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Friday, August 29, 2014

U Turns: A Journey Through Samuel


1 Samuel 7

And Samuel said to all the house of Israel, “If you are returning to the LORD with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your heart to the LORD and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” So the people of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtaroth, and they served the LORD only. (1 Samuel 7:3-4 ESV)

If you say you are going to return to the Lord, then ...
  • Put away [what you worship more than Him]
  • Direct your heart to Him
  • Serve Him
                                        ... then you will be delivered.
When I read this passage it reminded me clearly of the hope and expectation He has for us. This is not a vending machine make-deals with God. This is not a health, wealth, and prosperity gospel. This is a simple relationship reality check. Do you love me? Then obey me; and if you obey me, it shows that you love me. (John 14:21-24)

One who has a heart towards God obeys out of love. Even if one may not feel like obeying, they should do so fully submitting to God in His infinite wisdom and mercy. If in your heart you are submitting to God because "you don't want to get punished" I think your heart is in the wrong place. Not that you are failing and undeserving (I feel the same way at times) but it is a good opportunity to realign yourself and not think about just consequences, but rethink who you are to Him.

You alone are valuable enough for Jesus, the son of God, to die on a cross. Even if you were the only soul that was saved, you were worth it. You are worth the birth, life, teaching, torture, death, and resurrection of God. You.

Humbling is it not?

So how do we respond to such a reality? Take a u-turn on sin. Leave those 'things' behind ... give your heart to Christ ... and serve Him.

You may be far from God, on the fence, newly enlisted in His army, or a long-time veteran. In any case, I am sure that there is a u-turn somewhere we all need to take ... something in our life ... maybe even right now at this moment. Think. See it?

Take it ...

His,
~Matt

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Until the Cows Come Home: A Journey Through Samuel

1 Samuel 6

Often I come across common phrases in Scripture that we use today. I don't really know if there is any history to the expression "Until the cows come home" from 1 Samuel 6 but if so, it's somewhat appropriate. Not exactly something the cows would fondly remember, but it's a story nonetheless!

So here we see that the Philistines had enough of this ark because they think God may be punishing them, something they didn't have to stretch too far to see, and discussed how they didn't want another "Egypt" situation to happen. So they slap the ark on a cart, find a couple milking cows that recently gave birth, locked their calves up, and hooked them up to a cart. While I could go into various detail about cows (not the most exciting lesson) I think it's suffice to say that these 'milking' cows would not be good at this, enjoy this, know what to do, and certainly would not willingly leave their calves behind for the benefit of both (another lesson I care not to explain right now). In any case, guess what the cows do? Yep ... they go home.

OK, well not their home ... but they brought the ark "home" so to speak. (We can talk about God's amazing control and sovereignty another time!)

Anyway, the people were thrilled when the saw the ark coming! So thrilled they chopped up the cart to use for a fire to sacrifice the cows ... poor cows. :|

(side note: While I deeply appreciate the meaning behind the sacrifices, reflect often on the penalty of sin and what these sacrifices represented, I am thrilled that we are living after the One Final Sacrifice that was made! So the minute you (or I) start grimacing at the idea of more blood spilled (like I grimaced above), let us not forget Calvary. Brutal beyond brutal ... blood like no other ... pain, suffering, and death ... for you. Because you and I are heirs ... )

As much as I sometimes see me and my sin in the Israelites, I do see them do something so often (and again in this chapter) that I need to do more in my life. Maybe physically, maybe spiritually ... maybe something seen, or maybe just something told over and over again. When God does something for you what do you do? Do you know what they often did?

Build a memorial ... build an altar ... set a stone ... to remember!
The great stone beside which they set down the ark of the LORD is a witness to this day in the field of Joshua of Beth-shemesh. (1 Samuel 6:18 ESV)
"Your life is progressing spiritually when you stop making deals with God, and start building altars." - Steven Furtick

Are you hoping to see any cows on your horizon? Are you waiting for that cart to arrive? I pray that when you do, you run to them, rejoice in the moment, and place a stone ... to remember.

His,
~Matt

Monday, August 25, 2014

False gods: A Journey Through Samuel

1 Samuel 5

Idolatry is a sin and theme we see illustrated in Scripture repeatedly. Even God's chosen people have used the ark as an idol as we previously have seen by seeing it as an object of protection, and missing the One to for Whom it was created. While sacred and a gift, it still was a mere dwelling place. It was only sacred because of Who it was for ...

Yet, God did dwell there, and this stark difference is seen in this almost humorous passage of Scripture:
Then the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it into the house of Dagon and set it up beside Dagon. And when the people of Ashdod rose early the next day, behold, Dagon had fallen face downward on the ground before the ark of the LORD. So they took Dagon and put him back in his place. But when they rose early on the next morning, behold, Dagon had fallen face downward on the ground before the ark of the LORD, and the head of Dagon and both his hands were lying cut off on the threshold. Only the trunk of Dagon was left to him. (1 Samuel 5:2-4 ESV)

There is nothing that shall reign supreme over our Lord; especially something that is worshiped. While we could go into some of the history behind Dagon, the threshold, and people during that time, the point simply remains that God will make a mockery of anything that tries to mock Him.

As Isaiah points out, individuals can even make a mockery of themselves by treating these objects as gods to begin with:
He cuts down cedars, or he chooses a cypress tree or an oak and lets it grow strong among the trees of the forest. He plants a cedar and the rain nourishes it. Then it becomes fuel for a man. He takes a part of it and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Also he makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it. Half of it he burns in the fire. Over the half he eats meat; he roasts it and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, “Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!” And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god!" (Isaiah 44:14-17 ESV)
Deliver me [piece of wood] ... you are my god!

A King ... (chess piece that is)

Ridiculous, but sadly apt for today as well. Deliverance, release, and rescue. My life will be better if I am delivered from what? Deliver me doctor! Deliver me friend! Deliver me judge! Deliver me Mr. President! Deliver me spouse! Deliver me job! Deliver me temptation! Deliver me retirement! Deliver me ... deliver me ... deliver me ...

God delivers; He alone. Jesus.

How often do we see peace, joy, harmony, contentment, just around the corner. After "this" then I will be able to relax and enjoy life more. That thought is destructive to ourselves, our family, our friends, and ultimately and most importantly our relationship with the Lord. It is sin.

May we learn more each day to rest in Him, trust in Him, and let loose this bondage we call control. It's a false god that promises but will never deliver, because only One can.

His,
~Matthew

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