Tuesday, December 18, 2007

None Compare

And he said, this will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you. I Samuel 8.11

No Comparison -
Israel has demanded a king so they would be “like all the other nations”. They had decided that rather than be subject to the loving God; Creator of all of heaven and earth, they would take their chances with a mere mortal. Not a wise choice.

Samuel then warns them, telling them that this decision will come at a cost… the king will take; then he will take some more.

It is a sobering warning that fell on deaf ears but maybe we can glean something for our own lives.

Paul tells us in Romans 6.16-18

Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.

Now that is pretty heady stuff! What he is saying in a nutshell was summed up pretty well by Bob Dylan when he sang, “you’re gonna serve someone… it might be the devil, or it might be the Lord, but you’re gonna serve someone.”

But we do have a choice who we serve. Paul is saying don’t go back to the taskmaster of sin; you have been freed, be instead a “slave” to righteousness.

Now, back to Samuel. He gives them a list of things that this king of theirs will take:

Vs 11-13 He is going to take your children and make them slaves
It’s going to impact your family
Vs 14 He is going to take the best of your fields –this years harvest
It will affect your work
Vs 15 He is going to take your seed – next years harvest
Your financial security will be affected
Vs 16 He is going to take your servants and beasts of burden
Your ability to serve will be impacted
Vs 17 He will take your flocks and you will be his servants
You will be brought into bondage as a result

No comparison -
Nevertheless, the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel, and they said,

“No, but there shall be a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.” Vs 19-20

They were willing to trade the miraculous, victory winning, miracle working "Lord of Hosts" for a flawed human general. Not a wise choice.

Well there is plenty to apply to our lives in considering this but let me just drop one devotional reality in your lap.

No comparison -
The “kings” of this world take and take and take; it is the way of the world, the way of the flesh, the way of our enemy. But our King of Kings came to give and give and give.

He gave us His life, it always begins there; but hardly ends there.
He has also given us “Everything that pertains to life and godliness…”
He has also given us “Every good and perfect Gift…”
He has also given us “All the promises of God are in Him”
He has also given us "every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ"

No wonder we serve Him, have made Him our King – now that is a wise choice!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Jehovah Jireh - The Lord Our Provider

Abraham called the name of that place, "The Lord Will Provide", as it is said to this day, "In the mount of the Lord it will be provided"

After covering this passage at our study on Friday, and in light of the message a week ago in Habakkuk, I wanted to bring it back to the front of my mind and heart again; what is referred to as "meditating on the Word", so important.

Habakkuk had a need, a request he had brought before the Lord. In his case it was a question about what God was doing, I don't know what your request before the Lord might be...

He begins by being frustrated, he ends rejoicing. Even though his situation had not changed He says,
"Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food; though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls, yet will I exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation."

The "God of my salvation", "The Lord My Provider"; how does He provide?

Sometimes He provides by making the waste places fruitful
(As He promised in Joel)
Sometimes He provides in ways you could never have dreamed of
(As He did with the manna)
Sometimes He provides by multiplying our meager supply
(As He did with the loaves and fishes)
Sometimes He Provides by causing us to survive on nearly nothing
(As He did with Moses and Elijah)
Sometimes it doesn't come at all in the way we normally think of as "provision"
( As with the saints mentioned in Hebrews 11.35-38)

Habakkuk got it, so did Abraham... so did Job!

It was Job who said, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him."

Do I realize, as Abraham did, that it is in the Mount of the Lord... that is to say, Calvary; it is on that Mount that I will find my ultimate provision? Do I see that the Lord already has provided. It has all already been given, He gave it all on that cross... for me.

In the mount of the Lord His provision is seen. That is the provision that I must keep in focus, all the rest is secondary to the work of the cross on my behalf.

Is the Lord enough? Am I satisfied with Him and Him alone. Can I be content and say with the Psalmist, "The Lord is my Portion"?

Where will my heart travel if the thing I have asked for never comes as in Habakkuk's story?Will I be able to rejoice still; or is my joy, my contentment, even, dare I say, my relationship, based on what the Lord gives me or doesn't give me day to day. In other words, is it conditional?
How great and marvelous are Your works oh Lord. They are beyond finding out. How abundant your grace, how magnificent is your mercy, how pleasant are Your thoughts toward me, how beyond measure Your love.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Who Will Be king?

Behold, you have grown old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint a king for us to judge us like all the nations. I Samuel 8.5

As great a man, as wonderful a judge and prophet Samuel was personally, his sons were quite a different story. The Israelites were not about to have them serve in the office of Judge over them. One could hardly blame them, I suppose. Verse three says,

“His sons, however, did not walk in his ways, but turned aside after dishonest gain and took bribes and perverted justice.”
These are not admirable qualities for a judge to say the least.

But the “judge” was more than what we might think of in the judicial sense; they were God’s instrument of leadership for the nation. They were men, and one woman, raised up by the Lord when Israel had “done what was right in their own sight” to deliver Israel from their oppressors and lead the people back to the Lord.

Samuel, as it turns out, is the last judge in Israel, his sons would not operate in that office… the people rejected them.

What Israel demanded was “a king for us to judge us like all the nations.” They wanted to have a king like all their neighbors, a flesh and blood monarch to govern them.

Again though their request/demand might seem to be reasonable, the commentary concerning it is given to us in verse seven where God says to Samuel,
“Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them.”

This is the real issue at the heart of their demand; they wanted a monarchy rather than to continue as a theocracy. They wanted a man to stand in rather than God as their king. They didn’t want to continue in that very unique and special relationship with the Living God that Israel alone could claim; that is, that God himself was leading them. The God of all of heaven and earth was taking a personal and very direct role in governing Israel.

They were rejecting that, they wanted to go it on their own; they wanted to be like the world, have a man at the helm and trust him to lead them and protect them and to govern well the affairs of the nation.

In the generations that would follow Israel had some wonderful kings, godly men who were used by God, but they had even more that were godless, selfish reprobates that led the nation into ruin and defeat.

If we could pause for a minute and just reason this out I think that we would conclude that even the very best of human kings, at their very best, at the pinnacle of their achievements would pale terribly to the perfection, omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence of God Almighty.

It was a very bad trade; they chose the short straw, gambled on independence and lost.

So do we precious saint, anytime… every time we choose any king or any thing that is not God to have a place of authority in our lives. Even if, maybe especially if, it is ourselves that we are entrusting the authority to.

It is a bad deal, a bad trade. In the kingdom, gambling on independence from God is a losing proposition.

We have also been given the opportunity to enjoy that special relationship with the God of heaven and earth. God so desires to govern us, to lead us an guide us, provide and protect us, lets allow Him to do just that… even today.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Someone Took Our Sign!

Its true! Someone apparently really needed a vinyl sign that said "Lawrence Street Chapel" so they got a ladder and unhooked our sign from the front of the building and have it hanging in their bedroom now I suppose.

Hey, we are reaching the world one sign at a time...ha!

It reminds me of a classic conversation I overheard with one of my very good friends from Applegate. His name is Garry and regularly blew me away with down-home, good 'ol boy wisdom and this was one of those times.

A congregant came up to us one afternoon: he was concerned that, "you could hardly see the sign out on Hwy 238" which runs in front of the church.

And he was saying, "How are folks supposed to find the church?" (Now, that was kind of funny on several levels since there were 6-7,000 people attending the Fellowship then, maybe more. Apparently somehow they had managed.)

But Garry took the conversation in a different direction. He said to this good brother,
"How is it that you started attending Applegate?"
He said, "A friend invited me".
"Well" Garry said, "He's one of our signs."
"What do you mean?" Our good brother asked.
"We have 6-700o signs running around the Rogue Valley all week long, I don't think the one in front of the church is the one that bring people here" Garry said.

He said to this brother, "You are the sign for the Fellowship man!"

I love that guy. There is some real wisdom there.

How are people going to find out about Lawrence Street Chapel? They will hear about it from you. It is your excitement, your encouragement, it is your invitation that will get that neighbor of yours to come and check it out.

How about the Lord Jesus Christ; how will people come to Him? It will not be by putting up a billboard or by slick marketing; they will come to know Jesus when we share Him with them. When we invite them to "come and see" the One that we are so passionately in love with.

We are the sign; the light, the salt, the fragrance of Christ in the world. It is our assignment to show folks the way to Jesus.

As for the sign, I guess when we can we will need to replace it at some point. My prayer and determination however is to place no trust in such things... it's just a sign.

Signing OFF for now.

Thursday, November 29, 2007


Then Samuel took a stone and set it between Mizpah and Shen, and named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the LORD has helped us.”

I Samuel 7.12

Classic! One of my favorite verses in this early portion of I Samuel.

The Israelites had just witnessed the Lord win a miraculous victory over the Philistines; their formidable and constant enemy.

And so they set up a stone, a memorial to the Lord which served as reminder of the victory and a declaration of thanksgiving but it went a bit further yet.

The name given to the stone was Ebenezer which means, “stone of help” and in His declaration Samuel said, “Thus far the Lord has helped us”. “Today we mark this place, we set up a standard and we erect this memorial to the Lord making this declaration… 'thus far the Lord has helped us'”.

This is a very practical, simple and extremely powerful model to follow in our walk.

Pause, regardless of where you are in your life right now… put it in neutral. Take a look back over your life and survey your past for just a moment. Can you see the hand of the Lord working covering, providing, protecting? Is there any place where He let you down, dropped the ball or abandoned you? Any time when He didn’t come through? Any time things weren’t working together for good in your life?

You might be saying “yes, there is”. For you, let me lovingly recommend you take that to the Lord and ask Him to reveal His greater purpose, His sovereignty, His grace to you. I know He will open your eyes and heart. But that is another subject all together.

For the rest of us, though we might not have seen it or understood it at the time, we can now see that without fail, the Lord has brought victory into my life. THUS FAR HE HAS HELPED ME. No exceptions, no debate about it; it is absolutely true… God has never failed me.

If that is true for you, today might be a good day to set a marker, to place a standard and make that declaration as Samuel did.

Here is the deal.
I am reconfirming God’s faithfulness to me. Not how the Lord was faithful to someone else, not the teaching of the Word on faith, not exhortation from the pulpit on being a man or woman of faith; this is my testimony! It is not doctrinal, not hypothetical and not anecdotal, it is experiential… and it is my experience.

No one has to convince me or convict me and no one has to understand it really, its mine. It is my memorial of God’s faithfulness in my life. Thus far he has helped me.

Now this could certainly be expanded; a couple could do the same thing and say thus far he has helped us, a family could do likewise; a church leadership could do the same (and I am here to tell you we have done just this very thing) and declare, “Thus far the Lord has helped us."

So what does that looking backward do for me? It gives me confidence as I look ahead. It is very simple and very powerful. I thus far God has helped me, and I am the one who concluded that!

If can say that in my own heart… God has helped me every day up to this point. This gives me confidence to move forward with the expectation that His faithfulness will not fail me now.

Ebenezer, a very good idea; a memorial to God’s faithfulness.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A Twelve Step Program?

From the day that the ark remained at Kiriath-jearim, the time was long, for it was twenty years; and all the house of Israel lamented after the LORD. I Samuel 7.2
The nation of Israel had lost its way, had fallen away and had turned away from the Lord their God. The ark was back in the country but it might as well have been on the other side of the world as far as the Jews were concerned. The Lord, however, was not about to give up on them.

God had called a young boy by the name of Samuel to be a judge and a prophet to His people Israel. It is at this point in the story that Samuel steps to the forefront.

In verse 3 Samuel calls the people to return to the Lord and in his instruction to them, in his encouragement of them, we see a “12 Step program” for seeing victory. Victory over the enemy, over that thing which constantly attacks you, a perpetual temptation or trial… victory!

If you have been around me very long you know that I have little regard for 12 step programs; the Lord doesn’t tell us there is some progression that we have to follow to make our way back to Him or to see victory in our life… it is ONE STEP.

But let me show you why I think Samuels 12 step program might be helpful; he begins in Vs 3 by saying:
“If you return to the LORD with all your heart, remove the foreign gods and the shtaroth from among you and direct your hearts to the LORD and serve Him alone; and He will deliver you from the hand of the Philistines.”
In verse 3 we have the first four steps, but did you see the first one; “If you return to the Lord…”. That is the one step! Samuels first step is the one step that must be made; in that step the victory is seen.

So why do we have 11 more?

What I see in this passage are very practical things we can do in our lives WHILE we are turning to the Lord, practical actions and activities that will begin to shape a new attitude; that will give us a new perspective helping us stay on the positive track.


Step #1 Turn to the Lord
This is repentance, changing direction

Step #2 Remove the foreign gods
Do I have things in my house, at the office, wherever, that trip me up?

Step #3 Direct your heart
It means apply, stand up, ground yourself in the Lord

Step #4 Serve him alone
You want to see sudden impact on your life… serve!

There are another six steps in verse six which reads:
They gathered to Mizpah, and drew water and poured it out before the LORD, and fasted on that day and said there, “We have sinned against the LORD.” And Samuel judged the sons of Israel at Mizpah.
Step #5 They gathered
Do not forsake the assembly of the saints

Step #6 and #7 They poured it out before the Lord
This is an act of worship and offering or giving, both are key

Step #8 They fasted
There is a mystical dynamic released in fasting that I can not explain

Step #9 We have sinned
Confession; agreeing with God concerning sin

Step #10 Samuel Judged
Start making good decisions

We find the final two steps in verses 8-9:
Then the sons of Israel said to Samuel, “Do not cease to cry to the LORD our God for us, that He may save us from the hand of the Philistines.” Samuel took a suckling lamb and offered it for a whole burnt offering to the LORD; and Samuel cried to the LORD for Israel and the LORD answered him.
Step #11 Do not cease to pray
Pray - and then pray some more

Step #12 Offered a whole burnt offering
This is the very idea behind Romans 12.1-2:
Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. and do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
Sorry this is such a long entry but bear with me as we end here…

The result? (vs 10)
Now Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, and the Philistines drew near to battle against Israel. But the LORD thundered with a great thunder on that day against the Philistines and confused them, so that they were routed before Israel.
One step to Jesus… and then some practical things that can be done to encourage us to keep making that one step toward Him moment by moment.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Joshua's Stone

The cart came into the field of Joshua the Beth-shemite and stood there where there was a large stone; and they split the wood of the cart and offered the cows as a burnt offering to the LORD.

The large stone on which they set the ark of the LORD is a witness to this day in the field of Joshua the Beth-shemite.
I Samuel 6.14, 18b

The Ark of the Covenant which was lost in battle to the Philistines had been returned being carried on an unmanned cart pulled by a couple cows.

What a sight it was when it just showed up on day in the field of Joshua.

They took the wood from the cart and offered the cows as an offering right there on the spot… on that spot, on the large stone in the field of Joshua.

This was an agrarian society, they earned their living from and were sustained by the land through the providence of God. But here in the middle of Joshua’s field was a big rock.

Each fall and then again before planting they would have to plow around this “large stone” it was an obstacle, it was a hindrance to the work they were trying to accomplish. When the seed was sown, any that fell on the rock would be wasted and during harvest the large stone just reminded them that there would be no profit coming from there, it was useless; just a big waste of space in the middle of the field.

But then The Ark showed up and that waste place became a place of rejoicing, a place of worship; in fact, it became a memorial. From that day forward that stone, that spot that was previously “useless” became a reminder of the day the Lord showed up.

I bet you might have a “Joshua Stone” or two in your life as well; a waste place that has become a place of rejoicing. Maybe for you it is some old habit, some behavior where the Lord has brought victory. For others it might be a once fruitless relationship that the Lord entered and now there is a harvest of fellowship.

Perhaps we should look at this as a promise. I know the Lord wants to show up in the middle of your “dead zone” and bring life; He wants to make Himself available to us. He longs to take what was before an obstacle and transform it into an opportunity for worship.

Do you have a “Joshua stone” that you can identify? Invite the lord to visit you there; I know He will show up.

And when He does He will leave you with a memorial that will last a lifetime as a continual reminder or His redemptive grace and power.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Another Re-print from Chris Stadler

Amen, Scott. Here's a little personal testimony. I'd put in in my own blog, but I want it to get read, so here it is:

I've felt lead, lately, to start glorifying God in specific parts of my life. He's asked me to do some crazy stuff - and I'm blessed with a wife who's almost as crazy as I am (maybe the word is "naive;" still not sure).

In any case, I read in Jeremiah today that God wants our roots to grow deep. And that's cool, because I think God is doing something pretty darn amazing in us. We'll let you know when we figure out exactly what that is. Actually, you'll know it when you see it, because we'll be telling everyone who will listen about the excellent things He's doing in us.

But right now, it feels like He's planting roots - not a ton of external fruit yet. But if He's getting a big ol' root system laid down, it kind of makes you wonder why. Why do I need such a deep root system? Maybe it's because trees with strong roots can reach way higher.

Furthermore, He's doing it in such a way that I can't take credit. Oh yeah, and nobody else can, either. That's because we're not putting people in a position where they can take credit.

Lest you think we're anything special, here's the thing: we have doubts. Yesterday was a particularly discouraging day. It's been a tough weekend, and yesterday, I was doubting. That happens often. But God assures me that He's faithful, even in those times. And the next day is always better, as evidenced by my joy this morning.

Also, don't be stopped by thinking that you don't have the endurance. It's tempting to be a "realist," and say, "Sure, I'm excited today, but I know me, and I'll just fail in a month or so." But consider this: God wants to change you. And if you're holding back hope because of fear, then seek Him out on that subject. Tell Him straight up, "God, I doubt my faith. Help me." And don't be afraid to ask about the details. Don't be limited by Christianese; pray your heart.

Finally, if you're willing to take a risk, whether it's financial, career or whatever, but you're wondering if you're hearing from the Lord, consider this: we've all heard stories about people who trusted the Lord and didn't get what they expected. We've also heard about people who hear from the Lord only good things, like they have selective hearing. Personally, I just didn't want to be called "naive." But here's the thing: God's not going to let you fall into ruin when you're listening to Him. And by investing in learning to hear from Him, you're getting ready to do those mighty things Scott talked about in his blog post.I

I don't think you can do mighty things without listening to God, doing the scarry things He asks us to, and giving Him that room to work mightily on His behalf.

Just remember David. He put his life on the line right there and then in front of Goliath. But his trust was in God to deliver Goliath into his hand. A few minutes later, there was a big thud, as Goliath hit the ground. Not only that, but the story encourages millions of Christians, and gives us evidence that God wants to use us.I

If you're afraid to trust God, for whatever reason, don't worry. Simply start the dialogue with Him. You will be absolutely surprised at how easy He makes it for a willing heart.

- Chris Stadler

Monday, November 19, 2007

God Can Handle It

And the cows took the straight way in the direction of Beth-shemesh; they went along the highway, lowing as they went, and did not turn aside to the right or to the left. And the lords of the Philistines followed them to the border of Beth-shemesh. I Samuel 6.12
The Ark of the Covenant had been captured by the Philistines, the enemies of Israel. While in the hands of the Philistines no Israelite attempted to rescue it, recover it, or even discover which city it was taken to.

Initially the ark was taken to Ashdod but the citizens there soon realized that they had stirred up a hornets nest and that this was no ordinary prize they had won in battle. In fact the people began to be plagued by tumors and death so the ark was sent to another major city, Gath. That might ring a bell, it is where Goliath was from. The plague followed so they sent it away again until they finally figured out that they were simply spreading the plague through their own country… something had to be done to rid the land of this ark once and for all.

The Philistines decided to send it back where it came from, which they accomplish by putting it on a cart and aiming it in the general direction of Beth-shemesh.

Sure enough, the ark had been returned safe and sound. The Lord had taken care of it Himself without the help of Israel. He didn't need their help.

The Lord doesn’t need our help either. He is well able to accomplish His objectives without any assistance at all. It’s a good thing to remember from time to time… God does not need me.

Having said that, had there been an Israelite who stepped forward even in the face of overwhelming odds, even at the risk of life and limb; and had gone after the ark… Oh my, what a story we would have had.

And we would have had that story! I am certain the Lord would have made it a part of His living record as He did so on many, many other occasiosn when there was seemingly even less at stake.

The Lord is looking for men and women who will take a stand, who will report for duty, who will step forward and be counted when there is work to do. How do I know?
For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward Him. II Chronicles 16.9
The Lord doesn’t need our help, but here is the amazing thing; He wants our help, He lets us help. He is looking for people with a heart to help, who want to be part of HIS-story, who are willing to risk a bit at times for the glory of God.

Oh, the work will get done, no question about that. The only question is do I want to be part of what the Lord is doing.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Bring in the Ark!

Now the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it from Ebenezer to Ashdod.
I Samuel 5.1

The Israelites had taken the ark into battle as a good luck charm, and they lost not only the battle, but the ark as well.

This emblem of God’s power, where God dwelt between the Cherubim; the ark that had led them across the Jordan, that they had followed as they proceeded on their victory march through the promise land; it was now in the hands of the enemy.

Where are the men who would stand up on His behalf and fight for His honor? Where are the mighty men who would risk it all for God? There were none to be found in Israel. We will see later in the story that the Lord is well able to take care of Himself. But it still a question that confronts the saints today, “who will stand for the cause of Christ and His cross?”

They bring the ark into their temple where their gods are all assembled and leave it there.
When the Ashdodites arose early the next morning, behold, Dagon had fallen on his face to the ground before the ark of the LORD. So they took Dagon and set him in his place again. (vs 3)

This might be a hint… if your god needs a hand, maybe one ought to look for another god… ha! And, if your god is on his face before another God, maybe you ought to pick the one standing… ya think!

Then vs four:
But when they arose early the next morning, behold, Dagon had fallen on his face to the ground before the ark of the LORD. And the head of Dagon and both the palms of his hands were cut off on the threshold; only the trunk of Dagon was left to him.
And the Ashdodites said, (yeah, you are ahead of me) “Dagon-it”. Talk about needing a hand… a he needed two, and a head. Their god had become a stump.

Please read the following with care. It is so critical to the issues of life that we deal with.

They had an idol in their temple, a god that was ½ fish and ½ man, it was unnatural, an aberration, an amalgamation of a warped mind.

And there it stood until the God of Gods was brought into its presence. When the Glory of God entered that temple Dagon bit the dust.

Now apply this to our own lives.
We are the temple of the living God. And on occasion we deal with idols of one kind or another, we have issues that need to be dealt with. Sometimes lots of them. The Psychologist and the analyst will tell you that you need get a handle on your issues and to face your feelings. Begin to work on ways to remove those things from your life.

This story gives us a much more direct approach. You want to see the Dagon’s in your life deal with; bring in the presence fo the Lord. What you will see, what I will find is that the Dagon’s will fall in light of His presence, his glory, His power.

I can exhaust myself trying to “deal” with my issues or I can simply bring in the ark.

Dagon-it that’s simple! And it’s true!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Good Luck Charm

When the people came into the camp, the elders of Israel said, “Why has the LORD defeated us today before the Philistines? Let us take to ourselves from Shiloh the ark of the covenant of the LORD, that it may come among us and deliver us from the power of our enemies.” I Samuel 4.3

A treacherous time for the nation of Israel is seen in this story. Allow me to give you the punch line to these events then we will take a quick look at some of the fallout.

The Israelites, including their priests Hophni and Phinehas who are right in the middle of this (vs 4), are so totally disconnected from the God who loves them and have fallen so far from the Lord; that after losing the first skirmish with the Philistines, use the Ark of the Covenant as a good luck charm. “That it might come among us and deliver us”. In fact, it seems even the writer of this bit of history is a little incredulous as he amplifies by saying, “the ark of the covenant of the LORD of hosts who sits above the cherubim” (you know… that one, I’m not kidding!)

When it comes into camp the people of Israel “shouted with a great shout”. At first glance it sounds pretty spiritual, but what they should have done is fallen on their faces in fear.

The Philistines on the other hand; upon hearing the great shouting of the Israelites say, “Woe to us”. “Woe to us! Who shall deliver us from the hand of these mighty gods?” It should have been the Israelites who had that reaction.

What happens next? Let’s make a list:
· The Philistines fought and Israel was defeated, and
· Every man fled to his tent; and
· The slaughter was very great, And
· The ark of God was taken; and
· The two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, died. (vs 10-11)

The news reaches Eli...
· Your two sons also, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead, and
· The ark of God has been taken.
· When he mentioned the ark of God, Eli fell off the seat backward beside the gate, and his neck was broken and he died (vs. 17-18)

The Ark was lost; it was an unmitigated disaster of the nation of Israel.

God’s power is not at our beckon call. He is not available for us to use at our whim. The Holy Spirit is not someone, or something that we wield; far from it. We are the ones who are to be available to be wielded by the Holy Spirit, the ones totally yielded to the Holy Spirit.

It is healthy I think, to remind ourselves of just how awesome God is. To realize again that He is not to be called upon at our convenience. That he doesn’t “snap to” when we decide we finally want Him involved in our lives.

The question is not will God be a part of what I am doing but rather am I a part of what He is doing.

And may we guard against treating God like a good luck charm, like a genie; like a fire exit… “Use only in case of emergency.”

Israel had no regard for God, there was no relationship there, there was no devotion, no reverence and no worship. Then they thought, “Oh yeah. The ark is spiritual; let’s get God involved, that’ll do the trick.” It didn’t.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

It is the Lord

So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. And he said, “It is the LORD; let Him do what seems good to Him."

I Samuel 3.18

Samuel had his first assignment from the Lord and it was a doozey! Samuel was to deliver a message to Eli, his mentor and father figure. The word from the Lord for Eli was,” Therefore I have sworn to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be atoned for by sacrifice or offering forever.” (vs 14 )

You can read the rest… it was a tough message, a message of coming discipline from the Lord for Eli’s refusal to take keep his boys in line.

What a tough job Samuel was given. I mean he just learned to hear the voice of the Lord and once his ears were tuned, this was the first word God passed to him.

What catches my attention is the response of Eli to this very heavy message. After getting the full download from Samuel Eli says, “it is the Lord.”

I don’t know if you have ever had to deliver a hard word to someone, occasionally the Lord gives me that assignment. It is not one I relish to say the least. So it is with great interest that I have considered Samuel’s manner to glean some help so that even if I have a word of correction or exhortation to deliver it is received as, “it is the Lord.”

Let’s look together at some of the key lessons to learn from Samuel:

Eli was asked – It never pays to get ahead of God. And in these situations all the more so. Wait for the Lord to make the opening, to bring the conversation around or at the very least, give you the green light to proceed. That waiting time is essential as the Lord prepares the heart on the receiving side to accept the message. Let the Lord go first.

This wasn’t the first time Eli had heard about this. (Read chapter 2). I can be confident that the Lord has sent the message ahead of time. If my message is truly “from the Lord”, the news I am sharing is not new information, it will only confirm what the Holy Spirit has already been whispering.

Which brings me to another point… Samuel’s message actually WAS from the Lord. I had better make sure mine is as well. No personal agenda or axe to grind; no personal investment in the outcome, no manipulation. Any of that becomes obvious and is of the flesh. So if I want a word received as from the Lord, it must actually be “from the Lord”.

You see humility in Samuel in vs 15-16 of the story. Hey, he had a word from God for the boss… time to take him down a notch, time to see him squirm – there was none of that at all. When Eli calls him in vs. 16 he says, “Here am I” just as he had said before. There was no air about him, not haughtiness, just the same servant heart he had always possessed. Humility is key. To remind ourselves that, "there but for the grace of God, go I" is always helpful.

The message was not editorialized it was, “just the facts” as officer Friday would say. No editorializing, no extra input, no personal anecdotes, Just the Word of God. Oh man, how important is that. They don’t need our wisdom; they need to hear from God.

Colossians 4.6 says
“Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.”

Paul encourages us in the "how" of what we say; the "what" we we are to say is to be the Word of God.

There are times when we have been asked to speak truth into someone’s life. It isn’t easy; it isn’t always comfortable. But my prayer for you,,, and would you pray for me, that in those times the message would be received as FROM THE LORD.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Can You Hear Me Now? Pt II

...the LORD called Samuel; and he said, “Here I am.” Then he ran to Eli... I Samuel 3.4-5a

Well I have certainly done that; not recognizing the voice of the Lord.

Young Samuel had no experience with hearing the voice of God, in fact not many did in that day as verse one tells us, “And word from the LORD was rare in those days, visions were infrequent.” Verse seven tells us, “Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, nor had the word of the LORD yet been revealed to him.”

There are many things to encourage us and challenge us in this story of God’s first words to a young boy who would become one of Israel’s greatest prophets. You see, God had plans for Samuel, big plans, and He would make sure his ears were tuned properly so he could pick up the messages God would be sending him.

The Lord is sending us messages as well! Have our ears been tuned to His frequency?

The Lord called Samuels’ name and he popped up from where he was lying in the temple near the ark of the Lord. Samuel runs to Eli thinking the old priest had called him. “No, wasn’t me, go lie down”.

Again the Lord calls and he runs to Eli, “wasn’t me”

A third time the Lord calls and he runs to Eli; this time Eli figures out what is going on and tells Samuel the next time you hear the voice say, “speak for your servant is listening

Well, that might be a clue to ear tuning… hearing and listening are two different things aren’t they. Oh, we might hear the Lord, but are we listening. The Word rendered ‘listening” means to "hear with attention". “The Lord doesn’t speak to me!” Really, or is it that I am not hearing with attention?

A double dipper

When the Lord does speak to Samuel again He says, “Samuel! Samuel!” It’s a double dipper! The other times He called his name only once but here He says it twice.

Here are a couple things to note –
Firstly, the Lord is patient to keep coming, to keep calling, to keep speaking as our ears are in the tuning process. He knows we are weak, sometimes a little dull of hearing, sometimes we are a little slow on the uptake (can you relate) and He is patient with us.

Secondly, if the Lord has something for us to hear, he will make sure we hear it. We don’t need to worry that the Lord will put a call into us and if we don’t pick up He moves on. He will keep coming until He delivers His message.

With one exception
And we already saw it. That is, if I am choosing not to listen, to live my life with my fingers in my ears going la-la-la we could find ourselves in the same place Israel was at at the beginning of this chapter… “And word from the LORD was rare in those days, visions were infrequent”. The Lord was not speaking to his people because they had walked so far away in their rebellion and idol worship. (Remember this is really the continuing story from the end of the book of Judges).

Frequently on the frequency
Samuel was learning to listen; his ears were being tuned to the frequency of God. May we continue to learn to listen as well. Become familiar with the voice of God; come to understand how He speaks to you, how He speaks to me. May we keep a tender heart, a hearing heart, a heart that is “hearing with attention”.

The Lord will keep trying… “can you hear me now?.” He will be faithful, “OK, let me try this way… can you hear me now?”

The LORD shall cause his glorious voice to be heard

Isaiah 30.30

Thursday, November 1, 2007

To and Before

Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the LORD before Eli. And word from the LORD was rare in those days, visions were infrequent.

I Samuel 3.1

This verse jumped out at me this morning because it reminds me of something I was told just last Thursday.

A brother who has been faithfully serving at the church, was finishing up his work that morning when I caught him and thanked him for his faithful work, told him how much “I appreciated it”.

His response was, “as much as I love you , I don’t do it for you… I do it for the Lord”. I was tickled to hear that. This is absolutely the right heart to have in serving, without a doubt.

Look again at the verse above Samuel was ministering TO the Lord BEFORE Eli. Eli might have been the one around at the time but the ministering was to the Lord.

I can not tell you how important that perspective is when giving of our time, energy or resources. It is so easy to find ourselves in a place where we think people should thank us more than they so, to think we deserve more credit than we receive, to think that I have earned or am owed something as a result of my serving, or I can just simply grow weary in well doing; all of which leads to getting “burned out” with ministry.

Nadab and Abihu we a couple guys who experienced burn out in ministry. Their story is found in Leviticus 10. The setting is the dedication of the tabernacle; a time of great celebration and praise and thanksgiving. As the convocation began these two priests grabbed their firepans and placed fire in them and began to burn incense on them to the Lord. But their offering was “strange fire” and fire came out from the presence of God and consumed them.

Talk about burned out in ministry…

The deal was that fire was to come from one place and one place alone… the altar. So the only place fire was to be taken from was the place of offering, of sacrifice. The altar in OT typology is a picture of the cross.

How does that relate to us today?

Our “fire” for ministry must come from the altar as well, from the cross, from Calvary. Our passion for service must come from a response to the great gift given to us there, from the great love demonstrated there, from the great sacrifice offered there.

The fire comes from the cross.

The cross is to be the single, ever available, source of strength, encouragement for ministry. Any other motive, no matter how noble sounding, is “strange fire” and will lead ultimately to one being “burned out”.

So when this brother said that he did not serve at the church because of me I thought, “here is a guy who gets it”… awesome!

So may we minister to the Lord before people for His glory with a passion and energy that come directly from the altar... the cross of Calvary.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Can You Hear Me Now Pt.1

That phrase rings a special tone in my heart, please allow me to tell you the story…

I was wrapping up another wonderful trip to the orphanage in Carmen Serdan, BC Mexico. A place that we lived and served at for a couple years about 20 years ago. A place that I have visited often since. It holds a special place in my heart, and always will.

The last morning of this particular trip I took the short walk up the little hill behind the bodega. It is a place that virtually everyone who visits the mission finds themselves at some point.

And I stood there, on this little hill looking over the valley – beautiful, green and the mountains surrounding it. Air was fresh: a little mist still falling.

Roosters crowing and cow mooing; the Ejido was waking up; chicken farm was visible in the distance very bucolic!

(I was treated to a scene you don’t see often… here or anywhere for that matter… a man taking his pig for a morning walk, interesting…)

Many of the landmarks around the mission have been given names over the years by workers from the mission who have explored the area. The locals have their names as well, of course, but that never stopped us from coming up with our own.

One of the named landmarks is Sinai, the highest of the peaks on the other side of the valley.

It had rained the night before and the clouds were still hanging low so that the top of Sinai was covered in clouds.

I could not help but consider the passage I had read just minutes before in the book of Deuteronomy:

The LORD spoke these words with a loud voice to all of you from the heart of the fire, surrounded by clouds and deep darkness. This was all he said at that time, and he wrote his words on two stone tablets and gave them to me. But when you heard the voice from the darkness, while the mountain was blazing with fire, all your tribal leaders came to me. They said, ‘the LORD our God has shown us his glory and greatness, and we have heard his voice from the heart of the fire. Today we have seen God speaking to humans, and yet we live! But now, why should we die? If the LORD our God speaks to us again, we will certainly die and be consumed by this awesome fire. Can any living thing hear the voice of the living God from the heart of the fire and yet survive? You go and listen to what the LORD our God says. Then come and tell us everything he tells you, and we will listen and obey.

“The LORD heard your request and said to me, ‘I have heard what the people have said to you, and they are right. Oh, that they would always have hearts like this, that they might fear me and obey all my commands! If they did, they and their descendants would prosper forever.

Deut. 5.22-29

And I stood there rehearsing the passage over and over in my mind and looking at Sinai covered in “thick darkness” and marveled that the Israelites literally heard the voice of God (don’t know if you realize that – the ten commandment were given first audibly by God). Thunder and lightening accompanying the giving of the law…. Awesome!

Yet, the people of Israel would soon turn their back on the living God and on the law He had given them.

An indisputable demonstration of God’s power and yet the people disregarded it and turned their back.

I stood there a long time and looked at that mountain and pondered these things…

Then I turned around.

And immediately my eyes filled with tears and began to run down my face as I looked at what stands upon the little mountain behind the bodega… It is a 12 foot tall cross.

And I wept as I looked at that cross.

Oh Lord, I prayed, may we never turn our back to the message declared on that mountain. On Mount Calvary! When again in the midst of thunder and lightning and earthquakes you spoke once again.

But this time it was:
· Not of thou shalt not but Father forgive them
· Not of do this, but of IT IS FINISHED
· Not of death, but of life
· Not a message of Law but of GRACE

And the Lord spoke to my heart in the moment… Can you hear me now?

A Trap Set

“Why do you do such things, the evil things that I hear from all these people? “No, my sons; for the report is not good which I hear the LORD’S people circulating. “If one man sins against another, God will mediate for him; but if a man sins against the LORD, who can intercede for him?”

I Samuel 2.23-25

Eli, who was the priest, had two horrible sons, who were also priests, and they were stealing from the people and from the Lord; they were committing fornication in the temple; they were sinning greatly against the Lord.

Eli “confronts” them with the warning above. Now it may seem like he really gets in their face, really lays down the law to them and what he said was certainly true; but as the story continues we get a better idea about the “tone” the real severity of what Eli said… he whimped out!

The Lord, who wont even speak to Eli directly any more, tells him through a “man of God” asks Eli:

Why do you kick at My sacrifice and at My offering which I have commanded in My dwelling, and honor your sons above Me, by making yourselves fat with the choicest of every offering of My people Israel?
In addition:
This will be the sign to you which will come concerning your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas: on the same day both of them will die.

Interesting that though we are not told that Eli participated in the travesty concerning the offerings it says, “…making yourselves fat with the choicest of every offering of My people Israel.” Either Eli was also participating in this wickedness, or, and I think this is more likely; he is guilty because of his tolerance and enabling of his two “worthless sons.”

One can go a number of different directions with applications here… I will choose just one.

It is one thing to know the truth, or, to be able to identify unrighteousness; in other words, to know what the Lord says about this or that. It is quite another thing to actually apply that truth to our daily lives.

A Trap Set

One of the traps we can fall into is to think that just because I know the Word or even agree with the Word, that that means I am doing the Word.

Just because our heads are nodding up and down in agreement with what is taught in church on Sunday doesn’t mean I am walking in that truth on Monday.

Eli knew what was right and what was wrong, he knew his boys were out of order, but it ended there, no action (his sons should have been put to death) was taken, so God stepped in.

The Incarnational Word

My prayer for you and me is that the Word would become flesh to us, that it would be lived out in our live; making that transfer from the head to the heart; from the pages of the bible to the actions of my life.

This is when the Word becomes incarnational; it is being allowed to transform my behavior, my thoughts, my desires, my motives.

Will you join with me in saying/in praying when we hear the Word taught… “Lord, I understand the principal, now help me to live it out practically.

Following is a response to one of the Blog entries that was submitted by Chris Stadler. It is along these line coming from a little different perspective but it blessed my heart...and it is true!

From Chris Stadler

Just something to follow this up: something that's changed the way I handle hearing from the Lord.

It used to be, when I heard a Bible study and was taking notes, I'd write something like "I should see what's possible in faith."Lately, though, I've kinda gotten sick of writing "I should..." Now, I write "I will," or "I can." Then I start thinking about how I will do it.If it's something you know you should do, you may blow it off and say, "Yeah, I really should do that." But if you say, "I will," that's a commitment, and you take it seriously.At least, that's the statement I'm making.

God makes all things possible. We should start believing that. No: We *will* believe that. : )Blessings,Chris

Monday, October 29, 2007

You Can’t Out-Give God

Now Samuel was ministering before the LORD, as a boy wearing a linen ephod. And is mother would make him a little robe and bring it to him from year to year when he would come up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice. Then Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife and say, “May the LORD give you children from this woman in place of the one she dedicated to the LORD.” And they went to their own home. The LORD visited Hannah; and she conceived and gave birth to three sons and two daughters. And the boy Samuel grew before the LORD.

I Samuel 2.18-21

A simple reminder that the Lord will be a debtor to no man. You simply can not out give God.

Could we dare to follow Hannah's example. To give God the firstfruits, her first son; without guarantee of ever having another. There is a depth of faith being demonstrated here most of us know little about personally.

Bob Swan told me a story recently about a young native boy who had just heard a lesson on giving to God from a missionary that had visited his village. A short time later the boy ran up to the missionary with a large fish in his hands that he had obviously just caught. The boy said, "here is my offering, my firstfruits... just like you told us". "But where are the rest of your fish?" the missionary asked. "Oh, I haven't caught them yet...but I will" said the little boy as he ran off back to the fishing hole.

What a heart of faith that is. I will make my offering to God in absolute confidence that he will take care of what comes next according to His promises.

And what promise did He make relative to Hannah's story (or relative to relatives).

How about this one:

“Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life. “But many who are first will be last, and the last, first.”

Mark 10.29-31

Now, you may have some relative you would like to give away... I don't really think that is the idea here :). But we absolutely can trust Him to do far more for us than we can imagine.

How do I know? Because He already has. You see it is not only that God will give back many times over to us for our faithful gifts to him, but he has already given us his very best when He sent His Son Jesus... the greatest Gift, that we might be saved by Him. OUR giving then, becomes a response to what he has already given and He gave it all!

Hannah was given five more children in place of the one she had given to God. Five is the number of grace and grace is what God's gifts are always about.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Meat Hooks

Now the sons of Eli were worthless men; they did not know the LORD and the custom of the priests with the people. When any man was offering a sacrifice, the priest’s servant would come while the meat was boiling, with a three-pronged fork in his hand. Then he would thrust it into the pan, or kettle, or caldron, or pot; all that the fork brought up the priest would take for himself. Thus they did in Shiloh to all the Israelites who came there.

Also, before they burned the fat, the priest’s servant would come and say to the man who was sacrificing, “Give the priest meat for roasting, as he will not take boiled meat from you, only raw.” If the man said to him, “They must surely burn the fat first, and then take as much as you desire,” then he would say, “No, but you shall give it to me now; and if not, I will take it by force.” Thus the sin of the young men was very great before the LORD, for the men despised the offering of the LORD.
This is a very disturbing passage to me and, as it turns out, for the Lord as well. These “worthless” sons of the High Priest were ripping off the people; taking the portion of the offering that belonged to them.

And, in a far worse demonstration of greed and selfishness, were taking the portion that belonged to the Lord. The fat, you see was to be burned off, it was the part given to God. Even the people knew that; and protested but it was ignored.

It resulted in people who were confused, frustrated and no longer trusting of the ones who were supposed to be leading them in spiritual things.

As we have been talking about giving last Sunday and this coming Sunday, I am reminded of so many who have mislead and ripped off and cheated the church… pastors and leaders and men of position who have stolen from the people by using the offering for their own agenda, and have, more importantly, stolen from God. As you read further in the chapter you will see what God thinks about this. It is not a pretty picture.

It is hard to blame folks for being skeptical about giving; for being leery of those in authority who are encouraging them to give… I get it.

But is it possible for us to do the same thing? To get our meat hooks into the offering of the Lord, to take what is meant for him and use it ourselves?

In Malachi the Lord says:
“Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, ‘How have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. (3.8)
The greed and selfishness demonstrated by the Sons of Eli can be found in our own hearts as well. Many of us have discovered that as we give away our dough we are also giving away stinginess and self-centered-ness. As we give him the Firstfruits, the fat if you will; we are also placing Him first in our lives in a more global sense.

It pleases the Lord when we give. And as we will see Sunday, He sees HOW we give; and an offering given with the right heart gets the attention of Jesus.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Tend the Nots

For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it. Heb 2.1a
"Apostasy" or "backsliding"; in our text here the writer of Hebrews uses the word “drift”. I like the nautical image he draws upon as he describes the danger of moving away from Christ, from truth, as a boat floating away from the dock.

It happens that way often, just drifting. It is not that we want to backslide to be sure but the affect of the wind and the waves and, as the writer puts it, “neglect” in making sure we are firmly tied off, we seemingly, all of a sudden find ourselves out of reach.

I say "seemingly" because it really isn’t all of a sudden, it takes place over a period of time. But often the realization can come all at once, which I suppose, “better late than never”.

There is a common condition that allows for that “drifting” experience. It comes from having loose “nots”

For instance:

NOT forsaking the assembling of ourselves together
NOT ceasing to give the Lord thanks
NOT “kicking at the Goads” – resisting what the Lord is asking us to do
NOT neglecting to set aside time for daily nourishment of the Word of God

We need to make sure our “nots” are tight. Tend our walk, pay attention to the daily nature of our relationship with Jesus.

Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come s one that travelleth; and thy want as an armed man.
Proverbs 24.33-34

Why not give the rope a yank just to make sure?

Keep your walk fresh and vibrant, be vigilant, and guard it with all diligence; “unsecured dingy” just isn’t the way I want my life with Jesus described.

Tend the NOTS!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Request with Release Brings Joy

Then Hannah prayed: my heart rejoices in the LORD! Oh, how the LORD has blessed me! Now I have an answer for my enemies, as I delight in your deliverance. No one is holy like the LORD! There is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God. I Samuel 2.1-2
Hannah had asked God for a son, God gave her a prophet, a man of prayer, an anointer of kings. But Hannah had told the Lord that if God would give her a son, she would give her back… now she has done just that.

May I draw your attention to the fact that though she was undoubtedly happy to receive her promised gift, she is even more full of joy when she released the gift back to God. She is certainly a living example of what Paul says in Acts 20.35; quoting Jesus, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

Read again her song of thanksgiving, she is enraptured by the goodness of God, by his faith fullness, by his justice, by His salvation, by his ultimate return. In fact, there is only a brief allusion to babies at all in vs. 5, “The barren woman now has seven children”, and she is not even speaking about herself (though she will end up having five more children).

In other words, if you read carefully, the song isn’t about her gift, it is not about her answered prayer, it is a song of thanksgiving concerning the giver.

Her joy came in the release, in the giving away. Boy is that a lesson for us today.

And her joy, her thanksgiving was based on the giver of all good gifts, not on the gift itself.

I think there are some real life lessons there, a real important perspective for us to adopt and grab hold of for our own situation.

Think about your own time in prayer? Can you see the liberty, the joy and the thanksgiving that will come as we make our request and then release the answer into the hands of the Lord? I mean, whatever answer He gives, whenever that answer comes; it does not change who He is, nor how much He care for us, nor His faithfulness.

I wonder, if we could have asked Hannah right at this point in her life, “Hannah, do you now feel more complete, are you more fulfilled as a person now that you have a son. Have the days of “distress” now left you alone?”

I really think she would say, “You know, I found out my “completeness” and “fulfillment” didn’t really have anything to do with having a son or not… he wasn’t the answer; my fulfillment comes from the Lord”, and, “as far as the distress, still have plenty of that, life is full of that, but I know a faithful God and He sees me though”.

David put it this way,
"The Lord is my portion" Psalm 119.57
It is you Lord that I crave, that I need, that I desire:
Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders which You have done, and Your thoughts toward us; there is none to compare with You. If I would declare and speak of them, they would be too numerous to count. Psalm 40.5

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Strong Way or the Long Way

I just want to invite you to read Hannah's song of thanksgiving and praise:

The bows of the mighty are shattered,
but the feeble gird on strength.
Those who were full hire themselves out for bread,
but those who were hungry cease to hunger.
Even the barren gives birth to seven,
but she who has many children languishes.
The LORD kills and makes alive;
He brings down to Sheol and raises up.
The LORD makes poor and rich;
He brings low, He also exalts.
He raises the poor from the dust,
He lifts the needy from the ash heap
To make them sit with nobles, And inherit a seat of honor;

For the pillars of the earth are the LORD’S,
And He set the world on them.

God is so "other" than the world, so unlike what man has designed and devised. Hannah just itemizes them for us; if you are seeking strength, fullness, fruitfulness, life, riches or honor, you will find them in the Lord and in Him only.

Hannah continues:

He keeps the feet of His godly ones,
But the wicked ones are silenced in darkness;
For not by might shall a man prevail.

Those who contend with the LORD will be shattered;
Against them He will thunder in the heavens

The LORD will judge the ends of the earth;
And He will give strength to His king,
And will exalt the horn of His anointed.
I Samuel 2.4-10

I mean, these things are true or they are not; God is indeed The Almighty, or He is not.

"He keeps the feet of His godly ones"
- how comforting and encouraging is that!
"For not by might shall a man prevail"
- I get it, I agree, I have proved that myself!
"Those who contend with the LORD will be shattered"
- so I yield!
"The LORD will judge the ends of the earth"
- I really believe that!

Listen saint...
So I can keep trying it on my own until I finally let go and let God - that is the long way!
Or, I can go in the strength of the Lord, lean on him, depend on him, rely upon Him; that is the strong way...

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Hannah’s Song

Then Hannah prayed and said, “My heart exults in the LORD; my horn is exalted in the LORD, my mouth speaks boldly against my enemies, because I rejoice in Your salvation. There is no one holy like the LORD, indeed, there is no one besides You, nor is there any rock like our God. I Samuel 2.1-2

Sound familiar?
Listen to the opening verse of Mary’s song, “The Magnificat”
My soul exalts the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. for He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; for behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed. For the Mighty One has done great things for me; and holy is His name. Luke 1.46-56

Two women on whose behalf the Lord acted miraculously. In fact, they both experienced miracle babies!

Just a quick thought for this morning:
I believe the Lord wants to birth something new in you too, me as well; a fresh revelation, a new glimpse of Himself. Being betrothed to Jesus is a never ending voyage of discovery.

I have been married to Beckie for over 28 years now, and I tell you, I am more in love with her now than ever. Now, if you know my wife, that would come as no big surprise, but here is the thing; I am still finding out things about her that just makes me love her more and more.

Now if that can be said about relationships with those we love here on earth just think of the possibilities when it comes to the infinite One, the lover of our souls, Jesus Christ.

The Lord desires to reveal himself to us, he is just waiting for us to ask. Jeremiah 33.3 is referred to as Gods telephone number. It says:
Call to me and I will answer you. I’ll tell you marvelous and wondrous things that you could never figure out on your own. Jeremiah 33.3 (get it? Call me)

The Lord makes the offer over and over to us…
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Luke 11.9-10
I am convinced that the Lord wants us to enjoy the overwhelming joy and wonder that Hannah and Mary experienced, the kind of revelation that makes your heart sing, the awe and amazement that comes from a new vision of Him.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Shake your Tambourine

Then they arose early in the morning and worshiped before the LORD I Samuel 1.19
What a wonderful example we have here.

Hannah had been praying for a son for who knows how long and now, there in the temple Eli the priest tells her, “Go in peace; and may the God of Israel grant your petition that you have asked of Him.”

The next morning she and her husband leave for home rejoicing.

Why is that significant? Because she had a little boy now cradled in her arm, no; because she had conceived and was now pregnant finally, no. She was rejoicing because she had hope in a promise of a child that would soon come. She rejoiced simply because of the promise.

That is really a key to life. To be able to rejoice not in what we have already received, but in the hope of what he has promised to deliver. And let us not limit that to our heavenly home coming, this is a daily appropriation. The lord has given me promise after promise concerning daily life… the Word is full of them. Am I rejoicing because I believe He will do that which He has promised? This is a transforming adjustment in life.

Now, listen to this…

It doesn’t matter if I believe he will do it or not. He is faithful even when I am faithless (II Timothy 2.13), why, because, “He cannot deny Himself”. That means, He promised it so He will keep His promise, His reputation rests on His faithfulness, not on mine. That is good news!

So what does that mean? It means He is going to do what He said He is going to do even if I don’t believe it. So a day will come, when I will see Him come through, when He will do the things He said He would do and I will rejoice!


If that is the first time I rejoice I will have robed myself of days, weeks, months, even years of worship and praise and anticipation as I waited for the, guaranteed to come, fulfillment of the promise.

God told Moses to take the people across the Red Sea, the people were freaking out, rebelling against Moses, full of fear and sure they would die. But sure enough, wouldn’t you know it, the sea parted miraculously and the people went across on dry land just as God said they would.

When they reached the other shore they got out the musical instruments and began to sing and dance,
“Miriam the prophetess, Aaron's sister, took the timbrel in her hand, and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dancing. Miriam answered them, “Sing to the LORD, for He is highly exalted; the horse and his rider He has hurled into the sea.”

But you see, here’s the deal, they could have shaken their tambourine on this side of the sea, when the promise and provision was given. They could have spared themselves all the fear and trembling and murmuring if they had only rejoiced in the promise of God. Oh they were going through one way or the other but the rejoicing in the promise would have led to a transformation in their hearts.

Hannah was one who experienced that kind of transformation, you could be one too!

Monday, October 15, 2007

For Peace, Pray

“I have poured out my soul before the lord”…“Go in peace”…
“She went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad”… I Samuel 1.15-18

Lets just walk through this moment with Hannah, it may sound familiar to your own experience at some time.

First we see her deep in prayer her spirit oppressed which means hard pressed, severe; it is a picture of a woman who is at her end.

She then says to Eli the priest, “I have poured my soul” She has held nothing back, she has laid it all out on the table before the Lord. She goes on to tell Eli she is just very sad, very heartbroken over her situation.

David says this in Psalm 62.7-8
On God my salvation and my glory rest; the rock of my strength, my refuge is in God. Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.

In those times when our hearts are heavy, hard-pressed go ahead and let God know, He can handle it. If you can’t tell him where else can we go to, He is our refuge!

Eli tells her, “Go in peace”. This connection between prayer and peace is clearly seen in Philippians 4.6-7:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with Thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Then Hannah does something that is important, she “went her way”. It is one thing to pour out our heart before the Lord, its another to get a mop out afterwards and pick it all back up and carry it home in a bucket.

Peter encourages us to “(Cast) all your care upon him; for He cares for you.” But our cares are not to be attached to a bungee cord. Cast them… and let them go. If they come back, and they may, cast them again (the word “cast” means "keep on casting").

Should we ever doubt about the ability or the desire of the Lord to tend our deepest needs we need look no further than the nail-scarred hands in which we place our cares.

Should we ever be concerned about his heart toward us when we pour out our heart to Him remember what Isaiah said:

Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. Isaiah 53.12
And the peace comes form entrusting our lives to the Prince of Peace, the one who loved you so much, He willingly laid His life down so you could live. I think it is save to assume that He continues to care about that life of your that He has saved.

Go in Peace!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Snap judgments, bad idea

So Eli thought she was drunk. I Samuel 1.13b
The story goes like this:

Now it came about, as she continued praying before the LORD, that Eli was watching her mouth. As for Hannah, she was speaking in her heart, only her lips were moving, but her voice was not heard. So Eli thought she was drunk. Then Eli said to her, “How long will you make yourself drunk? Put away your wine from you.” But Hannah replied, “No, my lord, I am a woman oppressed in spirit; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have poured out my soul before the LORD. “Do not consider your maidservant as a worthless woman, for I have spoken until now out of my great concern and provocation.”

That is quite a conclusion to jump to! How a praying woman could look like a drunken woman, I don’t know? Perhaps, considering the state of the nation, it was as normal to see someone drunk in the temple as it was abnormal to see someone praying there.

Whichever the case it was a quickly compiled conclusion and a harshly delivered judgment that Eli pronounced on Hannah. But he had assumed the worst about Hannah and he was wrong.

I can be to! The Bible teaches, and Jesus certainly models that we are to think the best of each other. And even if there are flaws and shortcomings, and who doesn’t have those; we are to focus on the good… assume the best.

Philippians gives us such instruction in 1.10

“approve the things that are excellent” and in 4.8 “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”
Dwell on “these things”. It is not that the flaws don’t exist, we are just focus on other parts.

I am challenged by this story to be careful about coming to conclusions about people by the way they look or act or “seem”. There is always much more going on in them and in their lives than what is apparent on the surface.

What I do know is that the One who did know exactly where people were and who could have judged people perfectly, did not. I think of Jesus with the woman at the well, or the woman caught in adultery. Jesus was “a friend of publicans and sinners.”

Lord help us to give people the benefit of the doubt, help us to "believe all things" about one another, that is what love does.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

A Mothers’ Gift, a Mothers’ Love

…then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and a razor shall never come on his head.” I Samuel 1.11b
It is phenomenal really, if a person takes a minute to really allow what Hannah did to sink in; that a mother could give away her child, her first child at that, a miracle baby to boot. Abraham is honored for his great act of obedience and faith in offering Isaac, as well he should; is this any less an act of faith, of devotion, a sacrifice on par with what took place on Mount Moriah?

Samuel was a gift from God to Hannah, given back to God by Hannah.

There will not be many of us, if any who will be asked to make such a sacrifice, but I believe each parent is asked to make the offering; to truly give our children to God, dedicating them individually to the Lord for His purposes. We entrust them into the hands of their heavenly Father, acknowledging that we are mere stewards of these precious treasures.

Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; they will not be ashamed when they speak with their enemies in the gate. Psalm 127.3-5

Samuel had a specific purpose

God had a design for Samuels life; we can read it in I Samuel. Hannah had a part to play too in preparing him for what lay ahead. We are told that Hannah made a vow to hold Samuel to the standards of the Nazarite vow. The vow had three elements generally: No touching anything dead, no eating or drinking anything from the vine, no cutting of the hair.

Samuel was obviously too young at the beginning to know what that meant or to be disciplined to keep the vow, it would be up to her parents to assure this. This is a real key element of parenting; God has a plan for your child, you have dedicated him to the Lord, but your little guy or darling can’t process that, this is where you come in mom and dad.

It is our privilege as parents to teach and instruct our children and keep them from evil. It is our job to encourage them in the direction of God, to model godliness before them, to be sure that at the earliest age they are learning the stories, hearing of God’s love, beginning to assimilate the truth’s of the Word of God.

Hannah couldn’t take Samuel the whole way

In her case, once he was weaned Samuel was turned over to Eli at Shiloh. We will have to turn our kids over too; we can’t take them all the way, they have to come to faith on their own. But Hannah had a lot to say about whether on the day of the transfer Samuel had been brought as far as he could be. So do we.

We can’t do it all as parents, sometimes it seems like we can barely accomplish the minimum. But may I encourage you to keep up the fight, don’t give up! The Lord is there every step of the way. And, by the way, he cares for and loves your children even more than you do.

May that reality give us all confidence to place our children in His tender care.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

A Double Portion

When the day came that Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to Peninnah his wife and to all her sons and her daughters; but to Hannah he would give a double portion, for he loved Hannah

I Samuel 1.4-5a

Isaiah 61

1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners;

2 To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn,

3 To grant those who mourn in Zion, giving them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.

4 Then they will rebuild the ancient ruins, they will raise up the former devastations; and they will repair the ruined cities, the desolations of many generations.

5 Strangers will stand and pasture your flocks, and foreigners will be your farmers and your vinedressers.

6 But you will be called the priests of the LORD; you will be spoken of as ministers of our God. You will eat the wealth of nations, and in their riches you will boast.

7 Instead of your shame you will have a double portion, and instead of humiliation they will shout for joy over their portion. Therefore they will possess a double portion in their land, everlasting joy will be theirs.

8 For I, the LORD, love justice, I hate robbery in the burnt offering; and I will faithfully give them their recompense and make an everlasting covenant with them.

9 Then their offspring will be known among the nations, and their descendants in the midst of the peoples. All who see them will recognize them because they are the offspring whom the LORD has blessed.

10 I will rejoice greatly in the LORD, my soul will exult in my God; for He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

11 For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes the things sown in it to spring up, So the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations.

We too have been robed as a bride; we have been seated at His banquet table to feast with him with great joy.

Ephesians 1.3-4 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.”

John 10.10 says, “I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.” (TMSG)

That sounds like a double portion to me. A blessed, purpose filled, abundant life now and eternal life with our Lord then.

This is what our bridegroom has placed before us.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

When I pray, why the delay? Pt. II

It came about in due time, after Hannah had conceived, that she gave birth to a son; and she named him Samuel, saying, “Because I have asked him of the LORD.” I Samuel 1.20

Why the delay indeed!

Lets look at the story working backwards.

The story of I Samuel follows right on the heels of one of the darkest periods in Israel’s history. The time of the Judges was at an end; the people, we are told, “did what was right in their own sight”.

God was about to change things. The nation was soon going to be asking for a king. God would begin to speak through the prophets giving direction and counsel and, at times, outright commands to these kings.

Israel’s first king would be a man by the name of Saul and the prophet that the Lord would use to speak into his life was about to become the answer to a humble woman’s prayer.

What I want you to consider is that there was a huge plan in motion, plans that would affect a nation. It was a significant turning point in the history of God’s chosen people.

Samuel was at the center of it all.

Samuel would anoint Israel’s first king. Not long after he would remove the scepter from his hand and place it in the hands of a shepherd boy with a sling.
  • Samuel whom the Psalmist and the great prophet Jeremiah would both esteem alongside of Moses.
  • Samuel, a man of prayer and passion and vision who stood in stark contrast to a compromising generation.
  • That… is the boy the Lord was planning on sending. The one whose name means “asked of God”

So now back to Hannah.

For so long she longed for a child, year after year she yearned but no answer came. “Did I do something wrong Lord?”, “am I out of favor?”, “have I missed the blessing?”, “Is it that God doesn’t answer the prayers of a person like me?”, “how long Lord will You be silent, don’t You care?”

But, you see, it had nothing to do with any of that! God’s plan was in motion and the time would soon be right. What must have seemed like forever to Hannah was right on time to God.


Though Hannah in her simplicity and humility was simply asking for a son, the Lord had far more in mind for her. A son Hannah? I am going to give you Samuel… Samuel Hannah! A mighty man, an anointer of kings, a spokesman for the Almighty. Oh Hannah, not just any little boy but a special one.

Why does God delay at times?

Did you notince in our verse above that is says, "in due time"? Could it be that His plan and our part in it that plan have not yet intersected? When it is time for God’s plan to unfold nothing… nothing can stop it from taking place.

Could it be that the Lord wants to do far more than we are asking for? He loves us too much to allow us to settle for less than His best. And sometimes the best means we will have to wait a little longer.

Monday, October 8, 2007

When I pray, why the delay? Pt. I

She made a vow and said, “O LORD of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a son, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and a razor shall never come on his head.” I Samuel 1.11

Hannah was a woman in need, a woman who had a barren womb, how she longed for a child.

Not only was there a cultural stigma attached to a childless woman but she was hearing it in her own home. Peninnah, the other wife of Hannah’s husband Elkanah, was making life miserable for Hannah as she “provoked her bitterly to irritate her”.

I think it is safe to assume that Hannah had prayed many times over many years that the Lord would grant her the desire of her heart and give her a child.

Her prayer was about to be answered, but why now, why after so long is this the day the Lord answers?

Vs 11 is the prayer that got answered. Was there something different in it than in previous prayers? Well, we can’t say for certain if it was different but we can see some distinctions:

  • Once she had received the gift, she would give it back
  • She made a commitment to dedicate her new son, from birth, to the service of the Lord (Nazarite vow)

Whatever you ask in My name

Jesus said, “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do”; the “in My name” means “according to my will”. You see prayer isn’t only about God filing out my grocery list; it is about moving my heart into alignment with His purposes.

Have you ever noticed that as you tarry in prayer over days or weeks… even months or longer, that your prayer has a way of changing over time. This is the work of the Holy Spirit directing our prayers (Romans 8.26-27) until they are in alignment with His perfect plan.

Is it possible that what made this prayer of Hannah’s different than the ones before? Was this the time she was finally at the place the Lord wanted her to be in order to receive the answer she so desperately sought.

Do you have a long longed for request that remains unanswered?

May I suggest you ask the Lord to reveal His heart to you, His desire, ask Him to search out your motives; see if it might be possible that you are not yet truly centered in His will.

And watch and see what will happen when we truly pray, "in His name."

Friday, October 5, 2007

Good Brothers, Good Time!

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren (or sisteren - my addition) to dwell together in unity! Psalm 133.1

We just had our Friday morning S.T.A.N.D. study and man was it a great time.

Just a few guys getting together to share what the Lord has shown them in the word. "Tag-teaming" off of one anothers' observations, making applications from our own lives; it was rich.

There really is no substitute for fellowship. It is imperative that we get together, on Sundays and Wednesday night for sure... but anytime, as often as possible to just speak with one another about the Lord.

There is a really cool verse in Malchi that says:

Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD gave attention and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the LORD and who esteem His name. Mal 3.16 (ever notice how many great verses are "3.16's"... but that is for another time)

He gave attention, or paid attention... "quiet, my kids are talking", he heard it, and he wrote it down. In my minds eye I can see the Lord with a writing tablet... "oh. that was a good one, man that's great, way to go Bob, good application Rob", just thrilled with what He is seeing and hearing.

Do you have a friend or two that you get with during the week, do you take time with your spouse in the Word, do you make an effort to spend time in the week with a brother or sister and just talk about the Lord.

I can't encourage you enough to find a partner or two, or join one of the small groups that are meeting almost every day somewhere, it will bless your heart.

And, oh by the way, He is listening, it blesses the Lord's heart too.

Monday, October 1, 2007

God Has Set Things Right

What Moses and the prophets witnessed to all those years has happened. The God-setting-things-right that we read about has become Jesus-setting-things-right for us. And not only for us, but for everyone who believes in him. For there is no difference between us and (the Gentiles) in this.

Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ.

God sacrificed Jesus on the altar of the world to clear that world of sin. Having faith in him sets us in the clear. God decided on this course of action in full view of the public—to set the world in the clear with himself through the sacrifice of Jesus, finally taking care of the sins he had so patiently endured. This is not only clear, but it’s now—this is current history! God sets things right. He also makes it possible for us to live in his rightness.

So where does that leave our proud Jewish insider claims and counterclaims? Canceled? Yes, canceled. What we’ve learned is this: God does not respond to what we do; we respond to what God does. We’ve finally figured it out. Our lives get in step with God and all others by letting him set the pace, not by proudly or anxiously trying to run the parade.

And where does that leave our proud Jewish claim of having a corner on God? Also canceled. God is the God of outsider non-Jews as well as insider Jews. How could it be otherwise since there is only one God? God sets right all who welcome his action and enter into it, both those who follow our religious system and those who have never heard of our religion.

Romans 3.21-30

Friday, September 28, 2007

Website is on the way

Our new website is actually in the works. You can check it out at lawrencestreet.org.

It isn't all working yet but parts of it are... take a look.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Preparing for the Day of Distress

If you are slack in the day of distress, your strength is limited.
If you fall to pieces in a crisis, there wasn’t much to you in the first place. Proverbs 24.10 (NASB/TMSG)

Oh, I am not trying to be a pessimist, but life does happen; "in this world you will have tribulation", right?

And it can come at us fast too. A phone call, a doctor visit, a meeting with the boss and what was a moment ago relative calm immediately becomes a very distressful situation.

Is there a way to prepare for the unexpected? I believe there is and we are given a couple examples in Scripture.

The first is of Abraham in Genesis 14

There was a war taking place in the area near where Abe lived. Five kings of the Canaanites went to war against another group of four kings that were nearby. Well the four kings won and one of the cities they earned as a prize was Sodom.

Well it happened that Lot, Abe's nephew was living in Sodom at the time so... Abraham "led out his trained men, born in his house, three hundred and eighteen, and went in pursuit..." Gen 14.14

Its that word trained that catches the attention. These were his everyday household helpers, his shepherds, his cooks, etc: but when the call came to armor up and go to battle the men were prepared both in arms and in deployment.

Abraham made sure that he was prepared lest a day came that would require him to go to war.

The second lesson is Jesus in Luke 17

Jesus was coming down from the mount of transfiguration when he encountered quite a comotion. A father had brought his demonized son to Jesus to be healed but with Jesus gone, the disciples tried, to no avail, to deliver the young boy from his condition.

Jesus, always prepared, dismisses the evil spirit with word. What He says to the disciples is the noteworhy part as fas as it relates to our discussion.

In Verse 21 it says, "This kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting". Now that instruction on the part of Jesus only makes sense if He is talking about a discipline of prayer and fasting. In other words the work done here and now was made possible by care taken earlier.

Hit the weights

You could use the illustration of an athletic event requiring practice ahead of time, time in the weight room, etc. Or, as Lynn and Ruben did earlier this summer; spent months running steps at Hayward field so they would be ready when the day came to climb Sisters.

Am I preparing, bulking up, building up, training myself, for the day of distress? Am I being nourished on the Word? Getting the needed rest in the Lord? Being made aware of the "wiles" of the opponent? Being encouraged by God's promises? Exercising my faith so it is strengthened?

Today is the day to prepared for that day!