Thursday, April 30, 2009
Passage of the Day: 1st Samuel 23: 14 - 18 … 14 And David stayed in strongholds in the wilderness, and remained in the mountains in the Wilderness of Ziph. Saul sought him every day, but God did not deliver him into his hand. 15 So David saw that Saul had come out to seek his life. And David was in the Wilderness of Ziph in a forest. 16 Then Jonathan, Saul’s son, arose and went to David in the woods and strengthened his hand in God. 17 And he said to him, “Do not fear, for the hand of Saul my father shall not find you. You shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you. Even my father Saul knows that.” 18 So the two of them made a covenant before the LORD. And David stayed in the woods, and Jonathan went to his own house.
My Journal for Today: I’m glad that Swindoll brings up the relationship which David had with Jonathan again. It is a truly remarkable friendship, isn’t it? And we read just how remarkable in this short passage highlighted today.
Here is this young kid, whom Jonathan’s dad, who just happens to be the king, has sworn to kill; and Jonathan, who normally would be the 1st born, heir apparent, reaches out and befriends the one man who is anointed to become the King. And this might lead one to ask, “What’s wrong with this picture?”
Well, there’s a lot that is very unnatural about the friendship between Jonathan and David. The normal thing would be for Jonathan to be jealous of David and to do all he could to undermine David so that he could take over and be the king in the future. And then there is the depth of this friendship, which goes way beyond what most “friends” would think, say, or do for a “friend.”
That’s why I agree with scholars who write about Jonathan as a type of Christ in the Old Testament. Because, when we think about normal, human friendships, the covenant friendship exhibited by Jonathan for David is the kind of “friendship” which Christ has for you and me as Christians. This friendship, exhibited by Jonathan for David, is like that described in John 15: 15, where Jesus says, “No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you."
How many friends do you have like Jonathan was for David? How many friends do you have where the relationship is a “covenant” friendship; … where the friend would die for you, and even more importantly, would live for you. It’s a friendship where you can regurgitate any emotion all over your friend; and he’ll be there to hold your head … to support you … to protect you … to encourage you … or to say by you, … no matter what. How unnatural is such a relationship? And yet this was the friendship between Jonathan and David; and Jonathan had the character of Christlikeness way before Christ walked the earth.
I personally think that this relationship comes from Scripture to illustrate just how super-natural it is for Christ to love us in our humanity; and it is also there to illustrate the kind of relationship we should have for our closest friends, especially like the relationship we should have for our spouse. Remember that Christ’s covenant love/friendship with the Church is often pictured in the New Testament by a covenant marriage relationship; and that’s the kind of love and friendship any Christian should have for a true friend, especially a spouse, whom God has given you to share life with as a “friend.”
My friend should be someone I would give over all my possessions whenever that friend has need. It would be someone I would share their burdens or their victories … 100%. It would be someone for whom I would set aside all other earthly titles and/or loyalties. And as I said, it would not only be someone for whom I would die but for whom I would totally live.
I hope you have a friend like that. I do; and I am blessed.
My Prayer for Today: Jesus, You call me “friend;” but You have also given me another who is a Jonathan for me; and in this dear one, I am a blessed soul. Amen
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Passage of the Day: 1st Samuel 22: 3 – 23 … 1st Sam. 22 linked for study …
Added Passage: Psalm 34: … Linked for study …
My Journal for Today: If you were with me yesterday, you saw that Chuck Swindoll took us to three Psalms which were written while David and his mighty men were in the Cave out near En Gedi (see our passage in 1st Samuel 22 and 1st Sam. 24: 1 – 3). And as you read the apparent sequence of David’s attitude transformation from Ps. 142 and Ps. 52, we come to Psalm 34; and we read of a man, a leader of men, who could have “caved” (pardon the pun) to despair or disillusionment; but he didn’t.
No, David may have been in the cave; but the cave didn’t get into David. David chose to put his eyes on His Lord, just as we should when we’ve been led into the caves of life. Perhaps, as you read this, you are in an economic cave, surrounded by the coldness of privation. Perhaps it’s an emotional cave based on some relational brokenness. Perhaps, you’ve come to a spiritual cave where things seem very dark and where God seems very far away or just not there at all. We all have times when we feel like we’re backed into a dark, cold, and dreary cave in life.
BUT, in those moments we can choose to “cave” to our own fears and our flesh, or we can, as did David, exercise our faith in The Lord. Read back through Psalm 34, especially if you’re in a cave right now. Let the hopefulness give you light and warmth; and add to it the truth of passages like Isaiah 41: 10 or Romans 8: 31. And even more with the reality of Deut. 31: 6 or Hebrews 13: 5, you can, like David, realize that God is right there with you in your cave; and He will never forsake you.
God doesn’t promise that we won’t be led into the caves of life; but He does promise to be there with us and to give us the strength to bear up in those cave times of life (see 1st Cor. 10: 13 and 2nd Cor. 12: 9). And these truths and promises are the lights which I’ve memorized over the years which shine light into my caves when I find myself in one. They give me warmth to overcome the shivering cold. They let me know that my God will never abandon me to go it alone. And when I realize that, even in the cave, I have God to give me the warmth and light of His love.
My Prayer for Today: Shine your Light, Lord; … give me Your warmth; and I will walk out of the cave WITH YOU. Amen
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Passage of the Day: 1st Samuel 22 … Passage linked for study …
Added Passage: Psalm 142: … Linked for study …
Added Passage: Psalm 57: … Linked for study …
Added Passage: Psalm 34: … Linked for study ...
My Journal for Today: Okay, if you’re following along with me, this morning Swindoll really gets us into God’s word concerning David’s dilemma and his declaration of dependence. And he points out that the three Psalms which he’s asked us to read which were likely written chronologically in reverse order, … Psalm 142 first and Psalm 34 last. And Swindoll argues this because there just seems to be a sequence of humility which presents in this way: >>> In Psalm 142, Swindoll points out that David was totally down and out – on his face before God. In Psalm 57, he’s on his knees, begging for deliverance; and in Psalm 34, David is back on his feet and completely grateful for deliverance.
BUT, look at all three of these Psalms in the context of 1st Samuel 22, which is the historical context for the writing of these songs. David is totally dependent upon God in all of these passages, humbled by his circumstances, and vulnerable to bring his need to God, recognizing that God is his only answer, … his only way out. At no time in this sequence, in these songs of dependence, did David show one inkling of independence and pride. There is not one bit of evidence of anger or bitterness to God, … only total dependence and humble submission to his Lord.
That, my dear disciple of Christ, it is David’s heart which was the heart God recognized as a heart after God. It is a heart of dependence, … a heart of humility; and as Swindoll points out, it is a heart which is sadly missing in most Christians today. He points out three things which David had which we, as Christians, should seek after.
First, David hurt enough to admit his need. How many of us, when we’re hurting react by blaming God and even turning away from Him in bitterness, expressing our anger by acting out sinfully in some way?
Secondly, David was vulnerable enough to ask for help. How many of us, when we’re in a bad place, react by going into Lone Ranger mode, wanting to solve the problem alone rather than admitting we need help?
And finally, David was humble enough to learn from God. How many of us, when we’ve been hurt, dig in and let pride take control, not being willing to learn from our defeats? What is it they say these days about the definition of “insanity” as trying to do things the same way over and over and expecting different results?
But independence, pride, and stubborn insanity was NOT the pattern of David’s heart. No, we read in today’s passages a type of Christ, Whom we know from Phil. 2: 5 – 11 [linked] was humble to the point of emptying Himself of His glory, becoming a man, and even dying on a cross to take on the burden of our sin. And that was the picture of David’s heart as well. May it become, as commanded in Phil. 2: 5, our attitude as well.
My Prayer for Today: Lord, help me to be vulnerable like David. Help me to be humble like You. Amen
Monday, April 27, 2009
Passage of the Day: 1st Samuel 21: 10 – 22: 2 … 1st Sam. 21-22 for study …
Added Passage: Psalm 142: … Linked for study …
My Journal for Today: Have you ever been bummed out and down in the dumpers to the point where you just want to be alone? Well, that’s where David was in this scenario today from 1st Samuel. He was on the run; and Saul was really after him. He was going from place to place and hiding in caves in the wilderness of the Negev. I’ve been there; and it’s a desolate area. One can see how David would be so low. When you read Psalm 142, which was a song of lament David wrote during those times, you can see just how low David felt.
But in the midst of all of this, two very positive things remained. First – and foremost – David never lost sight of his need for God. Yes, reading Psalm 142 shows he was really down; but he was not out because he was crying out to God; and you can sense that David still knew that God was his only answer in these troubled times. Sure, things might be really bad for you now; but there is always God; and He may seem far away; but if you believe as did David, you know God will never leave you nor forsake you (see Deut. 31: 6 or Hebrews 13: 5). And if you believe that, as did David, and cry out to God for Him to show you His light in the darkness, the Lord is there with you. You are NEVER ALONE.
Secondly in today’s passages, you’ll note that David’s loved ones didn’t abandon him in his troubled times. No, even though David would probably have wanted to be alone, his family and his close compatriots came to him; and they stood by David, willing to die with him. When you have a loved one who is down and out, are you willing to live – and die – WITH that person? David’s mighty men were simply not going to let David bear the world’s challenges alone. And they came to him; and they stayed with him.
But even if David had not had this support, God was there with him; and God was allowing these events to reshape the “man after God’s own heart” for later service. In the past couple of weeks, we’ve seen that David had been shaped as a boy in the desert as a shepherd; and God was with him during his high times, when he defeated Goliath. God was also with him as he became Saul’s general, slaying the ten thousands which led to Saul’s jealousy. And God was with David out there in those caves as Saul pursued David, trying to have him killed.
We must never forget, and we must believe, that we are NEVER ALONE.
My Prayer for Today: Thank you, Lord, for always being with me. Amen
Sunday, April 26, 2009
Passage of the Day: 1st Samuel 18: 8 - 15 … Linked for your study …
My Journal for Today: The contrast between these two men is stark; and from this study of character, we learn a great lesson. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that David kept his focus on God; and he walked in victory. Whereas Saul became a prisoner to his own fears and jealousy; and he walked into a self-induced prison of paranoia.
So, we see the answer to the question, “How does a Christian walk in victory?” And the answer is right there, modeled by David. He focused on the Savior (i.e., God) and avoided the trap of falling prey to fear and reacting in anger. In spite of Saul’s hatred and even his aggressive anger, David CHOSE to love his king and to serve him; and he also chose to flee (as we’ll read later) rather than to strike back at his king.
David never took his eyes off of God; and as I sit here, reflecting on today’s passage, I have begun humming that old hymn, Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus, which has the formula which David used in the face of stress and worldly terror. In fact, I just plugged in my Ipod; and I’m listening to Alisa Dishong sing that old hymn …
Oh soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see.
There’s life for a look at my Savior,
And life more abundant and free.
[The Chorus] Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face;
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.
Oh, how I love returning to this old song and singing its truth, especially when I allow myself to look inward at self rather than looking outward to my Savior. In fact, this morning as I listened to Alisa singing this beautiful truth, my mind/heart was taken to a parallel truth from God which I memorized years ago. It’s found in the formula Paul declared in his powerful exclamation from Galatians 6: 9, which says, And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.
Oh how Satan and the world want us to get wrapped up in self and to take our eyes off of the Savior. And as soon as that happens, we can fall prey to the same demons which captured Saul’s spirit … fear, jealousy, and even paranoia. But if we do not grow weary and look inward to self, keeping our eyes on our Lord, as did David, the ways and circumstances of life, the darkness of our world, will be diminished by the Light of the Savior, … in the light of His glory and grace.
It is my prayer this morning that you know and remember that old hymn and you have joined me, singing the words above to your own heart, no matter what things of this earth are trying to capture your spirit. As Paul also wrote to Timothy (in 2nd Tim. 1: 7 – paraphrased), … you have not been given, as a Christian, a spirit of fear, but rather a Spirit of love and power and of a sound mind. Never forget those truths above, dear one; and let the Spirit of God shine God’s Light into your heart to diminish the darkness of despair and doubt which our enemies would try to bring into your life.
My Prayer for Today: Lord, You are my Light. Shine brightly so that I may follow Your path, fleeing from Satan and self, and keeping my eyes on You, my Jesus. Amen
Saturday, April 25, 2009
Passage of the Day: 1st Samuel 18: 5 - 16 … Linked for study to passage …
My Journal for Today: Today’s passage and Swindoll’s devotional presents an interesting and pertinent character study into another interaction and comparison between Saul, the king, and David, the king-to-be. And the focus verse for this study is found in verse 14 of 1st Sam. 18, which in the NKJV says, And David behaved wisely in all his ways, and the LORD was with him.
You’ll note that I underlined the phrase “behaved wisely,” which has differing translations in our scholarly Bibles. It is the Hebrew word “sakai,” which is one of those Hebrew expressions which can take on different colors depending on the circumstances. And the focus of this study is on this Hebrew term, which was attributed to David.
In the NASB, the sentence from 1st Sam. 18: 14 reads thusly, David was prospering in all his way, for the LORD was with him. In the NIV, it reads, In everything he did he had great success, because the LORD was with him. If you read down through 1st Samuel 18 you see that term “sakai” is used four separate times to describe David’s persistent wisdom and/or his spiritual success, given the task of leading Saul’s armies into battle. And we also read the reaction it provoked from Saul, which was rage and jealousy, even to the point of throwing a spear at David in attempted murder.
But David’s character through all of this, even being attacked by Saul, remained quietly teachable and remarkably loyal to his king. David was consistently and persistently “sakai” because he had the Lord’s Spirit upon him. And Swindoll points to a study of the word “sakai” in Proverbs (see Prov. 10: 19 and Prov. 21: 11) that one who exhibits “sakai” is one who generally keeps his mouth shut and one who intentionally grows in “teachability.”
David was still young; but he was learning what to be and what not to be as king from observing Saul; and God was giving David the enabling grace to learn and grow in this quiet, but powerful, quality of teachability. I truly hope that I never lose my drive to be what the Hebrews call “sakai” before my God. And I see, from today’s study, just how much God wants me grow into Christlikeness, Who, of course, was our super model of “sakai,” the One who grew and became the likeness of His Heavenly Father, Jehovah, on earth.
My Prayer for Today: Lord, help me to be teachable and to grow to be “sakai” in Your presence. Amen
Friday, April 24, 2009
Passage of the Day: 1st Samuel 18: 1 – 4 … 1 Now when he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. 2 Saul took him that day, and would not let him go home to his father’s house anymore. 3 Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul. 4 And Jonathan took off the robe that was on him and gave it to David, with his armor, even to his sword and his bow and his belt.
My Journal for Today: If you are a “David,” do you have a “Jonathan” in your life. As Swindoll emphasizes by today’s devotional, intimate friends are very rare. Generally we are blessed if we have one; but it’s very rare to have two or more friends who would always be there for you – NO MATTER WHAT! These are friends who don’t keep score, … who defend you when you need defending, … and who will give generously of their time, talents, and treasures to make life better for you.
This was Jonathan, Saul’s first-born son, to David; and in today’s highlight passage we see that Jonathan sealed that friendship with a covenant. The concept of covenant was very important to this middle-eastern culture. When two partners or friends wanted to show that they would be there for the other one, a covenant was “cut” between the two. And if you study “covenant” in the Bible, you’ll see that God established a covenant with Israel which involved the shedding of blood and the exchange of vows.
And though we don’t read of the sharing of blood in today’s passage, we do see the exchange of garments and armament, signifying Jonathan’s and David’s pledge to one another to be there for the other and to fight the other’s battles if necessary. It was a declaration that anything one had the other was welcome to claim; and it also said that each considered the debts incurred by the one to be the debts of the other. Covenant in biblical times was more than a close friendship. It was the joining of one life to another.
Think of the covenant God made with Abraham or with Noah or with Moses and with David. This was God pledging His all for these covenant partners. Think of the way a covenant marriage SHOULD BE. Two take vows to be there for one another ... FOREVER. And in a real covenant marriage, there is an exchange of vows and rings to signify the joining of one life to another. If you’re married, do you see your marriage partner as your covenant partner for eternity? Christ certainly sees what He did on the cross, shedding His blood for anyone who would receive His act of sacrifice, as His New Covenant to mankind.
So, I hope you can see that Jonathan is a type of Christ in today’s passage. Christ was willing to exchange His garments of righteousness for my rags of sin, just as Jonathan was willing to give David his robes and armor, the robes and armor of the son of the king. This was Jonathan willing to set aside everything for David when David received that covenant promise; and I hope you can see Jonathan being a picture of Christ for each of His covenant partners – you and me, if we are Christians.
I hope you have a covenant friend/partner in life. I do in my wife. I do in a dear friend of mine. And above all, I do in Christ.
My Prayer for Today: Lord Jesus, I am bound to You for eternity in covenant love; and You to me. Amen
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Passage of the Day: 1st Samuel 17: 48 - 51 … 48 So it was, when the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, that David hurried and ran toward the army to meet the Philistine. 49 Then David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone; and he slung it and struck the Philistine in his forehead, so that the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the earth. 50 So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him. But there was no sword in the hand of David. 51 Therefore David ran and stood over the Philistine, took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him, and cut off his head with it.
My Journal for Today: All God needed from David was one “Trust Me” moment; and with one smooth stone and a little middle-eastern slingshot, Goliath was felled to the amazement of all in that place that day; but the whole scenario was for God’s glory.
And all God needs from you and me is the trust expressed in Proverbs 3: 5-6 [link provided], a Proverb from God which I truly hope you have memorized and believe deeply in your heart. Because, if you do; and you’ve put that belief into the action of showering your mind with the memories of verses like Romans 8: 31 or 1st Peter 5: 7, you have the stones in your bag and the sling to take down any Goliath in your life.
Think about the stone of Romans 8: 31, which says, “If God be for us, who can be against us.” Or the backup of stone of 1st Peter 5: 6, which declares, “… casting all your cares on [God], for He cares for us.” My brother or sister, if you truly believe those truths; all you have to do is put one of those stones of truth into the sling of surrender to God; and God will do the rest with the reality of Prov. 3: 5-6 trust.
I really don’t need to prolong my devotional entry for today. No, what is needed if for you and me to have a few smooth stones in our shepherd’s bag of life; and then we simply need to go out and confront Goliath, believing that God will take one of the stones He has given us from His word to bring down the enemy. Jesus used three smooth stones like that in the wilderness (see Matt. 4 or Luke 4) to bring down the ultimate enemy; so, let’s take our stones of truth and go forth to take down our Goliaths and to give God the glory.
My Prayer for Today: You have given me the stones, Lord; now I go forward to take my giants down in Your Name. Amen
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Passage of the Day: 1st Samuel 15: 40 – 47 … Link to study passage …
My Journal for Today: Let’s make this morning’s message simple. Go to the last verse (v. 47) in today’s highlight passage, as David cries out to this giant before him, “Then all this assembly shall know that the LORD does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the LORD’s, and He will give you into our hands.“ And I have underlined the operant truth for emphasis.
David knew, in his heart, that this battle would showcase God’s strength in the face of his (David’s) weakness; and David had experienced that many times out in the fields, taking defenseless sheep from the mouths of hungry bears/lions. David KNEW that this battle was God’s; and David KNEW that God would prevail. How about you? When you face your Goliath today, will you be able to rely on your deep and abiding relationship with Christ, to let you face down your fears and let God do battle – for His glory – through you?
And I’m telling you that unless you are a practiced warrior, as was David, it will be highly unlikely that you face down your Goliath KNOWING that the battle is God’s, not yours. David had faith; but beyond his faith, David had experience and practice with that faith. He just KNEW that this battle was God’s battle; and so he boldly went forward. Fellow warrior, if you don’t believe that God’s truths like the ones I referred to yesterday (again see Isaiah 41: 10, Romans 8: 31, 1st Cor. 10: 13, and 2nd Cor. 12: 9) and you have not experienced those truths operating in your life, you are not likely going to march out to face those giants in your life.
But if you KNOW those truths; and you’ve practiced life with them to see them operate, you can and will face down your Goliaths and let God have the glory. That’s why I’m such an advocate of a battle plan which saturates our minds/hearts with God’s truth from His word. My weapon of choice to do battle with my Goliaths is God’s Sword. And I’m saying that if you’re not a warrior who carries a sharpened and practiced sword of the Spirit (see Eph. 6: 17) with you at all times, you’ll not likely be able to give God the battle and let Him win it through you. And if you don’t carry that sharpened and well practiced sword, you will likely cower before your Goliath rather than to face it down boldly as did David.
David’s weapons of choice were a few smooth stones and his sling, with which he was well practiced and skillful. So, my prayer today for all of us is that we take up God’s weapon (which is His truth) and practice with it (memorizing it and meditating on it daily as exhorted by Joshua 1: 8) so that when we are confronted by Goliath, we can pick up that practiced sword or those smooth rocks and let the battle be The Lord’s.
My Prayer for Today: Help me to be Your warrior, Lord; and my battles today are Yours. Amen
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Passage of the Day: 1st Samuel 17: 17 - 39 … Link to study passage …
My Journal for Today: In today’s devotional from Swindoll, he has a very quotable truth as he writes, “… when facing our own giants, we forget what we ought to remember, and we remember what we ought to forget.” And this refers to how man so often gets wrapped up in externals, ignoring what is really important to do battle against the Goliaths of this life. But fortunately that’s not God’s “M.O.” God looks into the heart of a warrior; and our Lord can/will use what each of us uniquely has to do battle and be a winner in His Name.
I’m certainly glad that I can be a “David” to do battle today; and I don’t have to be a “Saul” to win Christ’s victory. Oh, it is true that I should do as much as I can to be like my Savior as possible; but I don’t have to be someone else or even to wear someone else’s armor in battle. All I have to do is do my best to imitate my Savior; and He will use me – little ole ME – to bring about His victory.
When David looked out at the Philistine, Goliath, who was so intimidating to the Hebrew army and to Saul, David saw only a man. Yes, he was a big man; but was only a man. The only big One in David’s life was God; and David had seen God do battle and defeat intimidating foes, like bears and lions in the past. And David just knew – in faith and from experience – that God could fell any Goliath using the very unique abilities David had available to him. But again, Saul thought the only way David might have a chance was to do a make over and give David his own armor. But as we read, David only felt uncomfortable trying to do battle in his own clothes, using his own, unique battle techniques.
I’m sure glad that I don’t have to be like my Pastor to serve my God. He’s loud; and I’m sort of a soft spoken type. He charismatic; and I’m certainly not. He’s in your face; and I’m a back-off sort of guy. … If I tried to be Pastor Ernie, his armor would fit me about as well as Saul’s fit David. No; … all I have to do is be Bill Berry; and I can use the unique skills and abilities God has given to me to go out on the battle-field and face my Goliaths. And beyond that, I can take my Goliaths down using the unique tools God has gifted me with to do battle.
So, look out there; and when you see a Goliath, trying to face you down, just see another pip-squeek whom God can bring down when you pick up your sling and stones to do battle for God. God only needs you, David, to be His warrior; and Goliath is no match for our God. If you memorize and believe the truths of Isaiah 41: 10, Romans 8: 31, 1st Cor. 10: 13, and 2nd Cor. 12: 9, my favorite victory verses, you can put those stones into your own unique sling and march forth to take down your Goliath, claiming the victory in Christ’s mighty Name.
My Prayer for Today: Lord, You made me to do battle and take down Goliath in Your Name. Amen
Monday, April 20, 2009
Passage of the Day: 1st Samuel 17: 1 – 16 … Link to study passage ...
My Journal for Today: If I were a betting man, I would wager that this is a story that you know well from Bible lore. David and Goliath; and it’s an allegory for our lives, isn’t it?
We all have Goliaths which we face, … intimidating “giants” which cause us to balk in fear. And like Goliath, they come out day after day, attempting to put us down and see ourselves incapable of overcoming the giant’s challenge. Maybe yours is fear of people, … especially powerful people. Maybe it’s public speaking. Maybe it’s overcoming some emotional wound from your past like sexual abuse or rejection from a parent. We all have our Goliaths.
But if we read on ahead, why didn’t David fear this overwhelming giant? And the answer is quite simple. David was given the discernment to see that Goliath was no match for David’s God. And so it is with our lives as well. When we see God being able to overcome anything which man or the world can put forth, we will not be afraid to stand up to the Goliaths in our lives.
So, … do I have any Goliaths in my life? You can bet on it ! But I have learned a technique, which was taught to me by a mentor years ago. He taught me that I was going to have Goliaths which would show up in my life; and when they did, He said I needed to have my weapons ready to do battle. Reading on in 1st Samuel, we see that David chose to use the weapons which had helped him protect his sheep as a shepherd. They were his sling and a few smooth stones; and David had practiced using them against some very strong foes, like bears and lions.
My mentor taught me to always carry a sharpened, ready, and practiced sword of the Spirit, which we know of, from Ephesians 6: 17 is God’s word. And when I have God’s word deeply embedded in my heart/mind; and I believe its truth, I’m ready for any Goliath who might come along. So, my mentor helped me learn, memorize, and meditate on verses from the Bible which are fear dispelling Scriptures. They are verses like Isaiah 41: 10, Romans 8: 31, and 2nd Timothy 1: 7. I’ll leave it to you to look those up. But if you don’t have those, or other similar verses, deeply implanted in your mind; and you don’t believe them with all your heart, you are going to be vulnerable to the giants Satan or the world will send your way. But even more than that, you’re going to be very vulnerable to your own heart [see Jer. 17: 9], which will easily deceive you with fears which will cry out to make you believe that the thing you fear is bigger than God.
Nothing we fear is stronger than God! Do you believe that? Because if you don’t, you have Goliaths in your life which are going to cause you to cower in fear and retreat into yourself. And that, my dear fellow Christian, is a place where you don’t want to go. You need to be able to believe in a God Who will deliver you in any circumstance (see John 16: 33 or 1st Cor. 10: 13 or 2nd Cor. 12: 9 or 1st Pet. 5: 7). But the question is, do we know, in our hearts, and believe those verses? And are we ready, as was David, to confront Goliaths and allow God to bring them down?
My Prayer for Today: Give me the stone, Lord. I’m ready to do battle! Amen
Sunday, April 19, 2009
Passage of the Day: 1St Samuel 16: 21 - 23 … 21 So David came to Saul and stood before him. And he [Saul] loved him greatly, and he [David] became his [Saul’s] armorbearer. 22 Then Saul sent to Jesse, saying, “Please let David stand before me, for he has found favor in my sight.” 23 And so it was, whenever the spirit from God was upon Saul, that David would take a harp and play it with his hand. Then Saul would become refreshed and well, and the distressing spirit would depart from him.
My Journal for Today: Did you know that you can make “music” for God? Oh, you may say, as my Pastor might, “Bill, I can’t sing a lick?” But my Pastor, Dr. Ernie, doesn’t let that silence his song. He knows that when he sings to/for God, as off key as the world may hear him, the angels in heaven feel and hear the joy God has imparted into Ernie’s soul. And when I’m around Ernie as he’s singing, his joyful singing, as off key on earth as it might be, is infectious; and I can feel God’s joy emanating from my Brother; … and I feel God’s goodness too. And that is beautiful “singing.”
But David not only sang God’s joy from the heart; he apparently had a song-writing and singing talent which was soothing to Saul’s troubled heart; and David’s song ministered to the heart and soul of this troubled king. What is your “song” which God can use to soothe the savage beast of your fellow man? I put “song” in quotes because your talent or gift may not be musical singing, as is the case for my Pastor. But, maybe you have the “song” of service to give to someone who needs your help. Maybe you have the “song” of mercy to “sing” for someone who desperately needs your merciful touch. Perhaps your “song” of encouragement can reach out and lift up someone, like a king Saul, who is down or depressed and needs the “song” you might have to affirm or unburden that broken-spirited brother or sister.
We may not be able to “sing” musically; but I firmly believe we all have a “song” to sing from the talents and gifts God has given us. And I hope I’m not being too obtuse here with my word picture. My Pastor, who can’t sing a lick, brightens up a room by just walking into it; and he can make me feel like I’m the most important person in the world by just coming up to me, with his ear-to-ear smile and asking, “How’re you doin Bill B.?” When he greets me that way, sometimes hugging me or whacking me on my back, I know I’m loved by my Shepherd; and I feel God’s love coming through my Pastor’s caring acknowledgment. When he does that for me, my brother and friend, Ernie, is “singing” God’s song of love to my soul.
When you reach out and cook a meal for someone who has lost a loved one, you are “singing” God’s caring love for that person? When you share a hug for an unloved or maybe unlovely person whom God has put in your path, you are “singing” in tune with the angels and God’s song is heard by that under appreciated soul. When you help a depressed and lost soul see the love of Christ by sharing your Christian testimony, you “sing” the song of salvation for that desperate and lost person.
So, my fellow Christian choir member, “sing” out for Christ. Someone needs your “song;” someone needs to hear you “singing” with the joy and love of the Lord which you can share with others, … others who probably desperately need to hear God’s love being “sung” by you. But don’t worry that your “song” may not be in tune with the world’s “singing.” Just remember the story I related some days ago from the old Jewish story of the mentally challenged boy who sang loudly and off-key in the Temple, making everyone else feel uncomfortable; until one day when the heaven’s appeared during Sabbath service and the retarded boy was shown to be singing in tune with the heavenly chorus of Angels.
My friend, any time you reach out with God’s love to another troubled soul who needs God’s joy or His peace, you are “singing” God’s song; and you are in tune with the Angels. So, you take your talents or your gifts and you “sing” that song for God in the presence of someone who needs to hear your Godly “song.” The world may hear your “singing” as off key; but always remember that you’ll be singing with God and for God’s glory when you “sing” your song to lift up someone who needs to hear that “song.”
My Prayer for Today: Lord, I sing Your song. Help me to sing it loudly and boldly to those who need to hear it. Amen
Saturday, April 18, 2009
Passage of the Day: 1st Samuel 16: 14 – 23 … Link to passage for study …
My Journal for Today: Don’t you just love the way God does His business – and carries out His will. Sometimes, even without our pro-action, God works out a way for His will to be accomplished by men who are even unaware of how things are coming together. Saul had no – conscious – idea that the young harpist and song-writer he was bringing into the palace at the recommendation of his court was the very one who had been anointed by God to replace him. And David had no idea, prior to his being called from the fields to Saul’s side, that all those years of plucking away at his harp to quiet his sheep would land him in a helping relationship with the king of God’s people. Go figure!
But that’s the point, isn’t it? There are just some things we can’t figure and must simply accept as God’s way of doing business. You may not realize it; but that Spirit-imparted gift or those gifts which you received from God when you were converted and born-again may yet be used for God’s glory in some special way. Who knows; maybe that talent God gave you, and which was developed years ago, may yet be used in some special way in God’s kingdom.
Years ago, when I was in college and moving far away from God (calling myself an “agnostic”), I had to choose a major course of study; and I chose public speaking after I got an “A” in my first speech course. So, I began taking speech and rhetoric courses and discovered – at least to my professor’s judgment – that I had a talent in speaking to groups of people. So, I developed this skill; and it took me into my graduate education where I changed my major from speech education to speech pathology. And in this course correction in my education, I learned that I had a talent to work with those adults who had poor speaking to help them become more proficient in communication. Then, some 20 years after I entered college, which took me away from God, I was broken in spirit and received Him as my Lord and Savior.
It was a few years after that I discovered that my two primary Spirit-given gifts were teaching and encouragement. Now, it didn’t take much brain power on my part to realize that the spiritual gifts which God had imparted to me were a perfect fit with the “natural” talents I had developed in my college and grad school years. Go figure! … But God certainly had figured it all out.
And now I think about it. … God takes me, while I was even rejecting Him all those years, and develops the exact skills which would match up with the gifts - He knew - I would have after I became His child and which could be used in ministry for His kingdom and His glory. And now, here I am using my teaching gifts and speaking talents to teach, preach, and disciple others in my church and in ministry. And now I also use my God-imparted encouragement gifts and the “therapy” talents I learned years ago to lift up, mentor, and encourage men who have become enslaved to sin, helping them to walk free from that imprisonment in Christ. As I look at Christ’s mission statement in Luke 4: 18-19 [link provided], I can now see that He wove together my talents and my gifts to give me the opportunity to serve His kingdom in this same mission.
My beloved fellow disciple, never discount some talent you may have or a Spirit-imparted gift God has given you. You may not yet know how; but God can, and will, use what you have or what He’s given you for His glory. And that’s why I believe every Christian should discover his/her Spiritual gift or gifts. And when you do, many times you will discover that such gifts, when paired with some ability or abilities you have – maybe something, like David, you developed years ago - can be used to advance God’s kingdom.
My Prayer for Today: Lord, use your servants for Your glory. Amen
Friday, April 17, 2009
Passage of the Day: 1st Samuel 16: 14 – 23 … Link to passage for study …
My Journal for Today: As I read through today’s highlight passage from 1st Samuel and Chuck Swindoll’s devotional, inspired by this Scripture, the old Scout Motto popped into my head. You probably know it – BE PREPARED ! And that is the theme of the message in this journal entry.
Swindoll puts forth a three point lesson (leave it to a preacher ;>) for this devotional. First he says, “God’s solutions are often strange and simple; so, be open.” And Swindoll is right. We often have a tendency to take a simple command or direction from God and try to make it complex or complicated. How often, as with Samuel, having read about it in past devotionals, God had said to go where the Lord instructed. Samuel did exactly that, which resulted in finding young David in Jesse’s family. So, we, too, need to be open to God when He calls us … and to be ready, … no matter how strange the calling might seem. BE PREPARED!
Next, Swindoll posits, “God’s promotions are usually sudden and surprising; so, be ready.” Often, as I go through life, God somehow leads me back to this message. Just the other night at an Elder meeting in our church, one of my brother Elders gave a devotional with this very message, saying that all of the signs of Christ’s second coming are in place; and it could happen at any time; so, … my brother taught, we need to be doing as it says in 1st Thes. 5: 17, … to be in a vigilant attitude of prayer, contemplation, and readiness. So, … BE PREPARED!
Finally, my devotional author writes, “God’s selections are always sovereign and sure; so, be sensitive.” When God speaks, whenever or wherever it happens, we need to be tuned to His frequency; and I maintain that this can only happen when we are in what I call “surrender mode, “ disciplined into the habit of obedience to God’s word and His way. I firmly believe that knowing and following God’s word is how we stayed tuned to God’s sovereign will and timing. If we are not habitually in God’s word and getting to know it more deeply everyday, and if we rely on our own sensitivity to move through life, we are highly vulnerable to our own deceit-ridden hearts (see Jer. 17: 9). But when we seek God’s will from a disciplined and daily search into God’s word, I believe we become more and more sensitive to God’s way of doing business. Yes, again, … BE PREPARED!
In Revelations 19: 7-9 God’s word speaks of the coming wedding feast of the Lamb of God where our Bridegroom comes again for His Bride (which is you and me, the Church). And in this passage it speaks that we need to have our linens ready, which is our purity and obedience. This means that how we live daily, in pure devotion to our Lord, is our way of being ready for Christ’s return. So, I must ask myself, as should you, “Am I ready? Am I prepared? Any time my God speaks, do I hear? When He calls, do I come? And when He sends me, do I go?” If I can answer “YES” to those questions, I AM READY.
My Prayer for Today: Lord, prepare me for Your coming. It could be today! Amen
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Passage of the Day: 1st Samuel 16: 14 - 15 … 14 But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and a distressing spirit from the LORD troubled him. 15 And Saul’s servants said to him, “Surely, a distressing spirit from God is troubling you.
My Journal for Today: Today, Chuck Swindoll uses this short diversion into the life of Saul, during our time studying the life of David, to make a very important theological point. In today’s verses we seem to have biblical evidence that God, the Holy Spirit, can/will leave a believer who is disobedient of God’s way or will. And there are other instances where that seems to be the case, like with Samson in Judges 16: 20, which says, “He (Samson) did not know that the Lord had departed from him.” Or in Psalm 51: 10, where a repentant David pleas to God, “Take not Your Holy Spirit from me.” This would seem to surface a fear that God, the Holy Spirit, having inhabited the being of a believer, could or would leave that person, allowing for salvation to be lost because of disobedience or sinfulness.
And I agree with my devotional writer, Swindoll, that this is a point which must be clear for the New Testament Christian. It is true that God, the Holy Spirit in the times before Pentecost (see Acts 2 when the Holy Spirit came upon the newly established Church), as we have documented in the Old Testament, quite often came upon and into the life of an OT believer, usually to allow that person to carry out God’s will for a specific purpose or task. However, in instances like the ones documented above with Saul or Samson, God’s Spirit could depart, leaving that person without the Spirit of God and having to deal with life in the flesh. As we read for Saul in today’s passage, God’s Spirit departing that person could produce emotionally troubling times; and with Samson we know that his strength to resist sin or deal with the world left him until God’s Spirit returned at the end of his life to show forth God’s power and victory over evil. But if you are a Christian today, we need not fear that occurring in our now saved lives.
The promise of God from the age of grace, in which we Christians now live, is a forever sealing of God’s Spirit once we surrender our lives at conversion to be baptized (not physically, but Spiritually) in Christ. So, once I gave my life completely in repentance to Christ and received Him as Lord and Savior of my life, that was and is a FOREVER deal. God’s Spirit is in me, which makes my body and life a Temple for the Spirit of God to reside – FOREVER [see 1st Cor. 3: 16]. There are a myriad of New Testament Scriptures to support the doctrine of “once saved – always saved;” but let me just cite one which is very familiar to most all Christians, John 3: 16, which don’t I probably don’t need to quote here because of its familiarity believers in Christ.
But I will quote it after all, to make my point. It of course says [NKJV], For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. Now, if one took the position of God’s Spirit leaving a saved person after he/she were saved, causing that person to lose salvation, the phrase “everlasting life” in John 3: 16 would be sham. It would be meaningless. Everlasting is FOREVER, not just for as long as one is obedient. As Swindoll rightly points out from Ephesians 4: 30, linked for you here - once saved, we are sealed by God’s Spirit until “the day of our redemption,” which is, of course, when we die. Jesus said it from the cross, when He died, Satan’s power over our lives is “finished;” and we, who are in Christ, can know that we are saved FOREVER and have God’s Spirit residing FOREVER in our souls.
Now I know that Christians can grieve the Holy Spirit and our witness can be dampened by our sin choices and our disobedience. However, this does not mean, as happened with king Saul, that God’s Spirit can or will leave our souls. Salvation in Christ is a FOREVER deal; and we need to hold on to that truth and live, as Paul wrote in Romans 12: 1-2 [linked] as “living sacrifices” for our salvation, “… proving what is that good and perfect will of God” for our lives.
My Prayer for Today: Lord, You live in me; and I live for You. Amen
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Passage of the Day: 1st Samuel 16: 12 - 23 … Link to 1st Sam. 16 for study …
My Journal for Today: Now, in my study of the character and times of David, along with Chuck Swindoll’s devotionals, we finally come to our first real look at the young shepherd who would become king. He is called in out of the fields by Samuel and his daddy, Jesse, probably leaving his sheep and goats to a delegated sub-shepherd. I can just imagine him coming in to the family, smelling like sheep, and wondering what was going on. And here he’s confronted with this old man he doesn’t know, who takes a horn filled with scented oil and pours it over his head. The scene had to have been uncomfortable, at best, for David … and maybe even a bit comical.
BUT, this was serious business. Here a young shepherd boy was in the presence of God’s messenger, Samuel, who was telling Jesse’s family that David would become king of all of God’s chosen people one day. And after the anointing, we read on that Samuel left the young boy to go back out in the fields to continue shepherding his flocks. And in this scenario we once again see the quality of humility which God had seen in this young boy. However, David, from the moment that oil was poured over his head would never be the same. Why? Because, as we read, God’s Spirit came upon him, indwelling his heart; and now David was claimed by God’s favor and power for God’s plan and purpose.
And we see God’s plan beginning to unfold as Saul, the king, has the emotional need of someone, a musician, to calm his frayed nerves. And lo and behold, who, in God’s providence had the talent to become the king’s harpist? Surely we’re not naïve enough to think that it was a coincidence that someone in Saul’s court knew of David’s talent as a harpist and a writer/singer of songs. No, this was no coincidence. God was beginning to set in motion the events which would bring David together with Saul; and at this point, Saul seemed to be drawn to David. Later, we know that God’s Spirit, having departed from Saul, would cause Saul to be jealous of this young anointed one. But at this point in the historical account, Saul is also drawn to the humility of this boy who loved King Saul and had such a servant’s heart. And so, Saul makes David his armor bearer, a favored position with close access to the king. God is at work, moving these two toward the events which would change the course of Israel.
Can you see that the same Spirit of God Who came into the heart of God’s chosen king of Israel is the same God, the Holy Spirit, which now resides in your heart if you have received the anointing of God by receiving Christ as your Lord and Savior. And if you (or I) can be humble like David, willing to serve our King, Who is the King of kings, we can be God’s servant just like David was, … carrying out God’s will for our life and giving glory to God in the process. As I write this I am quickened by this reality; and I’m humbled to realize that God, as He did with David, has anointed me with God’s plan and purpose for my life. And our Lord has indwelt me – or you, fellow Christian - with His Spirit to give us the unction and power to carry out His purpose for our life – just as we read God is doing for David in today’s Scripture passage.
I hope that gives you “chill bumps” of direction and purpose, as it has done for me this day.
My Prayer for Today: Thank You, Lord, for you anointing on my life. Help me to be humble to receive it and become your servant. Amen
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Passage of the Day: 1st Samuel 16: 11 … And Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all the young men here?” Then he said, “There remains yet the youngest, and there he is, keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him. For we will not sit down till he comes here.”
1st Samuel 17: 34 – 35 … 34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep his father’s sheep, and when a lion or a bear came and took a lamb out of the flock, 35 I went out after it and struck it, and delivered the lamb from its mouth; and when it arose against me, I caught it by its beard, and struck and killed it.
My Journal for Today: We now spring forward in our story about David from his anointing by Samuel to his confrontation with King Saul, who is now, in 1st Samuel 17 confronted with the Philistine Giant, Goliath. And Saul asks David how he can go against this enemy. And with no hesitation David gives his résumé of having killed lions and bears in the wilderness as a shepherd. Goliath was no big deal for young David because he had been schooled in the wilderness by God’s providence and power; and though young in years, David had seen God’s deliverance in action many times.
It is often said that one’s character is defined by what we do when no one is looking; and David’s character had been schooled, if you refer to yesterday’s devotional in my journals, in the schoolroom of solitude and obscurity by the schoolmasters of monotony and reality. So, David may not have looked like it; but he was ready to do battle against any enemy; and he was saying confidently to his king, “Bring him on!”
Every day you and I face the Goliaths of this world. There is the tyranny of the urgent, by unimportant and trivial matters trying to take over. There is the terrorism of fleshly temptation. And all of these Goliaths are crying out, “Come against me; and I will take down your best.” And unfortunately most of God’s warriors these days sink from the terrorism in this world these days. Why? Well, it’s because we haven’t been schooled by the hard knocks of life and we haven’t seen God do His business. Therefore, we simply don’t have the confidence that we can, like David, slay the lions and bears of this world.
I work in a ministry where every day I have to go up against a Goliath in this world, the awesome power of Satan’s “XXX” Industry. Sex as a stronghold of sensual power and is a pervasive Goliath in today’s world; and it is bringing men, even Christian men, down into the pits of death in sexual sin, every day. But like David, I know that I can defeat this Goliath. I’ve been out there in the wilderness; and I’ve experienced what is promised in 1st John 4: 4, that my God is greater than Satan, the Goliath. I’ve felt the victory of Christ giving me His power to lift me above my enemies. So, I know the reality of Isaiah 41: 10 and Phil. 4: 13 and Romans 8: 31.
So, when any Saul of this world might say to me, “Bill, you can’t defeat Satan’s sensual forces in this world!” To that I say, “Bring them on; I’m ready … because my God is in my corner; and (from Eph. 6: 13-18) I’m fully armed and ready to do battle against any Goliath with God’s mighty weapon, …His word.”
For any who might read here, I’m not bragging on Bill Berry. I completely respect the power of my Goliath-like spiritual enemies, … Satan and my own deceitful heart. But my confidence to do battle is, as I’ve said, in a God Whom I’ve seen bring down many worldly Goliaths in my own life and in the lives of many others too weak to do battle alone, but relying on God’s strength to cover their weakness (see 2nd Cor. 12: 9).
Beloved, we can go up against Goliath today; but you’ve got to believe the truths of the Scriptures I’ve referenced above and you’ve got to be willing to put on your armor, take up your sword, and go to the high ground of prayer to do battle. You may need some seasoning and training out in the bootcamp wilderness of life. It takes time and practice, as David experienced as a shepherd, to become God’s well armed warrior who is a practiced and skilled swordsman of the Word. But when you’ve prepared yourself for the Goliaths of this world, as David had, you’ll be ready to stand forth and take the battle field to take on Satan’s Goliaths.
My Prayer for Today: Lord, show me the battle; I’m ready to stand with You for Your glory. Amen
Monday, April 13, 2009
Passage of the Day: 1st Samuel 16: 1 – 11 … Link to study passage …
My Journal for Today: Here again we move toward answering the question as to why God chose David to the His anointed successor to King Saul. And in today’s study Swindoll, from his devotional, points to the character trait of youthful integrity which was developed in young David out there in the fields of the desert wilderness. But I remind any reader here, … we have to focus now on YOUNG David and what God saw in the heart of this teenage shepherd. And Swindoll contends that the shepherd King was chosen because his character of integreity had been developed by four disciplines.
And the first of these, according to Swindoll, was SOLITUDE. The discipline of solitude develops depth of personality. One who requires superficial or meaningless noise in his life will likely avoid being able to focus on the really important aspects of life. Young David, out there alone in the desert, tending his flock, had learned how to focus on the main things in life; and the quiet he experienced helped to develop that focus. Meaningless noise has a tendency to cover over the deep, unresolved issues in life. However, developing and maintaining solitude in life helps one see and deal with those issues; and God can be heard more clearly when one develops and uses the discipline of solitude in. There’s an awful lot of meaningless noise in life these days. Do we have enough solitude in our life to be able to hear God’s still, small voice?
Secondly, and in a somewhat related discipline, David was honed through OBSCURITY. Servant leaders, Swindoll contends, are first “… unknown, unseen, unappreciated, and unapplauded.” And I love another quote about the life which David experienced which helped shape him for being king. Swindoll writes, “Strange as it may seem, those who first accept the silence of obscurity are best qualified to handle the applause of popularity. How about it? Are we seekers of the affirmation of others rather than doing the job behind the scenes?
The third training ground which developed young King David was MONOTONY; and that, according to Swindoll is learning to be faithful “ … in the menial, insignificant, routine, uneventful, daily tasks of life.” If one requires the drama or applause in life, he will not be able to deal with the small, but significant, details which are required to make one a leader. Servant leaders must be able to serve first; and service requires an attention to the mundane and repetitive details of life, … taks which may be boring but are absolutely necessary to get “the job” (of life) done in a way which is pleasing to God.
And finally, Swindoll claims the fourth discipline which helped to shape the Shepherd King was REALITY. And there’s probably no more real life on earth than that of being a shepherd out there in the deserts with a bunch of sheep, … where one must get to know the sheep, deal with the threats of predators, and have to provide for the needs of his flock. David didn’t have the luxury of living in fantasy out there with his flock. He had to learn to deal with solitude, obscurity, and monotony in the context of a very real existence. How about us? Are we dealing with real life; or are we drawn into fantasy to escape life?
How about it, fellow Christian? Are you doing the self inventory from this study as I am? And from conviction, I admit needing noise in my life to cover over my deeper, very personal issues. Often I’ll get in the car and instead of relishing the solitude, I’ll turn on the radio to surround myself with meaningless chatter; or I’ll turn on the TV or computer when I come in the house rather than listening for God’s still, small voice in the midst of quiet. But I’m learning to seek out and relish these quiet times with God, much as I am right here, listening for God and writing in this place.
I also confess that too often I seek out the affirmation or applause of other people, rather than just focusing on the more obscure and/or monotonous tasks which need to be done to get God’s job done. I’ve always, well, maybe not so much lately, been focused on getting into the public eye …to be seen by others doing the things which the world has a tendency of applauding. As I’ve matured in my faith, however, I’m recognizing and learning that getting the small details accomplished, those things which use my God-given gifts for His glory, will likely make God smile much more than feeding my human need for human applause. Now, I’m learning that the very real, but important, things like encouraging someone or doing a lesson plan for teaching my adult Sunday School class, can be used by God a lot more than seeking out the flashy applause or doing the stuff which give ME pleasure, rather than glory to God.
Perhaps in my later years of life, I’m finally learning what made God smile about David when he was a teenaged shepherd boy and what drew our Lord to the heart for God whom He could anoint as His King.
My Prayer for Today: Lord help me seek out the quiet in life to help me be shaped into Your image. Amen
Sunday, April 12, 2009
Passage of the Day: 1st Samuel 16: 1 – 11 … Link to study passage …
My Journal for Today: God was on a mission to replace Saul with HIS MAN; and He found that man out in the fields, tending the flocks of Jesse. And in this young man, David, the shepherd boy, God saw the one quality God would need most in replacing the arrogant Saul. God saw in David a servant’s heart. He saw humility.
Obviously God had had it with the prideful Saul as the King of His people; and in David he saw the heart and character which He could most use as His King; and that was the humility of a servant. And so, as Swindoll points out, we read in God’s word that God chose this young shepherd. And you can read God, characterized in song, saying in Psalm 89: 20 … “I have found my servant David; and with My holy oil I anoint him.”
And as I read that pronouncement, the psalmist attributed to be Ethan, the Ezrahite, I recognized that God has chosen me as well. Oh, no, I’ve not been chosen to be a king as was David; but God did reach out into the field of my life; and He has anointed me with His salvation. Somehow in my moment of surrender years ago, God saw enough humility in my heart to give me that wonderful life-saving gift; and my God has now set before me a life plan, for which He feels I’m worthy enough to serve Him. And if you have received God’s saving grace of Christ as your Savior and Lord, you have been deemed humble enough to become His servant as well. Now, all we, as servants of the Living God, need to be is humble enough to have a heart, like David as a young boy, to serve our God without question and most certainly without pride.
Did David have that servant’s character all the days of his life? Well, if you know David’s life story, you know that David had his failings. And yes, there were some big-time failings; but even with colossal breeches of character, God knew that David would be “a man after His own heart” for the long haul. … And now is the time for me and you to ask ourselves, “Are we men or women of God; and would you or I be considered to be God’s humble servant?” Have we chosen to dedicate our lives to serving God and the plan He has chosen for our lives?
God doesn’t want image or charisma or even a lot of intelligence. His model of servanthood and humility in our Savior – or in a young shepherd king like David - tells us that all He wants is one who will serve Him. And I can only pray that I can choose to be humble enough to become more like my Savior today than yesterday and even more a servant of My Heavenly Father tomorrow than I was today.
My Prayer for Today: Lord, have mercy and help me! Amen
Saturday, April 11, 2009
2009 – Day 100.Apr. 11 – Nobodies Into Somebodies
Passage of the Day: 1st Samuel 16: 1 – 11 … Link to study passage …
My Journal for Today: There is a great principle articulated by God, Himself, in this passage which depicts the story of God selecting His anointed successor to Saul by sending Samuel to the house of Jesse. The principle is found in verse 7 of 1st Samuel, where God says to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him [Jesse’s oldest son]. For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
And that principle flies in the face of human logic; doesn’t it? It is simply not the way mankind operates when we must separate people from the pack to be our choice for leaders. Certainly we don’t operate that way now; do we? When you were choosing your friends when you were a kid, how did you choose? You wanted to hang with the popular dudes, didn’t you? How do we choose Presidents these days? We choose them by how they appear on TV, don’t we? But this is not how God does His choosing, which is clearly stated in our passage for today. No, God looks at the heart when He is selecting just the right person to carry out His will.
And that reverse human psychology was at the heart of what the Apostle Paul wrote in the New Testament as well. When he was writing to the very Greek oriented culture in Corinth, he wrote about how God does business, which was very different from the Greek ideal of choosing leaders based on popularity, beauty, or intelligence [not much has changed in over 2000 years; has it?]. Here’s what Paul wrote in 1st Cor. 1: 26 – 29 …
>>> 26 For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. 27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, 29 that no flesh should glory in His presence.
God actually does His picking for a task in a way that won’t allow for anyone to be puffed up with pride or bragging about his own abilities to get the job done. We know, as we read on in 1st Samuel, that God picked David, the youngest and weakest of Jesse’s sons to be the anointed king over Israel. As we’d say today, “Go figure!” And that’s exactly the point. We often can’t figure out why God does what He does because we’re more often looking for the confident and able to get the job done, … like a Lebron James in basketball or a Tiger Woods in golf. We’ll elect an Obama for President because of his human abilities and looks instead of his heart. But as God’s word says in Isaiah 55: 8-9 [link provided], quite often God works in ways that are way above our ways.
I hope we all can keep this over-riding principle in mind when we seek out someone to get the job done. We need to look for God’s choice; and above all we need to look at the heart of a person first and foremost when we do our selecting. Only when we have God’s selection will we be doing life God’s way and within His will.
My Prayer for Today: Oh Lord, You are God; and I am not. So, help me discern Your will in all things. Amen
Friday, April 10, 2009
It's not all that uncommon for our grandbabes, who live here locally, to stay with us for an overnighter, giving our kids a chance to do something without having to worry about their little ones. And besides saving money for babysitters is a pretty good luxury for them too. AND, yes, Oma and PawPaw love it too!! But when we discovered this little momento, pictured above, we were somewhat blown away with the realization of what Sydney had done.
Sometimes, you wonder at this young age whether you're leaving any permanent lagacy in the lives of your grandchildren; but in what Sydney wrote on the page pictured above, we have been given a wonderful sign of the greatest legacy any parent or grandparent can implant into the lives of their kids or grandkids ... and that, of course, is God.
Take careful note of what Sydney has written, spontaneously and with no prompting from Oma or PawPaw. When I asked her about it, Syd reported that while her sister was watching a lttle bit of Veggie Tales on TV before they went to bed that night, she had discovered the Bible in our guest room where they to sleep overnight. And she told me that she began looking up verses she knew or had memorized from her home schooling or the classical ed program both girls participate in one day each week.
Sydney went on to tell me that she was just writing down some of her thoughts about what God had written in the Bible. ... WOW!! Seven years old; and she's already getting God's word into her heart and journaling her ideas about it. I think you might see why this old Christian PawPaw might be busting with a bit of healthy spiritual pride here.
Well, when we found this legacy jewel, I recognized how special it was; and I almost ran out to have it laminated; as a sign of what her parents have passed on to their kids from what we have apparently given to them; and that is the realization that God loves us and He is with us always and that we need to obey His word.
Yes, this most certainly was a WOW moment in the Berry Patch. ... <'BB><
Passage of the Day: 1ST Samuel 16: 1 – 5 … 1 Now the LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go; I am sending you to Jesse the Bethlehemite. For I have provided Myself a king among his sons.” … 2 And Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears it, he will kill me.” But the LORD said, “Take a heifer with you, and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.’ 3 Then invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; you shall anoint for Me the one I name to you.” 4 So Samuel did what the LORD said, and went to Bethlehem. And the elders of the town trembled at his coming, and said, “Do you come peaceably?” 5 And he said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the LORD. Sanctify yourselves, and come with me to the sacrifice.” Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons, and invited them to the sacrifice.
My Journal for Today: Hey, have you ever had trouble following God where He was leading you? Well, if so, you’re not alone. Reading today’s passage, so did Samuel; and who was he? Well, Samuel was only a Prophet of God, whom God selected to be His spokesperson. And Samuel was not a rookie in this business of prophesy either. He had seen God speak to the future of God’s people and what he would say, for God, would come about. Yet here he was in the scenario from today’s passage, hearing God’s word to take a message to Saul about the selection of the coming king; and what was Samuel’s immediate reaction? Yes, it was fear; and Samuel was so fearful, he even questioned God’s plan.
Have you ever been in a spot where you could see God’s will clearly; but you felt that such a direction was too difficult or maybe even that there was no way you could go where God was leading you? I don’t think that’s all that uncommon. Often people know God’s way or His commands from hearing or reading God’s word; and yet, in fear or selfishness they balk at carrying out God’s directive. Why? Well, fear or pride are usually the first line reasons; and lack of faith is almost always what causes even Godly leaders, like Samuel, to back away from God’s will or His way.
BUT (and note the big “BUT”), … for Samuel, we see God’s merciful and gracious response. Does God rebuke Samuel and say, “Common, Sam, get with the program; this is God speaking here!” No, God calmly understands Samuel’s fear; and gives him a plan to quell those fears. God recognizes when we’re afraid; and He’ll hear our questions when we have them. I think of Habakkuk, as I meditate here on Samuel’s dilemma. If you read the opening of the first chapter of the book of Habakkuk, you’ll see that he too was confused by what God was allowing to take place in the lives of God’s children. But like Samuel, God didn’t reject Habakkuk in his moment of quandary and fear. No, God gently gave Habakkuk the truth in a way that allowed God’s prophet to see how important it was for God’s man to move forward in faith and take His word to God’s people.
And we read in both scenarios God’s plan prevailed; and that’s what will always happen. God’s way will go forward whether you, in faith, are His method of doing things or someone else has to take the lead. God is God; and I am not. So, if I have trouble be God’s agent for truth, He is going to find a way to get His program done. It’s just sad when we, God’s children, don’t have enough faith to be the ones to faithfully work within His will to carry out His way in the world.
Do you see anything in the world where God is being ignored or rejected? Do you know of anyone in your life who, like Saul was to Samuel, is rejecting God or acting in a very unGodly manner? Well, if there’s nothing you can do about it, don’t worry about it; because God is still in control; and like God showed Habakkuk, He will take care of those who reject the Lord. But when, like Samuel, you are being called and can do something to move on God’s will, know, in faith, that God will never give you a command which you can’t carry out, … with His help.
That’s the message for Christians which I’ve taken deeply into my heart from 1st Cor. 10: 13, which states, No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. And that word “temptation” in the Greek, “peirasmos,” can also be translated “test, trial, or tribulation,” depending on the circumstances facing the believer. So, no matter what our trial may be, God’s going to be there for us.
Have you ever, like Samuel, faced a trial or test in life which was fearful because of what you’re called to do? Of course you have? And those are the moments when God comes along side, when you’re His faithful follower, with a way to move forward. Again, that’s the message of 1st Cor. 10: 13 or back into the Old Testament, from Isaiah 41: 10. Yes, when God calls, He is saying to us, “Don’t be afraid, I’ll carry you through this!” Or as Paul also wrote and I paraphrase from Phil. 4: 13 and 2nd Cor. 12: 9, which say to me in all situations, “Bill, you can do all things through Me, because I’ll give you My strength in your weakness.”
Oh, dear one, I hope you know and feel God’s truth when you are in a moment like the one confronted by Samuel from today’s story. I pray you’ve taken God’s word deeply into your heart so that you’re able to obey our God when you’re called to obedience as was Samuel. Because when you do act in faith and obedience, God will ALWAYS be there for you, lifting you up and guiding you to move forward for His glory. Always remember the truth of Phil. 4: 6-7 to take your fears or burdens to our God. He’s there; and He’ll listen; and He’ll give you His peace in the midst of your fears to carry you onward in His Name.
My Prayer for Today: Lord, when I know Your truth, help me to act on it. Amen
Thursday, April 09, 2009
Passage of the Day: 1st Samuel 15: 1 – 19 … Link to study passage …
My Journal for Today: What we have in today’s passage, about God giving Saul the plan of attack for life, is a classic example of man knowing God’s will and that man letting ego get in the way of obedience. It is man acting on man’s idea rather than following God’s will. It is choosing self over the Savior. And as any Christian reads this story, it is so easy to condemn Saul, thinking “What a fool he was, ignoring God’s clear plan and doing what he thought would make him look good in the eyes of his people!!” But are any of us any that different than Saul?”
Don’t we all have a tendency to do things our own way, rather than God’s way? Aren’t we all guilty, at times, of letting ego get in the way of even seeking and carrying God’s plan for our lives? Haven’t you ever had a scenario where you went on ahead and did things your own way rather than heeding what is clearly set out in God’s word (i.e., His will) for our lives? Well, if you just answered “No” to those questions, you’re a better person than I am; and praise God for your willingness to seek out God’s way; and then to follow it with no consideration of selfish ambition.
Actually, I look at what Saul did in this story as the natural and logical way to go. What God had asked of him was totally illogical and seemingly over the top, asking Saul to kill everything in sight, including the eradication of all of the spoils of victory. And herein we have what is tough about seeing things through God’s eyes as opposed to what seems right in our own eyes. God’s way is God’s way; and when He shows us what His way is, our way is not His. The choice often is clear; but in our own minds we have a tendency to do it our way – the way which seems logical or natural.
Saul had been anointed to be the king of God’s people; and this story shows how clearly he was not suited to be God’s leader. No matter how high up God’s providence allows us to climb in the pecking order of man, we are still UNDER God’s plan; and as God’s word says so clearly – at least to me as I sit here and think about it from Isaiah 55: 8 – 9 [link provided] – my ways are never as high as God’s ways and my mind is never to be set above God’s.
So, what does this tell us? It says that I must always be seeking after God’s will and His way; and then when I know what it is, I must follow it, no matter how tough God’s commands might be and how illogical they may seem. And yes, that will be very hard at times; but Jesus said it clearly to His disciples in Luke 9: 23 (a passage you should have memorized if you’ve been following my journal entries because of how often I quote it!). Jesus wants me to deny my self, to take up the crosses of life (i.e., those things which are hard to do for God), and to simply follow Him. Yes, I said “simply” follow our God. However, as you’re probably thinking now, “It’s not always simple to carry out God’s commands.” But note that I didn’t say “easy;” I said “simple.” God’s way, often as we get it from His word, is SIMPLE; but it’s almost never EASY. But as Saul would learn in his life, when we ignore God’s will or plan, especially when they’re clearly laid out, we will pay the price of disobedience.
Saul ultimately had to learn this lesson and in the end of his life he paid a terrible price. I hope – no, I pray - I learn the lesson of obedience and to be Christ’s loyal disciple before I have to pay the price for my disobedience.
My Prayer for Today: Lord, help me to be Your obedient servant. Amen
Wednesday, April 08, 2009
Blogger Billy's Note: Today Swindoll and I, following his book, move on to another in the Great Days with the Great Lives series of Bible character studies; and in this next month or so we’ll be focusing on the life of King David, … his greatness and his weakness, … his ups and his downs, … but above all, his heart, which we’ll see from the beginning to the end is a “heart for God.”
Passage of the Day: 1st Samuel 13: 1 – 14 … Link to today’s passage …
My Journal for Today: So, today we move on to another Bible character of note, … King David; and Swindoll starts with a focus on the one quality God looks for when he seeks out leaders; and that is a heart to follow after His own heart. And in today’s initial passage, though it centers on the life of Israel’s first King, … Saul, this principle of heart-felt obedience to God is stated in 1st Sam. 13: 14a, where Samuel, God’s Prophet, says, “But now your [Saul’s] kingdom shall not continue. The LORD has sought for Himself a man after His own heart, … " which was a condition of the heart which Saul did not have. But it was a condition of the heart which David did have.
Most certainly, knowing David’s story, as you probably do, we know that David was not perfect in his flesh. No, he had major league carnal weaknesses; but God knew David’s heart; and it was a heart which was in pursuit of God’s heart. And as Swindoll points out as he helps me launch into this study of David, when God seeks out someone to do His will, the Lord does not seek the perfect heart; because in fallen mankind, there is no such thing as a perfected heart. No, God simply wants someone, prayerfully like you and me, who has a heart to seek after God’s will and His way of doing things. David had such a heart; and Swindoll asks his readers as I opened with the topic lead, “How is your heart?”
Yes, as I move into this study of David, one of the great lives in the Old Testament, I’m doing a self inventory, which, according to Paul in 2nd Cor. 13: 5 [link provided] is a healthy spiritual thing to do. And though I’m convicted by some of the sin patterns in my life – those besetting habits, like my tendency toward gluttony – which I detest, I know that I have a heart for God’s way and for His will, which I seek primarily through His word. I’m not bragging about it; it is simply my heart to seek after God’s heart. Otherwise, why would I gladly and expectantly get up each morning, as I am here today, digging into God’s word and using a spiritual shepherd like Chuck Swindoll, to help me grow in my faith and help me follow my Lord? No, that’s not my ego talking or me showing off for your benefit; that’s my “M.O.” which, praise God, is in hot pursuit of my Lord.
Only you can speak to your heart; but we read above, as God was to seek out David to be His anointed leader, God is looking for those who pursue His will and hold onto a desire to be obedient to His commands (which we, of course, primarily find in His word). We see this principle and process, not only in 1st Sam. 13: 14a above, but also in a parallel teaching of 2nd Chronicles 16: 9 [link provided]; and so, I hope you’re asking yourself now if you have a heart which seeks to be obedient to God and to be transformed as Paul wrote in Romans 12: 1-2 [linked], a passage I do hope you have memorized.
But you may ask, is a heart for God’s heart implanted by God or does it develop through our own choices? And the answer to that is “YES.” It is both something that is planted in our hearts when we come to receive Christ as our Messiah/Savior [Gal. 2: 20 - linked]; and it is something we come to receive and build into our lives by our desire to know, seek, and become like God [see Phil. 1: 6 - linked]. A “heart for God” comes to Christians via the Holy Spirit dwelling in our; and it becomes a heart after God’s own heart, when, in faith, we CHOOSE to let God’ Spirit reshape us into His own image and we seek to know and pursue God as we are reshaped BY GOD into His own image.
I pray that I, and any who read here, become like David became, “a man after God’s own heart.”
My Prayer for Today: You know my heart, Lord; and it is one which desires to know and serve You. Amen
Tuesday, April 07, 2009
Passage of the Day: Deuteronomy 34: 1 – 12 … Link to study today’s passage …
My Journal for Today: Today Swindoll helps his readers, like me, to see three secrets of life which are revealed by the life of Moses.
# 1. The secret of fulfillment in life is INVOLVEMENT. Do you look forward to the world’s stereotype of “retirement” some day where you kick back your life and go into auto-pilot, relaxing, playing a lot of golf or bowling, and joining a cool village of retirees focused on selfish living? If so, the stats say that you’ll live about 17 months after your 65th birthday. But cold, hard stats also tell us that those who are into others and living out Phil. 2: 3 – 4, will live a lot longer than those who live for self. I just turned 65 a few months ago. And I “retired” from my “professional” career of 33 years a few years ago; but I didn’t call it a “retirement.” I called it a “commencement,” because God has shown me His will for my life; and that plan involved reaching out to help others find what Jesus spoke of as His mission statement in Luke 4: 18. I exhort you to read that statement of INVOLVELEMNT and find yourself in that truth somewhere. So that’s life secret #1; … INVOLVEMENT in God’s work gives life length for His glory.
#2 . The secret of reality in life is HUMILITY. Moses discovered a humble surrender to God’s will and His way produced the realness which could be used by God for His kingdom purposes. So, as Swindoll points out, if involvement gives life length, HUMILITY gives it breadth. By being totally available to God, Moses was given opportunity to reach out in God’s Name and be His servant. Such HUMBLE surrender and availability gives life direction and purpose – Godly purpose. When we’re surrendered into the center of God’s will, His Spirit can use us in ways we could never imagine within our own flesh. So, we must ask if we are walking in our own will or God’s. If it is the latter, and we’re using our God-given gifts in a God-directed life, we will find life secret #2 and the Lord opening doors and giving us His power to serve Him with His purpose for His glory.
#3. The secret of happiness in life is PERSPECTIVE. I just went to three funerals in the past two weeks; and all of them were for Christian brothers who had lived with great, Godly perspective. Like Moses, these men learned that death was inevitable; but life is not. We have no choice about when we die; but we do have a choice as to how we live – while we live. Moses learned that lesson wandering for 40 years as a shepherd in the wilderness. I learned that lesson wandering 40 years in habitual selfishness and sinfulness. We both learned that turning our lives over to God gives us the purpose and power to be used for His glory. And seeing life (i.e., having that PERSPECTIVE) is life secret #3 and makes for joy that can never be found in living for self.
What about you? Are you living with [#3] Godly perspective in [#2] humble surrender, [#1] involving yourself in the lives of others rather than self? Because … if you are, you are not just a man or woman of God; … you are a Godly man or woman. [#1] Godly INVOLVEMENT in life is empowering you to live longer. [#2] Godly HUMILITY in life is enriching you with purpose. And [#3] Godly PERSPECTIVE is providing you with the joy of knowing that you are serving God in His will and in His way.
If, however, you are pursuing life for yourself, you will find only YOU and what you pursue will be for YOU. That kind of narrowness and pride will – I promise you – lead nowhere but into yourself and unto yourself. Live for God and others, however, and you’ll be living for eternity. And as with all things life, that is our choice.
My Prayer for Today: Lord, help me to live for You, … searching always for Your will and living in Your way. Amen
Monday, April 06, 2009
Passage of the Day: Numbers 27: 12 – 23 … Link to study passage …
Also Deuteronomy 34: 9 … Now Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him; so the children of Israel heeded him, and did as the LORD had commanded Moses.
My Journal for Today: I totally agree with Chuck Swindoll today, always standing in amazement as to how God’s word, written in 66 books, by 44 authors, in three languages, over 3000 years of history, focusing on one unique Subject, Jesus Christ, can be so personal to me or to anyone who uses it as God intended it (see Isaiah 55: 11 -link provided). He has brought the compendium of personal wisdom for the ages into my (or your) life to be a light unto my (or your) path (see Psalm119: 105 -linked) in His perfect timing and for His perfect will. Do you not, with Swindoll and me, stand in awe of this?
As Pastor Chuck posited in his devotional today, perhaps, reading today’s passages, you are a Joshua, who has significant challenges lying ahead of you in life, not knowing how things are going to turn out. Perhaps you’ve been upgraded or downgraded; and you don’t know what life is going to hold for you. Perhaps God has lain a task in front of you which seems ultra-daunting; and you don’t know how you’re going to handle it. But like and older, more mature Apostle Peter wrote, God cares (see in the NT, 1st Peter 5: 7); and as old Joshua was encouraged to realize, God will never leave you holding the bag alone when His will has been lain before you (see Joshua 1: 1 – 9). You may be overwhelmed; but God is not; and there’s no reason for you to fret over life’s circumstances (as the Apostle Paul had discovered in his life, being imprisoned while carrying out God’s will - see Phil. 4: 6 – 7).
And I’m throwing all these specific passages of Scripture to you, as they bubble up in my consciousness, writing this, because God is giving me His word to share with you to illustrate my very point, … that His word will never come up void or powerless in shining a light on your specific path (again go to links above and see Isaiah 55: 11 and Psalm 119: 105).
Are you getting the picture; … that our God is the God of ever detail, just like He was for Joshua when God’s gargantuan task of taking over for Moses was put into his hands? And God has a plan for you and me too. All we need to do is find His will for our lives and then to lay aside personal fears and selfish pride, and to take up this cross, and to follow our Savior into His promised land (see Jesus’ own direction in this regard in Luke 9: 23, which I surely hope you have memorized by now as often as I reference it).
God’s in the details, my beloved; and even more importantly, HE’S IN TOTAL CONTROL! If, like Joshua, you have a whopper of a task in front of you; and you know it’s God will for your life, … take heed and be encouraged by the passages to which I’ve referred you in this journal entry. My mentor used to say, often, “God’s calling is His enablement!” And that applies to each and every one of us in each and every moment of each and ever day of our lives.
My Prayer for Today: Lord, I take up the encouragement of Joshua 1: 8 and Psalm 119: 105, abiding in Your word to be a light unto my path. Amen