Posted in 1Samuel, Romans

The World’s Mold

“Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold, but let God re-mold your minds from within.” Romans 12:2 Phillips Translation

I was in Belize sitting at a picnic table with six fifth grade boys. We had just done a drama of Samuel coming to Jesse’s house to anoint the next king. Jesse didn’t know which of his eight sons it would be but he had decided which son it wouldn’t be. David, his youngest, wasn’t even invited to the party because someone needed to stay with the sheep.

So the question I asked these fifth graders was: “Give a time when you felt left out, lonely, or rejected.”

The boys spent a lot of time looking at each other, but no one would answer me, so I finally called on the one next to me. His answer was “never.”

“Let me get this straight,” I asked. “You’ve never felt lonely, left out, or rejected, in your whole life?”

Nope; and the funny thing was, as I made each answer, it turned out that none of them had ever felt lonely, left out, or rejected – amazing.

Then we moved on to the part of the story where God tells Samuel: “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1Samuel 16:7)

“For instance,” I told them, “God knows that every one of you lied to me a few minutes ago. You might be able to fool me and each other, but God sees your heart, and you can’t fool him.”

These weren’t bad kids, they were just being squeezed by peer pressure to maintain a certain image so they didn’t want to be vulnerable in front of each other. When our time was ending I asked them to close their eyes and put their heads down.

“God saw David when man didn’t,” I told them. “He saw that David wanted to please Him so God chose him and poured out the Holy Spirit on him. If you want to please God and have God pour His Spirit on you, I want you to lift up your head and look me in the eyes.”

Do you know that every one of those six boys looked up without hesitation! They knew they had lied, but that’s not who they wanted to be. They wanted to please God and knew they needed the Holy Spirit to help them do that. What a privilege it was to pray over each of them.

Posted in 1John, 1Samuel, John, Luke, Psalms

The Father’s Joy

“He brought me out into a spacious place; He rescued me because He delighted in me.” Psalm 18:19

David experienced the positive side of God’s passion. Knowing this delight is the secret to great faith.

God’s love and delight in me means that, of course, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” (1Samuel 17:37) Perfect love casts out all fear. (1John 4:18) Perfect love is not my love for God, it’s His love for me. When this truth goes from being our theology to our identity, great faith is easy.

Yet this truth can be hard to grasp in our hearts, so Jesus gave us three stories in Luke 15 to explain the Father’s joy in us. The Father is like a shepherd looking for a lost sheep. When he finds it there is great joy and this is how all of heaven feels when one sinner repents. God feels like the woman who searches for a lost coin of precious value (Notice that it doesn’t lose its value because it’s lost!). When she finds it, she rejoices, because that which was lost to her has been found.

And then He tells of an earthly father that runs to welcome back his prodigal son. Instead of reminding him of the hurt the son has caused, the father, in his joy, throws an extravagant party for him.

The prodigal thought it was all about his bad behavior so he planned on coming back as a hired man instead of as a son. (Luke 15:19) The older brother thought it was about his good behavior so he was confused as to why he hadn’t received more, and was angry about his father’s welcome of the prodigal. (Luke 15:29-30) But it’s not about behavior; it’s about relationship. God knows that apart from grace we can’t be good, and that when we’re in Christ we can’t help but bear good fruit. (John 15:5)

The Father’s joy is in you! Have you come into the party called grace or are you standing outside because of the shame of sin, or the self-righteousness of pride?

Say it to yourself: “I am God’s delight. Not because I’m good, but because I’m His.” This is not just our experience when we first receive forgiveness; this is our name, our very identity. Believe it!

Posted in 1Samuel, 2Timothy, Acts

Breaking Intimidation

“Then the Philistine (Goliath) said, ‘This day I defy the ranks of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.’ On hearing this, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.” 1Samuel 17:10-11

I believe there was a spirit of intimidation behind Goliath’s threats that still seeks to paralyze the people of God today. If we listen to our fears we will do little to advance the kingdom of God in our lives. The Bible tells us that David, “served the purpose of God in his own generation.” (Acts 13:36) He didn’t live a sinless life, but God was able to accomplish what He wanted through him. If we fulfill our purpose, it will be because we broke intimidation the same way David did. Consider with me three common sources of intimidation:

  1. The opinions of family. “When Eliab, David’s brother, heard him speaking with the men, he burned with anger at him and asked, ‘Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the desert? I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle.’” (1Samuel 17:28) We love our families but we dare not allow their expectations to determine our destinies. It’s hard for them to see us beyond the role we played in the family growing up.
  2. The way others have done it. “‘I cannot go in these,’ David said to Saul, ‘because I am not used to them.’ So he took them off.” (1Samuel 17:39) Saul put his own armor on David because that’s what Saul would have worn if he was fighting. Others have an opinion about us but it’s often based more on who they are then on who we are. We will never fulfill God’s purpose trying to be someone we’re not.
  3. The taunts of the enemy. How did David boldly confront the same enemy who had paralyzed the entire Israelite army for forty days? I believe the key is found in the previous chapter: “So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power.” (1Samuel 16:13) The key to breaking intimidation is being filled with the Holy Spirit. We have nothing to fear, God has given us the Spirit of power, love, and a sound mind. (2Timothy 1:7)  Be yourself, filled with the Holy Spirit, and know with confidence that you and God can accomplish anything together.
Posted in 1Samuel

Getting Over Grief

“Now the Lord said to Samuel, ‘How long will you grieve over Saul…? Fill your horn with oil and go; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have selected a king for Myself among his sons.’” 1Samuel 16:1

Samuel was stuck in his grief. He had prophesied to Saul, anointed Saul, and saw him get off to a great start as Israel’s king, but now Saul had turned his back on God. God had allowed a time of grief to pass so that Samuel could rightfully mourn Saul’s backslidden condition and the negative results all Israel was experiencing, but now He wanted Samuel to move on. “How long will you grieve over Saul?” It’s as if God was asking, “Is this your new life? Are you going to be depressed and live in regret every day because someone you love isn’t walking with God?” God had stuff He wanted Samuel to do for Him, new people for him to anoint, but Samuel couldn’t do anything if he wasn’t willing to leave the place of grief.

Have you been there? I sure have. It’s a dark and heavy place that taints all of life in a negative way. How do you get over the failure of someone close to you? The answer is not forgetting them, but giving them to God in prayer recognizing that only He can reach them. While you ask God to touch the one you love, you also need to be willing to leave the place of grief and go touch someone else He loves. “Fill your horn with oil and go…” Part of our healing comes from getting filled again with His Spirit to touch someone He leads us to in Jesus Name. The way He touches through us is often as simple as a word of encouragement, a prayer, a good deed, or just a listening ear.

It’s a strange thing in the kingdom, but often true. The ones we love the most are often the hardest for us to reach,  so we need to trust them with God, and let Him raise up someone else to speak into their lives. As life and people disappoint us we can allow our grief to paralyze us, or we can give it to God, fill our horns with oil, and ask God to use us again for His glory.

Posted in 1Samuel, Hebrews, Philippians

Confidence through Victory

“When David was told, ‘Look, the Philistines are fighting against Keilah and are looting the threshing floors,’ he inquired of the Lord, saying, ‘Shall I go and attack these Philistines?’ The Lord answered him, ‘Go, attack the Philistines and save Keilah.’ But David’s men said to him, “here in Judah we are afraid. How much more, then, if we go to Keilah against the Philistine forces! Once again David inquired of the Lord, and the Lord answered him, ‘Go down to Keilah, for I am going to give the Philistines into your hand.’ So David and his men went to Keilah, fought the Philistines and carried off their livestock. He inflicted heavy losses on the Philistines and saved the people of Keilah.” 1Samuel 23:1-5

David’s men are afraid and having a hard time believing that God really wants them to reach beyond their fears. When David brings the Word of the Lord, they say in essence: “We’re already afraid here in Judah which we know; now you think God wants us to go into enemy territory and fight there? You’d better ask God again because we don’t think He would ask us to go that far out of our comfort zone.”

David asks again and sure enough, it is God’s plan. Why? Is God mean? Does He like seeing His children miserable? No, it’s just that the only way to remove fear is to face it and discover that the prison it was making around your life was artificial. They obeyed God in spite of their fears and God gave them victory. Eventually these very men became David’s mighty men and became known for their fearlessness.

Did you know God is on a mission to make us fearless? He wants us to face every trial and challenge with a confidence that says: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13) Do not let fear set the limits of your life but only the will of God.

If fear has been your automatic default mode I want to encourage you to regularly take up the confession of Hebrews 13:5-6: “God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?’”

Posted in 1Samuel, Luke, Mark, Revelation

Hear, and be Healed

“A great number of people from all over Judea came to hear Him and to be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by evil spirits were cured, and the people all tried to touch Him, because power was coming from Him and healing them all.” Luke 6:17-19

Health care is a problem today. As we age there are more pains and blockages as well as the risk of external parts and internal organs wearing down and no longer functioning as they should. The medical community can help, and they do what they can, but for many things there is only a pill to treat symptoms and no real promise of healing.

Jesus is a healer. He can and does use doctors, but sometimes He acts apart from them, like in the text above. Two things grip me in this passage – one relates to humanity; the other to Divinity.

The people came to “hear Him and be healed.” There is a great tendency in our culture to want to be healed from God without listening to God. The idea that God might want to correct me is offensive in a culture which insists that any correction is being “judgmental.” God loves us and wants us to be healed but to Him the heart, the inner person, is more important than the body. When He sees us He looks through the outward appearance to what’s really going on inside. (1Samuel 16:7) He wants to speak to us. Jesus’ last recorded words are found in the book of Revelation where seven times He repeats the same phrase: “He who has ears let him hear what the Spirit says to the church.” (See Revelation 2 and 3)

The second thing about this text that amazes me is the Divine generosity. Divine power flowed from Jesus and it was “healing them all.” When Jesus is free to be who He is in our midst, healing power to restore and deliver is available to all. Oftentimes we restrict what He is able to do by our unbelief (Mark 6:5-6), or by our busy schedule which distracts us from ever stopping long enough to hear, or be healed.

Posted in 1Samuel, 2Timothy, Acts

The Samuel Generation

“In the last days, God says, I will pour out My Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.” Acts 2:17

A few years ago the pastors of our region decided together to have teens and young adults lead some of our monthly worship gatherings.  Why young people?  I believe we will never have the fullness of God’s presence without the generations coming together. God blesses everything as much as He can and we praise Him for all He’s currently doing, but there is a longing in many of our hearts for more.

I am convinced young people need to honor the older generation and value their covering, but am equally convinced that the older generation needs to release their sons and daughters to prophecy. What if they say something that’s wrong?  What if they become filled with pride? Then we are here to guide them and teach them, but God wants them to speak now, and not just when they’re “mature.”

In January of 2014 I had the privilege of speaking to our youth group. I told them the church is stuck without them. They are not the “church of tomorrow;” today’s church needs them to rise up and grab ahold of God.

In Eli’s day there were two types of young people: Hophni and Phineas were one; Samuel the other. So it is today. Hophni and Phineas represent those who are “ungrateful, disobedient to parents,… lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,” (2Timothy 3:1-4) while Samuel represents a whole generation of young people who love the presence of God (1Samuel 3:3), begin to hear His voice (1 Samuel 3:10), and speak to their culture with great authority. (1Samuel 3:19-20)

We must encourage our young people to become all God desires them to be to have His full blessing in the days to come.

Posted in 1Samuel, Ephesians, Galatians, Revelation, Romans

Understanding Authority

“All authority comes from God so the one who resists authority is resisting God.” Romans 13:1 

“We have been seated with Christ in heavenly places.” Ephesians 2:6

I fear that most American Christians don’t understand how God feels about positional authority. We tend to honor those who we feel are honorable while withholding honor from those we don’t think deserve it.

All authority has been instituted by God and therefore should be unconditionally honored. It doesn’t matter whether your dad is an alcoholic; if you learn to honor his position, God’s blessing for those who honor their parents will rest on you. David, the man after God’s own heart, refused to raise his hand “against the Lord’s anointed.” (1Samuel 24:6) Saul was demon oppressed at the time, so the anointing was not on the man, but on the position he held. (Notice, honoring authority does not mean remaining in a place of abuse as David fled when Saul started throwing spears at him.)

If we only honor authority that we feel is worthy, we will never take the place God has given us unless we feel worthy to take it. How often does that happen? The gospel isn’t about us being good enough, it’s about God’s grace and about a position He wants us to take in Christ. You have been made a child of God (Galatians 4:6), a priest of God (Revelation 1:6), and have been given the “the gift of righteousness,” so that you can “reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:17)

We need to understand and honor positional authority, so we can honor the position God has given us in Christ. The late Reinhart Bonkhe didn’t begin to walk in the miraculous power of God until one day when God said, “My word in your mouth is just as powerful as My word in My mouth.”  Africa was never the same as unprecedented miracles led to millions of recorded salvations. 

I believe God and the world are waiting for each of us to take our position in Christ!