Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Ministry of Nourishment

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
II Samuel 17:1-29

"Now it happened, when David had come to Mahanaim, that Shobi the son of Nahash . . .brought beds and basins, earthen vessels and wheat, barley and flour, parched grain and beans, lentils and parched seeds, honey and curds, sheep and cheese of the herd, for David and the people who were with him to eat.  For they said, 'The people are hungry and weary and thirsty in the wilderness.'"  II Samuel 17:27-29 (NKJV)

There is a ministry of nourishment.  There is a ministry of caring for the practical needs of those who have labored "in the wilderness."  We find in this passage, the names of three individuals who appear here and perhaps one other place in Scripture.  In the grand scheme of things, they are "nobodies."  But they are SOMEBODY in that the Holy Spirit inspired the recording of their names for what they did.

I love the way their ministry is described in this passage.  It could have been said that they brought "help", or that they brought "food".  But the details here are impressive.  Note the many different food items along with beds, basins, and earthen vessels. 

It is obvious that the abundance of the gifts of these three friends became well known.  They were famous for their generosity. 

I want to be that kind of person.  I want to be remembered for how I helped people extravagantly when they were in need.  A cup of cold water is great, but let's give a BUCKET, a BARRELL!

Cursing to Blessing

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
II Samuel 15:23-16:23 (for May 30)

"It may be that the Lord will look on my affliction, and that the Lord will repay me with good for his cursing this day."  II Samuel 16:12 (NKJV)

David found himself in a place where it seemed EVERYTHING was going wrong.  His son, Absalom, had turned against him and instigated an insurrection.  David was now fleeing for his life -- losing everything he held dear.  To top it off, a man named Shimei comes out cursing David and throwing stones at him!

We have all faced seasons in which we are continually met with difficulty, loss, and even rejection.  At least it seems that way.  We do not know the thoughts that ran through David's heart as all this took place.  We only know that this great warrior was in deepest distress.  Scripture says that as he escaped, he walked up the Mount of Olives weeping and barefooted with his head covered with a shawl.  This is not the picture of a victorious king.

I think David was reflecting on how he had brought all this on himself by his past sins.  He felt that he "had it coming."  I believe that God completely forgives us of our sins as we ask and confess.  However, there are times when the CONSEQUENCES of our sin that we must endured.  David felt this truth that day.

How we respond to God's disciplines and dealings is so important.  David stayed humble before God.  He did not rise up in rebellious anger or self-justification.  Nor did he descend into dark depression.  He kept his focus on the face of God.  He LOOKED for the day that God would turn his mourning into dancing.  He looked for the day that his affliction would be replaced with blessing. 

Because of this, even at the lowest moment, David could walk in strength.  It is the Lord who turns our days of cursing into days of blessing.  May we today keep our eyes on Him to that end!

Monday, May 30, 2011

The Nature of True Ministry

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
II Samuel 14:1-15:22 (for May 29)

"Yet God does not take away a life; but devises means so that His banished ones are not expelled from Him." II Samuel 14:14b (NKJV)

It is not God's desire that any should be condemned. If any of us find our way beset by sin, compromise, or darkness, it will not be because God devised such a plan for you. Sin is our doing. Compromise and condemnation are human conditions made by humans.

God is a REDEEMER. He devises ways for us to escape the consequences of our own actions. This flows out of His being - His nature. It is amazing to consider. We have violated His holiness in so many ways. He has every right to condemn us forever. Yet, He seeks our redemption - our deliverance - our reconciliation.

This is the nature of all true ministry. We are not called to sit in continual judgment of who measures up and who doesn't. We are called to rescue the perishing - to go the extra mile - to minister life to those who are dying by their own disobedience.

This is what it means to be like Jesus.

The Deception of Sin

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
II Samuel 13:1-39. (for May 28)

"The Amnon hated her (Tamar) exceedingly, so that the hatred with which he hated her was greater than the love with which he had loved her. And Amnon said to her, 'Arise, be gone!'" II Samuel 13:15 (NKJV)

The last half of David's life was beset with tragedy and scandal. The story we read here today is one of the worst. When your children have difficulty, it is extra hard! Three of David's children fall deeply into a sequence that includes rape, murder, and hatred.

Amnon is the instigator. He seduces and rapes his half-sister Tamar. As the story unfolds, we get a deeper glimpse at the nature of sin. James 1:14-15 says, "But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death."

Temptation pushes you and speaks to you. It tells you that you MUST have the object of your desire. It is like the "love" Amnon had for Tamar. It cannot wait.

Such temptation pushes a person to action - to sin. But sin can never satisfy. The moment it is committed, it transforms - it changes. Such is the nature of Satan's kingdom. Sin promises much but delivers nothing. It seduces and entices, and then condemns.

May we learn to recognize the tell-tale signs of destructive sin! It seems so right or necessary at the time. But it KILLS. Amnon would soon be dead. May we be wise and always surrendered to the Lord and His timing.

Friday, May 27, 2011

"You Are the Man!"

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
II Samuel 12:1-31

"Then Nathan said to David, 'You are the man!'"  II Samuel 12:7a (NKJV)

This is one of the most dramatic moments in the life of David.  He had stood against Goliath and won.  He had overcome the murderous pursuit of Saul and survived.  He had endured the years of humbling waiting for his destiny.  He had finally become King of all Israel.

It has been said that we sometimes can handle our days of struggle far better than our days of success.  The days of battle and testing kept us on the straight and narrow.  The days of abundance and tranquility gave occasion for critical missteps.  Such was the case for David.

He had committed adultery with Bathsheba and then disposed of her husband Uriah.  He had used his power to commit and to cover his sins.  It seemed that he had gotten away with it.  But, God was watching. 

God sent a prophet named Nathan to confront David.  This is an awesome encounter.  Nathan surely exhibited true courage.  He confronted the most powerful man in Israel -- a man who had already shown that he would kill in order to preserve his power.  Skillfully, Nathan laid out a parable about a rich man who abused a poor man.  When David's righteous anger was aroused against the report of such an abuse, Nathan uttered the famous words, "Thou are the man!"

Here's a question: do you allow the Lord to rebuke you?  We might answer quickly that we invite THE LORD to correct us.  But what if He sends a friend of yours to do His job?  What if a PERSON brings the Word of the Lord to you?  That makes it more difficult, doesn't it?

I believe that the Lord regularly DOES send a "Nathan" to those whose hearts are open to His instruction.  Our friends will gently and lovingly bring help to us by speaking truth in love.

David received the Word of the Lord through Nathan.  His path thereafter was beset by adversity because of his sin, but he did go on to accomplish many great things in the balance of his life.  God fulfilled His Word to David even though David nearly threw it away.  Do you have a Nathan?  Will you continue to grow as God corrects you?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Two Halves of David's Life

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
II Samuel 9:1-11:27

"It happened in the spring of the year, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him, and all Israle; and they destroyed the people of Ammon and beseiged Rabbah.  But David remained at Jerusalem."  II Samuel 11:1 (NKJV)

Thus began a series of set-backs for King David.  The life of David can roughly be divided into two halves.  The first half is a succession of victories beginning with Goliath and carrying through to the defeat of the Jebusites.  He certainly had challenges, but he always ended up in triumph.  The favor of God rested on him.

The second half of David's life is characterized by trouble.  His adultery with Bathsheba set his life on a different trajectory.  While David was a great warrior, from this point on he had great difficulty within his own house.  The beginning of David's hard time was not just his sin with Bathsheba.  It was also his failure to fulfill his role as king.  When king's usually were out leading the troups, David took a vacation. 

I find a lesson here.  We are at our best when we are focused on God's plan. We are at our best when we know our purpose and are pursuing it.  We think more clearly when we know God's direction.  Unfortunately, far too many people in our day feel over-worked, stressed, and in need of a break.  I am afraid this has produced a hankering for a leisure culture that is escapist and can be destructive.

Don't get me wrong.  I love those times that we are able to unwind, lay back, and get refreshed.  But, we must revisit the reasons for these "retreats."  The purpose of rest is not to escape work.  The reason for rest is so that we can be renewed and reinvigorated so that we can return with strength to that to which God has called us.

When we enter a period of unending relaxation, the focus is our own comfort.  This can lead to compromises or temptations that we would otherwise not entertain.  Remember, GOD HAS A PURPOSE FOR YOU.  Your life will only find fulfillment in that purpose.

When David slacked off and failed to stay centered on his calling, he became open to sin.  This sin set the tone for the last half of his life.  May God help each of us to know His will and His calling so that we can live our lives TO THE FULLEST!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A House for the Lord

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
II Samuel 7:1-8:18

"Now therefore, let it please You to bless the house of Your servant, that it may continue before You forever; for You, O Lord God, have spoken it, and with Your blessing let the house of Your servant be blessed forever."  II Samuel 7:29 (NKJV)

As David settled into his role as King of Israel, he found one thing lacking.  The Tabernacle was still housed in a tent.  He as King found himself to be surrounded by wealth and finery, but the Tabernacle and particularly the Ark of the Covenant was still in temporary accomodations.

He resolved to build a house for the Lord.  God's response was interesting.  In short, God said, "I don't need man's furnishing.  I can operate according to My own fashion or desire."  He went on to say that instead, He would build David a REAL HOUSE. 

God is glorified not in the monuments we build to Him.  He is glorified in the sons and daughters we raise up to follow Him.  The word "house" means two things in this passage.  First, it means the physical structure in which a family resides.  Second, it means the heritage or realm of influence that surrounds us.  God is more interested in the second than the first.

The true sons and daughters of Abraham, of David, and of THE LORD, are those who carry the calling, the commission, and the faith of the King.  This is the aim of God in your life.  The work of God is to TRUST Him completely.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Going On to Greatness

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
II Samuel 4:1-6:23

"So David went on and became great, and the Lord God of hosts was with him."  II Samuel 5:10 (NKJV)

At last, David had arrived.  His prophecies had come true.  He was now King of Israel.  Long years before, Samuel had first anointed him.  Numerous times he had known and been told that this was his destiny.  The big day had finally come and David was fully anointed "king over all Israel" (II Sam. 5:3).

This, however, was not an ending, but it really was a huge BEGINNING.  David's first act as king of all Israel was to remove an enemy stronghold in the midst of the nation.  At Jerusalem, a small band of Jebusites had built an almost impenetrable defense in defiance of David's rule.  The Jebusites were not a strong people.  In fact, Scripture says that their little band was made up of "blind and lame" (II Sam. 5:6). 

This is indicative of those strongholds in our lives that defy the rule of King Jesus.  They are really not strong, but they are well defensed and seem as if they can never be dislodged.

David's first act was to go after this long-standing stronghold.  He deplored the presence of such defiance in his kingdom.  In fact, as soon as he took this stronghold, he renamed it.  He called it the City of David.  There may be areas in your life that defy the rule of God.  We are to be like David.  Take those strongholds and make them YOUR GROUND! 

As a result, the Bible says that David "went on and became great."  He kept gaining new ground.  You can do that too.  It is the future God is even now delivering to you!

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Long War

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
I Samuel 2:12-3:39

"Now there was a long war between the house of Saul and the house of David. But David grew stronger and stronger, and the house of Saul grew weaker and weaker." I Samuel 3:1 (NKJV)

There is a "long war" that every Christian is call to fight. It is not just a battle against the devil (although that IS a significant reality). It is the battle between the "old" and the "new", between the past and the future, between past patterns and future promises.

Saul was dead. His system was washed up. Yet he still had those who felt the old, worn out ways were better. David was a son of promise. The favor of God was upon him. He and his men knew that their time was coming.

Saul represented the man-made kingdom of self-effort. David represented the Kingdom that would have no end - that would always increase and would ultimately prevail.

We are today engaged in such a long war. Despite any temporary suffering or set-back we might experience, the Bible says that we are destined for glory - destined for rulership. It may be a long war, but daily we increase, while darkness loses its hold. This is the glorious future of all who follow the King!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

When Leaders Fall

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
I Samuel 1:1-2:11

"The beauty of Israel is slain on your high high places! How the mighty have fallen." I Samuel 1:19 (NKJV)

God is calling us to see the Church as He sees the Church. Far too often we see things as "our group" versus "their group". We pick our favorite leaders and find fault with all others. Unfortunately, far too often, we find many things to dislike and disrespect about the conduct of some leaders today.

Just this past week, a radio teacher predicted the end of the world to take place on May 21. He was obviously in error. It is certainly proper for us to have reservations and objections to those who teach such things.

But, what, in the final analysis, should our attitude be when a leader errs such as this? David mourned. He did not gloat and think that finally Saul got what he deserved. He did not shrug with indifference. He did not feign concern to mask his secret ambitions. He mourned for the loss to Israel.

When we hear of leaders who err, we must take the attitude of David. We must see the loss from God's perspective. In so doing we will prove ourselves to be "family men" in the Kingdom of God. As such, we can see the Church rise to new heights of care, fellowship, and effectiveness.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Art and Skill of Self-Encouragement

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
I Samuel 29:1-31:13

"Now David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God." I Samuel 30:6 (NKJV)

David knew how to "strengthen himself" in the Lord. Another translation says he "encouraged himself". David had learned the art and the skill of self-encouragement.

Very literally EVERYTHING around him had gone wrong. It was a very bad day. Rather than mope in self-pity, David "got hold of God". NOTHING around him could help him any more. So he drew into the Lord and found the needed strength there.

The Scripture does not tell what David actually did. In all likelihood, part of it was PRAYER. He probably SANG to the Lord. I think a major part was that he SPOKE both to God and to HIMSELF. "Bless the Lord, O my soul!" He ministered to his own heart and soul.

There are times when all of us must do this. Is David had not encouraged himself in this story, perhaps he would have not been heard from again. Your future will be affected by your ability to rise up in the midst of chaos, and find strength in the Lord your God.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Our Attitude toward Authority

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
I Samuel 26:1-28:25

"But David said to Abishai, 'Do not destroy him; for who can stretch out his hand against the Lord's anointed, and be guiltless.'" I Samuel 26:10 (NKJV)

David had a strong understanding of the nature of spiritual authority. He had every natural reason to desire damage to be done to Saul. But, he saw something more important that justice for Saul. He clearly knew that God Himself would deal with the King He had raised up. Saul was truly in God's hands.

Because of that, David knew that he could not raise his hand against the King. To do so would be to attack not only Saul but also the anointing (sanction) under which Saul operated.

This is such an important lesson for us to learn today. A person cannot attack, gossip, resent, or rebel against authority without paying a price.

David served well under Saul's rule. This qualified him to become the greatest king in the history of Israel.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Keeping the Ability to Honor

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
I Samuel 24:1-25:44

"Now it happened afterward that David's heart troubled him because he had cut Saul's robe. And he said to his men, 'The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my master, the Lord's anointed, to stretch out my hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the Lord.'" I Samuel 24:5-6 (NKJV)

If anyone had a good reason to resent Saul it was David. For several years, David had selflessly served his king. He had risked his life to make Saul successful. And what was his reward? Nothing but anger and repeated attempts kill him.

One of David's great strengths was his ability to keep a soft heart. He stayed sensitive to the Lord. He would not allow himself to harbor angry reaction or vengeance. He kept his heart sensitive to the conviction of the Holy Spirit.

Have you ever felt convicted of failure to show love and honor to those who reject you? Most people develop an "I don't care attitude." In short, they harden their heart.

It is a difficult thing to honor those who are acting in a dishonorable fashion. David really did not honor Saul's sins and carnality. He honored Saul's position. God had placed Saul in the office of King. As such, he was "the anointed of the Lord."

In our day, it seems that everyone in authority gets criticized and torn down. We have lost our ability to HONOR. Even when our leaders are flawed, God still says to respect the office and refuse to speak rashly against authority. This is a key to good leadership, and it is a way that we ultimately honor our God.

Ready for the King

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
I Samuel 22:1-23:29

"David therefore departed from there and escaped to the cave of Adullam. So when his brothers and all his father's house heard it, they went down there to him. And everyone who was in distress, everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented gathered to him. So he became captain over them. And there were about four hundred men with him." I Samuel 22:1-2 (NKJV)

What a way to start an army! David had been run out of Israel, rejected by the Philistines, and now was hiding out in a cave. From this very obscure and humble place, God began to build an army around him. But look at what kind of men came first!

These first men represent the three "D's". DISTRESSED, in DEBT, and DISCONTENT. What a mottly crew! But there's another way to look at them. They were HUNGRY; and they were DESPARATE. They were men who had run out of answers. They needed God. They needed help. They were ready for change. Jesus said it this way, 'Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven' (Matt. 5:3). The Message paraphrase "translates" this verse, 'You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and His rule.'

These men were ready to follow David - no matter what. I guess they figured that they had nothing more to lose. God is looking for men and women like that today. If you've run out of options and have no more solutions, maybe, just maybe, you're on Kingdom ground.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Alone with Mighty God

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
I Samuel 20:1-21:15

"So he (David) changed his behavior before them, pretended madness in their hands, scratched on the doors of the gate, and let his saliva fall down on his beard. Then Achish said to his servants, 'Look, you see the man is insane. Why have you brought him to me?' I Samuel 21:13-14 (NKJV)

This is one of the low points of David's life. He has been pursued by King Saul who now openly seeks to kill him. He has fled to the nearby territory of the Philistines, but, remember, these are the people he had so recently been fighting. In his service to Israel. And King Saul, David had been a terror to the Philistines.

David was a man without a country and a man without a friend. He was ALONE. But it actually gets worse. In order to survive, he fakes insanity - scratching and drooling at the gates. He might well have thought to himself, 'I surely must have missed God somewhere! This CANNOT be God's will!' Many of us would be temted to think like this when things are going bad.

We, however, have an amazing glimpse into David's mind during this episode. It is found in Psalm 34, which he wrote "when he pretended madness." There we find these words:

"I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth."

"I sought the Lord and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears."

"Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him!"

Throughout this wonderful Psalm, David is extolling the greatness and care of God over his life! No matter what circumstance you face today, you too can BLESS THE LORD!

Monday, May 16, 2011

When the Javalines are Flying

"One Year Bible" Old Testament Passage
I Samuel 18:1-19:24

"And David behaved wisely in all his ways, and the Lord was with him." I Samuel 18:14 (NKJV)

There are times when our enemies actually become our friends. It certainly is not pleasant or enjoyable to he disliked or criticized, but perhaps God has a plan in allowing it to happen.

Three times in this passage, the Bible says that David behaved himself wisely. He had to! The king was after him. David's every move was watched. He was in a mix of treachery, deception, and danger. As a result, David was forced to continually operate in wisdom. He COULD NOT get "in the flesh" and lash out or react.

This was extremely tough on him at the time, but it was training for kingship. It was a prerequisite for the future God had for him. In this sense, David's enemies (Saul) were really helping him.

Of primary importance here is this one truth: the hardship could only benefit David if he kept his focus on the Lord. David kept centered on God's presence and blessing, not on the pressures and pains of opposition. This is the path of improvement. This is the path to the throne.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Battle is the Lord's

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
I Samuel 17:1-18:4

"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." I Samuel 17:47 (NKJV)

The story of David and Goliath is one the most familiar in the entire Bible. One of the reasons it is so powerful is that it says to each one of us - no matter how strong or weak, big or small - that we too do mighty exploits for our God.

Saul's failure was that he fought for himself. David's strength was that he fought for the Lord!

David himself said that the battle with Goliath took place so that all Israel ("this assembly") might know how God can win battles.

It is the same message today. If we rely on our own ability, we will only get what WE can produce. Rely on the Lord and He will win the battle!


"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
I Samuel 15:1-16:23

"But the Lord said to Samuel, 'Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.'" I Samuel 16:7 (NKJV)

Saul had failed as king. The Lord withdrew His blessing from Israel's first king because of "incomplete obedience." Saul partially did God's will (which was equivalent to TOTALLY rebelling against God).

Samuel was commissioned to go anoint a new king. The tendency is always to judge capability by outward indicators. That's really how Saul rose to kingship. As Samuel looked at the seven sons of Jesse, he once again leaned toward selecting the one who looked the part.

God saw things more clearly. A strong outward appearance may mask a weak insider life. God looks at the heart. Another word for heart is CHARACTER. This amounts to passion merged with integrity - firey dedication united with honesty and stability.

God is looking today for such people. He cares nothing for flashy showmanship. He loves hearts of sincerity and focus.

"Lord, today we give you our hearts."

Friday, May 13, 2011

All that is in Your Heat

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
I Samuel 14:1-52

"Then Jonathan said to the young man who bore his armor, 'Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised; it may be that the Lord will work for us. For nothing restrains the Lord from saving by few or by many.' So his armor bearer said to him, 'Do all that is in your heart. Go then; here I am with you, according to your heart.'" I Samuel 14:6-7 (NKJV)

Jonathan is one of the "unsung heroes" of the Old Testament. In this passage he shows uncommon courage. In an era of confusion and uncertainty, he showed daring and unmatched fortitude.

Jonathan's father, Saul, had one consistent flaw - he could not make a decision. He waffled and waited. Perhaps in frustration, Jonathan decided that he and his armor bearer had to do SOMETHING. The key words in vs. 6 are "it may be." Another translation says "perhaps." Jonathan risk his life on a "perhaps." Something inside of him said that ACTION was called for. He felt that words were cheap, and God could only use that which moved out in radical reliance. Better to die trying than to live in fear and intimidation.

His armor bearer recognized this. He did not follow based on logical assessment of the situation. He followed on the basis of HEART. Better to go out striving for heart-filfillment than to live with withered dreams.

So I say to you today, "Do all that is in your heart!" Live the adventure! Go for the grand vision. Do not settle for less.

A Man After God's Own Heart

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
I Samuel 12:1-13:23

"But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought for Himself a man after His own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be commander over His people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you." I Samuel 13:14 (NKJV)

The earthly motivation behind leadership is EGO. This may work in the world but it is of no lasting value in the Kingdom of God. Saul was "after his own heart" - pursuing his own advancement. Therefore, when the first big test came, he violated God's instructions and usurped the office of the priest.

If we operate out of self-preservation, we will forfeit the blessing of God. If we seek first our own purposes, we can never receive God's richest rewards. When Saul found himself to be under pressure, he reverted to self-reliance and "pushed through" what he needed. I find this one characteristic and tendency to be the dividing line between true leadership and self-made leadership.

May we always be willing to lay it all on the line - even if doing so means failure in our eyes. But, we will not fail, for God will cause us to stand. We must be people after God's own heart.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

True Transformation

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
1 Samuel 10:1-11:15

"'Then the Spirit of the Lord will come upon you, and you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man' ...  So it was, when he had turned his back to go from Samuel, that God gave him another heart..."  I Samuel 10:6,9 (NKJV)

True transformation is an act of God by the working of the Holy Spirit.  Jeremiah says it this way, "Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots?  Then may you also do good who are accustomed to do evil" (Jer. 13:23).  Human efforts to bring lasting change are futile.  They may bring temporary relief, but usually it's just swapping one bad habit for another. 

How can anyone really become a new person?  Saul is a study in the working of God in a very carnal individual.  He was "head and shoulders" above all his fellow countrymen.  He was a man driven by "head" (human reasoning) and "shoulders" (human strength).  He was by all outward indications a very imposing, impressive man.  But inside, he was very small and weak. 

In order to become all that God wanted for him, Saul had to become a new man.  The tragedy of King Saul is that he really COULD HAVE BEEN A GREAT LEADER.  But the only way was for him to STAY IN GOD'S PRESENCE.  Scripture says that when the Spirit came upon him, he became a new man.  But, when the Spirit lifted off of him, he was prone to anger, depression, and insecurity. 

The key to lasting success is not training our natural man to operate better.  That can only take you so far.  The real answer is "seek first the kingdom of God!"  Stay in connection with the Holy Spirit!  He makes you a new person.  He makes you capable.  He makes you a leader.  You never looked and felt better than when you are walking in the fullness of God's presence!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Like All the Nations

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
1 Samuel 8:1-9:27

"and said to him, 'Look, you are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways.  Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.'"  I Samuel 8:5 (NKJV)

It has been said that "the GOOD can be the enemy of the BEST."  We far too often settle for just good enough, when we should be going for the best God has for us. 

Israel was in a tough spot.  Their one good leader (Samuel) was now very old.  His sons had proven to be corrupt men who could not lead Israel with integrity.  The pressure of an unsure future loomed before the elders of Israel.  As a resutl, they made an unwise decision.

How often do we set our course based on survival or just getting by, rather than claiming God's highest and best?  In desparation, we settle for a "bandaid" when we should be looking for a "healing."  Often, we do this because we see no other options. 

When you feel that you have "no other choice", stop, take a deep breath, and pray.  You know that the course you are considereing may not be the best, but you don't see any other way!

Israel saw the forces of a hostile world surrounding them.  They knew that their present leader's days were numbered.  Out of desparation and the need to survive, they sought to become "like all the nations." 

We can never prevail by playing the world's games.  We can never overcome by using the world's tactics.  Our strength is in the Lord.  He will provide.  He will guide.  At the right time, He will make a way.  THAT is our strength!

Monday, May 9, 2011


"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
1 Samuel 5:1-7:17

"Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen, and called its name Ebenezer, saying, 'Thus far the Lord has helped us.'"  I Samuel 7:12 (NKJV)

Three chapters ago, in I Samuel 4:21, it seemed to one lady as if all was lost.  In her distress, and in fact, in her dying breath, she named her child Ichabod, declaring that the Lord had judged and forsaken Israel.  The glory had departed. 

Now, a few years later, the ark has been recovered, and a great victory has been won by Israel over the Philistines.  In gratitude, Samuel set up a memorial and called it Ebenezer, which literally means "stone of help."

This is the nature of a testimony.  There is no TESTIMONY without a TEST.  The nature of our walk with God is not an unending succession of successes and victories.  We continually face greater and greater challenges, yet "in all these things we are more than conquerors" (Rom. 8:37).  Remember, it really is not OUR testimony, it is the testimony of the Lord! 

He wants to fight our battles for us.  He wants to bring us into fullness.  In order to bring the greatest glory to His Name, He surrounds us with great challenges, so that we know that He and He alone brought us through. 

A memorial is set up to remind us of something important.  We need to be reminded regularly, "The Lord is my help.  He is my Ebenezer."

Sunday, May 8, 2011


"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
I Samuel 2:22-4:22

"Then she named the child Ichabod, saying 'The glory has departed from Israel!' because the ark of God has been captured and because of her father-in-law and her husband. And she said, 'The glory has departed from Israel for the ark of God has been captured.'" I Samuel 21-22 (NKJV)

Have you ever done a really stupid thing and it seemed like all was lost? Israel did such a thing in this passage of Scripture. Faced with a losing battle against the Philistines, the elders of Israel decided to use their secret weapon - the ark of God. They decided to send this which in worship symbolized the manifest presence of God - to send it into battle as a kind of religious trump card. God would surely show up and kill all these heathen for them.

It didn't work. Instead disaster struck. The ark was taken, the sons of the "man of God" were killed, and the "man of God" himself (Eli) fell over dead.

It looks like final judgment has fallen. Eli's daughter-in-law gives birth at that very moment and names the child Ichabod - "the glory has departed".

I have heard these verses used many times to describe how God will finally withdraw His blessing from a person, a church, or a nation. He will "write Ichabod over their door". After that, there is no future, no hope - it's over!

Please note however that it was not God who said "Ichabod." It was Eli's daughter-in-law. No doubt it was a dark day in the history of Israel, but know for sure, God DID NOT permanently withdraw His favor and blessing from Israel. Within a few years, the ark is back in the hands of Israel, David is on his throne, and the best days of national Israel are in full bloom!

We far too often think, "This is the end. God is through with me. My mistakes, my stupid mistakes have taken me out of the game". NOT SO.

God WILL deal with you. He may correct you. He might even take you aside for a season. But HE WILL NOT FORSAKE YOU. There is always a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11) So keep walking, keep waiting, keep obeying. The best lies ahead.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

A Song, a Son, and a Future

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
I Samuel 1:1-2:21

"Then she (Hannah) made a vow and said, 'O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall come upon his head.'" I Samuel 1:11 (NKJV)

God creates great DESIRE in our hearts. We feel like we will die if there is no fulfillment. In our desire and anguish, we cry out to the Lord. It seems as if we cannot go on unless God hears our prayers and grants our requests.

This is a very difficult place in which to live. We are powerless to bring our own answers. We cannot change the circumstances. We certainly have tried, but found it to be beyond our ability. In desperation, we cry out to the Lord. He, and He only, can bring fruitfulness. He, and He only, can grant our wishes.

It is as if God requires a death even before a birth! Hannah had to lay her son on the altar even before he was conceived. God created great desire in her heart. In the intimacy and passion of prolonged intercession, God broke open Hannah's heart. The result was a SONG, a SON, and a FUTURE. From Hannah's heart came an awesome hymn of praise. God granted a son, Samuel, who became one of Israel's greatest leaders. And Hannah was granted not just one son but three more sons and two daughters. "Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy" (Psalm 126:5)

Friday, May 6, 2011


"One Year Bible" Old Testament Hisrory Passage
Ruth 2:1-4:22

"May your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, because of the offspring the Lord will give you from this young woman." Ruth 4:12 (NKJV)

I love the Book of Ruth. It is a story of love and honor in the midst of the tumultuous time of the Judges. It is a story of BREAKTHROUGH.

The story of the birth of Perez is found in Genesis 38. Ruth and Naomi's story is similar in that God turned a hopeless situation into an advance of His Kingdom. The name Perez means BREAKTHROUGH. At the beginning of Ruth, an entire family is desolate. Naomi changes her name to Mara, meaning "bitter" (Ruth 1:20). At the end, a child is born pointing toward a future of redemption.

That's how God works. He takes hopeless situations and creates a masterpiece. He allows the possibilities to diminish until only a God-sized breakthrough can change things. Then He DOES IT!

I love the Book of Ruth.

Thursday, May 5, 2011


"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
Judges 21:1-Ruth 1:22

"Then she (Naomi) arose with her daughters-in-law that she might return from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the country of Moab that the Lord had visited His people by giving them bread." Ruth 1:6 (NKJV)

Naomi found herself in a place FAR FROM GOD. Her husband Elimelech had taken his family out of the land of promise. He had led them into a land called Moab - a place described in Scripture as a place of judgment.

There are times when we may find ourselves FAR FROM GOD. Perhaps it is because of outright rebellion. Perhaps it is because the pressures of "famine" drove us to unwise, desperate measures. Perhaps it is because we have simply gone slack in our devotion as slid away from God.

It is never too late to RETURN to the place of your promises from God. There is a territory reserved for you. Though you may be far from it, God invites you to RETURN. It will require commitment. It will bring you new friends. But most of all, it will restore your provisions. Naomi heard that there was a place where BREAD was on the table. Jesus invites us to that table today. RETURN!

When Brothers No Longer Talk

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
Judges 19:1-20:48

"And the children of Israel grieved for Benjamin their brother, and said, 'One tribe is cut off from Israel today.'" Judges 21:6 (NKJV)

As the book of Judges comes to a close, we find a terrible story of sin, perversion, and division. God Himself commanded in chapter 20 that tahe sin of Benjamin must be addressed. From the standpoint of rigtht and wrong, Benjamin was guilty, and the judgment on them was necessary and warranted.

How are we to respond when God brings needed judgment and correction on His errant children? It is difficult to watch as people willfully rebel against God and pollute their lives. In our present "tolerant" culture, far too often sin is simply ignored. Sometimes, we might even harbor secret glee when we see someone "get what they have coming to them."

When individuals drop out of fellowship, we sometimes might respond by feeling anger or disrespect toward them. Instead, we should GRIEVE.

How do you view the terrible division in the church of our day? We should see it as God sees it. OUR FAMILY HAS BEEN FRACTURED! Even if there are "good" reasons for the break in fellowship, yet we should grieve when brother no longer talks to brother.

May our prayer be for the restoring of fellowship between believers, congregations, and denominations. So be it, Lord!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Man Left to Himself

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
Judges 17:1-18:31

"In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes."  Judges 17:6 (NKJV)

What happens when men are left to their own devices?  Will they make things better or will things fall apart?  The Bible gives a clear teaching about the nature of man, and we should be mindful to heed it.  Evotionary theory teaches that over time everything gets better.  The forces of chance and necessity will work over millions of years to produce IMPROVEMENT in all areas of existence.  The Bible teaches the opposite -- that things fall apart.  There is a natural process of EROSION that over time, lacking the redeeming grace of God, will pull everything down. 

Libertarian ideology teaches that every man should be left to determine for himself what is good and what is bad.  The Bible teaches that the heart of every man is deceitful and desparately wicked (Jeremiah 17:5).  WE NEED A RULER.  We need the Kingdom of God.  All earthly rule should reflect the rule of heaven.  In those ways that it does not, it becomes destructive.  (If there is any greatness to America, it is because of this very truth.  We have sought to reflect the rule of God.)

The book of Judges is a chronicle of what happens when men rule themselves.  Many of the stories we find in Judges are morally repulsive.  The end result of humanism is disaster.  Therefore, we both individually and as a nation must "seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness."

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Secret of Your Strength

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
Judges 15:1-16:31

"... he (Samson) told her (Delilah) all his heart, and said to her, 'No razor has ever come upon my head, for I have been a Nazarite to God from my mother's womb.  It I am shaven, then my strength will leave me, and I shall become weak, and be like any other man.'"  Judges 16:17 (NKJV)

What was the secret of Samson's strength?  It is commonly said that Samson's strength was in his hair.  But is this really true?  No doubt, his strength was associated with his hair, but why? 

From Samson's birth, he had been dedicated to the Lord as a Nazarite.  Back in the book of Number (chapter 6), God ordained that some individuals were to take the vows of a Nazarite.  These individuals were somehow set apart for special service to God.  Part of these vows were that no razor could ever come upon their head to cut their hair.  This was outward sign of an inward vow.

Samson's strength was not in his hair, but in that which the hair represented: his vows to God.  Samson's strenth was in his commitments.

Without being legalistic, there are certain disciplines and commitments God calls every Christian to follow.  These may be vows of daily devotion -- vows concerning lifestyle.  They are daily acts of obedience to God.  They are important because they are the "secret" to our strength. It may be a daily quiet time.  It may be a commitment to read the Bible in one year.  It may be how you privately care for those around you.  Again, without being legalistic and self-righteous, these discipines become the ground work for daily strength. 

I have seen lives fall to pieces.  In every case, the attendant circumstances are that all devotion, all commitment was dropped.  However, if a man or woman remains true to their commitments to God, they will prevail.  Your vows to God are so important.  They are like anchors that hold us in the storm.  So today renew your commitments to God!  Renew your covenant with the Lord!  Do not let them be shorn off of you in a moment of weakness.  Do not lose heart.  Do not be worn down like Samson was (Judges 16:16).

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Wonderful Name

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
Judges 13:1-14:20

"Then Manoah said to the Angel of the Lord, 'What is Your name, that when Your words come to pass we may honor You?'  And the Angel of the Lord said to him, 'Why do you ask My name, seeing it is wonderful?'"  Judges 13:17-18 (NKJV)

The birth of Samson foreshadows a greater birth that would take place centuries later.  The similarities between Samson and John the Baptist are remarkable.  Manoah had a wife who was barren, yet the Angel of the Lord appears to both of the them telling them that a son will be born who will be dedicated to Nazarite vows.  An almost identical sequence took place with Zacharias and Elizabeth in Luke 1:5-25. 

Of significance is this Angel of the Lord.  I believe this was the second Person of the Trinity come to lay down the path for his own coming as the Lord Jesus.  The intricacies of the Trinity will remain a mystery for us, but suffice to say that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit have worked throughout history to bring about the redemption of fallen men.

Manoah asked the name of this Angel of the Lord, but received no clear answer.  The full revelation awaited a day that a baby would be born in a manger.  Of note, however, is the declaration of the nature of the Name -- it is WONDERFUL. 

I remind you today of the magnitude of the revelation we have received in the Person of Jesus.  The writer on Hebrews said it this way, "God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in times past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son . . ."  (Heb. 1:1-2).  His Name is wonderful, and in His Name, wonders will take place!