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

Friday, October 20, 2017

Jesus Christ and The Gift of Holy Spirit

Jesus Christ was/is an amazing man.  He was/is the son of God. In I John 3:8b, the Word of God says:
For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.
As recorded in Genesis, evil got a foothold in this world and grew, influenced and expanded into people's lives. God's original creation suffered for its intrusion. The devil has influenced where ever he could get a foothold. The manifestations of his handiwork are everywhere. He moves with ideas, thinking, confusion and chaos. Often evil is very obvious, but in order for it to really succeed, it must mask itself and hide behind facades that will deceive unwary targets.

Specifically, the adversary nips away at the word of God in people's lives. Religion is one of evil's greatest disguises. The devil knows God's word and he knows how to misuse it.  That is how people get turned off to the truth. The truth gets twisted and people get confused. Then they blame God. If they don't blame God, they sometimes water down the truth to make it palatable with today's trends. The beauty of the word is that it is relevant throughout time.

Other disguises and twists center on marriage and family, finances and economy, government, idols in our culture, health and nutrition and many more categories. God-inspired people have contributed immensely to our culture in godly ways. Evil inspiration does just the opposite.

It was God's plan in his son that was to save those that are affected by the tentacles of darkness. Jesus Christ came and his purpose was/is to expose light on the dreadful works of the adversary. Jesus Christ is the chief cornerstone in the foundation of the living church. He is alive and well. He directs and guides to build up the church in the right direction.

When Jesus Christ walked this earth with the 12 apostles, he gave them power and authority to use that power:
Then he called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases. Luke 9:1
He then did the same to seventy others as recorded in Luke 10:17. On the day of Pentecost, the power of God was poured out to an even larger group composed of some 3000 souls ( Acts 2:38-41) as promised by Jesus Christ just before he ascended:
4 And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. 5 For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the holy spirit not many days hence. Acts 1:4-5
If you continue to read the book of Acts, more people, including the Gentiles, were brought into access to the power of God. This is spelled out to us in the Romans through Thessalonians so that we too may walk in the same power.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Grace* is the Power of God!

'Grace' is a much talked about word in the Bible.  This is a big concept and I dare say no one will ever know all there is to know about it, it is that big!

Honestly, I'm not sure that many people who are talking about grace really understand it. I have to admit that I haven't completely understood what it fully means. At times I get confused when I read articles about grace. We hear a lot of words about hyper-grace, forgiveness grace, grace myths, grace truth, grace vs law, grace vs works and so many others. What people say before they eat is called 'grace'. When I look at how God uses the word, things start to clear up. When you get grace straight, peace in your heart follows!

Paul encouraged Timothy:
1Thou 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. II Timothy 2:1-2
What does it mean to be strong in grace that is in Christ Jesus? I could look at the Greek words and try to come up with some idea of what it is saying. If you just look at what it says simply, Timothy was encouraged to be strong in the whole concept of a risen Messiah. Jesus Christ was raised from the dead, In that one event, the opposition to God took a huge blow. That is how salvation is promised in Romans 10:9-10.

On the day of Pentecost, as recorded in the Book of Acts, 3000 people received the gift of holy spirit which empowered them with strength and their response was:
46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,
47 Praising God, and having favour (grace) with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved. Acts 2:46-47
These 3000 believers were sharing grace and they were praising God.  As they received the gift and the spiritual abilities the gift bestowed, they were changed. Timothy was encouraged to teach faithful men who could teach others. Paul, in the church epistles, taught more about what they had received. The whole idea was to spread the word, thus enabling others to have the same power.

God gives grace.  It is evidence of how he loves. He wants to empower those he loves.  In Ephesians, the word 'grace is used 12 times. Check it out. It is all about God's salvation and wholeness in our lives.
* Grace rules: Eph 1:2,6,7;  2:5,7,8;  3:2,7,8;  4:7,29; 6:24

Sunday, October 1, 2017

The Fulness of God -Not a Distant God


Jesus Christ contained the complete filling of the Godhead.  'Godhead' was used interchangeably with the word 'Godhood' (Some theologians say it is a Middle English variant and some say it is a synonym). The '-hood' suffix as found in manhood, childhood or neighborhood, and personhood, is a word that describes the qualities or state of being (essence) of the entity it is describing. It is about the 'what' rather than 'who'. (Check out Acts 17:29, Romans 1:20, Colossians 2:9)
For in (Jesus Christ) him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. 10 And ye are complete (Greek = pleroo) in him, which is the head of all principality and power: Colossians 2:9-10
The fulness (pleroma) of the qualities of God flourished in Jesus Christ. He was filled to the brim with God's goodness and as as result we are complete (pleroo related to the word 'pleroma') in him. In Ephesians this same fulness and completeness is described:
19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. Ephesians3:19
Verse 19 a pretty interesting statement.  How are we filled with all the fulness of God? God is spirit and we are filled with is His spirit through Jesus Christ. God is not a distant God, He is relational and this is how He set it up.  Jesus Christ was raised and now sits at the right hand of God. God as a spirit (John 4:24) doesn't have a right hand.  This is an example of a figure of speech that paints a picture to show the authority of Christ. Christ today is alive and active and building the true church. He communicates through the spirit. The spirit is not a person but an essence that does the filling.

What does all this mean? It seems like a really important concept to understand. God is powerful, just and good and desires the best for his kids but he doesn't violate free-will. It is our choice to to recognize, love and trust God and all that he provides. Our ultimate blessing results in power, love and an inherent soundness that rejects fear.
 


Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Romans 1: God's Natural Design

God is everywhere.  His Word is everywhere in everything he created! Look at the functional design of a leaf as it exists on the branches of a tree, or the beauty of  the night stars as they twinkle at us. I love to sit on a beach and look out to where the horizon meets the sky.  It is majestic! Everything God has created in nature is to bless us. We are blessed with sunrises, sunsets, flowers, magnificent birds and animals all intended to remind us of God's love:
For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Romans 1:20
The human body is remarkably designed. It is one of God's greatest works. Its ability to grow, develop, reproduce, repair and heal is unsurpassed by anything man has attempted to design. The human mind has the ability to think and choose; again, another reminder of the love of God.

One of the greatest treats that you can do for yourself is to go out and take a walk through the woods, or stroll on the beach and look at all that has been provided for us. The closer you look at the details of God's creation, the more perfect it becomes. The opposite is true of man's work unless it is inspired by God.

When man attempts to redefine life on his own terms, and twists God's word or even dismisses God entirely, he thumbs his nose at God.  There are other people who have pushed to go beyond God's word in terms of laws, traditions and requirements.  They seem energetic but are actually presumptuous in the thinking that God can be improved. If a person thinks he can improve upon God, he just hasn't really seen God. It is through this type of unbelief that people get cheated out of a life free and abundant. We should never consent or go along with the pressure of the world to conform or accept and condone those things that are opposite to what God has provided. When we do it isn't that God turns his back on us, we turn our backs on God and are not able to see his love clearly.

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 ...