Thursday, May 31, 2007

wherein doth thine heart lie?

2 Samuel 17: 23

And when Ahithophel saw that his counsel was not followed, he saddled his ass, and arose, and gat him home to his house, to his city, and put his household in order, and hanged himself, and died, and was buried in the sepulchre of his father.

One of the more difficult things to deal with, in this life, is dissenting opinion among like-minded people. It is easy to deal with when you are holding discourse with someone who doesn't think like you do - the assumption you bring to the table is simply that you'll either argue or not. Regardless, unless you both take measures to actually listen to one another it is likely you will only wait your turn to speak, and ultimately only touch down on some few common points. And you certainly will not be of like minds because of that single issue.

Not so among believers of the same camp. One of the dangers of being among people who strongly go after the same goals you do, and who are of a mind similar to yours, is that any sudden change is actually shocking. If you and your brother spent the last twenty years only fishing in your spare time, and then tomorrow he asks you if you want to take up language study, it is likely your first response will not be "sure!" but rather "who are you?" Moreover, if your brother explains his reasons, no matter how good, there will be a transition point where you will have to truly evaluate your own fundamental beliefs in this regard.

How much more so for Ahithophel here - he and Absalom were in one accord, seeking to take out David and put Absalom on the throne. They were gung-ho for it, and God seemed to be blessing many of the efforts that were geared toward that goal. But Absalom and Ahithophel were not being led by God - and I believe Ahithophel realized this. It is why he killed himself.

I bring this verse to bear as a reminder - our eyes should be not be focused on our peers, our loved ones, our goals, our friends, our families, or ourselves. They should be focused on God. Any other focus will bring condemnation and death.


I - Pray a song of praise

God has done marvelous things in your life!

Claim ten things that He did that made a profound difference in your life. Include anything YOU feel God did in your life.

example(s): a new job, a check that covered a debt, a new wife, a sunrise that made you day better, a pay raise, no fighting during a family outing

II - Pray another song of praise

God has done even more marvelous things in your life!!

Claim ten events or duties you take for granted that clearly indicate God's presence in your life.

example(s): perfect weather, water, food, divine providence, not feeling right about which path to take and thus not having an accident

III - Pray for guidance

God has a plan for your day!

Claim God's guidance today

- set aside 15 minutes to ask him for guidance about the issues of your day.

- set aside 30 minutes to listen to his answers.

- hearken to His guidance throughout the day for those answers that did not click yet.

IV - Pray a song of thanksgiving

God is real!

Thank Jesus for planning your day.

Give praise and glory to the most high God for knowing what you need even before you are aware.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

God save the king II

2 Samuel 16:16

And it came to pass, when Hushai the Archite, David's friend, was come unto Absalom, that Hushai said unto Absalom, God save the king, God save the king.

It is interesting that scripture now tells of Hushai speaking "God save the king, God save the king". The last point in scripture that held that phrase were the Israelites saying the same about Saul. The one speaking it is Hushai. From 2 Sam 15:34 we have evidence of just how old Hushai is - for David reigned over 40 years, and Hushai was David's father's servant. I assume this meant David's biological father - regardless, Hushai is likely at least 60 years of age, and has seen Saul in action. He knows what kind of king Saul turned out to be, and so we see, from Hushai's lips, what kind of king Absalom is, in Hushai's eyes. Someone possibly chosen by the Lord, but someone who needs to be saved by the Lord, because they are making poor choices. And this is the beginning of Absalom's fall as well.

Not that David wanted Absalom to die. David had fought wars prior; he knew the ins and outs of how to wage conflict. He even knew he had done wrong early on - in 2 Sam 16:5, we have one of the local's cursing David. His people are ready to jump up and defend him, and David speaks plainly, indicating that if the Lord wishes him to be cursed, then cursed he shall be. It may even be that the Lord will "requite" him good for it. Regardless, David knows enough about God that he knows he messed up. It is hard not to stare it in the face when your own son tries to take the throne from you without your consent. Further confirmation that David did not hate Absalom can be found 2 Sam 19, where the reigning king of Israel weeps over his son.

So I bring you back to the phrase "God save the king". Akin to Shakespeare's "me think you protesteth too much", the phrase (in practice) seems to imply, not that the speaker is seeking God's presence, but more that there is an implied "us from" between the 'save' and the 'the'. Which brings me to today's ...


What do YOU say about others that you only mean in a half-hearted way?

Do you greet people with a friendly wave, not because you earnestly wish their well-being - but because it is good manners?

Do you involve God in your interactions with people explicitly, expecting Him to provide guidance in the mundane as well as profound events in your life?

Do you find yourself dealing too harshly (or not harshly enough) with people to take your time and energy?

Today's call to action is simple:

I . Pray before you speak.

Before you speak any phrase today, give a silent prayer to God that the words out of your lips are His words and hold His intent

Before you share an opinion, describe something, talk shop, speak at a meeting, or engage in discourse of any kind, pray.

Before you open your mouth at all today, each time, pray to God for His wisdom.

II . Pray before you think.

Pray immediately after hearing anything

Pray immediately after seeing anything

Pray immediately after drinking anything

Pray immediately after eating anything

Pray immediately after walking anywhere

Even if you cannot do it all day, try doing it for an hour. Or maybe four.

You should feel foolish initially. Pray through that.

You should feel over-busy a little after that. Pray through that as well.

In a short while, you should have a little more faith. Pray a praise of thanksgiving.

Do it for as long as you can. Track the changes and witness the results with a fellow believer.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Prayer of Faith

Over the past recent months, I have been learning the power of effective prayer and what it takes to stand by the prayer I have prayed. Mostly, the difficulty doesn’t lie in the prayer… it lies in the belief of that prayer.

Faith is such a simple thing. Faith is easy to have when things are going right, the sun is shining, and answers come quickly. This is not a true indicator of your faith. It is when the sun becomes obscured with clouds and everything goes wrong, when answers seem never to come – it is during those blackest moments of tempest that true faith blossoms forth.

True faith believes. True faith is not just believing, but ACTING like what you have prayed has already been granted. Yes, you prayed for money to pay the bills this month, but what did you DO after you prayed? Did you immediately begin to fret in your mind about how the bills would be paid or where the money would come from? Did your imagination take you down the road of electricity and water cut-offs? Or did you pray again the next morning for money to take care of the bills?

This is not faith.

Faith utters the prayer for the provision for bills and then believes. Faith rejoices and finds hope and peace in the knowledge that God is taking care of it and He will provide the necessary funds/provision at just the right moment. Faith holds fast and does not waiver, standing before God and claiming His promises. Faith never doubts and does not fret. Faith always believes God will come through in the end, no matter how black the situation appears at the present.

Every morning, as I pray, I thank God for the many things I have prayed for. I thank Him because I believe He has already answered my prayers... I'm just waiting for the manifestation of His blessings. Every morning as I give that thanks (and sometimes it's more of a sacrifice of praise than others), I become tickled by the fact that the wording for giving thanks for an event which has not manifested yet is EXACTLY THE SAME wording as giving thanks for an event which has already occurred!!

For instance, I have been praying for some time now for the Lord to supernaturally provide a way for me to pay off my debts faster. I prayed once and every day say, "Thank you for providing a supernatural way for me to pay off my debts faster." A couple weeks ago, the Lord did indeed provide a supernatural way for me to pay off all my debts faster than I had believed possible! The next morning, as I thanked God now for an event which had happened, I laughed as I heard the exact same thank-you sentence come out of my mouth - not for something I believed would one day show up, but for a prayer God had answered!

My excitement was high as I realized the power contained in this form of praying; the form of praying once and then, every time that situation pops into my head, thanking God for answering that prayer. It really works and I have seen more miracles and answers to prayer in the past few months than I have seen in a long time. God loves faithfulness and He loves when we believe He will do what He promised. We are His children and He is our Father; how could He not delight in our faithfulness to Him?

And so it is that I have come to the living realization that the purest form of faith is to truly wait on God for His timing and His answers to our prayers. He is outside of our dimensions and can see so much more than we can. Trust Him to take care of all your concerns and if you find yourself lacking faith to believe, ask Him for that too… He will give it.

“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”

Hold fast in purest of faiths… stand and see the salvation and majesty of God as He works in your life, proving Himself time and time again to be a loving Father and Guardian of His children.

Faithfulness - is what He wants from us

Today I speak of faithfulness. It is not a hard topic to understand. It is a hard topic to choose, consistently. Put to other words, it is hard to be faithful in faithfulness.

One reason is the necessity of being attentive. In the latter years of David's reign, the people's loyalty to David were taken away by a man who was extremely attractive named Absalom. We have David's lagging attentiveness (which eventually led toward the people being drawn away from him). Likewise, we have the children of Israel not being attentive to follow after the Lord's anointed. In a very real sense, we see a model of how Satan likely tried usurping the throne of Christ. On earth, the plan worked a great deal better than in heaven. Regardless, the short and long-term results were to glorify God.

Another reason is the necessity of being steadfast. When Jesus was at the height of his popularity he was approached by thugs directed by a prior disciple and, through a kiss, Jesus was betrayed to the earthly powers-that-be. Jesus had the authority to pull any number of angels to change the events that lay before him. But Jesus was faithful in the execution of his duties, even to His own death. Again, we see the results of faith-based action resulting in God being glorified.

A third reason is the necessity of accountability. When the ten virgins were made aware of the approaching bride-groom, they rushed to meet him. Half had enough oil to sustain themselves. The other half missed the boat. If all ten had been accountable to one another, there would have been ten wives for the groom. Instead, five virgins missed out on what they had likely spent their lives in preparation. Again, we see the reality of faith-based decision making evidencing God's glory, as well as the awareness that choosing the path of steadfast faithfulness realizing the reward set aside for faithful believers.

The simplest approach to resolving the tendency toward faithlessness is captured in many points in scripture. From Revelation's note that those who are faithful to the last (receiving nearly every reward) to the same captured in the psalms (for example, where it suggests the love of the law is exemplified by meditating on it all day - every day).

There are two aspects to faithfulness - the daily and the hourly

  • Hourly
    • - Over-arching focus on the immediate
    • Are you being faithful to the responsibilities of your house, your job, your spouse, your family, your vehicles?
    • Is your heart focused on the faithful execution of your duties?
    • Is there any duty or responsibility you take for granted?
    • Is it possible, your mind wanders while in the faithful execution of those duties?

  • Daily
    • - Over-arching focus on accomplishing God's goals
    • Are you mindful of what God has given you to accomplish?
    • Are you working, daily, on your goals?
    • Are you seeing measureable increases in faith over time?
    • Are you evidencing the fruit of the spirit?


Spend half an hour today in prayer, talking to God, asking him to convey to you in what manner you should be faithful in today.

Ask Him to help plan you day in such a way that you take care of your responsibilities AND resolution of faithfulness.

Ask Him also to reveal to you your next big AND little step, to be mindful of both.

Discover someone in your life to whom you can be accountable to and charge them to be accountable to you as well.

You may note that it will bear the most fruit to find a person who already loves God.

Develop a Godly relationship of accountability with this person.

Friday, May 25, 2007

light, life, and love

There are a great number of expectations each of us bring to the table each day. We expect certain things to be true. The sun will rise. We will be able to breathe the air. And there will be a longing to draw near God.

The question is - what are you doing about it?

You know the sun has risen or is rising.

Every day has this beginning, this same beginning with which scripture begins. The first thing God made was the light. So does every day begin. In fact "the evening and the morning" are how a day are defined. Thus, our lives as a whole start (whether we admit or acknowledge it or not) with light.

Every day has breath. The first mention of breath was, that of God breathing giving life to Adam, also in Genesis. Again, each day we are renewed through the breathing in of life, through the breathing in of nourishing oxygen, and through the breathing in of the potential God fills each of our days. Thus, our lives individually start with breathe, following the light.

Every day we have a longing for God. It is this longing that drives you to learn, grow, laugh, and interact with others. It drives you to find something to satisfy it. And it is only resolved through the recognition that its source and resolution are God Himself. Every day is fraught with opportunities to choose to rekindle and renew our relationship with God; however, most of us only recognize a fraction of them.

Call to action

  • Read through Psalms 119 verses 33-48

    • Notice how each passage indicates an expectation of God

    • We are to seek God, but we need Jesus to recognize that fact and we need God to actually find Him

    • We need Jesus in every step of the way

  • Pray that God will reveal Himself to you today

    • Notice how every major event, as well as the minor events, occur

    • Thank Him for every event you notice

    • Thank Him for every event you notice others experience.

  • Share your events with God

    • Have a chat with God, discussing what you saw in them and what He would have you learn from them

    • Have a chat with a believing peer who loves God, engaging in co-witnessing.

    • Have a chat with a non-believer

  • Recognize God's touch is miraculous

    • Events can always go far worse or last much longer

    • Learn to hearken to God's presence and and how His influence miraculously improves your day

    • Pray for understanding of how your life draws others to Christ

    • Pray for wisdom about how to be a blessing to God

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Foot Washing

Foot washing is an interesting concept to me and one I’m not sure I completely “get.” Some people are moved to tears as they perform this act for another, but, personally, I’m not sure what’s so special about it. Perhaps I am not looking at this act in the correct way or with the right mindset…

Foot washing was one of the last things Jesus did before he died. After the Last Supper was eaten, he got up, removed all his clothing and replaced it with just a towel, and took a bowl of water. He washed all his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he was wearing.

Peter’s attitude was initially a lot like mine; Don’t wash my feet! In response to Jesus’ “If I don’t wash them, you have no part of me.” Peter requested that not only his feet, but also his hands and head be included. As he finished, he told his disciples that he had given them an example of what they should do.

I think some believe this mandate applies to the actual act of foot washing. It is true, Jesus did tell the disciples that if he, the Son of God, had washed their feet, they should not hesitate to wash each others in like manner… the manner of a servant.

It seems to me that his point was to serve each other, especially those who are higher up. We are not to be separated by the ranks of prestige or power, but are to look to stoop as low as we can in service to each other, no matter how menial the service.

Jesus said, “I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if you do them.”

While I see no problem with foot washing, I do have a caution about placing it in such high estimation. It seems to me Jesus used the example, not the mandate, of foot washing to convey how we are to humble and submit ourselves one to another; the greatest of all serving the least of all.

Again, I could be wrong… maybe I just haven’t hit the right spot in my relationship with God for this to mean as much to me as it does to others. I’m not against foot washing, just cautious at making it such a big deal.

How clean are your feet?

Foot-washing hearkens back to a time when physical contact was something different. In Jerusalem, at the time of Jesus, leprosy was common, as was the possibility of being stoned. We're talking old-testament times. In addition, hygiene, although not a concept explicitly discussed, is implicitly included in Solomon's laws, and the result is that physical contact held the association and perception of a great many more dangers than we're likely familiar with but a greater degree of intimacy than we're familiar with. If a simple hug could convey friendliness, acceptance, a neutral and affectionate greeting, and a loving thought, how much more would a foot washing?

In addition, the concept of general cleanliness in the Jerusalem in question was markedly distinct from what we would call normal in our "modern-day American" way. Private access to running water was probably only realized by a few wealthy people - and then likely not for washing but for aesthetic pleasure. Regardless, there were public pools, separate for each gender, where people could be baptized or engage in holy rituals, and so the concept of cleanliness as something that is sought after was more sacred to the people of Jerusalem than it is today. Thus, to complement the intensity physical contact had, we have the Jerusalem of Jesus' day reflecting a greater conscientiousness toward cleanliness - certainly a greater association with spirituality than is often given credence today.

Third, one of the keynotes of Jesus’ presence was that of service. Classism is something we as Americans often take for granted as not being a significant factor in decisions. True, there is an implicit classism created by the presence or lack of resources, but the actual reality of classism was something intrinsic to Israel society, not because of resources, but because of social more - thus it was often unheard of that individuals would cross those social morasses between mores to interact, let alone SERVE one another. This is one of the reasons that Jesus' message was so profound - it implied that your profession didn't define your life, that people should be encouraged to function with one another (instead of within their caste), and that opportunities for service were something to be sought instead of avoided.

Additionally, we are called, as believers, to associate certain body parts with certain spiritual girding. In particular, the feet are intended to be shod with the preparation of the gospel. Certainly a simple enough metaphor - being founded and grounded in the WORD certainly provides appropriate fodder with which to grow in an edifying way and also protects those very same feet from stumbling when one interacts with the numerous obstacles that seek out the believer's life. How much more, when we consider the above three points, does being shod with the preparation of the gospel lend applicability?

Thus, the washing of feet wasn't just a ritual that we might observe as anachronistic event, observable on the outside but with no real relevance to today's "modern-day American" lifestyle, but has direct and literal repercussions to how we might consciously consider our own actions, at the very least as they concern interaction with others, the necessity of personal dedication to holiness and sacredness, and the responsibility to seek servitude, not its own sake, but as a means of glorifying God.
And it has a direct line of action to today's ...


  • Wash a loved one's feet

    Find someone you respect as a believer and ask them to set aside time to provide an opportunity to wash their feet

    Prior to the washing, convey what washing feet means for you

    During the washing, be mindful of Jesus' command to wash one another's feet

  • Have that same loved one wash your feet

    Ask the same person if they've ever considered what importance having spiritually and physically clean mean

    Ask them to wash your feet, being mindful of Jesus' command to wash one another's feet

  • Shod your feet

    Dedicate your life in a renewed way to cleansing your feet

    Dedicate time daily to read and consider scripture

    time daily to build on your relationship with God

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Strait Blessings

I have been amazed and bereft of speech when it comes to how God can bless obedience and submission to His plans!

For over two years now, I have been purposefully and willfully choosing to submit and to be obedient to God’s plans and timing with respect to a certain issue. It has, without a doubt, been the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do my entire life. So many times, it would have been much easier to walk away from my authority and simply do that which seemed right in my own eyes.

Throughout this long journey, two paths were clearly discernable. The easy path was broad and inviting, lined with alluring promises and tempting offers. The other path was excruciatingly narrow and limiting, lined with boulders and strewn with obstacles.

Robert Frost talks about two paths diverging in a wood; one clearly defined and well-trodden, the other not as clear. Like the narrator of his poem, I chose – emphasis on choice - the more difficult, less-traveled, limited path. Many times along that rocky walk I questioned the sanity of what I was doing. Why would I subject myself to this difficult life path?

Because I had a promise. God had promised me at the very beginning that I would attain a life prize at the end… but I had to do it His way, not mine. Filled with fluffy and excited thoughts, I set foot on that path toward that promise. I had no earthly idea how difficult the road would be. I never guessed just how many rocks, boulders, obstacles, and pitfalls would be along the way. It never occurred to me how painful or how breaking my journey would be. I never thought it would take such a long time to traverse that path and never imagined what mountains I would have to climb or what lonely valleys I would have to tread.

I was never alone… and that with the vision of the promise given to me, urged and encouraged me onward in the harsh, restricting path. Though early on, I had many impulses to turn back and take the other route, at some recent point, the reward was so close that there was absolutely no point in even thinking of turning back or sneaking onto the other route.

The last mountain was actually a mountain range and I had to climb without human aid or consort to its peak. It was on that mountain range that I broke and became emptied of self, seeking only to let God’s will be done… it hurt too much to try and push my own agenda. Yet the struggle was not in vain and, footsore and weary I at last stood on that last mountain, looking into that Promised Land.

I have but taken a few steps down the mountain into that luscious valley and every step has issued jewels and priceless wonders. Blessings and miracles rain down on me at every turn so that I have no words to thank God for them. I cannot believe how much beauty and blessing are in this valley of promise – and I have not even descended the mountain!

Every sacrifice and every tear, every prayer and every cry, every choice to remain on that narrow restricting path has not gone in vain. The testimony of this walk has not gone unnoticed, the lessons learned have not affected only me – this story is much larger than I ever realized.

It is worth it all. I would never have appreciated the blessings which are starting to fall had I not been through the valley of affliction. I am amazed, stunned, blessed, agog with wonder, delighted, overjoyed, fascinated, touched, speechless at how God has blessed my faithfulness to Him. He has opened doors I never would have imagined and worked miracles my mind could not conceive of.

Now truly may I and those witnesses to my story say, “This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.”

Monday, May 21, 2007

A praying people equally yoke their nation

In the thirty-first chapter of first Samuel, many things happen, not the least of which is that Saul commits suicide. It certainly wasn't something you knew was going to happen, but Saul had been increasingly unstable, never really wanted to be king in the first place, and when the fire became too hot, instead of calling out to the Lord, he ran to death. Note Saul's focus in the fourth verse - Saul is not afraid of failing his kingdom, he is not afraid of death - he is afraid of what the Philistines will do to him; in particular, he's afraid of being abused by the Philistines. Soon, after Saul has revealed his fear of being abused by the Philistines, Saul asked his armor-bearer to kill him. Refusing to do so, Saul kills himself.

I am quite certain that on this day Samuel wept. Saul was the king that Samuel had selected, at God's choosing, to lead Israel. Saul, over-and-over, had shown himself to be exactly the type of king Samuel had warned about. Therefore, Samuel likely was relieved that Israel was finally free of Saul - but I believe Samuel wanted Saul to succeed. Samuel, early on, was supportive of Saul, offering him a feast before he was ever king to signify that he was going to be chosen. Soon after Saul was made king, there was another conflict and Saul's true colors shown through where, not waiting for Samuel to arrive, Saul gave the sacrifice in what he thought was the appropriate time.

That was the beginning of the end, for through a series of events Saul no longer acted kingly and lost the kingdom. Later, when David was a thorn in Saul's side (due to Saul's pride and fear), Samuel was also involved. David had been running from Saul and finally wound up running to Samuel. When Saul heard, he sent messengers to claim David. Three times. All three times the messengers stopped their mission and began to prophecy. Eventually even Saul showed up and he too prophesied. What bitter-sweet joy for Samuel to be around David and Saul, both men that God had chosen through him to rise up as kings, both men who had the potential to be great, but only David who truly loved the Lord.

I believe, of the few people who likely wept at the passing of the king, Samuel was high on the list. I believe he prayed for Saul every day of his life, at the very least to turn from his wicked ways, though maybe not for a regaining of the kingship. For that matter, because Jonathan and Saul died the same day, Samuel had double reason to be sorrowful - and yet David was under the Lord's protection and would soon be made king.

Call to action

It is very easy to dislike one's king, president, or ruler. Clearly they are in a position of authority, and that often is a reason alone to dislike someone. This distaste for authority comes from original sin in the Garden of Eden - for it was that same impetus that drew Adam away from God. Another reason to dislike a ruler is if they are unjust - and this is more in line with how God would have our hearts align. And it is here that I implore you to act.

Pray for your leaders

Most people in the world, including you who read these words, are under at least two people's authority. Even if you don't recognize that authority, it is still over you, and it deserves some respect and consideration. First and foremost is God, and second might be a father, a president, an older sibling, and sometimes even a spouse.

Regardless, of the count, those people were placed over you for a reason. God was placed over you to guide and protect you, keep you hearkening to Him, and eventually direct your soul to heaven. You have a great deal of free will about which direction to choose and nearly none about the results of that direction. It is a blessing that there is a significant delay between choice of direction and realization of this direction - that delay gives us all time to veer toward God's intended path.

Your second (and others) are placed above you for various reasons. Sometimes it is to teach you humility, patience, or love. Sometimes it is to bring your heart in-line with God's will. Regardless, those other people who have authority over your life will often be inconvenient to you in one way or the other.

My call to action, for you, is to genuinely pray for those in authority over you. Pray the Lord's prayer, honoring God and letting Him know that you truly honor him. Pray for the others that have authority over you, offing your intercessory prayer to support their needs for wisdom, strength of character, determination to complete goals that become harder as day press on, and satisfaction in doing the job God has for them. Pray that you also will respect and honor those in authority over you. And pray that the will of the people around you are focused on honoring those in authority over them as well.

One amazing benefit of these prayers is that it creates an environment for the whole nation you are a part of to be of one mind and one heart - to be equally yoked. Imagine how potent, focused, and edifying a nation would be if every heart in that nation were aligned with God's will for their lives!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Palace of wisdom: God's mobile home

It has been said that all roads lead to the palace of wisdom. This may be true ... but nobody has ever finished walking the path. One might say that Jesus started there, and the rest of us make our meandering ways trying to get there. One might even say that Solomon was given a road map to there, as well as the keys to the palace. Unfortunately, Solomon also decided he liked the environments surrounding the palace more than the palace itself and eventually chose not to dwell there. I have not heard that God gave those keys to any other human.

Another approach to wisdom it to evaluate what associates itself with wisdom. In so doing, by having more of those things, wisdom itself will be more likely to be present. From scripture, it seems that wisdom is not understanding itself, but is often paired up with it. This suggests that wisdom is the knowledge upon which understand is built. In other words, wisdom might be defined as the right knowing of something. This complements the understanding nicely - you might know what you are supposed to do but never discern why.

Because wisdom concerns itself more with the realities of God's will for your life, even a cursory look at where wisdom shows up will be rewarding. We might concern ourselves with how one might acquire wisdom. Scripture reveals the simplest manner of acquiring wisdom is to petition God for it. There are other ways, to be certain, but the simplest and most direct way to gain wisdom is to ask God. Clearly, this does not mean you will be given the information in your own time - but it gives you an explicit application of the relationship with Jesus and a means by which He can be glorified!

Another approach is found in Philippians chapter four. In this chapter, we are given a list of components to edifying thought-life. The list offers constructive boundaries for determining whether your own thought-life is aligned with God's intent for your thought-life and offers a simple means of gauging often your own thoughts are leading you away from God.

[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.]

I posit that, although these components are not an explicit means of obtaining and being guided by wisdom, your actions will likely reflect wisdom by dwelling on these things. Add in a few gallons of steady prayer and your life will never be the same!

Call to action
Listen to your thoughts
Today, keep a journal with you. Write down whatever pops in your head, particularly anything upon which you spend more than a moment.

Pray about your thoughts
Ask God to reveal to you which of your daily jottings correspond to which of the points from the fourth chapter of Philippians. Also, ask him for guidance in the areas revealed by those thoughts that have little or no association with the points from the fourth chapter of Philippians.

Offer your thoughts
There will be a point, if you ever consider your thoughts in this manner again, that you will realize that God's plan for even your thought-life is better than your own. In that moment, please consider offering every thought to God. Know that each of us could be more aligned with God's plan for our lives if we would keep every thought captive. A way to do this is to gauge their worth and value by the standard offered in Philippians.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Power of Prayer

Today’s post is not complex, but one I needed to express. Over the course of my life, I have time and time again discovered the efficacy of prayer. Not rote, mindless prayers, but prayers that truly come from the heart, that are truly seeking after God’s heart, that are prayed with fervency and faith.

I believe the key to praying and petitioning God lies in how much we believe He will answer that prayer.

Take this scenario. You want to buy a sofa so you call up Sears and order a sofa. The sales representative on the other end of the line takes your order and all your information and assures you the sofa will be delivered in the near future. Excellent. That’s wonderful. The next morning, however, you awake and discover the sofa hasn’t arrived yet. Where could it be? Frustrated, you call back Sears and order another sofa. Once again, the order is taken and all the information recorded with the promise of delivery in the near future. You breathe a sigh of relief. That is, until the next morning when you, once again, awaken to no sofa. Aggravated that your order STILL hasn’t manifested, you call Sears yet again and order another sofa…

I see this process very much how many people pray. There’s a lot of asking and not a whole lot of listening and waiting. I know… I did it too. About half a year ago, the Lord convicted me that I was praying in the wrong way for some very important things. Finally, it seemed nothing was happening so I asked Him to show me how to pray. The answer was to pray once for whatever it was and then every time while I was waiting for the prayer to be noticeably answered, I was to simply thank Him for whatever it was as if I had already received it.

The Bible tells us we have not because we ask not. My natural caveat is that if I want something, I should first take that desire to God and make sure it is something He wants me to have. For instance, I could pray for a million dollars, but that might not be God’s will for me at this point. To avoid falling into the devil’s trap of pointing to the non-appearance of the money as a reason to never trust God again, I believe it is essential to make sure my requests are in line with His will… that way, what I ask WILL be what He wants me to have.

I see prayer very much like the sofa story. So often, we don’t give God a chance to answer our prayers. We offer them up and expect an immediate solution. Now I do believe He answers immediately some times, but other prayers take longer to be answered. The question is: Do you have enough faith to believe He has already answered your prayer? Can you live your life in faith, waiting for His plan to come to perfection?

Many things I have prayed for and the older I get, the more intense and big the prayers get. I have of late been focusing on praying once and then daily thanking God for the things I pray for. Since I started, huge things have happened and God’s blessings and miracles have poured out on me and those around me.

His timing is not always my timing… the challenge is waiting for Him to move and answer instead of assuming He didn’t hear and moving ahead in my own strength.

God hears and He ALWAYS answers prayers – sometimes it’s “Yes,” sometimes it’s “No”… frequently it’s “Wait.”

Non-transitory transitions

Transitions are terrible. They are frightening, wonderful, scary, and interesting. The gross majority of events that are of any import happen during transitions. We are tried more during transitions. Fortunes are often lost and won on-or-about transitions. Indeed, it is the transitions that test our mettle far more than the states they bridge.

Our culture often focuses on states, and mid-states, the result is that we try to recreate those states. Our scientific method is defined by this state obsession - without those definable and repeatedly creatable states, the scientific method would not exist. Nor would a great number of tools and concepts we currently take for granted. Less understood (and thus less investigated) are the transitions. Less effective is the ability to consistently and effectively recreate transitions.

As an example, consider that it took the math world centuries before they had a transition between negative and positive numbers. Now, that transition is so ingrained into us that you would be hard pressed to find anyone that did not become nearly innumerate with the lack of that transition (zero).

Transitions are terrible. They offer the tools for redemption, healing, hope, life, love, and engagement. God does more wonders in transitions than at any other time in a person's life. Most of the people in scripture who were miraculously engaged were put into that position in the midst of transition. The Children of Israel were in transition when the plagues hit. They were also in transition, for decades, as they walked to the promised land. They were in transition when Saul was chosen, by God, to be their king. It was during a transition, in the eighteenth chapter of first Samuel, that Jonathan's soul becomes knit with David's soul.

Looking at this is interesting. Two chapters prior, Saul had first been made aware of David when Saul's countenance could only be appeased through music - Saul did not connect that his peace as truly coming from God, nor that David's presence near him was a foreshadowing of Saul's loss of the kingdom. Then, when Goliath was killed, we have Saul looking into David's background. It is interesting to note that Saul does not concern himself with the David's background until Goliath was killed.

We effectively have what looks like an immediate "out-of-nowhere" connection between Jonathan and David. Likely, during the transition between Saul's background check and Jonathan's spiritual knitting, Jonathan learned a great deal about David. He was already a national hero and thus a public figure. In the same sense, Jonathan must have felt a kinship with him - earlier (possibly years earlier) he had been in a similar scenario. Saul was involved in some sort of skirmish where the nation comprised of the children of Israel was under attack as a nation.

Saul's ungodly choices had put the nation at risk and only Jonathan's intentional and direct seeking of God's will and acting separate from Saul's direction (as well as claiming the victory for God) provided an opportunity for the children of Israel to survive yet another seemingly-impossible scenario and for God's glory to be evident. David experienced similar circumstances when Saul, again, was king and not making godly choices. Saul was (again) cowering in response to Philistines and an underdog rose, hearkened to God, and was a champion of the faith, representing God's will. It is this collection of similarities, as well as whatever changes God wrought, that suggest why Jonathan felt knit to David.

To close, note that Jonathan was a willing servant of God when he fought the Philistines with nothing but the leading of God. Later on, his role was not one of leader, but servant, and he clearly engaged in that whole-heartedly - it is likely what was built on the building blocks of this being knit with David's soul.

Call to action

I believe every one of us is called to be a Jonathan and/or a David.

My challenge to you today is simple: Pray for faith.
  • Pray for the faith to represent your fellow believers.

  • Pray for the faith to heal the sick, speak in tongues, hearken to God, walk in spirit and in truth, worship and pray without ceasing, and have peace when all around you the world is screaming to act.

  • Pray for the faith to stand alone when others, even believers, are moving en masse, and you feel God is leading you to wait.

  • Pray for the faith to act alone when others, especially believers, indicate they are not or will not.

  • Pray for the faith to be faithful.

Above all - pray for faith.

Monday, May 14, 2007

The Importance of Being Obedient

Throughout I Samuel, we read about the lusting after a king by the Children of Israel and the subsequent answer to their prayer. Samuel was distressed that the Israelites would want a human to be their king instead of God, who was their king and he cried out to the Lord – and the Lord told him to give the people what they wanted.

The Israelites wanted a physical man to lead them in their battles, to tell them what to do, to guide them through life; someone they could see and interact with instead of the invisible, omnipotent God who led and guided them.

Samuel told the people the consequences of having a king. Yes, they would get their king, but the cost would be great. This king would take their sons for his armies and their daughters for his household staff. This king would take the best tenth of their fields, vineyards, and oliveyards not for himself, but for his servants. This king would take their servants and the tenth of their sheep. Finally, the Israelites would be the king’s servants.

You would think the Israelites would be deterred in their demand for a king… not a bit! After that terrible list of consequences, the people still rebelled and shouted that they would have a king so they could be like everyone else. And God heard their request and told Samuel to anoint Saul as their king.

Saul was a wonderful king, filled with the spirit of God and anointed to be king over the God’s people of Israel. He led them victoriously in battle and reigned with wisdom. This lasted for all of two years. Saul began to take himself more seriously than he ought and one day, because Samuel hadn’t shown up yet to offer the burnt offering, Saul stepped into that place and offered the burnt offerings himself – an act which was completely in violation of sacrifice protocol.

No sooner had he finished then Samuel appeared. “Thou hast done foolishly,” Samuel told Saul. He hadn’t kept the commandment of the Lord and therefore lost the promise of his kingdom forever in Israel; his lineage were no longer promised the kingdom. And this right at the point in his career when God was about to establish the kingdom on Saul and his descendants forever. Because of his disobedience here, he lost that right.

Some time after this, Saul again disobeyed the Lord in a profound way. Samuel brought the word of the Lord to Saul telling him he was to destroy Amalek completely – every man, woman, and infant; every ox, sheep, camel, and donkey… everything.

The first thing Saul did was to tell the Kenites who lived in Amalek that the should clear out because they had been good to the Israelites… then he started the battle. However, he kept the king alive and he and the people spared the best of all the animals and didn’t completely destroy everything.

When Samuel confronted Saul on this issue, Saul blamed the people and said he had followed the Lord, but the people took the animals to sacrifice with. At that point, God told Samuel that the kingdom had been taken from Saul himself. “To obey is better than sacrifice,” Samuel told Saul. “and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.”

Because of his disobedience, Saul not only lost the promise of the kingdom for his descendents, but he lost his own kingdom a few short years after being anointed. The Lord took His anointing and Spirit from Saul and selected another who would love, serve, and obey Him. Not only that, but evil spirits beset Saul and he was mentally disturbed for the rest of his life.

Saul had lost everything as a direct result of disobedience.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Honor thy mother

In 2007, Mother's Day showed up on the thirteenth day in May, with countless dollars spent on various forms of physical affection, spiritual support, and material evidence of adoration. The fact is that each person with a mother, regardless of the quality of that mother, owe a great deal of debt to that person. The fact that a person has a functional moral system often stems from one's mother.

Add to this the qualities of a good mother - the kind of mother who actually cares about her children. This is something many take for granted, which in-and-of-itself says something wonderful and terrible about the culture those children come from - that a culture would train women to be such amazing women that we can take for granted that a woman will be a wonderful mother.

Certainly this gives a great deal of credit to women without actually specifying it. And given the sheer amount of marketing that goes into guiltily reminding over-busy people to thank their mothers, it seems to be a cultural thing to disassociate with one's mother until mother's day, when all of a sudden you are to quickly communicate how much she meant to you, then spend the next few months ignoring her until thanksgiving.

But I am not here to speak about good mothers. I honor mothers, and I greatly honor good mothers, but there is another category that gets far too little face time but does a great deal more to enhance the quality of life of literally everyone on the planet. This category is the Godly mother, including the mothers who put God before their families, who go to bed crying some nights, praying for their beloved husbands and children, for their neighbors, and often forget themselves, and the mothers who so gently and firmly live out the Proverbs 31 lifestyle (at least its current incarnation) that the men who grow up under the spiritual authority that results have a very hard time valuing and appreciating women who don't follow in the same footsteps - thus improving the likelihood that they too will choose edifying companions, thus enhancing the chain and keeping Christianity a thriving reality.

Mothers who put God first, before themselves, before their children, and before their husbands, are doing the highest service they possibly can, honoring their station, and perhaps doing the world's hardest job in what seems the most difficult way possible - on the surface. In the long run, it’s the only way to do the job well with any kind of assurance that you've done the job well.

The result of such an effort and focus are astounding. You have seen children who are functional members of society, clearly loving God, being helpful to others, and having a certain peace about them. There is a very large chance that they had a spiritual mother. Sometimes it was even their birth mother, but Godly mothers don't always have to be the one we're born with.

On this topic, there will always be an insufficient time to write, speak, or communicate - the literal effect that mothers have had in our lives is incalculable, and that is how it should be. Our job isn't to keep the ledger of appreciation. It’s to return the favor by honoring the God of our mothers. And to earnestly let her know, in whatever fashion she most appreciates, that you truly value her counsel and her mothering.

Call to action
  • Pray for your mother

    Not many people would voluntarily sign up for the job that mother's are called to do. Regardless how supportive or amazing she was or still is, she deserves your prayers. It is one way you can honor God - it's built into His ten commandments.

    How valuable must your mother be if God took the ten rules of edifying living and said, briefly "Okay, in addition to worshipping me, I want you to honor your parents". Your mom must matter a great deal to God if she was put on THAT list. Also, as a side note, notice that mother was put before father. Mothers are a big deal to God.

  • Pray for the mothers of others

    One of the sad realities of the human condition is that not everyone has a mother. And even worse, fewer still have Godly mothers. Consider those women of antiquity who sacrificed their children to various gods, or the mothers in the bible who ate their children, or even the mothers in the news who leave their children in dumpsters - not something we often discuss, especially on Mother's Day.

    Whether we might focus our mindset on the mother who is trying her best to do what is right (but is a new mother, never had any real experience raising little ones or little siblings, and has no support network), to the mothers in countries of oppression where they are taught that only certain genders 'count' to countries where women are second-class citizens, many, many would-be mothers, actual apathetic mothers, and mothers who gave their children up for adoption need our prayers.

    Add to this the very real list of women who are struggling, even while you read these words, to be the very best mothers they can be but don't know how - they deserve your prayers too.

  • Love your mother

    There are five standards ways to show someone genuine appreciation and love. They are: quality time, physical touch, words of affirmation, gifts, and acts of service. Determine which your mom most values and provide that to her today in as simple and effective a manner as you can. She will appreciate it more than she'll be able to convey and you'll know that she will likely know that her own efforts were a worthy investment.

  • Honor your mother

    In prayer to God, ask Him to bring to mind something you've been told by your mom that you may have set aside or intended to do but forgotten. If there is nothing - congratulations! You're part of the .01% of the people I've met that truly are amazing - witness to us!

    Everyone else: give that event, idea, or opportunity to God and ask Him to show you how whether it is in His will. Ask him something along the lines that, if it IS his will, to incorporate it into your life. Regardless, actively honor your mom, being mindful this day of the reality of your existence in this world, how you think, your relationship with God, and your relationship with women, are all reflections of your own relationship with your mom.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Even the Stones Do Praise Him

The Philistines had a problem when they captured the ark of God from the Israelites. The Israelites had a problem when they were slaughtered by the Philistines, lost the ark of God and the high priest and his two sons all in one day. So terrible was this day that the wife of one of Eli’s sons gave birth and named the child Ichabod – the glory of God is departed from Israel.

In this tragic day, God still was going to use the capture of the ark for His glory. Upon returning to their city, Ashdod, the Philistines placed the ark in the temple of Dagon, their god, right next to his statue. The next morning, however, the statue of Dagon was discovered to be on its face in front of the ark of God.

Not to be put off by this, the Philistines hoisted Dagon’s statue off the ground and put him back in his place. But God would not be trifled with in this matter; He was God and there was no other beside Him. Dagon’s head and hands were found on the threshold of his temple, only the stump of his body was left behind.

The resulting terror on the priests of Dagon and the inhabitants of Ashdod was so great that the Bible tells us no one ever went into the temple of Dagon again; not so much as even setting foot on the threshold from that day forward.

God wasn’t finished yet and He punished the Philistines for taking His ark from the Israelites with a unique plague – hemorrhoids. The men of Ashdod, in complete agony, sent the ark to Gath, knowing it couldn’t stay with them. Guess what? The men of Gath got hit with hemorrhoids as well and they passed the ark along to Ekron. The inhabitants of Ekron were a little more savvy and said no way was that ark coming to stay with them. Nevertheless, because the ark was there, God destroyed a huge portion of the men and those who didn’t die probably wished they had – they got hemorrhoids.

Eventually, the ark made it back to the Israelites, where more people died because they decided to look in the ark.

The story of Dagon falling down at the presence of God’s ark reminded me of a couple verses from the New Testament. When Jesus was about to enter Jerusalem before Passover, someone mentioned to him that he should stop the people from praising him and laying down palm branches. His response was that if the people would be stopped, the very stones themselves would cry out.

Our God is a powerful God and before Him every knee shall bend and every tongue confess that He is Lord… even those made of stone.

On sacred cows

In the sixth chapter of the first book of Samuel, the Israelites have been spiritually wounded: the ark of the covenant of the Lord is with the Philistines.

The Philistines, wishing to be rid of this object of faith, are warned to proper sacrifice by their priests and diviners, and so have a new cart built, pulled by two "milch kine", and then associate the activities of the kine with whether the plagues that had beset them were "really" from the God of the Israelites, instead of some freak occurrence.

When I first read this passage, I assumed that "milch kine" meant "milk cow" and I still believe that holds. And I realized that cows, though never worshipped, have always had a special, subservient role in scripture.

Cows (kine) are mentioned far more rarely than sheep - this may be to dietary restrictions (maybe it’s harder to feed a cow than a sheep), expense (maybe cows are more expensive), or exclusivity (maybe cows are ONLY useful as a source of meat and milk, whereas sheep have both AND can be sheared). Regardless, cows are never given as much camera time as sheep.

Indeed, according to scripture you can milk camels (ref: Gen 32) too, which again reduces the need for cows.

So I imagine having cows were a luxury - for it was not until Noah that meat was even a part of a faithful Jew's diet, so the idea of raising an animal for meat might have been a kind of material excess, thus cows would be predominantly used for milking. And what with sheep and camels available, cows may have been seen as an extravagance.
The only indication we have that cows had any worth were three fold.
  1. In Deuteronomy, when God is listing some of the blessings of being faithful, he singles out cows and sheep as being increased as a result.

    There is no reason to mention this if cows are worthless - indeed, they are mentioned before the sheep, suggesting they are of more value than the sheep.

  2. From the above verse in first Samuel, we have the Philistines being told to send two milch kine as part of the sacrifice.

    The priests and diviners had a word of knowledge of some kind about what to include in the sacrifice - having golden remembrances to the plagues must have been humbling by itself, but having to include the cows must have been another level of which I'm not aware.

  3. Throughout scripture, believers are compared to sheep numerous times, but are also told that the first shall be last, the humble shall be raised, etc.

    Perhaps this comparison holds with livestock as well - maybe sheep are considered less desirable than cows in some material or spiritual sense. For example, we never hear of kine’s legs being broken to ensure it stays with the rest of the kine.

Thus, I believe that, though we should not revere cows as particularly spiritual, certainly not raising them to a level of worship, I believe that there are corresponding aspects of kine and sheep present in our lives.

Call to action - let’s love our cows!

Many of us take for granted certain things. We take for granted we are fallen sinners, deserve far less than the daily grace we're given, focusing on the negative, recurring messiness of being alive and involved in the abominable state of perpetual sinfulness that is only resolved through repentance, grace, and mercy.

I challenge you to be mindful today of those things which are good.

Today's focus can be on the miraculous aspects of your walk. What daily grace are you experiencing that you have so abundantly you daily forget to be thankful for it?
  • Name two things that used to be a struggle for you but that God has given you grace to deal with autonomously.

    Example: anger

  • Name two things that you have never had to struggle with because you were not given a particular weakness.

    Example: addiction

  • Name two things that you unconsciously take for granted.

    Example: running water

  • Name two things that you have an abundance of which you can freely offer to others.

    Example: time, thankfulness, grace, hope, or food

  • Name two things that you have that others around you have not always had.

    Example: peace, joy, hope, faith
After you have your list of ten cows, own them.

Give active, dedicated praise to God for providing them to you!

Encourage others to give thanks to their own 'for-granteds'!

Be a blessing by finding someone else who has at least four or five in common with you and give simultaneous praise to God!

Spend today asking God for increased wisdom about those things for which you can be thankful.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Word Power

As I was driving about today, I pondered a great many things. Upon driving past an accident, I prayed in my head for the people involved, not interrupting whatever was going on in the car by speaking out loud. The prayer finished, my mind continued to ponder. Half of me was ashamed that I had not spoken the prayer out loud, while the other half wondered if unverbalized prayers have the same efficacy as prayers which are spoken aloud.

One of the most striking thoughts occurred (and thus the inspiration for this post) at that moment. If humans didn’t have the power of speech, they must be telepathic. That would be interesting because then all prayers would have to be uttered in the head; there would be no speech, thus no way to vocalize any prayers, let alone daily communication with other humans.

I continued thinking how interesting it would be if humans couldn’t speak, intertwined with the slight wonderings if mental prayers were as effective as prayers spoken. It was then I realized the power of a spoken prayer.

Throughout history, from the beginning of time, God has placed a strong emphasis on the spoken word. He could have thought the world into existence. He could have gestured everything into being. He could have physically manipulated the nothingness to create our existence.

But He didn’t…

God chose to use the spoken word to create, to communicate, to command. He spoke light into being and spoke every detail of creation to life. Throughout the Bible, the importance of the spoken word has been emphasized over and over. After the Flood, God scattered all of humanity how? By changing the one common language to many different language. This brought confusion and caused the splitting of humans, categorized by language.

Men lived, died and performed wonderful and atrocious deeds because of the word they had verbally vowed. Instructions commanded to watch what was said and to guard against foolish speaking. The Proverbs speak of the power of the tongue, how life and death are influenced by what is said, and how utterances are an indication of the real person. When Jesus came, He was the Word and that word was “salvation,” Yeshua. Demons were cast out by the mere mention of Jesus’ name. The sick were made whole and the dead were raised, not by the thought of Jesus, but by his words.

Words are important and have more effect on us and our surroundings than we may realize. I believe that there is a power in the spoken word that we do not know anything about. Why? Because it is the method chosen by God to create and to communicate with us, His ultimate creation. And this is why I came to the conclusion that the spoken prayer is more effective than a mentally uttered one, though I do believe God hears all prayers, no matter how they are communicated to Him.

What better way to communicate with you Creator than by using the very tool He himself used to bring all things into being?

I challenge you to think about what you say. Take one day and listen to the things you and others around you say. What if everything said in a joking manner came true? What if every utterance you made actually happened? Simple, trite phrases like, “My leg/ankle/knee/head is killing me,” “I wish I/you were dead,” “I’m going to kill you/him,” “You’re killing me,” “I wish I/you had never been born,” and on and on.

These innocuous phrases are not so innocent. If the Bible is true and life and death are really in the power of the tongue, why would anyone ever speak these things into their own lives or the lives of others?

Ponder this last argument.

Since “life and death are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit of it” and if “as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he” and “from the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks,” could this be the reason we are to think on “whatsoever things are true… honest… just… pure… lovely… of good report… any virtue… any praise.”?

I think so.

Our words are powerful and move in ways we do not understand. Be careful and chose your words wisely.

Let none fall

In third chapter of the first book of Samuel, Samuel is first visited by God. Now it was an expected thing to readers of this testament - he had been prayed over, been offered (by his mother!) for the purpose, and had been growing in acceptance, presumably because he was prudent - all signs that God's hand was in his life. If I may, I would like to draw your attention to the nineteenth verse, where it says "And Samuel grew, and the LORD was with him, and did let none of his words fall to the ground."

Consider this - several things are happening in this single verse.

"Samuel grew ...."

It does not say he is aging, or maturing, or gaining knowledge, so we do not, at first clause, know in what manner he is growing. Likely, though it refers to all three - this is validated in the following verse, where it indicates he was established to be a prophet of the Lord. This likely was a blow to Eli, but Eli had been prepared to some degree, and God had already told Eli some of what was soon to happen, and this was complemented by what God told Samuel - in particular, that no matter the sacrifice or offering, Eli's house would not be cleansed of the sin that he and his sons had engaged in.

"... the LORD was with him ..."

This is amazing in and of itself, and in this day and age would be considered an immense blessing. During the time of the writing, it was far more rare - the word of the Lord was precious in those days. Consider a world where the Holy Bible, the anointed Word of the Lord, was not a collected work, not in a single tome, but still split asunder. Consider how amazing it is that anyone would fear the Lord without the infrastructure we normally associate with Godly families and the church. Then consider that God was with Samuel while he was growing up. Samuel must have had miracles follow him, and likely prepared him to be the prophet for the Lord that he soon would be.

"... [Samuel] did let none of his words fall to the ground."

It is this part of the verse that struck me, something that hit me home, and something that I note for all of us. How many of you who read these words have been prophesied over, have had a word of knowledge about the future in any way, or (at the very least) have had an inkling from God how your life will unfold? Have you put any active thoughts into it? Samuel did. Samuel put into action and realization the guidance God was giving him. We do not know exactly what he did, but we know that Samuel was growing, that the Lord was with him, and that Samuel let none of his words fall to the ground. Would you have been that faithful?

Call to action:

Spend some time in prayer, whether by reading scripture or silent reverie or whatever God has called you to in that regard, and seek God's guidance on some matter. It may come from the Bible, it may come from a license plate, it may come from some accidental utterance on behalf of a co-worker.

Listen for God. He will take as long as He needs to and will speak. This part of it is often more difficult than any other, as it calls for an active inactivity - to be seeking God's voice without doing anything to achieve the connection. Now you can inhibit your connection, but the point here is that you are trusting God to provide the means and connection, but being open for its establishment.

Keep Him in your heart. There will be a point where you have some awareness that God has spoken to you. It also often comes with some guidance, or at least a word of knowledge. If you do not have peace, go back a step and listen for God again. He can and does work miracles, so how He will handle that is up to Him. I have experienced Him not talking for a few seconds or minutes, waiting to see if I were faithful, sometimes hours as well. Regardless, wait upon God.

If you DO have peace about this word of knowledge, this connection with God, then act on it. Store it in your heart. Plan on it coming to pass and let none of the words of the Lord fall to the ground.

May your life never be the same.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Women of Faith

The Bible is loaded with strong women. From Eve who had to adapt to a much harsher world and more pain as a result of The Fall to Noah’s wife who supported her husband in his odd hundred-year-long project. There was Sarah, who willingly and without murmur followed Abraham into the desert of the unknown. Rebekah, Deborah, Jael, Ruth, and on and on and on.

These women never took or usurped a man’s position, yet their strength and support of the men in their lives is breathtaking. Not only this, but their hope was strong and their faith was unwavering. Many times I find myself reading about the quiet strength and faith of these women and I have to wonder if I would have been able to do what they did.

Hannah wanted a child so badly that she promised to give him to the Lord if she had a baby boy. What a vow! She would willingly give up the very child she had prayed so hard and so long to receive. God did hear Hannah’s prayer and he did send her that baby boy.

God fulfilled his side of the bargain, now Hannah had to fulfill hers. I can’t even begin to imagine what that would have been like. Here, Hannah had prayed year after year for God to give her a son. Finally, she is given a son and only keeps him until he is weaned, which is about three or four years, and then takes him to the temple where she leaves him so he can serve God. The only time Hannah will get to see her son is when the whole family goes up once a year to sacrifice.

How hard that must have been, to leave her little boy there, so far away. I’m sure in those three or four years she had him, Hannah must have grown very attached to Samuel. I can’t imagine leaving my toddler anywhere for even a day, let alone a year! Hannah’s commitment to God was so strong that she was willing and happy to give him back what he had given her. Not one word of regret or complaint did she utter as she left her son at the temple and returned to her home, knowing she would not see him for another year.

I pray that each of us would, like Hannah, be able to act on the reality that everything comes from God and that we would have the grace and the joy to be able to give what he gives us back to him so he can use it for his glory.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

A Royal Downline

Moabites were a pagan people in Biblical times. They followed their own gods and were not Israelites, yet when the two sons of Elimelech found themselves living in the land of Moab with a newly-dead father, they married Moabite women.

For about ten years, everything was fine. The two men and their widowed mother lived in Moab until they, too, died leaving no children. It was at this point that the mother decided it was time to go back to the land of Judah, pointing out to her daughters-in-law that she had nothing to give them – no more sons to raise up children to her dead sons’ names, no husband, nothing.

One of the women, though distressed, left to return to her people and her religion while the other insisted on going with her mother-in-law. “Whither thou goest, I will go;” she said.

This simple step of faith and dedication launched Ruth on the path to greatness. Her obedience and submissiveness to her mother-in-law opened the doors to a future I’m sure she never imagined. Not only did Ruth and Naomi end up living off the gleanings from Boaz’ field, but he “just happened” to be a near kinsman and therefore entitled to marry Ruth and raise up seed to Naomi’s sons.

Ruth listened to Naomi’s advice time after time, even though it seemed at times to be inappropriate or questionable. God blessed Ruth’s quiet submission and obedience by giving her, not just a husband and future, but a place of honor in the lineage of Jesus – one of three women mentioned.

Jesus was born of the line of David, but without Ruth, there would never have been a David. If she had decided to do her own thing instead of waiting on God’s timing, the chances are that she would never have met Boaz, let alone marry him.

She was strong in a quiet way, supportive, faithful, and loyal. Nothing she did seemed remarkable, yet her choices to do right did not go unnoticed or unrewarded. With faith, she worked and obeyed… towards a reward which had never entered her head.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Before the Sabeans

Those who have studied history or watched the movie, “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” have heard of the Sabeans before. But just in case, here’s a refresher…

Essentially, the Romans were a budding tribe whose constant state of warring had taken the focus away from starting families. Well… how was an empire to rise if it died out in the first generation – regardless of how many neighboring tribes had been conquered. The Romans needed wives, badly, and at a particular moment, they noticed a nearby tribe, the Sabeans, had women. Plotting carefully, the Romans waited until the Sabeans were having a festival - drinking, dancing, a generally good time - and then struck. The men ran into the party and each grabbed a wife, threw her over his shoulder, and ran back into the mountains.

Needless to say, the Sabeans weren’t too happy about the abduction of their women, but by the time they were able to come against the Romans, the women were comfortable with their captors and the proliferation of a Roman empire was established.

I always thought the Sabeans were the first… but now I don’t think they were.

In the last chapter of Judges, we find out this had happened before. When the tribe of Benjamin committed crimes of such atrocity that the remaining tribes had to come against it to kill and destroy, there was one slight problem.

After the battle, the remaining tribes of Israel swore they would never give their daughters to men of the tribe of Benjamin. It wasn’t long before the Benjamites realized their predicament – they would die out if they had no wives for their men. You see, all the Israelites had taken an oath that they would not marry outside the camp of Israel; no foreigners or heathen were to be introduced into their bloodline. Period.

The men of Israel listened to what the Benjamites had to say, knew they had a point, and cast about to find a solution. Their first solution was to figure out who had not joined them when they went into battle against the Benjamites. After counting everyone, they pinpointed the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead as not having fought.

It just so happened that the penalty for not fighting against the Benjamites was death. Solution: kill all the men of Jabesh-gilead and every woman who had known man and give all the virgins to the Benjamites. The result was 400 young virgins which were handed over to the Benjamites.

It wasn’t enough! This astonished me. How many men didn’t have wives? What were these Benjamites doing that there were so many unmarried men? From a previous chapter in Judges, the sin the Benjamites were punished for was attempted sodomy against a fellow Israelite. Since it was a group of men who attempted gang rape against one visiting man and actually gang raped his wife/concubine until she died, I have to wonder how many other inhabitants of the city were perverted. Another piece of evidence that the Benjamites were sexually perverted was the fact that the Israelites killed all the cattle in the cities, a common act when wiping out a perverted culture/city/tribe.

If the Benjamites were caught up in a web of sodomy and sexual perversion, it would logically follow that they hadn’t been taking wives and marrying according to the natural progression of things. Could it be the massive slaughter of 25,000 men of valor brought repentance and a turning from their wicked ways?

The Bible tells us that 600 men escaped and ran into the wilderness, hiding for four months. From what I can tell, these were the only survivors out of the entire tribe of Benjamin. Everyone else had been killed. After the warriors, the Israelites went into the cities and killed the remaining men, the beasts, and everyone else that came to hand, burning the cities behind them.

I don’t know how many people survived, but it seems at least 600 men were alive at the end. No wonder they were concerned they would be wiped out and obliterated as a tribe of Israel. Without Israelitish wives, how could they continue?

The Israelites thought about another way the Benjamites could get wives, since the 400 weren’t enough. They pointed out a feast that happened every year in Shiloh and mentioned that if the daughters of Shiloh came out to dance in the vineyards as part of the celebration, the men who still needed wives should be hiding nearby.

The plan was to come out of hiding, grab one of the dancing girls, and beat it back to their place of residence. It worked. There were enough women dancing to fulfill the needs of the Benjamites and they returned with their captured brides to their cities, repaired and rebuilt them, lived there, and kept their inheritance.

The Sabeans weren’t the first… I wonder if they were influenced by what the Benjamites had done or if they came up with it on their own.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Peace of a Concubine

Once again, Israel found themselves without a king. During this time, the Bible tells us of an event which, though seemingly isolated, almost caused the annihilation of one of the tribes of Israel.

A Levite had taken a concubine but she played the whore and left him, staying at her father’s house. After about four months, her husband (the Levite) came to claim her and take her back to his own house. He had a great time visiting with his father-in-law and ended up staying for five days.

On the fifth day, he decided to take his wife/concubine and leave despite urgings from his father-in-law that he stay longer. Due to the late hour of leaving, they couldn’t make it back home before night so they decided to stay in Gibeah, a Benjamite city, rather than at some other non-Israelite city.

They walked the streets, looking for a place to stay for the night and no one took them in. This continued until an old man, coming from his field, heard their story and learned of their shelterless state. He offered his own home, beseeching the man not to stay the night in the street. That should have been a warning.

While they ate and visited, men from the city surrounded the house and demanded that the old man bring out his visitor so they could sexually violate him. Begging the crowd not to behave so wickedly against a visitor, the old man offered his own daughter, a virgin, and the wife/concubine of his visitor for their vile pleasure.

So perverse was this group that they didn’t want a woman, they wanted the man! No wonder spending the night on the streets was a bad idea. The Levite took his wife/concubine and gave her to the gang of men and they gang raped and abused her all night. Only at daylight did they let her go. She only made it back to the door of the house before she fell down dead from the abuse.

As the Levite exited the house that morning to leave, he noticed her on the doorstep. Telling her to get up, that they were leaving, he then realized she was dead. He took her body back home and immediately cut her into twelve pieces, sending them to each of the twelve tribes of Israel.

The result was indignation and outrage. Never before had something like this happened in Israel; not from the time they came out of Egypt. The perversion of the Benjamites had to be stopped.

The children of Israel gathered before the Lord as one man and listened as the Levite told of the atrocity committed against his wife/concubine and, worse, of the attempted sodomy against him by fellow Israelites. The evil was clear, but because the Benjamites were Israelites, messengers were sent to them. All they had to do was find the perverse men in Gibeah and hand them over so they could be executed, putting away evil from Israel. The Benjamites didn’t listen and would not deliver the perverse men. Accordingly, 400,000 Israelites went against 26,700 Benjamites.

I have to wonder why the Benjamites thought they could take on an army that was roughly fifteen times larger than they. I have to wonder also at the level of perverseness that must have been in the tribe of Benjamin that they would not deliver the malefactors to their just punishment.

In the battle, 22,000 men of Israel (not Benjamites) died that first wave. Crying before the Lord, the Israelites once more attacked and lost 18,000. Could it be that God was cleansing His people on both sides of the aisle? The result of this slaughter was that the Israelites turned whole-heartedly to God and sought Him.

For the third time, the Lord commanded the Israelites to go against the Benjamites. This time, the destruction was complete. The overconfident Benjamites were slaughtered wave after wave, their cities were destroyed and burnt, all the cattle were killed as was anyone who came to hand. Only 600 men were able to escape to the mountains where they hid out for four months.

Civil war is never pleasant, but the Israelites had done the right thing. Evil and perversion had been spotted in their midst and the first action they took was to rid the evil from out of them, no matter where it came from.

The peace the Israelites would gain as a result of one man’s stay in Gibeah was God’s peace following His cleansing and restoration. There was still no king or judge and everyone did what was right in his own eyes… yet God blessed the men of Israel for their decisive action against perversion and wickedness with peace throughout the tribes of Israel.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Rebirth and a Promise

The story of Nicodemus is always a touching one and is the story which contains the immortal encapsulation of the gospel message which has brought hope into so many lives throughout history.

Nicodemus was a ruler of the Jews and was likely a very knowledgeable man in matters of scripture and the prophecies and interpretations contained therein. He knew Jesus came from God because no one could do the miracles Jesus did unless God were with him.

Jesus pointed out that the only way a man could see the kingdom of God (and thus have God with him) was to be born again. I can only imagine what went through the mind of Nicodemus. How odd! Born again? Did that mean he would have to re-enter his mother and be reborn? That wasn’t possible!

And physically, it wasn’t. This rebirth must be of water and of Spirit… through no other way could a man enter the kingdom of heaven. Jesus told Nicodemus of his entire mission on earth, tying it all back to Old Testament prophesy.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Jesus wasn’t here to condemn… he was here to save. He was here to save ANYONE who would believe. Not just Jews, but Greeks, Romans, Samaratins, free and bond, rich and poor, whole and maimed. He was the Saviour of the WHOLE WORLD with no exceptions.

The only caveat to this mind-blowing promise… you had to believe in Him.

What an amazing blessing! I don’t know if Nicodemus accepted Jesus as the Saviour; the Bible never tells us. I like to think he did, but I don’t know. What I do know is that I do accept Jesus as my personal Saviour and fully believe that he died for my sins so that I can live with him forever in heaven.


THAT is exciting!

The pursuit of happiness

The Bible has a few instances of happy.

In Genesis, Leah called herself happy, chiefly because "the daughters" will call her blessed - I don't know who she is referring to, but this period in Genesis has Leah trying to give birth so that she can gain the love of Jacob. The word happy doesn't show up in Genesis again, nor in scripture, until Deuteronomy, where Israel is considered happy because it is under the protection of the Lord. Then it pops its head up in 1st Kings and 1st Chronicles, where we are told that men and servants alike (basically everyone) are happy to hear wisdom - this was said by the visiting Queen of Sheba to Solomon, so we can draw the reasonable inference that there is joy in hearing true, Godly wisdom. Later, in Job, we have someone happy because they are being corrected by God.

In Psalms we have multiple occurrences
  • We are happy if they have many children, specifically children of a man's youth
  • We are happy if we can eat the labor of our hands
  • We are happy if we destroy the daughter of Babylon (rewarding her as she has done)
  • We are happy if we destroy the daughter of Babylon (dashing her little ones on the rocks - children or works?)
  • We are happy if God is our Lord
  • We are happy if our hope is in the Lord our God.
In Proverbs we have a few as well
  • We are happy if we find wisdom and/or understanding
  • We are happy if we retain wisdom
  • We are happy if we have mercy on the poor
  • We are happy if we trust in the Lord, especially when it comes to His wisdom
  • We are happy if we always fear, which is to say are always guarding against the wicked, mischief, and hearkens
  • We are happy if we keep God's law.
In Jeremiah, we are unhappy if we deal treacherously with God. In Malachi, we are CALLED happy if we are proud. From John, if you listen to God's wisdom and act on it, you'll be happy. From Acts, we learn that we can be happy in answering for our actions, to even a king, if we are serving Christ. From Romans, we are told that we'll be happy if we don't condemn ourselves for something that is allowed - though I'm not certain if its God allowing it or us.

In James, we are told that happiness comes from enduring. In Peter we learn that happiness comes from suffering for righteousness' sake. And In 1st Peter, you'll be happy, and KNOW that the spirit of glory, and of God, rest upon you, if you are reproached for the name of Christ.

Today's call to action - be happy!

Define what exact event or state will cause you to call yourself happy
  • Are you happy because others will speak highly of you?
  • Are you happy because you hear wisdom?
  • Are you happy in response to the popular definition of the word?
  • Are you happy because you have destroyed a daughter of Babylon?
Then, align the results of that with God's will
  • Does it match well?
    Do you have consistent cause to be happy because you are aligned with God?

  • Does it match poorly?
    Do you find yourself rarely happy?

  • Does it match unevenly?
    Are you not certain if you're ever happy?
In the end, your goal is to have peace about the method by which your happiness is defined. Remember that lasting happiness comes from being an over-comer, hearkening to God throughout your whole life. And that can only come through seeking the first love, that of the Kingdom of God.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Son of Manoah, child of God

In Judges we have many, many events - in particular I should like to look at Samson. Samson was a powerful, violent man - born to Judea in a time when the Philistines were ruling them.

His parents were believers - Samson's mom was approached by an angel of God and immediately went to Manoah (husband/father) who did not act out of any kind of disbelief, but instead straight to God, entreating Him to "let the man of God which thou didst send come again unto us". How many in the scriptures were this forthright in their dealings with God? Where would we be today if Adam had been this reverential?

When Manoah finally saw the angel himself, his first response is for clarification and guidance. After hearing the same thing from the angel as from his wife, thus verifying it was in fact from God, Manoah immediately wants to treat the angel as an honored guest. The angel indicated that he won't break bread with them, and if they give a burnt offering, to give it to God. Manoah offers a baby goat for a meat offering upon a rock and the angel "did wondrously" - how many in scripture have seen an angel do anything except sing, kill, or counsel? To see an angel do wonderously must be amazing indeed. Also note that Samson's mother is never mentioned by name.

Samson's whole life was anointed. We know that he was a Nazarite from the womb, which is something special too - Nazarites were a special sub-class of Judah and were holy unto the Lord. And we know that early in Samson's training that the Spirit of the Lord moved Samson. Note the distinction, the Spirit didn't move upon Samson, as it had so many times, but MOVED Samson. This suggests to me that Samson's very character was shaped by God - something that is amazing.

In the fourteenth chapter of Judges, we have Samson choosing a woman from the enemy camp, because "she pleased him well". We know that Samson was a Nazarite, as well as from the camp of Judah, so we must assume his virtue was intact, so this likely related to some ability to dance, to speak well, or possibly she had some other talent that was plainly obvious. Or it might have just meant she was physically stunning. Regardless, Samson picked out his potential mate, and did a very respectful thing - he went to his father for the choosing. Later, we can see how physically powerful Samson is, so he could clearly have gone and taken a wife. It is a measure of respect that Samson went to his father and mother and asked them for this daughter of the Philistines. Their response is to ask him why he couldn't take for himself a wife of the children of Judah, and instead Samson is still focused on this particular Philistine. Clearly she had an effect upon him. Likewise, they were unaware that Samson's choosing was of the Lord (although they should have known - God's Spirit had guided Samson from his youth).

To compliment this, we have Samson, after asking his father for the Philistine daughter's hand in marriage, off killing a lion. Nearby were his parents (because all three of them went to the vineyards of Timnath - v5), he killed the lion with his bare hands, and didn't tell his parents. And then, after again being charmed by this young woman from the enemy camp, Samson finds honey in the carcass of the lion he killed earlier. Honey! Then, not telling his parents where he got the honey, he brought some to his parents and they three shared in the honey from this rather interesting source. I claim it as a subtle miracle that the honey didn't smell like dead lion.

The purpose of the lion was soon revealed as a means of revealing the character of Samson's family in law - for whatever reason they agreed to a wager where the prize was thirty sheets and thirty changes of clothing. Given that Samson's family had already given a sacrifice earlier, and placed it on a ROCK, we can assume that nobody was particularly wealthy, so thirty sheets and thirty changes of clothing would have been a rather expensive prize. The Philistines agree to the wager, based upon the resolution of a riddle, likely thinking that this poor child of Judah wouldn't know anything they hadn't already heard. But God had prepared Samson with the riddle of the lion, and the end result of the riddle was for the Philistines to entice his new wife for the purpose of getting the answer. When they were able to answer the riddle Samson new that the only way they could have gotten it was through his wife ("his heifer" - v18), and went to Ashkelon and killed thirty men, likely related to the men who challenged him at his wedding feast, at which time they took his wife. I guess they figured he wouldn't notice.

Sometime later (we don't know how much later, but it was during the wheat harvest) Samson went to visit his wife, who had been given to Samson's "companion" by her father (Again, note the lack of name, in particular, of Samson's wife). We don't even know the gender of the companion, and because the Philistines were not exactly God's people, it could have been anyone. Again we don't have a name. I will, for the sake of time, assume Samson's friend was a Philistine man and that Samson's father in law felt more comfortable with his daughter marrying a fellow Philistine than some randy, destructive son of Judah. So we have Samson going to visit his wife, not having access, and likely out of anger burning their corn. Clearly the Philistines are not a fan of popcorn, as their response to what Samson did was to burn Samson's wife and he father.

The children of Judah are a little confused at this point and so approach Samson, asking him about the details. Samson merely replies that he's returning action for action. Their response is to bind Samson and to take him to the Philistines, but God is still watching, and so breaks the cords tying his hands and kills a thousand men. With a jawbone. It is of interest in noting that it defines the bone as being a new jawbone of a donkey. Why it being new, and its association with a donkey, I am not certain - although there are shades of Baalim here, certainly, where the same animal that tried to stop Baalim is here being used to stop his brothers.

After killing 1000 men with a cleansed remainder of some dead animal's skeleton, he gets hungry, so God makes another few miracles - He provides water from the jaw [possibly the very jawbone that Samson had used to kill the men] and was given to judge his people for twenty years.

Samson may have had some of the wisdom of Solomon, because sometime during the time he was judge, and had been judge for over twenty years, he sought after a strange woman, this time a harlot from Gaza. And after spending the night with her, while those around him were plotting to kill him, he took the gates of the city, and the posts (possibly about which the door was set) and carried them up to the top of a hill. It is an easy thing to visualize and hard to consider - a man, possibly not taller than any you know, walking up a hill carrying half a ton of wood. Or it might have been heavier or made of some other substance. Regardless, they men lying in wait didn't even try to kill him at this point.

Then, again with the wisdom of Solomon, Samson sought after a third strange woman, from the valley of Sorek, named Delilah. And much like his first wife, Delilah enticed him to reveal the answer to a riddle. Samson must not have recognized the deceit in Delilah, for after a period of time (Samson's soul was vexed to death), and Samson, having seen these very same men attack him, went to go as before ... and thus his Samson's pride in his own strength was revealed. Samson as delivered to the Philistines who put out his eyes, brought him down to Gaza (which God had prepared by taking out the old pillars and door, via Samson himself), bound him with fetters of brass, and had him grind in the prison house. And thus Samson was humbled.

After the Philistines had enslaved Samson for some period of time, and there were about 3000 Lords and Ladies of the Philistines making merry, they called for Samson to mock him. Samson was led, by a small boy, to the pillars upon which the house was supported. And it was these pillars through which God moved one last time in Samson's life. And with this one final stroke, Samson killed more people with his death than he had ever killed while he was alive. And one wonders if the small boy who helped Samson survived or mayhap made it to heaven.

Call to action:

Wherein layeth thy strength?

Everyone has a last thing they rely upon. Find yours today. Spend some time in prayer asking God to reveal what you have relied upon when the going has gotten tough. Samson relied upon his strength. The Philistines relied upon Dagon (their god) and the opportunity to bribe and scheme their way out of problems. Even the children of Judah relied upon appeasement. But each of these only reveal our character and our idols. So what do YOU rely upon?

Here are some example questions to help guide you:

  • What do you do when you have a driving need for something but can't have it?
    Do you eat?
    Do you pray?
    Do you offer up the drive to the Lord?
    Do you give up on it?

  • What do you do when you are in the middle of a car accident, the car is flipping head over heels, and nothing makes sense?
    Do you pray?
    Do you grip the seat in fear?
    Do you cry and shut down?

  • What do you do when the paycheck doesn't show up, the rent check doesn't clear, or the accident happens?
    Do you pray?
I challenge you to find a single last resort for all your troubles.