Friday, December 19, 2008

Who Am I?

When David said these words in I Chronicles 17.16, he was not seeking the meaning of his existence, he was overwhelmed by God graciousness and mercy. The verse reads:
Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house that you have brought me thus far?
Here is a little back story - 

David finished building a palace for himself then realized that the Ark (God) still dwelt in a tent so David had it in his heart to build the Lord a "House". It was a good thing but it was not a God thing. God had another plan.

What David wanted to do was good, what God was going to do was better. 

God says to David through the prophet Nathan you shall not build a house for Me but,
Moreover, I declare to you that the Lord will build a house for you.
David can hardly wrap his mind around what the Lord is saying to him and exclaims,
Who am I , O Lord God and what is my house that You have brought me thus far?
Isn't that how we should respond each and every day in light of what the Lord has done "thus far", and what He has promised to do for us in the future? David will say later on,
What more can David say to you for honoring you servant? For you know you servant.
David is amazed at the grace of God, amazed at His mercy, amazed at His goodness. Even more so in light of the person David know himself to be.

Then David says one more thing that I have always found very interesting. Listen to Vs. 23
And now, O Lord, let the word that You have spoken concerning your servant and concerning his house be established forever and do as you have spoken.
Knock yourself out Lord, You want to bless me, bless away, don't hold anything back. And, Lord, the thing you promised to do, do that for me. David was claiming the promise and holding God to His word. 

Have you ever dared to pray like that? It is pretty radical, but David, a "man after God's own heart" prayed that way. "Lord you promised to do this thing for me, I am asking You to fulfill Your promise." That kind of prayer does not offend the Lord, is not disrespectful to the Lord, it is called appropriation, claiming what God said is ours. 

That is all David was doing.
Who am I? I am a sinner saved by grace, a recipient of mercy, a child of the King! I am also on the receiving end of the multitude of promises God has made to his people, they are there for me to claim daily as I walk in awe of God unimaginable goodness towards me "thus far".

Monday, November 24, 2008

"Charge it to my Account"

We have been talking about reconciliation a bit over the last month or so. It is so important to keep the peace between brothers and sisters in Christ, between family members, between friends and neighbors. 

What I have become much more aware of over recent weeks is the immense value you are to me. How long it takes to develop relationships and yet how fragile they can be at times. The value and the fragility makes them all the more important to preserve. It is just not OK to loose friends or be at odds with each other, it is just too costly.

The Lord has asked us to be reconciled and has given us both the "word" and the "ministry" of reconciliation. 

The problem is that we don't relish the idea of humbling ourselves in order to begin the sometimes difficult process. There is  a real sense of being wronged as well as a very real feeling that the other person does not deserve the effort it will take, we often feel, perhaps especially, that we are "owed". Fairness and equity scream for satisfaction and all of this has a bearing on the emotion we feel when facing the task.

The little postcard of a letter called Philemon gives us the wonderful principal that lies at the heart of reconciliation.

Philemon was a dear and close friend of Paul. Philemon had a slave by the name of Onesimus who had stolen from his master and run away. As ONI made a run for it he ended up, of all places, in prison with none other than the great apostle Paul himself.

You'll have to read the whole letter to get the full impact of the friend-to-friend tone of the letter, Paul pours it on pretty thick, it is pretty funny! Paul writes the letter to urge his friend to take his slave (and now brother in Christ) back with open arms. Then Paul says to Philemon, "If he has wronged you at all or owes you anything, charge it to my account". 

Philemon owed Paul much! Paul said whatever debt ONI owes you... charge it to me. 

Doctrinally this is called imputation. it is a banking term that means charged to the account of. As it relates to our faith it means that Jesus, through the work of the cross, cancelled our debt and charged to our account His righteousness - it's huge.  

Practically, as it relates to reconciliation it means this... and this is key. It means that when I reconcile (also a banking term by the way) I don't have to worry about the "owing" or "fairness". Jesus is the one asking for the reconciliation and he says, let me worry about the debt owed, I'll take care of that. 

We do not reconcile for our sake primarily, nor for the sake of the relationship, nor for the sake of the other party. We reconcile for Jesus' sake and any outstanding debts that might remain, He has got that covered.

This means that I can be reconciled in a hurry as there is no settling up that need to take place. It was all handled at the cross.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Glad to be Back

Forty days... interesting.

For those of you who have been checking in here for a while it was a little more than a year ago that I planned a 40 day sabbatical. The leadership were in agreement and things were covered as I set out on what I hoped would be a refreshing and revitalizing time of reflection and rest.

In fact I began this blog as a way of keeping folks updated on the things I was experiencing during that time. You can read those early submissions in the archives if interested.

This one wasn't planned, least-wise not by me, but as it turned out I spent another 40 days "resting" this year. By the way, though I might suggest picking a different location for the purpose, taking time away to rest and be refreshed in the Lord is always an excellent idea.

As I reflect on the two "sabbaticals" I must confess that I have benefitted more from this one than from the one I planned. The Fellowship has benefitted more already from this years version than it did from the previous one as well.

I dont think I have ever had a greater love for the Lord - He is everything to me. It has been said that, "you wont fully know that Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have". I would not say that I ever felt like Jesus was all I had, not with my wife and family at my side and not with the multitude of wonderful folks praying and visiting, etc; but still, day to day, there was an intense need to really cling to the Lord and a profound sense of His presence.

The Lord is so good (All the time).

These 40 days have produced in me a renewed passion for ministry,  a refreshed vision of our mission as a Fellowship; a rekindled love for the Lord as I mentioned; a desire to preach the Word unlike anything I have experienced before, and, a greater love for the body of Christ, wherever it might be found, but particularly that part that congregates at 252 Lawrence Street.

I want to thank all of you for the tremendous welcome home. It was a day that was more than a little overwhelming to be sure. A day that I will not soon forget.

My thanks again for your prayers and love and help. Heaven alone will be able to repay you for the grace and kindness extended to me.

Happy to be back.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


Then Samuel said to the people, “Come and let us go to Gilgal and renew the kingdom there.” I Samuel 11.14
I wanted to return to the journey through the books of First and Second Samuel today but really had it on my heart to share with you the story of Joshua chapter 5.

And there it was! The same idea right there in I Sammy 11.

If there was any place that befit the renewal of the kingdom it was Gilgal.

Gilgal was a place that was given its name after a very important event in the history of Israel took place there. You see the name "Gilgal" means "a rolling", "today I have rolled the reproach of Egypt from you"

What was it that happened at Gilgal?

The Israelites were finally over the Jordan river. 600 years or so after the Lord had "promised (the) land" to Abraham and 40 years after they had failed to enter the first time; Israel was finally in.

They had been promised that the land would be given to them step-by-step as they moved in. The enemy would have to be defeated, it wouldn't be easy, but the Lord had promised victory as long as they continued to follow His Word.

The assignment had been given, the moment had come for them to march in and take the "promise land.

And yet... and yet; before they were allowed to take another step forward the Lord said to them that they must first circumcise the men. Circumcision had been neglected while they had been wandering in the wilderness.

Circumcision, of course was the mark, the outward sign of the covenant between God and his people. It marked them as belonging to God, it was a tangible reminder of their relationship with God... and it had been neglected. So God told them that they need to take care of it now.

They were not to go one step further until they relationship was restored, the covenant back in place.

Now, logically this makes little sense, at least in timing. I mean, they were in the enemies front yard and the work of conquering was before them. In human terms it would seem like the worst possible thing to do ; to put your entire army out of commission.

You may have noticed however, that God does not work according to "human terms" and the fact of the matter is; God is always much more concerned with who we are than what we do. God said, in effect, you are not going to take one more step forward without getting your heart right with Me, and, by inference, we can see that without a right relationship with God nothing we do will be pleasing to Him.

Now we look at the simple statement of Samuel and we see its value, we see the reason he said it need to take place at Gilgal. If I want to see the kingdom renewed in my heart... It must begin at Gilgal.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Isaiah 54

In preparation for Bible study last week the Lord led me to a passage in Isaiah. I truly felt it was a word for someone, perhaps more than one, in the service that night. I want to re-print it here in light of the untimely loss of family members that a couple families in our body are experiencing.

“O afflicted one, storm-tossed, and not comforted,

Behold, I will set your stones in antimony,

And your foundations I will lay in sapphires.

“Moreover, I will make your battlements of rubies,

And your gates of crystal,

And your entire wall of precious stones.

“All your sons will be taught of the LORD;

And the well-being of your sons will be great.

“In righteousness you will be established;

You will be far from oppression, for you will not fear;

And from terror, for it will not come near you.

“If anyone fiercely assails you it will not be from Me.

Whoever assails you will fall because of you.

“Behold, I Myself have created the smith who blows the fire of coals

And brings out a weapon for its work;

And I have created the destroyer to ruin.

“No weapon that is formed against you will prosper;

And every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn.

This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD,

And their vindication is from Me,” declares the LORD.

Last night we were reminded that "He will wipe away every tear from their eyes" and we are reminded that Jesus said, "I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever" (Jn 14.16)

This is one of the many blessings and advantages we have as Christians, as children of God.

Isaiah 53 tells us that Jesus is, "A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief" He knows we hurt, He knows what it means to hurt and He has made Himself available to us when we hurt.

This knowledge does take away the pain completely, sin stinks and so to its' "wages". I think this was part of what was taking place when we are told "Jesus wept" at the tomb of Lazarus. Jesus knew what was about to happen, He knew that Lazarus would soon walk out of that tomb, but I believe it was the affect of sins' wages on his dear friend that caused the tears to flow. He wept for sins' curse.

Lazarus, however, knew the giver of life, the One who said, "I am the resurrection and the life" and because of that relationship with Jesus the grave could not hold him, would not hold him.

And it will not hold us either. The ultimate comfort is knowing that we will walk out of the tomb as well.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

One Thing

As (Jesus) was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” ...Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing". Mark 10.17, 21
Let us first set aside the idea of "doing" to obtain eternal life. Jesus "finished" all that needed to be done when He offered Himself as a sacrifice for our sins. In another place Jesus responded to the question, "What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?" by saying, "This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent". John 6.28-29

It is an important question; is there anything in my life that if the Lord asked for it I would say "no". Take anything but that Lord, ask me to do anything else Lord... but not that.

  • Would I take my children out of school, away from their friends and move?
  • Would I quit my job, give up my "security" and go to the mission field?
  • Would I simplify sacrificially?
  • Would I, could I?

Jesus is no kiljoy, He is not out to make our lives miserable, in fact quite the opposite is true. He came to "give us life and that more abundantly"; He deisres to see us experience a life that is "exceedingly abundantly above all we can ask or think".

But what the Lord does want is for us have absolutely nothing standing between us and Him. What is important to Him is that we have "no other gods before Him".

So it is a profitable exercise to take inventory, to ask myself, "Is there anything that if the Lord asked me to give it to Him or do it for Him, I would say "no".

I want to stay in a place where my life belongs to Him completely. And not just hypothetically or theoretically but actually and literally.

Now you might be saying, "Come on Scott, is the Lord that serious about all that? I mean do you really think it is that important to be willing to give the Lord anything and everthing? The Lord wouldn't test us like that just to see if we would and then not have us actually follow through!

Really? Ask Abraham!
  • “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.”
  • He said, “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him;
  • for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”

With God it is always about our heart. He wants us to know what is in our own heart.

If I find that there is "one thing"... I will be faced with a choice: go away sad as the rich young ruler did; or take that "one thing" to the altar as Abraham did. We can choose to remain bound and covetous and trying to save our lives or we can be free and find the blessing of what it means to truly lay our lives down for the One who laid down His life for me.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Righteous Indignation

And the Spirit of God came upon Saul when he heard those tidings, and his anger was kindled greatly. I Samuel 11.6
If you were ask me if I was righteous in my "indignation", I would probably say "yes". In the moment, we can all feel as though our anger is justified but that is not really the idea behind "righteous indignation".

As it turns out, this is one of Saul's brighter moments because he is exhibiting anger in a way consistent with the nature and example of Jesus himself.

Jesus got angry?

Yes He did! On three different occasions we are told that Jesus exhibited anger but it was always in a specific context. It is by this context, as illustrated by Saul, that we must measure our own anger.

First lets see the three instances:

And the Jews’ passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem, And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables; And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise. And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up. John 2.13-17

And he entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand. And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him. And he saith unto the man which had the withered hand, Stand forth. And he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace. And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other. Mark 3.1-5

And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them. But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them. Mark 10.13-16
What these stories show us about Jesus' anger

In each case Jesus got angry when there was someone standing in the way of folks (or children) getting to God. He was angry at the sellers in the temple as their selling table became a barrier to people having free access to the temple; He was angry at the religious leaders as they sought to prevent Jesus from healing on the Sabbath; and He became angry at His own disciples for trying to prevent the children from approaching Him.

Jesus' anger was always on behalf of others.

It is this "anger on behalf of another" that Saul is exhibiting in our text.

With Jesus there are several other instances where, though not told explicitly we see implicitly that Jesus was angry, He certainly had curt words for the Pharisees and priests and religious leaders who were laying burdens on the people and generally made being one of God's chosen people pretty miserable.

Importantly, we are not told of any occasion where Jesus became angry about anything said or done to Him. In fact Jesus never even defended Himself, He just spoke truth, acted in a way pleasing to the Father and left the reaction to those around Him... amazing. Isn't our Lord wonderful!

Now my anger is usually a response to something someone did to me. And... I can feel pretty righteous about feeling as I do. Fact is people really do sometimes do terrible things to us or say terrible things about us... I mean they really are out of line! And it is those times that I can really pull out the righteous indignation card and wave it around, "hey, I am justified in feeling this way."

Yet Jesus shows us a better way.

This is one of those reminders that, upon hearing it I instantly become exceedingly aware of the fact that I am not going to be able to pull that off on my own. This is not a natural character trait for any of us but it is a character trait
available to all of us:
But the fruit of the Spirit is, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. Gal 5.22
And, in order to live like Jesus did, walking in the Spirit, constantly in fellowship with the Father, we need the whole fruit basket. No grabbing an apple or banana before we rush out the door in the morning.

If you have "let the sun go down on your anger" would you do yourself a favor this morning and just let it go. Just give it to the Lord, forgive, and move on.

That offense was nailed to the cross, its penalty was paid by Jesus who would again today say:

"if he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge that to my account" Philemon 18
Be free today to live without the burden of anger.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Second Best

Samuel said to all the people, “Do you see him whom the LORD has chosen? Surely there is no one like him among all the people.” So all the people shouted and said, “Long live the king!” Then Samuel told the people the ordinances of the kingdom, and wrote them in the book and placed it before the LORD. And Samuel sent all the people away, each one to his house. I Samuel 10.24-25
Israel had demanded a king and when they did so the Lord told Samuel, "they have not rejected you they have rejected me from being King over them" (8.7). Here is an interesting bit of background...

350 years earlier God had told the people of Israel:

“When you enter the land which the LORD your God gives you, and you possess it and live in it, and you say, ‘I will set a king over me like all the nations who are around me,’ you shall surely set a king over you whom the LORD your God chooses, one from among your countrymen you shall set as king over yourselves; you may not put a foreigner over yourselves who is not your countryman. Deuteronomy 17.14-15ff

Did you see that, "and you say, "I will set a king over me like all the other nations..." which, by the way, is exactly what they did say (8.5)

It was not His best for His chosen people yet God knew they would reject Him and seek after a distant second best, a man. Israel would act in rebellion against God and yet God had already made provision for when that time came. He gave them very specific instructions so that they could be as blessed as possible in their new situation.

These most interesting attributes of God, his omnipresence and omniscience; allow God to look down the tunnel of time and know ahead of time what we will do. This is a dynamic of God's sovereignty that relates to our own salvation.

God knows what is best for man and has made an offer to Him; that if any man or woman will simply accept the free gift of salvation, allow him to be the God of our lives, our sovereign, our King; our sins will be forgiven; we will be spared the righteous judgment of Almighty God and we will find ourselves in the most blessed life possible.

But God also knows what each man will choose to do, he can look down the tunnel of time and see with absolute clarity the destination of every persons' soul. But, as with the Israelites, the choice is up to the each individual, each of us has a the opportunity to decide how we want to live and where we want to spend eternity.

Trying to reconcile the two kind of tweaks the circuits a bit to be sure. God knows, we chose. But it is also true that God chose us before the foundations of the world... and as you go a couple more times around that conversation... little puffs of smoke start to drift out of our ears. It is difficult to understand, but for me, not difficult to accept.

All that to say that this story illustrates this mystical and marvelous aspect of our great God. It has been said that a God small enough to fully understand isn't big enough to fully worship. I can't agree more.

Now I want to take your thinking in a whole different direction if you have the time to read on...

The BEST for Israel was to continue to be a theocracy, to continue to allow God himself to be their king, but they chose another option. In that decision, a decision that was not God's best for them, there would be a price to pay (see chapter 8 blog for more info) and direct access to God and His blessings and His best were all now going to have to pass through the hands of their king. They were going to have to hope that their king would continue to follow God, most of them would not, and that their king would look out for their best, again, most of them would not.

Allow me to bring this home now...

I was talking to a brother the other day who had been speaking to a young gal who had gotten pregnant and the father was off the scene, had been involved in drugs and such and was now homeless and in a pretty desperate situation. Your heart just goes out to those in such dire circumstances. This brother continued by saying, "she just doesn't have many options".

Now, at the risk of sounding callous, and certainly this kind of "truth" would have to be shared with great love and discernment; but I said, "well yes she did". This brother knew exactly what I meant and finished my thought for me. "she had options, many opportunities to make the right decision, now she isn't left with many."

In fact she had, and now her options were severely limited by the choices she made earlier. There are just some things that are no longer available to her; others that will take a long, determined, grace filled journey to reach.

So it is with Gods will...

If I truly believe that God desires the very best for me, had the best plan for my life, that He can see ahead and direct me to the best life possible; then it would also follow that to stray from God's will will only lead to something less than best and perhaps much, much worse.

The truth is that as one act of rebellion added to another stiff necked refusal which is compounded by a dose of self-will, I can find my self where my choices become very limited.

But it is not that God abandons us at that point though. As with Israel, even in their rejection and rebellion he still said, "let me tell you how to get the most out of life from that point on." (Deut. 17.14ff)

And I will continue to experience God's best for me under the new circumstances as long as I continue to walk with him, abide in Him, trust in Him. But there will be other aspects a God-defined, blessed life that will no longer be available to me, I opted out of those.

You see there just aren't any promises of blessing for those who walk in rebellion or disobedience, you won't find it in scripture.

All to say, the best life, the best-blessed life is found in the center of God's will.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Hiding in the Baggage?

Therefore they inquired further of the LORD, “Has the man come here yet?” So the LORD said, “Behold, he is hiding himself by the baggage.”So they ran and took him from there... I Samuel 10.23-24

Saul had been anointed king in chapter 10 and now it was time for the coronation. Problem was, when they went to look for the guy who was to wear the crown, he was nowhere to be found; he was hiding in the baggage.

Hmmm interesting word, but more on that in a minute.

My friends and I have had several intriguing debates over this passage; was Saul simply exhibiting humility? He had, after all, said at the time he was anointed,

“Am I not a Benjamite, of the smallest of the tribes of Israel, and my family the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin? Why then do you speak to me in this way?”

Perhaps his reluctance to step forward indicated a genuine feeling of unworthiness for the task.

Could be. And if that is the conclusion that we are to draw, well, well enough. Certainly it is true that none of us are “worthy” for the slightest responsibility that the Lord entrusts us with, of that we can be assured.

On the other hand…

There were two significant chinks in the armor of Saul’s life, his soul, his heart. One was a disconnection from the God who called him and the second is fear.

I believe that this is the first indication we have of a personal attribute that will haunt Saul for the rest of his life; fear in general, fear of man specifically.

The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the LORD will be exalted. Prov 29.25

God had chosen Saul, anointed Saul, empowered Saul, etc. God had given Saul a specific job to do, “he will deliver My people from the hand of the Philistines” (9.16). It seems to me to hardly be the time to be hiding.

I so appreciate Paul. He was a man who understood where he came from; where the Lord found him; what he was doing when God called him. In fact it is Paul who wrote:

“I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service” I Tim 1.12

And yet it is Paul who also wrote:

Paul, an apostle (not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead), and all the brethren who are with me... Gal 1.1 (also Rom 1.1, I Cor 1.1, II Cor 1.1, Eph 1.1, Col 1.1, I Tim 1.1, II Tim 1.1)

Paul says over and over; I am an apostle, I was given that job and that title by God himself. So, in the authority that God has given me and in obedience to the responsibility I have been entrusted with, I am writing to you. I have a job to do and I am doing it in the strength God himself supplies, in the authority that comes directly from the Lord, for the glory of the One who has entrusted me with this ministry.

No apology, no extraordinary explanation, no excuses, no fear!

What have you been assigned? How about me? Shame on us if we are hiding in the baggage when we ought to be getting on with it.

And let’s not let our baggage keep us from being obedient to what the Lord has called us, anointed us and empowered us to do… whatever that might be. Do I have some hang up, some “history”, anything hanging around in piles; the KJV calls it “stuff”? Is there stuff you are hiding behind, hiding in, being buried by?

Times-a-wastin’! Take your baggage to the airport and leave it there, it will be the last time you see it :), and get to work!

The Lord knew what he was doing when He assigned us the task, He knows how weak we are, how insufficient our abilities, but if He called us, we best be about the Fathers business!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Matter of the Kingdom

Saul’s uncle said, “Please tell me what Samuel said to you.” So Saul said to his uncle, He told us plainly that the donkeys had been found.” But he did not tell him about the matter of the kingdom which Samuel had mentioned. I Samuel 10.15-16

The story of Saul is one of unrealized potential. He was a man who had everything imaginable given to him and yet, when the story reaches its tragic end and we are able to survey the breadth of his life one can only conclude… what a waste.

A waste of opportunity, a waste of gifts, a waste of privilege; Saul’s’ saga is a sad one indeed.

If you recall, Saul had gone on a journey to find his fathers’ lost donkeys. The journey, by God’s providence, brought him to the prophet Samuel who was told by God ahead of time that upon Saul’s arrival he was to anoint him as the first king of Israel.

Saul's potential? Let me remind you of the list:
Vs 9.1 A choice and handsome man, head and shoulders above the rest…literally!
Vs 9.16 He was chosen by God
Vs 9.16 He was given a divine mission
Vs 10.1 He was anointed
Vs 10.6, 9 He was changed into another man
Vs 10.10 The Holy Spirit came upon him
Vs 10.11 He prophesied

That is quite a resume’, I mean the Lord had really set this man up for success! So why did Saul fail so miserably? Why was his reign constantly marred by fear? What did it seem that Saul never possesses a personal relationship to God (which becomes all the more striking in contrast to David once he comes on the scene)?

This fear and that lack of relationship is evident at the very beginning and is revealed in our text.

A harbinger of things to come

Did you see Saul’s response to his father upon return? He told him about the donkeys, but “about the matter of the kingdom” he didn’t say a word. I think it is safe to say that some pretty radical things had happened to Saul on his journey to find the donkeys, but when asked to tell his story… he left out those things that had to do with the kingdom.

He could talk about the weather, about the cities he visited about the scenery he passed through about finally locating the donkey, but about what God had done in his life… not a word. About being anointed king… silence. About prophesying, or a new heart…zilch!

There Saul was in the starting chute, ready to race into the life God had set him up to succeed in and when the gun sounded and the gates flung open, he backed up. The man would not share his testimony.

Doesn’t it really begin there for you and me too? How can I expect to realize my potential in the kingdom if I am unwilling to share what the Lord has done in my life personally? The most radical thing the Lord will ever do in a person’s life is save them. That is the greatest miracle of all; that He “saved a wretch like me”.

We must like Paul be anxious to say, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes”. This is what God did in my life, this is what will do in your life too… let me tell you my story.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Romans Eight

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, 8and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies £through His Spirit who dwells in you.

So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.

In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written,

“For Your sake we are being put to death all day long: We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The King of Hearts

Then it happened when (Saul) turned his back to leave Samuel, God changed his heart; and all those signs came about on that day. I Samuel 10.9

“If I change my mind, God will change my heart; if I don’t change my mind God won’t change my heart. Now, I can’t change my heart and God won’t change my mind, but if I will change my mind, God will change my heart.”

I can remember the service quite distinctly as my pastor repeated this sentence or something very near to it many times over the course of the teaching.

The principal is depicted in the story in I Samuel and is walked out in each of our lives daily.

It goes like this:
The Lord will not force His righteousness upon us, nor His blessings, nor His promises and He will not force His will upon us either. That change that needs to be made in my life, God does not intervene without an invitation.

Remember when the disciples were in the middle of the sea of Galilee in the storm and the Lord walked out on the water to them,
“about the fourth watch of the night he cometh unto them, walking upon the sea, and would have passed by them”. Ever wonder why it says he would have walked by? He waits for an invitation.

If I will change my mind, repent, choose to go in a different direction, I will find the immediate rush of the presence of God and the change of heart that needs to be made.

I can not make any real fundamental changes in my life, not really. Oh, if I were to muster up all my courage and intestinal fortitude and whatever determination I might possess, I might alter a few things in my life perhaps. But the really deep changes, the real life-changing changes that need to be made in my life will only come through the work of the Holy Spirit in my life.

The medical establishment would not agree; the psychiatric profession stands in direct opposition to this notion, but it is true. The one who made the soul of man is the only one equipped to make alterations in that soul, in the heart of man.

But this transformation of the souls of man will not be forced on man. The Lord is a perfect gentleman and he is not in the “force” business. Jesus offers, he pleads, he presents, He acts and then the response to His unending invitation is left in my court.

All it takes for me to enjoy what Jesus has made available is to turn to him, change my mind about what I am doing, how I am living… turn to Him and in that turning there is released the power of true change.

If I change my mind, God will change my heart.

A little insider information:
This has been my prayer over the last couple weeks –
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and
Renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit.

It is paraphrased this way in TMSG-
God, make a fresh start in me, shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life. Don’t throw me out with the trash, or fail to breathe holiness in me. Bring me back from gray exile, put a fresh wind in my sails!

Create, Renew, Restore – that is an invitation to the Lord to come and make some changes. And I trust that the work of changing my heart has already begun.

May the Lord bless your day as you seek Him in every way.

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Calling of a King I Samuel 9.20-10.1

Vs 20 And for whom is all that is desirable in Israel? Is it not for you and for all your father’s household?”
Saul is chosen by God –
Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. Eph 1.4

Vs 21 Saul replied, “Am I not a Benjamites, of the smallest of the tribes of Israel, and my family the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin? Why then do you speak to me in this way?”
Saul realized this was an honor that he did not deserve -
But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved) Eph 2.4-5

Vs 22 Then Samuel took Saul and his servant and brought them into the hall and gave them a place at the head of those who were invited, who were about thirty men.
Samuel reserved the best seat at the table for Saul -
And (God) raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Eph 2.6-7

Vs 23-24 Samuel said to the cook, “Bring the portion that I gave you, concerning which I said to you, ‘Set it aside.’” Then the cook took up the leg with what was on it and set it before Saul. And Samuel said, “Here is what has been reserved! Set it before you and eat, because it has been kept for you until the appointed time, since I said I have invited the people.” So Saul ate with Samuel that day.

Samuel also reserved the best part of the lamb for Saul -

  • In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. Eph 1.11-12
  • He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love. Song of Solomon 2.4
  • The LORD is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot. Psalm 16.5
Vs 25-10.1 When they came down from the high place into the city, Samuel spoke with Saul on the roof. And they arose early; and at daybreak Samuel called to Saul on the roof, saying, “Get up, that I may send you away.” So Saul arose, and both he and Samuel went out into the street. As they were going down to the edge of the city, Samuel said to Saul, “Say to the servant that he might go ahead of us and pass on, but you remain standing now, that I may proclaim the word of God to you.” Then Samuel took the flask of oil, poured it on his head, kissed him and said, “Has not the LORD anointed you a ruler over His inheritance?

Samuel commissions Saul, but he is not sent off to complete the task without the anointing -
You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” Acts 1.8b

We are the ones who were chosen from out of nowhere, we were nobody’s and had no business being given such an honor as being called upon to serve our God. But God, who is rich and mercy, chose us… amazingly, and he snatched us out of the dungeon that sin had left us in and He honors us with position and the choicest portion. He has work for us to do, wonderful work, divine work, eternal work… God’s work; but not without also being equipped with the power of the Holy Spirit.

What we will see in the next few chapters is how Saul deals with all this blessing, how does he do with the assignment he was given… I mean, what a start! Seems like God has really set him up for success.

Indeed he did. And He has set us up for success as well. The question before me today and before you today is what am I going to do with it?

Sunday, January 6, 2008

A Divine Appointment

The LORD said to Samuel, “Listen to their voice and appoint them a king.”

We have been watching Samuel grow up and begin his ministry as a prophet. Now God has been given him an assignment… anoint a king.

God has already identified the man who would become the first king of Israel; a man by the name of Saul. There was just one small problem; Saul didn’t know he was God’s choice and neither did Samuel. In addition, Saul was at home and Samuel was in Ramah.

In Chapter 9 we see the two men in different parts of the country, you know, doing their thing; all the while God is orchestrating events to get them in the same place at the same time so Samuel can fulfill his assignment.

Saul’s’ journey begins when he goes to look for a couple lost donkeys and that search leads him eventually through the areas of Ephriam, Shalisha, Shaalim, and the land of the Benjamites (vs 4) but still could not find them. 

At the same time he has arranged for Samuel to be in the right place at the right time and tells Samuel finally,
“About this time tomorrow I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin, and you shall anoint him to be prince over My people Israel; and he will deliver My people from the hand of the Philistines” (vs 16)
They make contact in vs.18 and Samuel anoints Saul in 10.1.

This story reminds me that the events that are taking place in my life, though sometimes difficult to understand and that at first glance they may even seem random, are often simply God’s way of getting me in the right place at the right time that His plan for my life can be realized.

It also reminds me that the Lord is always working both sides of the same story. You can certainly see this as we have in this story a bird’s eye view of the plan of God being worked out both for Saul and for Samuel.

Consider this:

Though things may seem to be in suspended animation on my end from time to time, it may simply be that the other side of the issue is still being moved into position.

That my day will likely involve what is often called a divine appointment, maybe even more than one. I mean, think about what it takes to bring about a chance encounter, God has to do a lot of work to get you and that other person in the same place at the same time. Lets not miss the appointments God has so carefully prepared.

Lord help us to keep our eye open, our Spirit engaged, our ears tuned so that when you bring that person my way I will be sensitive to the unction of the Spirit to engage that person.

Likewise, Lord, bring that person into my life today that has a word for me because I need to hear a “word fitly spoken” too! 

And Lord, I want to hear from you today through whatever means necessary.