Today, in 1 Samuel 31, we see the death of Saul.  His death wasn’t just any death, either.  Saul suffered the greatest defeat.  Quick and painless, it was not.  To start, Saul watched as his army was overcome by the Philistines.  Their press forward caused many of the Israelite warriors to simply give up the cause.  They fled, abandoning Saul, their leader.  The few loyal warriors were Saul’s own family.  But, instead of comfort, they brought pain as he witnesses their slaying at the hand of the Philistines.  As the pain becomes too much to bear, Saul  concedes that the end is near.  The emotional defeat is complete and the physical is not far behind.  With the piercing pain of arrows, Saul is badly wounded.  His last effort to save a shred of dignity is to have his trusted aid kill him.  When the man refuses, Saul has no other choice.  The only way to escape more torment is to fall on his own sword.  Death is the only option.

I’ve wrestled with this story for several days.  The despair is overwhelming.  The complete absence of hope crushes my spirit.  I read and re-read it searching desperately for something redeeming.  It’s not there.  It doesn’t exist.  I am forced to accept Saul’s complete destruction.  Thankfully, today I discovered something new.  It appeared for me as I read the Chet Bandy’s post, “Leadership Lessons From David.”  He presented a picture of David’s life that stands in such stark contrast to Saul’s.  

Saul took action following his own direction.  In 1 Samuel 13, Saul decided to offer the sacrifice on his own, and not follow Gods plan for it.  Compare this with David who took action by after the Lord’s direction.

Saul used his own wisdom and made a ridiculous vow in 1 Samuel 14.  It caused needless suffering and turmoil within his own family.  David, however asked for the Lord’s wisdom and direction.

Saul made excuses for not following God’s direction, attempting to twist the failure into an offering in 1 Samuel 15.  David, on the other hand, makes no excuses and quickly seeks correction in 1 Samuel 24.

Saul solicits answers from a medium and not going to the Lord in prayer in 1 Samuel 28.  Contrast this with Davids effort.  In 1 Samuel 30:6 he seeks and finds strength in the Lord. 

Perhaps the most striking part of Saul’s story is the ease at which it happened.  It reminds me of the phrase first slowly, then suddenly.  You see, God didn’t yank him from the throne immediately.  In fact, our gracious God stuck with him, desperately wanting to atone for him.  Alas, Saul did not respond.  His continual denial, betrayal and last rejection of God became his undoing.

Ironically, my final analysis of 1 Samuel 31 revealed hope.  This hope, however, is only found within the context of Saul’s entire life.  It’s revealed in God’s grace upon grace.  God presented grace as patience toward Saul, waiting for his acknowledgement.  The same is true for you and me.  We have grace today for our failures.  God still loves us, despite our failure to follow and honor him.  Only one thing is required to stave off death.  Acknowledge Him.

So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. Matthew 10:32-33 (ESV)


1 Samuel 19, Psalms 20

What do you believe about prayers?  Does God answer them?  Does he answer them the way that we want?  Your beliefs about prayer also reveal what you believe about God.  For example, do you believe that he for you, or against you?   Consider your position as you read Psalm 20. 

v1a – How do you expect the Lord to answer you in your day of trouble?  

v1b – God protected Jacob, how would you like for him to protect you?  

v2 – Do you ask for his consecrated, most holy and perfect help?

v3 – We dare not remind him of our meager offerings…

v4 – Does he know your plans and heart’s desire?

v5a – Are you thankful for the life that he provides?

v5b – Are you waiving his flag, remembering and celebrating his name?

As I considered these questions for myself, I made an interesting and scary observation.  I discovered that I am want to leave them undefined and unanswered.  I think we all are.  We think that doing so will keep us safe.  It wont.  Instead, it holds us back, preventing us from reaching our potential.  The very potential that God, our creator, endowed us with.  Even worse, when we believe that God cannot or will not help us, it robs him of glory.

Who is He to you?

1 Samuel 7, Psalm 9

How closely have you been following the story presented in 1 Samuel? Take a minute to recall  1 Samuel 5 when the Philistines captured the Ark of God.  As I read through the scenario, I cant help but wonder what they expected from it.  Were they just going to lock it away in a room and forget about it?  Alternatively, maybe they displayed it out in the open.  It was an absolute prize, after-all.  This is the thing that the Israelites paraded it in front of them at every conflict.  I assume the Philistines put it in the center of the town, on a pedestal, so that everyone walked by it.  Only, they did not worship it.  Instead, they walked by and spit on it.  Maybe even threw eggs at it. The detested it because it aided Israel their enemy.  They discounted its power.  That is, until they could no longer deny it.

Now consider, what did the Israelites expect of it?  The Philistines sent the ark back to Israel.  God was returned to Israel’s presence.  The ark was the physical evidence.  God was “with” Israel, yet they were filled with lament, remaining under threat of their enemies and living in fear.  In fact, the New Living Translation says that they thought God had abandoned them.  Sadly, they lived in God’s presence, but without his power.  This went on for more than 20 years!

How about us?  2,000 years ago a man was born of a miraculous birth.  Yes, we know him as Jesus.  He is also called Immanuel, which means “God with us.”  Do you know what that means?  God is right here, among us.  What do we expect?  Are we, like the Israelites still living in fear, victims of our circumstance?  Do we wonder why God has abandon us?  Today, it is evident to me that we have a choice to make. Just like the Philistines, just like the Israelites.  Do we reject him or accept him?   If you accept him, who is he to you?  Is he for you, or against you?  I pray that we don’t waste 20 years deciding, like they did!

Resentment and Displeasure

Jonah 4, Psalm 1

As we conclude the book of Jonah, I find myself working through some tough questions.  For example, why did God choose Jonah?  First he runs away, repenting only when God pins him down.  Then, he reverts back to his old attitudes.  Finally, when God confronts him about his indignation, Jonah doesn’t attempt to change.  He doesn’t even express remorse.  Instead, he wishes for death. 

He’s an Idiot.  That’s the best descriptor I can find.  In fact, I can’t believe that God is still talking with him.  Seriously, God should wring his neck! God’s frustration with Jonah must be unbearable.  What is God thinking?  How could he?

Do you hear it?  Righteous indignation shows up fast!  Just like Jonah, I find myself running from God’s calling.  Just like Jonah, I repent and choose obedience when He reigns me in.  And, just like Jonah, I revert to my old self, full of righteous indignation.

Thankfully, God never changes.  God loves me and calls me to do his bidding, just like Jonah.  God tests and reproves me because he loves me, just like Jonah.  And, God listens to me, even when I’m an idiot, just like Jonah.

Let the Good Times Roll

Joshua 23, Proverbs 23

People love to talk about their difficulties.  Think, for a moment, about a difficult season in your life.  Trouble seems to follow you everywhere.  Your trials are always on your mind, weighing you down.  You talk with other people about them, strategize for solutions and even complain.  They consume our prayers.  In fact, these trials and tribulations can lead us to our most intimate moments with God.  You see, it is our desperation, not our success that creates the most dependence on God.  Why?  I have no idea but apparently, it was no different for Israel.  

Consider this, Israel is experiencing a long period of peace.  They are, according to verse 1, at “rest.”  Mirriam-Webster defines rest as both freedom from activity or labor, and peace of mind.  I’m sure both are true for Israel here.  They had no threats from surrounding enemies and they are living in the land of milk and honey.  Not only that, they live under the promise that God will push back all of their enemies.  It seems everything is going their way.   I’ll bet that they feel invincible.  Eat, drink and be merry, right?  This is exactly why Joshua called them together. But Joshua did not call them to celebration.  Instead, he offers up warnings.

Joshua knew that good times can be very destructive.  Why?  Because humans have short memories.  We quickly forget how our victory was secured, often downplaying the difficulty and challenges that led us to our current success.  In fact, when our circumstances are positive, we take credit.  We convince ourselves that our strength and might, enabled us to conquer and achieve victory.  Furthermore, we believe that we are all we need to continue.  Joshua, however, remembered.  Wisely, he calls the Israelites back to reality, emphasizing that it was the Lord that fought for them (v3).  In fact, God is still fighting for you (v5).  And, if you want it to continue, Joshua chides, “you must be very strong to keep and to do all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses” (Joshua 23:6).

As I read through Joshua 23, I wonder how faithful they really were.  More importantly, I wonder how faithful we really are.  For example, rare is the occasion that I stop and remember why I am here.  Scarcely do I recall the battle that was fought and the blood that was shed on my behalf.  Hardly ever do i think about God’s ongoing promises of protection, provision and pardon.  As i think about them, just now, my heart is filled with love and peace.  Thank you, Joshua, for the reminder about the good times and who is responsible for them. Thank you, Jesus, for making them a reality.


Utter Destruction

Joshua 11, Proverbs 11

While reading the book of Joshua, I find my focus shifting.  I either excited about the tremendous victories of Joshua or disturbed by the brutal violence.  In fact, the two stand in such opposition that I am questioning who God is.  One is good and the other horrible, right?  How can he be responsible for both?  My heart hurts for the lost cities.  It hurts for all the people killed.  I struggle to celebrate victories that are won because of the mass destruction.  I want it to be different.  However, a closer look reveals that my perspective is short-sighted. 

Consider for a moment that you were Jabin, the king of Hazor.  You just received the news of Joshua’s great victory and the utter destruction left in his wake.  Not just the destruction, but the ruthless hanging of five kings (Joshua 10:26).  It’s obvious who is next on Joshua’s list. You are!  Think for a moment about the two choices you have.  Make peace with Israel, or take them out.  Their choice is documented in verse 19.  “There was not a city that made peace with the people of Israel except the Hivites.”  Simply put, Hazor chose to protect his own kingdom rather than come under the authority of Israel.  What other choice does Joshua have?  What other choice does God have?  

Do you see how Hazor and Israel correlate with our own lives?  Think about it,  God shows up, all powerful and sovereign.  While stand, silently, watching his work, we get to choose.  Will we make peace with him, or will we fight?  Unfortunately, like Hazor, we often choose to build and protect our own kingdoms rather than come under His authority.  How long should we expect God to watch us?  You see, He has a choice to make too.  For Hazor and his buddies, God’s compassion had a limit.  As a result, He hardened the hearts of the five kings after they proved to be fully against him.  It is important to note that God has not changed.  In fact, Romans 1:25 reminds us that when we exchange the truth of God for a lie, we too will be given over to our sin.  Its the same thing!  Make no mistake, when that happens, death and destruction is on our horizon. This is not what God wants.  He is not planning destruction for us.  In fact, He wants us to live, fully, with him.  

Today, God is offering us hope in the name Jesus Christ.  It is written:

 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”  John 3:16-17 (ESV)


What a fitting way to close out the year.  Psalms 150

Let Everything Praise the LORD
Praise the LORD!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens!
Praise him for his mighty deeds;
praise him according to his excellent greatness!
Praise him with trumpet sound;
praise him with lute and harp!
Praise him with tambourine and dance;
praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with sounding cymbals;
praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
Let everything that has breath praise the LORD!
Praise the LORD!

So much of our year-end focuses on either what happened last year or what we want to happen next year.  Psalm 150 is about right now, this very moment.  Don’t miss it!  Set aside, for a minute, who he was last year and who he is going to be next year.  Let’s praise him for who He is.  He is, after-all, I AM.  He is present.  Right here, right now!  Praise him with whatever instrument you have available to you.  Clap your hands, shout with your voice, stomp your feet.  When we recognize his mighty deeds and his excellent greatness, it happens.

“He may have given us the power to be, but he is I am.  Worship is our response to all that god is” – Matt Ludwig, Eastview Christian Church

God With Us

Mark 2, Psalm 136

Sometimes I wonder what God was thinking.  Why did he create us? You see every day, we do things that are contrary to his nature.  Contrary to his purpose for us.  We even attempt to replace him with something different, yet God persists.  As I wonder why, I am drawn to Psalm 136.    Its author has taken the time to identify why  and how God works.

To start, we must think about who God is.  The Psalmist reminds us that He is good.  He is the God of God and Lord of Lords.  He does great wonders and created the heavens.  He made the earth, the lights, the sun and the moon.  He ordered them perfectly.  He struck Israel’s enemy and delivered them into freedom.  He is mighty and caring at the same time, able to part an entire sea.  He uses  this miraculous work to protect those he loves and to destroy to their enemies.  He led his people through the wilderness, striking down and killing great and mighty kings.  He takes their territory and gives it to those who love him.  He doesn’t care about his servants position, high or low.  He cares and provides for us in every situation. 

These are powerful words about our great God and his abilities.  If you are like me, you ask why.  Why would this God do such things for us?  More directly, why would he do them for me?  He knows that I am unruly and rebellious. The Psalmist gets it right with one simple word.  Love.  In my attempt to define what love is, I am reminded of 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.  It says,

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;  it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends.

Yes this describes God’s love for us.  In fact, God is so patient, so kind, so caring that he sent his own son, to live among us.  You see, real love doesn’t sit on the throne looking down.  Real love comes along side us.  Real love is personal.  Real love is messy.  This is why Jesus was born.  This is why he is called Emmanuel.  It means “God with us.”  

His love endures forever!

Emmanuel – God With US , Mercy Me



John 6, Psalms 108

As I look back on my life and the choices I’ve made, I find a startling reality.  Most of the time, I seek comfort.  What does that mean exactly?  Comfort is the absence of pain, stress and exertion.  Easy is another way to define it.  Today’s reading of John 6, has me asking questions about Jesus and comfort.   Specifically, am I choosing Jesus so that my life will be easier and, therefore, comfortable?

The answer to that question can be found in our prayers and private thoughts.  For example, when we pray, or wish, for a better paying job, a new car or another sale, aren’t we really asking to be more comfortable?  Don’t get me wrong, those prayers are ok and I do think that God honors them, but we have to be careful.  You see, when God provides for our needs, we may reduce him to a sort of Santa Clause, loving him for all the ways he make us comfortable.  Thankfully, Jesus knew that this is our weakness.  In fact, shortly after feeding the 5,000, the crowd followed him to Capernaum.  Their arrival prompts him to give this admonition,

Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.”

He wanted them to understand why they were seeking him.  And, if it is to be fed, there is a problem.  His goal is not to feed us so that our bellies are full.  In other words, he is not about our comfort.  No, He is about who we become internally and eternally.  He is talking about our soul.  Thinking back to our own prayers, is see that this is why God doesn’t answer our prayers.  According to James 4:3, 

“You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” 

What would it look like if we focused our prayers and private thoughts on the condition of our souls and His deity rather than our comfort?  This is the bread of life that Jesus is talking about.  It is “soul food.”  We will do well to remember this as we wish and pray.  I am reminded of a comment in the book Soul Keeping.  John Ortberg recounts Dallas Willard’s words, who says, “Your soul is not just something that lives on after your body dies. It’s the most important thing about you.  It is your life.”  That is a scary comment to me.  In fact, it makes me very un-comfortable Why?  Because souls are unknown places.  I don’t understand what lives there and I don’t  know what to do about it.  But, Jesus does.  He is dying for us to ask Him about it.  Pray and wish that with me this week.

Think Ahead

Matthew 27, Psalm 100

when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind ~Matthew 27:3

Today, in Matthew 27, we read about Judas’ victory. Or, at least, what Judas thought was going to be his victory.  He finally achieved what he set out to do.  There are two reasons, I surmise, for Judas’ choices.  One is money and the other is acceptance.

Consider first that Judas was the keeper of the purse for the apostles.  Not because he was specially gifted with finances, however.  No, Judas was concerned with the amount of money in the purse.  Not for the benefit of Jesus, or humanity, but for his own gain.  This is evident in John 12:1-8.  Judas was, in fact, greedy for monetary gain.  HIs relationship with Jesus was nothing more than a vehicle to gain wealth. Perhaps, that is why he was willing give up Jesus’ location for 30 pieces of silver.  Unfortunately, 30 pieces of silver is only about $600 in todays dollars.  There must be a secondary motivation for his choices.

Perhaps Judas was also looking for the respect of men.  Looking back to Matthew 26:14-16, Judas was hanging out with men opposed to Jesus.  Given his position, I imagine that they did not fully trust him.  Maybe they made fun of him for being with Jesus.  Maybe Judas wanted to be liked by them.  We all do stupid things when we are seeking the approval of men.  I imagine Judas puffing himself up with stories about Jesus and the Apostles.  Eventually, to build creditability, he chooses to make a grand gesture.  In this case, it was about selling Jesus’ location. 

Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15 and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. 16 And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him.

Once Jesus was condemned, however, Judas rethought his choices.  In fact, he realized that he was on the wrong side.  I can only guess why.  Honestly, its like most things of this world.  We all choose things that will serve our wants and build our own credibility and not the kingdom’s.  Seriously, think about a time when you were tempted to compromise your values for something that you would gain.  Maybe its an oversight on your taxes or taking credit for work so that your boss will see you in a better light.  Maybe, like Judas, we are ok with your choices.  Until, you get caught and are able to see the bigger picture.  Perhaps we have all experienced what Judas felt in Matthew 27, realizing that our gain is actually a huge loss.  When that happens, don’t we do exactly what Judas did in verse 3?  We change our minds!  Sadly, for Judas, it was too late.  He could not see past his betrayal.  The only restitution he could think of was death.

We do have an option.  Today, and everyday, we can choose life.  Simply put all of my faith in Him and His goodness.  Nothing else.  Before, it’s too late.