Sunday, June 25, 2023

The Pharisees confront Jesus: What does it mean to be a Hypocrite? An issue of the Heart

A lot of the scriptures that we look at, I feel like we get to understand another piece of the puzzle about who Jesus really is. It’s like we dive into a moment in history and we get to look over the shoulder of Jesus and see what he does, and why he does it, and we’re amazed. We want to live like that. I feel lucky, blessed to be here, at this moment, almost following Jesus around, listening to him. Even though I’m a hypocrite at times.

Behind closed doors, we’ve done things that don’t match who we say we are. We’ve treated people poorly when we’ve claimed to be Christian. We’ve done bad things and then hid it, covered it up, and that’s a shame. It really is. Because I want to be like Jesus. I want my life to mirror his, and I want my death to matter like his did. I see Jesus and what he does. I see how I live. And it doesn’t match. But there is this hope, in knowing Jesus, that I can live like Him somehow. That’s a beautiful mystery… that it’s not out of reach. It’s possible to really live like Jesus in this world.

Today we look at a moment when the religious leaders of Israel came to question Jesus. The pharisees were the religious leaders of Israel, men who devoted their lives to God, and sought to enforce the torah, the old testament law of Moses, and help teach it to the people, and guide the people to live according to God’s ways.

The pharisees today are often regarded as hypocrites, mean, nasty, people who killed Jesus, and it’s true that they plotted against Jesus. But in general these were not bad people. These were religious leaders trying to help the people live according to God’s ways.

But, just like any position of authority or importance, corruption begins to spread, and pretty soon pride begins to seep in, and selfish desires take over, and eventually, many of the religious leaders became oppressive and cruel and dangerous. And this had happened in Jesus time. Many of the pharisees were honorable and really did love God. But many of them had become focused on self, and pride, and their importance and their position, and as a result, the entry of Jesus onto the scene was not welcomed. They were jealous of Jesus and how he influenced the people. So the pharisees come to see if they can cause trouble for Jesus.

It says in Mark 7:1-5, “The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus 2 and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. 3 (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. 4 When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.)

5 So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?”

So here we have the setup for this situation, Jesus is gathered with his disciples. His disciples are eating without washing their hands. The pharisees ask why his disciples aren’t following the traditions of the elders.

Here is how Jesus responds…

6 He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: “‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
7 They worship me in vain;
their teachings are merely human rules.’

What is a hypocrite? A hypocrite is someone who doesn’t actually live what they say they believe. They say that they love God but they don’t really live for God. They tell people not to swear, not to lie, not to steal, but they do those things when others aren’t looking.

We are all hypocrites from time to time. I think one of the greatest battles in Christianity is fighting the battle to slowly see our lifestyle begin to line up with what we say we believe. And over time it looks closer and closer to who we say we are. Eventually, hopefully we can say, I’m really living what I believe.

Jesus calls them hypocrites. Then he quotes a particular portion of the old testament. Jesus is quoting there from Isaiah 29:13, “The Lord says:

“These people come near to me with their mouth
and honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
Their worship of me
is based on merely human rules they have been taught”

So for the Pharisees, they claim they are doing all this work for God, but their hearts aren’t really in it. They pretend to care about God, but really they teach their own traditions and human rules, and call it the truth.

You can show up to church, read the Bible and pray and your heart can still be far from God. Where is your heart today? Do you really love God? Or are you just going through the motions?

If your heart has become hardened, and you’ve drifted away from God, you can always come back. He will welcome you with open arms. And he will heal your wounds. Return to Him. He Loves you.

It’s very important that we stay focused on God himself. The Bible tells us about God. Theology helps us understand scripture. Prayer helps us make our requests to God. But, our goal with Bible, prayer, church, is to meet with the God described in all of it.

Some stop at the Bible itself, and make the Bible their God. These types often become very obsessed with a particular theological system. In fact, they love the system, the theology, more than God himself. God is an after-thought. It’s about how it’s being described. It’s about fancy sermons. It’s about showing how much we know.

That is a pride of it’s own. A pride in self. A pride in one’s own perspective. And that isn’t true Christianity. It’s human traditions, human theology taking the place of God himself.

In verse 8 Jesus sums it up well when he says, “You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.”

I think many of us in modern day evangelical Christianity simply teach human traditions.

We shoot out these quick catch phrases, I know, I’ve used some of them, like…

Love the sinner, hate the sin

God loves everyone

His love is unconditional

God knows my heart

You can never lose your salvation

I sin everyday but his grace is enough

God will never let you down

God will never give you more than you can handle

Have you ever heard those quick answers? Some of them are probably more true than false, some of them are just blatantly false.

But there is this heresy, this false teaching cropping up in modern Christianity that really worries me. I call it “feel good Christianity.” And for this group, they will only listen or receive the scriptures that feel good, like, when you read them, they make you feel encouraged.

There are many scriptures that make us feel encouraged. And that’s good. But there are just as many scriptures that make us feel uncomfortable or convicted.

Now what happens if we remove all the scriptures that make us feel uncomfortable, and only teach or talk about the feel good verses? Well then you get modern Christianity. You get modern Christian rock lyrics. You can get modern luke-warm churches. You get a Christianity that can walk in step with the world because it never offends anyone.

What are some of the feel good verses? Just look at the top most searched bible verses.

Verses like John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Or Jeremiah 29:11, ““’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”

Or Joshua 1:9, ““Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Or Philippian 4:13, or Romans 8:28, or any of those common bible verses.

And I think as we gather those 20 or 30 Bible verses, out of context, all very encouraging, very hopeful, very “feel good” we soon ignore and reject scriptures like…

Matthew 10:28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Philippians 2:12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,

Or Mark 9:43 And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.

You don’t see those scriptures stenciled on the wall in the bathroom at grandma’s do you? But they’re just as true as the feel good verses.

In our modern day and age, we aren’t much like the pharisees, where we add human traditions to the Bible to make it harder. We don’t add rules or regulations as much anymore.

But we become pharisees in a different way. We subtract from the word of God, we remove the Bible verses that talk about sin. We ignore the bible verses that talk about doing good works. We ignore the bible verses that challenge us to grow. We don’t even mention the bible verses that talk about judgment or hell.

Aren’t we just as much pharisees when we remove something as if we add something?

So that’s my challenge to you today, take all of the scriptures, even the hard ones, and grapple with them. God will help you to embrace even the more challenging verses as part of your faith walk with Christ.

Let’s see what Jesus said next:

And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ 11 But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God)— 12 then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother. 13 Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”

The pharisees had setup this rule, not found in the Bible, they just kind of added it in there, that if you have something, some money, that you’re going to use to help your parents, but if you decide to “devote it to God” maybe give it to the synagogue, then you no longer would have to provide for your family. And in that way, this rule had nullified the command of God to honor your father and mother.

I feel that much of our Christian theology today often has the effect of nullifying the word of God. When we tell people, hey you can never lose your salvation. Or you can live as a sinning Christian who just keeps sinning everyday, never repents, we’ve nullified essentially half of the commands of the entire new testament to be holy as he is holy, to abstain of sinful desires, to work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, to serve other Christians, to not judge, we nullify all of it with our fancy theology, that says hey just believe in Jesus and that’s all, then you’re fine, don’t worry about not sinning, don’t about worry about attending church, reading your bible, just pray this little prayer, believe, then you’re done, and you can go back to sinning, and you’ll go to heaven when you die. That is false. A lie. And our theology has then had the effect of nullifying hundreds, even thousands of scriptures from the entire Bible. Scary stuff. We must be very careful what we teach. Because us teachers will be judged more strictly.

So Jesus deals with the pharisees by calling them out on their poor teachings. He says what you’re teaching is man made theology, man made tradition, and it’s nullifying the word of God and the commands of God.

Then Jesus turns his attention to the crowd. He had a word for the teachers, now he has a word for the average everyday people standing around listening.

In verses 14-16: “Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. 15 Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.” [16]

Sin isn’t really about what goes into you. If you eat a turkey, eat a bean casserole, if you wash your hands or don’t wash your hands, those things aren’t affecting your salvation. They aren’t defiling you. Jesus says, what really matters is what comes out of you. And Jesus is going to explain what he means by this soon, with his disciples.

The pharisees were so concerned with external matters. But Jesus is concerned with our heart.

Interesting note, that some ancient manuscripts don’t include verse 16, others do, in fact the NIV Bible translation doesn’t include verse 16, but only as a footnote. I don’t suppose it matters much, it’s simply a refrain Jesus would often make when addressing a crowd, saying, “if you have ears to hear, then hear this.”

Next in verses 17-19: “After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. 18 “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? 19 For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.)

If you recall, in the Old Testament law of Moses the Jews would only eat certain foods. In fact, even to this day, conservative Jews will still eat only kosher foods. But Jesus explained that the Old Testament eating rules were no longer in effect, and he here declared that all foods were clean to eat.

Jesus continues, in verses 20-23:  He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. 21 For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”

What is the key problem for someone lost in sin? It’s not external, it’s internal.

What happens when we sin? First, a temptation comes up in the flesh. We start to think about it, and as we think about it, our heart grows fascinated with that sin. Then eventually as we think about it, and feel it in our heart, eventually, these swirling thoughts and emotions give birth to sin. And in our actions we take action that is sinful. We sleep around. We steal something. We lie to someone. We spread rumors about someone. We bad mouth someone behind their back. And a pattern begins to be established, the temptation grows stronger, the emotions and thought around it grow stronger, more focused, more powerful, and a pattern of action takes hold. We begin to practice sin almost daily. It become part of who we are in our heart. And that’s why we all need a savior, we need Jesus, because without Jesus we’re doomed, we can’t escape that pattern of sin by our own strength.

So, in conclusion today, let’s take a look at applications, how can we live what we’ve learned today?

We are all hypocrites from time to time, but less and less as we grow in Christ

-If you’re noticing more hypocrisy, not less, time to pray, and ask for God’s help

Make sure your heart is focused on God, not on externals

-If you find yourself looking at others and judging others, turn back to look at your own conduct, and to your own heart

Refuse “feel good Christianity” embrace biblical Christianity

-The feel good verses are biblical, but you must also embrace all the harder truths of scripture, or you are making an idol of god in your own image, and it will lead to ruin

Train your heart and mind to embrace “hard truths”

-Proverbs says a wise person is impressed by a rebuke. Train yourself to be impressed when scripture rebukes you, be amazed, impressed by god’s glory, and let those hard verses speak to you too.

Don’t be afraid, Jesus can change your heart completely

-Lastly don’t be afraid, if you are noticing your heart isn’t right, you’re a hypocrite, then take it to God right now. Ask him to change your heart. Or give your life to Jesus for the first time today. He can change you completely. Praise the Lord.

-But don’t hide it if there’s a problem in your heart or if you’re sinning secretly, take it to God in prayer ,talk to someone one on one and get some help, you aren’t alone. The enemy wants us to try to hide our sin. But the word says instead we should take it to God, turn away from the sin, and turn toward God, and God will help us. Bring it into the light. .

God wants your heart. But he doesn’t expect you to clean it up and bring it clean to him. Bring it dirty, broken, smashed, hard as a rock, and give it to him like that, totally messed up ,and watch Jesus completely transform it. He will take your mess and turn it into a message, a ministry, a mission of hope, and new life. God bless you today.

Friday, June 23, 2023

5 Ways to Stay Encouraged in a Lonely World

According to a study by Harvard, 36% of Americans, so more than one in three, described their level of loneliness as "serious." 

In a lonely world, how can we find encouragement? How can we find a mindset that leads to stability and peace? That is the challenge in this world. The battle is against ourselves. The battle is against our own minds. 

To that end, we're looking at five ways to reposition our minds and hearts to focus on God's goodness, to focus on the positive, and to find peace in a world increasingly stricken with loneliness. Let's dive in. Here is the plan…

First, We need to focus on Jesus Christ our glorious, victorious savior full of perfect love and grace and truth, and find refreshment for our souls. That's the first thing we've got to do, get our eyes off our problems, off our hearts, and onto the perfect Jesus Christ, the true King of the Earth, the Lord of all, and rejoice in his current total victory. We may see defeats, but our victory is so very secure. Others may reject it, we have not. And so our victory is secure. Other have their sacred choice to make. But we must keep our eyes on Jesus. I don't mean that as simple encouragement. I mean, as a matter of survival itself, you must, must, must keep your eyes on Jesus. Your salvation depends on it. So do it. He is victorious. Keep your eyes on that complete victor King Jesus, or you will lose heart and give up.

Psalm 123:1 "A Song of Ascents. To you I lift up my eyes, O you who are enthroned in the heavens!"

Hebrews 12:2 "Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God."

Two, hope is the secret weapon of the Christian. Hope is the weapon of our mind to defeat any discouraging thought. Use this powerful weapon, by training your mind to counter any pessimistic thought with the truth of the scriptures, which is solid and real.

When you think to yourself "I can't go on" stop yourself in your mind and say, "that isn't true. The Lord says, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. The Lord says in Christ I'm more than a conqueror through Him who loves us. God has not given me a spirit of timidity but of love and power and sober mind. Counter the negative thoughts immediately in your mind with the truth of God's word.

Isaiah 40:31 "But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint."

Romans 15:4 "For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope."

Three, find refreshment in the place of intimate prayer with God. In any time of prayer in your life, you must get alone with God and begin to praise Him, thank Him, rejoice in Him, delight in Him, and make your requests known to Him. But you need to go beyond there, and press deeper into prayer, and as you pray, longer and longer, you'll notice at some point in the prayer you'll breakthrough and begin to sense God's presence around you. Then delight in God in those moments, time will begin to pass more quickly, because you won't want to leave that sacred place. You're with God. This time when you're in God's presence is healing, and you'll find refreshment. But it takes diligently seeking His Face. At those times you'll also receive divine revelation, and guidance, so you may know His will and follow it.

Psalm 34:17-20 "When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken."

Fourth, the life of the Christian is suffering. I don't mean to be blunt, but that is a big part of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. And the secret to learning endurance in suffering is something very odd and paradoxical that the apostle Paul talked about, he said, "I rejoice in my sufferings." He wasn't just making a cute statement to tell us how clever he was. He was talking about something very practical. When you suffer for Jesus, turn it around on the enemy and say I'm glad for this, I rejoice in this, because this is keeping me from apostasy, this is keeping me close to Jesus, this is training me toward godliness. Respond to suffering with rejoicing. I know it sounds crazy, it's actually biblical.

2 Timothy 2:3 "Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus."

Romans 5:3-5 "Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us."

Fifth, remember that Jesus Christ will return to give relief and victory to his dedicated soldiers. Jesus Christ will come again. I think it will be much sooner than we realize. I honestly expect it to happen within my lifetime. That's how close I think we are. So we should see that the return of Jesus Christ is very real and very close, and rejoice with hope. The return of Jesus Christ means the total victory of the cross will go from a faithful hope to a present reality, that transforms us into His likeness at last! Then, no more sin nature, no more law of death, no more suffering, it ends then when Jesus returns.

Revelation 19:11-15 "Then I saw heaven opened, and a white horse was standing there. Its rider was named Faithful and True, for he judges fairly and wages a righteous war. His eyes were like flames of fire, and on his head were many crowns. A name was written on him that no one understood except himself. He wore a robe dipped in blood, and his title was the Word of God. The armies of heaven, dressed in the finest of pure white linen, followed him on white horses. From his mouth came a sharp sword to strike down the nations."

Until that day brothers and sisters, keep the faith and never give up hope. Yake heart. Take a deep breath, and apply these principles to your heart and life. For me friends, I had to ask for someone to pray for me. I had allowed my heart to become somewhat callous and hardened. If that's you and you're demoralized, then cry out to God, ask your church family to pray over you, and God will hear from heaven and renew your heart and mind to softness and hope and a new outlook.

1st John 4:4 But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.

Monday, June 19, 2023

Asbury Revival: Why Not The Salvation Army Next?

This is a personal blog. The views on this blog do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of the Salvation Army, it's employees, or partners. The views on this blog are solely of those making them, based on the teachings of the Bible, in the Spirit.

What would it take for a genuine revival in The Salvation Army? The short answer is: a move of God, the Spirit of God moving upon The Salvation Army. That isn't something we can control. But we can make sure we are "good ground" for a move of the Spirit of God.

What exactly would that look like? 

Examining the Asbury revival, there are several factors that are unique to how it happened and how it was managed. 

The event began with a very basic sermon, calling the students to repentance. You've sinned, you've become prideful, you've made it about you, now repent. Feel despair. Feel sorrow. Get down on your knees. Weep over your sins. And turn back to God, humble yourself and turn back to God. 

That is what happens in a real revival, is heartfelt repentance, an admission of pride, ego, self, sin, and the Lord convicting that, followed by intense turning away from sin, and toward God. Then with the sins cleared out, the pride replaced by humility, the Spirit of God moves in, and the hunger for God grows and grows into uncontrollable revival.

There is a fair amount of pride in The Salvation Army. "Look at us, the heroes doing the most good!" I'm speaking from personal experience. I became prideful. And I had to repent of it. 

We should be saying, "Look at Jesus and all he's doing here!" But instead we say look at us, look at our special organization. And in fact, to be honest, we kind of hide the name of Jesus. Oh no, just focus on the salvation army, just focus on our red logo. Focus on our social services. Let's pretend to be secular in our national messaging as well. Then we'll get the money we need, right? I'm sure it seems logical. But it doesn't bring revival. 

Is revival going to come to a place that hides the name of Jesus Christ? No, revival won't come there.

Repentance is the key to all this: We must repent on an individual basis. Let it start with you, whether you're a leader, a soldier, a friend, a volunteer, let it start with you, go before God, repent, and begin to pray for revival in The Salvation Army. 

Despite our flaws and our shortcomings and our problems and our messaging, there is hope for revival. There is reason to pray, and believe, and repent. God can do anything! Don't give up hope. Believe that God isn't done with The Salvation Army. Rise up and pray. Repent and turn from sins. Exalt the name of Jesus. Keep serving in Jesus name. Give Him all the glory. 

Notice also that once the revival started, the leaders of Asbury allowed it to flow freely. The leaders of the university didn't take the stage to make it about them. In fact, evangelical leaders came to Asbury asking to take the stage, and Asbury said no. It was grassroots. Just people hungry for God and turning from sin. 

If a revival broke out in The Salvation Army, how soon until someone took the stage to make it all about them? We'd have to make sure that wouldn't happen. No big name, no popular officer, no giant fan-fare, where the leader can begin to take the credit. No, just the Holy Spirit, getting all the credit. 

And people would criticize it. Like many criticized the Asbury revival. And what would we do? Would we shut it down when our donors said it wasn't good for business? Would we shut it down when our friends in the news media declared us religious extremists? Or would we let it flow and refuse to stop it? 

Those are the kinds of questions we'd have to ask. 

But in the end, if we want to see revival, it will take mass repentance in the Salvation Army. 

We must repent of pride.

We must repent of gossip.

We must repent of attempts to redefine biblical truth.

We must lift up the name of Jesus Christ the Lord of all.

We must give God all the glory. 

We must refuse and reject self-aggrandizement.

We must seek the face of God once again. 

Only then will we have real hope of revival. It seems like a tall order. I get it. But, anything is possible. Jesus Christ is alive right now. And there is hope, and reason to believe that God isn't done with The Salvation Army yet. Keep praying brothers and sisters! Don't give up hope! 

Sunday, June 18, 2023

David brings the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem

David has gone from watching over the few sheep of his father, to be anointed as king of Israel. He was anointed, but then he waited. He waited many years, being persecuted by the ruling forces. He was on the run. He was hiding in caves. He fought battles. He dealt with foreign kings. He refused to harm his enemy king Saul. David ruled in Hebron for 7 years. Then he was made king of the entire nation.

All of it had come true, because God was with him, and made sure it would happen. David’s part in that was to obey God, trust God, and follow God’s leading.

During this time in Israel’s history they had something that represented the presence of God among them. It was called “the ark of the covenant.” It was this gold chest, with depictions of angels on it, and inside was a staff that belonged to aaron, as well as the stone slabs where the ten commandments were written. And it was said that God’s presence was there in between the two angels on the ark of the covenant.

It was a symbol of God’s presence and all he had done for them. He had used the staff to help guide them out of slavery in Egypt. He had given them the ten commandments, a design for living for them, to live rightly and to avoid evil.

It’s similar today, we have the cross as a symbol of our faith. We have the Salvation Army flag, we have different symbols to show who we are in Christ. But in the time of Israel, God would actually dwell with the ark of the covenant. His presence would be in the tent of meeting with Moses. 

Today, with Jesus Christ as our savior, we have God’s presence living within us. Instead of going to a tent, or a temple, to meet God, God lives within us, by His Spirit. Think about that, what an amazing thing indeed!

That’s why our physical body is called a temple of God. And we ought to be careful with that temple. Because our body is a temple of God. God dwells within us, by faith.

So in 2nd Samuel 6 we see the Ark of the Covenant being brought to Jerusalem. David intends to bring it to the new capital of the nation.

It says, “David again brought together all the able young men of Israel—thirty thousand. 2 He and all his men went to Baalah in Judah to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the Name, the name of the Lord Almighty, who is enthroned between the cherubim on the ark. 3 They set the ark of God on a new cart and brought it from the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, sons of Abinadab, were guiding the new cart 4 with the ark of God on it, and Ahio was walking in front of it. 5 David and all Israel were celebrating with all their might before the Lord, with castanets, harps, lyres, timbrels, sistrums and cymbals.”

This is like a parade going on, David has 30 thousand men gathered, and they are bringing the ark. But there is a problem here. They’ve set the ark on a cart and they’re using oxen to move it. This is not how the ark is supposed to be moved. It was supposed to be carried by men.

So we’re going to see something terrible happen here. It’s pretty scary, actually. And it’s a good reminder, that we should reverence God and regard God as holy, and to fear God.

It says this: (verses 6-11) "When they came to the threshing floor of Nakon, Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. 7 The Lord’s anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down, and he died there beside the ark of God.

8 Then David was angry because the Lord’s wrath had broken out against Uzzah, and to this day that place is called Perez Uzzah.

9 David was afraid of the Lord that day and said, “How can the ark of the Lord ever come to me?” 10 He was not willing to take the ark of the Lord to be with him in the City of David. Instead, he took it to the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite. 11 The ark of the Lord remained in the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite for three months, and the Lord blessed him and his entire household.”

David feared God that day. He was in fact angry at what happened. We should have a healthy fear of God. It helps keep me on the right track. Fear isn’t always a bad thing. Worldly fear is bad. Godly fear is good. The cool thing is, when I fear God first, I don’t have to fear anything in the world or even in myself.

God strikes this man dead because he was mishandling the ark of the covenant. This is obviously a very rare occurrence. God doesn’t often just strike people dead. It does happen though, as far as I know. It happened with Ananias and Sapphira in the new testament, they lied to the Holy Spirit, and they were both struck dead by God for what they’d done.

There are moments in our lives that are very important. Moments where it’s very important we make the right decision. Think of Moses, when God told him to speak to the rock instead of strike the rock. He struck the rock in anger, and God said because you’ve done this irreverent act, you will not be able to go into the promised land.

There will be key moments in your life when you need to make the right decision. God will convict you in those moments, and help you to make the right decision. But you’ve still got to make it. Avoid the temptation, do the right thing, or it may badly disrupt the course of your life.

We often want to change what God says. We want to tweak it a little. We say well we’re supposed to carry the cart, let’s have some animals pull it. We change things. We twist the word of God. We say well, I don’t like God’s design for marriage, I’m going to change it to fit the worlds view. Just a little tweak. I don’t like this in the Bible, so I’m gonna change it. And those small decisions, they seem small, end up having huge consequences.

They tweaked it a little bit here, changed it, and there were major consequences. David is stunned. And he basically says well, we can’t move the ark then, so he leaves it with a family for safe keeping.

But then David notices later, this family has been blessed by having the ark in their home. So he decides to try again to bring it into Jerusalem. And this time, things work out better.

It says in verses 12-15: “Now King David was told, “The Lord has blessed the household of Obed-Edom and everything he has, because of the ark of God.” So David went to bring up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with rejoicing. 13 When those who were carrying the ark of the Lord had taken six steps, he sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf. 14 Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, 15 while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets.”

This is one of the greatest moments in the entire Bible if you ask me. Israel has suffered, struggled, they were divided in civil war, they had demanded a king from God, even though they had the prophets as God’s voice to them. Things were terrible under King Saul and Saul was rejected by God, and lost everything.

The nation has been dragged along for all this. But finally, the nation is united, under a leader who is leading them to worship God in truth. And it’s great. They can watch and learn to have a heart like David, who dances furiously before the Lord. 

Maybe we should dance before the Lord! We should be that excited about God, because he’s our Lord, we should dance before God with joy. I’m sure in heaven we will.

If we do things God’s way, and don’t change it, don’t twist it, things will work out, like they do here for David. David dances before the ark as they bring it into the city of David. Amazing! Glorious, victorious moment. The presence of God enters the city, the new capital, and everyone celebrates, led by the true King, David, the King in exile who at last has taken over the nation. Finally, the evil king is gone, the good king takes the throne, and everything is ok at last. A man after God’s own heart is on the throne.

Next in verses 16-19: “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. 18 After he had finished sacrificing the burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord Almighty. 19 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.”

David makes these sacrifices, these offerings, on behalf of the people, and blesses the people, they celebrate, and everyone gets a loaf of bread, dates, raisins, and they go home in peace. They have cake, celebrate, such a great day, and then they go home.

Sometimes we just gotta celebrate. Last week I went to the ordination service for the class of 21-23’ from The Salvation Army seminary and we celebrated their ordination and their first appointments as officers. It was a wonderful celebration. When good times happen, we celebrate, praise the Lord!

King David honors God, keeps God first, and the ark of the covenant and the tent of meeting is set up in the new capital of Israel.

In verses 20-23 we see an incident with Michal, David’s wife who was Saul’s daughter.

It says this: “20 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!”

21 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. 22 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.”

23 And Michal daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death.”

It was irreverent for the man to grab hold of the ark of the covenant. But for David to dance before the Lord, that was reverence. Michal didn’t seem to understand that. She felt David’s dancing was an offense. She thought one must be quiet and dignified, but that’s formality talking. That’s not true living faith. That’s not spiritual faith. Spirit led faith is dancing excitedly before God. It’s celebrating God with shouts of praise and glorious singing and vibrant worship.

Remember that about God, he wants your passion, he wants you excited, he wants you to shout for joy before the Lord, and dance furiously before Him. But do it God’s way. Don’t make your own way. Don’t change what he’s said.

Often in formalism we change it to fit what makes us comfortable. But that’s not God’s way. God’s way is passionate, excited, joyous, celebratory, even dancing in an ephod before the Lord, is acceptable worship to God.

David isn’t worried about how he looks to himself, he thinks, who cares if it seems silly to me, if it’s reverent to God. Keep God first, and things will work out. Keep God second, and your life with crumble.


1. Your body is God’s temple, honor God with your body

2. Fear God in your life, it will help keep you on track

3. Make the right decision when it’s hard, at key moments in life

4. Don’t Tweak/Change what God has already said

5. Be Excited about your Relationship with God

6. Celebrate Victories in your Life and in your friends, family, and churches life

7. Reverence is Joyous as well as Solemn / Irreverence is an offense to God

Jesus walks on the Lake

Growing up in Wisconsin we would go “up north” twice a year at least, to a town called Minocqua. And we would spend hours boating, we would travel something they called up there the “chain of lakes.” We’d take my dads boat from lake Minocqua down through these thin passages, to lake Tomahawk, and we’d go to restaurants along the lakes, and then watch the fireworks from the boat. I loved it when I was a kid, but as I got older I started to dislike it and stopped wanting to go.

Jesus and the disciples have been very busy serving people. In fact, they’ve just served about 5,000 men, along with women and children, in the feeding of the five thousand.

Here at the salvation army, we serve about 350-500 meals a month. And we provide about 4 to 6 thousand lbs of produce and baked goods. So, it takes us about a year to serve 5000 people food. All this happens in a few hours.

I’m sure the disciples are all exhausted from this ministry work. They’re sweaty, they’re tired, and they need some rest.

So Jesus tells them to head across the lake.

It says in Mark 6:45-46, “Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46 After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray.”

First thing to notice here, is Jesus went up on a mountainside to pray. Notice, that Jesus is cited as praying many times in the scriptures. If the Son of God needs desperately to pray to God the Father, how much more do we need to pray?

Many of you don’t pray like you should. You think no one will notice. But God notices. Let’s pray right now, pray with me: “God, help us to pray even when we don’t realize how important it is. In Jesus name, amen.”

Jesus is up on this mountain nearby, talking to God. But he’s also observing the disciples. He can see them from far off. They are struggling to cross the lake.

It says in verses 47-48: “Later that night, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. 48 He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them.”

They’ve been rowing on the lake for hours. And they aren’t making any progress. The sea of galilee isn’t that large. It’s 13 miles from north to south, and 7 miles from east to west, shaped like a pear.

But the wind is against them.

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where the wind was against you? I remember at one point in my life I had racked up some financial debt. I kept trying to pay off the bills, but the costs of daily items kept disrupting. It felt like taking two steps forward and one step back. They say pay the smallest bills or credit cards first, then move on to the bigger ones. But it seemed like I wasn’t making any progress.

Have you been in a situation where you felt stuck? A job where you felt you couldn’t make any progress? Or maybe you’ve got a mental health problem or physical health issue that you’ve been battling, and you feel like the disciples rowing on the lake, and not getting anywhere.

It affects you every day. You’ve prayed a hundred times about it. But the Lord hasn’t healed you.

These situations are not unique for us as Christians. They are the norm.

Remember, the disciples at this point were already tired. They had been working and serving and following Jesus. Often when we’re weakest, we take the hit. Something happens. Life happens. And we get upset.

But, we just keep rowing. Like the disciples. They keep rowing. And this goes on all night. Now, finally, it’s dawn. Jesus is praying, and watching, and now, Jesus takes action.

It says this verses 48b-50: “Shortly before dawn he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, 49 but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, 50 because they all saw him and were terrified.”

A terrible storm is raging, we’re told in other gospels, though it’s not specifically mentioned in Mark. It’s starting to not look good. It’s starting to look dangerous. At it’s maximum depths the sea of galilee is 150 feet deep, though it’s average is 85 feet deep.

You know in all my years of boating the chain of lakes in Minocqua, or on lake Wausau, or our family trips to Canada to thunder bay, never have I ever seen someone walking on the lake. Unless it was during winter and frozen over.

No one has ever done that. Buddha never did that. Muhammad never did that. Moses never did that. No one has ever walked on the top of the waves. No one except Jesus.

The waves are crashing, the storm clouds brewing, the wind is blowing, and there comes Jesus the messiah, walking on the water toward his disciples.

They were so shocked they didn’t believe it was really Jesus. They thought it was a ghost. Their minds couldn’t comprehend what was happening in front of them. They’d been rowing all night, now it’s dawn, the sun is rising, and here comes Jesus, walking atop the waters.

What would you think in a moment like that? I might wonder if I was dreaming. I might wonder if I’d gone insane. I might wonder if everything I had ever believed was wrong. I might blink my eyes and say am I really seeing what I’m seeing. But it was plain and clear as day, there He is.

Next, in verses 50-52: “Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” 51 Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, 52 for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.”

Three things to notice: One, take courage. Be courageous. Two, Jesus says it’s me. I’m the one. Three, don’t be afraid.

Good rule for life: Be courageous. Jesus is with you. Don’t be afraid.

Jesus enters the boat, and the storm subsides. Everything is OK. And they are able to get to land.

The disciples were decidedly amazed. Shocked. In awe. Completely astonished. They’ve been with this teacher, seen him do many great things, even to feed thousands with a few loaves of bread. But to see him walk on water, they are shocked to their core.

It says their hearts were hardened. Even after seeing Jesus feed five thousand people, they still didn’t really believe. They were hard hearted.

Could it be true of us today? Are we hard hearted? We’ve been changed by Jesus. We’re different than we used to be. But sometimes over the years, as life doesn’t change, it gets tough. We start to doubt. We start to lose faith. We start to want to give up. It’s tough to sit in struggles and difficulties for many years. It’s very tough. It hurts. After years we start to wonder, can God really help me? Will anything ever really change?

I’ve felt that way. When oh when Lord will anything change? When will my health improve? When will I find my destiny? When will I see my loved ones get saved? It’s tough. We’ve got to stay focused on Jesus in the struggles. And recognize that even now it’s not too late for Jesus to come walking on the waters of our struggle, and climb into our boat, and calm the storm around us, and give us hope and renewed faith.

Our scripture today concludes this way: verses 53-56: When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret and anchored there. 54 As soon as they got out of the boat, people recognized Jesus. 55 They ran throughout that whole region and carried the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. 56 And wherever he went—into villages, towns or countryside—they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.

They land at Gennesaret, and they went to bed, because they hadn’t slept all night. No, it doesn’t say that. They must be exhausted, they haven’t slept all night, but, they immediately encounter people who need Jesus. And Jesus immediately got to work again, healing people, healing the sick, and we even have mention of the woman with the bleeding issue, who touched the edge of Jesus cloak, and was healed. The mission continues, in a new area. They go from one side of the lake, doing ministry, teaching and feeding people then they go the other side of the lake, and continue ministry in the new region.

So we see on the surface what is happening here, Jesus rescues them from the storm, shows them that he is the messiah, he is the savior they need, he shows them that they can’t do it themselves, they can’t row hard enough, they can’t follow enough laws to make themselves right with God, they need Jesus to enter the boat, then the impossible becomes possible.

What’s the deeper message here for us today? It’s the gospel hidden in plain sight. I’ve noticed in the events of Jesus ministry we find the gospel again and again hidden in symbolic images.

The disciples rowing on the waters is us trying to live our lives. But we can’t live the way we’re supposed to, we’re sinners, we keep sinning, and the rowing is us trying to save ourselves by our own works.

So many people if you ask them if they’re going to heaven they say, “well I’m a pretty good person.” We try so hard to be good. But we can’t. We need a savior.

The storm is sin, and the demonic powers and authorities of the spiritual realm, seeking to harm us, the waters below is death, threatening to take us away. We keep rowing, but we can’t reach safety. So what happens? Do we row harder? Try harder? No, Jesus comes to us, and we cry out to Him, like the disciples cry out, and Jesus enters our boat. Jesus comes into our heart and becomes our savior. Our heart goes from hard to soft. He forgives us our sins, and changes us from within. So we are now able by His power, with Him within us, to reach the shore safely. And he calms the storm around us, he remove the sin, and defeats the demonic powers and authorities of the world system. And we find safety in them. Then we serve Him. Doing His will. Sharing his gospel. Jesus walking on the waters is the gospel.

Now let’s look at applications. How can we live what we just learned? How can we live differently? A few points.

1. First, There will be difficulties/trials in life (like the winds and storm on the sea)

2. Be ready to stand even when you feel drained

3. In the trials: a. Take courage

b. Jesus is with you

c. Don’t be afraid

4. Jesus can soften our hard heart (after long difficulties)

5. Jesus can still amaze you (don’t give up)

In conclusion, have a mindset that trials will occur in your life. Sometimes I stop and think to myself, “this is a trial.” This is God at work, purifying me as gold. God is doing something in this. Recognize that, and you’ll find peace in the trial and realize it’s God at work doing something wonderful in you.

But in those trials don’t lose hope. Don’t give up. .Even over years. I know that’s hard. Because you never know when Jesus might come walking on the water, get in the boat, and calm the storm in your life, and bring you safely to the shore. Don’t give up hope. Jesus walks on water, even today.

Friday, June 16, 2023

Can the Foundations of America be Restored? Only through a Revival of the Young

In our desperate search for what went wrong with western civilization, digging through layer after layer, social structures breaking down, norms shifting, confusion abounding, unrest spreading, and suicide flourishing, we search and long and cry out, "What has gone wrong!?"

We think to ourselves, well, it must be education. Or crime? Maybe it's medication or mental health? Could it be a philosophical issue, the effects of post-modernism and moral relativism? Perhaps it's the news media, always spreading negativity and fear and misinformation? Then again it could be racism, sexism, or lack of compassion, or inequality? 

But at the bottom base, the core truth is something we don't like to hear: We really do need God in our society. Without God, the moral law giver, objective truth, moral obligations and duties, prohibitions that exist within the person himself, not simply on paper in society, all of it collapses. 

Christianity is the underpinning of western civilization, and as we jettison it for entertainment, nihilism, pleasure, and post-modernism, we unsurprisingly see a society tipping into chaos, if you tell a man or woman that their life has no greater meaning, they are simply star dust, and whatever they desire to do they may do, without consequences, without any thought of moral accountability or divine justice after death, well, then they do drugs, have sex, and commit suicide. And society collapses. But most people don't want to face that fact. 

Maybe because we dislike the idea of God. But if we can get past that, we might just find the bottom foundation of what went wrong, and right it, before time runs out.

The question is then: Can the foundation be restored? Theoretically, if it could be restored, then every layer above the foundation would eventually slide back into place. 

I've wrestled with this over the last few years, trying to understand what that could look like. Because it really goes down to how people see the world. It goes down to worldview. 

We're increasingly divided as a society between an essential philosophy of life, one side tends to believe in God, the other increasingly believes in science and progress. 

One side is focused on deconstructing norms and reshaping society. The other is set on past/historic models of societal structures. So it becomes increasingly difficult to find common ground, when our underlying perspectives on the universe are so different. But I've got to believe that it won't necessarily come through debating perspectives, though free and open debate is certainly a key asset for society. 

I think it will most likely come through introducing people to Jesus Christ at an angle and from a perspective they haven't seen Him from before.

We've set our battle lines between the ruling philosophies, which I understand why, because one side thinks the other is trying to redefine the entire society based around the progress agenda of deconstructing. And that scares them. Conversely the other side thinks that the religious side is wanting to drag us back in time to a place where bigotry and racism and oppressive gender roles were more normative. And the power belonged to only one select group. And that scares them. So we fight back and forth in the cultural conflicts to either redefine society or hold to past traditions.

And I wrestle and wonder, can the foundation be restored? Only in Jesus Christ. And in Jesus Christ explained in a way that makes sense to a new generation. That may be our only hope.

Then our only hope is revival, because in a real revival the foundations are restored. Society returns to God, and in so doing, the fundamental foundation of society, the family, the individual is restored to foundational connection with their Creator. Restoring the foundation then has to occur on an individual basis, and then inculcated into the structures of society, the elite institutions, but it would have to start with people, young people in particular, a revolutionary revival at academic institutions. That perhaps then could bring about a restoration to the foundational structures that western civilization was built upon, namely God, in the Christian sense, the God of the Bible. 

Sunday, June 4, 2023

Who was John the baptizer? His Life and how He Died

Who was John the baptizer? He was not one of Jesus’ twelve disciples. He was in fact a blood relative of Jesus. Jesus’s cousin. But there was something very special about John. His birth happened in a very special way.

He would become a voice crying out to the entire nation of Israel, to prepare for something huge, a zeitgeist, a paradigm shift, a change in the fabric of the reality of the universe.

John the baptizer was born and spoke for the purpose of telling the masses to get ready, something huge is about to happen.

The world is about to change forever.

God is coming down to the Earth. And he’s going to change the world, by dealing with the root issue in the heart of every human being ever born: the problem of evil.

The revolution began with John the baptizer, gathering a band of outcasts in the wilderness. A force was taking shape, that would call people to turn from their past sins, turn from evil, and get ready for the coming of a new way of life.

"Get ready for the coming of hope into the world," he cried in the wilderness. Get ready for the arrival of the messiah, the savior of the human race, Jesus Christ the messiah.

So John spoke to the crowds, year after year. More and more people came out to see John preaching in the wilderness. Massive crowds gathered around him. He said he was preparing a road for one to walk on, a man who would come after him. Though John was a great hero, a great leader, the one coming after him would be much greater.

The religious leaders of that day didn't know what to think of John. They wondered if he was a prophet, or a madman, or a hero of the old days back from the dead!

John the baptizer spoke to the crowds, yet he also spoke to the ruling powers and government authorities. He spoke into society itself. He challenged the Roman leaders over Israel, he challenged King Herod, and spoke to him often.

Soon the man John told the crowds about a mysterious "lamb of God" who would come into the world. Then one day, after all those years of waiting, that man walked by the river where John baptized. It was Jesus of Nazareth, and John said, "There he is! The lamb of God!" 

John said, "He must become greater, I must become less." So the ministry of John slowly declined, while Jesus ministry increased in prominence.

Then John was imprisoned by the Roman authorities. And John even doubted and wondered if Jesus was really the one. But Jesus sent word to John saying indeed, yes, I am the one, I do impossible things, I preach the good news, the sick are healed, the world is changing at this very moment. 

And now we see in our scripture today how John the Baptist dies. Jesus had recently sent out his disciples two by two to do ministry and perform healings of the sick and injured.

Now we go into the court room of King Herod, where he is monitoring all the events taking place.

It says in Mark 6:14-16: “King Herod heard about this, for Jesus’ name had become well known. Some were saying, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.”

Others said, “He is Elijah.”

And still others claimed, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of long ago.”

But when Herod heard this, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised from the dead!”

Right off the bat we find out that Herod has already had John killed. He’s had his head cut off. Meanwhile everyone is trying to understand: Who is Jesus really? Is he the Old Testament prophet Elijah back from the dead? Is a new prophet? Herod begins to believe that Jesus is John the baptizer back from the dead.

Just like the people two thousand years ago, we must decide in our own hearts: Who is Jesus to us?

There are many theories today about who Jesus was and is. People believe many different things about Him. Some of them true, some of them not true.

We must all decide who Jesus is to us. Is he a good moral teacher? Is he just another guy? Is he a prophet? Or is he our King, our Friend, and our Savior? Who is Jesus to you? You’ll have to decide that in your heart. And live your life accordingly.

Let’s look into the events that occurred around the death of John. Verses 17-20:

"For Herod himself had given orders to have John arrested, and he had him bound and put in prison. He did this because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, whom he had married. 18 For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19 So Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But she was not able to, 20 because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled; yet he liked to listen to him."

Here you have controversy. Controversy is a classic sign of any Christian ministry. There will be controversies. There will be incidents. There will be outrage and people upset from the preaching of the truth. That will happen. In fact, if you aren’t encountering controversies, you should probably be worried. You’re not speaking the truth clearly enough. It will happen.

John finds himself in a controversy. He has upset the wrong people. Yet John did the right thing. He spoke the truth. And let the chips fall where they may. 

Sometimes when we find ourselves in a controversy we start to feel guilty, like we did something wrong. Now, if the controversy occurred because you said something stupid, well then it is your fault. And you should feel guilty and make a change and apologize for what happened. Then again, if you simply spoke God's truth, as he commanded you to, then you have absolutely nothing to feel guilty about. You should celebrate in that situation, because you are now suffering for Christ the Lord himself. 

So, this woman who is mad at John is trying to harm him, but, Herod is protecting John. You will also have people who protect you as a Christian. People more powerful than you, God will use to protect you. And they’ll use their influence and power to keep you safe from your adversaries. God puts us into controversies as Christians, we stand in the gap for Him in those controversies. But God also protects us in those controversies. So we may continue our ministry.

That’s the first thing to notice here, a controversy develops.

Second, notice that Herod likes to listen to John. It says he knew John was a righteous and holy man. He was puzzled when he listened to John preach but he enjoyed it.

I’ve found the same is true with many I’ve known. They like to listen to me rant on and on about the Lord and faith and the Bible. They don’t really get too into it. But they like to listen.

That’s not a bad place to be where people know you’re righteous, trust that you are representing God, and they are willing to listen to you speak. I think that’s where we want to be as Christians. People know we walk what we say. They know we really do care about them. And they come to listen to the word. That’s a powerful combination. But for Herod, he is listening, but not understanding.

But at the same time Herodias is plotting to try to get rid of John. And it says in verses 21-23:

"Finally the opportune time came. On his birthday Herod gave a banquet for his high officials and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. When the daughter of Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his dinner guests.

The king said to the girl, “Ask me for anything you want, and I’ll give it to you.” And he promised her with an oath, “Whatever you ask I will give you, up to half my kingdom.”"

Herod has a fancy birthday party for himself. Herodias’ daughter dances for him, and he’s very happy. So happy he is ecstatic, this must’ve been some amazing dancing. So, he offers with an oath, to give her a royal gift. Herod is so smitten by this woman's dancing, he offers her up to half his kingdom. Isn't that crazy? But I'll tell you a little secret, guys can be just that smitten by a woman, that they make some bad choices. Plus, I'm sure Herod had had a few drinks at his little party. 

The girl who danced is made this offer. But she doesn't know what to do. So she asks Mom.  

It says in verses 24-25: She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?”

“The head of John the Baptist,” she answered.

At once the girl hurried in to the king with the request: “I want you to give me right now the head of John the Baptist on a platter.”

She could've had half the kingdom, but her mom chooses revenge. And this becomes the decision that would seal the fate of John the baptizer. 

Then we see King Herod very upset. But not upset enough to prevent it from happening.  

Verses 26-29 says, "The king was greatly distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he did not want to refuse her. So he immediately sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. The man went, beheaded John in the prison, and brought back his head on a platter. He presented it to the girl, and she gave it to her mother. On hearing of this, John’s disciples came and took his body and laid it in a tomb."

The end of John the Baptist's life seems like a defeat. It seems like a failure. But it isn't. It's a victory. John gave his life for his cousin Jesus. He gave his life for the Lord. He was a martyr. 

If we take the eternal perspective, which is the real and true perspective, we see that John is alive now. He is not in fact dead. He is alive, because he kept faith with Christ. 

Would you give your life for Jesus Christ? Your day may come. Things are changing very fast in the world. So we must all be ready at any moment to give our lives for Jesus. If we renounce Christ, we will lose everything including our eternal future. If we hold fast to Christ and die for Him, we will also live with Him forever. Amen. 

David made King of the entire Nation

Israel is in a vicious civil conflict, between Judah in the south, and the rest of Israel in the north. David commands from the city of Hebron in the south, and Ish-Bosheth is in charge in the north.

Abner was Ish-Bosheth’s main military leader, but he was insulted by his leader, and shifted sides to join David. But, Abner was killed by Joab. The death of Abner leads Israel to begin to fall apart. Ish-Bosheth is a weak leader, and can’t hold things together.

It says in 2nd Samuel 4:1-2: "When Ish-Bosheth son of Saul heard that Abner had died in Hebron, he lost courage, and all Israel became alarmed. 2 Now Saul’s son had two men who were leaders of raiding bands. One was named Baanah and the other Rekab…”

First key take away today, is that when a nation has poor leadership the people lose courage, and things begin to fall apart.

In our own lives we need to be courageous. Show courage in difficult situations. Don’t give up when times get hard. Keep fighting the good fight. Bring it to God in prayer. Take a deep breath. Sorrows may endure, but joy comes in the morning. We must keep hope. We must keep faith. We must continue to be courageous in the face of obstacles.

Baanah and Rekab are going to hatch a way to try to get favor from David, because it looks like David is winning the war and Ish-Bosheth is on the way out. So here’s what they do…

In verses 5-6: “Now Rekab and Baanah, the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, set out for the house of Ish-Bosheth, and they arrived there in the heat of the day while he was taking his noonday rest. They went into the inner part of the house as if to get some wheat, and they stabbed him in the stomach. Then Rekab and his brother Baanah slipped away.”

Rekab and Baanah murder Ish-Bosheth, and think they’re going to be rewarded for it.

In verses 7-8: "They had gone into the house while he was lying on the bed in his bedroom. After they stabbed and killed him, they cut off his head. Taking it with them, they traveled all night by way of the Arabah. They brought the head of Ish-Bosheth to David at Hebron and said to the king, “Here is the head of Ish-Bosheth son of Saul, your enemy, who tried to kill you. This day the Lord has avenged my lord the king against Saul and his offspring.”

Second point today, good can’t come from an evil act. You can’t do something bad and expect something good to happen later because of it. The ends never justify the means.

Can you have an affair with a married man or woman, and think well, this is God’s will, he or she said, "It’s already over." That is never God’s will. You can’t do evil and expect something good will come from it.

Should I lie to get a raise? Never. Nothing good can come from an evil deed. Sometimes we think, well, just this once, I’ll do something bad, but I need the money, and God will forgive me, so it’ll be fine. No, don’t ever think that way. Evil deeds will have consequences. Just like in this situation.

Think about it, Ish-Bosheth is working against God’s will. He is fighting against David the rightful king. But it’s still wrong for these two guys to sneak in and murder him. The outcome is right you could say, the enemy king is dead, but, the way it was done was so wrong, it’s pure evil. And they’ll be held accountable.

Let’s look at how King David answers them.

Next, verses 9-12: "David answered Rekab and his brother Baanah, the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, “As surely as the Lord lives, who has delivered me out of every trouble, when someone told me, ‘Saul is dead,’ and thought he was bringing good news, I seized him and put him to death in Ziklag. That was the reward I gave him for his news! How much more—when wicked men have killed an innocent man in his own house and on his own bed—should I not now demand his blood from your hand and rid the earth of you!”

So David gave an order to his men, and they killed them. They cut off their hands and feet and hung the bodies by the pool in Hebron. But they took the head of Ish-Bosheth and buried it in Abner’s tomb at Hebron.”

So David deals with these two murders through swift justice. But I want to point your attention to something David says here, he says, "God has delivered me out of every trouble." He also makes it clear, we serve a living God.

That’s our third point today, if you’re following God’s plan for your life, God will deliver you from the troubles you face. Don’t lose hope. Don’t give up. Keep following Jesus. God will deliver you from trouble. God will bring you out of the pit and onto safe ground. God will bring you through this trial. You'll find yourself safe on the other side, for His glory and kingdom. Don’t give up now. Keep going.

Let’s flip over into 2nd Samuel chapter 5. Just the first five verses here. Now, with Abner gone, with Ish-Bosheth defeated, finally this civil conflict can end.

It says in 2nd Samuel 5:1-5: "All the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron and said, “We are your own flesh and blood. In the past, while Saul was king over us, you were the one who led Israel on their military campaigns. And the Lord said to you, ‘You will shepherd my people Israel, and you will become their ruler.’”

When all the elders of Israel had come to King David at Hebron, the king made a covenant with them at Hebron before the Lord, and they anointed David king over Israel.

David was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned forty years. In Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months, and in Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years.”

The leaders of all Israel meet with David at the city of Hebron, and they make an agreement, that David will be King over the entire nation. All this happened before the Lord, in the presence of God, they anointed David king over the whole nation.

Point number four today, all your life is happening before God’s watchful eyes. That's already true for all people everywhere. But it’s different when we have the attitude that we're doing things, "in the presence of God." That means we’re acknowledging God’s presence in our lives, we’re inviting God in to each moment in our lives. 

We’re living each day in the presence of God. Is that how you live today? Do you live as one living in the presence of God? That is the attitude you should have. I’m doing my work for God. I'm relaxing in God's presence. I'm mowing the lawn with God with me. I'm driving with God here. I'm bike riding with God with me. I’m living today with God. I’m always with God. And I love to be with God!

So in conclusion, David was king in Hebron over Judah for 7 and ½ years. Then, over the entire nation for another 33 years. He was about 30 when he became king in Hebron, and about 37 years old when he became king over the whole nation. Young leader. But he does great things for God, more and more over time. Praise the Lord, may it be so for us as well, that we grow to do great things for God throughout our lives! 

So to review, our main points today:

1. Be courageous in the face of difficulties

2. Good can’t come from an evil action

3. Have hope, God will deliver you from the troubles you face

4. Have a mindset of living in the Presence of God