Sunday, July 31, 2011

Psalm 34 - Magnify the Lord with Me

LINK: Psalm 34

BACKGROUND

If you are reading with these Psalms in their historical context you know that this is based on David’s activity in 1 Samuel 21. David fled to Gath and pretended to be a mad man in order to protect himself because in the ancient world insane people were not harmed in order not to provoke the gods. 

David celebrated God's graciousness to him in the midst of his trials.  Then he exhorted others to come praise Him.

REFLECTION

When is the last time you actually praised God? Outside of our church and maybe a Bible study, most of us do not take the time to praise Him. What a challenge for me to hear that David did it continually (Psalm 34:1).

APPLICATION

I have made a commitment to take a "praise walk" around the block. What will be your "I will" statement in response to this Psalm?

I also find the book Face to Face: Praying the Scriptures for Intimate Worship by Kenneth Boa helps me as all the prayers start out in adoration. 

Take time out of your busy day today to praise God!

PRAYER 

Pray responsively through Psalm 34. Nothing teaches us to praise God like the Psalms!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

1 Samuel 21 - David Flees to Nob and Gath

LINK: 1 Samuel 21

BACKGROUND

This chapter begins with David's life in exile which will last until 1 Samuel 26.

In this chapter David escaped to Nob. Nob was also known as "the town of the priests" (22:19). It was on a ridge about one mile north of Jerusalem. This ridge would eventually overlook Solomon's temple. During the time of David, it was the location of the tabernacle.

After he discovered one of Saul's men in Nob, David escaped to Gath, the hometown of Goliath, the Philistine. In order to protect himself, he acted insane because in the ancient world, an insane person was considered an evil portent. Consequently, the person was not harmed in order not to provoke the gods.

Tomorrow, we will read Psalm 34. It was written as a result of this situation. You might want to meditate on it for your prayer time today and tomorrow. It is a very rich Psalm; one of my favorites!

PRAYER

Lord, we praise You that no matter where we are, You are our protection and strength. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Psalm 133 - Savoring Unity

LINK: Psalm 133 

BACKGROUND


An Introduction to the Songs of Ascent


Psalm 120 - 134 are part of a group of Psalms called the "Songs of Ascent" or "Pilgrim Psalms."  "Ascent" is from a root which means "to go up," as ascending a stairway.  They were sung by Jewish travelers on their way up to the temple in Jerusalem for the three annual feasts (Exodus 23:14-19; 34:22-24) - Passover in spring, Pentecost in early summer, and Tabernacles in the fall. Jerusalem was the highest city in Palestine at 2,600 feet above sea level. So, the pilgrims spent much of their time ascending to the city and then ascending the steps to the temple. Jesus' family was taking the journey to Passover in Luke 2:41-52. 


Each psalm is a "step" along the journey. The Mishnah (the writings on Jewish tradition that was compiled in A.D. 200) states that the fifteen psalms correspond to the fifteen steps that led up from the Court of Women to the Court of Israelites in the temple.


Psalm 120 begins in a hostile, distant land, Psalm 121 is the journey through the hills to Jerusalem, and Psalm 122 is their arrival! The rest of the psalms are about moving toward and up the ascending steps to the temple while contemplating various characteristics of God. While on the journey, the pilgrims would contemplate the blessings of walking with God.


What a beautiful picture! Eugene H. Peterson writes in A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society :

 But the ascent was not only literal, it was also a metaphor: the trip to Jerusalem lived a life upward toward God, an existence that advanced from one level to another in developing maturity -- what Paul described as "the goal, where God is beckoning us onward -- to Jesus" (Philippians 3:14, The Message).  p. 18
Psalm 133 

Of all the Psalms in the Songs of Ascent, ten are anonymous, one is attributed to Solomon (127) and four are attributed to the main character of our 1 Samuel story, David (122, 124, 131, 133). 


Imagine the pilgrims walking together up the steps to the temple when you read this Psalm With one voice, they went to praise God. I put this particular psalm here because it fit with David's beautiful friendship with Jonathan in 1 Samuel.

Psalm 133:2 compares unity to precious oil. This probably refers to the holy anointing oil for the high priest. Moses used this oil to anoint Aaron as the first high priest along with all the priests (Exodus 29:7, 30:22, 25, and 30). It flowed down his beard and shoulder and onto the breastplate with the names of the 12 tribes. It symbolized the unity of the nation of worshipers under the priests.

Psalm 133:3 compares unity to the dew of Mount Hermon, in the north. It was the tallest mountain in Palestine (almost 10,000 feet), southeast of the Sea of Galilee. The dew of Hermon was very heavy. Mount Zion was on the lesser mountains and 200 miles south, but God's dew fell on both.  Unity is refreshing and invigorating to the soul!

REFLECTION

As I was doing a "summer soak" in Psalm 133, Teala, one of my best friends since the late 70's, called to find out if we could meet to catch up over a Lavender Lemonade at a local hangout. What a perfect application of this Psalm!


Our fellowship was as refreshing and invigorating as the lemonade. We have unity as friends! I read her this Psalm as we sat outside on a beautiful, Oregon summer day.

APPLICATION

Meditate and pray through these verses. Then call up a friend and thank them for the unity you enjoy. If you are in conflict with a friend, call them up and lovingly make peace with this Psalm in mind.


PRAYER


Pray through Psalm 133!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Psalm 59 - God's Saving Help in a Wicked World

LINK: Psalm 59

BACKGROUND

We know from our reading in 1 Samuel 19 that Saul's jealously led him to want to murder David. This Psalm says that it was written when Saul set a watch over David's house in order to kill him (1 Samuel 19:11). 

REFLECTION


You, O God, are my fortress, 
my loving God. (59:9, 17)

This is David's "statement of faith" in the midst of people he called enemies, evildoers, bloodthirsty, fierce, traitors, slanderers, prideful, and liars. David was hunted by men who had once loved him, but their love had changed to jealously and hatred.

I have never had bloodthirsty men after me, and I do not know if I could call anyone an enemy, but you know my story from yesterday's post. My first reaction was to want to defend my reputation and "set the record straight." Sometimes, I have been shocked at the actions of people who once had been dear friends, but David's life is a example to me of how to respond to injustice like this.

David TRUSTED in the unchanging God!

David knew that God's love would never change, and he could sing praises to God even in the midst of evil men. He trusted His God as his deliverer, protector, savior, helper, defender, strength, fortress, shield, and refuge in times of trouble.

His "statement of faith" in The Message translates like this:


Strong God, I'm watching you do it,
I can always count on you --
God, my dependable love. (59:17)

David could not count on the love of one-time friends who had turned enemies, but He could trust in his unchanging God, and we can too.

APPLICATION

Meditate on the characteristics of God in this Psalm and praise God for His unchanging love for you in a wicked world.

PRAYER

Lord, some trust in people, but people are as changeable as the wind. You are the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. I praise You that Your love is never ending and changeless. I pray this inn Jesus' name. Amen.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Psalm 5 & 6 - Finding Refuge in the LORD When the Target of Lies

LINK: Psalm 5 & 6


BACKGROUND

These are both Psalms of David, but there is no date for them, but they obviously occurred during times when David had foes that spread lies. They are both the first of many "imprecatory psalms."

There is mention of the "temple" in 5:7. This has led some people to believe that David could not have written these because the temple was built by his son, Solomon, after David had died, but this word is also used for the tabernacle.

REFLECTION

I always felt so sorry for David: hiding in caves, on the run, the victim of lies. For the most part, I cannot identify with many of the things that he went through because I have never been a King and chased by power hungry enemies! I can identify on one point though: being the target of malicious lies and gossip. Sadly, it has been more than once.

I have heard it said that "a lie makes it all the way around the world before the truth ever gets an opportunity to get its shoes on." That is so true! In all those incidences of being the target of lies, I felt so powerless to put out the fires of falsehood that swirled around me. The whispers behind my back always seemed to get back to me; and quite honestly, I would have preferred not to know what was being said because it hurt so badly. It could have been devastating if it had not been for the comfort I have found from God in the Psalms, including these two.

The hard thing about lies and gossip is there is often no open trial where one can hear directly the accusations leveled against him or her and present any evidence in defense or even openly enter a plea of "guilty as charged." More often than not, there is only a "silent trial" going on where the accused is never even summoned to appear. The evidence is presented in the court of gossip, and one is found guilty of their crimes and sentenced to years of a reputation damaged.

My heart has been broken because of this. Yet God's abundant love has given great comfort to my soul in those time:
You destroy those who speak falsehood; 
The LORD abhors the man of bloodshed and deceit. 
But as for me, by Your abundant lovingkindness I will enter Your house, 
At Your holy temple I will bow in reverence for You 
Oh LORD, lead me in Your righteousness because of my foes; 
Make Your way straight before me. 
There is nothing reliable in what they say; 
Their inward part is destruction itself
Their throat is an open grave; 
They flatter with their tongue. (Psalm 5:5-9)

Now, I am not like David in that I do not wish for destruction of those people who have spread lies and gossip, but I have desired vindication and reconciliation. Sometimes, that just does not happen, but I have to leave that in God's hands.

I love what the NASB Study Bible says in connection with these verses:
The most frequent weapon used against the psalmists is the tongue (for a striking example see Psalm 12). The psalmists experienced that the tongue is as deadly as a sword (see 57:4; 64:3-4). Perhaps appeals to God against those who maliciously wield the tongue are frequent in the Psalms because only in God's courtroom can a person experience redress for such attacks. (p.745)
And in God's courtroom there is always a fair trial and impartial Judge!

God has met me in those times, and I can sing with David:

But let all who take refuge in You be glad, 
Let them ever sing for joy; 
And may You shelter them, 
That those who love Your name may exult in You. 
For it is You who blesses the the righteous man, O LORD, 
You surround him with favor as with a shield. 
(Psalm 5:11-12)


AMEN!

I should add that I was just commenting to George as I was writing this that I have not spent as much time in these Psalms lately because I have not been the target of gossip for quite some time! I am in a church in which the leadership models and encourages a "culture of peace" (much because of the material from Peacemaker Ministries being an integral part of our church) and that has made all the difference! People are encouraged to go directly to one another. I have to honestly say that since we started going there in 2006, I have not heard one word of gossip about anyone! Conflict happens, but we are given the freedom to fail and make things right without condemnation. That is the way of grace! 

In 2011, I was involved in a ministry that had some members of my old church, and once again, something I supposedly said was spread that was absolutely false. It was not anything malicious this time, but it was false nonetheless and misrepresented me! I needed to forgive and move on though, and I did. It reminded me to be careful what I repeat to others.

APPLICATION

Perhaps you have been a target of lies and gossip. Pray through these Psalms again and "pour out your heart like water in the presence of the LORD" (Lamentations 2:19) because the LORD does hear and receive your prayers (Psalm 6:8-9). Remember that God allows these trials to happen to develop us and mature us. He is much more concerned with developing your character than preserving your reputation.

Perhaps you have been one who has perpetuated gossip or allowed it to go unchecked in your church or community. You might want to take a look at the material at Peacemaker Ministries and let peace begin with you at your church! It takes a brave person to change a culture of gossip and lies. Do not be afraid to stand up and stop the insanity! I am happy to say that a brave soul at my old church has introduced this material recently. I hope it makes a significant difference!

PRAYER

LORD, we praise You as the righteous Judge! We know that You see both evil and the good, and You hear the voice of our weeping and receive us (Psalm 6:8-9). Helps us to entrust our reputations to You alone. We ask that You would allow truth to reign in our lives and our churches LORD. Let peace begin with us. Watch over our lips so that we would not speak of other people in a way that would hurt, damage, or misrepresent them; and if we are hurt and damaged by others, teach us the way of Jesus by helping us to forgive them and continue to pray for them. Amen.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

1 Samuel 20 - Anatomy of a Faithful Friend

LINK: 1 Samuel 20

This post is dedicated to my faithful friends. You know who you are, and I love you!

BACKGROUND

Jonathan proved his faithfulness to the covenant he has made by warning David of his father's intent to kill him. Jonathan gave up his future kingship out of love for a friend and understanding of the sovereignty of God. He only asked that David would deal kindly with his family in the future.

REFLECTION

Oh, to have a faithful friend like Jonathan. Oh, to be a faithful friend like Jonathan.

APPLICATION

Thank God today for the faithful friends He has put in your life and go one step further: tell them how much you appreciate them!

If you feel lacking in the friendship area, pray that God will provide such a friend. Pray that God would make you become a friend like Jonathan.

Here is something I read in The Daily Walk:
Is there a Jonathan in your life?
  • Someone who knows you fully and accepts you completely.
  • Someone with whom you can share your deepest hurts.
  • Someone who will listen without lecturing, comfort without condemning, encourage without criticizing.
  • Someone who will defend you when you're not around.
  • Someone whose greatest joy comes from your happiness.
  • Someone who watches out for your well-being, even at the potential risk of his own.
  • Someone who grieves when you are grieved, rejoices when you are promoted, bleeds when you are wounded
Friendship is costly, demanding sacrifice and sensitivity, but that's what makes it so precious. Have you discovered the priceless treasure of finding -- or becoming -- a Jonathan? 
(The Daily Walk, March 21, 2008)

PRAYER

Lord, I pray that we all would taste the joy of deep, faithful friends. Help us to be better friends to others. We pray this in Jesus' name. Amen.

In order to be a good friend, we need the character quality of faithfulness. Read this excerpt from MANY ASPIRE, FEW ATTAIN:
9. Be faithful in the little things

“He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much, and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much” (Luke 16:10).

Many aspire, but few attain because they are unfaithful in the little things. Lorne Sanny, former president of the Navigators, has said that. Charlie Riggs was one of the few men he has ever worked with who could be counted on to carry through a request. Lorne could check it off as accomplished without ever going back to see if it was done. That challenges me tremendously, and I hope you also.

Can people say that about you? When you are given an assignment, when somebody’s asked you to do something, can they mark if off as being completed? No matter how small it is - whether it’s picking up a couple of postage stamps or mailing a letter - when people have asked you to do something, can they count on you to get it done? Are you faithful in that which is least? Jesus said there is no way He is going to give you greater responsibilities until you have proven yourself faithful in the little things.

Promotion, when it comes, doesn't come from others, it comes from God. “For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. But God is the judge: He putteth down one, and setteth up another” (Psalm 75:6,7). Make sure you commit yourself to faithfulness in even the smallest areas of responsibility.

Monday, July 25, 2011

1 Samuel 18 & 19 - The Rise of Saul's Wrath

LINK: I Samuel 18 & 19


BACKGROUND


The stage is set. David had been anointed as the future King of Israel, but he would have to wait fifteen years before he would be crowned. In the meantime, God had a training program uniquely made for David.


The honeymoon between Saul and David was over. David's star was on the rise, and Saul began to become jealous. In addition, Saul's own son, Jonathan, made a covenant with David. We have seen covenant occur several times in the Old Testament. It helps to know more about the Hebrew word for covenant:
בְּרִת(bĕrit) covenant; between nations: a treaty, alliance of friendship; between individuals: a pledge or agreement; with obligation between a monarch and subjects: a constitution; between God and man: a covenant accompanied by signs, sacrifices, and a solemn oath that sealed the relationship with promises of blessing for keeping the covenant and curses for breaking it .
(Harris, R. Laird ; Harris, Robert Laird ; Archer, Gleason Leonard ; Waltke, Bruce K.: Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. electronic ed. Chicago : Moody Press, 1999, c1980, S. 128)
Part of Jonathan's "signs and sacrifices" included stripping himself of his royal regalia as a recognition of David's future reign as king. What an ultimate sacrifice because Jonathan was meant to be the future king (20:30-31; 23:17).


As the story goes on, David slayed ten thousand compared to Saul's thousand. Then, even Saul's daughter, Micah, "loved David." David "had it all," and Saul felt the full range of emotions: anger, displeasure, hatred, fear, anxiety, and jealousy.


These emotions led down the slippery slope toward intentions to murder David, but Jonathan stayed true to his covenant with David and intervened on his behalf. Next, Micah (now David's wife) protected David from Saul's murderous wrath. Finally, the Spirit of God fell on every man sent to capture David, even Saul himself! They "fell into a trance or an ecstatic state, a condition which immobilized them and made them incapable of accomplishing their evil intentions" (Walvoord, John F. ; Zuck, Roy B. ; Dallas Theological Seminary: The Bible Knowledge Commentary : An Exposition of the Scriptures. Wheaton, IL : Victor Books, 1983-c1985, S. 1:450).


REFLECTION


In these chapters, we see two different responses to another person's success:
1) Jonathan could have become jealous of David's popularity. Instead he "loved" David and made a covenant with him, even acknowledging symbolically, by giving David his royal regalia, that David would someday be the King of Israel, a position in which Jonathan was next in line! 
2) Saul did become jealous of David's popularity and could not see God's plan. He had been rejected as king but he held on to that positon to the point where he would even want to kill David in order to maintain his power. How very sad.


I want to have a heart like Jonathan, who rejoices in other people's successes.


APPLICATION


Wise words from the Life Application Bible:
Jealousy may not seem to be a major sin, but in reality, it is one step short of murder. Jealousy starts as you resent a rival; it leads to you wishing he or she were removed; then it manifests itself in your seeking ways to harm that person in word or action. Beware of letting jealousy get a foothold in your life. (p. 468)
Is jealousy seeping into your life? Examine your heart and talk to God about it.

Jealousy can lead to bitterness. Read this excerpt from Many Aspire, Few Attain:

10. Avoid the root of bitterness

“Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God: lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled” (Heb. 12:15).

The tenth reason many will never finish the battle is a bad attitude from envy, jealousy and bitterness - a lack of forgiveness. A bitter spirit, a spirit of resentment, poisons not only to you, but others. 
A root of bitterness is the result of real or supposed ill-treatment - it doesn’t matter which one. You can get just as bitter thinking people treated you badly as when they actually do. Feeling hurt and sorry for yourself are bedfellows of bitterness. Self pity is the other side of the coin of bitterness. Have you ever felt sorry for yourself? Have you ever felt hurt over the way people have treated you? Then you are bordering on bitterness.

George Washington Carver once said, “I will never let another man ruin my life by making me hate him.” Those are profound words. When you hate, you destroy yourself.

If God is God (and He is), then no one can hurt you. No one. That simply means that anytime you are angry with another person, it’s not really the other person that you’re mad at - it’s God. God is the one who allowed that to happen to you. He brought it into your life for a purpose. Whenever circumstances don’t go the way you would like, and you become angry and resentful and bitterness begins to creep into your heart, remember your complaint is always with God, never with anyone else. There is no such thing as having a problem with another person. It doesn’t exist. And bitterness will destroy you if you let it. 
The lack of forgiveness is also inconsistent with a relationship with God. Again and again Jesus cautions us that if we do not forgive others, God will not forgive us.

PRAYER


Lord, reveal to us places that we may be resenting the rise in popularity of someone else and seeing them as a rival rather than making a covenant of friendship with them. Help us to rejoice in other people's successes and to acknowledge and look for Your plan in their lives rather than resenting them. Give us a heart like Jonathan toward others. We pray this in Jesus' name. Amen.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Psalm 144 - Bless the Lord!

LINK: Psalm 144

BACKGROUND 

I want to remind you that we are doing all the psalms out of order so that we can read them in the context of the history of Israel. I hope it is not too confusing for you!

Psalms 144-150 end the book of Psalms with PRAISE! Psalms 144-146 are examples of personal praise because they use the personal pronouns I, me, and my.

David wrote this song in order to bless the Lord (144:1, 15) and thank Him for making him a successful warrior. He probably did not write this after his encounter with Goliath, but it indicates why David was so brave against the giant. He knew that God was capable of defeating anyone because God was his . . .
  • Rock (ṣûr) - "Yahweh is a Rock, not in being represented as an idol carved from stone, but in that He is totally reliable. He is a sure source of strength and He endures throughout every generation." 
  • Lovingkindness (ḥesed) - "God’s hesed was not basically mercy, but loyalty to His covenant obligations, a loyalty which the Israelites should also show." We talked about this word in the story of Ruth. 
  • Fortress (meṣûḏâh) - "In the rocky crag the eagle makes his stronghold (Job 39:28). But man erects his fortress out of stone or brick to protect himself from external dangers. Nevertheless with great strategy a stronghold may be taken: e.g. David captured the stronghold of Zion (II Sam 5:7). For the believer, especially David, God himself was the stronghold in whom he trusted throughout his trials" (Ps 18:2 [H 3]; 91:2).
  • Stronghold (miśgāb) - This word is found fifteen times in the Old Testament with eleven of them being in the Psalms. It speaks of "God being the believer's high tower (II Sam 22:3), or his refuge (Psalm 46:7, 11 [8, 12]), or defense (Isa 33:16). The allusion is to the fact that in the ancient world, safety to either the one fleeing or to the one at rest was synonymous with teaching and remaining upon some fortified height which would be inaccessible to beast and enemy alike. The Psalmist, as well as the prophets, saw this to be the precise picture of the believer’s security in God."
  • Deliverer (pālaṭ) - This word occurs twenty-seven times in the Old Testament with nineteen of them being in the Psalms. Other references are in Psalm 18:2; 40:17; 70:5; and 140:7
  • Shield (māgēn) - "māgēn refers to the smaller and more common type of round shield carried by light infantry and officers . . . In view of the fact that God is always the one who protects (gānan) His people, it is no surprise that He is so often called the shield (māgēn) of Israel. He is the shield about His servants (Gen 15:1), the house of Aaron (Ps 115:10), the nation of Israel (Deut 33:29) and all those who walk uprightly and put their trust in Him (Prov 2:7; 30:5)."

    All quotes are from Harris, R. L., Harris, R. L., Archer, G. L., & Waltke, B. K. (1999, c1980). Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (electronic ed.) (169). Chicago: Moody Press.
REFLECTION/APPLICATION

I have just spent the morning meditating and praying through the first four verses of this Psalm. One thing I like to do when I meditate is to define words and then rewrite them in a paraphrase version of the verses. You can use a regular dictionary, a concordance that will give you cross-references, or invest in a good Hebrew dictionary like the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (my personal favorite).

PRAYER 

Pray through all or part of Psalm 144 today. :)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

1 Samuel 17 - Fighting a Giant

From: http://www.generationword.com/Israel/elah.html
LINK: 1 Samuel 17


BACKGROUND


In the previous chapters, David displayed his tender side by tending sheep and playing the harp in order to soothe Saul when the evil spirit overtook this king. Now, we see his mighty side (16:18)!


Goliath of the Philistines towered over Israel at over 99" tall (8 feet 3 inches, 251 cm) in the Valley of Elah.  Jesse commissioned David to deliver food to David's brothers and the commander of the unit in the camp and to bring back word of their well-being. When David saw that this giant would dare to "taunt the armies of the living God" (17:26), he decided to answer the taunts despite the accusation of insolence and wickedness by his elder brother, Eliab (the one Samuel passed over to anoint David as king, by the way), and Saul's insistence that David was "just a youth" (17:33).


David recalled the LORD's deliverance in the past (17:37) and could trust Him for his battle with Goliath, not needing extensive armor, but one smooth stone and the living God!


I love these fighting words:
You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted. This day the LORD will deliver you up into my hands . . . that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. (45-46)


So there, Goliath!!!!!

We know the end of the story: little David kills BIG Goliath, the Philistines were routed, and Saul took notice of the little shepherd boy.

REFLECTION

I love this story because I am a youngest child! I cannot tell you how many times my enthusiasm or bravery has been squashed because one or both of my older brothers told me I could not do it or that I didn't know anything. In their eyes, I would always be the "little" sister. Beth Moore said something in her Bible study, A Heart Like His, Seeking the Heart of God Through a Study of David, that rang so true with me:
I'm not sure anyone can encourage or discourage us like family. The views of
our family members toward us are very convincing, aren't they? If people who
know us the best encourage us the least, we have few chances to develop confidence.  (p. 26)
In June of 2000, I wrote in the margin of my book, "AMEN!"

Thankfully, my father was one family member who was never like that with me! One of his favorite sayings for me was . . .
"YOU'VE GOT THE TICKET, CAROL!"
Meaning that I have the means and ability to do anything! Whether is was baiting a fish hook or getting up on water skis, he was always my enthusiastic cheerleader with this line: "You've got the ticket, Carol!" This helped me to develop confidence.

David had a similar situation. In Eliab's eyes, he was just his kid brother who could not do anything (Remember that Joseph was the kid brother of all but Benjamin, Moses was the kid brother of Aaron, etc.). Eliab even accused him of being "insolent and wicked"!

Yet, David had a heavenly father who told him he had the "ticket," and the ticket was His very power and presence! David knew he could do anything with His mighty God calling him to do it; that no matter how big Goliath was, his God was bigger and had given him the "ticket" to victory no matter what His older brother said! David was more confident in his God and His opinion of Him than the opinion of his brother. We can be too.

Sometimes, our naysayers can be our brothers and sisters in the family of God. My prayer for YEARS was that I could "hear the voice of God above the voice of people" because sometimes people can be SO LOUD. Often they are loud for a plethora of ungodly reasons: jealousy, insecurity, feeling threatened, competitiveness, etc. I learned this once in a big way.

In June of 2000, I was trying to get a Precept Bible study started in town, and the resistance to it was so overwhelming that I wanted to quit. It was a God thing that I was studying this chapter in the life of David at the time! One of the questions in my Beth Moore study was this:
Is there an area of your life in which God wants to give you a victory but an obstacle seems too big to overcome? If so, what is the victory God wants to give you?
Mine was seeing this Bible study go forward. I wrote on June 7, 2000, "It is TOO big to overcome. Lord, I fall down before you and plead your mercy."

The next question was:
What obstacle must you overcome?
I answered, "The 'I can't mentality' among the women I am working with."

There was such a wall of resistance toward having a "different" and more "difficult" Bible study and even having it on a "different" day than what had always been done. Actually, I found out later that it was much more than even what was presented to me on the surface.

I did not understand it at the time (I cannot read minds) but part of the resistance was that I threatened one of the leaders. Just like Eliab and David, in her eyes, I was the "kid sister," and she had been leading for a long time. Who was I to think that I could just walk in and start leading a study? (I had led studies as a member of that church for 21 years prior to that, but I had never led one in "her" ministry before.)

After two months of this unseen obstacle, I apologized to her for my attitude toward her and all the ways I had mishandled the situation. She responded quickly and said, "This is not all about what you have done wrong. I have got some things to say."

During a two hour walk, she proceeded to tell me how she came from a very competitive family, and she felt like I was such a strong leader that I was going to "take all her women away" if I led a Bible study. She said that God even told her to listen to me, and she refused, and she, by her own admonition, treated me really badly. She gave me a heartfelt apology for her attitude and behavior toward me.

Talk about a blow with a stone right between the enemies eyes! Now I knew what the obstacle really was, and we could deal with it! I forgave her. (I can love anyone who can be that humble and transparent. I have loved the woman with every bit of me ever since!)

As a result, the Bible study went forward, many still attended her study, just a few attended mine (Precepts studies are not for everyone), and Precept-like Bible studies are now a regular part of the options for women's Bible study at that church! HOORAY!

Most importantly: "Goliath" was defeated and God was given another victory over the enemy!

APPLICATION

How confident are you in God's will for your life? Are you listening to the loud opinions of the naysayers over the quiet, calm voice of God?

Ask yourself the same questions in the REFLECTION above:
Is there an area of your life in which God wants to give you a
victory but an obstacle seems too big to overcome? If so, what is the victory
God wants to give you?
What obstacle must you overcome?
REMEMBER that your "Goliath" is NEVER bigger than your God.

RECALL times where He has shown His power to overcome obstacles in the past.

RESIST the enemy in the strong name of Jesus. He does not want you to go forward and will do everything in his power to try to stop you. You could be a "low maintenance project" for him or you could storm the gates of hell. Which do you chose?

RELEASE that stone in the power of your God and let it fly right between your "Goliath's" eyes!

PRAYER

LORD, I love Your Word. This could be a cute little Bible story, but it is a powerful example for us to follow in our own lives. Help us not just to read but to APPLY these principles. Help us to turn this world upside down for YOU!!!! We pray this in the strong and tender name of our shepherd warrior, Jesus. Amen.

Friday, July 22, 2011

1 Samuel 16 - David is Secretly Anointed

LINK: 1 Samuel 16

BACKGROUND

Saul had lost the kingdom, and the LORD told Samuel to anoint the new King of Israel. Samuel thought that, surely, Eliab was God's choice; but God told Samuel not to look at the outside appearance of the future king for "man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." So, the LORD led Samuel to anoint David, the shepherd boy, and the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon David from that day forward.


Sadly, the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit plagued him. In a strange twist, the very person who was to take his place as king, David, played the harp to soothe him and cause the evil spirit to leave.


The Scarlet Thread of Redemption


One of Jesse's son had to be King because God knew that Jesus would be descended from the "root of Jesse" (Isaiah 11:1-5, 10, Romans 15:12) and be a "son of David" (2 Samuel 7:12-16; Matthew 1:1, 12:23, 21:9).


REFLECTION


I love the fact that God sees not as man sees, and He looks at our hearts. The first time I read this in high school, I decided, then and there, that I would never take inordinate amounts of time on my physical appearance, but I would take COPIOUS amounts of time for "spiritual grooming."


Proverbs 31:30 says "Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised."


APPLICATION


How much time have you been taking on your "spiritual grooming" lately?


PRAYER


Lord, thank You that You see through right to our hearts. Help us to spend time cultivating a heart for You alone. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.


Dorothy (a member of the 2007-2010 Bible Book Club) wrote me with the words to this song that are so appropriate for today's reading!


Words and Music by Ray Boltz and Steve Millikan


One by one Jesse's sons

Stood before the prophet
Their father knew a king
Would soon be found
And each one passed
Except the last
No one thought to call him
Surely he would never
Wear a crown

CHORUS

But when others see a shepherd boy
God may see a king
Even though your life seems filled
With ordinary things
In just a moment He can touch you
And everything will change
When others see a shepherd boy
God may see a king

One by one problems come

And dreams get shattered
And sometimes it's hard
To understand
But things like chance
And circumstance
They don't really matter
Our Father holds tomorrow
In His hands

CHORUS


Well it wasn't the oldest

It wasn't the strongest
Chosen on that day
And yet the giants fell
And nations trembled
When they stood in his way

CHORUS


Thursday, July 21, 2011

1 Samuel 15 - To Obey is Better Than Sacrifice

LINK: 1 Samuel 15

BACKGROUND

God had a score to settle with the Amalakites (Exodus 17:8-16), and the command to Saul through Samuel was to "utterly destroy" them. God knew that Israel would never live peacefully in the Promised Land if they continued to exist. Yet, Saul only partially obeyed by sparing King Agog and the best of the sheep, oxen, fatlings, lambs, and all that was good. Then, he lied to Samuel about carrying out the Lord's commands and tried to cover up his disobedience by passing the blame on to the people, claiming that they wanted to use the animals for sacrifice.

Samuel's response cuts to the heart of the matter:
Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
As in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
And to heed than the fat of rams. (15:22)
There is no such thing as incomplete obedience. There is just obedience and disobedience, and Saul disobeyed and tried to put a "religious" sheet over it to cover up his sin. As a result, Samuel declared, "The LORD has rejected you" (15:26).

This was the beginning of the end for King Saul.

REFLECTION

What an evening this has been. I cannot read this chapter without thinking of Keith Green's song "To Obey is Better Than Sacrifice." It led me to the video you will hopefully watch in the application section of this post. Then, George and I stayed up until midnight watching a documentary on Keith Green's life. What a blessing and lesson in obedience! He was not perfect, but he wanted to obey God with everything that was in him, and he affected a generation of believers and beyond. He did this all in seven short years of being a follower of Jesus. Amazing.

I want uncompromised obedience in my life and not the "incomplete obedience" like that of King Saul. I want to be poured out for Him, holding nothing back, without excuses.

I pray you want that too.

APPLICATION

You will not regret watching this video as your application from our reading today. Here is Keith performing the song called "To Obey is Better than Sacrifice." He makes reference to Saul in his introduction:



To obey is better than sacrifice
I don't need your money
I want your life
And I hear you say that I'm coming back soon
But you act like I'll never return

Well you speak of grace and my love so sweet
How you thrive on milk, but reject My meat
And I can't help weeping at how it will be
If you keep on ignoring My Word
Well you pray to prosper and succeed
But your flesh is something I just can't feed

To obey is better than sacrifice
I want more than Sundays and Wednesday nights
Cause if you can't come to Me every day
Then don't bother coming at all

La,la,la etc.

To obey is better than sacrifice
I want hearts of fire
Not your prayers of ice
And I'm coming quickly
To give back to you
According to what you have done
According to what you have done
According to what you have done

PRAYER

Lord, all for You. No compromise. Amen

P.S.

Here is Part One of that documentary:

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

1 Samuel 13 & 14 - Saul's Impatience and Impulsiveness

LINK: 1 Samuel 13 & 14

BACKGROUND

1 Samuel 13 

Saul showed his impatience by not waiting for Samuel and taking over the role of priest by offering sacrifices in defiance of God's commands (Leviticus 6:8-13) and Samuel's words (10:8). Samuel arrived (just at the time he said he would) and rebuked Saul for his foolishness and announced that Saul's kingdom would end and that God had sought out another man "after His own heart" (13:14).

1 Samuel 14 

Saul almost lost his son, Jonathan, by making an impulsive oath saying a man would die if he ate anything before Saul had avenged himself on his enemies. Only the pleas of the people saved Jonathan from death.

REFLECTION

How often has impatience and impulsiveness been the downfall of many believers? It has certainly been a snare for me at times in my life! Saul was feeling great fear of the Philistine invasion. So, he took matters into his own hands and did a little sacrifice - what is the harm in that? We do the same thing. We sometimes "fudge" and manipulate situations out of fear that maybe - this time - the LORD will not come through. So, we try to "help" God out with our own efforts. Bad idea. Better to wait on God.

Samuel's answer about finding a "man after God's heart" is the key to waiting. A Hebrew word study of the word for "wait" (kawvah) reveals that it comes from a root word that means "to bind together, perhaps by twisting." I try to visualize and remind myself that when I am waiting, I am winding my heart like a cord around the Lord's heart. This makes waiting a positive thing! It also helps me to become a "woman after God's heart."

As my dear, departed mentor, Ginny, used to say:


"God's trains are always on time, 
and they never miss connections."

So while you are waiting for that train to arrive, why not do a little binding of your heart to the Lord?

APPLICATION

Has God put you in a position of having to wait for something! Consider it an opportunity to do the "binding and twisting" dance with God! He loves you so much that He wants you to have a heart after His.

Look up the following verse about waiting: Psalm 27:14; Isaiah 25:9; 30:18; 40:31.

PRAYER

Lord, we wait for You alone. We want to be men and women after Your own heart. Teach us what it means to bind our hearts around Your heart. I ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.