprosy still exists in the world today, even in certain parts of the USA, it's a type of bacteria though that is treatable today. But in ancient times, lepers were excluded from society.

People were afraid to come near them. If they came into the cities they would often be driven out. Most lepers simply had to stay at a distance from people, and beg for food and money. But a man with leprosy had heard about this God-man Jesus, this savior, and had come to him with hope.

It says in Mark 1:40, “A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”

1. Hope
Here we find our first point for today: Come to Jesus time and again with hope that he can help you.

That is what we did when we first believed on Jesus Christ for our salvation. We came to Jesus believing that he could help us.

And we need to keep coming to Jesus, as we struggle, as we battle sin in our lives and remove it, and come to Jesus, believing, hoping, that he can deliver us.

Sometimes we get stuck in a status quo. Well, Jesus washed away my sins, but he can’t help my lying problem. Jesus washed away my sins, but he can’t help my gambling problem. Jesus can’t help my stealing problem, or my selfishness. But that’s not true. If Jesus can wash away your sins, he can deliver you from any sin in your life.

Continue to come to Jesus with a hope, maybe this can change! Continue to come to Jesus with faith. Maybe that’s why we struggle today we aren’t coming in faith. We’ve surrendered to the sin, or the sorrow, or the depression, but it’s time to take hope again, and believe Jesus can help you. Now. Ask now, for Jesus to give you a new hope and a new faith.

What if this guy with leprosy never came to Jesus? He just said well, I’ve leprosy my whole life, so he can’t help me. I just won’t even come. But that’s not what happened. He came and found Jesus knowing, believing, hoping, maybe Jesus can help me.

Let’s see what happens next:

In verses 41-42: “Jesus was indignant. He reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” 42 Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed.”

The NIV translation renders verse 41 as “Jesus was indignant” but most other translations render it as “Jesus had compassion on him.”

But maybe it was a mixture of the two? Jesus was indignant means Jesus was angry and disturbed and upset by this man’s condition. I’m sure that’s true. When we see someone who is suffering terribly, our first reaction is often anger, we’re upset, how can this be! It’s not right!

Often at that same moment as we’re indignant we’re also filled with compassion. We have compassion on that person.

2. Compassion
That’s our second point today, as Christians our response to suffering should be compassion. What is compassion?

It’s like we enter into their situation and have a sense of pity, a sense of wanting to help, a sense of love mixed with desire for action. We get involved in the situation.

That is one of our chief jobs as Christians, we feel compassion for hurting people and that compassion causes us to take action.

But I think sometimes we worry, when we come to Jesus with a sin or a problem or anxiety or depression, is Jesus really willing to help us? The answer is almost always yes. Plain and simple. Rarely I think it is no. We may bring a chronic health problem or a mental health problem to Jesus and he may say no, I’m not going to heal you, you’re going to glorify God by dealing with this problem. But if it’s a sin you’re bringing to Jesus, the answer is always yes. There may be footwork on your part though to be free.

You may need to go to a counselor, or attend a 12 step group, or go through a book or workbook on the sin, or you may need to feel the sorrow of the sin for a while until you’re finally willing to repent from the heart. But Jesus is willing to help us in all that process.

He is a God of indignation, evil upsets Him. And when God sees evil, he also has compassion on the one who is struggling and seeks to help them.

Next, in verses 43-45: “Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: 44 “See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.” 45 Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.”

The Lord gives this man a strong warning, don’t tell anyone, because if he tells people it’s going to upset his timing. He tells the man, go to the priests. And it’s going to be a testimony to them, that God is doing something, healing lepers, that they would then believe. But the man does not obey Jesus, instead he starts telling everyone about what happened. The result is Jesus can’t go near the cities, instead he has to go off into hiding.

3. Trust
So third point for today, listening to God, obeying Him is important. Even when we don’t really understand why. Sometimes God has asked me to do something and I don’t understand why, so I don’t do it. And often I see later why God wanted me to do it that way. But I didn’t listen.

Similarly in 12 step groups, often times the person will not take the 12 steps to get better, because they don’t understand why it would help them. So they refuse to do it. Because they don’t understand it.

But if they would just trust the process and do it anyway, they’d see the results.

I always remind all of you to pray in the morning, pray at night, read your Bible, read a psalm, read a chapter of proverbs, read a chapter from the new testament everyday.

Many of you I think, don’t understand why you should do that, so you don’t do it. And as a result your spirituality is weak and you’re always struggling and unable to keep your faith strong at all. But if you would just listen, and do it, even if you don’t understand why, later you’d see, how strong your faith would become, and how you would be much more stable in all your life, if you just listened.

But sometimes we don’t want to listen, because we don’t understand. Or maybe we’re just lazy. In any case, this cleansed man, doesn’t listen to Jesus either. And it upsets the timing of his ministry, where Jesus has to go off into the wild. But still, God’s plan moves forward, as people come out to see him there.

Obey God, even when you don’t understand, trust Him, even when you don’t see all the details. He is trustworthy. Even when we don’t understand. Do what he says anyway. And watch your life be transformed. But if you don’t want anything to change in your life, just keep doing it the same way you always do. And its going to be a mess. But, what if, what if you really did listen to God, do what he says, how would you life be transformed?

For the next few days Jesus is out in the wilderness. But then he heads home.

From Mark 2:1-3 “A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. 2 They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. 3 Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them.”

4. Hope for another
Point number one, becomes active for others, we’ve received grace from Jesus Christ, now we want others to find that same grace from Jesus Christ, we start to have hope for others. We start to believe others can have faith too. That is hope for our friends and neighbors, and even strangers, people we don’t know.

Next in verses 4-5, “4 Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

5. Compassion for another
Point number two becomes active through us, to others, compassion for others. Compassion moves us to action. Action for these people is to dig a hole in the roof, and drop their friend down in to it, so their friend can meet Jesus. That is true compassion in action!

Now skip forward to verses 11 and 12, “So he said to the man, 11 “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 12 He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!” -Mark 2:11-12

6. Trust for another produces Trust
Faith is the key in this whole situation. They believe. Their friend believes. This means action in love. Trusting in Jesus, leads these friends to bring their friend to Jesus. The result is their friend trusts Jesus too. His sins are forgiven. And Jesus heals him. He takes his mat and walks home. And the result is, everyone around sees this and praises God. Glory is given to God through all this.

The people learn faith as well. They see something amazing happen, this leads them to believe and trust that Jesus really is God.

That’s point number 6, linked to point 3, Trust in God leads to others learning to trust in God too.

Point 1, hope links to point 4, hope for others.

Point 2, compassion links to point 5, compassionate action for others

Point 3, trust/faith links to point 6, others learning to trust through you

Now, to pull it all together, let’s look at verse 6 through 10, which is happens just before the man is healed:

“Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 7 “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

8 Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? 9 Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? 10 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” -Mark 2:6-10

7. Evidence of Christ leads to Trust in Christ  
Why is Jesus healing people? Why is he doing these miraculous things that no one has ever done before in the history of human kind? That’s one of the reasons we remember him. That’s one of the reasons we believe in Him today. We hear about Christians being healed, people being healed after Christians pray for them. It’s real. But why? Why does he do this? Yes, because he loves us. But there is a great purpose behind it all: He is proving to the people of Israel, and indeed to the entire world: I am really God in human form.

Jesus Christ of Nazareth, was saying through these miracles: I am who I am. I really am God on Earth. Which is why the Pharisee has no ground to stand on as far as his complaint goes. Jesus answers his thoughts, which how could Jesus answer someone's thoughts, either, but Jesus says, anyone could say “your sins are forgiven.” Words are one thing. But, look at the signs I perform. Look that this paralyzed man can now walk.

Which is easier to say your sins are forgiven, or to say, get up and walk? It’s much easier to say your sins are forgiven. It’s much harder to tell a paralyzed man to get up and walk. But then it happens. And for that reason, this paralyzed man getting up, the Pharisee should be able to say, well, if the voice of Jesus says get up and walk and it happens, then it must also be true, that when Jesus says “your sins are forgiven” that is also 100% true. Just as true as the miracle he just performed. By speaking.

Faith + Evidence of Christ = Salvation 

So if we’re told we must come to Jesus Christ for eternal life, for forgiveness of sins, we can believe that this is 100% true, because of what Jesus has already done, in the life of the leper, in the life of the paralyzed man, in the lives of billions of people today on planet earth, and in the lives of our family members, our parents, our grandparents, our great-grandparents, all the way into the past, yes, it’s real, and we can, indeed, we must believe it.

And oh what danger we are in if we refuse Him who call us to Himself. We must come. Or we can only blame ourselves for what happens if we don’t.

Once we were the bullies, in some form or another, we were the sinners. We were evangelists of sin you could say, we lived in sin and we taught others to sin by our actions and lifestyle.

Like the story at the beginning, I used to bully other students at times, I was also bullied, part of the system you could say.

Now we become a glitch in the system, we resist the system, we change the system. Now instead of bullying, instead of spreading sin, we spread truth. We compassionately love others. We protect the bullied. We reach out and love others. We bring others to Jesus. Make that your mission for life, bring others to Jesus. That should be your lifestyle now. Don’t be an evangelist of sin anymore, be an evangelist of Christ!

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Nursing Home Devotional

I’d like to share with you today a parable that Jesus taught during his ministry, called the parable of the talents.

From Matthew chapter 25, verses 14-30.

The scripture says this: “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them while he was gone. 15 He gave five bags of silver to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip.”

Then it says, “The servant who received the five bags of silver began to invest the money and earned five more. 17 The servant with two bags of silver also went to work and earned two more. 18 But the servant who received the one bag of silver dug a hole in the ground and hid the master’s money."

So the three servants make their various choices with the money they’ve been entrusted with, the first earned five more, the second two more, and the third hid the money.

It continues, “After a long time their master returned from his trip and called them to give an account of how they had used his money. 20 The servant to whom he had entrusted the five bags of silver came forward with five more and said, ‘Master, you gave me five bags of silver to invest, and I have earned five more.’

21 “The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!

22 “The servant who had received the two bags of silver came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two bags of silver to invest, and I have earned two more.’

23 “The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’

The master is gone a long time. Then, he finally returns, the moment we’re all waiting for. This is the moment I’m building my life for. I hope you are too. The moment when either you die of old age, or Jesus returns, whichever comes first, and we stand before God to explain our lives.

For the first two servants, this day is everything they could’ve hoped for. They received the money they were given, and made use of it in the world, and brought a return to their master.

They are returning double, they were given 2 talents, they returned 4 talents, they were given 5, they return 10.

It’s interesting though in Mark 4:20 in the parable of the soil, it says, "And the seed that fell on good soil represents those who hear and accept God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!””

Our harvest can be very plentiful indeed!

How does the master respond to the servants who have completed their mission? He says to them “well done good and faithful servant.”

The master continues and says, because you’ve been trustworthy in a little, I’ll put you in charge over much.

In fact in this parable in Luke, it says in verse 17, “17 “‘Well done!’ the king exclaimed. ‘You are a good servant. You have been faithful with the little I entrusted to you, so you will be governor of ten cities as your reward.’ And for the second servant he says, you will be governor over five cities. That is a massive reward. From working with money and investing it, to being in charge of entire kingdoms. That is a huge gift.

It's a great reminder that Christ is watching to see how we’re trustworthy with the little we have in this life.

Alright we’re done, right? Everyone goes to heaven right? Everyone does the right thing.

No, the parable doesn’t end there. There’s a third servant, let’s see what happens next.

“Then the servant with the one bag of silver came and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate. 25 I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.’

The servant actually insults his master, calling him harsh, and basically insinuating that he didn’t do any of the work himself so why should he get the harvest kind of thing. Nasty, rude response. So he didn’t do anything with the money, he hid it underground and gave it back later.

26 “But the master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy servant! If you knew I harvested crops I didn’t plant and gathered crops I didn’t cultivate, 27 why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.’

28 “Then he ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one with the ten bags of silver. 29 To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. 30 Now throw this useless servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
-Matthew 25:26–30

I think there is a temptation to take what Jesus has given us, our time, our talents, our abilities, our wealth, and to hide it away. We’re afraid we wont do a good job, that we’ll play off key, that we won’t do it right, that we’ll fail, so we just don’t do anything at all with it. We’re afraid to, of God, and of how he’ll view our work. So we just hide it away and don’t use it.

And for that servant they are called wicked and lazy. The opposite of good and faithful. Instead of good, wicked. Instead of faithful, lazy. Good to know the opposite so we can avoid it.

There will be accountability for those who fail to serve Christ in this life. If we reject his calls to service, if we don’t use the gifts he’s given us, we’ll be held accountable.

And if we do use those gifts and talents for His glory, we will be rewarded. It even says, that the master says, let’s celebrate, he’s so happy, he throws a party for them, because they did well, he says let’s celebrate.

Time to celebrate. Time for perfect existence. Time for a garden perpetual. A garden unending. A peace that never ends. Time to wander the streets of gold, the valleys of golden wheat, the blue mountains, the endless houses, and parties and get togethers and worship times, the moments so balmy they seem like euphoric dreams. The joy and contentment so sweet, sweeter than any dessert, magic nights in the city of God, talking on porches, running and playing with animals, flying through the sky to view the beauty, seeing the infinite God taller than a skyscraper, parts of him moving in and out and shifting and spinning wheels and creatures and angels crying out, and a rainbow, and a sea of glass shifting in the air, glowing stones, lightning and thunder, clouds, and glory, everyday, perfect life, perfect joy, no more controversy, no more rebellion, no more sin.

Well done good and faithful servant. You don’t need me to tell you about talents you know what yours are, use them build for that future which is more real than this life, more real than anything in this world, is that future. Make sure you spend your eternity there build now for there. Amen.

Sunday, March 12, 2023

David cuts the Corner of Saul's Garment in the Cave

Have you ever had something really bad happen, and you wonder to yourself? How could God let this happen? Why is this happening? Or maybe you think, I can’t handle this.

You feel overwhelmed. What do we do when we feel overwhelmed? We get through it. We let ourselves feel it. And we get through it. We know the feleing isn’t permanent. It’s temporary.

But we might be tempted to ask the question: Why God?

Why me?

Maybe a better question is, why not me? We all good through hard times. That’s part of life. That’s part of how God’s system works. Particularly for Christians, we go through trials to test and build our faith in Him.

We may be tempted to start arguing with God. What if instead we trusted Him? Instead of starting to ask those questions, maybe instead, or at least after we ask, we can finally say, I don’t understand. But I choose to trust you God. That’s hard. It’s very important though, because God wants us to learn to trust Him more and more despite our circumstances.

We’ve seen that situation again and again for David, who is on the run, with his band of followers, fleeing from King Saul.

David could’ve said Lord why? I was supposed to be King. But instead I’m on the run. Instead David trusted God. David also wrestled with God. He had it out with him in the psalms. But he kept trusting.

He didn’t give up. That’s the battle I think, really. We wrestle with God as Christians, with questions and fears and emotions, with sins, and the goal in all that is I think to wrestle but stay with God, sometimes people want to run away, but we as Christians run toward. Keep running toward God.

We’ve spent our lives so many of us here running away from things. Running away from our problems running away form people, but now, with God, let’s run toward Him, not away.

If you recall, David and his six hundred men were being chased by King Saul’s army. But at the last moment, Saul was called away due to a philistine attack on Israel.

After fighting the philistines off, Saul goes to work again.

It says in 1 Samuel 24:1-2, “After Saul returned from pursuing the Philistines, he was told, “David is in the Desert of En Gedi.” 2 So Saul took three thousand able young men from all Israel and set out to look for David and his men near the Crags of the Wild Goats.”

Chelsey our program coordinator was telling me about how beautiful En Gedi is. She traveled to Israel several years ago, and got to visit some of these sites we hear about in the Bible. En Gedi is a desert, but there is a beautiful oasis, with a waterfall, where I’m sure David and his men visited and refreshed themselves at. It’s important to remember that these aren’t just stories, about David and Saul, these are historical events, at real places. Places you can visit even today.

In verse 3 it says, “Saul came to the sheep pens along the way; a cave was there, and Saul went in to relieve himself. David and his men were far back in the cave.”

Saul has three thousand men pursuing David, but he has to sneak off to use the bathroom. So he goes off into this cave. And little does he know David is in that cave with his men.

What are the chances right? But that’s the thing. What are the chances any of us would be here today? For some of you, me included, what are the chances you would be anywhere near a church much less in one? That’s what God does. He does the impossible. He sets things up just right for the right moment to happen.

We’re just the right distance from the sun, the Earth is. We’ve just the right number of DNA sequences. The moon is in just the right place to stabilize the rotation of the Earth. Jupiter is in just the right place to absorb incoming asteroid impacts. And God made sure we were all here today.

So David’s men think this is the perfect opportunity to finally take out Saul.

Any other person on the planet would think the same thing. I would think that, if I were in this situation. This is the chance we’ve been waiting for.

In verse 4... The men said, “This is the day the Lord spoke of when he said to you, ‘I will give your enemy into your hands for you to deal with as you wish.’” Then David crept up unnoticed and cut off a corner of Saul’s robe.”

David doesn’t kill him. He sneaks up, and cuts a piece of his robe off. Then he comes back to his men.

It says in verse 5-7: Afterward, David was conscience-stricken for having cut off a corner of his robe. 6 He said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, or lay my hand on him; for he is the anointed of the Lord.” 7 With these words David sharply rebuked his men and did not allow them to attack Saul. And Saul left the cave and went his way.”

David didn’t kill Saul, but he’s even upset that he cut off a corner of his robe. How could he do this to the one God has placed as king? This is a man with a very strong conscience. He is grief stricken by the slightest compromise, by the slightest scent of sin. May that be true of us as well. May we be very sensitive to any sin we might commit in our lives and may we allow our conscience, as well as the Holy Spirit, to drive us away from any sin we might commit. May we be as ashamed as David if we are guilty in any way.

Next in verses 8-13: Then David went out of the cave and called out to Saul, “My lord the king!” When Saul looked behind him, David bowed down and prostrated himself with his face to the ground. 9 He said to Saul, “Why do you listen when men say, ‘David is bent on harming you’? 10 This day you have seen with your own eyes how the Lord delivered you into my hands in the cave. Some urged me to kill you, but I spared you; I said, ‘I will not lay my hand on my lord, because he is the Lord’s anointed.’ 11 See, my father, look at this piece of your robe in my hand! I cut off the corner of your robe but did not kill you. See that there is nothing in my hand to indicate that I am guilty of wrongdoing or rebellion. I have not wronged you, but you are hunting me down to take my life. 12 May the Lord judge between you and me. And may the Lord avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you. 13 As the old saying goes, ‘From evildoers come evil deeds,’ so my hand will not touch you.”

David speaks to King Saul directly. He says, may the lord avenge upon you, but I will not touch you. That is the biblical way to deal with hatred, anger, and the desire for revenge. You let God deal with it. God will repay, not you.

And if that’s tough, you repeat this phrase: Vengeance belongs to God.

God is the only one qualified to deal out judgment. No human has the qualifications for that. Only God.

You forgive. You pray for them. Then God deals with them on his own terms and in his own time. Don’t like it that way? Tough, that’s how it is.

Then David says, verses 14-15 “Against whom has the king of Israel come out? Who are you pursuing? A dead dog? A flea? May the Lord be our judge and decide between us. May he consider my cause and uphold it; may he vindicate me by delivering me from your hand.”

David publicly declares, "God, you judge this situation. Because we can’t. Deal with this God, because neither of us can."  David is so humble! He refuses to manipulate events. He allows God to work things out. He invites Him to. Can we do the same? Can we let God run our lives? Yes we can. We really can. And we will. 

We see Saul's response in verses 16-22: When David finished saying this, Saul asked, “Is that your voice, David my son?” And he wept aloud. 17 “You are more righteous than I,” he said. “You have treated me well, but I have treated you badly. 18 You have just now told me about the good you did to me; the Lord delivered me into your hands, but you did not kill me. 19 When a man finds his enemy, does he let him get away unharmed? May the Lord reward you well for the way you treated me today. 20 I know that you will surely be king and that the kingdom of Israel will be established in your hands. 21 Now swear to me by the Lord that you will not kill off my descendants or wipe out my name from my father’s family.” 22 So David gave his oath to Saul. Then Saul returned home, but David and his men went up to the stronghold.

Saul is astonished. He weeps he is so amazed by what has just happened. He can tell where this is going. David will be King. So he asks David to not harm his family after he’s gone. David agrees. Saul takes his troops and leaves. David goes back with his men to the caves.

Now the big question, it doesn’t matter if we just hear this message and think hey that’s cool, then go back to business as usual. The point is, to apply this to our lives.

How do we live this?

Five principles

1. Don’t run away when you’re overwhelmed - Run toward God. Just like David, time and again, he stayed with God when he was stressed and overwhelmed and in a storm of emotion

2. Believe that God will line things up just right – It may seem impossible in your life right now. I can’t possibly keep going. Believe that God will work things out just right so you can continue on successfully. You just have to do your part, do the footwork. He’ll bring the miracles.

3. Be a man, or woman of conscience – a man of conscience. Someone who is sensitive to doing the right thing in any situation. Someone who is convicted easily by the Holy Spirit. Have a tender heart like David, eager to do the right thing, afraid to do the wrong thing.

4. Be incredibly humble – We know Jesus Christ our savior was so humble, so humble he being God became a man, walked among us, and was a servant to everyone, served day and night, and then died to free us from our sins. David refused to kill Saul, refused to take it by force, was so humble, he submitted to God, and refused to harm Saul. That’s radical humility

5. Let God be the judge – David refused to condemn Saul for his actions. He said the Lord rebuke you. We must do the same. Refuse to condemn our enemies, instead forgive them, and pray for them. Then let God deal with them.

Run to God, Believe that God will bring miracles, Be a person of conscience, be very humble, and let God be the judge.

Jesus casts out impure spirits & heals a Fever

"John Paton was a missionary in the New Hebrides Islands. One night hostile natives surrounded the mission station, intent on burning out the Patons and killing them. Paton and his wife prayed during that terror-filled night that God would deliver them. When daylight came they were amazed to see their attackers leave. A year later, the chief of the tribe was converted to Christ. Remembering what had happened, Paton asked the chief what had kept him from burning down the house and killing them. The chief replied in surprise, "Who were all those men with you there?" Paton knew no men were present--but the chief said he was afraid to attack because he had seen hundreds of big men in shining garments with drawn swords circling the mission station."
-Today in the Word, MBI, October, 1991, p. 18.

John Paton was a missionary to cannibals, but he found himself and his family protected from the tribes who might’ve otherwise killed them. But, God can do miracles.

We know that there is a spiritual world, beyond our physical world. It’s a world that we can’t see with our eyes. Though sometimes it is made visible to us.

During my time of drinking and drugs, I often sensed that there was something in the room with me, something harassing me, tormenting me, attempting to harm me. There were even a few rare times when I actually saw something.

In the spiritual world there is an ongoing battle going on between angelic messengers of God, angel armies, and demon armies, servants of evil. These are each participating in the spiritual battle for the souls of humanity on planet Earth.

Angels work for God, demons work for Satan, the evil one. God is infinitely more powerful than Satan and the demons. But in this great controversy, Satan and demons play their part in tempting humans toward sin. God and his angels then urge people toward the good. And we as humans make our free will choice, we either receive Christ as our savior and become pure and walk in God’s path, or we follow the flesh, the devil, and evil, and we indulge our desires.

God asks us, who are you?

Our flesh cries out: I want.

That is the great battle within us, between the Spirit and the flesh.

Jesus Christ our savior, our friend, understood this spiritual battlefield. He knew of the reality of angels and demons, and life and death and choice and destiny.

The life of Jesus, we saw last week, as recorded in the book of Mark, is playing out in front of ancient Israel.

Last week we saw in Mark chapter 1, Jesus being baptized, then being tested in the wilderness by Satan, then calling his first four disciples.

Jesus is operating in a small part of ancient Israel, in the region of Galilee. And we’re going to see Jesus engaging in the spiritual battle, by dealing demons that are inhabiting people.

But first, he teaches.

It says, “21 They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. 22 The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.”

For Jews the sabbath rest was on Saturdays. So it’s Saturday, and Jesus goes to the local church, and teaches the people.

And here we find our first point for today, something I want you to notice: Jesus taught with authority.

We often wonder, what’s actually true in the world? Who can I trust? And I think as we read the words of Jesus we find that we can trust the words he speaks. When we read them, something comes over us, I know for me, when I read the words of Jesus, I sense that they are true. I know deep within that they are true. Really real. I may not like it, it may call me out on my nonsense, but I can tell it is true. And that’s rare.

Jesus taught with real authority. You can trust that authority.

But then something astonishing happens.

It says this in verses 23-26: 23 Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out, 24 “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”

25 “Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” 26 The impure spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.

Jesus now demonstrates his authority. Some listened I’m sure and thought why should we trust this man? Why should we believe his teaching? Because Jesus has and does have real power from heaven.

Before I was a Christian I was listening to the gospel of John over and over again, and I knew something was there. Something.. different. But could I really trust it? I took a leap of faith and prayed to Jesus to help me. And he did. He guided me out of drugs and drinking, and smoking and many other sins and addictions, and I was shocked to find, Jesus has real power and authority.

There really is someone there when I pray. Jesus is really answering and doing miracles in my life, things I can’t explain are happening in my life. Because Jesus is at work in my life. Evidence. Plain and simple.

For this situation, the entire church of Jews there, the synagogue now has evidence. They’ve known this man with an impure spirit, they’ve seen him act strangely. They can’t quite explain it. But then Jesus deals with the issue directly, and the man is set free.

We don’t see a lot of this in modern America, with demonic possession, impure spirits being cast out, we’ve seen it portrayed in movies I think, but possession does still occur in our day and age. I think it’s more rare in America because Christianity is so influential here, but in other nations, like in African countries or in India or China, possession is more common. And similarly in ancient Israel, possession was very common. Jesus deals with it quickly and directly.

Interesting side note, even the impure spirit knows that Jesus is the holy one of God, and Jesus quickly says be quiet. Don’t tell people that. Jesus is very strategic about timing.

It says in verse 27-28: “The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.” 28 News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.”

Very quickly the news about Jesus is spreading around the region of Galilee. Jesus is being very careful though to make sure it doesn’t spread too fast. It could easily spin out of control if it does.

So our first incident today, is Jesus teaching in the temple, and then casting out the impure spirit from the man. What happens next?

In verses 29-31 it says, “29 As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. 30 Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they immediately told Jesus about her. 31 So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them.”

Simon Peter’s mother in law has been sick in bed with a bad fever. This is the family of one of the first four disciples he’s called to follow him. He comes into Peter’s home, and Peter tells Jesus, my mother in law is sick. So he goes by her bed side, and helped her up. And just like that, the fever was gone.

How is that possible? Jesus is able with special power from heaven, to heal the sick and hurt.

Now in all the history of the world, no one has ever been able to do such a thing. It’s just not possible. But, one man, Jesus Christ, did it. And that’s why he’s made such an impact on the history of planet Earth. It’s hard to forget someone like that, even two thousand years later. We still talk about Jesus, and all he did and all he still does today in the world.

We still hear today, in the body of Christ, of people being miraculously healed. And they will tell you that Jesus healed them, or Christians prayed, and they were healed.

Many stories I’ve heard from this church, of people being sick, and then we prayed here, and they were healed. Cancer disappeared. Issues on the spine, turned out to be nothing at all. Suddenly people get well. Health issues are overcome. When we pray in Jesus name, what does that mean? In the authority of Jesus Christ, which we now have, we pray this, and then, it happens.

And we’re amazed.

But this begs the question: Why isn’t everyone healed then? Why do some people never get healed? For me, why am I tired everyday? I had a stomach issue for over a year, and it took a long time to slowly get better, why didn’t Jesus heal it instantly? Not everything issue is healed. Just like in Jesus time, not every person was healed. Sometimes the addict doesn’t survive, they die. Sometimes the cancer patient does die. Sometimes healing doesn’t come. And that’s OK too.

It's not God’s will for every person to get well. Sometimes maybe we need to be sick for a while. Or it’s simply a reality of this world. But, healing does happen too.

Then it says, “That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. 33 The whole town gathered at the door, 34 and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.”

It doesn’t take long for people to hear about these two incidents, the man in the temple and Simon’s mother in law. Now people are lined up by the hundreds, and Jesus is healing them, and casting out demons.

But it’s noted again, he doesn’t let the demons speak, because they know who he is. Is that confusing? Wouldn’t Jesus want everyone to know who He is? Actually no, he wouldn’t. Jesus is focused on timing.

Jesus knew that later, his followers would shout from the rooftops what had been spoken about in the inner room. But for now, it needs to happen slowly.

Thirdly, recorded near the end of chapter one, it says this, “35-39 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. 36 Simon and his companions went to look for him, 37 and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!”

38 Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” 39 So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.”

Jesus goes off by himself, early in the morning and he prays. He gets alone with God and he prays. Even Jesus the son of God needed to pray, to talk to the Father. So we also need to do that, to get alone with God.

Maybe even to get out in nature, and to simply pray, and talk to God, for hours, that sounds wonderful. If Jesus did it, we should do it. We must do it. Get alone with God. Talk to Him. Pray to Him. Seek His help. For some, the morning is best. For some, night is best.

In any case, Simon and the disciples go searching for Jesus and find him out in the solitary place, saying hey everyone is looking for you.

But Jesus doesn’t actually return to that same area. He has to move on to a new area. Everyone in the region needs to hear the message. So he moves on to different cities in Galilee, going to the local temples, and teaching, and proving hus authority by miraculous healing and the casting out of demons.

And here we find one of the central themes of Mark’s gospel, the action gospel, the right now gospel, Jesus teaches, but Jesus also acts, he has authority, he has power, and he uses that power and authority in very real ways.

Same thing with each of us today. We each have a testimony of what Jesus has done for us. Yes, he teaches us. That’s one of the reasons we come to church each Sunday to receive teaching and learn more about our savior to fill our mind with truth, but, we have more than the teachings of Christ, we have each encountered Christ, and he has done something for us, he has freed us from addictions, he has healed our broken hearts, he has healed brokenness and hurts, he has redeemed us from guilt, he has freed us from demonic influence and given us new dreams and hopes.

In Mark’s gospel, Jesus takes practical action in the lives of the people he meets, he heals them, he casts out demons, he teaches with authority.

It doesn’t have to be something huge like healing you from cancer or breaking you from drug addiction, it can be so many more simple things, like sensing His love, or finding new hope, or having your heart softened and encouraged, finding something true and beautiful in world of lies.

So that’s our challenge for today, to see the authority of Jesus Christ, and to see in that authority something special.

Second, to know we find ourselves in a spiritual battle amongst angels and demons and hard choices.

Thirdly, to know Jesus does heal health problems, but that’s not always the case either. It’s very situational.

And fourthly, to pray like Jesus prayed is vital. To spend time alone with the Father in heaven. That’s real. And that’s powerful.