Monday, January 8, 2018

The Philistines and Defeat

As Samuel was continuing to hear  from God, the Philistines decided to attack Israel. The elders of Israel decided that they needed to take the Ark of the Covenant to war with them, thinking they were carrying the Lord of Hosts with them into battle. The Ark was not magical or a lucky charm. They didn't need the Ark to have God in on the battle.
3 And when the people were come into the camp, the elders of Israel said, Wherefore hath the Lord smitten us to day before the Philistines? Let us fetch the ark of the covenant of the Lord out of Shiloh unto us, that, when it cometh among us, it may save us out of the hand of our enemies. I Samuel 4:3
"It MAY? save us"?? Did these guys ask God? What about Samuel? The elders decided what to do. In addition, the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phineas, were with the Ark. In chapter 2:12 the word describes these two guys:
12 Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial (worthless and lawless); they knew not the Lord. I Samuel 2:12
The name for God, Lord of Hosts, describes God as the head of his spiritual armies.  It implies God's protections, care and oversight. The moves of God in this world do not automatically bring peace. They often rile up those who would rather not have God involved. God-sent armies, however, are always successful. After the Ark was captured, the Philistines considered it a great battle trophy.  Without humility and and the desire to listen to what God has in mind, the Ark was just an Ark.

By the same logic, a church is just a building without a humble, truthful, respectful love for God (church). Symbols, icons, images, religious practices mean nothing in and of themselves. The relationship we have with God is one of the heart that rests in truth.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Sense of Justice

The Lord of Hosts (Sabaoth) is used twice in the New Testament: Romans 9:29 (where it is a quote from Isaiah 1:9 ) and in James 5:4.  In the Old Testament, this name of God is used the most frequently of all the names of God. It describes God as the Lord of armies, heavenly and earthly. It symbolizes protection for God's remnant. It implies justice and defense of right.

We can have innate knowledge of justice because of the spirit of God that lives within us. We can sense injustice and foul play.  Our response should be deferring to the wisdom of God as he knows all the ins and outs of what is going on  and how it all works together.  There are a lot of things we just don't see. Things can be quite complicated and interwoven. God truly can sort it all out.


Have you ever been walking in the woods and found yourself in the midst of a garden of poison ivy. It is not an event that you should thrash your way out of or by stomping all over it to beat it down. This kind of dilemma requires thought and wisdom to effect minimal contact with the toxic leaves.

When our sense of justice is aroused, we must cling to the wisdom of God as our extractor. Our best line of defense is to do as Hannah did when she was dealing with a miserable environment.  She prayed. The septuagint uses the Greek word 'proseuche' for prayer and it is a common word for prayer throughout the Word of God. 'Pros' refers to a 'face to face' encounter and 'euche' is a 'speaking (out loud or in the mind) a desire'. The Greek word illustrates beautifully the remedy to any situation of oppression. We talk face to face with God.
Philippians 4:6-8:
6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer (proseuche) and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. 7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
Today's world is full of injustice.  It rattles it saber at us all day long in one way or another.  There are times we are called upon by God to deal with it (like I Samuel 17 and David) and there are times to wait (Hannah)and we do that in peace. Whether we act or wait, we fly snuggled under the wings of the Almighty for he is the Lord of Hosts.

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 29, 2017

Spiritual Awareness

Hebrews 4:12 says that "the Word of God is quick (living) and powerful.." The right word from God at the right time for the right situation is unparalleled in its effects! It is an experience that is life giving!

In I Samuel 3:1, the spiritual environment surrounding God's people had eroded and it was due to several factors. Things had become sleepy.  Those who were supposed to be looking out for God's people had let some things slip to the extent that people were effected. There was scandal, and in some cases, those that should have known better were thumbing their nose at God. (I Samuel 2:12-25).

Samuel, as a young boy, grew up in the middle of all of it:
And the child Samuel ministered unto the Lord before Eli. And the word of the Lord was precious in those days; there was no open vision. I Samuel 3:1
Samuel was committed to God. God never forces anyone to live for him. Everyone has a choice. God will work with those who love him. He knew Samuel's heart. The word was costly and rare in those days. Open vision or revelation involves hearing from God. Things were not too hot spiritually. God spoke to Samuel.  He wasn't familiar with receiving revelation from God and thought Eli was calling him:
4 That the Lord called Samuel: and he answered, Here am I. 5 And he ran unto Eli, and said, Here am I; for thou calledst me. And he said, I called not; lie down again. And he went and lay down. I Samuel 3:4-5
This happened 2 more times and finally Eli figured out what was happening:
And Eli perceived that the Lord had called the child.9 Therefore Eli said unto Samuel, Go, lie down: and it shall be, if he call thee, that thou shalt say, Speak, Lord; for thy servant heareth. I Samuel 3: 8b-9a
God had someone who would listen in Samuel:
And the Lord said to Samuel, Behold, I will do a thing in Israel, at which both the ears of every one that heareth it shall tingle. I Samuel 3:11
God was going to shake things up. Samuel was established as a prophet  (someone who speaks for God) as God let none of his words 'fall to the ground' (or fail) I Samuel 3:19

In the New Testament, under the new covenant with God through Jesus Christ, every believer has the capacity to hear from God. It is a tool built into the holy spirit package. The how-to of it is as simple as what Eli told Samuel. Most of the time it is a 'still small voice' in our heart. Some people call it a nudge. It is a live and powerful thought. It is a nudge that produces peaceful godly results and flows with the written word to produce the results desired by God.
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Saturday, December 23, 2017

I Can Do All Things Through Christ

13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. Philippians 4:13
The words 'through Christ' are key words in this verse. We are empowered 'through' Christ  The man who was called Jesus of Nazareth is now called Jesus Christ. 'Christ' means Messiah or anointed one. 'Christ' is his title and position.
38 How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him. Acts 10:38
17 And there was delivered unto him( Jesus) the book of the prophet Esaias (Isaiah 61). And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, 18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, 19 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. Luke 4:17-19
The Messiah came to save us from a life without God. The ultimate goal of the ministry of reconciliation is bringing man into a relationship with the creator. Jesus Christ is the mediator between God and man.

According to the New Testament, we can have the spirit of God individually in our lives, if we so choose, by confessing Jesus Christ as Lord. We can be strengthened (empowered) because of his life.   Philippians 4:13 doesn't say I  can do some things, or anything I want to do. It says 'all things' pertaining to the things mentioned in the verses leading up to Philippians 4:13. In the context of the verses around it, that means that no matter what is going on, Christ is there to strengthen and empower us.
11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. 12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
The world offers many remedies to the pressures of life, most of which never lift us out of pressures. Instead they often lead us down another rabbit hole of mundaneness and madness.  Religious performance, culture, education, drugs, obsessions and pressures all darken our view to the sky. Guilt and shame dig the hole deeper.

This time of the year many people celebrate the nativity of Christ, but Santa seems to get top billing. St Nick may be a jolly ole fella, but he is not the savior. Santa may reconcile us with the mall, Amazon, or quaint traditions, but he doesn't come close to pulling us closer to our heavenly Father. Jesus as the Messiah does! He doesn't do it with guilt and shame. God's love draws us in.  All of the great men and women of the Bible had darker sides but they chose to accept God's love and opened their hearts to him and their minds became flooded with warm encouraging light.
The magi were led by light to the greatest event in the history of the world, the birth of God's son. Jesus Christ is the brightest star in the world today.
18 For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Ephesians 2:18
18 The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, 19 And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, 20 Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, 21 Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: Ephesians 2:18-21






Monday, December 11, 2017

The Name Samuel - Asked of God (I Samuel 1- Part Three)

In I Samuel 1:20, we find out that Hannah named her baby Samuel:
Wherefore it came to pass, when the time was come about after Hannah had conceived, that she bare a son, and his name Samuel, saying, Because I have asked (Strongs Hebrew #7592 -sha'al) him of the Lord. I Samuel 1:20
The Hebrew word for 'asked' (H7592) is used 40 times in both books of Samuel. Samuel's name, according to Hannah means asked of God! I think that is pretty significant. Most of these uses are translated as ask, asked,  and enquired. There are several 'salute and 'greet' which involve "asking thee of peace" as asking after one's welfare and offering peace. Another English translation of sha'al is 'lent' which connotes asking to borrow something. The word 'lent' doesn't seem to fit exactlyt here. It may be an error in translation. Does a person 'lend' their child to God?

27 For this child I prayed; and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked H7592 of him:
28 Therefore also I have lent 
H7592  him to the Lord; as long as he liveth he shall be lent H7592 to the Lord. And he worshipped the Lord there. I Samuel 1:27-28

 God had granted Hannah's petition with a child that would serve God all the days of his life. After Samuel's birth Hannah was full of joy and thanksgiving to God.  She would raise him up in the weaning period which was longer than what we know of today. She stayed home from the yearly worship trip until she was finished. Elkanah went along with her decision on this.

 Hannah was a 'type' for Mary. Other great women in the Bible like Deborah and Esther were women who served in saving God's people. Mary, Hannah, Elizabeth and others served through maternity. Their songs in I Samuel 1:2-10 and Luke 1:46-55 of praise are strikingly similar. The period of time in the early years of a child are precious and these records show the ability of children to understand the love of God:
26 And the child Samuel grew on, and was in favour both with the Lord, and also with men. I Samuel 1:26
52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man. Luke 1:52

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Hannah and God (1 Samuel 1 Part 2)

Getting deeper into chapter 1 of I Samuel, we get a glimpse of Hannah's trust in God as she slipped away from her family to pray alone for her particular challenge in her living situation:
9 So Hannah rose up after they had eaten in Shiloh, and after they had drunk. Now Eli the priest sat upon a seat by a post of the temple of the Lord. 10 And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the Lord, and wept sore. 11 And she vowed a vow, and said, O Lord of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the Lord all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head. I Samuel 1:9-11
On the surface, this looks like she is trying to influence God in answering her prayer.  It actually shows her trust in God. Whether a vow is right or wrong in God's eyes is not the what God looks at. It is the heart that God reads, not the vow. People of this culture made vows to God frequently.

To be 'given unto the Lord' meant that she would be turning her child over to the religious leader, in this case Eli, to serve God.  This involved another act of trust, as we shall read on in Samuel.   Eli was not the sharpest crayon in the box of spiritual awareness:
12 And it came to pass, as she continued praying before the Lord, that Eli marked her mouth.13 Now Hannah, she spake in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard: therefore Eli thought she had been drunken.14 And Eli said unto her, How long wilt thou be drunken? put away thy wine from thee. I Samuel 1:12-14
Hannah's answer exposes her heart. She didn't go after Eli for his mis-judgment and lack of spiritual perception, she explains simply:
 15 And Hannah answered and said, No, my lord, I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit: I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but have poured out my soul before the Lord. 16 Count not thine handmaid for a daughter of Belial: for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief have I spoken hitherto. I Samuel 1:15
Hannah knew who she was and she knew who was her God.  It is not easy being around people who misjudge, especially in the religious category. It happens all the time. Had Hannah not been so secure in her God, she might have either been reactive in self-righteous anger or have maybe even felt cringing shame.  Instead, she responded by enlightening Samuel's eyes:
 17 Then Eli answered and said, Go in peace: and the God of Israel grant thee thy petition that thou hast asked of him. 1 Samuel 1:9-17
God answered her prayer not Eli. So often in life we trade the great peace of knowing our God for worrying about what people think.  It is so easy to do. We are affected by a culture today that may be more chaotic and pagan than the culture of Hannah's day. We, however, have greater options in that we live under a new covenant with the grace of knowing our Lord Jesus Christ and what his life means to us. We have power, love and peace because of the assurance that was his is now ours. It is something we need to remind each other about as we deal with our own challenges of living in this world. Isn't that what the ministry of reconciliation is all about?


Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Lord of Hosts (I Samuel Part 1)

I Samuel is a record that completes the Judges era and transitions to the Kings era in the Old Testament timeline. Samuel was very involved as a judge and prophet during this transition time. Samuel was a great man for God.  He lived, as many of God's other prophets have, in the middle of difficult times. His great story starts with his family.

The opening record of I Samuel focuses on the family of Samuel. Elkanah was Samuel's father and Hannah was his mother. Elkanah had two wives, Hannah and Peninnah, and this arrangement caused, as one would expect, many problems. It was a polygamous marriage and as such, was not the way God designed marriage. It is an indication of the downward spiral that was going on in God's people at that time. It was obviously a far cry from the idyllic life of the garden of Eden.

Hannah (whose name in Hebrew means 'grace'), was a great woman who loved God. In the beginning chapter she had no children with Elkanah.  The people of that culture at that time believed that the 'Lord had closed her womb'. They didn't know very much about how the devil worked the power and authority he had gained at the time of Genesis 3 when Eve had a run-in with the serpent in Eden.   God is the author  and offerer of love and encouragement, the devil is the pusher of evil and oppression.

Most believe that Elkanah was a levite and lived in Ephraim.  Levites didn't own land and therefore were found throughout other tribes.  Elkanah went yearly to worship at Shiloh were the Ark of the Covenant was located.  His two wives and children went with him.
3 And this man went up out of his city yearly to worship and to sacrifice unto the Lord of Hosts in Shiloh. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, the priests of the Lord, were there. I Samuel 1:3
God is the true leader and protector of his people as the 'Lord of Hosts'  Hannah uses the same name when she prayed to God for a son as recorded in I Samuel 1:11.  A 'host' can can be an angelic army or a human army. Regardless, the effect is on protection. Since the events recorded in Genesis 3, another negative force gained access to the people of the earth as it still does today.  Where people chose to ignore God, things became contaminated and opened the door for a world to exist that was not like it was when God made it originally. Polygamy wasn't God's idea, it was man's.

God worked through those he could work through to protect his people. People in the Old Testament were in the dark about the devil and his influence.  Many attributed the evil struggles that existed to God.  People do the same today even though we live in in the New Covenant period of the risen Messiah. Jesus Christ's purpose (I John 3:8) in bringing in the New Testament Covenant, was to destroy the works of evil. God is all good. There is no darkness in him at all. We limit God when we accept the darkness that the world has to offer as being from God.

Hannah was someone who loved God. It is significant that she was instrumental in helping the dire situation that had developed in the culture of the twelve tribes. She had a baby named Samuel who would grow up, hear from God,  judge Israel, and anoint David who was also well aware of the Lord God of Hosts. David addresses God as the 'Lord of Hosts several times in the books of Samuel. David relied on the Lord of Hosts.




Saturday, November 18, 2017

We Need Some More Pilgrims Not Programs

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of all, partly because it has not been tampered with as much as the other holidays (notwithstanding Black Friday). There is a lot to be thankful for and thankfulness  is a calm balm that is truly encouraging.

My grandparents were dairy farmers in a small town in Connecticut. Part of the house they lived in dates back more than 300 years ago.  The town and surrounding area still radiates the history of early America. Every time I have traveled to New England, I feel the history of those people who bravely set out to find freedom in order to live the kind of life God intended for them.  Our literature today reflecting back on that time period, along with most of the history books in school, are skewed by the political leanings and ideologies of their authors. The diaries and logs of the men and women who lived back then are the best places to go to truly understand the history of that era in American history.

Loving God has so little to do with the 'ought to' mentality.  The people of early Plymouth didn't do the things they did out any duty they felt they needed to perform. Their actions speak of a firm acknowledgement of knowing a loving God in much the same way as men like Moses, Joshua, Daniel, Isaiah, Deborah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, David and many others of the Bible. The fruit of their labors and beliefs are easily recognized today, even with the confusion and chaos that is constantly stirring things up.

God tells us to pray for those who are in authority:
2 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; 2 For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. 1 Timothy 2:1-2
It is a relief!!! to pray and  not an obligation! We can all excel in prayer and be so much the more blessed.  The pilgrims knew the value and love of humble prayer. Their government was simple. They knew the God who loved them.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Recently, I was having a conversation with a friend and we got to talking about respect and the current culture. He made a statement to me that it was important to respect people's beliefs. I had to think about that for a moment. In my own mind, I think it is important to respect others as people but not necessarily to respect their beliefs. We respect people's right to choose what they believe as long as it doesn't violate the welfare and freedom of another person.

The word 'respect' is composed of two sub-words 're' and 'spect' or 'to look back on'. 'Giving consideration' can be another shade of meaning. In relationships and in our conversations, we are never alone or ever without effect on one another. Wonderful loving conversations are thoughtful and respectful and hopefully not selfish.  We are all too human at times, but that doesn't mean that that we never stand up for what we believe in and speak truthfully and openly. Often that can be the most loving (love is the key) thing to do for another person. Words have power and we should use them wisely. There are also times when the most lovingly wise thing to do is to be silent. The situation determines the thoughtful choice. (I just hope we are not too much in a hurry to figure that all out)

The Corinthian culture at the time of the New Testament had a lot of similarities to our culture today especially in philosophy of life and social issues. Paul, in writing to them about the beautiful concept of grace, was clear in enlightening his readers on the love of God and true freedom.
12 All things are lawful (allowed, permitted) unto me, but all things are not expedient (beneficial, profitable): all things are lawful for me, but (emphatic 'but') I will not be brought under the power of any. 1 Corinthians 6:12
We can become slaves to the culture and the philosophies of the day.  We can even be enslaved by our own appetites, emotions and thinking.  The point Paul is making is that God's heart is that we are free from things unprofitable and that do not benefit us if we so choose. He cannot control those things that are set in our path to enslave us. He does however gives us a lot of resources to help us and then he leaves the choice up to us.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Strong in The Grace

Grace is not such a difficult concept when one looks at how it is used in the Gospels, Acts and the New Testament. In Luke 1:30, it is translated as 'favor' in regards to Mary when an angel tells her to 'fear not' about the task God was asking of her in bringing forth and raising his son. Having a normal child involves much work and is sometimes tough, but this was the son of God! I'm sure she was blessed to know God had her back. How else could any human handle that!

Fifty days after the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 12 men were sitting in the temple when the gift of holy spirit was given first to the apostles. Peter rose up and shared what had happened. He encouraged the community of believers that were  there also to receive the gift. 
38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
39 For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.Acts 2:38
Three thousand people standing by received the gift. As they all celebrated this great event of God's divine favor, they were:
47 Praising God, and having (sharing) favour (grace) with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved. Acts 2:47
They all shared in the grace. God had their backs too. In the epistles, that is written to these believers and 'all that were afar off', the apostle Paul further further illuminated about the gift of holy spirit. This is for us today! The grace of God is available to all who choose to believe and our reception of favor from God is dependent on our humility towards God and in utilization of what he has given us. (James 4:6).

In II Timothy 2:1-2 the understanding of what we are to do with this grace is spelled out to Timothy:
2 Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.
Timothy was a worker for Jesus Christ and God encouraged him be strong in the favor of the risen Christ as the receipt of salvation and to teach 'others' so that they can teach 'others'.  Those 'others' will teach 'others', and those 'others' will teach 'others'.............

Friday, October 27, 2017

The 12 Uses of Grace in Ephesians


Uses of Grace in Ephesians:

1.  Ephesians 1:2 Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

2.  Ephesians 1:6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.

3.  Ephesians 1:7 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;

4.  Ephesians 2:5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ , (by grace ye are saved ;) 6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:

5-6 Ephesians 2:7-8
 That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

7.   Ephesians 3:2 If ye have heard of the dispensation (administration) of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:

8-9 Ephesians 3:7-8
 Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. 8 Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given , that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;

10.  Ephesians 4:7 But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.

11.  Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace to the hearers

12. Ephesians 6:24 Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen

The Philistines and Defeat

As Samuel was continuing to hear  from God, the Philistines decided to attack Israel. The elders of Israel decided that they needed to take ...