Thursday, May 30, 2013

Benefiting from Criticism

One Year Bible
Old Testament passage for Thursday, May 30, 2013:  II Samuel 15:23-16:23

13 And as David and his men went along the road, Shimei went along the hillside opposite him and cursed as he went, threw stones at him and kicked up dust. 14 Now the king and all the people who were with him became weary; so they refreshed themselves there.  II Samuel 16:13-14 (NKJV)

How do you handle criticism?  Jesus spoke wonderful words which are very HARD to live out: "But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you" (Matt. 5:44).  When someone is beating on your head, it's awfully hard to bless them.  When someone is tearing you apart with their words, all our suvival instincts kick in and we want to fight back -- to lash out -- to defend ourselves.

At a very low moment in David's life, along came a guy named Shimei.  This is a classic example of "insult added to injury."  David's son Absalom had mounted a rebellion and driven his father out of Jerusalem.  It was a dark day as David trudged across the land in rejection and defeat at the hand of his own son. 

As David passed through the land of Benjamin, a old nemesis reared its head.  Shimei was of the tribe of King Saul and evidently held old grudges about the way David succeeded his family member to the throne.  As David walked along, Shimei ran along parallel cursing David, throwing rocks, and kicking up dust.

David's nephew, Abishai, reacted as many of us would.  "Then, Abishai the son of Zeruiah said to the king, 'Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king?  Please, let me go over and take off his head!'" (II Sam. 16:9)  David displayed incredible humility and maturity to LET THE OFFENSE GO.  He walked on.  Scripture paints a beautiful picture when it says that even though the seemingly endless defeat and criticism cause everyone to grow weary, yet at this very place they found refreshment (II Sam. 16:14).

It is enlightening to look closer at what is happening in this criticism situation.  Shimei's basic accusation of David is that he was a killer -- he was bloodthirsty.  "Come out! Come out! You bloodthirsty man, you rogue!  The Lord has brought upon you all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose place you have reigned; and the Lord has delivered the kingdom into the hand of Absalom your son.  So now you are caught in your own evil, because you are a bloodthirsty man!"  (II Sam. 16:7-8)

The automatic reaction would have been to do just that:  kill Shimei!  Abishai wanted to do it.  If David had taken the bait, he would NOT have overcome his critic, he would have proven him CORRECT!  That's the way criticism and cursing works.  It pushes you to do exactly that which is being criticized.  When someone criticizes me for being too angry, it makes me even more angry.  When someone criticizes me for being unfriendly, it makes me dislike people even more.  But it doesn't have to be that way!

David learned the secret of benefiting from his critics.  Cristicism does not always tear us down.  It can also be a tool in God's hand to make us better.  I think this is what must have happened when it says that God's people grew weary, but "they refreshed themselves in that place" (II Sam. 16:14).

It was Ben Franklin who once said, "Critics are our friends."  It may not seem friendly at the time, but it can be the very thing that propels us to growth in key areas of life.  John Maxwell, in his book Leadership Gold, gives us four steps we all need to take in order to make our critics into friends.

1.  Know yourself.  Criticism can at times distort or mistinterpret your motives.  It can label you.  The best answer to that is to securely know who you really are.

2.  Change yourself.  There is a seed of truth is nearly all criticism.  You must know how to wade through the WAY the criticism was given and hear the part that is from God.

3.  Accept yourself.  When criticism is accurate, guilt and self-loathing can set in.  The best way to start fresh is to accept your own faults so you can then devise a way to change them.

4.  Forget yourself.  Learn to not take yourself so seriously.  Remember that the REACTION to a problem sometimes becomes bigger than the problem.  Keep short accounts and don't let anything stick in your skin.

Within a short while, David's fortunes had turned.  As he traveled back to Jerusalem, he met Shimei again.  This time, Shimei was humbly asking for forgiveness.  David "won" in this interpersonal battle.  It issue really is not winning against your critics.  But it is benefiting.  The very person who is cursing you today, can be the person who asks your forgiveness tomorrow.  When we bless those who curse us, we release the power of God to heal and restore.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Importance of Father and Son Relationship

One Year Bible
Old Testament passage for Wednesday, May 29, 2013: II Samuel 14:1-15:22

38 So Absalom fled and went to Geshur, and was there three years. 39 And King David longed to go to Absalom, his son. II Samuel 13:38-39 (NKJV)

And the king said, “Let him return to his own house, but do not let him see my face.” So Absalom returned to his own house, but did not see the king’s face.  II Samuel 14:24 (NKJV)

And Absalom dwelt two full years in Jerusalem, but did not see the king’s face. II Samuel 14:28 (NKJV)

One of the strongest bonds in the world can be the father-son relationship.  It can also be one of the most painful and destructive.  Fathers are designed by God to give their children protection, identity, discipline, and approval.  When fathers function as God has called them to, their sons grow to be strong men and their daughters learn the beauty of a secure identity.

All boys grow up asking what it means to be a man.  Their first model is their father.  Leanne Payne says of the father-son relationship, "the quiet tree of masculine strength within the father protects and nurtures the fragile sapling of masculinity within his son."  Fathers have incredible, God-given ability to mold their sons for good.  Unfortunately, far too often this potentially wonderful relationship turns bad.  What could have been the source of strength becomes the bedrock of anger and defeat.

John Eldredge speaks to all men when he says, "Every boy, in his journey to become a man, takes an arrow in the center of his heart, in the place of his strength.  Because the wound is rarely discussed and more rarely healed, every man carries a wound.  And the wound is nearly always given by his father."  This is a tremendously powerful principle and has shaped many a man's life.  The desire for a father's approval is powerful.  The injury of a father's harsh words can stain a heart for years. 

David's son Absalom was a leader in the mold of his father.  He was a man of action -- attractive in every way (II Sam. 14:25).  He defended his sister Tamar when David, the father, would not.  By all accounts David loved Absalom dearly, but found himself unable to express it. 

David, though a great man in his own right, was also a deeply flawed man.  He had failed in the adulterous, murderous disaster surrounding Bathsheba.  It is clear that David felt he had little right to bring judgment on others concerning sexual misconduct.  David was a warrior on the battlefield, but he was a wimp among his own children.

The stand-off between David and his son, Absalom, grew deeper and deeper.  All it would have taken was for David to forgive his son and welcome him back.  Instead, the Bible says that David would not let his son "see his face" (II Sam. 14:24, 28).  It was a broken relationship.

Absalom resorted to extreme measures in order to get his father's attention.  He lit a field on fire! (II Sam. 14:30)  How many times have sons done crazy things trying to get their fathers to notice them.  It can be self-destructive.  Their good actions don't elicit their father's praise, so they resort to bad things.  They rebel against their fathers in order to get their father's to acknowledge them!  That's exactly what Absalom did.

Ultimately Absalom gave up.  He finally got a token "kiss" from his father (II Sam. 14:33), but he knew down inside it would not make any difference.  So, he declared war.  He incited an all-out nation-wide rebellion. 

Sons know that they have a destiny to follow in their fathers' footsteps.  Absalom knew that he could some day be king.  He felt, however, that David would NEVER give him approval, so he launched out to claim it on his own. 

The end result was death.  Absalom dies in battle and David grieves in a way that surprises the nation.  Why did David wait until the DEATH of his son to show how much he loved him?

Several fatherhood lessons present themselves out of this story:

1.  Godly fatherhood works -- no matter what you've done.

David failed to bring needed care to his family in the incident of Amnon and Tamar.  He just got angry.  Men cannot let their past failures NEUTER them to the point that they fail to fulfill their needed role.  God forgives our past failures.  Now we are needed to set the right standard for our sons and daughters.


Even when you don't know what to say, at least say something.  "I love you."  "I forgive you."  David did not let Absalom get close enough to him.  Therefore Absalom had not idea what David thought of him.  This became the set-up for worse problems.

3.  Transparency and time.

David's failure to allow Absalom to "see his face" was more than physical.  When relationships go bad, the result is usually distance -- and then more distance.  David had a hard time letting his guard down.  Many fathers are that way.  Our kids need to not only see what we do, they need to see our heart.

4.  Hear what your son (or daughter) is saying.

David was so wrapped up in his own guilt and anger he couldn't hear what Absalom was trying to tell him.  As a result, Absalom's "shouting" got louder and louder until it became a war.

There is a wonderful promise God gives to fathers and sons.  It is actually the last verse in the Old Testament.   It speaks of the heart of our Heavenly Father.  "And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers" (Mal. 4:6).  When this doesn't happen, it brings a curse, but when fathers and sons walk together, blessing is released.  So be it!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Bitter Harvest

One Year Bible
Old Testament passage for Tuesday, May 28, 2013:  II Samuel 13:1-39

21 But when King David heard of all these things, he was very angry. 22 And Absalom spoke to his brother Amnon neither good nor bad. For Absalom hated Amnon, because he had forced his sister Tamar.  II Samuel 13:21-22 (NKJV)

The principle of sowing and reaping is throughout Scripture.  We love to think of this in positive terms.  When we do good or give, it will always comes back to us multiplied.  Luke 6:38 says it this way:  "Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”  Galatians 6:7 states it simply: "for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap." 

This is a principle that cuts both ways.  If you we sow good we will be blessed, but the other is also true.  If we sow bad seeds, we will reap a bitter harvest.  "For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life." (Gal. 6:8)

This principle is so clearly seen in two chapters from the life of David.  In II Samuel 11, David sows seeds that come up for him in II Samuel 13.

In II Samuel 11, we read about David's sin of adultery with Bathsheba.  To compound the situation, David seeks to cover up his failure with a slick strategy to deceive Uriah, Bathsheba's husband.  When this deception fails, David engineers Uriah's death in battle.  He sows three seeds:  sexual misconduct, deception, and murder.

In II Samuel 13, David's harvest begins to come in.  It is one of the ugliest stories in Scripture.  One of David's sons, Amnon, falls head-over-heels in love with his half-sister Tamar.  Amnon ends up raping Tamar.  No sooner has he done the foul deed than his love for Tamar turns into hatred.  Tamar's full brother, Absalom, learns of this sordid event, and bides his time.  Two years later, he murders Amnon in revenge for violating his sister, Tamar.  In all of this, David seems to be something of a passive observer.  Half the time, he can't figure out what has happened.  Once he is told that all his sons are dead; then he is told they are alive.  All he can do is become "very angry" (II Sam. 13:21).

It is amazingly true how much the seeds and the deeds of II Samuel 11 are repeated in II Samuel 13.  David seems powerless to stop the cycle of sin that has been let loose in his family.  It is clear that David knows he has lost his MORAL AUTHORITY.  I am sure that when he heard of Amnon's sin, he remembered his own battles with lust and how he failed. 

What you sow you will reap.  But, in Christ, there is good news.  There is a law higher than the law of sin and death.  It is the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus (Rom 8:2).  There is forgiveness and restoration in Christ.  Even though we have sown such bad seeds in the past, there can be forgiveness in Jesus.  No doubt, there are many times that God demands that we walk through the penalties that rightfully come our way.  But, grace and mercy ultimately triumph over judgment (James 2:13).

Even though David suffered through a bitter harvest, yet the grace of God was not finally removed from his life.  Because of that, we can say with him, "I will bless the Lord at all times" (Ps. 34:1).

Monday, May 27, 2013

Why Men Commit Adultery

One Year Bible
Old Testament passage for Sunday, May 26, 2013:  II Samuel 9:1-11:27

2 Then it happened one evening that David arose from his bed and walked on the roof of the king’s house. And from the roof he saw a woman bathing, and the woman was very beautiful to behold. 3 So David sent and inquired about the woman. And someone said, “Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” 4 Then David sent messengers, and took her; and she came to him, and he lay with her, for she was cleansed from her impurity; and she returned to her house. 5 And the woman conceived; so she sent and told David, and said, “I am with child.”  II Samuel 11:2-5 (NKJV)

A few years ago, John Piper wrote a book entitled Spectacular Sins.  His topic was God's sovereignty over the massive, tragic sins that have marred history.  The title, however, caught my attention.  It seemed quite unusual to think of sins as being "spectacular."

Piper deals with God's sovereignty with respect to global, world-changing sins such as terrorism or the holocaust.  My thoughts, however, turn to those "spectacular sins" that happen at a personal level.  By spectacular I do not mean grand, good, or fantastic.  I mean devastating and massively damaging.  All sin is sin.  They are all despicably bad.  But there are some sins that have greater and more lasting affect on our lives.  In that sense, they are spectacular.  They are "awesome blunders."

If we consider the life of David, what would you say was David's "spectacular sin"?  It would, of course, be his adultery with Bathsheba.  Which brings up a bigger question.  Why do great men do such stupid things?  What provokes good, courageous, noble men to intentionally make such self-destructive mistakes?  Why do men commit adultery?

We can look at a few reasons directly from the life of David.  We must also realize that this is an important subject that demands fuller thought, prayer, and wisdom.  What was it in David that set him up for such a colossal sin?

1.  David's LUST PROBLEM was not new.

Throughout his adult life, David had displayed remarkable lack of holiness with respect to marital fidelity.  In direct disobedience to God, he had "multiplied wives."  Back in Deuteronomy 17:17, God had given instructions to the coming king to refrain from polygamy.  As David grew in power, he did just the opposite.  He already had two wives when he was crowned king of all Israel (II Sam. 2:2), and by the time he settled in Jerusalem, he had added three more (II Sam. 3:2-5).  This was in addition to his original wife, Mical, from whom he was estranged.

Polygamy is illegal in our day.  But that does not mean men do not have "roving eyes" and fantasy mistresses.  David was not a "one woman man."  It was only a matter of time before this sinful pattern would catch up with him.


David's true wife was Michal (I Samuel 18:17-27).  By biblical order, she was the first, and should have been the only.  However, theirs was a difficult marriage complete with betrayal, alienation, and bitterness.  Because of his failures at home, David was set up for temptation and adultery.

When a man's heart gets tied up with someone other than his own wife, he is walking down a path toward disaster.


"At the time when kings go to battle" (II Sam. 11:1), David was resting on his rooftop.  Instead of fulfilling his God-given duties, he was taking his leisure.  The old proverb is true: "An idle mind is the devil's workshop."  So it was with David.  As in the days of Cain and Abel, if we apply ourselves to do what is right, we will prosper.  But, if we fail to apply ourselves, "sin crouches at the door" (Gen. 4:7).

These factors figured into David's historic failure.  They are not the entire story of why a man commits adultery, but they are a starting point for any man who wants to avoid this spectacular sin.  So, let me summarize:

1.  Deal with your LUST PROBLEM.  Sex should focus on the other, but lust focuses on self.  Unbridled lust can never be satisfied.  Lust by nature is narcissistic.  I realize I am not talking the language most men understand, but sex is not an act, it is a relationship.  Sexual gratification can become a right that gives a man an "excuse" for breaking the rules.  That is incredibly self-destructive.

2.  Dwell with your wife.  BUILD YOUR MARRIAGE.  There is nothing stronger in defeating adultery than unity at home.  That starts with the husband as the head of the house.

3.  DO WHAT GOD HAS CALLED YOU TO DO.  When men accept the assignment God has given them, they will tap into the essence of their gifting and their purpose.  If a man drops out on his duty, he can drop out on his identity, too.  Almost always those who fall into adultery are somehow seeking to redefine themselves.

This is such an explosive topic.  The shock-waves changed the course of David's life.  The first half of David's reign, it seemed he could do nothing wrong.  He won every battle.  But, the second half of his reign was filled with continual heartbreak and set-back.  The turning point was his adultery with Bathsheba.  

It has been said that adultery is destroying the very institution of marriage today.  With the onslaught of pornography, the internet, and an over-sexed mass media, fidelity is becoming a rare commodity.  Divorce over sexual issues has become common.

Let me recommend a short book for anyone desiring to be armed against the spectacular sin of infidelity.  Jack Hayford's book The Anatomy of Seduction is only about a hundred pages, but is filled with God's wisdom for not only men but also women who desire to stay true -- not only to their marriage, but to God.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

HOLY PRESENCE: "Supernatural Church"

Here are the notes from today's message at New Life Community Church.  Second message is the series:  HOLY PRESENCE.  Title:  "Supernatural Church"
If you would like to listen to this message, you may do so by going to our website at  God bless!

Holy Presence, Part 2
 “Supernatural Church”

Begin with story about Ally
Point:  Extreme attachment
            “My Mommy be back in 5 minutes”
            “I was in my Mommy’s tummy”

With respect to the supernatural church, while this is a passing phase in the life of a child, it should be the growing reality for God’s people.
Principle:         Church attached to Jesus by the ministry of the Holy Spirit
                        Anticipation of His return
                        Knowledge of origins

15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.  18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.  John 14:15-18 (ESV)
Orphan – Gk. Orphanos.  Fatherless, desolate, without comfort, without care.
Abandonment issues
Jesus dealt with our need to be with Him.  He deals with this need by means of the Person and Work of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus made it very clear that the continuation of His ministry on the earth was to take place through His Spirit-empowered followers.

Francis Chan:  “The church becomes irrelevant when it becomes purely a human creation.  We are not all we were made to be when everything in our lives and churches can be explained apart from the work and presence of the Holy Spirit.”  P. 18.

Francis Chan:  “The ‘entertainment’ model of church was largely adopted in the 1980’s and 90’s, and while it alleviated some of our boredom for a couple of hours a week, it filled our churches with self-focused consumers rather than self-sacrificing servants attuned to the Holy Spirit.”  P. 15-16.

Three Things are Basic:
We are to be SPIRIT-BORN.
We are to be SPIRIT-EMPOWERED.          Spirit-filled.
We are to be SPIRIT-SHAPED.        Spirit-formed.

37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”  38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”  Acts 2:37-39 (NIV)

40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.  Acts 2:40-41 (NIV)

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common.  Acts 2:42-44 (NIV)

18 And I tell you, you are Peter [Greek, Petros—a large piece of rock], and on this rock [Greek, petra—a huge rock like Gibraltar] I will build My church, and the gates of Hades (the powers of the infernal region) shall not overpower it [or be strong to its detriment or hold out against it].  19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind (declare to be improper and unlawful) on earth must be what is already bound in heaven; and whatever you loose (declare lawful) on earth must be what is already loosed in heaven.  Matthew 16:18-19 (Amplified)
The New Century Version states this in a more synchronized way – heaven and earth get lined up and are in sync through the ministry of the church:
the things you don’t allow on earth will be the things that God does not allow, and the things you allow on earth will be the things that God allows.”

to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, Ephesians 3:10 (NKJV)

A TRUTH Encounter

And he went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God. But when some were hardened and did not believe, but spoke evil of the Way before the multitude, he departed from them and withdrew the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus. 10 And this continued for two years, so that all who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.  Acts 19:8-10 (NKJV)

A POWER Encounter

Now God worked unusual miracles by the hands of Paul,  Acts 19:11 (NKJV)

I have fought with beasts at Ephesus,  I Co. 15:32 (NKJV)

Be careful when there is no spiritual warfare around what you are doing.  It means there is no power encounter, which means you may not be operating as the supernatural church.

A LIFE Encounter

14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life …  Philippians 2:14-16 (ESV)
There should be a distinguishable difference in terms of quality of life for people who walk in the Kingdom of God.
This is going to become even more pronounced in days to come.  The Homosexuality issue will continue to be significant.  All matters of sexuality are is contention in our days.
The devil would like to reduce the church to a sequestered little group of do-gooders who are holier-than-thou and major on the DO NOT’s far more than the DO’s.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control.  Galatians 5:22-23 (NKJV)

A PERSONAL Encounter

1 And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”  So they said to him, “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.”  Acts 19:1-2 (NKJV)

When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied. Now the men were about twelve in all.  Acts 19:5-7 (NKJV)

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Two Most Important Things We'll Ever Do

One Year Bible
Old Testament passage for Friday, May 24, 2013:  II Samuel 4:1-6:23

6 And the king and his men went to Jerusalem against the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land, who spoke to David, saying, “You shall not come in here; but the blind and the lame will repel you,” thinking, “David cannot come in here.” 7 Nevertheless David took the stronghold of Zion (that is, the City of David).  II Samuel 5:6-7 (NKJV)

So they brought the ark of the Lord, and set it in its place in the midst of the tabernacle that David had erected for it. Then David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord.  II Samuel 6:17 (NKJV)

The first official act of any president or leader is many times an indicator of the character of the leadership and the path they will pursue.  For example, President Barak Obama's first act was The Freedom of Choice Act dealing with abortion rights.  President George W. Bush's first act was opposite to this.  He enacted restrictions on abortion funding.  President Reagan's first act was the lifting of domestic oil price controls enacted under President Carter.  President Carter pardoned Viet Nam draft dodgers.  It is no surprise that the first act of President Gerald Ford was to pardon his predecessor President Nixon.

It is significant to look at the first action of David after he was anointed and crowned as king over all Israel.  It tells you much about the man.  Both of his first two actions deal with Jerusalem.

For seven years, David had been king over the one tribe of Judah.  His capital had been Hebron.  After a painfully long civil war, David was finally raised up as leader over the re-united people of God.  In two actions, David moved his capital from Hebron to Jerusalem.

Pulling Down Strongholds

The Jebusites were a pagan people entrenched right in the middle of God's territory.  David's first action was to attack the stronghold of the Jebusites.  He could not stand to allow this pagan fortress to remain in defiance of God's rulership.

We are called to do the same thing.  II Corinthians 10:4-5 states this:  "For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ."  There are those places in our lives that resist the Lordship of Jesus.  They are usually thought patterns that are tied to practices.

Ed Silvoso defines a stronghold as "a mindset impregnated with hopelessness that causes us to accept something that is contrary to the Word of God."  Strongholds are incredibly tenacious and defy the Lordship of Jesus.  They hold us in some sort of bondage that convinces us that we will never be free.

Perhaps David's greatest strength was his intolerance of anything that defied the sovereign rule of God.  He set his sights on driving the Jebusites out!  We can do the same.  Declare war on anything that defies God's rule in your life -- whether it be financial, marital, emotional, or a habit pattern.

David's conquest of Jerusalem took his entire reign to a new level.  In fact, he put his mark on this victory by calling the center of this stronghold "the City of David."  No longer was it Satan's territory.  It now belonged to him.

Bring Back the Ark

Once Jerusalem was captured, David re-built the Tabernacle there.  He sought to BRING BACK THE PRESENCE OF GOD.  It is never enough to just get rid of the enemy.  We must bring in the Lord!

Once again, it is so informative to learn how to bring in the presence of the Lord.  In Old Testament times, the Ark of the Covenant was symbolic of the manifest presence of God in the midst of His people.  For generations, the Ark had been passed around among God's people -- lost at times, then found.  The Ark had no secure place.

David brought back the presence of God to Israel.  Even though mistakes were made at first, they did not stop.  It was a great day when David danced before the Ark as it ascended to its place in Jerusalem.

So here are the two first acts of David:  he pulled down satanic strongholds and he brought in a new level of God's presence.  That's good advice for any of us.

Look around.  Are you satisfied with the level of freedom in your home, in your finances, in your personal life, your work place -- your life?  May we be like David, and never settle for bondage that does not belong.

Are you satisfied with the level of the presence and blessing of God on what you do? We all need to learn how to bring God INTO our world - our situation - our relationships.

David's greatness was his ability to do these two things.  They were his first acts and they were his fingerprint.  May we be kingdom people like David!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Handling Difficult People

One Year Bible
Old Testament passage for Thursday, May 23, 2013:  II Samuel 2:12-3:39

And I am weak today, though anointed king; and these men, the sons of Zeruiah, are too harsh for me.  II Samuel 3:39 (NKJV)

David was blessed to have many mighty men around him.  The lists are inspiring (see I Chronicles 12:23-40, II Samuel 23:8-23, and I Chronicles 11:10-25).  We read of amazing feats done by heroic and courageous men who pledged their service to King David. 

At least three of them, however, proved to be DIFFICULT PEOPLE.  They were the sons of David's older sister, Zeruiah.  They were mighty warriors, but they were also hard men to deal with.  This is an interesting phenomenon.  Every group, every congregation, has them.  Great people who cause big problems.  Author Marshall Shelley calls them Well-Intentioned Dragons.  Joyce Landorf called the Irregular People

Every group has people who are EXTRA GRACE REQUIRED.  For short, we call them EGR.  God places people in your life who are there to test you and improve you.  Sometimes, like in the case of David, they are family members.  In many cases, they start out loving you, but somewhere along the line things get off track.  Stuart Briscoe says of pastors, "You must have the mind of a scholar, the heart of a child, and the hide of a rhinoceros."  I think this applies not only to pastors, but to all of us.

For David, they were brothers -- Joab, Abishai, and Asahel -- who never could back down from a fight.  They had to win.  This "bulldog attitude" can be acceptable in the right context, but they did not know how to dial it back.  As a result, Asahel gets killed.  Then Joab cannot rest until he gets vengeance.  It becomes an unnecessary blood-bath.

One of the cardinal rules of keeping relationships clean is DON'T TAKE IT PERSONALLY.  When we allow the battle to become a personal vendetta, we can be assured the devil is close behind.  Joab lost objectivity and could only see a personal grudge that laid heavy in his heart.   

Here are a few ideas about how to handle your EGR's. 

1.  Keep your eyes on Jesus.  If you focus on what they are doing, it can look worse and worse.  Back up and walk in the grace of God.

2.  Don't take it personally.  I've already said this, but it is so important.  It's also hard, when the injury truly affects you.  The answer is to pass it on to the Lord.  Let Him carry it.

3.  Ask questions before you respond.  Perhaps it is a misunderstanding in the first place.  Communication can help bring peace.

4.  Separate the issue from the person.  EGR's need to be loved and understood, not judged too quickly.  Try to remain objective.

5.  Be strong.  Remember the important principle: the strong one makes the peace.  God has probably allowed the situation to build strength in you.

6.  Pray --- Hard!  When words are flying, people usually stop praying.  Bad move!  Get God back on board as quickly as you can.

7.  Forgive.  Nothing stops the bleeding like simple forgiveness.  This takes the grace of God.  Jesus is the source, not some "sweep-it-under-the-rug" nonchalance.  Press into Jesus for the power of His blood.

Question:  How do you handle EGR's in your life?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Three Times Anointed

One Year Bible
Old Testament passage for Wednesday, May 22, 2013:  II Samuel 1:1-2:11

Then the men of Judah came, and there they anointed David king over the house of Judah....  II Samuel 2:4 (NKJV)

Three times David was anointed as king.  The first time was private.  It took place when Samuel the prophet found him as a boy at the home of his father Jesse (I Sam. 16:1-13).  The second time was shortly after King Saul's death when the tribe of Judah anointed him king (II Sam. 2:4).  The third and final time was when all Israel came to Hebron and pledged loyalty to him (II Sam. 5:3).

The First Anointing as King

The first time David was anointed king, he was still very young.  Most commentators believe that he was around the age of bar-mitzvah (which is 12).  This explains why his father hesitated to even bring him before the prophet for review.  David could barely even have been considered a man at that time.  He was between 10 and 13 years of age.  That also means that David killed Goliath when he was about 13 to 15 years of age.

Samuel had arrived at Jesse's home unannounced and proceded to conduct a covert interview process.  No one knew why Samuel had come, least of all Jesse and his sons.  A private conversation appears to be taking place between God and Samuel as the boys pass by.  Then, when Samuel sees David, the Lord tells him "Arise and anoint him; for this is the one!" (I Sam. 16:13).  Again, no one knows what is going on except Samuel.  So, the prophet takes a horn of oil and pours it on David's head "in the midst of his brothers" (I Sam. 16:13).  No announcement is made.  No proclamation of kingship.  Jewish tradition says only this:  at that point, Samuel leaned down and whispered in David's ear, "You shall be king."  The Bible only says that "the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward."

We find no indication that anyone knew what Samuel had done -- except Samuel and perhaps David himself.  This anointing was certainly not known throughout the land.  His brothers did not know about it.  If Saul had known what Samuel did to David, he would have certainly gotten rid of David early. 

The Second Anointing as King

David deals with false starts and dashed hopes for between 15 to 20 years!  The Bible says that David was 30 years old when Judah anointed him king over that particular tribe (II Sam. 5:4).  David knew his destiny, but he had to wait for it.  He had to endure.  When Saul died, it was the perfect opportunity for him to grab the throne.  But, he still waited for God's timing. 

The Third Anointing as King

It was 7 years later before David stepped fully into his promised destiny (II Sam. 5:1-5).  At the age of 37, he was anointed as king over all of God's people.  He did not receive the throne because he fought for it like carnal, ambitious men would.  He did not murder and betray.  David did it the right way.  He waited for God to bring it about.  David let God raise him up.

Where Are You?

If find the story of David's rise to be an example of how God leads you and me.  He starts by making a promise to you early on.  He whispers in your ear what He has for you.  No one else really hears it -- only you.  Then you pray over it and grow in grace.  You seek to take the steps that will lead to fulfillment of your dream.

Then, moderate success comes.  God confirms that you are on the right track.  But, you know this is just the beginning, not the fullness.  It is tempting to promote yourself rather than wait on God.  In our impatience, we can rush forward in fleshly zeal for that which we know God has promised.  Another major temptation is frustration.  When it takes a long time, we grow impatient and develop a restless, unbelieving attitude. 

If we, however, keep our heart right, and stay submitted to the leading of the Holy Spirit, the day will come that God's promises to us will be fulfilled.  It may take a lifetime, but the wait is well worth it.  David saw fulfillment of the promise God spoke to him as a young boy. 

The words of Habakkuk speak to us about this. 

I will stand my watch and set myself on the rampart.
And watch to see what He will say to me.
And what I will answer when I am corrected.

Then the Lord answered me and said:
"Write the vision and make it plain on tablets.
That he may run who reads it.
For the vision is yet for an appointed time;
But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie.
Though it tarries, wait for it;
Because it will surely come, it will not tarry."  (Habakkuk 2:1-3 (NKJV)

Nearly everyone who has ever served God will tell of how God spoke to them at some point early on.  He comes to you in a time of worship or prayer.  He may speak to you through a friend.  He plants a promise in your heart. 

Then that promise gets tested.  Here's an interesting question I would love for you to consider:  Why do you think most good things God gives us take TIME to unfold?  Why doesn't he just shower us with all of it at once?  I would love to hear your thoughts on this.  Since this is a blog and not a book, you can enter your comments below or on Facebook. 

God bless!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

When NOTHING Goes Right

One Year Bible
Old Testament passage for Tuesday, May 21, 2013:  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 his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.  Then David said to Abiathar the priest, Ahimelech’s son, “Please bring the ephod here to me.” And Abiathar brought the ephod to David. So David inquired of the Lord, saying, “Shall I pursue this troop? Shall I overtake them?”  And He answered him, “Pursue, for you shall surely overtake them and without fail recover all.”  I Samuel 30:6-8 (NKJV)

David reached one of the lowest points of his life.  He had lost everything and it appeared was about to lose his life.  This is perhaps the darkest period of David's life.  He actually left Israel and began to serve Achish, one of the Philistine lords.  Interestingly, Achish was the king of Gath (I Sam. 27:2).  Gath had been the home town of Goliath. 

In his depressed state of mind, David broke over and ran from God.  We always think so highly of David as one of the heroes of the faith, so it is surprising to find that he spent a season serving the enemies of God's people.  It is not hard to figure out.  King Saul had tried to kill him.  David had given everything to the cause, but reaped only rejection and abuse.  David had tried very hard to do the right thing, but it just had not worked out for him.  So, he went into the world for a while.

Have you ever known anyone to do that?  Perhaps you have been through a season like this.  Even the most faithful believer can at times "hit a wall."  I've heard it when they cry out in their "dark night of the soul."  They might say, "It's just not working for me."  "I just want to quit."  "I can't take it anymore."

This is not a good place to be.  It is, however, a place many great men and women have walked.  It is so important to know that God is still with you and he will lead you through this valley.

Mighty David became the servant of the Philistines.  In fact, the Philistine armies gathered to attack Israel, and there was David and his men (I Sam. 29:1-2).  But, once again, David experiences rejection.  Even the Philistines don't want him. 

But it gets worse.  David and his men return to their homes in Ziklag and find that the Amalekites have burned their city, taken their wives and children, and robbed them blind.  I a final breakdown, the Bible says David was distressed (understatement!).  Now, his faithful men turned on him and spoke of stoning him. 

I'm sure David felt that he could do NOTHING right.  He had served Saul well, but failed at that.  He had gone into the world, and now it looked like that was even worse.  He was at the END.

Perhaps the greatest decision of David's life took place at that moment.  He turned back to God.  Scripture says that he did two things:  he "strengthened himself in God" (I Sam. 30:6) and he "inquired of the Lord" (I Sam. 30:8).  He encouraged himself in the Lord and he prayed.

This is a picture of the strength of David.  When the chips were lowest, he sought God.  When it came to the darkest moment, he turned to the Lord. 

Many of us have spent seasons of our lives when we ran from God.  It never pays.  It never accomplishes what you want.  It only makes matters worse.  But the "hound of heaven" continues to pursue us.  At times, we are reduced to the bare minimum.  At that point, we find God in a new way!

This was a turning point for David.  Scripture says that God made him a promise.  He makes the same promise to us.  "If you will follow me -- pursue, you will regain all" (I Sam. 30:8).

God is a RESTORER.  He did that with David (see I Sam. 30:18 and following).  He will do that for you too.  Our part is to find and walk in the encouragement of God's Word.  He will meet us in the place of prayer.  Rulership awaits those who will turn fully to follow the King.  It was true for David and it is true for you and me.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Saul and the Witch of Endor

One Year Bible
Old Testament passage for Monday, May 20, 2013:  I Samuel 26:1-28:25

And when Saul inquired of the Lord, the Lord did not answer him, either by dreams or by Urim or by the prophets.  Then Saul said to his servants, “Find me a woman who is a medium, that I may go to her and inquire of her.”  And his servants said to him, “In fact, there is a woman who is a medium at En Dor.”  So Saul disguised himself and put on other clothes, and he went, and two men with him; and they came to the woman by night. And he said, “Please conduct a séance for me, and bring up for me the one I shall name to you.”  I Samuel 28:6-8 (NKJV)

King Saul made a tragic mistake.  He consulted a witch.  He is one of the saddest figures in the pages of the Bible.  He began with great promise, but compromise and disobedience plagued his days.  Samuel had spoken to him years earlier that his "rebellion was as the sin of witchcraft" (I Sam. 15:23).  In fact, his bad choices led him directly into a satanic trap.

It has been estimated that today there are over 200,000 practicing witches in America.  In addition, there are literally millions who dabble is some form of the occult.  Their activities vary from paranormal psychic "research" to spiritism to black or white magic.  For perhaps 50 years, interest in seances, ghosts, and contacting the dead has steadily sky-rocketed.  All one has to do is check your TV listing to find an abundance of reality shows and dramatic series that deal directly with occultic topics and practices.  It is extremely important for us to ask what the Bible says about these things.

And, the Bible has much to say about this subject.  Nearly all passages on this subject speak directly to PRACTICES.  Deuteronomy 18:9-14 is perhaps the most complete list addressing the subject. 

“When you come into the land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations. 10 There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, 11 or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. 12 For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord, and because of these abominations the Lord your God drives them out from before you. 13 You shall be blameless before the Lord your God. 14 For these nations which you will dispossess listened to soothsayers and diviners; but as for you, the Lord your God has not appointed such for you.  Deuteronomy 18:9-14 (NKJV)

The instruction is clear:  STAY AWAY FROM THESE THINGS!  They are called "an abomination."
The list includes:
1.  witchcraft
2.  soothsaying
3.  interpreting of omens
4.  sorcery
5.  conjuring spells
6.  mediums
7.  spiritists
8.  contacting the dead
9.  divination

Numerous other passages of Scripture echo and expand the basic message of Deuteronomy 18.  These areas of paranormal activity seem so fascinating and enlightening, but they are a trap.  It is extremely serious.

We do not have the space in this short blog to fully develop WHY these things are so dangerous.  I will only summarize by saying that, as Christians we believe in a spiritual realm that exists alongside of the physical world we see, feel, smell, and taste.  That spiritual realm is where God exists.  But also, it is where evil operates.  Just as there is a holy God who loves us, there is also a devil that hates us.  Just as there are angels, there are also demons.  Improper dabbling in this realm is forbidden because of the spiritual danger of having fellowship with the enemy of our souls.

There is only one account in the entire Bible that tells the story of an actual seance taking place.  It is the story of King Saul and the witch of Endor.  Some have actually used this story to show that seances are sanctioned by the Bible.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Let's look a little closer.

The Set-Up for a Seance

Saul had lost his last remaining contact with God.  Samuel the prophet had continually rebuked Saul, but at least Saul could beseech the great old man to pray for him.  Samuel had died.  Because of the Philistine threat, Saul became desparate.  He felt he had nowhere else to turn, so he asked for a medium.  Previously, Saul had banned all spiritualistic activity from Israel.  He had done so on the basis of obedience to the clear instruction of Scripture.  But, once again, under pressure he cracked and compromised.

A Discussion with the Devil

Saul disguised himself so that the witch would not recognize him.  Doubtless Saul knew that his actions were wrong.  In addition, he feared that the if the witch knew his identity she would refuse to conduct the seance because it was outlawed activity.

Saul asks her to "call up Samuel."  The next events are somewhat amazing.  The witch cries out is apparent alarm when, sure enough, a spirit starts rising out of the earth.  Immediately, the witch knows that she has been tricked.  It seems that the spirit somehow informs the witch that this visitor is in fact King Saul. 

A discussion ensues in which King Saul speaks to this spirit through the witch.  It is important to note that King Saul never sees the spirit and at no time does the spirit identify itself.  The only way the identity of the spirit is ascertained is by it clothing.  Of course, the witch had sought to "bring up Samuel", so it follows that the spirit would in fact be Samuel. 

The crucial question of this story is the true identity of this spirit.  Can we in fact speak to those who are dead?  Do they wait around to give us needed advice and help should we ask for it?  The Bible is explicit in its answer: NO.  Hebrews 9:27 says, "And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment."  Upon death, we pass into our eternal detiny.  There is no back and forth.  "To be absent from the boyd is to be present with the Lord" (II Co. 5:8).  In a very important story that Jesus Himself told, a man died and sought to return to his family to warn them of the reality of hell and heaven.  Jesus said that such contact could not take place, but instead those on earth were to consult Scripture for their direction (the entire story is found in Luke 16:19-31).  Contact from the dead to the living is nowhere allowed in the Bible.

So who or what was this spirit that the witch of Endor conjured up?  I believe that it is clear.  The writer of I Samuel repeatedly refer to the spirit as Samuel.  But does that make it really Samuel?  I believe not.  Jesus would late forbid such activity.  Moses had already forbidden it.  So, what could possibly be the answer?  This spirit was not the spirit of Samuel.  Even though physical imagery is not authoritative, we should note that the spirit is described as "rising out of the earth" rather than "appearing from the heavens."  This is a demonic impersonator. 

Saul is not having a discussion with Samuel.  He is having a discussion with a demon.  The "Samuel impersonator" speaks nothing but doom and death over Saul.  His last words to Saul are "and tomorrow you will be here with me" (I Sam. 28:19).

Suicidal Activity

The next day, Saul and his sons die.  But, the death of Saul is more than a military defeat.  He is not killed in the line of duty.  Saul is wounded and knows that his fate is near.  Because of his fatal wound, Saul prefers death to capture by the Philistines.  He commands his armor-bearer to kill him -- the armor-bearer refuses.  So, Saul takes his own life -- he falls on his own sword.

Saul's suicidal activity did not begin on the battlefield.  It began in the decisions he made over the years.  The last major decision that sealed his fate was the visit to a seance.  In the imagery of a fisherman, Satan had set the hook and was reeling in a big one. 

Many sectors of our culture is in a similar dance with the devil.  In that context, we all need to hear the words of the Apostle Paul,  "Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God."  Run to God!  Flee from evil!  Our God is alive!  He is all we need!

HOLY PRESENCE: "Why We Need the Holy Spirit"

Here are the notes from yesterday's message at New Life Community Church.  Series: HOLY PRESENCE.  Title: "Why We Need the Holy Spirit".  If you would like to listen to this message, you may do so by going to our website at  God bless!

Holy Presence, Part 1                                                                                    Sunday, May 19, 2013
 “Why We Need the Holy Spirit”

16 John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”  Luke 3:16-17 (NIV)
Meaning of the Greek word baptizo: 

Strong’s Concordance and Thayer’s Bible Dictionary
  1. to dip repeatedly, to immerse, to submerge (of vessels sunk)
  2. to cleanse by dipping or submerging, to wash, to make clean with water, to wash one's self, bathe
  3. to overwhelm
Jay Adams:
1.      to dip
2.      to immerse
3.      to dye
4.      to drown
5.      to saturate

The plan of Jesus is to lead you into an every-increasing, ever-deepening relationship with God the Holy Spirit.

Francis Chan:  “I have yet to meet anyone with too much Holy Spirit.” 

46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”  Luke 24:46-49 (ESV)

Francis Chan:  “There are millions of churchgoers across America who cannot confidently say they have experienced His presence and action in their lives over the past year.  And many of them do not believe they can.” 

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”  Acts 1:8 (ESV)

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.  Acts 2:1-4 (ESV)

1.     The Holy Spirit is our ADVANTAGE.

Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.  John 16:7 (ESV)
Advantage – Greek sunphero. Def. expedient, advantage, profitable.
Which means that it is a good move, gives you a leg up.  It is a good partnership.  It is profitable.
Imagine setting up a business partnership. 
Who would you like to partner up with in order to give you an advantage?

2.     The Holy Spirit affects our ABILITY.

Does He make a difference?

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.  I Corinthians 12:4-7 (ESV)

3.     The Holy Spirit always leads us into ACTION.

Not a doctrine

and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,  I Corinthians 2:4 (NASB)